Exploring Jupiter in Leo

New post just up on Astrology: Questions and Answers blog:

http://astrologyquestionsandanswers.com/2014/07/27/questing-fire-meets-creative-fire-exploring-jupiter-in-leo/

Check it out!

What does Jupiter in Leo year hold?.

What does Jupiter in Leo year hold?.

Night Sea Journey – and Return

“One does not discover new land without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

It is 530 am: birds are singing their hearts out in the park near our home. I can hear the river running. It’s been a wonderfully warm, sunny summer in Glasgow. Usually the rain capital of Scotland, we are being granted heat and warmth for what promises to to a joyous, welcoming Commonwealth Games here in the city.

 I feel vital, alive, engaged – full of gratitude for my sense of well-being. So my wish is that those of you out there currently going through dark times may take heart from what I write today. Life has its profound rhythms and cycles, which at times clash brutally with how the Ego thinks it should be.

Going through my “night sea journey”, to use Jung’s terminology, took seven long years. I have referred to this 2001-8 period in several different articles on “Writing from the Twelfth House” : check out ‘Just let me get old, ok?’ if you wish to find out more.

At several points I very nearly drowned – symbolically speaking –in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust, but which I cannot name. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another. Every time, the deepest message was  ‘Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right’. And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life , along with a profound sense of gratitude that my good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche.

The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has. I have been back at work now, part-time, for over two years. But I’m still writing!

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700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Places of Healing – returning to the Orkney Isles

The Orkney Isles

The Orkney Isles

(http://mappery.com/Orkney-Islands-Map)

As some of you will have gathered from Facebook posts and pictures in June this year, Ian and I returned again recently to what has become one of our favourite places. I’ve been asked by a number of people to re-publish this post, to remind them of Orkney’s beguiling qualities. I’d also like new Followers of the blog to know about Orkney. So – here it is. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. Better still, go there! (No, I don’t have a retainer from the tourist board…)

History

“ Scratch Orkney, and it bleeds archaeology!”

This vivid phrase – from an energetic, silver-haired Orcadian tourist guide on an enchanting early evening visit to the tiny island of Eynhallow off the Orkney mainland many years ago – has always remained in my mind as summing up a defining feature of the Orkney Isles.

This scattering of 67 lush, fertile green islands lying off the north coast of Caithness in Scotland has a remarkable history whose early traces continue to surface. The world-famous Neolithic Ring of Brodgar, an impressive stone circle, dominates a narrow stretch of land between Stenness and Harray lochs, attracting many thousands of tourists every year.

We found on our recent visit that yet another archaeological dig was in progress – very close to the Ring. This time, it is so extensive that it may yield the most significant evidence of ancient occupation since the stone settlement of Scara Brae was uncovered by a severe storm many years ago.

About fifteen years ago, Ian and I took an evening drive down to the Ring. It was a clear night, the full moon reflecting burnished silver off Harray Loch. We were alone. We have often walked around the Ring: it is one of my personal pilgrimages on the many visits Ian and I have made to Orkney over the years. This time it felt different, a little eerie.

Suddenly we became aware of what I can only describe as an electrical charge, running clockwise round the ancient stones. We heard intermittent crackling, saw little flashes of sporadic light. The atmosphere raised the hairs on the back of our necks. Knowing we had had a definite experience, but not one which could be explained logically, we said nothing to anyone. But the sense of ancient power invoked in that experience remains with us.

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar

(http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/brodgar/)

Sea

I love the sea, as does Ian. Growing up in the Outer Hebrides meant that water, either pouring from the heavens, lapping gently against the ever-visible shorelines, or battering the landscape in fierce winter storms, dominated my early years. Being by the sea never fails to soothe my spirit, remind me that we are always held in the Eternal, whether aware of it or not. The sea around Orkney entrances me, literally.

On this visit I walked out from Kirkwall harbour on another of my pilgrimages: the morning walk I used to take of about a mile round the line of coast as far as Craigiefield House, wonderful sea views all the way. The low land in Orkney means high, wide skyscapes whose textures, colours and shapes shift and change like a magician’s palette, reflecting always the moods and shifts of the sea. Today it is misty. I sit on a bench and gaze out.

Then, I would reflect on what my day’s writing might bring, as Ian’s busy working day unfolded through many contacts with Orcadians who had grown to trust his professional expertise over many years. Today, we are on holiday here, visiting old friends, familiar places. I just sit, with no plan, letting the sea’s magic enfold me.

Church

In Kirkwall, Orkney’s main town, St Magnus Cathedral – known as the ‘Light in the North’ – was founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald. It is a wonderful building, nowadays owned by the people of Orkney themselves, lovingly and proudly cared for – still very much an active Church. On early visits I used to marvel to myself that such an impressive building was going up here, at the same time as the great cathedral builders of Europe were embarking on a massive series of projects which would take centuries to complete.

Only later did I find out to my surprise and amazement that the European cathedral builders had actually visited these remote, small islands – to advise the Orcadian stonemasons.

On this visit there was a highlight – a new experience. We joined a tour which took us to the upper reaches of the cathedral, via some vertiginously narrow and twisty stairways opening out onto two levels as we gained height, finally gaining access to the very top of the cathedral and fantastic views over town, sea, and much of the Orcadian landscape. I was glad successfully to have challenged my vertigo!

Of many impressive details which the well-informed and enthusiastic guide offered, my personal highlight probably reveals more about me than I should be prepared to admit….on the first level, lying along the floorboards within the stout cathedral walls, was an unusual ladder. This was used at public executions which were very much a feature of  life in mediaeval times and later. It is a double ladder, with thirteen rungs. Two people, the executioner and the condemned person ascended it. Only one came down. Chilling.

St Magnus Cathedral window

St Magnus Cathedral window

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

There is wonderful stained glass from different eras throughout the cathedral. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to take a photograph from on high of my    personal favourite: a glorious jewel-coloured modern window depicting key scenes from the spiritual and temporal life of Orcadians down the ages.

I could have stood on bare boards, high up in St Magnus Cathedral, gazing over the stone parapet at this magnificent window for the rest of the afternoon, had that been possible. However, I have created an acceptable substitute. That glorious window you see here as a photograph is now my computer screen saver: I can admire my version of it, every day!

People

I had two motivations in going to Orkney for one week in February and July each year for nearly two decades. One was to act as a brake on Ian’s tendency to work all day and evening, as he attempted to cram a huge workload into a short visit. In this I was only partially successful….The other was to get away from my own busy people-focused career, giving my reclusive side time to retreat, be by the sea, and allow the writer in me five days of glorious indulgence.

Because of the latter, I was disinclined to be sociable when in Orkney. My ideal lunch was sitting in Trenabie’s cafe (now Bistro!) in Kirkwall, munching one of their excellent toasties with my nose in a book.

However, despite this I still made a few friends, all through Ian. It was heartwarming to receive the welcome we were given on this visit, with Ian being left in no doubt by his former clients and colleagues of the quality of his contribution and how much that had been missed when he left.

One friend we could not have left without seeing is the irrepressible, redoubtable Gifford Leslie, known to all as “Giffie”. Dear Giffie has never quite recovered from having me as one of his guests when we stayed in the characterful Kirkwall Hotel during his tenure as manager there.

Spurning the coffee on offer at breakfast, I would turn up with a tiny jar of my favourite quality instant, and ask for a pot of hot water, much to Giffie’s exasperation and my husband’s embarrassment. Then there was the incident when I managed somehow to splash ink from my fountain pen rather visibly onto the “very expensive!” wallpaper in the Kirkwall Hotel’s Writing Room. Giffie was not pleased, and did not hesitate to tell me so.

On this visit, we found him co-managing the newly refurbished, attractive  West End Hotel with his usual style and panache. Needless to say, I was reminded over a pot of tea (on the house) of my former misdemeanors. Giffie and I concluded as we bade one another a fond farewell, that time had not improved either of us. Ian agreed!

We returned home to our city life, feeling rested and warmed in spirit by our trip, the first for several years. I do hope that this pictorial and verbal tribute conveys at least some of the flavour of the special nature of the Orkney Isles, one of my – and our –  personal healing places. We will be back.

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1450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Neptune calling! Some thoughts on how to manage a Neptune transit…

I had a very deep and powerful question appear on my Astrology: Questions and Answers blog from Allegra (not her real name ). The title of this post sums up its content. It’s aimed at astrologers, non-astrologers, readers interested in knowing more about astrology beyond the Sun Signs – and all spiritual seekers! I hope you find it useful. 

http://astrologyquestionsandanswers.com/2014/07/12/a-scorpio-asks-how-do-i-help-my-deepening-spiritual-life-along/

Sick of politics and politicians? Read this poem!

I have got to the stage in life where I am so sick of politics and politicians that I only vote – I always vote – because I know that women fought and died for me to have that vote.

But it does seem these days that in ‘mature’ democracies such as we have in the UK and the USA, power, influence and money are increasingly concentrated in the hands of those who are not much in touch with the needs of our planet or the will of the people.

Sectarian polarisation seems to be growing worse, and not just in the turmoil and bloodshed of the Middle East: look at the stasis existing in the USA between Republicans and Democrats, and the despair which that impasse is generating amongst ‘ordinary’ voters. In Scotland, of course, we have an increasingly strident shouting match as the 18th September Independence Referendum on Scotland’s future – and that of the whole United Kingdom – draws near.

So – when I came across this wonderful poem by Wendel Berry in a recent post by my favourite blogger, Linda Leinen at The Task at Hand, it spoke to me, loud and clear. I hope it speaks to you, wherever you are:

The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union

From the union of power and money,

From the union of power and secrecy,

From the union of government and science,

From the union of government and art,

From the union of science and money,

From the union of genius and war,

From the union of outer space and inner vacuity,

The Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

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There is only one of him, but he goes.

He returns to the small country he calls home,

His own nation small enough to walk across.

He goes shadowy into the local woods,

And brightly into the local meadows and croplands.

He goes to the care of neighbors,

He goes into the care of neighbors.

He goes to the potluck supper, a dish

From each house for the hunger of every house.

He goes into the quiet of early mornings

Of days when he is not going anywhere.

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Calling his neighbors together into the sanctity

Of their lives separate and together,

In the one life of the commonwealth and home,

In their own nation small enough for a story

Or song to travel across in an hour, he cries:

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Come all ye conservatives and liberals

Who want to conserve the good things and be free,

Come away from the merchants of big answers,

Whose hands are metalled with power;

From the union of anywhere and everywhere;

By the purchase of everything from everybody at the lowest price

And the sale of anything to anybody at the highest price;

From the union of work and debt, work and despair;

From the wage-slavery of the helplessly well-employed.

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From the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation,

Secede into the care for one another

And for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth.

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Come into the life of the body, the one body

Granted to you in all the history of time.

Come into the body’s economy, its daily work,

And its replenishment at mealtimes and at night.

Come into the body’s thanksgiving, when it knows

And acknowledges itself a living soul.

Come into the dance of the community, joined

In a circle, hand in hand, the dance of the eternal

Love of women and men for one another

And of neighbors and friends for one another.

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Always disappearing, always returning,

Calling his neighbors to return, to think again

Of the care of flocks and herds, of gardens

And fields, of woodlots and forests and the uncut groves,

Calling them separately and together, calling and calling,

He goes forever toward the long restful evening

And the croak of the night heron over the river at dark.

~ Wendell Berry

(NOTE: I had to put in a small dash to indicate verse breaks, since my WordPress programme for reasons best known to itself, refused to let me create spaces between verses. Purists, please forgive me!)

700 words copyright Wendell Berry/Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

5 Things Your Mom Didn’t Tell You About Book Blogging

Anne Whitaker:

I’m really enjoying following Robert’s quirky, fun, informative blog, and found reading this post very useful – apart from anything else, it confirmed my own dark suspicions about writing book reviews!

Originally posted on 101 Books:

Sure, you’ve already got a great book blog. Your mom loves it. In fact, your book blog is so good that more people than your mom and brother read it.

That’s step one to blog success—more than just family members!

But how does your book blog stand out in the middle of all the thousands of book blogs on the intertubes?

Well, I don’t claim to be an expert or anything, but I have been blogging about books for nearly 4 years, and here’s what’s worked for me.  These, of course, are in addition to these blogging tips I gave a few years ago. All those tips still hold true as well.

So here are a few of my thoughts that, just maybe, your mom didn’t tell you:

View original 809 more words

Solstice Celebration with Rabindranath Tagore

Tonight I sit gazing out of my third floor window. It is 10.30 pm but midsummer light still glows, painting striped bands across a pale blue wispy sky. Birds are  singing. The river runs through the park below our house; it sounds as mellow as I feel, having had a precious, relaxed day: morning coffee and deep talk with a friend; lunchtime theatre with my husband, then lunch in the local Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, UK, watching the world go by, all of us enjoying a glorious summer’s day. Home, then a long rest with tea and a brilliant book. After that, supper with my brother and nephews, always zany fun. Even the tadpoles in my brother’s untidy back garden look mellow.

I feel blessed as the solstice approaches.

I wanted to share some of this mellowness with my faithful blog followers and readers. Happily,  I soon found this wonderful image and quote from Rabindranath Tagore, a favourite poet of mine. 

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice

I love the enigmatic, poignant, mysterious quality of this quote. Hope you do too!

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page