Dreams

 

Sit back. My dears, EBL is going to get all reminiscent.

Once upon a time, when the world was young, finding out information was difficult. There was no Google, if toy can believe such a thing and no Ask Jeeves, nor Lycos, nor even Excite. Not so much as a pixel of search engine goodness at the fingertips of even the most advanced computer scientist.

In those days EBL was a keen young thing at school and one day she had a lesson in English where the supply teacher was interesting. This in itself was shocking, with all due respect to Mrs P who was the usual teacher. Mrs P did her best but she was worn down by years of service to the cause of drumming Dickens and Hardy and Shakespeare into adolescent heads more interested in pop music and fashion and dancing. No one could sustain interest in the face of such barbarity.

The young supply teacher was fresh meat though and still had the dewy optimism of the newly qualified, all ready to change the world. So she talked to us about Old English poetry. I suspect my classmates do not recall this at all, but it struck a chord with EBL.  The chord was, however somewhat limited.

I remembered a fragment of verse because it sounded cool. I liked languages, even then, and it sounded interesting – English but not English. I knew it involved a battle. Well of course it did – it was Anglo Saxon poetry after all.

While I was nosing around my local library one day (those were places you could go to find books and borrow them, another feature of life now much reduced) I decided to see if I could find it again. There were no books on Anglo Saxon poetry in our little local library so I moved on and found one on Schiller which was pretty good, along with a copy of Candide by Voltaire. Ah, A-Levels.

So I left it alone.

When I got to university I asked friends who were studying English if they knew what it was. They blinked at me and muttered about The Faerie Queen and drank a few more pints.

So I left it alone.

One day while the Offspringses were older and studying and the Internet had been invented I searched on-line. But there was little to see and most of it was on UseNet which was a wild place not suited to discussing Anglo Saxon poetry.

So I left it alone.

When I was older I spent some time in another library, in a bigger town, while the Offspringses were in the children’s section, looking for Anglo Saxon poetry. But there wasn’t any still.

So I left it alone.

One day a friend mentioned the same poem and asked if I knew what it was, and I had to say I knew of it but not its name or date or even really its subject – beyond a battle, which wasn’t much help.

So I left it alone.

One day much later, when it was a new millennium and I was a little bored and Google had been invented I thought I would try again. The incredible thing is that even after all the years (probably around 35 years had passed by now) I still remembered the phrases and almost the spelling. And the other incredible thing is Google.

Google worked out I meant “hige sceal the heardre, heorte the cenre” when I typed in “hige sceal heorte” – that is one fine algorithm.

Google found the poem.

So I didn’t leave it alone.

I was able to read about it and to read the text in modern and Old English. I fell in love.

I found a study group of like-minded souls and have discovered more about this period of history and had incredible joy from sharing it and learning more about both the history and the language, the culture and the literature. I have met lovely people and been to brilliant events and read amazing books.

Yesterday I went to a course at the University of York on Icelandic and Norse sagas, which inter-relate to the Anglo Saxon period very tightly (Vikings, duh!), and learned how Skaldic Poetry is composed and fell in love again.

This little shoot of happiness has been growing and growing after long years fallow.

Sometimes we have to wait until the time is right.

Never forget your dreams. May the time be right for yours soon.

Namaste.

 

 

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Greenness

greenness

One of the changes I have made over recent months is to try and engage in more of my hobbies. The death of my mother just before Christmas means that I have finally reached that point in life, apparently always far off until it landed with a thump at my feet, when I am foot loose and fancy free. No more children at home, no more dependent elderly relatives. Just me and Sigoth at home, wearing slippers and drinking wine and wondering what has happened; not in a demented way I hasten to add. Just a curious and slightly baffled way, as the peace of our lives emerges from the chaos of family and planning for the future. It seems the future has arrived.

Naturally I wondered what would happen if I prodded it.

One of the things I decided to try was to go on a course called “The Seasons of the Spirit” which looked at life and faith through the lenses of the seasons: renewal, light, death, frozen, change, hope and so on.  We did all kinds of creative activities including painting with closed eyes, collage, scrap-book, lectio divina,  and so on. Most of the time we held to silence, and it became very powerful.

For me the highlight was the poetry that was shared. In particular a verse from a poem by George Herbert called “The Flower”.

Who would have thought my shriveled heart

Could have recovered greenness? It was gone

Quite underground; as flowers depart

To see their mother-root, when they have blown,

Where they together

All the hard weather,

Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

This particular verse considered the withering of flowers in late Autumn or Winter, yet recognised that they would return in the Spring, refreshed by a hiatus building up their strength and nourishing themselves hidden away from the world.

Oh, this was for me! Feeling like I would never be able to shine again, that all my juices had been poured out in caring for that tired old woman and those exuberant young Offspringses, all of whom needed that energy from me and were given it with joy (even if it didn’t look that way at the time as I grumped and snarled along, too tired to turn the corners of my mouth upwards, too tired to share my happiness at seeing the children grow or hearing my mother singing to herself, relaxed and secure. Just too tired).

So I have been nourishing my soul at its root for a little while now and have put by some stores of sustenance and provender for the coming days. Perhaps by the time of the anniversary of my mother’s death, a few days before the Winter Solstice when the world turns from the fruits of the Holly to the shoots of the Ivy, then I will be able to say that I am at last renewed, a Green Woman – or at least a Green Bag Lady.

Yet never a green pizza delivery boy.

Of course, you don’t overcome 30 years of effort in 30 days or even weeks. I shall give myself time to grow into my season. But my heart is indeed recovering greenness.

May your hearts find the Green Within.

Namaste.

Just say no!

misty village

Sigoth bemoaned the weather again today, as he has done for several days recently. I don’t blame him. We are British, so the weather is how we communicate with each other. It defines our moods, our relative positions in life and our ability to function in the morning. As such, starting the day without a quick weather-related sanity check would be unthinkable in EBL Towers. And so it was.

Apparently he has noticed it has been wet. I demurred.

“Foggy,” I insisted.

“No!” quoth he. “Wet! The ground is absolutely sodden.”

Well, he should know. He does things outdoors for fun, up close and personal with the earth, and we live on Jurassic moraines of boulder and Kimmeridge clay, so wetness or dryness is immediately apparent.

I sit inside, working at the computer, and only gaze out of the window into the distance. The distance is considerably closer of late, due to the fogs. Well, mists really. But where’s the drama in that?

The problem is obviously that he focuses on the near and I on the far. But Literature is on my side, so I share with you that great poem of 1844 by the lesser known poet, Thomas Hood:

No!

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–no “t’other side this way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all–no locomotion–
No inkling of the way–no notion–
“No go” by land or ocean–
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds–
November!

http://allpoetry.com/poem/8472903-No–by-Thomas-Hood

Regular readers will recall I enjoy chucking in a poem or two now and again. It saves me having to think up words all by myself.

Do you have a poem or quotation that describes your day today?

And even if your days are dark and foggy, may your hearts be sunny and bright.

Namaste.

Pilgrimages

canterbury tales

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

 

Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

http://www.librarius.com/cantales.htm

The past is another country, and certainly the medieval period is a very foreign one indeed. Not only did they talk funny, a strange mix of Old English and Norman French which eventually became our beloved mother tongue, but they also seem to have had different weather. A droghte of March, I ask thee! It has not been very droghty at all, although it has been quite draughty at times. That naughty Zephirus.

It is true that I woke up this morning to hear the rain pouring steadily outside: it was proper rain, unrelenting, but not associated with Zephyrs of gales or sleet, just plain rain. So naturally my first thought was “oh, April showers” followed somewhat inevitably by “nice day for a poisson d’avril” because I’m sorry but my mind works like that – even at 5.30 in the morning.

Of course, my mind did turn next to pilgrimages. I have to pack this evening to chug away for work across the borders into West Yorkshire. It will be a pigrimage alone, but at least I will have some little chums to eat with during the evening at the The Tabard, or whatever equivalent we can find. I anticipate a jolly evening when we get the real work done, along with some long hard hours in meeting rooms during the day with less productivity. There may even be tales, and some of them may be a bit ripe, although not as ripe as old Geoffrey’s, which were very ripe indeed.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I am unlikely to be troubling your in-boxes/reader feed over the next few days. My gift to you. Instead I shall be slogging away in project initiation hell, which is a very special kind of hell I can assure you, and trying to keep my calm. In this regard I am thankful for listening to Thich Nhat Hanh yesterday reminding me of the value of mindfulness. I even tried the telephone meditation at work today which meant I was reasonably courteous to the annoying sales rep who was client-bothering. And by “reasonably courteous” I mean I told him to ring someone else and not bother me again, but fairly politely.

If you were a-travelling, my dears, who would you travel with and what tales would you tell?

Meanwhile, may your journeys be sweet.

Namaste

 

B4Peace: Keep saying it and it will come true

Last year Kozo, over at Everydaygurus.com set a challenge to write a blog about peace at least once a month. He provided prompts to get us thinking and so a movement was born. This year we carry on, spreading the love across yon t’Interweb; for January Kozo has proposed we write about a thought we will keep in mind for the year to try and bring about peace. The premise is based both on Buddhist tradition and modern neuroscience which jointly conclude that we are what we think. So let us think, and be, Peace.

Kozo’s mantra is “Abide as the stream of love”, and those of you who have been with me a while may recall that there is a poem I particularly adore which seems to reflect this thought. I will do no more here than point you once more to “Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon” by Wordsworth, which includes the immortal line

“Still glides the stream and shall forever glide”.

Wordsworth wrote this when he was moving from his home of many years (I think it was from Dove Cottage to Grasmere, but it isn’t important as such) and was concerned at leaving his favourite walks and places for creative exercise. He wondered if, in leaving his genius loci he might also leave behind his Muse. Thus he was drawn into contemplating his mortality and chances of immortality, either through a religious lens or a legacy of poetry. Wordsworth was not very humble from what I can see, and expected his poetry to live on.

Watching the river he understood that life went on, with or without him. I talked about my own views on life after death recently in my first post for the Quaker Alphabet project, so won’t bore you again. In fact, this rambling introduction has done no more than set the scene for the mantra that I use when practising any form of mindfulness or meditative activity. You may or may not be relieved to hear it isn’t Wordsworth.

When I first started trying to incorporate regular meditation/mindfulness into my routine I used various recordings from the Internet to help me learn to focus. I live in a rural area and although there is in fact a meditation group in a nearby town, run by the Buddhist Centre at Pocklington, nevertheless I have never managed to attend because I am usually away for work during the week. So I make do and mend by using that ever reliable and trustworthy resource known as YouTube.

One of the files I found (and I can’t remember which it was so can’t include a link) talked about a loving universe surrounding and upholding you. I find this concept comforting, and try to think about it as I settle into any period of meditation. To help me do so I tend to use a certain phrase – breathe in the love.

breatheinloveThis helps me to focus on my breathing and to calm myself down so that I can sit quietly. Iy also allows me to recognise that I can find support and help if needed, and that I am not as useless as I tend to assume. I have been known to sub-vocalise this phrase when facing something particularly irritating during the daily grind. On one or two occasions it has helped but usually I admit I leave it too late and the lava is already erupting before I try and shut it down, by which time mantras just don’t cut it at all.

So why am I suggesting it might be useful for me to carry on doing this? Well, I suppose I’m not saying that exactly – although I will carry on. What I am trying to say is that I believe that if more people practised meditation or mindfulness, with or without spiritual overtones as they see fit, the more peaceful the world would be. If more of us tried to do this, and kept trying to remember our mantras sooner than later, then we might have fewer angry words and sulks and hurt.

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama

And he should know.

Now if you don’t fancy meditation, and lots of people don’t, that’s OK too, because that is why poetry was invented. Perhaps you can use a simple mantra just on its own. One that helps you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you. One that reminds you that you, too, are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. One that encourages you to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone. In short, one that holds you close, like a bridge over troubled water, when life is getting too difficult and people are doing your head in and all you want to do is channel your inner toddler, lie on the floor and have a massive tantrum. We’ve all been there. Don’t pretend you haven’t had days like that. It’s OK. All I’m saying here is, a mantra can help, sometimes.

Other Bloggers for Peace can be read here; read and enjoy and find inspiration for your daily heroics.

You are amazing.

Namaste.

 

Gang Agley

OK, OK, if you are not familiar with the Bard of Scotland, then that post title may look a little suspicious. Your trusty EBL does seem to have a penchant for quoting odd bits of schoolgirl poetry. I swear I don’t know where it comes from, I work in IT, for goodness sake.

The poem on question is “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough”, and the bit I am referring to is

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

It’s just saying that things don’t always turn out as we expected and hoped.

Today was my last trip into the office for a while as tomorrow is The Operation, and I needed to go in and ensure I signed off The Project so everyone could crack on with it while I was out of action for a couple of days.

Well, the warning signs were there. When there are that many capitalised nouns in the schedule, something is bound to give. It’s one of the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Long story short, I did not sign off. On the plan I don’t sign off until Friday anyway, so I am leaving the goodly folk on the team to work a miracle tomorrow and will dial in for a sign off call on Friday afternoon, hoping that by then I can see well enough to press the right buttons, and will be recovered sufficiently from the general anaesthetic to be coherent and decisive.

It’s a bother.

Never mind, chin up me old muckers! The mantra for a Project Manager on my position is “No one will die!” My career, however, may not survive the business, not that it is a particularly robust or flourishing specimen. It may be best to put it out of its misery.

Oh look, everyone! EBL is catastrophising again!

On the plus side, I may have achieved agreement to proceed with a new project today. There’s nothing like looking someone in the eye and saying “We can do that!” with conviction and confidence. There is some kind of phrase about it: straws, drowning…I forget. The fact is I am confident we can do it, or at least do what is needed. The difference between want and need, there’s a thesis right there! Anyway, we’ll get that sorted next week when I am back.

I also managed to take some things into the office which needed to be there on time.

So not too agley, in retrospect. Perhaps more “fashionably late” than “ohmygodwe’reallgoingtodie!”

In fact, I am not completely distraught. Take note, my dears, that was a flash of optimism. In fact, my project officer said today “The new system has optimism built in!”

I must have caught some.

So here I am to pass some on to you. Catch!

Namaste.

 

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls

Rarasaur has suggested (and who am I to disagree?) that in our unending quest to find reasons to blog, we might do worse than to think on the theme of wabi-sabi. For more details of her prompts for the promptless, read her post. As I have been caught up with work, I am utterly un-prompt in my response. Nevertheless, better late than never, as Grandma used to say.

Wabi-sabi is the beauty of the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is the beauty of things unconventional and modest.  It’s not just a style of art, it’s a world view.

I read the definition Rara thoughtfully provided, and immediately a poem popped into my addled brain. Honestly, I seem to go on about poetry all the time, which is very strange because while I enjoy it, I rarely read any poetry these days. I am beginning to wonder if my brain is trying to tell me something. Either that or the microwaves from the aliens’ Mothership are hooked on Rhyme and Reason. Well, why not? I expect they came to our planet to enjoy the culture, and they could do worse than school poetry books.

Which poem, EBL? you prompt your promptless correspoondent.

Oh, yes, my dears, that.

It was Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Pied beauty”. GMH was a Victorian poet, but his style was quite new and different so although this poem was written in 1877 it wasn’t published until after the Great War more than 40 years later. I think that is fitting; the poem is about finding beauty in unconventional places and things, and so too I find beauty in his unconventional style. It just took publishers a while to catch up.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

There are some gorgeous images in there. “Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls” – isn’t that just the most perfect way to describe those leaves in autumn as they drop from the trees to make bright, crunchy piles on the path for us to run through? I don’t know why that is so much fun, but it just is.

Even thinking about it makes me feel better. I’m not sure if it’s exactly wabi-sabi, but who cares?

Scuffle leaves with me and feel the love!

Namaste.