Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Live!

Zhoenw blogged a few weeks ago on the subject of live music. In her words, "the best music is live, and surprizing, unexpected and impressive".

I was at a fundraising concert recently with a friend, where professional and amateur musicians performed a selection of pieces ranging from Bach to gospel. I hadn't really wanted to go, but I owed my friend a favour or two, so along we went one Thursday evening. It was held in a smallish local hall, with a hundred or so people in the audience, including a fair number of small children.

I was confounded. It was wonderful. Just a few examples: an electrifying Chopin piano scherzo; Vissi d'Arte from Tosca; a jazz pianist with an accompanying vocal trio; a performance by a small amateur gospel choir that had the audience clapping along in time; and much else besides of a very high standard, punctuated at various appropriate points by laughter, banter and loud applause. At one point during the aria I felt vibrations in my own throat as well as the tears welling in my eyes; with the jazz my solar plexus was tingling. (It appears that live music causes my body, as well as my soul, to sing. Much as I appreciate my collection of CDs, when I listen to them the effect just isn't the same!).

As time went on a few of the children became over-excited and fractious and had to be taken outside temporarily, but nobody really minded - it was just inspiring to be present at such a celebration of music-making in a community context. On the way home, the echoes of the music and the cheers still reverberated in my thoughts and I reflected on how much nourishment for the soul and the emotions there is in events such as this, particularly in our isolated, virtual era. The evening had turned out to be an unexpected gift.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sunset

It had been raining for hours, but at dusk the sky cleared and the sun appeared briefly before its departure, golden and resplendent. As we breasted the dunes, the cold easterly wind played havoc with my hair and sought out the gaps in our many layers of clothing. We gasped, then laughed and ran down to the water's edge, the day's accumulated irritations blown away for a precious moment or two ....

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Haiku

Black night, thick trees and
the path is lost; but above
the Pole Star still shines.


Polaris, or the current Pole Star: according to Wikipedia "while other stars' positions change throughout the night, the pole star's position in the sky does not. Therefore, it is a dependable indicator of the direction north."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Stopped

"Ideally, this should be the time when a concerted effort is made to engage in reflection and review. A form of loosening is taking place, a solution to a stuck situation which disengages one from what was in order to prepare one for what will be".

Excerpt from chapter on Mercury Retrograde
Retrograde Planets - Traversing the Inner Landscape by Erin Sullivan

I was going to do so much today. But it's lunchtime, and the only thing I've accomplished is taking the cat to the vet for some antibiotics. He is asleep alongside me (the cat not the vet!), occasionally half-waking himself when he emits a dainty sneeze, then sinking back into slumber. I have told a couple of agencies I am free for work, and had a call back from a third asking if I would like to be put forward for a maternity cover contract - I said yes. Wait and see.

Other than that, I have read a few favourite blogs and had an early lunch. It's very cold outside and I want to ignore my to-do list, hunker down and read. I should be chasing work, cleaning, knitting, planning, going shopping, or starting the mammoth task of clearing my junk in anticipation of moving in a year or so. I have been a permanent salaried worker for so many years that now that I am not I find it a struggle always to manage time in a productive way, or at least in a way that meets my own standards.

Am I allowed days like this during the working week? Is it sloth, or is it letting go?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Silence

November nights sound a
particular chord of silence,
the stillness of being and waiting,
of death and withdrawal;
with dark silhouettes of trees
and their few remaining leaves
motionless against a midnight sky.

Who would she be if
the surrounding quiet were
slowly distilled, drop by drop,
the elixir applied lovingly -
as with a cloth of finest muslin -
to her ever unquiet mind,
to soothe, and to caress it,
sinking into silence?

Pictures

Sonia of the wonderful Leaves of Grass has graciously suggested that I post pictures of my holiday in Egypt a few years back. I would love to but my photography/picture issues are still not resolved due to a combination of Blogger upload feature problems; wanting to sort out this and all my other minor computer glitches at one time with my computer chap; diary coordination issues with my computer chap; ignorance on my part of anything to do with digital cameras (don't have one yet - temporary (?) cash flow problems), and a total inability to understand Hello/Picasa or Flickr without having someone explain them s-l-o-w-l-y.

Pitiful, but there we are. I learn how things work through seeing someone else demonstrate, not through reading instruction manuals, unfortunately for me.

So to be going on with, for Sonia, here is the one picture of Egypt that I managed to upload before my problems began and which I originally posted in a few weeks back. I really want to get things sorted by the end of the year, but a positive result of all these irritations is that they are forcing me to pay attention to my writing in the meantime. I can't hide behind pictures.

But I will be so pleased when I can start posting them again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Happy

  1. I returned yesterday evening to the yoga class I had stopped attending last June when I aggravated an old sacro-iliac problem. I sat at the back of a beginners' class and gently coaxed my stiff body back into some of the familiar asanas. I was able to allow myself to stop when I needed to stop, and not to compare myself too much with my younger, suppler classmates. And this morning on awakening I felt wonderful - it is as if my body is coming alive again! I will return, and hope that I can keep this awareness of my limits as well as my possibilities.

  2. I am not working today so I ran a few errands in the centre of town. It was crisp, cold and sunny, and I sat watching the world go by from the top deck of the bus as it trundled across the river, along past the Houses of Parliament and down Whitehall. Alighting at Trafalgar Square, I called into the National Portrait Gallery for a quick peek at the moving, yet joyful and fun Look at Me exhibition, a collection of self-portaits by (often disadvantaged) community groups from across the UK.

  3. And I've come home with a superb selection of library books: a memoir by Karen Armstrong; The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron (because I couldn't resist a title like that); and a couple of thrillers (because I can't not have a crime story within reach).

  4. Happy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Finite resources

"I'd think about my sister who lives a quick two hours away by car. I
imagined how many days it would take to walk all that way uphill to see her."

Reaction after seeing the documentary: The End of Suburbia.
from - The Web-of-Life wiki

Gemma Grace on her blog has linked to an entry, which includes a report she has written for the Web-of-Life wiki on the topic of oil depletion. A worthwhile and sobering read, and check out the comments on the post as well.

Pretty high on the list of reasons why I want to move out of the city is the ability to become a little more self-sufficient (a bicycle, a garden for growing vegetables and fruit, sourcing locally produced food, etc). No-one can save the world single-handed, global and collective initiatives are needed in the face of dwindling natural resources, but any action no matter how small is better than nothing; the collective after all is the sum of many individuals. And these problems/opportunities are not going to go away.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Courage

I am reaching the conclusion that courage at the moment comes simply in taking today's small, imperceptible but necessary steps; one at a time, moving forward.

Climb slowly, search for
next foothold, move, breathe and smile;
sun's warmth on your back.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Starting point

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
H D Thoreau

Leaving the city has been on my agenda for several years now, but as an appealing concept, nothing stronger. I would like a modest house in a small town, with a spare room for my work, and above all a garden. Simple needs, but not financially possible in the capital. I know the town I want to move to, close to good friends and to some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK.

In the last couple of months it has seemed that I have been unable to progress in any area of my life. It hasn't been possible to find an opening in the type of work in which I have re-trained (too much competition in London), a relationship has foundered, and for the first time the city no longer feels like home. It is now dawning on me that these repeated rebuffs, and the discouragement that results, are straws in the wind carrying the message that moving should be more than just an idea. That it might be time to start taking some action. The idea of relocating has moved from the head to the gut and to the heart.

So, I am looking at mid-to-late 2007 as my goal to be settled in my new abode. Two years. Time enough to do what needs to be done. And blogging about it here is the starting point.

The Quarry

Out of the corner of my eye
a movement,
fluttering like a bird,
and I turn;
seeing me
your face darkens and
you disappear into the crowd
towards the other, empty
and indifferent.

Another day:
a laugh, deceptively familiar,
kind eyes, which dupe me
for a season,
before I realise
they do not belong to you.

I search for you
down ill-lit streets,
in the eyes of fellow workers,
on journeys home,
in the book I read,
at airports
and in shopping malls.

Along the silent river banks
I track your footprints;
desperate now,
I search for you
high on the fells,
and through marshes
where the east wind chaps my skin.

I look for you in sleep;
and even in
those hidden, sacred places;
where the drumbeat
of the search is muffled
- for a while.

I wait now, mute and drained;
but a still small voice,
(that still small voice?)
has recently grown louder,
and yes,
(a short laugh, a slow breath)
I think it may be right.

My quarry,
all I know is how to search,
I have no skill in finding.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

French Fa├žade
















Lille, France. June 2005 . Click to enlarge.

Nothing to do with the riots, this was taken earlier this year.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Oasis

In the years that I have lived in this part of London, my local patch of common, just 5 minutes walk from my home, has been a principal point of reference. I try and visit at least once a week to re-charge amidst the solid, reassuring oak trees and to connect with the seasonal changes; just now the expanses of grass and scrubland are framed by the yellow, russet, green and red tones of the autumn leaves, sometimes against a background of the bluest of blue skies.

More than in many open spaces in the metropolis, the powers that be have allowed some pockets of relative wilderness to remain here; in certain spots, in spite of the proximity of road, rail and suburban sprawl, you can imagine yourself far away from the city.

Noted at various times: herons motionless by the ponds; ducks nesting; squirrels chasing each other through the oak trees; horses and riders; silver birches with branches tossing to and fro in the wind; rustling, leafy trails through the woods; acorns crunching underfoot; cow parsley in summer; a grove of willows; blackberries ripening; glowing red-orange rose hips entwined with old man's beard; the common at sunrise covered in snow, frozen and silent; and once, I think, a kestrel.

I never tire of it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Relief

3rd November

It is calm after the storm. I feel a rainbow where there once were clouds, and while my spirit dances in gratitude, my mind speculates on the next disaster. Duality.

Mary Casey quoted in
Each Day a New Beginning - Daily Meditations for Women

I have been wrestling with demons this week, feeling depressed and unwell, but unwilling to admit that there was anything wrong with me that a change of mental attitude from negative to positive couldn't fix. The fact that some computer instructions brought me to tears because I couldn't understand them meant I was pathetic, nothing more. I told myself I should be putting more effort into looking for work but also knew that if I got a job immediately I simply would not be able to cope with it, I felt so wretched.

Finally, sanity broke through yesterday afternoon and I booked myself a GP appointment for this morning. And yes, I am ill, with a temperature. A sinus infection. I am lucky with my GP and I left, smiling at his humour, with a prescription for antibiotics and a sick note. And now I can give myself permission to lie on the sofa and read, to do nothing with impunity. I can take the whip out of my own hand and put it to one side, at least for the next week.

As I type, the cat is sitting on the window ledge. He goes into Mighty Hunter mode on windy autumn days like this, chattering his teeth, twitching his tail and trying vainly to catch the swirling leaves that tap against the window as they fall.

I feel relieved and grateful for this present moment of calm, however transient it may be. And I will defer speculation on the next disaster for as long as possible.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Blogger update

Thanks for the comments on the thread below.

Blogger Support (now known as Graham) and I have exchanged a couple of emails re my uploading problems. Graham has emailed me overnight to say that he has tested my upload feature and it is working fine from his end. I tried it again just now. Still kaput. I did suspect there might be something amiss on my laptop, and now this looks more likely. I will probably contact my computer chap.

In the meantime, few if any pictures. Having got used to the look of the blog with them and realised how they can highlight and illuminate without words, I now feel rather exposed. It's like going to a social event where everyone else is dressed beautifully and I'm wearing no make up and jeans. In other words, people may like me but it won't be because of my external appearance *grin*.