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Summer – Old and New..

Suddenly the summer sun shines on a day I cannot miss – like the Prince waking his Princess with a long-awaited kiss!

I’ve seen a fair few summers now, but Mother Nature has a way of heralding the seasons so that we view them with fresh eyes or at least appreciate them anew. Mornings now are bright, so bright we feel excited to get up. At 4.30 the other morning I had to rise and grab my camera to take pictures of the beautiful sunrise because each sunrise is unique and this one was spectacular.

As the poet Rumi says:

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you – Don’t go back to sleep! You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep! People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep!

Perhaps Rumi is telling us here that right from morning time, we can break out of our habitual tendencies and become present. We don’t need to fall back into the same old routines. (Something I need to remind myself!). What does it mean when Rumi tells us to ask for what we really want? It can be interpreted in many ways but for me the ‘you’ asking is the one who wants to create a story of a fairer world and a unification of culture. The long summer hours help us fit more into our days and perhaps we have more time to ask for what we really want. Rumi reminds us how moments of awareness and choice are very subtle. We touch the ability to change, to go ‘back and forth across the doorsill’ – the doorsill is there and is open. We may ask what the ‘doorsill’ is? I interpret it as the way through to enlightenment. It is not just about changing ourselves necessarily, it is about hoping for a peaceful world. Awareness helps us work through new challenges and moral dilemmas.

A new summer can throw new light on what is around us. Or in front of us and our brothers and sisters. My heart goes out to those who face a summer being sent to a foreign land because we supposedly don’t have the resources to care for them here, and also to those whose country is torn apart through conflict.

I don’t however, feel the doorsill is just about moving forward, it is also about looking back too. Being aware of where we are from and acknowledging our past. Reaching out and feeling the love of days long gone. Summer days can be particularly evocative. The smell of newly mown grass, the fragrance of the first bunch of sweet peas or the blowsy bunch of roses will all catapult me back to childhood days. The summers seemed to last forever, and there was time for picnics and tree-climbing, swimming in the local brook and collecting tadpoles. I remember the loving arms of my parents and grandparents, the security of family.

How lucky I am to be able to stop and revisit the places I have grown up in. How will it be for those who are displaced to find their way to some peace this summer? For those who will only look back with sadness and feelings of loss.

I hope there will be a chance for those who wish for life to be just as it was, to find their way home.

‘Don’t go back to sleep’. Of course we will metaphorically. It’s human nature to forget there can be a wonderful, calm simplicity in this life and close our eyes to it; to forget how much love and care there is in this world when we look for it. But when we do awaken, life becomes a blessing.

Sometimes it takes a reminder like this to put us into a place of awareness where we can cross the doorsill, see hope and make change.

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Take Your Time – and Pray

They say we are directed to where we need to be if our hearts are open. In the last few weeks, I have picked up several different books – novels, autobiographies and a book of essays and musings on the divine. Although they were looking at life from completely different angles, they seemed to have a familiar thread running through them, one that linked deeper thinking with simplicity. Yes, that sounds like a paradox, but I think enlightenment does come from a place of calm and contemplation in these times of intense social media and news bombardment.

It is easy for frustration to settle in our very being as we feel weighed down by events, both personal and in the wider world. Times are challenging. Yet times have always been challenging if we look back in history and will be in the future. What will help us along the way, along our journey through this life? What helped those before us and those that will come after us?

I have read somewhere that if you feel disturbed by something the wisest thing to do is to pray. For many of us, this may be something we have forgotten how to do, or perhaps we wonder how to pray and to who do we send our prayers? Again, simplicity is the key. A quiet place for some time out is all we need. If we calmly gather our thoughts and requests together, our feelings of love for others, our hopes for peace and love to prevail and send them to an all-loving being we can find the light. We don’t need to look for explanations because we cannot know the future. We can spread love though, and send out blessings for those who need them, and we will feel it return to us. And the prayers will know where to go. To God, to the Universe, Mother Earth – whoever waits and looks over you and knows your heart.

Prayer Changes Things

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Who Inspires Me?

I was recently asked to write a short piece about inspiration and who inspires me.

I started thinking about who I wanted to write about and found myself struggling to single out just one person. There are so many people both in the present day and those who have gone before us that have inspired us through selfless acts, scientific development, religion, philosophy and politics. There are giants who walk tall in our history books and have left us with lasting legacies and we in the world will always look up to them. On the very top of my list would be the names of Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, all three of them arguably the most important names of our time.

But that would be only the start of my list, which could indeed be very long, because, thankfully the world is full of very good people, though it’s easy to forget that at times. Especially now.

What always amazes me is that the greatest teachers we know focus or have focused, on lifting the hearts of those around them rather than extolling their own virtues. When an interviewer attempts to paint the Dalai Lama as something grand, a soul with a mighty preordained purpose, his response is typically, ‘I’m a monk, a simple monk.’ That made me think about all the people out there who quietly go about their business, whilst spreading some good feeling or intention to the world. The people who touch the hearts of others in small but significant ways.

And so I put my thoughts into this poem…

Who Inspires Me?


The person who smiled
When I was troubled
And kindly looked my way,
The selfless mother 
Who, though tired and afraid,
Held her children tightly today.
The angel at the food bank
Who couldn’t sleep,
Knowing others were hungry -
She came with love
And bread for them to eat.
The doctor who cared
And knew every person 
Waiting to be seen
Deserved love and attention.
The brave person who stood up to say
‘I’m different, but please look my way.’
The special one who said:
‘I know there are challenges we must all face
But it’s going to be okay,
I love you,
All will be well today.’


Lmh


I hope you will feel inspired by someone today - even better, maybe you will inspire someone, perhaps without even knowing it. How wonderful is the gift of a warm smile.

Namaste 





Here, no less beauty I am shown, than Cardinals or Kings…
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Dear World

I am not wise enough to comment on the shocking situation in the world today. I can only try and concentrate on anger somehow dissolving, reason taking the place of fighting and new life evolving in a way which at the moment we cannot see.

We have to believe we are part of a bigger and better picture, even if we cannot see it, and part of an all-loving Universe even if we cannot feel it. We can be part of humanity where we see those who feel invisible rather than those who are in the limelight and part of a place where we don’t nurture our fears at the expense of others, or turn our backs when others weep. In the long quiet hours with the challenge of despair we long to find a place of hope and new life, for here is where all bad things are banished, no explanations are needed and yet we know everything we need to know.

Let us pray for broken hearts to mend, and that the hands of those in power let go of the reins and review the compass so that we can all find the right way.

In an all-loving Universe generous, kind hearts do their best for the common good.

How fiercely we must hope and pray for Ukraine and for all of us. We pray for peace.

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The Gift of the Stars and the Ground Beneath our Feet

How well do we know the ground beneath our feet? As a young child, I lived in Cornwall. I seemed to know every inch of the garden that surrounded our house, as well as the sloping path that led down the stony road to the river. I remember sitting under a bush at the end of the lane where it overlooked the main road and smelling the scent of the buddleia. In summer the shade was dappled and cool and the flowers were a haven for butterflies. My best friend lived just across the road and we used to spend hours playing together, dreaming up stories of dragons and princesses. Sadly she is no longer here, but I can still see her in my mind’s eye calling ‘see you later alligator’ over her shoulder as she walked home.

I can still remember so much about my early years; I can remember where the robin nested in the hedge just beyond my playhouse, the Christmas trees planted each year by my father, and I can remember seeing a slowworm laying motionless on the grass; dark and shocking to me as a child though quite harmless. I can remember having tea-parties with imaginary guests and making them perfume from fallen rose petals.

The busy world went on around me, but I was only concerned with the freedom of the outdoors. Perhaps as children, we had more time to discover the magic in our surroundings, the simple joy of collecting shiny pebbles or building camps. As adults, we tend to ‘fit in’ a daily walk as necessary exercise, something to add to our mandatory 10,000 daily steps, often forgetting to look around. Perhaps it is time to reconnect with our surroundings. The natural world has, since time began, been one of the most important ways of connecting with something greater than ourselves, with God, the Universe, or simply with all the amazing beings with whom we share this incredible world. There may be so much still to learn, but there is also so much healing coming from the atmosphere that we can absorb just by being a part of it.

This week, we have been beset with raging storms and unsettling news. The world can seem grim. But if we focus on the ground around us we will come to know that even when the storm IS raging, the summer flowers are only sleeping under our feet, and are waiting to bloom again.

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Insomnia and The Worry Monster

I have often tried meditating. I know all the gurus extol its virtues. So does my husband…(he’s quite a guru in his way). I am sure it’s a good thing to do. I will keep trying.

‘Quiet the mind and the soul will speak’.

Buddhists suggest that when one is meditating and random and unwelcome thoughts come into your mind uninvited, it is useful to look at these thoughts and name them. You might say: ‘Oh, here comes insecurity again’ or ‘here comes the money thing again’ – by naming the pesky worries you may be able to distance yourself from these visitors.

For me, the intrusive thoughts all belong to the visitor named ‘THE WORRY MONSTER’. I can be lying cosily in my warm, snug bed, feeling happy and content, in fact, feeling very lucky indeed, when the ‘WORRY MONSTER’ creeps up and casts his nasty spell. He then goes on full attack, troubling my psyche with a barrage of unwelcome worries, pointing me in the direction of self-destruction.

The darkest hour is just before dawn.

I think the ‘WORRY MONSTER’ carries his own alarm clock because he always knows the best time to strike. When his alarm goes off, he dashes over to my side and does what he can to rattle me. He also seems to carry a list of things for me to worry about which he gets out regularly. This he reads meanly in my ear and urges me to:

Worry about the future,

Worry about every mistake I’ve ever made, no matter how great or small,

Go over all the embarrassing moments from my past,

Worry about disasters that could befall me or my loved ones.

He drones on with an ever-increasing list, often accompanied by a very annoying and repetitive tune that adds to my discomfort.

How can I sleep? I sigh and toss and turn.

I don’t like this monster at all, he causes trouble and upsets me, but then a thought occurs to me. I realise that he can be dealt with because HE ISN’T REAL! Just like all the ugly monsters in our childrens’ story books, he is just a figment of my imagination. And that’s a revelation. I can close the page. My imagination might have been stimulated but that doesn’t mean the scary things he urges me to worry about are going to happen in real life.

It is time to try meditation again. Concentrate on my breathing and think only good thoughts, be grateful for what I have and look forward not back.

Life brings worries of course. None of us know what is around the corner, but the time to deal with problems is when they happen and not before.

The ‘WORRY MONSTER’ has left the building.

'It is dark' she said
To the wise man.
'I really feel afraid,
Everywhere I turn
The rules confound me;
What's more to learn?'
'Nothing,' said he.
'Just be sure to hang on tight,
For the stars are brightest
In the darkest night.'

Lmh.

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The Grass Isn’t Always Greener….

Do you sometimes lose focus and wonder about where or when you will be happy next? Life is beginning to move on again and we may find ourselves getting restless. Both my grandmothers married very young and lived in the same places their whole lives. They didn’t have careers and never went far for holidays. I don’t know if either of them ever dreamed of moving to another town or seeing the world, they may well have done, but they always seemed content to me. They were homemakers, and for me as a young girl, I loved the warm and loving welcome they always gave me on my regular visits.

My grandmothers certainly weren’t bombarded with technology and I don’t even remember them having a television when I was small. (Devon granny did get one eventually so that she could watch a royal wedding!). Of course, modern technology brings many advantages and gives us lots of opportunities and a wealth of choices, but does too much choice always serve us well?

Sometimes with so much choice, we can suffer from ‘the grass is always greener syndrome’. We think someone is having a better time elsewhere, or we find ourselves wondering about the ‘next big thing’.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big of course! Sometimes a new path takes us in the right direction, but what about those days where we forget to be happy because we are fretting about where life is going? These are the days when it’s good to bring ourselves back to the present, look at what we already have and enjoy the moments that are happening right now.

My poem illustrates the fact that it is easy to overlook what is in front of us. The field of diamonds that is figuratively laid at our feet.

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A New Year’s Thoughts on diet….

My palate is jaded. I have had enough of Christmas fare, delicious though it is. As usual for this time of year, we are bombarded with instructions for healthy eating and ways of cleansing our systems. This is all well and good, but how long do healthy diets last? I think getting back to sensible eating is the key, without being too radical.

I like watching cookery programmes. It is very entertaining to watch professional chefs painstakingly preparing delicious delicacies on our screens (try saying that when you’ve had a few glasses of Prosecco) ! There is always a new and elaborate dish or recipe to try, and a new exotic vegetable that will soon sell out in the supermarket, once the word is out that no discerning foodie’s kitchen should be without it.

How do we manage to get a meal on the table without the use of a water baths I wonder? Can we find space in the kitchen for hayboxes, ice-cream churns and sorbet makers? Do we have a supply of pine oil or basil oil? Can we confit an egg? Do we have time to go foraging?

What can be more enjoyable than sitting at a well-laid table being served fancy food, but sometimes, do we not yearn for simple fare?

At lunch time today, we had a simple dish of tomato soup and some bread and butter. I started thinking back to the simple foods of my childhood, and the warm and happy kitchens.

A Devonshire Kitchen.

As a little girl, I often sat at my grandfather’s table and watched him as he prepared his version of afternoon tea. A large white loaf, fresh from the baker, was upended and buttered with rich, yellow, freshly churned Devonshire butter. Then, with the sharpest knife kept solely for this purpose, he sliced the bread so thinly that it looked like lace, when delicately laid on a china plate. Served with tea from a silver pot, this was a delicacy like no other. It needed no accompaniment. No matter how much I have tried over the years, I have never been able to replicate the dish in quite the same way.

Cornish Kitchen

I remember granny's kitchen 
The cushioned window seat,
A pantry with its vat of cream,
The Aga's cosy heat.

Sitting down to breakfast
Was always a delight,
With bowls of creamy porridge 
That had simmered overnight.

Pasties were for lunchtime,
Crimped and golden brown,
With chunks of homemade bread
And tea to wash it down.

At tea-time there were Cornish splits
And fragrant saffron cakes,
Bowls of jam and clotted cream
And fancy china plates.

On Sunday, there was Grandpa
Who took his rightful place,
And seated round the table
We bowed our heads for Grace.

Now I look back in time
And in an old book I see
A recipe, written in my granny's hand
That once she cooked for me.

Lmh

Maybe it is time to embrace simple fare for a while!

Happy New Year.



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Carrying the Light

How do you feel on the days between Christmas and New Year? Do you mourn the passing of Christmas or are you glad to get back to normality if there is such a thing now?

Walking this morning, I noticed some blow-up Santas laying forlornly in neighbourhood gardens, deflated and folded in on themselves. ‘Poor things’, I thought, and tried not to feel deflated myself.

Well-meaning articles suggest we embrace the quiet period between Christmas and New year, take walks in nature, pamper ourselves and catch up on our favourite books. We should also catch up on our sleep and get back into a regular routine. Yes. Done that. All good advice.

However, I am still not ready to give up on Christmas just yet.

I remind myself that the twinkly lights are still shining. After all, Christmas is not over – it continues for twelve days. The lights are there to remind us of the presence of God, or a higher being in our world. Light illuminates us and bathes us in good feeling, and reveals our surroundings. As the daylight fades in the sky in the afternoon, the lights soften the landscape around us.

Whilst I may take a few decorations down before long, I am going to focus on the light. I will leave a lantern in the window and light it at tea-time. Perhaps we will have hot crumpets and butter to cheer us up. I will welcome January but I will try and keep the feeling of Christmas in my heart all the year round. After all, every day should be special.

Be the light!

Happy New Year!

Ocean of Light

The day was cold and grey,
The wind blew hard 
And held the friendly blackbird
In scant regard.
The ground was white with frost
And frozen hearts
Cried for what was lost
And torn apart.
But under our feet
Summer flowers were only sleeping
And across the fields
The sky welcomed the night
And filled it with stars,
Bringing an ocean of light.


Lmh

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Dreams of a Peaceful Christmas ….

Christmas to me is the one time of the year when the atmosphere changes completely. I’m not talking about the commercial frenzy that assaults us from every angle, or the busy build-up to Christmas Day itself with all the stress involved. It is much more intangible than that. It is a feeling that stirs emotions and opens the heart. It is the feeling of concern for others, and even the resurfacing of grief that lies within us. A sadness that those we have lost are no longer with us to maintain the family traditions, to bring out the old familiar Christmas decorations and the expressions dear to us.

Step out into the quiet, still night and look at the stars, and there is a sense that the Universe is holding its breath just like it did over two millennia ago.

The Sankofa bird is a symbol that is used to explain the Sankofa, a word in the Akan Twi and Fante language of Ghana that translates to ‘retrieve’: go back and get. The bird has its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. It is often associated with the saying: ‘It is not wrong to go back to what you have forgotten.’ It teaches us we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us so that we can move forward.

That is what is beautiful about this time of the year. We can reflect as we prepare our homes for Christmas, and remember all those who have gone before us who did the same. People change, times change, politics change, but the message of Christmas remains the same.

May we be filled with hope for new and better beginnings, and pray for peace to wrap itself around our brothers and sisters who are struggling both here and on distant shores, pray for mothers and fathers to be able to keep their children warm and fed, and for lovers to be able to hold each other in safety. For the little children who suffered unspeakable torment at the hands of those who they should have been able to trust, may they find eternal rest.

Footsteps on the snowy field
Left no lasting mark
Yet you walked there once
Hugging the Christmas tree.

A candle glowed in the window
And with sweet relief
You fell inside
In a tangle of scented branches.

It was different then, yet the same,
The children were just as excited,
The tree was lit
And Santa was expected.

The kitchen was warm like spice
And family came
To hug and greet you
And sit around the table.

Nothing changes
Though the world moves on
Thinking it knows best.
Still, we sing of angels,
And on this Silent Night
A tall tree bows, and remembers.

Lmh.