Category Archives: 02 – New Posts: January 2014 onwards

Always look for light…from the poet R.S. Thomas as the year ends…

This year 2014 has in many ways been grim. It is important as it draws to a close to avoid offering fatuous cliches regarding how much better the New Year of 2015 will be. Maybe – and maybe not. But, as always, the best poets can find something to say which is apposite and pertinent. As I have grown older and survived a fair number of  Life’s battles, I have learned three major lessons, not in any way unique to me, but jewels of our common wisdom:

Be grateful for what you have

Live as much as is feasible, in the day you are in today – Carpe Diem!

Find light wherever you can, no matter how fleeting it may seem in very dark times

Let us not rush through 2015, then,  so much that we forget to pause, to notice, should a fleeting glimpse of the brightness of Eternity come our way….

A fleeting light.....

A fleeting light…..

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R.S.Thomas

(From Laboratories of the Spirit, published by MacMillan. © Kunjana Thomas)

(I published this poem in a different post at the start of 2014. It seems even more appropriate to share it again at this particular year’s end…)

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

300 words copyright Anne Whitaker/R.S. Thomas 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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

 

 

Festive thanks to Followers, commenters, and friends old and new!

In the bleak Midwinter...

Midwinter…ethereal beauty…

Just having a quiet time of retreat from family chaos (very mild, very welcome!) and reflecting on how much I have enjoyed this particular year at Writing from the Twelfth House. Thanks to everyone for your support of my postings during 2014, and a special thanks to my family of regular commenters. I hope I’ve managed to be inspiring now and then, informative – and entertaining. The tougher the world becomes, the harder we all need to hold fast to the people and experiences that nourish and guide us. Blessings to all who drop by to read my blogs – and every good wish for this Festive Season and the year to follow. 

******

Photo: courtesy of Margo Cline, shared on Facebook.( Sorry, don’t know who the photographer is to give a well-deserved credit!)

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

Festive Meditation: another Christmas, another tragedy…

Another Christmas, another tragedy in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Last year at this time, ten people died and many were injured in the Clutha Vaults disaster when a police helicopter fell from the skies into a crowded city centre pub.Yesterday, six people died and eight are in hospital with serious injuries, after a bin lorry careered out of control in George Square, the very core of the city, ploughing into crowds of Christmas shoppers, leaving carnage in its wake. We do not yet know the cause, but the driver was seen slumped over his wheel…

George Square tributes

George Square tributes

And yet….through the jagged tempo of tragedy, we began once again to hear the strong heartbeat of Glasgow: that steady pulse of ordinary citizens caring for one another. People called the emergency services immediately. Passers by did not run away: they ran to see what could be done to help. Other folk sat on the street with the injured, held and comforted them, waited till the ambulances came which they did with amazing speed.

Today we are all in shock here. Everyone reacts to tragedy in different ways. The first thing I did yesterday afternoon was to call loved ones who might have been in the city centre. When they answered that they were safe, I wept. Today, our visiting daughter, her partner and their lovely little girl are off to shop – in the city centre. They could have been there yesterday, as so many other folk’s loved ones were: in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

This morning I listened to Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland’s “Morning Call”, responding with sensitivity, compassion and honesty to the responses of  “ordinary people” to the tragedy which has touched all our lives. She admitted that she and her team had debated whether to make this awful event their focus or not.

They made the right decision: in the darkness of tragedy, the light-bringer is everything which brings people closer together as a human community to share, and to do what can be done to help and console. We heard that people were laying flowers. Lighting candles in local churches. Donating blood. Pledging to give money to the appeal fund which will be set up to help the victims. One woman said she would make a point of checking on her elderly neighbours today.

It was all intensely moving. But the overriding response of most people was: “It could have been me. Or mine…” In John Donne’s famous words:

“…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…”

Terrible events such as this, and all the other ones world-wide especially the “massacre of the innocents” in Peshawar, Pakistan, have added up to a truly dreadful week for our human community, given a sharper edge because of its being the Festive Season. In this morning’s radio programme, a strong theme running through what everyone said, many of them explicitly, was that of the sheer fragility of life. We are utterly at the mercy of random events, although preferring to live in a protective insulating bubble from this brutal fact until it is torn away by horror of one kind or another.

What, then, do we do? Life has to go on. We need to mourn along with the bereaved. We need to help them in whatever way we can. But we also need to hold fast to whatever love and joy we can find in life, each moment, each day. The previous post features a beautiful solstice celebration by poet Susan Cooper. Here are the closing lines:

“…They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year…”.

What more can we do, in this especially blood-soaked Festive Season? Despite everything, let us enjoy our holiday, be kind to one another, look forward to the coming  year with its component of joys –and sorrows.

AND – many thanks indeed to all my readers and commenters. It has been an especially good year for me at “Writing from the Twelfth House”, and all of you have made it so.

In the bleak Midwinter...

In the bleak Midwinter…

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Moon on the Winter Solstice

 “The rising of the Sun on the Winter Solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of the light from the dark void on the first day of creation.”

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice 2014 carries a layer of enigma: it occurs at 23.04 on 21st December 2014, just before the New Moon at 0 degrees 06 minutes of Capricorn on 22nd December at 01.37. (UK time)

This year’s Solstice thus takes place at the very end of  Moondark, the hidden 2-3 day period each month when the fragile, waning crescent Moon dies into the darkness from which the next New Moon is born.

Moondark in ancient times was a time of retreat, of reflection. People avoided travel at those times since there was no light to guide their footsteps, making the nighttime world even more dangerous than usual.

This seems to be appropriate to the atmosphere world-wide as a particularly grim year comes to an end amid a welter of extremist violence, with especial reference to the ‘massacre of the innocents’ which took place in Peshawar, Pakistan only this week.

Perhaps this Moondark New Moon in the solemn sign of Capricorn symbolises a world-wide invitation to contemplation and retreat as the year turns: to reflect on where we are as a human community, and how we can find ways, somehow, to live more peacefully with one another regardless of race, culture or creed…

In the meantime, we humans in the Northern Hemisphere, beset by darkness and cold, need light and celebration to lift our spirits, no matter how much bleak world affairs or the pains of everyday life hold us down. At last year’s Winter Solstice, I published a wonderful poem by Susan Cooper which depicts the history and expression of this need with vivid beauty. Many of my readers have requested me to publish it again this year.

Enjoy the Solstice!

THE SHORTEST DAY BY SUSAN COOPER

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

******

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Susan Cooper 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

How to travel without going anywhere…if Kant could do it, why not you?

As Followers and readers of ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’ will know, I had to give up a busy career and most of ordinary life from the end of 2001 until launching this blog in 2008 – my first step in re-entering the public world. Severe burnout following a prolonged family crisis led to the loss of around 90% of my formerly exuberant energy;  it took a very long time indeed fully to recover and eventually return to part-time work in 2012.

Until at last declaring myself fit again – on top of a remote hill pass, way up in the beautiful wild land of Scotland’s far North-West in the summer of 2008 – I hardly travelled anywhere physically. Travel was, quite simply, beyond my capacity.

However, in physical limitation and confinement– usually spending several hours each day lying on a couch in our ‘Quiet Room”– I discovered a breadth and depth of mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual freedom which had not been possible before in my busy and productive professional and personal life.

How I read! I was able to catch up with thirty years of reading , and in particular  freely to indulge a lifelong interest in my preoccupation with questions of “…mystery, meaning, pattern and purpose…” : cosmology, science (the open-minded kind, such as practised by eg Rupert Sheldrake), psychology, in-depth astrology, mythology, Nature, health and wellbeing, humour (that great survival device!) – in fact anything and everything which ultimately connects us up to the Big Picture.

And I wrote! Two books, both currently available – one free! –  as ebooks on this blog, and innumerable journals chronicling my inner and outer experiences of descent and return. S0 – I made this great discovery to an extent deeper than ever before:  one can travel the whole infinite multi-levelled world of  inner space without as much as setting foot on a train, boat or plane.

 Sophie Agrell is a published Scottish poet whose work I admire and have been happy to publish several times before on my blogs. When she showed me her latest poem, I loved it. Read it, and you will see exactly why… not that I would presume to compare myself to Emmanuel Kant, of course…

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

Immanuel Kant 1724-1804

Immanuel Kant 1724-1804

From Konigsberg

Ships voyaged

For days, weeks

Across the Baltic

To Hansa,

Scandinavia,

Places beyond

The quiet philosopher’s knowing,

Cities forever unseen,

Where other men thought,

Considered his philosophy,

His closely woven theories,

Wrote letters with scratchy quills

To their immovable friend.

Yet in all his life

Kant never left Konigsberg,

Never travelled

More than ten miles

From port, university,

That now-vanished German city.

*

You could set your clock

By Kant,

They said,

As he walked,

His route unchanging,

Through his city.

Freed from excitement,

Novelty,

The apprehension of change,

His mind roamed,

Far beyond

His body’s phenomenal world,

Exploring ethics,

Astronomy,

Metaphysics,

Reason and human experience,

To enlighten,

Challenge,

Change ideas,

Create theories

Larger than a man,

A city,

A world.

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

Sophie Agrell

 

 

 

 

photo by Anne Whitaker

(sophie_agrell@hotmail.com)

Sophie grew up in Kent, UK,  in a family whose connections spread from Sri Lanka, Sweden and Scotland throughout the world. She read Ancient andModern History at Oxford, eventually settling in Scotland where she works as a proof reader. She lives with her two dogs in a North Lanarkshire village. Sophie describes herself as “…. an escaped medievalist who watches the world, delights in its beauty, and grows roses…..”

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

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Sophie Agrell 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

…Transforming common days into thanksgivings…

Growing older has brought me an understanding of the value of living in the day, of being grateful for the texture of blessings that each new dawn brings: all we have to do is be mindful. So, on a very regular basis  now – without denying that life is often difficult and sometimes downright brutal – I remember to give thanks.

Give Thanks

Give Thanks

I live in Scotland, home of many expat Americans. Today, and across the world, citizens of the USA both at home and in all corners of the globe will be gathering in groups great and small, familial and otherwise, preparing for today’s great festival of Thanksgiving.

But the spirit of this festival is catching! Whether we are USA citizens or not, Thanksgiving is a great pause point in the year, reminding us to be grateful for whatever blessings we have, great and small. My small contribution from this blog is to collect a few lovely quotations which chime with Thanksgiving Day’s spirit. I do hope you enjoy them.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt “Thank You!” to all the many readers and followers of this blog, especially those who drop by on a regular basis to leave comments: all of you are are gratefully appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton

 “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks”. — Unknown

 “You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” — Cynthia Ozick

 “(Some people) have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” — A.H. Maslow

 “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart

(Many thanks to the DARING TO LIVE FULLY  site for the above quotes and IMAGES FOR THANKSGIVING for the jpegs)

Abundance

Abundance

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

Some thoughts on friendship: Anne and Peggy chew the fat…

I have been reflecting on the importance of having inter-generational friendships, in relation to the type of society in which we live which is riven by a huge paradox.

Thanks to the Internet-expedited social media revolution,  never in human history have we been so inter-connected at so many levels worldwide as we are now. This fact co-exists with a rising tide of human loneliness, especially amongst older people, who in terms of life experience are probably the richest members of our human community.

Good Friends

Good Friends

Today I have decided in my own small way to bridge this paradox, by using the Internet to tell a very personal story of  inter-generational friendship which I hope will inspire other people to reach out and make connections in their own way across the generations.

In 2012 I decided to return to work part-time after a long career break. Since some of my work involves making recordings both of one-to-one sessions and of classes, I needed to familiarise myself with digital MP3 recordings. My trusty old tape machine was now well and truly out of date! Worse still, I felt very ‘rusty’ as far as making recordings was concerned and did not wish to inflict myself on an unsuspecting public without having had some practice. But who would I ask to be my guinea pig?

One morning – in the shower, where I always get my best ideas – I hit on the idea of asking a good friend two decades older than me whether I could make some recordings of her life history. She was born in 1928, just before the stock market crash of 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression.

One of my main interests is looking at individual human lives in relation to the Big Picture. So, getting my friend to tell her life story against the backdrop of  the most turbulent, changeful century in human history seemed to me to be a wonderful project to set up for my MP3 recording initiation. But would she do it?

Of course she did! Peggy, my good friend, is always up for a new ploy. We embarked on our recording sessions in the spring of  2012. Twenty sessions and one year later, our project was complete. Peggy now has three copies of her life story, unfolding through those recordings, to give to each of her children. In typically irreverent fashion she said to me, in response to my enquiry regarding when she would be giving them out: “They can listen to them after I’ve kicked the bucket!!”

It was a privilege and an honour to do this piece of work with Peggy. To round the whole thing off, we did a concluding recording in which we reflected on the experience, what we had both gained from it (Lots!!), and how important it is for us all to make good friendships and connections throughout our whole lives.

There is plenty of irreverence and laughter in this short recording, as well as seriousness and poignancy. Peggy and I have decided to share it with you. We hope you listen, enjoy, let us have your feedback –and hopefully feel inspired to embark on something similar yourselves.

We only hope, if you do, that (as once happened to us) a bulldozer doesn’t start noisily digging up the road just outside your window as you begin your recording session!

Anne and Peggy chew the fat

******

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