A Troubled Relationship

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

Since I was a child
when you meant three months
away from school,
which I loved and missed
during the long hiatus,
and later as an adult
when you meant
long hot hours in the afternoon,
and the challenging blast
of your heat when leaving
the relieving artificial cool
of air conditioning at work,
and the thunderstorms
breaking as I ran from
bus stop to home safety,
never ave I been easy with you.

Then there was the horrible
dry year lived in Phoenix,
where like today
I had a migraine,
but that one lasted
the whole of my desert time,
parched, desiccating, light,
ah, the light way too much
for me almost as harsh
as the interminable heat.

Though now I can seek
respite in a shady garden
or a dense green wood,
the physical discomfort
is not diminished,
for I find your extremes
punishing and cruel,
for even in the night
when darkness descends
the temperatures and humidity
do not always follow.

I have a long way to go
to make my peace with you,
for though I know we need you,
were it not for what you alone offer
we would starve,
still I continue struggling,
after all the decades we have shared,
with the gifts you bring
in abundance of light and heat,
to fulfill the promises of Spring.

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

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Joy the Morning

Joy this morning
And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Severed from active presence
another’s inadequacy dictating
actions that should have been
mine alone to take or reject,
but I was not strong enough
I was not secure enough
I was not safe enough
to challenge.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Years later,
at the urging of my gods,
the ancestors of the land
and the saint who with
this friend brought me
for the first time to
my soul’s home
my spirit’s home
the land of my truest
connections –
I reached out.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

I reached out across
the waste of seas,
the wasteland of seasons
devoid of sharing,
and to my delight and hers
future seasons now open,
friendship redeemed
redemption grasped,
welcomed and embraced.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

The years of then are lost,
the years of yet are found,
different people
different paths
different stories,
the same reassuring presence,
the same willing smile,
the same deep story
alive between us.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Welcome back
my friend
my sister
my daughter,
for the man with whom
I now share my life is not jealous
but with me instead rejoices,
that a friend of deep connection
is found again
and we are linked once more.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.
 

 

 

The Challenges of Heavy Summer

July and August are the hard part of summer for me. Summer and I have never gotten on well, not even as a child, but that was partly because we lived in a flat over a shop in a medium sized town in east central Indiana. Because my father was an artist, and this was the late 50s and early 60s, classmates weren’t allowed to come and play with me and I was never invited to their homes to play either.

Consequently, I spent lots of time in my father’s studio, which was another flat across the roof and one floor up from where we lived. It was some consolation and compensation for the lack of peers to engage with. I engaged instead with colour and form, and watched art being created. What I could imagine in my mind I could at least attempt to manifest with my hands. I did my first wood block print at age five. I soaked up creative energy like a sponge, but not the energies of land and earth and I had never see the sea at an age I could remember it.

Yes, there were two parks in the town. There were the occasional adventure walk with my father and year younger brother. But I lived pretty much an indoor life, most time outdoors spent walking to school and we also walked home for lunch. Always in a hurry, never really any time to look at things. The most engagement I had with nature was squeezing ‘gushy berries’, as I called yew berries, between my fingers.

I read the dictionary from the time I was nine or ten. It was my favourite book.

I missed school in the summer holidays, which were pretty much two and a half months long.

I never really accommodated myself to the season of heavy shade and oppressive humidity and with my severe mosquito allergy, well . . .

I never lived where crops were grown, except when visiting my mother’s people in Iowa, which we did every couple of years, my mother, brother and I. In Iowa it was maize, acres and acres of it ripening in the July sun. I remember the air conditioner in my Aunt Alberta’s beauty salon and the smell. It was icy in there and a relief from the worst of the heat. She and Uncle Fletcher lived in a rambling two storey house with a full basement and wrap around porch. There was a cherry tree one the side and rhubarb that I used to eat raw with salt. I can still see and smell it all clearly.

But, summer never felt right to me, an alien season. Summer is the season about the land and its productivity. I never had any real sense of that driving by or seeing it slip past outside the window of the Zephyr heading west from Chicago on the way to Iowa. I was an observer of the land and the landscape. I was never a participant in its energies. I never heard it call to me. Never was invited to meet its guardians, those I now understand to be the ancestors. And certainly had no notion of the gods.

When I was older and I lived in different places and had gardens to be in I tried hard to connect. I still was not able to do so. And, of course, summer was the hardest. Still plagued by reactions to mosquito bites and not keen on sunshine, finding its glare hard to take, summer was still not my best time of year.

Only since I’ve been living in the UK, nearly thirteen years now, have I been able to come to terms with summer and its excesses, as I always saw them. Here the summers are not as predictable as where I lived in the US. It can be hot and dry one year and the next chilly and sodden. And, I’ve not lived in a city. I lived on an Orcadian island, and in Devon and Somerset, where I still live, visited parts of Wales and spent time in the Highlands of Scotland and the far end of Cornwall. Always close to the land. Always welcomed by the ancestors. Always aware that the gods here are my gods.

The White Spider

First of all I want to aplogise to any of my readers or followers who suffer from arachnophobia — of course if that were the case I doubt you would be reading on in any event. I take the risk of lowering my look in stats as well! But, it’s only just this once, really, and the photos are at the end, if that makes any difference. Ah, no . . . well,  then I hope you will read the next post.

Since I will be busy the next several days and may not have time to do another post before the end of the weekend, and I wanted to share my reflections about this amazing creature who has been living in one of my columbines, right outside my front door, for most of the week — well, I just noticed ‘her’ this week.

Don’t get me wrong I am not an arachnophile, I am pretty much arachnid neutral. If there is one in the house I catch it and re-home it outside. I do not court their presence. And, unless of course they are of the gianormous wolf-spider variety when do get a bit twitchy, will calmly do what needs to be done for all of us to live happily ever after. If it is a great big one I grit my teeth and get on with it. I never kill one.

For the record I found Shelob and Aragog to be completely revolting to look at, so for the most part I didn’t after acknowledging briefly the skills of the CG artists who created them.

I find this particular specimen to be quite compelling. I have seen lots of brown spiders. I have even once seen a black widow, its red hourglass marking reminding that should it bite your time is up.

To be honest I did not even see her until I was taking a photograph of the flower she was living in/on and picked her up in macro mode. I was instantly taken by her.  Her beauty. Her delicacy. Her sense of presence. I felt some sort of connection to her, with her. I have always felt good about having a Guard Spider, as I call them, spinning a web near my front door. It feels like there is a watcher there. I have not seen any sign of her web. I don’t know what kind of spider she is, what her proper scientific name is, and it doesn’t matter. She is White Spider to me and that seems to be fine with her when I speak to her each time I’ve left and returned home this week.

I am concerned as her flower is beginning to fade and pull back into the next part of its journey. It has been rainy today and I admit I have not looked to see if she is still there, though I will when I finish writing this.

What she has caused me to do is to think about how we let fear rule us. Fear can be justified as a rational response to a particular situation and totally irrational at the same time. That paradox doesn’t make the fear any less real, nor the often visceral response to the trigger an easier to overcome or assess. Fear can be a warning not to do something or go into a certain situation — it is well to listen to those. I have experienced that kind of fear and had my own fears of the other sort. I know whereof I speak.

Whilst I’m not afraid of White Spider, there are those I know who would be, people I love and care about who would not even engage the notion that she could be possessed of a beauty because her very form is found to be revolting, dredges up terrible childhood memories or just is something unidentifiable about her that is squeamish making.  It occurs to me as I write this that fear in some ways is not unlike prejudice, in fact the former often feeds the latter. Both fear and prejudice diminish our opportunities for engaging with the world around us and those with whom we share it – spiders . . . immigrants. . . .

I guess I say some of these things to remind myself as much as anyone else that fear is limiting.  I am/have been struggling with certain things that I have been afraid of and the journey to overcome them has not been easy. But, as I move away from the place in myself of fear into the not-fear place I can say the journey has been and continues to be worth the effort, the pain and the struggle. It isn’t just one time thing. I know I will have to remain vigilant. However, the rewards of the new way of being me and perceiving my reality are so amazing I know I can’t return to the fearful me. I missed so much. There so much more I won’t have to miss in the future.

Here are some photos of her, and you can see why I might have missed her without the camera lens:

White Spider 1 White Spider 2 White Spider 3 White Spider 4

Lessons from my clocks

I seem to be having challenges with clocks at the moment. There are three here: a striking clock; a chiming clock; and a cuckoo clock. The first two reside in the living room and the third in the upstairs hall.

The sound of the striking clock feels like the heartbeat of the house, and its voice when it calls out the half hours and hours is deep and resonant. The chiming clock ticks to a different rhythm, which in turn is different from that of the cuckoo clock. They each have a different voice, a different way of singing the hours, quarters and halves.

I said before they are challenging me now, the chiming clock on the mantle in particular. Several months ago when resetting it after it wound down I did something. First of all I could not get it to speak for several days. When I finally did it did not speak the correct time. It is hours ahead of itself, ranging from four to eight, of course it could possibly be argued it is behind itself, but that is way too hard to get my head around.

Suffice it to say, it does not keep anything like accurate time, but I did manage to get it to communicate. I was very careful not to let it run all the way down and I never wound it to much. Unfortunately, over the weekend, Purfling, one of the cats choose not to listen to me when I asked her not to make a dash from the back of the chair, over the top of the  upright piano, and across the mantle piece to the front window. My mantle has lots of things on it, at the time my birthday cards were still there, besides the usual residents of the chiming clock in the middle, a candlestick on each side and various bits of rock, stick and the a vase with a rose bud from the bush at the front door sitting between the clock and the left hand candle stick. To her credit Purfling did not move any of the bits, but did jump on the top of the clock. It stopped.

Since the I have not been able to get it to go again. I keep trying the way I was told to do that, which was tipping it to one side. It will tick a bit and then not.

Last night when I came home from a meeting both the striking clock and the cuckoo clock had also run down. No problem with the former, but the latter took several tries before I finally kept going just before I turned in.

Why am I saying all this?

In some profound sense, time is not real – not in the way a radish is real or an okapi is real – but it is has always been important for humans to mark it’s passing, to keep track of it. There have been calendars for millennia, and clocks and watches for centuries. Religions from nearly the beginning of religious awareness have needed to know how to predict the phases of the moon, the circuiting of the sun, particular parts of the day.

We are dependent on knowing when we are. It is as important as knowing where we are. It occurred to me, just this minute, to wonder why watches are called watches. It is something I will have to investigate – but I digress.

To my thinking, the challenge of time runs even deeper than all that, it goes to the heart of our need to orientate ourselves to something far bigger than we are, far more mysterious. Having marked a birthday recently, and thinking back to when I was much younger and remembering that back then I could not even begin to comprehend myself at the age I am now, has perhaps ignited this reflection.

How we spend our time is important. And to use those words as if time is some sort of currency says a great deal. Like pounds and pence we can waste it or invest it in someone worthy or something worthwhile. What we can’t do is bank it for later, as we can money. There is no such thing as a time ISA.  It is a currency whose value, more like a voucher or coupon, has an expiration date. We do not know when that is, but that being the case is not in question.

We are told to take time out for ourselves. Does that mean finding a way to step out of  The Ongoing Flow of Being? I can’t imagine how I’d take time out for a walk or on a date. Is it possible to take time, to grasp it? Too often it seems we try. We cover up wrinkles. We hide the signs of age and aging. We engage in activities that are not always appropriate for where we are on our life journey. We all to often pretend that being a year old doesn’t really matter all that much. Paradoxically, though time is not material, it invades every aspect of our materiality, for the part of us that is matter, it matters.

So, I think the clocks are giving me a message more important than what hour it is, or reminding me of when I have to be somewhere. That they are being fiddly is reminding me to be more mindful of how I use my time, not to let it just slip though my fingers like the sands of an hourglass. Not to obsess about it, but to be careful, pay attention, be attentive. To do something each day for someone else, and by someone I do not mean it has to be a person. To express gratitude and love. To find joy in the small things, no less and even more so than in the big ones. To smell the lilacs and roses. To listen to the birds. To let the wind blow through and tangle my hair. To greet the stars at night. To feel the rain on my face . . . you get the idea.

They remind me that what I understand as time is linked inextricably to the yet, as surely as to the now and to the then, to the future as much as to the present and the past, regardless of how I may understand those concepts on any given day.