Last nights dusting of snow lies over the ice, disguising it. Only the passing of people show what lies beneath. We stick carefully to the grassy edges, picking our way along. Golden afternoon light drapes over the trees, creating a shadowland beneath. Twig and shade merge, and shapes seem to twist and change. A faint rustle betrays the presence of blackbird, guddling in the frozen leaves for its dinner. Above a bluetit perches, singing an alarm at our presence, silhouetted against the pale blue of oncoming dusk.
An escape to the seaside today. A hospital visit combined with a walk on the promenade. The tide is full in, and the wind whipping the waves, so that they come rolling in with a crash and a thud, sea-spray reaching up and over. The icy rain grips my breath, and freezes my nose. On the embankment, a flock of dunlins dances in and out of the incoming tide, seeking sustenance, puffed up against the cold. I huddle further into my coat as I stride along, trying to outpace the worst of the weather. I pause and turn to face the incoming tide, arms outstretched, balanced on the wind. Aware of the power pent-up within. Closing my eyes, I stretch hearing and sensation until I am only aware of the boom of the tide, the lash of the wind, and the creeling of the gulls overhead. Time passes, until with a final nod to the tide, I must move on.
The story of the white wolf and the black wolf is, I’m told, an old Cherokee story. I’ve seen and heard various different versions. But in this time of unrest in the world, it gives us an important question. What wolf are we choosing to feed inside ourselves? Why don’t you read it and decide?
There was once an old and wise grandfather, who had a grandson he loved. Each day, the grandson would come and spend time with his grandfather, and talk to him about the events of the day. One day, the grandson came with a look of anger on his face. ‘Come’, said the grandfather, ‘sit and tell me about your day’. The child sat on the floor and leaned against his grandfather. Looking up at him, he said, ‘I went into the town today with father. He had promised me a present, as I had helped him so much recently. I was so happy and excited. I went into the trading post and there we found a small knife, just the right size for me. So father bought it for me.’ Here, the boy fell silent.
The grandfather placed his hand on the boys head, ‘Then what happened?’
The boy said ‘I took it outside to look at it. But some older boys saw me. They called me names, and teased me, and said I had no right to have the knife. Then one of them knocked me over, and another took my knife, and they ran away with it’. Here, the boy paused. Then, looking up at his grandfather he said ‘I hate them! I hate them!’
Grandfather sighed deeply and said, ‘I have also suffered. There have been people who have taken without asking, those who have called me names, who have fought and bullied. I have felt great hate. But hate hurts only you. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. In the end your own soul will die. I have struggled with this. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, a white one and a black one. The white one lives in peace with those around him, and does not take offense where none was intended. It looks for good and not evil, it welcomes, not rejects. It only fights when it is right, and only in the right way. But the black wolf is full of anger and hatred. He is focused only one himself and his wants. Anything that is against his will sends him into anger. He fights everyone, all the time. He looks for the negative, not the positive. He cannot think because his anger and hatred are so great. It is anger that destroys himself. Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both try to rule my life.’
The boy looked up into his grandfather’s eyes. ‘Which one wins, Grandfather?’
The Grandfather smiled and said ‘The one I choose to feed’.
Brush the mind
Full of hope
The world holds its breath
Until the creator is birthed
Not to cheering crowds and waiting press
Not in explosions of light and sound
But in the night
The darkness hours
Are lit by light eternal
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
A blessed and happy Christmas to you all.
With traveling, retreat leading and job-hunting, the last few weeks seem to have flown past. In fact, the last year has flown past! A year since my unpaid sabbatical year began. While leading a retreat down at Lee Abbey a week or so ago, I found myself mulling over what has been achieved and what has not been achieved. Although that might be the wrong way to express it. One of my strengths and one of my failings is that I’m good at planning and programming my life, and most of the time, I stick to the plan. I was determined not to plan the year away! So I had vague plans for this year out – nothing definite. I was going to finish at least one of the books that I’ve been planning and writing for the last few years. Preferably two of them. I was going to do some other writing, do lots of walking, train for a 10K run, maybe look at composing some songs, practice my violin, spend time on my artwork, learn to make bobbin-lace, visit some of the places I’d always wanted to go…. the list continued!
I haven’t finished any of the books I’d started writing. I have written some other things instead, things that at the start of the year would have been completely alien to me. I have spent some time walking. I have learnt to make bobbin lace, and how to bead a bauble. I have sewn and embroidered. I have knitted a Shetland lace shawl. I can now spin wool on a spindle and a spinning wheel. The violin has spent most of its year in the case. I have been to some of the places I’d heard about. I have laughed and cried and had the space to do it in, discovering yet again who I am, and starting to discern what God is calling me to at this stage in my life. It has at time felt like being put through a wringer.
My life has lain fallow this year. Most of what I have seen, photographed, written about, has been influenced by factors outside my own life. Events happening in other people’s lives. Nature in all her many moods. The harvest that has emerged has been not of my planting, but of God’s. Some of it is barely discernible to me. At times I question if there has been a harvest at all! But some of those looking on assure me there is one. There is certainly a feeling that seeds have been planted, and will spring into life when the climate is right. In the meantime I must wait, and make sure the fields are nourished, protected and prepared.
The writing continues, the blogging will continue, as will the various bits of sewing, knitting, etc. I have Christmas presents to make. The job-hunting continues, the grind of filling in application forms, phone-calls, searching, looking. Not an entirely positive experience. The being with God continues. In all of this, I hold on to the fact that God has a plan for me, and where I eventually end up will be his plan for my life, not mine. I wait for the future.
In the quietness of the old church
Propped in the corner
Stands the sheaf of corn
Pale gold, gleaming in the light
Stirred by the breeze, it rustles slightly
The seeds are ripe,
Ready for the harvest
For the planting
For the coming year
For future to be decided.
When I was sixteen
We moved to a place
With views of mountains and fields
With estuary and sand dunes
Where you could paddle
Along the narrow inlets
At low tide
And watch the fish dart ahead
Flashes of silver in the sunlight
And feel the flicker of flatfish
Disturbed by your passage
As they skimmed the surface
of the sand
It was not always a safe place
For the tide could turn and rush in
Leaving you in a mad scramble
Towards the shore
But not for anything
Would I have missed
The touch of the fish
As they tickled my feet
A week spent away in Benderloch, just north of Oban. No email, no internet. Just the sea, the mountains, and the green… bringing back memories of my time near Porthmadog. I was up in Benderloch for Woolfeis, the gaelic wool festival. Great fun, of which more later.
The playing-field was mown last week. Dry grass still lies piled in rows. Yet the daisies are back again, white stars shining. By the swings and between the goalposts the earth shows through, a threadbare patch of green. Trodden down by excited feet. If you look closely, a fairy ring lies under the trees, where the little folk come and dance by moonlight. Through the gap and over the dry ditch on to the path homewards. The hedges are laden with may-blossom this year, white froth edging the track. Purple grasses wave gently in the breeze, a faint rustle at the edge of hearing. The flowers seem to smile in greeting as I pass by, buttercups gently glowing in the light. A bee bumbles past, weaving from flower to flower. Sipping the honey, drunk on summer.