Tag Archives: Creative Commons

Not ANOTHER big bad comet! Here comes “ISON”….

Comets have inspired dread, fear, and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as “the Harbinger of Doom“ and “the Menace of the Universe.”

They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky? Why did so many cultures cringe at the sight of a comet? 

To reflect on these and other questions concerning comets, check out

http://astrologyquestionsandanswers.com/2013/11/09/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-comet-answering-mems-question/

Comet Halle-Bop

Comet Halle-Bop

100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Treasure in the autumn sky….

No, I haven’t vanished from the blogosphere…. still resting my (much improved) tendonitis-afflicted wrist. However, I enjoy  emerging occasionally: this time, to share something which has lighted up my week.

I love the Northern Lights, those elusive magicians of the Northern dark. Here is a beautiful photograph sent to me last week which I have happily added to my collection. Enjoy!

Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Treshnish Isles, Scotland

(click on the image to enlarge)

….and...if you’d like to read some of my reflections on the joy and awe evoked by the Northern Lights, as well as watching a video of the most stunning Northern Lights sequence EVER, click below:

 https://anne-whitaker.com/2013/04/21/watch-this-clip-feed-your-soul/

Do treat your soul to an uplift by watching this clip. Forget the Measurers and the reductionists for a few minutes. Whatever they may do their best to tell us, there are and always will be sublimely mysterious dimensions to life for which materialist science with all its brilliance can provide only one dimension of the answer…..

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Brilliant Posts: on the roots of Western democracy

This thoughtful and informative post by William Newton was deservedly featured on WordPress‘s Freshly Pressed list a few days ago. In Newton’s own words,

Reading a 6th century text is probably not most people’s idea of a good time, but on this (11 July) Feast of St. Benedict (480-547 A.D.) I want to encourage you, even if you are not Christian, to take a look at an extremely important document to the development of Western culture, the Rule of St. Benedict….” 

He points out that the importance to Western culture of St Benedict’s Rule – though often overlooked today – lies in its having generated a number of profoundly important ideas which still shape our flawed but continuing attempts to live in a civilised manner with one another.

Do read this post, revisit these ideas, and realise how key thinkers still reach deeply into our lives, shaping them, from what we tend to regard as the distant past….

The Monastic Roots of Western Democracy

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Brilliant Posts: A new twist on the Grim Reaper

This is the third in my Brilliant Posts series. I’ve just discovered an unusual blog called The Call of the Siren, by Nick Owchar, in his own words “…. a site about books on myth, fantasy and more, which continues a regular column that I wrote for the Los Angeles Times for many years while serving as deputy editor of the newspaper’s book coverage….”

To quote from Nick Owchar again, “When Julian Barnes writes about losing his wife to a brain tumor, he writes instead about the adventures of 18th and 19th century balloonists. It makes for the most unusual kind of memoir — and it highlights how truly difficult it is to express what we’re feeling when one of our loved ones dies…..”

We need to be more open, more lateral, more literary, more honest, in approaching the topic of death.  It has become more and more something to avoid, as secularism bites deep into our culture.

Read this post. It holds riches….

 Books of death: new in bookstores. 

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

The Children’s Wood West-End Festival Gala programme

Our local Glasgow, Scotland UK campaign continues with some summer fun for young and old. Do come along and support us!

The Children's Wood and North Kelvin Meadow

The Children's Wood West-End Festival Gala programme

We’ve got a fantastic line up of activities and stalls for our Gala this SUnday (2nd June). There will be something for everyone. We hope to see you there. Join the conversation on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TheChildrensWood

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These rules work for hang gliding, tennis, sex – oh, and writing….

I can see you.

The spray can of heavy duty industrial oven cleaner parked on the kitchen floor is a dead give away. Peel off those rubber gloves, stop pretending that your family will drop dead of food poisoning tonight if you don’t clean those charred meal residues insulating the inside of the oven right away. Follow me. Yes, just as I thought. The study door is ajar. I can see the laptop screen from here. Closer….yes, that’s it. Don’t die of embarrassment, it won’t help. A new document  is open on screen. A title?

(NB – provisional ) Of authorship and toads….

" Of authorship and toads...."

And ?  I suspected this. One paragraph indentation, and the word  “The”…...can that really be all ? Oh. There’s a new line.

“ F— this, I might as well be cleaning the oven!!!!”

I have two words to say to you. Pay attention, they really will help, I promise:

Natalie Goldberg.

A few months ago, I visited Glasgow Buddhist Centre in search of a meditation stool. Yes, you’ve guessed, I had an article which had to be in the post by 5pm. I was distracted from the article by the stool, then distracted from the stool by Natalie Goldberg. Her bookWild Mind : Living the Writer’s Life drew me like a lure. What a wonderful writer! What an inspiring book! Did the article get to the postbox? I’m not telling you.

Natalie Goldberg is an American writer  and creative writing teacher. She is sharp, witty, compassionate, lateral….and tough. She has bottom lines and is not afraid to state them. She has rules. My guess is, if you follow these rules on a regular basis, you’ll rarely be distracted by oven cleaning or any other form of housework ever again.

She is fanatical about writing practice. “ If you learn writing practice well, it is a good foundation for all other writing.” We need to do it as regularly as possible, she says.

“ When you sit down to write, whether it’s for ten minutes or an hour, once you begin, don’t stop. If an atom bomb drops at your feet eight minutes after you have begun and you were going to write for ten minutes, don’t budge. You’ll go out writing.”

In essence, writing practice is a technique for cracking open the confining grip of our conscious, rational mind – and flying free into the big blue sky of what Goldberg calls “ wild mind”.

Here, briefly, are Natalie’s rules:

(She also thinks they mostly work for hang gliding, tennis and sex.)

1. Keep your hand moving. If you stop your hand, you stop the creator’s flow and give the editor in you an opportunity to interrupt.

2. Lose control. Just say what you want no matter how inappropriate. Just go for it.

3. Be specific. Don’t write flower, write narcissus.

4. Don’t think. Stay with the first thing that flashes into your mind.

5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar.

6. You are free to write the worst junk in America ( or in your case, could be anywhere in the world ! )

7. Go for the jugular. Whatever comes up, no matter how frightening or disturbing, write it down.

There you are. Begin writing practice today. Next step, buy Goldberg’s books on the writers’ craft. They are a wonderful investment. I’m doing well with my writing practice, by the way. I’ve bought two new notebooks. Still can’t decide which one to start….

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Help save our Children’s Wood: support the protest any way you can, wherever you are….

“Wild spaces are invaluable to children, especially those growing up in
towns. They stimulate the imagination and nurture the spirit. Places
like the Children’s Wood within North Kelvin Meadow (Glasgow) are hard to come
by in urban settings and so should be preserved at all costs.”

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and U.K Children’s Laureate

Children's Wood Protest 1

Children’s Wood Protest 1

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

This is not just a local issue. This issue is one of the major challenges of our time right across the world.

As Dr Carol Craig, CEO of The Centre for Confidence and Well-being, has recently said:

“For decades we have restricted children’s freedom to play outdoors and there’s growing evidence  that this trend is damaging their physical health and emotional well-being. We now have to take positive steps to ensure that children have easy access to wild spaces like the Children’s Wood in the North Kelvin Meadow. It would be a travesty if this special place for children disappeared under concrete.”

Our local North Kelvin Meadow campaign takes an important step forward on Thursday 4th April 2013 from 11.45 am until 12.30 pm with a second protest demonstration outside the City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Do come along and join us – if you can’t make it, do send this link to ANYONE you think can contribute to saving our meadow in any way: friends, community activists, bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, journos……it all helps!

BACKGROUND STORY:

May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council’s plan for the space goes ahead.

To give you a wonderful ‘flavour’ of what this land means to our community, DO watch this brilliant short film Dear Green Place made recently by film maker James Urquhart.

AND – to sign our on-line petition, go HERE. Thanks!!

Meadow in the CityThe Children’s Wood

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

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NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, Facebook friends, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this information around your networks. Thanks!

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400 words copyright /Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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My “invincible summer”: on threat and opportunity

A long family crisis triggered my collapse with severe burnout at the end of 2001. I had to let go of a busy, creative life and rest for years. It took me until 2008 to recover my natural vitality. Five years on, I am still discovering in a variety of ways the benefits of that long period of enforced rest.

Some of you may have come across the Chinese ideogram for crisis which contains the two concepts of threat and opportunity. Energy collapse deprived me of the one constant which I had always relied on to get me through whatever life threw at me – my strong will. I discovered – and this was a brutal, frightening discovery – that my will had collapsed along with my energy.

Thus I had to learn, very slowly, the value of  letting life shape me whilst lying on a couch much of the day, reading avidly and tapping my laptop. I discovered the virtues of passivity, and the creative space that opens up within when of necessity you do very little. I had to rely on the loving support of those closest – my husband, my brother and a small group of close friends, and remain full of gratitude for that constancy and care.

Fortunate to have a strong and rich inner life to draw on, a significant part of what sustained me was knowing that although this long ordeal was mine, it was also archetypal. As Stanislav Grof so vividly puts it, “the stormy journey of the soul” has been a central part of all human experience throughout the ages. I was not alone in my descent into the Underworld. It is a well-worn path.

I also knew that through the tests encountered in the Underworld, your soul grows  into a shape which more closely fits the essence of who you are meant to be. So I hung on, called upon Spirit to guide me, survived, and grew.

Now I am reaping the rewards of that long crisis which was so threatening yet so full of opportunity. Able in a variety of ways to offer out some of the fruits of retreat, I hope that these offerings may inspire others. All my life I have loved and been inspired by quotes. Here are two which I pinned up in our kitchen,  absorbing their energy and wisdom when my own energy was perilously low.

I do hope you find them of value!

“It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than with the idea of will.Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their lives into shape. If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go.”

John O’Donohue, pp 83-4 Anam Cara Bantam Books 1999

(John O’Donohue 1956-2008 was an Irish poet turned priest, whose writing merged Celtic spirit and love of the natural world )

“In the midst of winter
I finally learned
That there was in me
An invincible summer”

This is a popular quote whose original source I have as yet not traced, but have come across a slight variation ie ‘within me there lay an invincible summer’ – different sites have different versions. Come on, detectives out there! Where in Camus’ writings does this quote appear? Let me know!

Albert Camus

( Albert Camus 1913-1960 was a French philosopher best known for his book L’Etranger (The Outsider) whose existentialist philosophy influenced a whole post-war generation)

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

People you never forget….

 

Grandpa Donald

It was a very stormy day, as is frequently the case in the Outer Hebrides in winter. The ferry was tossing alarmingly, the passengers were very scared. Some were lying being sick in the toilets. Others, white faced, were on the cafeteria floor, clinging to the table legs for comfort and support.

Grandpa Donald’s nerves were steady. Despite being over seventy, he was  dapper, and had never lost the sea legs he developed sailing between South America and his native island before the First World War. He made his way with a calculated stagger into the cafeteria full of screaming children and whimpering adults, serenely advancing to the serving area.

“I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a cup of tea?”

He was on his way to South Uist to do a spot of lay preaching, and saw no reason why a force nine gale should come between him and his afternoon cuppa.

Donald died when I was eleven and he was eighty three. Typical of the man, chasing hens up the street was the last thing he did before taking his leave of this world, serene in his faith that he would be re-united with his departed loved ones in the Life to Come.

He used to babysit for me. I have no memory of those occasions, but according to my mother he used to say, every time my parents returned home, 

“My goodness, that child. What questions she asks, what questions!”.

About the stars, and God, and where we all came from, and what life was for, apparently.

I do remember his serenity and good humour, and his kindness. I adored him and was devastated when he died. Donald had always made me feel safe, secure and valued. No one else in my childhood years had done this for me in quite the same way, as I struggled to grow up and get away from my parents. They loved me, but were too damaged in themselves and their unhappy relationship to support me in the ways that I needed.
After Donald died, until I left home, I asked questions only of myself and my books.

Most of us have someone inspiring/challenging we’ll never forget. Who comes to mind for you? It would be interesting to hear.

             400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Constructive criticism: can we do without it?

Where would we writers be, without constructive criticism?

One of the most useful pieces of advice I was ever given came from a newspaper editor I once worked for, a crusty old chap who called a spade a spade. “You’re too wordy, my girl!” he observed. (this was in the good old days, before my even thinking he was being offensive might have got him arrested….) “I’ve never known any piece of writing to get anything other than better by the removal of 25 per cent of its wording. Now – take “How I was left on the shelf and found true happiness” away, and chop it!”

Honestly, I did write an article with that title, for the Spring Brides feature of a provincial Scottish newspaper a few decades ago. And yes, dear reader, it actually did get published, minus 25% of its wording. Somewhere in my files I have the cutting to prove it….

Another piece of even earlier straight-from-the-shoulder feedback has just found its way to the front of my braincell. Picture the scene. Aberdeen university, the infamous Sixties. I had left my seriously overdue history essay till the very last possible evening before my second exasperated extension from my usually genial tutor had expired.

I finally stopped procrastination and began writing at one am. Many cups of coffee and cigarettes later, at 8am, the task was completed. It had to be handed in by  9am or I would not receive my History class certificate. Without that, I could not sit my degree exam. Serious business.

Burning the midnight oil….

I ran most of the way to my tutor’s office. It was pouring with rain. On the way, I somehow managed to drop one of the essay’s ten pages into a puddle. It was only rendered semi-illegible – and only the bibliography, I thought, thankful for small mercies. Made it by 9. Just.

A week later I visited my charismatic and much loved, but somewhat fierce, history tutor – Owen Dudley Edwards. He glared at me as he thrust the dishevelled bundle of paper that was my essay back at me. I scanned the title page. “Phew!!” I thought with relief. Fifty per cent. A pass!!

“This essay on ‘The Origins of the American War of Independence” Owen Dudley said severely, in words I have never forgotten, “bears all the hallmarks of the triumph of native intelligence and writing ability over little if any credible content.” There was a long pause. ” The bibliography – I had cited Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples having once flicked through it – I assume is a joke….”

There was a frosty silence. I left, not feeling as chastened as the good Mr. Edwards had intended.

“Mmmmmm” I thought to myself as I headed off to the refectory to buy a much needed bacon sandwich, ” maybe I should be a writer if I ever grow up.

That crusty newspaper editor is probably long dead. Owen Dudley Edwards is still with us, and still giving out his straight from the shoulder opinions. I know this because I heard him on the radio a couple of months ago. I am grateful to both of them for their never-forgotten feedback. It was direct, it pulled no punches. It let me know where I stood. Grit in the oyster, it helped me become a competent writer.

However, in recent times, constructive criticism seems to have morphed into something altogether much less forthright, much more timid, much more inclined to dish out indiscriminate praise and affirmation regardless of performance. Is this helpful to young people’s education and development?

What do YOU think?

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600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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