Sunday, 26 November 2017

Songs without words or music

In the five weeks that have passed since the death of my dad, I've found many things difficult. One of the most unexpected is the inability to enjoy music. I had thought, perhaps, that music might be a great consolation at such a time - a way of having said for me what I cannot express myself.

However, this is not so. Over the last few weeks I have found that all the music I enjoyed two or three months ago now sounds flat and empty. Songs are too wordy, or too familiar or too strange. Their music is too elitist, or too rough and ready, or not complex enough or too down-to-earth. Nothing works; nothing sounds right.

As a result, I now find myself feverishly exploring new works by artists I have heard of in passing or previously ignored in favour of things I was more certain of. Occasionally something surfaces which makes a connection, but it doesn't last for long. The next track on the album is too challenging, perhaps, or too mundane, and the process begins again with a new name in the search box.

In the meantime I look at my collection of CDs and search for one which will sing lullaby to this very peculiar situation. They speak now only of the past, and of someone else's tastes. Whoever that person is, I wish that I could hear him singing.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Empty Space

Just over five weeks ago, my father died. Since then, I feel like I've entered another space in which I exist alongside myself. There is now another me: one which existed before the death of my dad, and now a new one which exists since that event. The two stare at one another, and occasionally manage to speak, but the words are muffled and hard to catch.

I was with dad just two days before he died. We talked that night about death and God. Dad told me that he often prayed, and that he wasn't afraid to die. In fact, he said, he was intrigued to see what comes after death, where the next stage of the journey would lead him. I don't think I've ever felt more humbled.

I made the decision that I would officiate at dad's funeral, hoping that I would be up to it. However, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do for him - my last, small act of service for the one who gave so much of his life in service to me. When the day came, I found the strength to carry out that task. Dad's words about what lay beyond life gave me hope for him, and for myself.

Go forth from this world, I prayed as the service came to its end. I knew then that dad was taking the next step on a journey into the Divine, into the rest that he had earned through the long years of his working life. And I knew that I had made the right decision to act as priest for my father. I offered it - still offer it - as a gift to him, a reflection of the love he taught me.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Somewhere else

Skillet pushes open the door to the cafe. There is a clatter of conversation and tea-cups. He sees his friend sitting at a table at the back of the shop and walks over to join him. Skillet speaks:

Hello, my old friend!

Hello, indeed! It's wonderful to see you! 

I wasn't sure if it was you at first.

Ah, yes, sorry about that. It's the pointy hat that does it.

But you don't wear a pointy hat.


Have you eaten?

Not yet - I was waiting for you. The coffee cake looks good, though...

OK, but first, can I ask you a question?

Of course - anything.

What did you find out?

Ah - straight to the point, eh? Well, there is something...


It's not what I was expecting.

But there is some news?

Yes, and it's very intriguing.


You're to go on a journey.

A journey? Where to?

Ah - that's the intriguing bit...

In what sense?

Well, this journey won't take you where you want to go. If you get my meaning.

So.. where will it take me?

Somewhere else.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Don't write.

The library says nothing, and speaks. There are no words to hear, but there is no end to what is said. And each person will hear something not heard before. Or since. To the one who now enters, it says:

Don't write.


Don't. Write.

Don't write?

Yes. Don't write. Or, no, don't write. Whichever way, don't write.

Why not?

Because you are not ready.

Not ready for what?

What must be written.

And how do you know I'm not ready?

Because I have seen what you will, eventually, write. Must write.

How have you seen it?

Because it is in a book. And that book is here.

Where? I want to see it!

You cannot see it.


Because you have not written it. Yet.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A breath, a prayer

I was looking for a prayer to use for Evensong on Sunday which tied in with the theme of the Gospel reading. I remembered a wonderful site called World Prayers and searched there for prayers which included the word 'seed'.

One of the results was this wonderful prayer, which gives a wonderful approach to praying for peace and which I'm going to dwell with for a few days:

Wage peace with your breath.

Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.

Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.

Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.

Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.

Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.

Learn to knit, and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.

Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:

Have a cup of tea and rejoice.

Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Things I have noticed #1

The longer I travel the journey of life, the more I notice that things do not stay the same. But right now I am finding that the rate of change is increasing; there are more and more things about which I do not feel the same as I did, say, two, three or five years ago.

Some are significant because they are huge shifts in my thinking or my outlook; some are significant because they occupy a small but regular part in my daily life.

Things I have noticed which are changing include:

1. I cannot write with music on in the background.

2. I cannot get the hang of A Game of Thrones.

3. I find a great deal of inspiration in the Divine Feminine¹.

4. I am becoming a vegan.

5. I am becoming more and more fascinated by the historical Jesus.

6. I am losing my taste for coffee.

7. I sometimes find it difficult to hold onto my concept of the God of the Christian faith². 

8. I find it hard to listen to loud music for more than a few minutes at a time.

9. I get excited by the Spring leaves on trees.

10. I feel that I own far more things than I need.

¹ Brigid and the Old Testament figure of Wisdom are currently very important to me.
² I don't know why this is happening. It worries me.

I think that ten items will do for now, though there are more!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Uninspired or (just) tired?

Yesterday, I read the latest post by Nimue Brown on the wonderful Druid Life blog: Where is my inspiration?

It struck several very deep chords with me.

For the best part of a couple of years, my day job has been increasingly stressful and pressured and has demanded more and more of me both intellectually and emotionally. During that time, it’s been increasingly difficult to find the inspiration to get new personal projects going. And when I have found something I want to say, I’ve tried to weigh up honestly whether I feel that someone else has said it already, or said it better. If they have, then where's the use in my writing about it, too?

And then, there’s the feeling that, as Nimue says, I could be doing something more useful with my remaining energy! And when I take a look at what others are doing, I tend to agree with Nimue's assessment that ‘The world has more writers than it needs...’.

(But then, there is, for me, the pull of poetry. It’s always been my first love in writing terms; it is the one thing I manage to keep going and is the one thing I think I’m reasonably good at. If there is to be a book with my name on it one day, I think it would be poetry.)

I continue to wrestle with the best way to balance the ideas in my head, the desires in my heart, and the time and energy available to me. Perhaps, for now, I should just see where these feelings are taking me; perhaps the inspiration (the Awen) will return. In the meantime, Nimue's post has helped me to feel less guilty and anxious about my lack of motivation and inspiration. For that, for now, I am thankful.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Over recent months I've been noticing that I find it harder to maintain my concentration. Yes, I'm getting older and, yes, I have a job where there are dozens of things going on at any one time,  but this is something different...

For example: I'm sitting in the lounge and watching a film, and an actor I recognise comes onto the screen. 'What else have I seen him in?' I ask myself, and in a matter of moments I have a tablet computer in my hand and I'm googling to find the actor's career history. Once I discover that, I'm then onto Amazon to see how much some of his other films cost to own on DVD.

This leads me to the 'Customers who bought this also bought...' section, and before I've realised it, twenty minutes have passed. And all the while, the film I was watching has carried on playing. I turn my attention back to the film, but this time the tablet stays on my lap, just in case.

I'm increasingly distracted, disconnected; I can't seem to do just one thing any more. And this leaves me feeling dissatisfied and empty. Lots of information, very little engagement.

In her wonderful article 'On time, technology, and a celebration of slowness', Terri Windling writes:

Nearly everyone I know feels that some quality of concentration they once possessed has been destroyed. Reading books has become hard; the mind keeps wanting to shift from whatever it is paying attention to to pay attention to something else. A restlessness has seized hold of many of us, a sense that we should be doing something else, no matter what we are doing, or doing at least two things at once, or going to check some other medium. 
It’s an anxiety about keeping up, about not being left out or getting behind. 

This is very much akin to how I feel: as Terri Windling says, I fear being left behind, not getting enough done. Why simply watch a movie when I could half-watch it, and browse the web at the same time? Why merely call a colleague on the phone, when I could simultaneously read and reply to my emails? Why give all my attention to a conversation with my wife after dinner, when I could also have one eye on my Facebook feed?

At least I am aware of this, but something has to give. Multi-tasking is an empty promise which yields half-hearted, shallow results. As Terri Windling goes on to say: 

The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.

Joy and wonder. That, I know, is what I'm seeking. May I learn to walk slowly enough, that I may find it. 

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