W is for…

… Words

Like faceted diamonds

I pick one up

hold it to the light

gently turn

and roll against

my damp skin.

My fingers tremble

as I thread

them

one

by

one

stringing

precious

sounds

making beauty

meet meaning.

 

I wanted to write about the way that I spend hours looking at words before I put them together, and even then, unsatisfied, I pick them up again and shuffle the order. I do this so often, and probably to the detriment of anything I write.

I wanted to write about how hard I find it to even begin to write, because of the fear that I can’t do justice to my subject; how, as a perfectionist, I torture myself about how badly I’ve expressed something… how frightened I am that instead of a glittering diamond necklace, I come away with a cheap imitation, or a broken thread.

I wanted to write about the discipline of writing… writing without editing, plain, honest, raw…

Now I’m out of time.

ugh

 

 

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V is for…

… I guess he’s an obvious choice but I haven’t yet written anything which relates to my huge passion for art and so… to stumble down a road much travelled, I introduce Mr Vincent Van Gogh. Given that the road is now more a five lane motorway, most people know a rough outline of this incredible guy’s life so I’m not going to attempt to educate the teachers. I will however, take you (briefly) down the hard shoulder and onto a side road as I explain some of the things I love about Van Gogh.

dd5b6bb9b9f3a3ab29a32b9d148cfb01A picture of Starry Night may be one of the most common images known to man, yet, whilst alive, Van Gogh only sold ONE painting. ONE! His famous impressionist style makes his work easy to recognise and yet, Van Gogh struggled to make any impact on the public at the time…  and this, I think, was what he desired more than anything: to be able to have some impact on mankind; in his case, to be a Christ like figure in the lives of those who suffered.

It’s here that I feel so connected to Van Gogh. It’s within this shell of his essence that I see a kernel of goodness that I believe is an innate part of humanity. It might be warped in some of us, driven out of others,  or just never nurtured. But generally, I see a desire to better the lives of others, in many of the people I talk to. It’s not all completely altruistic… It’s a part of that desire to make an impact. An impact on everyone, or someone or ANYone. It gives us meaning.

Van Gogh’s real passion was his desire to serve the world, to show kindness and compassion to those who suffered. When the church threw him out (when he worked as a missionary in Belgium and gave away all his possessions to the poor!) he decided to impact us by showing us beauty through his art. His passion was wild and consuming, his torment, indescribable.. But he ate, drank and breathed his art. All with a desire to make an impact.

And so he did.

And so he has.

 

T is for…

Taizé. For me, one of the most beautiful and sacred places I have ever been.

Although an ecumenical community, Taizé seems to be best know within the Roman Catholic church. I suppose because its founder, Brother Roger was Catholic.

It would be very difficult for me to explain the experience that Taizé offers without sounding a little strange, so I am hesitant to even attempt to articulate a post about it. However, taking the risk, I’m going to use a combination of pictures and words to describe this awesome place.

First and foremost, Taizé is a monastic community nestled in the beautiful hills of Burgundy, France. Just as the second world war was breaking out, a 25 year old man from Switzerland crossed the border and bought a house in the hills. Feeling the call to set up a community, he bought a small house in the area, which also happened to be quite close to the demarcation line dividing France in two: it was well situated for sheltering refugees fleeing the war. Friends from Lyon started giving the address of Taizé to people in need of a place of safety.

After the war, a young lawyer set up an association to look after children whose parents were killed in the war. Joined by a number of other ‘brothers’ and sisters, the community began to care for these children and also German prisoners of war.

And so a religious community began… More and more young men heard about this place and came along to test their vocation and begin a lifelong commitment to serving Christ.

Today, over a hundred brothers from 30 different nations, both Catholic and Protestant make up the community, founded by the late, humble and beautifully gentle ‘Frere Roger’ and now led by his successor, Brother Alois .

Taize has become a place where thousands of young people come on a weeks retreat, following the monastic rhythm of the day and seeking God through prayer, meditation, song and fellowship. It is the one place where I have found true peace and indescribable friendships, laughter and fun!

taize2

Never, in all my life, could I imagine a church, with over 6,000 young people, in total silence for ten whole minutes everyday. Never could I imagine a place where, three times a day, young people from ALL over the world, sing in one language, together, regardless of their native tongue.

Taize_Candele_6k

The songs are simple ‘chants’ and are written in almost every language imaginable! For one minute you may be singing in English, the next in Czech, followed by a Spanish one. It is beautiful and prayerful in the deepest sense I know.

Taize cleaning

A group of young people assigned a cleaning task for the week!

Taize serving meal

How they manage it I don’t know, but with the aid of each young visitor, thousands are fed and watered three times a day, and then two snack times, every day of every week.An amazing feat of organisation!

taize-bells

Young people sit around after lunch.

I would recommend this place to anybody who is seeking peace; anyone who wants to find a sense of meaning; anyone who wants a break from the rat race; anyone who feels trapped in the crazy material, consumer society.

Go and experience something different!

http://www.taize.fr/en

Q is for …

There’s a more than a little irony in the immediate cacophony of internal noise that is triggered by the word ‘quiet’. I hear my dad’s ‘story voice’ reciting Merton’s When we Two Partedpeace-quiet-exit-sign-sm‘ against a background hum of ‘Silence is Golden’. A memory of a most beautiful place stirs sleepily and I feel the haze of Burgundy sunshine, lagoon like pools and the muffled sounds of people’s reflection at The Source.

Quiet. A concept known to all. Heralded as a panacea, a state of the soul, a level of consciousness, a discipline, a practice, a revealer, a healer, a sedative.

Yet. Quiet. Used as a weapon, a punishment, a cop out, an ally, an accomplice, a collusion.

Quiet. The absence of noise, yet, the stillness within sounds.

On which note, I’ll quietly leave .

O is for…

… Olivesolives

I was going to go for something more profound but really, an olive IS a pretty important thing. As I have a particular adoration for them, I did a little research.

The following fascinating facts I’m about to share will undoubtedly convince you of the Importance of Being an Olive.

Firstly, I’m willing to bet that you had no idea that the edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans since the Bronze Age. That’s around 5 to 6 thousand years. We should know each other pretty well.

Second, we’re not exactly forward in appreciating the health properties of the olive. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health. Greasy Greeks are in good nick.

The oil of the olive (considered a fruit btw) also has a long established reputation of being sacred. Used to anoint kings in ancient times (and athletes, oddly) it was also used to burn in temples and fuelled the original Olympic torch, the ‘eternal flame’ (not the one that The Bangles referred to).

Lastly, the sanctity of the olive and its role in religious traditions is something appreciated in both Christianity and Islam, featuring 7 times in the Qur’an and countless times in The Bible. If only we could all focus on the humble olive.

I didn’t imagine I’d ever find myself writing about olives but now I’ve dipped into it, I could well go on to become the world’s leading expert, and write prolifically about this remarkable little fruit. Olives, it turns out, are a rather understated part of world history and civilisation as we know it.

A bit tongue in cheek… but really..! Who knew?!

A2Z-BADGE-2016

 

 

E is for Evening Sunlight…

That fleeting time when the wordless glory of the evening sun dashes against the bricks and the hedges, the streets and the people; firing the land with its last red breaths and, for one trembling moment, the humdrum earth of … Continue reading

Most Memorable Settings

The challenge has been set at http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

I’m not sure how it all works, this tagging posts and linking up thing, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try on this, my not-used-very-much-at-all blog. I think I did set this one up as a writing blog. Not that my other ‘usual’ space isn’t, but the other is a bit more specific, more personal.

Asked to quote a passage that I will always associate with a beautifully crafted setting, I have to refer to American writer, John Steinbeck.

The opening paragraphs of Of Mice and Men read like poetry:

A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlightbefore reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of ‘coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark.

The graceful stillness of this place is almost tangible. It makes me desperate to feel the warmth of the water, the dry heat of the dirt tracks and the cool of the Sycamore shade.

When a writer has described the natural world this tenderly, this delicately, it stirs up a sort of ache in me that I find very difficult to explain or understand. The closest I get is to compare this ache to a feeling of homesickness. The tug of something tinged with desperation and shades of sadness. Something in descriptions of the natural world makes me long to return somewhere I often haven’t been.

There are so many other examples I could give… Hemmingway creates settings to die for, and Khaled Hosseni whose ‘Then The Mountains Echoed’ I’m reading at the moment, is an incredible writer who can conjure up scenes so palpably that I can imagine the sights and smells of Afghanistan as though they are part of a memory.