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Understanding this Life….

I sat and wrote a new poem this week. It seemed to come almost like a message from a dream. It flowed from my pen. I usually write about all things peaceful and try not to dwell on negativity, yet I don’t feel I can shuffle these thoughts away into a corner without airing them.

We are living through turbulent times. This we know. But the clocks tick on whilst we are searching for healing and a gentle, benign hand to soothe us. And even when the peaceful, kind ones among us search for the right answers, the undercurrent of negative forces can pull us under or in the wrong direction.

But the quiet listener will understand.

Today it is Holocaust Memorial Day, and tonight I will light a candle and let it shine from my window. I listened to a lady of 97 being interviewed this week. She is a Holocaust survivor and suffered greatly during the Second World War. She has recently recovered from COVID-19. She advised everyone to keep going and never to give up. She was the epitome of hopefulness and courage.

‘I Believe in the sun even when its not shining. And I believe in love, even when there’s no one there. And I believe in God, even when He is silent.’

The above was scratched on the wall of a cellar in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

I know that as human beings we will never agree about everything and nor should we. But if we can learn to join together in the ways that matter and that work toward the common good, we will be facing the sun.

Understanding 

How can we ever understand life,
The unsteady see-saw
Between bliss and strife?
This beautiful, fragile world 
That is full of unrest,
And slips from the keeping
Of those with only love to invest,
And now lies open to greed and weeping.
How can we feel the benefit
Of reckless power that rushes
In the name of help,
Yet turns its back on all it crushes?
Is there a place out there
Where we have a right to choose-
To take what is fair 
And know what to refuse?
Where fresh eyes see
What is really there,
As light falls on truth
And lays it bare.
In the room where others listen only to reply,
The quiet listener understands,
And learns how to fly
With knowledge in his hands.

(C) L.M.H.
 
 
 
 
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Physical Distancing vs Social Distancing….

We hear so much about social distancing – how it is imperative that we stay at least six-feet away from people to avoid catching or passing on the corona virus. We have been duly wearing our masks, washing our hands, staying indoors unless it is essential to venture out, and following all the guidelines, and we know that for now, this is how life has to be.

But is the term ‘social distancing’ giving us the wrong message? After all, feeling socially distanced from family and friends is hard for us all. We may need to be physically distanced at the moment, and we can grasp the necessity behind the rules – but we need to be socially connected.

When we are physically distanced we cannot gather together but we can still stay connected in other ways. Virtual connection is imperative for our mental health. It is easy to feel ‘stir crazy ‘ and find anxious feelings taking hold when feeling socially distanced. We can still be sociable, just in a different way. Nothing can replace a real hug, nothing can replace holding a loved one’s hand, and nothing can replace kissing someone better, but ‘feeling’ someone is there, in the airwaves, in the ether, or smiling on a screen can help.

One thing that is hard, especially with social media, is to be discerning. With time on our hands, we can find ourselves endlessly scrolling through posts or comments on various sites or groups and reading more than is good for us. There is a lot of good and well-meaning information out there but sometimes we can read ‘stuff’ that is upsetting or just plain mean. So while social media is an invaluable tool for keeping in touch with loved ones, friends and the wider world, we need to be mindful of how it makes us feel and even what we pass on to others. I guess if we just connect with those we love, those we care about and those we admire, we should reap the positive gains that are there.

This January seems a particularly hard one. I think a lot of us feel weighed down with worry and fear. Even those of us who are normally positive are finding the days merging into one another, and that motivation has taken a dive. As always, it is focusing on the smaller things that can help get us through. We need to cut through the drama which is invading our homes each night via our television screens, the relentless reporting of miserable situations. Of course we need to be informed but we can only take so much. A few nights without the television news works wonders and helps us to get a better nights sleep.

And maybe it’s time to dream! Just because we can’t go anywhere right now, doesn’t mean we can’t visit places or people in our dreams. This time won’t last forever and good times will come again, but for now we can indulge a little bit in a fantasy world. I seem to be imagining living part of the time in a Shepherd’s Hut, set in a field of daisies, and complete with the softest feather mattress, coloured china and a wood burning stove. It’s my favourite ‘go to ‘place at the moment. I also remember dreaming once that I had visited my elder son who lives an ocean away – the dream was so real; I hugged him and touched his curly hair, told him how I missed him. Who is to say I hadn’t been there with him, for a while at least.

Dreams are something no amount of physical distancing can ever take away.

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Hold on To Love.

We have heard so many news bulletins. We feel the need to listen, and we hope for a glimmer of good news. The good news, at Christmas, is that we can try to put normal thoughts and worries on hold, even if for just one day. We can wrap ourselves in feelings of warmth and enjoy the intangible atmosphere that is Christmas, and which surrounds us all, every year, whatever our circumstances and wherever we are. Who can fail to feel a certain magic when looking at the starry skies on Christmas Eve? And somewhere, out there, under those same skies, our loved ones are looking out and hoping for the same things that we are. The one thing the virus can’t stop us doing is loving, even if we are apart. Love sends good vibrations across the fields, the miles, the skies, the oceans. Love has no borders. In fact, it never leaves us. It sits in our memories and stirs us when we need it. It appears in our dreams and runs through our veins. It made us. Like Christmas, love is never cancelled!

So many of us may not be able to physically sit around a table with our loved ones this year, but our hearts will be together.

Whilst we notice the sadness around us and hold space for all that is broken, and in the quiet corners of our minds, we tremble at the thoughts of an unknown future, let us picture a time where all the four corners of our precious world have been swept clean and we rejoice in new beginnings.

Merry Christmas

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Let the Wind Blow

Blow, blow winter wind
Grey clouds pass on by,
Christmas will be here once more
In the blinking of an eye.

Blow, blow winter wind
Until all our thoughts are clear,
Help us find our way again,
And let kind hearts draw near.

Blow, blow winter wind
Til all the sky is bright 
And Santa flies across the moon
For every child’s delight.

Blow, blow winter wind,
Chase away the sadness and the pain,
Sweep every corner of the world
And make it whole again.
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Silver With Cobwebs…

It is a damp, dark and foggy November day. The sort of day which feels rather dreary and lends itself to squashy sofas and log fires rather than energetic walks and outdoor exercise. It is a day for baking cakes and making hearty soups. Outside it feels as though the earth is sinking to rest until next spring. And yet when we stirred ourselves and walked across the fields, there was something magical about the misty, silent world where only the hardy venture ..

 Silver With Cobwebs 

You can walk through the dark,
Make no sense of the day
That went before
And brushed your dreams away.
Then look up to check
That the moon's still in place,
Peering through the clouds,
With a smile on its face.

You can walk through the tunnel
Feel your way in the mist
To find quiet fields
Laid out like a gift;
Silver with cobwebs
Spun as you were sleeping,
A glimpse into fairyland,
That is yours for the keeping.

You can be pulled by the river 
That hurtles to the sea
Or go with the flow
And decide to be free,
You can let your fears
Drift past on the tide,
Let the wind dry your tears
And peace be your guide.

You can forget what you have
When the ground seems to shift,
And shout at a world
That has cast you adrift.
Then remember the blessings
Too many to list
That will warm your soul
 Like a lover's kiss.

You can look to your memory
See who was there
Before all your plans
Were plotted with care.
One who sends love
In all that this is;
A handful of words
To last through the years.

L.M.H.

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A Place of Happy Endings…

We all need to believe that good things can happen ….

A Place of Happy Endings 


I wanted to believe in fairy tales,
Where a perfect magic spell
Cast from a passing fairy’s wand
Would soon make all things well.
Somewhere across the Universe,
There must be a corner set aside
For the keeper of happy endings,
Who could send them far and wide.

So I took a walk alone
As though it was commonplace,
To be embarking on a journey 
With a mystery to embrace.
And suddenly, beneath my feet
The ground was paved with gold
And I felt compelled to follow
As I saw the path unfold.

My feet, they trod so lightly
There was no weight to hold me back,
Just a gentle breeze to steer me
As I kept upon the track.
A kaleidoscope of colour
Played against the sky
And all the world seemed brighter
As the landscape slipped on by.

Peaceful doves perched
And invited me to wait
Where a tangle of roses arched,
Above a gilded gate.
Through it I glimpsed a different world;
A green and bountiful space,
Where rules had never mattered
Yet order was in place.

It was a garden full of people 
Wearing a harmonious face,
With room enough for everyone
Of every colour and race.
Forgiveness was the way here,
And with it, acceptance grew
From love, that was unconditional,
And kindness was all that it knew.

Strength came from gentle strangers
Who let me stop awhile;
I had found a world that touched me
And I saw wise men smile.
This was where the brightest of dreams
Would become reality,
A haven for all the lost souls
Who yearned just to be free.

And so I knew this place was real
For I had held it in my hand;
It had taught me to believe
And then, to understand.

L.M.H 

A gift from my sister ….
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Opening the Doors…

The news has been harrowing. We learnt of the deaths of four members of the same family who died crossing the channel. How can this be allowed to happen? There must be another way. There are NO excuses. In the words of novelist and former refugee Dina Nayeri : ‘It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.’

Found Again

There is sunlight on the leaves 
And in distant fields, children play.
Voices carry on the wind,
Bringing a piercing reminder 
That life goes on,
Even when for some
The light has gone out,
And left nothing but broken hearts.
Will there ever be a tomorrow 
As normal again as yesterday?
Somehow, we have to believe
That, one day
Sorrow will fall away,
And in another place
All that is lost will be found again,
Love will find its way home to us,
And the world hereafter
Will be better
Than it ever was before.

L.M.H.

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Letting the Light In

Do you find it more difficult to feel motivated this time of the year, especially in the cold, sometimes grey light of morning? I think a lot of us do. Also there is that slightly gloomy feeling when we realise that we are going to be facing a period of short days and long nights. Next week in our part of the world we will be drawing the curtains at tea-time!

For most of our human existence, we have lived our lives according to the availability of sunlight. We would wake at sunrise and go to sleep when darkness fell. But now things are very different. A lot of our days are spent in artificially lit buildings and the structures of our days and routines are very different to those of our ancestors. We go about our days not noticing that we aren’t getting the quality of natural light we need, yet sometimes feel out of sorts – we can feel the negative effects without really knowing the reason why. It is thought we can be more prone to heart disease, sleep deprivation and depression when our circadian rhythm ( the daily cycle that controls sleep, hunger and alertness) is disrupted by lack of light.

We need natural light – it varies in colour, from bright blue during daylight hours, to soft, reddish glows in the evening. We get a message from these different lights and our bodies respond without thinking about it. We are used to many different shades of light – we aren’t really used to a switch on switch off setting! A glorious array of different lights and shade is what we tune in to best.

I am always tempted to turn on my lamps – I like cosy corners lit with favourite lampshades when the day is a little grey. However, I am learning to try and make the most of natural daylight when I can. The trick is to try and position desks by a window for example, and give ourselves the best exposure we can.

In the darker hours I use warm, coloured lighting with halogen bulbs, and position my table lamps around the corners of the room rather than use overhead spotlights. I have a Himalayan salt lamp too, which gives a wonderful, soft amber glow and is warm to the touch.

Whenever possible, it’s good to get outside during daytime hours and expose yourself to the light – if possible leave off the sunglasses but don’t stare directly at the sun (if it is making a rare appearance!). Sunlight, even in the smallest doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and boost our mood.

Why not take a short walk and even have your coffee outdoors – just put on a warm coat first!

But, if we are marooned indoors, we can still bring the outside in. By surrounding ourselves with lush green plants and natural materials we can feel infinitely calmer and peaceful. Just by looking at green leaves and natural shapes we can lift our mood. Tactile natural wooden objects can help us relax too. Open fires emit calming light, but if your home doesn’t have a fireplace, candlelight can give off an almost magical light and even the simple act of lighting a candle can de-stress us.

During the first lockdown in April, we were lucky to feel the benefit of getting outdoors; indeed, for many it was a salvation – we couldn’t go anywhere apart from taking short walks, but we could sit in the garden if we were fortunate enough to have one. We could wake up to the dawn chorus, and watch a beautiful sunrise. Somehow it made us feel more positive.

Now though, we can’t be sure what lies ahead, and the threat of further lockdowns hang over us. We won’t have the comfort of warm sunny days for a while, but perhaps we can embrace a bit of Hygge – the Danish expression which roughly translated means coziness , although it means a lot more than that. It ties in ideas of companionship, wholesomeness, and contentment, all wrapped up in one harmonious whole. The great thing is that Hygge is easy to embrace, even on a budget. Most of the things central to the Hygge lifestyle- such as candles, home-cooked meals, warm socks and hot drinks to name but a few, cost little or nothing. It is all about warmth, comfort and closeness – all the feelings you may normally get from a hug. We may not be able to have as many hugs as we like at the moment but we can focus on making our own personal space as welcoming and comforting as possible.

                                                     One kind word can WARM three months OF WINTER 

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Finding Things to Enjoy Right Now…(and what not to).

We may be finding ourselves sliding into worry again (if it ever really left) – for the world is insane, unfathomable, and the news almost offensively-familiar. Some people are back in lockdown and others wonder if and when it will be re-instated. We wait for the doors to shut and try not to think about all the repercussions once more. And this time we will not have the luxury of the long daylight hours, and the beautiful warm weather we enjoyed in the spring. We cannot help but think it will be a phase of quiet dullness with no novelty this time round – we have slightly tired of the ‘well this is making us appreciate reading/ catching up on box set viewing / home cooking’ etc. phrases. Second time round we really don’t want to think about the tiresome problem of finding somewhere that stocks plenty of loo rolls and has a good supply of marmite. We don’t want to plan our wardrobe so that we can look good from the waist up when taking a zoom call. We want to dress up properly and go out! We want to be able to choose a new winter coat and some snazzy boots that we might even be able to show off! For me, even the online yoga has palled a bit, as has the indoor walking. All these things have had their place, and indeed, still help keep us sane, but when we knew the restaurants were open again it didn’t take us long to drop the ‘woo woo’ stuff and leap off out. We don’t want half-hearted any more, we don’t want sorry attempts at being normal, yet at the moment that is what we have to accept.

But we are nothing if not resilient. We may fold our arms for a moment or two and grimace at the thought of what could lie ahead, but then our hard-core, steely reserve kicks in and we make the best of things. Again. That is what we do and what we are good at. And deep down, most of us do enjoy the small things.

So here are a few things that help me find some comfort now that a different kind of Autumn beckons …

The moon – Dust off those binoculars and get ready for the eleventh full moon of 2020. October’s moon was dubbed the Hunter’s Moon because preparations for winter began around this time. The next full moon doesn’t grace our skies until October 31st, but each night I have been moon gazing; the position of the now waning crescent moon is low in the sky and has taken on an extraordinary golden colour. One can only look and marvel at this loyal companion.

The colours – Oh the beautiful colours and traditions of autumn. From walks among the crunchy fallen leaves, to harvest festivals with the wonderful, abundant fruits and vegetables, the golden colours envelop us. The pumpkins in particular, grace our window ledges, stacked in all their golden glory, waiting to delight us with their spooky glow at Halloween. In October, the sun sinks low in the sky, the light mellows and takes on a rich amber hue so loved by photographers. Perhaps it is because my birthday falls in October but it is one of my favourite times of the year. The cosiness is there without the bone chilling cold of deep winter. And one can have an enormous bowl of porridge for breakfast with a drizzle of cream knowing it will bolster you up for the day….

Then there is the wildlife to beguile us. The pheasants, scampering and squawking through the ploughed fields and the geese who seem to fly over our rooftops most nights in their amazing v – shaped formation. The last few nights I have been lulled to sleep by owls hooting. Sometimes it sounds like just one, other times perhaps two, hooting back and forth in their night-time conversations . Looking in my bird book, I learn that great horned owls begin setting up territories in October. Apparently, they mate for life but begin their courtship about now. Perhaps I am lucky enough to have a pair of great horned owls living nearby! Some say the sound of an owl hooting foretells something untoward but I like to think it is something rather more romantic.

Hello Comfort.

Autumn lovers wave goodbye to those pesky tee shirts that show the worst bits of your arms and the skimpy sandals the cover your feet in blisters. We can welcome fleeces, UGGs and an abundance or warm, soft clothing. We can drink hot chocolate and eat home-made apple pie whilst wrapped up in a cozy throw on the sofa. Or how about some hot apple cider? If you have never had mulled cider before why not give it a try? Just pour a bottle of your favourite apple cider into a pan, with 3 cloves, I cinnamon stick and a sliced orange. Gently heat for ten minutes so that it infuses, cool slightly, then pour into glasses. Tastes delicious and so reminiscent of the days when we could meander round Christmas markets.

I guess we all want a bit of decadence in our lives; to relive the joy of dancing, and have a bit of a knees up from time to time. We can’t have that just now but we can dream of good times that will come again. Perhaps until then we can adopt a sort of sanguine resignation to the latest restrictions, look after ourselves and our mental health, and toast ourselves with a glass of cider.

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Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness – facing a different Autumn…

Last Sunday morning I lay in bed listening to the morning service on the radio. It was celebrating the Harvest Festival. I heard a recording of a choir singing ‘We plough the Fields and Scatter’, and the years rolled back. I remember as a young child standing in Egloshayle church in Wadebridge, Cornwall, singing the same hymn and listening to my Father’s deep and harmonious voice singing along beside me. I remember that feeling of being in complete awe of my Dad – and the feeling of being in the presence of something far bigger than me. From the corners of the softly lit church came a feeling of unworldliness and reverence which was palpable even to me as a small child. The brass gleamed, and the soft light from the windows fell on the altar steps, where banks of fruits and vegetables were stacked. Every window ledge too, was covered with bounty so freely given. The air was full of the earthy smell of fresh produce and the sweetness of hay. Everything felt just as it should be.

There is something very comforting about familiarity – the festivals which come every year with the changing of the seasons, the pumpkins appearing in the shops and even the way we might complain about the first splashes of Christmas advertising; the way we sigh as we close the curtains a little earlier each evening, just as our mother’s did before us. Perhaps we need the comfort of this more than ever now. By focusing on the familiar , embracing the changing seasons and following the well-loved traditions, even on a smaller scale than we are used to, we can bask in some normality and forget about the Coronavirus for a while.

This year has been hard for us all in so many ways. And still we feel uncertainty lurking around every corner. We still have challenges to come. Yet in March, I remember us going for our daily walk during lockdown. It was so important to get outside and clear our minds. Walking the quiet, usually traffic- choked streets we could breathe the fresh, sweet air and embrace the silence around us. We could hear the birdsong – we could cling to the glimmer of new beginnings. Even as the traffic increases again, my attention is now sharpened to the complexity, diversity and sheer abundance of creation in this unruly, chaotic time.

No matter how we, on this planet, try and mess up the environment with our over consumerism, our over use and waste of resources , nature remains on our side. Nature is forgiving and we need to hold on to that , especially now. Walking out this morning, we picked a handful of blackberries from the hedgerow and collected some fallen apples to cook up for supper. Such a small example of how nature provides and shows us abundance and gives us simple delights and reasons to be grateful.

We all have different ways of coping and also not coping with the world – of dealing with worries and facing uncertain futures. I have had some days where worries about issues in my own world have chipped away at the strong exterior I try to present to the world and those I love and the defences crumble. But I have faith that those I love will understand. We all comfort each other at times like these.

So these are the days when memories evoked from past times – the robust singing of a well-loved hymn or the earthy scent of the harvest gathered in, remind us of our roots, of a permanency and the order of things. They remind us that the seasons will still come and go – and that the world keeps on turning. The familiar can anchor us when we need it, as can following the small daily routines – as I have said so many times, it is the small things that are really the big things.

Times may be so different now to those days long ago when I stood as a little girl next to my dad in church. Technology surrounds us, the media bombards us the television beams into our home 24/7. There is hardly anything we can’t look up, order or comment on in one way or another. So much has changed and many things have moved forward in beneficial ways. Attitudes have changed and become more liberal. Diversity is embraced although there is still a long way to go. But I can still look back and remember the inherently good feeling of the memory and the reassurance of my dad’s hand on my shoulder. These things make us who we are and are never lost.

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a churchyard in a pretty village in Dorset. In the silent surroundings I stopped and looked at a headstone that caught my eye – the inscription was this:

Let the winter come and go – all shall be well again I know’

Something to encourage us all I think….