Heart on a chain

 

Heart on a chain (a prose poem)

 

 

I wear my heart upon a chain

and not upon my sleeve.

It hangs around my neck

and warms against my skin.

The silver’s wearing thin,

Base metal showing through.

In some light it looks like gold,

But don’t be fooled:

It’s made of sterner stuff.

The tarnished scrapes and scars

That cover its moonlight skin

Would have gouged all gold to nought.

Don’t be misled; it hides magic still

Deeper than a shiny golden core.

A tiny shake is all it needs

To draw the magic out,

Enchanting as faerie bells

As soft as baby’s lullaby,

A melodious chiming sound.

It might be made of worthless brass

Once the silver’s worn away

But the song it can sing

Might move a heart of stone to tears.

 

 

The Cave

 

The Cave

 

I am going into myself,

Into that dark safe place

Far back in the cold cave

Where the light doesn’t reach.

 

I am going into myself

Where no one can hurt me

Where no one can reach me

And no one knows I am here.

 

I am going into myself:

To nurse my grievous wounds,

To contemplate my navel,

And to salve my hurt pride.

 

I am going into myself,

Not to heal my soul

But to try to hear it

And find what I should do.

 

I am going into myself

Into that dark safe place

That light seldom touches.

I may be some time.

Stone soup

From my other blog The Wild Sheep Society;

http://thewildsheepsociety.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/stone-soup/

This is in case anyone wants to read the story; it fits better over there but many of my readers here might also enjoy it.

Sparrowhawk Soul

Sparrow Hawk Soul

 I’ve never been a compulsive bird watcher, but I have become quite good at identifying indigenous birds and understanding their habits a little. Many years ago, sitting on the banks of a mountain stream, I watched a Merlin, the UK’s smallest bird of prey, swooped down at high speed to attempt to catch a vole that was feeding at the stream edge. The bird noticed my presence at the very last second and almost crashed. The vole got away.

 Over the years I have watched birds of prey both in the wild and in displays by falconers and it’s never failed to astonish me quite how different their strategies for hunting are. The kestrel hovers, staying almost motionless in mid air, watching for movement in the grass below before dropping like a stone to grab its prey(it’s other name, by the way, is The Windhover, also a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins). Buzzards, one of the heavier and larger birds of prey, rely to some degree on carrion and while they can and will kill prey of their own, they prefer to see what they can find. Others like the peregrine falcon and the sparrow hawk pursue their prey at high speed. The peregrine is one of the fastest creatures on earth, clocking mind-blowing speeds.

Now, to casual inspection, and the lazy mind, these birds are all built to much the same design, with ripping claws, a beak like a curved razor blade and wings, but in fact, each is well suited to its means of earning a living. The wings of the sparrow hawk are short and stubby, and are very similar to the shape of many fighter plane wings. These are birds that can manoeuvre with extreme speed; they dodge and dive and their flight often defies the human eye. Compare their shape with that of a sea eagle, which lives by fishing. It flies along the surface of the water and scoops up fish; it’s large and comparatively heavy and while it flies pretty fast, compared with the sparrow hawk, it’ s a snail. A sparrow hawk cannot do what a sea eagle does. A peregrine cannot do the same as a buzzard, and a merlin cannot do what a kestrel can. It’s not in their nature. They are each uniquely adapted to their lifestyle.

 I spend a lot of time wishing myself to be someone else, someone who doesn’t suffer endless doubt about who I am and what I do. I soar from mood swing to mood swing, from high to low and back again and never seem to spend long in any sort of semblance of stability. But when we glimpsed a sparrow hawk while out walking a week or two ago, I started to wonder if like the wings of the sparrow hawk, my soul is meant to fly fast and dodge and dive and move like the wind while it works, and that the swinging of moods is actually my soul’s response to the world around me. While I look physically more as though I am built for comfort and not for speed, anyone who has known me for a while has discovered that I walk very fast, talk fast and type fast. My brain(when I am well) moves fast too. I have understood the punchline of a joke long before the person has finished telling it; I guess the ending of a film in the first five minutes.

What I guess I am saying is that in essence, perhaps my issues with depression and anxiety are exacerbated by not accepting that my whole being is not designed for stability. Like the wings of a sparrow hawk, my mind is designed for flexibility and not rigidity, and my soul is not designed to remain in a constant state but rather one that varies according to conditions and needs.

So, be the bird you are and not the one you think you’d prefer. Each has its own beauty and is fitted exactly for the life it leads.

Just don’t put me in a cage.

Contest results

 

Contest results

I’ve not been terribly well and so I apologise for taking my time to collate the results of my little contest. The entries were as follows:

http://shafali.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/breaking-news-the-famous-caricaturist-turned-writer-writes-a-story-an-archaeologists-nightmare-for-vivienne-tuffnells-short-story-contest/

 

http://karelasplit.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/an-archaeologists-nightmare-indian-story-fiction-tale-by-gorakh-nath-karelasplit-for-storytelling-writing-contest-by-vivienne-tuffnell/

 

http://ianholliday.wordpress.com/stories/

Now, I am adding both Ian’s new blog and Karela Split to my blog roll(as long as they behave) but the promise was that the story I felt I would most have liked to have written myself would earn an extra reward…of me writing something, a blog post, a poem, a story for the winner.

So…drum rolls…please…..

I enjoyed all the stories very much indeed but the one I felt I most resonated with was Shafali’s…..so over to you. What would you like me to do for you?

Dealing with grief: a personal perspective

 

Dealing with grief: a personal perspective

I wanted to write this before I lose courage to do so. This is not a post that is even going to attempt to be scholarly or give helpful links; there are plenty to do that.

I was blind sided this morning by grief. Doing some tidying up, I wanted to put a box of beer away in the cupboard and realised that the cans of dog food were still there, taking up room. No one has got round to moving them. I suspect no one had the time to do it but today I did. There was a couple of weeks supply of cans, a bag of mixed dog food unopened and the teeth cleaning chewies Holly used to love so much at bed time. I’ve piled them all up in a bag to take over to the vet’s later where there is a box for donations for local shelters. I can’t bring myself to do it now until I get my emotions back into order. I found myself crying, you see.

I didn’t expect to feel quite such acute emotion now, nearly five weeks later. I’ve slowly begun to get used to her not being here, and I felt I was recovering. But this makes me realise the feelings are still quite raw. Not enough time has passed. The normal every day things I have begun to accept, like not having a walking companion trotting along with me, or letting her out first thing in the morning. But seeing her food, that she’ll never eat now, well, it set me off again.

Grief is a strange thing. It’s both complex and simple. And it has no official time scale. You can’t say, it’s been a year, I ought to be OK now. Every journey through it is different. The basic stages as I have seen are: shock/denial, anger/guilt, emotional storm, acceptance, regaining of perspective, the beginning of healing and finally a deepening of our capacity for love. In my experience, the passage through these stages is not linear nor is it easy. It depends to some degree on the nature of the loss, the closeness of the bond and personality. When a death is expected, the shock is usually less, but not always. Human beings “cannot bear much reality” and even when you know death is coming, you continue to hope beyond hope that it won’t come. Anger and guilt also depend on the relationship. When a relationship is flawed or fractured, then it’s logical that the time spend in the anger/guilt stage may be proportionately longer; for this reason, it’s better to try and heal relationships in life, if possible.

I’m not a weepy person. I don’t cry very easily when I am in a stable state, but when I am low, I shed tears easily, but hold it back. Tears are as healing a thing as any I can think of. Weeping produces certain chemicals in the brain that are closely related to opiates; if you’ve ever cried enough, you may have experienced a sense of calm and even peace after a long crying fit. I hate crying. I hate anyone seeing me cry. And yet, I know it’s probably the best thing to do to help heal emotional pain.

I should tell myself: let yourself feel and let yourself weep. I should tell myself: give yourself time. But then I never listen to me, so here I am telling you.

Give yourself time. Be gentle to yourself in grief. Let the journey unfold as it needs to. Let tears flow if they need to. Talk to someone who cares. Don’t be alone if you don’t want to be.

And finally, it will pass. Every day it becomes a little less painful. The first anniversaries can be hard, but even then, with time, they become bearable. The deepening of our capacity for love is usually a sign that the journey through grief has been a successful one and yet so often people who have endured a lot of grief in life are often bitter.

I aim not to be one of them.

The Web of Life

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

Look away now if you don’t like creepy crawlies;

I do have a bit of a thing about spiders. I find I have a connection with them for a lot of reasons. There are a number of posts on this blog about spiders, not to mention a poem, repeated below:

September spiders

September is the month of spiders:

Poised in their webs like living jewels,

Stranded in the bathtub like patient travellers

Waiting for a train on the London tube,

Hatching in their hundreds from silken bundles

Dispersing to the corners of every room.

Webs a problem? Spray them silver:

Claim they’re the latest in interior design.

Visit a therapist if you’re petrified of spiders:

September’s not a month for arachnophobes!