Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Pilgrimage

First: If you haven't yet read my post about Jen Ballantyne, please do. She's an incredible woman who needs help, support, caring, prayers, people to witness her experience of cancer. Thank you.

This past weekend, I went to spend a few days in Sligo, a town I'd once lived in for 16 years. That's where I moved to when I first left home. It's where I had my first home of my own, where I grew up really: where I became responsible for my own life - paying my own electricity bill and buying my first TV and washing-machine. That's the town where I got married, where we set up home together, and where my son was born. He lived the first 9 years of his life there.

We left almost 13 years ago, and of course I've been back since - for family things, to visit friends, and so on, but I began to feel lately a real urge to go and spend a few days there, going to the places we used to take our Sunday drives to; revisiting not in nostalgia, but in order to claim these places now for myself.
I didn't create a real itinerary. The friend I stayed with was working on Friday, so I had all day to go where the wind might blow me, and that's what I did. I had vague ideas about where I might go, but wasn't sure until I saw where my car took me. I began at the cemetery where my erstwhile husband's parents are buried and paid my respects. It was my first chance to be there since my father-in-law's passing last year.

From there, out of town, and heading up a hill and around by Lough Gill, I found myself at a special place that I've always loved to visit. The Holy Well at Tobernalt is a peaceful little space which shelters a mass rock. A stream flows through the area, and dotted around are "rag bushes" where people leave tokens - ribbons, hair-ties, beads.There are 2 or 3 holly trees with branches laden with all sorts of things. I noticed a toy car, a glove, a harmonica, a tea-bag wrapper. Lately, I've become a candle-lighter, so I lit a candle. I walked through the area, soaking up the atmosphere of peace and prayer that pervades this spot.

At Dooney rock, I found violets peeping out of the growth of wild garlic leaves, moss and ivy. I love violets. Spring is here.

I stood on the shore of the lake, looking towards the spot where I'd had my first flat. (On the far shore, to the left)

Driving on around the lake, a drive that was so familiar to me at one time, I just enjoyed being in that countryside again. I stopped at another graveyard, where friends had buried their little daughter, Grace Alice, who died a scant couple of weeks before my own son was born. Her white gravestone bears an epigraph from Baha'i writings: "Let her drink deep from the cup of Thy love"

Rain started up, and I took to the road again, back around the lake to come into the town from another direction. I decided to go to Drumcliffe, one of my favourite stops. I've shared photos HERE from a previous visit to WB Yeats' resting-place. Nearby is the remains of a round tower, and a fine 11th century Celtic Cross

I had my lunch in Drumcliffe, and then drove out towards the sea, through the grounds of Lissadell house (and noted I'll be wanting to visit there later in the season, when the gardens begin to show themselves at their best). I came to the stoney beach at Raghley. I'd only ever visited here a handful of times in the past. The wind was literally howling at this stage, and I needed to wrap my scarf tight around me, fasten up my coat, wear my fleece hat in order to walk that beach even for a short stroll. It was worth it. The wind blew away my cobwebs. I gathered some stones. By the time I turned to go back to town, I felt renewed, revived. My pilgrimage was complete.


On Saturday, my friend and I went for a seaweed bath. That completed the renewal for me! I felt like a mermaid, emerging from the sea! Glorious! Add to that good company and good food for the remainder of the weekend, why wouldn't I feel revived, restored? It was wonderful!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Outing with the Sisters

First: If you haven't yet read my post about Jen Ballantyne, please do. She's an incredible woman who needs help, support, caring, prayers, people to witness her experience of cancer. Thank you.

Yesterday, my sisters and I had an outing we've long been promising ourselves. They travelled to Dublin from Limerick by train, and I headed across the country by bus to meet them and spend the day as tourists in the capital city. We realised we spend time travelling in other countries together, visiting museums, gardens, etc. and we have hardly seen a fraction of what our own country has to offer, so the plan was to see what we could in a day.
A day like that has to start with coffee. Good coffee. It did! Fortified, we set off on the Luas

A stroll down the quays, across the river and we arrived at Christ Church Cathedral.

Of the three of us, only one had previously visited. So in we went. An absolutely beautiful, history-steeped place, with an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. I lit candles for any of you who need healing and peace of heart and mind.

From there, a gentle stroll, and we found ourselves in Dublin Castle, but the Castle itself wasn't our true goal. We were ready for lunch, and I knew the secret of the Chester Beatty Library (Well... one of the secrets!). It has an amazing restaurant - the Silk road Cafe, where excellent Mediterranean and middle-eastern food is available at very reasonable prices. So, we had a wonderful lunch, and then we proceeded to explore the library. If you ever visit Dublin, you MUST, MUST see this. Last year, one of the highlights of my trip to San Francisco was a visit to the Asian Art Museum there. Well, on a smaller scale, here is a gem to compare with that.

Quoting from their website: "The Library's exhibitions open a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Its rich collection from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe offers visitors a visual feast. Chester Beatty Library was named Irish Museum of the year in 2000 and was awarded the title European Museum of the Year in 2002." Follow the link to the website. Browse. See some of what enthralled us.

Their roof-garden is a treasure. Their cakes are treasures. Their gift-shop contains postcards, even wrapping-paper that are treasures!

Did I mention that the Chester Beatty library has to be seen??? (And, while you're welcome to make a contribution to upkeep, entrance is free!)

After perusing the treasures of the galleries, we had cake and coffee, and set off on the next part of our adventure. A bus-hop to Glasnevin, where the National Botanic Gardens lie. Being still relatively early in spring, we didn't expect to find much in flower, but we were delighted, as we got off the bus, to be greeted with a waft of the most delicious scent. Outside the gates, beds had been planted with Stocks, one of our mother's all-time favourite flowers. What a welcome! It is indubitably true that a visit in summer would offer a whole lot more in the way of colour and flower, but we didn't have crowds to contend with, and there are beautiful beds of primulas, some of the plum trees are flowering, we could admire the layout of the gardens, and we spent plenty of time in the wonderful glasshouses - cactus house, tropical plant house, tender plant house, and we saw plenty of wonderful plants. By the time we'd made our way back to the city, we were ready for just a little retail therapy. Bookshop for two of us, while the other went in search of beachtowels and sarongs for her upcoming sun holiday.
We finished the day at another national institution. Burdocks Fish and Chip shop - the best Chips in Dublin! Aaah! Satisfaction at a great day. We parted on Jervis Street. Two heading north to the train station, me heading south to the bus-station.
Is there a city near you that you could visit in a day that might have treasures you haven't yet explored? I'm really glad we gave a day to this outing, and it is set to be an annual event from now on!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Helping Jen

There is a blog I've been reading since some time in February. (Is it only little over a month since I first encountered Jenni Ballantyne?) I met her through Jen Lemen, who posted about a question her friend was asking: What would you do if you knew you had only 12 months left to live? This was posted, not as some philosophical exercise, but as a genuine question, looking for answers that might help Jenni find the best and healthiest ways for her to approach the coming year, in which she has been told, she will die. She has stage 4 colon cancer, and no hope of surgical success. She's on chemo right now, and you have probably seldom (perhaps never) met a braver or brighter spirit than hers.

Some of her friends have started a project to raise funds to help. Bella explains that they want "...friends to come together to raise funds to help pay for her treatment and those forms of care and pain management that will not be covered by insurance: acupuncture, massage, naturopath, etc.., as well as create a trust for her son. We are calling on all of you to join us, to come together in solidarity, to cook up some magic and in the most practical of ways." Details of the project are HERE. (that is the important link in all of this). Jeni has two sons, one grown - Jamie, and she is lone parent to a sweet little boy called Jack. Here is what she says about overcoming her discomfort and embarrassment at accepting this help.

"We can all use help at some time in our lives, we are none of us an island and I would like to be an example of how to graciously accept and allow people to help me and my family during what is the most heart wrenching time of my life. I am choosing to listen to the parts of me that know that people want to help, normal healthy people like to feel they can do something to ease another's suffering, it is something within the human spirit that is compelled to reach out when someone is doing it hard, I love this quality that we possess, it is so human and so beautiful."

Although she had asked, I felt overwhelmed by her "What would you do...?" question. I didn't know how to answer. One day, during some down-time at work, I took a couple of pages and wrote by hand - for myself - a reflection on her question. I haven't re-read that until now. But now seems an appropriate time to post it, to honour her for her courage in asking the question, and in facing it for herself. This was my response:

A woman whose time in this life is short asked the question: 'If you knew you had 12 months left to live, how would you spend your time?' There is no quick answer. I have no way of knowing whether my answer would be really true. I can say what I'd like to think I would do, but if it came to it, maybe my pain would be such that I'd spend the time curled in my bed, weeping. Maybe my anger would be such that I would rage and rage, alienating all those with whom I say now I would want to spend that time.

So I ask myself instead - if my time was even shorter, if I had weeks, not months left, what would I be glad about from the past year? - What would I say "I'm so happy I got to do that!" about?

If my time was really short, and I was looking back over the past year, I'd be glad, glad, glad for the time I spent with people I love. I'd be glad I drove 10 hours to have lunch with my son on his 21st birthday. I'd be glad that when I went back to my home-town for weekends, tempting as it was to stay with sisters or brothers, I opted to stay with my Dad, have our predictable, quiet conversations, move about the house, each respecting the other's space, likes and dislikes. I'd be really glad that I was there for my nephew's wedding in July, and my sister's in September. I would be glad that I didn't react impulsively at times when misunderstandings arose with people I care about - that I managed to leave the space for talk, the space where we could meet and resolve the issue and go forward. I'd be glad for the grace that brought me release from feelings of bitterness over the end of my marriage. I'd be glad to think of my former husband, to hold the good memories of our marriage, and that I'd released the bad.

I would be so happy that I went to California, that I spent time with my friend Pam, that I didn't give in to the voice that told me not to be "a bother, an intrusion", but allowed myself to trust that her invitation was genuine, that ours is a friendship that is real. I'd be really glad that I gave myself the gift of time alone on that trip, that I adventured and explored to just a bit past my comfort-zone. I'd be glad too that I made so many great new friends.

I'd be really happy to think of the contacts I've made through blogging - the wonderful true, tangible connections between hearts that have been forged through opening up - letting my self appear, and trusting that what I say will be received in the right spirit.

I'd be glad I took my job, glad I maintained my integrity, spoke up for myself, held firm when I needed to. I'd be so happy that I'd had a chance to do this work - being with young people in times of distress, supporting them, letting them know there is a place where they'll be heard, and witnessing the miracle of change when it happens. The sense of privilege and honour would be with me.

I'd be glad I didn't worry about money. I'd be glad I spent some on making my home a comfortable space. I'd be glad I travelled. I'd be so glad, so glad, that I let SoulCollage be such a passion. The way in which it has helped me become more of my true self, become able to feel ok about the many parts of myself, has been the miracle of the past few years in my life. And the great gift was in my La Loba card - the gathering of all the bits in one ceremony that truly celebrated me.

If my life was ending soon, and I didn't have time left to plan anything else, I'd be so glad that this was the last year of my life: the year I had a birthday party in my own house, the year I let go of my woundedness, the year I made new friends and did what I could to keep up contact with old friends.

I'd be glad that I got to sit with my mother, to feed her her supper, rub cream on her hands, brush her hair, and tell her that I love her and miss her. I'd be glad that I've said prayers with her. I'd be glad for every prayer I've said, and every word of The Writings I've read. I'd be glad that I spent time at Feasts and Study Circle.

If the past year had been the last year of my life, I'd be glad to say that in that year, there's so little I regret. I'd be sorry I gave myself a hard time about my weight, hid in dull-coloured clothes, stayed away from the swimming-pool. I'd regret any moment of guilt I felt, and self-blame. I'd be glad for whenever I took responsibility, and really glad for the challenges to which I answered "Yes".

I'd be glad that I met Jen, and witnessed her courage, and that I heard her question. I'd be really glad that it led me to this answer.

What matters is the people: not the paypacket or the stuff, not even the places. I am one of the people, one of the special people in my own life. I'm glad, so glad for the friends who've been in my life, the meals we've shared and the books we've passed from hand to hand. I'm glad that in my family, there is no estrangement, no unresolved disputes: that we are there for one another. I'm glad that my son is ploughing his own furrow, making his own choices, safe in the knowledge that whatever he does, I love him. I love him unconditionally, and always will.

If you cannot answer Jen's question, can you answer mine? If this past year had been your last year on earth, what in it would have left you glad at the end?

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Answers in Pictures - An Experiment

Here is something fun and entertaining to try. It's a blog idea I got from Ell at Pomegranate Tiger. She got it from Joy's Updates, who got it from Chris who, in turn, got it from someone else. It's called Answers in Pictures.Here's how it works:
1. Go to
2. Answer the questions below
3. Type your answers into the Photobucket “search” box
4. Use only the first page of results to choose your picture
5. Insert the pictures and questions into your BlogHere goes:

Who is your favourite band/artist?
Bob Dylan
There are so many, but it's Bob Dylan most often.

What is your favourite movie?
Amelie. Wonderful!

What kind of pet do you have?
This is what Trixie looked like when she came to live with us 16 years ago. It broke my heart when I had to have her put down 6 months ago. Not a lot of people know that yorkshire terriers start out looking like this as puppies. How could anyone resist?

Where do you live?
Letterkenny's town centre has this memorial to the hiring fairs.

Where do you work?
I work mostly in Derry city schools.

What do you look like?
Irish woman
Most of the images that turned up looked practically pornographic, so I opted for something I don't really look like, but that at least is decent.

What kind of car do you drive?
It's almost 1o years old. It's a gas-guzzler. I feel guilty, but can't really afford to change it just now.

What is your favourite TV show?
I'm still a fan. Right from the start.

Describe yourself.

What is your name?


What is your favourite candy?
As I've mentioned recently, I love Cadbury's Flake, but there are a lot of chocolate bars I like, and this is also a treat I'm very fond of, so since I found a picture of this, and not of Flake, this is what appears.
If you decide to play along, please let me know, as I'd like to see what turns up for you, - and Ell would like to know too!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Scribbling: I Just Don't Get It!!!

That's this week's prompt over at Sunday Scribblings.

I said it a thousand times in maths classes. "I don't get it... Do you get it? ... Why don't I get it?" I so badly wanted to get it, to understand why we would do this or that with this set of numbers in order to ... I would ask, and be offered a series of steps to follow, but not knowing quite why I was following the steps made it really hard for me to remember next time what I was meant to be doing. Not knowing the right questions to ask left me struggling right through secondary school, doomed always to taking the class with the lowest expectations, and even at the very end, JUST scraping my way through the course that would allow me to qualify for college entrance. (Maths is obligatory for everything here.) I'm not stupid. I could follow other subjects. I could make sense of things other people couldn't understand. But when it came to maths... not a hope.

Imagine my shock and dismay when I'd embarked on my first college course to discover that one of the foundation year subjects that I had to take would be maths. Then imagine my amazement when the lecturer proceeded to introduce every topic with a clear explanation of just when and where and why this mathematical procedure would be used. It made sense! And when it made sense, it was so much easier to remember, and to work with. I couldn't believe that all through secondary school, this was all that had been kept from me, all I'd needed in order to begin to make sense of maths.

And with that, numbers stopped being a source of fear for me. I ended up working for some years in accounting, and when I decided much later in life to study psychology, and my fellow students were getting into a sweat over the necessary statistics modules, I knew, whenever I heard those words "I don't get it!", or found myself thinking the same thing, I only needed to go discover just why we'd be doing something to help me grasp the logic of it.

I'll never be a mathematical genius. I will always have to struggle and reach to understand, but now I know that it is possible to get it, when I want to, and that feels good!
Go find out what the other Sunday Scribblers don't get HERE

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday's Feast

Given the choice, would you prefer to live in the country or in the city?
I think that very much depends on the city. I'd (far) prefer to live in Barcelona than a country cottage not far from where I live now (suburbs of a large - by Irish standards - town). I like to visit London, but I'd prefer to live somewhere in the English countryside than the centre of that city. I think if I was choosing country life, I'd also be inclined towards village living rather than total isolation.
Answer: Depends!

Who is the cutest kid you know?
Oh, now how can I just answer that with one name? There's the one I met most recently - 9-moth-old Kate, just arrived home from Vietnam with her new parents, my cousin and his wife. She is a sweet, cute, gorgeous little thing - friendly and beautiful, and she's made them so happy. Then there's almost-8-year-old Daniel, who was engrossed in a game the second-last time I visited and muttered "hello", but who flung himself into my arms with kisses the most recent time. He's an artist, and I see him spending time just looking at people - gathering up the details for when he wants to draw them. He plays cello and loves soccer.

Oh... I just might end up introducing every wonderful kid I know. I have another Kate in my life, my 9-year-old neice - sweet, kind, loving. I have a Steven and a Stephen - both unique characters, who enjoy sharing the news of their lives with me. There's a Gary, a Bahiyyih. There are those tall, gangly boys who just a short time ago were kids, but who now have deep voices and bristly chins, and duck their heads shyly when they say Hello.

I feel lucky to have such great kids in my life - and each one reminds me in their own way of the phases and stages of my son's childhood, and for that I am also really glad.

Fill in the blank: I couldn’t believe it when I heard ___________.
I couldn't believe it when I heard I'd got the job! Now what was I going to do? Become a worker! The change was immense, but almost a year later, I am so glad, so glad I did get that job. I love my work and the people I meet through it.

Main Course
If you could star in a commercial for one of your favorite products, which one would you want to advertise?
Because I'm feeling lazy right now, I think I'd like to star in one of the old-fashioned Cadbury's Flake advertisements. Perhaps not the 1969 version:

But the 1985 version:

Some of these ads also had a hint of a smouldering, sultry man in the background... or was that just my imagination? It's my favourite chocolate of all time, and now it's available in a dark chocolate version, too!

What type(s) of vitamins and/or supplements do you take on a regular basis?
For many years, I was one of those people who would have periodic bouts of vitamin-buying, and would then find a bottle or jar months later, saying "Oh, yes, I'd started to take that ... whatever...but then I forgot!". But then, last year, when I started the job alluded to above, I realised there are going to be people relying on me to be there, and I had a responsibility not only to myself but to others, I got my act together about my supplements. I could probably do with having a review with a herbalist/naturopath, but at the moment, my morning regime involves 500mg Vit C., a calcium tablet with Vit D, 2 cod-liver-oil capsules, a spoonful of echinacea, and a spoonful of a wonderful Propolis elixir. I feel the better for it all. And (crossing fingers and touching wood here!) I haven't had a cold this winter. One brief bout of sinusitus. Best winter in a very long time!

If you'd like to join in, or nibble on a few more Friday's Feasts, go HERE


Monday, March 10, 2008

That Writers' Weekend

[Ooops! This is a long post! Oh, well...]

Some of you might like to know how the weekend went. I said there might be photos. But, as it happens, I didn't take any. Yes, I brought my camera, but there are times you take out the camera, and times you don't, and this weekend, I just didn't. As for walks in the woods... well, mea culpa, I didn't do any walking at all, beyond the few steps from one cottage (the food house) to the other (the writing/workshop-house), and back again. And the few paces from the back-door to the little chalet in which the hot-tub sat. Aaaah! (that is the sound of blissful relaxation)

It was a wonderful weekend. There were eight of us. We've been writing together a long time. (Can it be 12 years? Yes, it can!) This year, we'd decided to experiment with organising our retreat without a professional facilitator, relying instead on the accumulated skill and wisdom of the group itself to stimulate us into new writing, to provide inspiration, to introduce new poets, to energise, enthuse, encourage us, and it worked!

It worked so, so well, we ended the weekend with notebooks bulging with new work, beginnings of new work, lines and ideas. What we noticed was that this year in particular, everyone seemed to be relaxed and able to get "into the zone". At least once for each of us, the rest of the group listened to some piece of writing and, as it ended, let out a collective sigh of wonder, or a whoop of delight. It was such a treat to hear these raw, fresh, unretouched, unedited pieces of magic spilling from my friends. It was such a relief to find I could relax and let myself write, write, write. I produced more in those couple of days than I've written in the past 6 months, perhaps even the past year! -- Whoo-whoo!

What worked so well? Finding a place that was away from our usual environments. Declining to be shown how the TV worked. Choosing to have the main meals catered for us (just delivered - we heated the food, and served ourselves). Spending a couple of hours on Friday night making SoulCollage® cards, and for some of us we found we were making cards to represent the parts of ourselves we bring to the group. As always with SoulCollage, though, much of the time, we were just choosing and combining images with no idea WHY those images wanted to go together. We waited until Saturday morning to find out, leaving an array of cards out on the worktable when we went off for a dip in the hot-tub.

Raucus hilarity ensued. And a late night.

On Saturday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast. There was some concern that because we were self-directed this time, we wouldn't actually do much work. But that concern was totally unfounded. When we began working, it flowed very, very well. We started with writing in pairs in response to the cards we'd made on Friday night. Most people found that fascinating - the unconscious messages that were waiting to be unearthed from the cards they'd made. As a SoulCollage facilitator, I was delighted to see everyone take to that part of the process of working with the cards, and to hear positive feedback from the group.

Then we shared a "picnic of poems" - each member bringing two favourite (or newly-discovered) poems to the table. We read Hopkins, Roethke, Li Young Li. We had Alice Oswald, Yusuf Komunyakaa, Adrienne Rich, Robert Lowell... to inspire us. Was it any wonder that, when we did begin to write that we were softened up, loose, working out of the right-brain?

Because the prompts and exercises were chosen and offered by "one of us", no-one felt under pressure to perform. We didn't feel judged - or certainly not in the way that we might with an unfamiliar, well-respected writer presiding over our workshop!

We wrote poetry (or material for poems!) on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, we ventured into the realm of fiction - looking at "the character-based story", led by one member who has a marvellous novel under-way. Most unusual tip from her? Write while listening to music you don't particularly like. It keeps your critic busy! I met a character I quite like. She may well be given voice again sometime soon!

We finished up with a leisurely lunch. Satisfied. Full of plans for "next time". This group is such a treasure in my life. I love them. I love IT - the group itself. We shared laughter, bits of our lives, concern for family members, good news, great ideas, shifted perspectives. We witnessed for one another this weekend, and it was good. I'd love to be able to share the spirit of this weekend with all the blogging writers out there who have bemoaned the fact that they don't have a writers' group to share with. I think I know how blessed I am in this group. They are soul-sisters.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Stray Dog Arts

Many of you will already be familiar with Jessie of Diary of a Self-Portrait. Just in case you are not, I wanted to let you know about her recent new venture. She's begun to make animal portraits and has a show of her dog portraits opened recently.

I've been so taken with what she's been doing, and was thrilled when she agreed to paint a portrait of my beloved, sadly departed Trixie. She'll be starting work on it soon, and I'm so looking forward to its arrival.
Here is some of what Jessie says about why she has chosen this work: Isn't this inspiring?

I paint pet portraits because I have more love for animals than I know what to do. I paint because there is something beautiful to be captured in those transitory moments we share with the pets who have stolen our hearts for good. I paint to tell a story. I paint dogs (and cats and horses) because now I cannot stop.

For me, it is not just about getting a painting to look like a specific pet; it’s about capturing his or her personality. I believe that an animal’s spirit is conveyed through its eyes, a particular expression, and even the subtlest of gestures. My goal as an artist and animal lover is to create artwork that honors the beautiful and unique life-force within each of us. I find pet portraits particularly rewarding because, in short, they make me happy. I have wanted to work with animals ever since I was a little girl and am grateful beyond words that I am able to do this through my art.

I pour my heart and soul into every painting that I do and if there is one gift I would like to give the world, it would be happiness. Often, our pets are the ones who give us the greatest happiness of all. My paintings, well, they are but a heartfelt gesture in celebration of the unconditional love and infinite happiness that our four-legged friends have brought to us.

Go on over there and read THIS POST and see some of her wonderful portraits.
If you think you might want to commission a portrait, note that she is offering a 30% discount on her regular prices until the end of April. Now, that is a great offer!

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Pre-weekend bits and pieces

It's still (technically) Friday morning. 20 minutes to noon. I won't be doing Sunday Scribbling this week, because I'll be away, disconnected from the web, but hopefully plugged into creative energy and buzzing with it. I'll be away with my writers group for our annual retreat. We usually go to the sea, but this year we're taking cottages near woodland instead. We usually hire a facilitator, but this year we're doing it ourselves, taking responsibility for leading ourselves in exploring new poets, writing new poems. We usually have all our meals looked after, but this year, we'll be semi-self-catering, (with main meals looked after).

To get us settled in, and to get the creative juices going, we'll be doing some SoulCollage(R) this evening, so I have to pack the car with bundles of magazines, cards, gluesticks, scissors. I'll be needing to remember to bring soothing music to play and something to play it on.

I'll be buying some fresh fruit, and nuts for nibbles. I'll need to remember to bring decaff coffee and the milk I prefer (skim - not everyone likes it). Because I have in mind to do French Toast for everyone's breakfast one day, I'd better remember to get some eggs, and bring maple syrup.

Because there's a hot-tub (yay! that's exciting!), I'll be wanting to bring a swimsuit that actually fits, so that's another thing on my afternoon shopping-list.

We're each to bring copies of 2 poems we like, so I need to search through all those books to find the perfect two poems - or else, maybe I should let intuition guide me to the poets and the poems, and see what happens.

We meet this evening to have supper together, and then we drive out to the cottages. There will be walks in the woods. So maybe, by Sunday night, there will be photos.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I'm planning to!

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Friday Feast

If you could be any current celebrity for one whole week, who would you want to be?
Glen Hansard. To have the feeling of having had something that started maybe small become something amazing. To make art in many ways. Just now because I admire him (and Marketa Irglova) so much, and they cheer my heart. Watch here.

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), how much do you enjoy talking on the phone?
Usually 2. Sometimes I enjoy conversation - with my sisters, sometimes with my son, or a couple of special friends, but I'd far prefer talk in person, and often avoid using the phone.

Name a charitable organization to which you have donated (or would like to).
My favourite charities are: Ethiopiaid, which supports a women's hospital in Ethiopia, treating women who have suffered from a fistula; The donkey Sanctuary, which is a wonderful animal welfare organisation; Adapt House, a women's refuge in my home town, which gave sanctuary to my aunt Clare when she left her abusive husband. I like to give to any charity collection being taken by voluntary collectors, especially children's or health-related.

Main Course
What is a food you like so much you could eat it every single day for a month?
My own chilli with brown basmati rice. (3 days this week!)

Have you or anyone in your family had the flu this year?
Thank God, my Dad and Mum have had their flu jabs and avoided infection this year. I started a regime of supplements to support my immune system and ward off colds and flus back in September, and so far have stayed healthy this winter (except for a brief bout of sinusitus, which didn't keep me away from work). No-one else caught it either. (I'm a bit worried to be saying this, in case it's inviting a dose for someone, now!)
To read more Friday Feasts, go HERE.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mother's Day. Me and my boy

I know it's not Mother's Day yet in the US, but here in Europe, it's today. It's even earlier than usual this year (it's normally mid-March). We're not together today, so I thought I'd put us here. I'm not with my Mum either, but I'm thinking of her and remembering the many gifts she's given me in my life. I'd like to celebrate her by showing you the two SoulCollage cards I've made for her.

This is the first one I made. The photo of Mother on horseback was taken when she and Dad were on their 1953 honeymoon. The preponderance of flowers honours her lifelong love of gardens. Having made this card, though, I felt there was something missing, some parts of the spirit of my mother that it hadn't captured. Some time later, I found the central image for the card that really contains the spirit (or neter) of my mother.

My mother loved the outdoors. My abiding memory of Mondays when I was at school is one of mother being overtaken with an urge to clear and clean, pulling furniture and "stuff" into the hallway, and half-way through the task, realising that the day was sunny. She'd wander into the garden to pull a few weeds, become transfixed with the song of the robin or blackbird, and she'd sit onto the backgarden swing to whistle along with them. That's where we'd find her when we came home! Who got the task of putting our rooms back in order? Us, of course! My mother loved picnics, daisy-chains and being with us.

I feel very blessed in my mother. I feel very blessed in my son. Even if it's not Mothers' Day where you are today, every day is a good day to remember.


[Later: After a few people left similar comments, I need to point out that image of the woman on the swing is not my mother. It's an image culled from a magazine. It just reminds me so much of the spirit of my mother, I used it to represent her.]


Create Fake Magazine Covers with your own picture at

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Time Machine

This is the 100th prompt from Sunday Scribblings! I haven't participated in all of them. I'm not sure I've even participated in half of them. But Sunday Scribblings has become a part of my week. If I'm internet accessible at all, I will check to see what the prompt is, and try to post on it. If I've missed it because of a weekend away, I'll look during the week, and I really try to visit the blogs of quite a few participants. I always feel fascinated at the range of responses and interpretations people make on any given prompt. When I look over my archives, I find pieces of writing I'm sure I never would have done but for Sunday Scribblings, and some of them are pieces that please me, that satisfied some need at the time of writing or that helped me to articulate some idea that had never been offered a space before. Quite often, the prompt offered will have a serendipitous connection to some other facet of my life, and sometimes I've made fairly silly or tenuous connections that worked for me, but might have confused a reader who was looking to see what my words had to do with the actual prompt.

More than anything, Sunday Scribblings' prompts have operated as a time machine for me. - Offering an idea that would send me back through the days and years of my life for the time when that had most meaning to me. I've travelled back to a childhood stay in hospital; remembred dates of signifiance; pondered whether my youth was indeed misspent. I've had a chance to recall when I first felt myself to be powerful in my life; to consider the importance of writing throughout my years, from my baby days chewing on my father's fountain pen, to today's blogging-as-writing. I wrote a piece to the prompt "simple" which felt really special, as a reminder of a good weekend spent with my visiting sisters and new step-neice-to-be. I wrote a piece on "superstition" that allowed me to vent my frustration at the increasing number of (often well-intentioned) emails that threaten me with some dire consequence (mainly the loss of all my friends) if I do not pass on the message to 6, or 10 or 15 other people, containing the same warning. The prompt "Goodbyes" acted as a time machine that sent me back in search of healing, and helped me find some of what has really helped in the journey out of my woundedness at the end of my marriage. The prompt of "Fortune Cookie" gave me a way to write of the American family who have adopted me as one of their own and become such special friends to me: allowed me to travel back in time to sit in the Chinese restaurant where we'd shared a meal on my last night with them during my first visit.

This prompt, this week's suggestion that I consider what are the Time Machines in my life, has in itself allowed me to see Sunday Scribblings through this new prism. Every week, even if I do not write on the prompt, it can act as a dial to point my ruminations off into the past, noticing the places where some thought clicks with this week's word or phrase.

Megg and Laini didn't know they were constructing an aparatus of such complexity, such subtlety that, depending on the user, it could offer literally millions of permutations of meaning. They didn't know what a valuable piece of equipment they were making freely available to us.
They didn't know that their machine was magic.

Or maybe, maybe - they did!

Thank you, Megg and Laini of Sunday Scribblings.

To do some more Time Travelling, go HERE

Friday's Feast

Who was the last person you hugged?
This evening, when we got off the bus from Belfast, as she left to meet her daughter, and I was going to pick up my car; as my friend and colleague, Tina, and I were parting, we hugged, glad that we had got to spend another day together, sharing so much of our ideas and details of our lives as we travelled together.

Share a beauty or grooming trick or tip with us.
Not a trick or really a tip, but a recently discovered product that I love so much: Dr. Hauschke's rose face cream. It feels so good. It smells so good. It doesn't irritate me in the slightest. It's wonderful.

What does the color yellow make you think of?
It reminds me of the time my friend asked me what colour was my life. I said it was yellow. She said hers was grey. When she wrote me a poem much later, she said she loved my "mellow yellow life". I lost sight of it, but have reclaimed it again. YELLOW! I've had my house painted yellow, creamy buttery yellow.

Main Course
If you were to make your living as a photographer, what subject would your pictures revolve around?
Flowers. Trees. Moss on stone walls. Lichen on tree trunks. Shy animals peeping out of secret places.

What was the longest book you ever read?
Gone with the Wind? War and Peace? Anna Karenina? Length was never an impediment. The longer the better sometimes. The Stand? I don't know which was longest. Books in 3 volumes? Lord of the Rings? Chronicles of Thomas Covenant?

There are more Friday Feasts Here