This blog now has its own Facebook Page, where I publish all kinds of additional stuff – blogs, videos and articles from leading bloggers and writers for instance  – in fact anything which takes my fancy and I think might interest YOU, dear reader. Do go over, visit for a while, leave a Like or even better, a comment. See you there!

The Black Madonna Connection

Anne Whitaker:

Following on Easter, Jamie over at Sophia’s Children reminds us of the deep, ancient wisdom held in the archetype of The Black Madonna…read, reflect, enjoy…In Jamie’s words “…this Whole Feminine, this symbol of deep wisdom and Unity, of remembrance and healing of what has been fragmented and abused, … is needed right now in the world.

She is calling for remembrance and expression in our work places, in our leadership, in the way we understand and express ourselves. The heartbeat grows louder, and the need for it grows as well. As we remember Her, she expresses herself more powerfully through us…”

Originally posted on Sophia's Children:

La Moreneta Madonna of Montserrat, a more renowned Black Madonna located at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. La Moreneta Madonna of Montserrat, a more renowned Black Madonna I visited with at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. There is also another nearby, in a more humble location amongst the people.

Given what I’ve shared in recent (and previous) posts, it seems a fine time to have a nice pot of tea and a renewing, revitalizing visit with the Black Madonna.

I’ve written a lot about the Black Madonna over the years, and will link to a couple of those posts here — they delve more deeply into the meaning, the history, and my own journey of introduction to her Mysteries.

In short, the Black Madonna is the Virgin and Child, Mother Mary and the Christ child. With a twist.

Her blackness is multi-level symbolic, but hints at the depths of the Mysteries … in this case, Christian, but connected by an…

View original 766 more words

A time of waiting…the hours before the Light returns…

There is a stillness about Easter Eve. Whether you are Christian, hold another faith, or none, the underlying archetypes of the Easter journey are common to all human experience.

Iona Cross, Full Moon, August 21 2013

Iona Cross, Full Moon

photo: Anne Whitaker

We have all, unless we have led a supremely charmed life, been cast out into the wilderness at one time or another. Life has crucified us all, to a greater or lesser extent. We have been in the Underworld, have known what it is like to go through experiences so severe that we die to our old selves. Then there is the wait, the wait in darkness, fear, and not knowing.

Will we ever emerge, reborn? And when we do emerge, who are we now? Who recognises us, acknowledges and honours where we have been?

And the most profound  question of all: what should we do with the life which has been given back to us?

As ever, in times of waiting, the great poets have been there before us, giving a context, bringing collective dignity to our individual struggles. Here are some magnificent lines from T.S.Eliot to see you through this dark night, before the Easter light returns:

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

T.S.Eliot “East Coker” No 2 of the Four Quartets

******

T S Eliot

T S Eliot

300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

“My hero the villain” – not for the faint-hearted…

Those of a slightly squeamish disposition might be advised to read the first section or two of ‘ My hero the villian’ with their eyes closed – remember “Lord of the Flies?” and how savage children can be ? Those who are over fifty will be reminded of some of the sexist attitudes to girls which prevailed in the middle decades of the last century ! And all of us who have ever been children will remember that one of the sad but necessary entrance fees to the adult world is loss of innocence….

'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding

‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding

*******************

Archie’s mother was out. The radio was on, blaring out Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”, his latest hit. I hate it. Archie says it’s because I’m  too young to know heartbreak; he is twelve, but I’m only nine, and a girl. I was suggesting digging to Australia during our holidays. He was sitting with his feet up on the kitchen table, cutting lumps off a slab of butter, rolling each lump in sugar, tossing it in the air and trying to catch it in his mouth. Swinging his feet down, he nodded.

“Yeah, that’s a great idea.” He made for the door. “Come on! We’d better pick a good site before it gets dark.” It was two o’clock in the afternoon. I followed him, gratefully. Out the kitchen door we hurried, down the concrete path, not even stopping to hurdle the dustbins. We jumped over the wire netting fence separating the vegetable patch from the jungle of weeds and willows where his dad, a budgie breeder, laid dead birds to rest.

What a good time we’d had in the budgies’ graveyard last summer holidays! Unfortunately, my father saw us shooting arrows at dead budgies hanging from the clothesline. Fathers have a habit of putting a stop to fun. We were banned from the bottom of the garden for the rest of the summer. I still don’t see what all the fuss was about….they couldn’t FEEL anything….

“Hey Deirdre!” Archie had vanished into the weeds. “How about here?” I followed his voice, picking my way through the nettles. He was sitting on a sheet of rusty corrugated iron, pulling the wings off a butterfly.

“This is perfect,” he said, throwing bits of butterfly over his shoulder for luck. “Sit down here.” I sat down, carefully. “Now look at the house.”

“I can’t see the house from here, Archie.”

“Exactly!” He grinned at me. “You’re slow on the uptake! If you can’t see them……”

“They can’t see us!” I was delighted. “When will we start?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Archie said. “I know a place where I can get a couple of spades.”

“I haven’t seen any spades, Archie.”

“Huh…. girls never notice anything.” Hurt, I said nothing.

“OK, I’ll tell you. But keep it a secret?” I nodded. “See that old air raid shelter, across the cornfield ?”

“Yes”.

“The spades are hidden inside, away in a corner among some nettles. I’ll sneak them up here later on today.”

“How did you find them? ”

He winked,  rubbing what was left of the butterfly into powder between his palms.  “I’m smart,” he said. “Hadn’t you noticed?”

2.

Digging that hole was hard work. We had two bottles of lemonade from our larder, and a packet of biscuits stolen by Archie from the shop across the road.

“My geography teacher said that if you started digging from Scotland you’d get to Australia if you kept going long enough” I said to Archie, looking at the growing pile of earth. “D’you think that’s true?”

“Course it is” he replied,  taking a long swallow of lemonade. “If David Livingstone could do it, why can’t we?”

“But ….” I said puzzled. “But he DIDN’T ….”

“Oh shut up!” Archie said impatiently. “Let’s get on with it.” We worked all day, stopping only to go home for our dinner.

“Where on earth have you been?” asked my mother. “You’re filthy!”

“Oh–nowhere. Just out playing.”

“I wish you’d be more like a girl,” she sighed. “You wouldn’t get so dirty.”

“Can I have some more mince, please?” I asked. I had eaten the two hills, the roads and there was no gravy left for the river. She gave me some. My mother would like it if I wore a skirt and a ribbon in my hair. But I don’t like girls. They’re boring.

3.

“What are we going to do with these worms, Archie?” We were digging up the longest, fattest worms I had ever seen.

“Seems a pity to waste them, doesn’t it?” he said, scratching his head and thinking very hard.

 

“I know! Just you wait here.” He went off to the shed and came back with a hammer and some nails. “Right, pick up a few and bring them over here.” He walked towards the willow trees. I had never picked up a worm in my life. Closing my eyes and trying to think of something else, I collected about ten of them. They were slimy and clammy and they squirmed in my hand.

“We’ll have a laugh here,” said Archie. “Hand me one at a time.” I watched him as he nailed them to the trees. Wriggling and jumping, they oozed slime and worm blood. Archie grinned at me. “They don’t take long to die.” Feeling sick and dizzy,  I forced myself to watch. At last they just hung there, limp.

“That’s my good deed for the day,” Archie said. I looked at him, trying not to show my feelings. “Well” he said. “The birds. I’ve given them their dinner.” I couldn’t say a word. Archie picked up his spade. “Come on, Deirdre. We’ve a lot of digging to do.”

4.

It was Saturday morning. I was lying in bed eating a bacon sandwich, and drinking the  tea my mother had brought me. I was thinking about the hole; it was getting deep. What would we do about the water?

“Deirdre!” Oh blast ….she would be wanting me to go into town.We’d be held up with the digging. “Deirdre! Come and see your uncle Angus – he’ll be off in a minute.” That was different. I liked my uncle Angus a lot. He always looked as if he was just about to have an adventure. I didn’t know what his job was, but I had overheard him talking to my father. It was something to do with nets and seals and the police. Jumping out of bed, I pulled on my jeans and a jersey, and ran downstairs.

There he was, leaning against the kitchen sink, rolling a cigarette. My mother glared at me. “You scruffy little tinker! Why haven’t you brushed your hair?”

“Oh, Anna, leave the girl alone!” said uncle Angus, lighting his cigarette and winking at me. “She’s a free spirit.” He grinned. “Am I right, miss?”

“Of course,” said I, not looking at my mother. It was worth the row later. I wanted him to like me.

“Come here!” he said. “Shut your eyes and hold out your hands.” I obeyed him. “Right! Open your eyes.”

I could hardly believe what I saw. Four half crowns! Ten whole shillings! It wasn’t even

Xmas or my birthday. I stared at him, not knowing what to say.

“Angus!” My mother sounded shocked. “She gets one shilling a week. That’s quite enough for a child her age.”

“Rubbish, woman” replied uncle Angus. “We all deserve a wee treat once in a while.” He turned to me. “Right–no banks, no savings, nothing sensible. Go straight out and spend the lot today on whatever you fancy. O.K.?”

“O.K.” I didn’t say anything else, just winked at him. He winked back. My mother glared at me as I made for the door.

“Be back here in time for your dinner!” she called. I stopped .

“What’s for dinner, then?” Grinning, uncle Angus  pointed to the draining board.There lay two huge silvery salmon.

“Away you go” he said. “See you the next time.”

5.

 

Out of sight of our house, I sat on a low wall. I needed to think.

Archie would be working on the hole. He would be so angry if I said I was going down town. He thought I was less stupid than most girls. I didn’t want to make him mad. But I loved having all this money.  If I didn’t spend it today it might fall down a drain.

I looked at the four half crowns. One was very new and glinted in the sun. Archie could have a share! I could give him a shilling…. or even one and six. But I knew Archie. He wouldn’t be happy. I put two half crowns on the wall, then the other two, whilst making up my mind. Half shares each! That would please him, wouldn’t it?

Archie was busy. He straightened up when he heard me coming. “Where have you been, you lazy little runt?” He was really mad. Just wait till I told him!

“I’m going down town this morning, Archie,” I said. “Are you coming with me?”

“Down town? With all this work to do? Clear off. Go yourself.” He turned his back and carried on digging.

“Look what I’ve got, Archie,” I said, taking the half crowns out of my pocket. “I got a present today.”

“Very nice, I’m sure,” he said in a nasty voice. “Some of us aren’t so lucky. Away and spend it, then.”

“You can have a share.”

He turned round, very quickly. “How much?”

“Half.” He was out of that hole like a shot!

“Deirdre, you’re a real pal,” he said, giving me a big smile. “You’re the best pal I ever had.” He wiped his hands on his jeans and grabbed my arm. “Come on, let’s go. Will we walk or take a bus?”

I felt really happy. “Let’s walk,” I replied. “It’s such a lovely day.”

6.

What a time we had! We got a big ice cream each from Cabrelli’s. In Woolies, we bought a matchbox car each, and new pencils with rubbers on the end. We bought marbles and plasticine. Archie bought a water pistol; I bought a lead cowboy whose hat and gun clipped on and off. Archie called me a swot when I got a bottle of ink for my new fountain pen. We were thrown out when he frightened one of the assistants with his new plastic jumping frog; but the money was mostly gone, so it didn’t matter.

We stopped at the corner sweet shop to spend our last few pennies on sherbet fountains and lucky potatoes, eating them on the way home. I should have got a Five Boys, I thought; my favourite chocolate, you could bite the Boys’ faces off one by one, leaving the smiling one to last. But I had no money left.

 

As we walked, we tried to decide what to do about the water coming in the hole.

“It’s getting serious,” Archie said. “I keep getting wet feet, and I’m running out of stories to tell my mother.”

“Perhaps we could use a tin can as a bailer, like my father does in his boat?”

“Trouble with that,” Archie replied, “is that the water would still come in, and we’d spend half the time bailing it out.”

“True enough.”

Fry's Five Boys chocolate - once the most famous confectionery bar in the world

Fry’s Five Boys chocolate – once the most famous confectionery bar in the world

We walked quietly for a bit, thinking. A short way from his house, Archie brought a bar of Five Boys out of his pocket. Removing the wrapper, he began to bite the Boys off one by one.

“Where did you get that?” I asked. “I thought we’d spent all the money.”

“In Woolies,” he replied. “When you were getting your ink.” There were only two Boys left.

“Can I have one?” I asked. “The smiling Boy at the end?”

“No. You can’t. I bought it with my money, not yours.” I watched him slowly biting into the smiling Boy, chewing it and swallowing it. He licked his lips. “MMM. That was nice.”

Suddenly I felt sick. “Must get home for my dinner” I mumbled, not looking at him. As we reached his gate I started to walk really fast.

“Cheerio, then,” he said. “See you this afternoon.” I didn’t answer.

7.

That night I dreamed about Archie. He was in the hole, digging.The water began to rise. It rose very quickly.The hole was too deep for him to get out. He started screaming, and calling to me for help. He couldn’t swim. I did nothing and said nothing; just sat and watched until the surface of the water was calm.

2200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Chip shops and kama sutra: poetry with a difference, Glasgow-style!

It has been some time since I last wrote about a wonderful local initiative bringing children, parents,  our wider community and the Great Outdoors together in North Kelvin, Glasgow, U.K – The Children’s Wood, which very happily has recently gained charitable status. Everyone around here is delighted with this achievement.

One of the things we can now do is extend our fundraising activities.To this end, The Children’s Wood is teaming up on Tuesday 24th March, 7.15 pm,  with our excellent Oxfam Book Shop, 330 Byres Road, Glasgow G12, which is always willing to support appropriate local initiatives. That diverse and talented group of published poets from the Greater Glasgow area, the Byres Road Poets, are presenting an evening of poetry reading in the above shop to raise funds for The Children’s Wood. 

Byres Road Poets

Byres Road Poets

Local friends, supporters and poetry fans, do come along to hear a rich and diverse mix of versification from Carole Bone – don’t miss her infamous Chip Shop poem; Sophie Agrell – repeating her rendition of that risqué Kama Sutra poem; and Alistair Christie Johnston, man of mystery by choice who simply will not say what he’s reading – till he reads it…

There will be wine, nibbles, and a chance to contribute a suggested  £5 – or more, don’t hold back! – to The Children’s Wood‘s coffers. To continue with these imaginative existing initiatives livening up and enriching the lives of young and old alike in the North Kelvin area, we need funds. Do be generous – it’s a terrific, life enhancing cause.

I know that my many loyal readers and Followers live in different areas of the UK and all over the world, but especially in the USA. Our local initiative here in one area of one Scottish city is an important microcosm of a world-wide movement to get young people, parents, and whole communities together, to get us OUTSIDE, to get us more active, less gadget-bound and therefore more healthy.

So: those of you who are too far away to come and listen to those excellent local poets, why not give a donation – anything you can afford would be welcome – to help us on our way? Click HERE to donate. Many thanks!

We are all part of the ONE: one family, one community, one nation, one world. Let us never forget this, and let us support one another in any small initiatives for positive change.

‘…Mighty oaks from little acorns grow…’

logopond gallery

logopond gallery

400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

How do YOU define success?

I just love this quote. What makes it special is the hope and encouragement it offers that the ‘ordinary’ lives of most of us, in their own way, hold a good measure of success, which should not be defined in terms of professional or public achievement alone…….

“To laugh often and love much, to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882) American essayist and poet

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

http://www.online-literature.com/emerson/

******

Note: I’ve just discovered whilst checking its provenance via Google that this quotation may NOT be from Emerson after all!

If you are interested in researching its origins, check out speculation at www.transcendentalists.com

******

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker/R.W. Emerson 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Is “ordinary” kindness becoming a casualty of our technological age?

I arrived at the bus stop, cold and in a hurry, as usual – just as the bus I wanted was leaving. “So typical!”  I muttered crossly to myself, settling down to wait for the next one with an ill grace. A tall, lean, youngish woman with long, rather straggly hair, wearing a dark coloured jacket, jeans and a pair of Wellington boots arrived at the stop. I thought she looked rather strained and tired.

To help pass the time, I outlined my theory of bus catching to her. If you couldn’t care less about catching a bus, two will pass you going in your direction, any of which would do, I said. If you’d quite like a bus because you are feeling lazy, one will pass you just as you are arriving at the stop. If you are desperate to catch a bus and very much behind schedule, a posse of three will speed by, pretending not to see you.

The woman laughed and laughed. I noticed she had large, soulful eyes. “Ain’t that so close to the truth you could bite its bum,” she spluttered. And on we chatted, until at last the bus arrived. As we were getting on, she said thanks for our chat. “No problem,” I said. “I always talk to people!” She looked at me before taking her seat. Her eyes filled with tears. ” Today,” she said, “it was more important than you will ever know.”

Our brief encounter was important to me, too. It got me thinking about “ordinary” human connection, and exchanges of “ordinary” warmth from one person to another.

Recently, I was in a big city centre store, returning a faulty amplifier. It was very straightforward, and although I was rather tired and in need of some lunch, I suddenly decided to investigate the in-store availability of a small digital overhead projector which I’d been thinking of purchasing to run off my laptop, my twenty year old OHP now being very out of date.

What a mistake that was! I was pitched into one of those protracted gothic techno-nightmares which we all have from time to time in which everything possible goes wrong. Note to self: I really MUST learn that there is a time to give up, ie before I am lying in a frazzled, tearful heap on one of the sofas of the said department store, bellowing into my mobile phone to my husband who simply can’t hear me at the other end.

Throughout the whole of this protracted saga, I was ably and calmly helped (she didn’t get anywhere, either,  in wading through the techno-snake pit into which we had stumbled) by a very professional and unflappable shop assistant who went to endless trouble to try and unravel the knotty series of problems we encountered at every stage of my attempted purchase.She was just great: calm, efficient, and most important of all – kind.

Some weeks later, I have recovered from that saga – no, since you ask, I still do not have a digital projector!– but I have not forgotten that young woman’s much appreciated kindness.

By a bizarre twist of fate, my husband and myself are both having to undergo eye surgery in March, within twelve days of each other. Last month, we both went to his pre-op assessment and met the surgeon who is to do his procedure which should be pretty routine. We immediately took to this man, who spoke to us both with warmth, humour, wisdom and great humanity. Afterwards, we both felt much better for that encounter. ” I’ll feel quite safe in his hands,” my husband remarked.

I have been fortunate to have been able to build up a relationship of trust and confidence in the consultant who will be doing my surgery –  over several years. Because of the humanity and kindness of my surgeon, as well as his skill and experience, I will feel as safe as one can, given the nerve wracking circumstances of  basically having a drainage channel cut in my left eye under a local anaesthetic. Having a black sense of humour and good supportive friends helps greatly too. Valium – here I come!

We all need to give and to receive kindness and care in both fleeting and  significant interactions with our fellow human beings. But we would need to be literally and metaphorically blind not to notice that the further we move collectively into techno- sophistication, the more compromised those day to day human interactions have become. We seem to be evolving socially into an increasingly neurotic population becoming better able to relate to our gadgets than our fellow citizens.

Whilst not in any way decrying those wonderful improvements and advantages which ever- advancing technological progress have brought our way, we need to be more aware of what is happening to our “ordinary” humanity in the process.

That great 20th century explorer of the human condition, psychologist and mystic Carl Gustav Jung, had wise words to say which are relevant here. If there is something wrong with society, there is also something wrong with me; therefore I need to start with myself in beginning to effect positive change, was the gist of his message.

So there we have it. Whilst being sensibly self-protective, let us all take opportunities wherever we can to reach out, even in small ways, to our fellow citizens. Talk to people at the bus stop. Thank people and show appreciation to those who are kind to us (I have Jaqui, the shop lady’s email address and will be sending her a copy of this post).

If people in the caring professions treat us with a lack of humanity and kindness, let’s try and make someone aware of this, preferably them, or their superiors. We may be doing some good in making it less likely that someone else will be treated this way. A couple of years ago I pointed out to an orthopaedic surgeon that his registrar had the inter- personal skills of a gnat. I hope and trust that this might have had some positive benefit for subsequent patients… 

I am indeed fortunate in living in that great grubby lively metropolis, the city of Glasgow in Scotland. Like any urban environment, there are plenty things wrong with it. But its reputation is of a warm-hearted place where its citizens are friendly and always up for a chat. I have certainly found this to be true. It has rubbed off on me. So – get out there, and get chatting, wherever you are. You never know when a few friendly words at a bus stop may make a big difference to someone else’s day. or even their life…

What are your thoughts on this topic? I’d like to hear them!

1110 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

******************

Are you a Betsy Bug? Aunt Elner will cheer you up!

Today I feel weary…weary of our unstable climate with – in the West of Scotland – its apparently increasing emphasis on cold and wet. A couple of weeks ago, it was bright and Springlike around here. The snowdrops looked perky and cheery, you got the feeling the crocuses would be poking through at any moment. Well, they have poked through, but they are probably regretting it already…

Don’t know about you, but when I catch myself heading for self-pity, I deliver  a few quick slaps around the head, count a few blessings – then look for a philosophical quote which will put me in my place and cheer me up at the same time. Here is one of my perennial favourites, from that well-known ( -ish) sage, Aunt Elner…it always works for me!  And – enjoy my Aunt Elner-type pics…

Aunt Elner 1

Aunt Elner 1

Betsy Bugs, that’s us….

“ Poor little old human beings – they’re jerked into this world without having any idea where they came from or what it is they are supposed to do, or how long they have to do it in. Or where they are gonna wind up after that. But bless their hearts, most of them wake up every morning and keep on trying to make some sense out of it. Why, you can’t help but love them, can you? I just wonder why more of them aren’t as crazy as betsy bugs. ”

Aunt Elner, 1978

Aunt Elner 2

Aunt Elner 2

(quote from “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!” by Fannie Flagg)

250 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

******************