Beachcomber ~ a poem about inspiration

Beachcomber

The
shores of sleep last night

Were not of soft white sand,

Strewn with intriguing driftwood,

Magical wave-smoothed rocks

And shining wine-coloured weed

Cast up from the deep.

No. The shores of sleep last night

Were strewn for miles

With the wrecks of dreams,

The hulks of hope

And fragments of fantasies,

Lying like beached and decaying whales.

Some looked whole and entire

Till I peered through portholes

And found them empty, no more than shells.

I would be a beachcomber,

Gathering material for my work

As I patrol this shoreline,

But I cannot work with this.

I will wait till the next storm

Washes the strand clean

Of cast-up wreckage

And leaves me with the flotsam

I can fashion and transform.

 

A Tale of a Midsummer Bee ~ Balancing the Needs of the One with the Needs of the Many

A
Tale of a Midsummer Bee ~ Balancing the Needs of the One with the
Needs of the Many

As regular readers will know, I am the proud keeper of four hives of
honey bees. I studied bee-keeping at school;  because I refused to do
needlework or cookery and wanted to do woodwork or metalwork, the school compromised and allowed me to do rural science instead. That afternoon lesson was the saviour of my third year at high school,
because I could enjoy doing something practical, and I loved working
with the bees. My husband does a lot more with the bees, being more
confident than I, but usually our weekly bee inspection is split
between the two of us. One smokes while the other inspects frames and then we swap over.

This week we did our usual routine, and this morning, on the stairs I
spotted a stowaway. One of the bees had come home with us. Now, our hives are over three miles away and clearly this was one tired and
disorientated bee. I put her in a jar with a blob of honey and left
her to feed. When I came back, she’d nearly drowned in the honey so I had to rescue her with a pen she clung to. Some hours later, she’d
cleaned all the honey off herself and was ready to go home. I put her
in my water bottle with the cap on loosely so air could get in and
she’s gone off with my husband to be dropped off at the farm on his
way somewhere else.

Now I can hear what some of you are saying. All that fuss for one bloody bee? I know. Every time we open a hive for inspection we kill a few bees no matter how careful we are; a hive at full strength has over fifty thousand bees in various stages of their bee careers, and there are casualties all the time. We even managed to kill one queen, so some of yesterday’s work was reducing the thirty or so queen cells
the bees had produced down to one good one so we didn’t end up with lots of new queens each flying off with a retinue, taking our hive
down to nothing. It hurt me to destroy those half made queens but for the sake of keeping a healthy colony thriving, it had to be done.

Bees are the ultimate social creature; theirs is an almost perfect
society. Each worker is born knowing what to do; the first thing they
do when they hatch is clean out their cell so it is ready for the
queen to lay another egg in. They go through various stages as they
live, starting out working in the nurseries first, tending to eggs
and grubs, then making wax and building cells, then finally going out
to forage for nectar and pollen. A worker bee in her days as a
forager might make a scant teaspoonful of honey. One bee makes little or no difference; it’s the sheer numbers that make them successful. A solitary honey bee is a lonely thing; she is lost without her sisters and her function. The chances are they will not even notice her missing. And yet, I grieve for every bee I accidentally kill, for
those that have stung me and will therefore die (fact: human skin is
the only skin that bees cannot withdraw their sting from. Bears and
badgers can be stung repeatedly without ill effect to the bees;
humans cause the stinger to die, ripped more or less in half)

There are approximately seven billion human beings on this planet. Seven billion individuals. It’s an astonishing figure. Imagine: that many people all with needs and wants and thoughts and feelings and dreams. Some are starving to death, others dying of diseases caused by excess. Each and every one has the same value as another, and yet, when tens of thousands die half way across the world, we cannot
comprehend it. It takes a single human interest story to engage us;
we cannot relate to thousands, or even hundreds. We can barely relate one-to-one.

The gift of that single bee I found on my stairs is to remind me that
each is precious and worth saving, and that if I make no effort at
all with one, I cannot hope to care for thousands. It might make me a
slow bee-keeper, unfocussed on harvesting the golden glory of the
bee-people’s hard labour, but I think it might make me a better human being.  

 

Monday Meditation ~ Linden Blossom for Lightness of Heart and Ease of the Soul

Linden Blossom Meditation ~ for Lightness of Heart and Ease of The Soul

Background

Linden trees (also known confusingly as lime trees despite not being a
citrus) are among some of the longer lived native trees, some
rivalling yews in reaching vast ages. There are two main species to
be encountered in the UK, one of which has been extensively planted
as an avenue tree as it grows relatively fast and is tall and very
straight. They’re also one of my personal favourite trees.

Linden blossom is one of the most lovely scents of early summer, blooming from mid June to early July; the flowers produce vast amounts of nectar and the honey made by bees foraging in an area where linden grows is exquisite.

The wood itself is a favourite of woodcarvers, being close grained and
light in colour and the bark has also been used to produce cloth. The
fresh leaves have been used in baths to calm feverish children.

But it is the flowers that have the most pleasing uses. A tea made with linden blossom is light and delicate and can help with insomnia, and with nervous tension. An essential oil is also produced so that the
heavenly scent is available all year round and though this is
expensive, it is also available at a reasonable price diluted in
coconut oil or similar

For this meditation I suggest you use either some fresh flowers if they
are available, a drop of the essential oil, or a cup of freshly
brewed linden blossom tea.  

Go through your usual grounding and centring techniques and when you are ready, take a breath of the scent and hold it in your mind. Let the scent fill your thoughts and feelings and when you are sure you have the scent, you may begin.

 

Meditation

You are standing at the end of a long avenue of lime trees that stand
like columns of emerald green, shimmering as the soft summer breeze shakes the leaves. With the breeze comes the fragrance of the
flowers, light and very sweet without being heavy or sickly. It’s a
warm day but as you look around you can see that clouds have come
over and you feel the first drops of rain falling on your arm. The
ground beneath your feet is somewhat cracked as if this is the first
rain in a long while and the grass under the trees is going yellow
from dryness.

Start to walk along the avenue, but take it slowly. The rain is soft and
refreshing and seems to bring out the heavenly scent even more
beautifully. There are birds singing, and the whole place seems to be
quiet and deserted. The avenue is long and you are enclosed by the
towering trees so that you are walking in a lovely filtered green
light, a little like being under the sea. The sensation of being
bathed in green is relaxing and you feel tensions slip away as you
walk and breathe in the delightful aroma of linden flowers.

When you get to the end of the avenue the trees open out and form a circle; the clearing in the middle of this circle contains a small
building. It’s a little summer house, painted white and it has open
sides so that you can sit inside it and be sheltered from the rain.
All around the summer house are planted shrubs and plants which have large leaves, some like great hands of greenery. You notice as you cross the space between the avenue and the summer house that the rain has become heavy and almost torrential so you run a little so that you get to the wide shallow steps of the building and under the
protection of the roof.

Inside there are refreshments laid out for you to enjoy and a wickerwork sofa covered with soft cushions is very inviting. It feels like a very special sort of sanctuary, and someone has spent time choosing things that will appeal to you and you alone. The refreshments are covered with a crisp white linen cloth and if you wish to you can go and see what is there for you.

When you have made your selection and eaten and drunk what you have chosen come and sit down on the sofa. It feels perfectly comfortable, soft but supportive and as you lean back or curl up, the warm wind brings with it  moist air laden with the scent of the linden flowers. The rain is drumming a steady rhythm on the roof, and the music it makes as it falls onto the leaves of the plants is so soothing that you let yourself fall into a reverie or a daydream. You are in a loving place, a space where everything is meant for you and is therefore the safest place in the world. Allow your mind to wander and follow dreams and visions, while you sit in this little sanctuary and enjoy the sound of the summer rain and the scents from the trees outside.

*

It’s time to leave now. The rain has stopped and there is brilliant
sunshine warming the flowers and coaxing more scent out; bees are
starting to return and begin their foraging among the linden
blossoms. The avenue as you walk down it seems to hum with life and with renewed energy and inner strength. You feel renewed and blessed yourself and as you return to the start of the avenue, let yourself remember any of those daydreams and visions. Some of them may be things you may want to do in real life.

You’ve come back to where you started now. Allow the sense of peace and renewal remain with you as you return. The lightness of heart and soul will stay with you but you can always return another time if you need to.

Make sure that you ground yourself fully before resuming normal activitiy.

Written as a part of the Meditating with Aromatics interactive project.

Like a Tree in November ~ stripping the soul bare

Like a Tree in November

 

One by one I will let my leaves fall

All those things that hide my true being:

The words, the smiles, the clothes

Those outward things even I think are me.

Each one detached and falling

Slowly like petals from the cherry tree,

Surrounding my feet, shifting in the breeze

Before settling to begin the slow transition

To mulch and worm food and raw earth.

Then I shall stand naked, stripped bare

Like a tree after November gales.

You will see my true shape unmasked

By pretty colours and shifting shapes

And the confusion of shimmering sunshine.

Then we will see who I might be,

Beneath this coat of many colours

These tales of a thousand nights

And my Scheherazade soul

Who would spin out yet another story

To keep you entertained and distracted

From the true business of staying alive,

Will be faced with the final question:

Who am I?

The Healing Temple ~ a prophetic dream, a memory or wishful thinking?

 

The Temple of Healing

 

 

 

Following a dream on one Sunday night about having healing power filling my hands like light or like electricity, I thought that might be it as far as powerful BIG dreams go.

 

I was wrong.

 

I was tired from my morning of teaching, and still recuperating from my operation on Friday 13th, I decided I would go and lie down and try to sleep. I don’t sleep well, generally and in the daytime, I usually fret too much to doze off. So I put on a CD of relaxing sounds and music(Wind-chime Waterfall, it’s called) and snuggled into bed.

 

I had my eyes open for a while and noticed as I became drowsy a growing number of shapes and lights in the room. I see things at times, hypno-gogic and hypno-pompic visions of strange unearthly but wonderful things.

 

I slept but so lightly I was aware I was sleeping, and that I was dreaming.

 

The first part of the dreaming I found myself fairly high up in what at first seemed very like a vast stadium for sports, but when I looked closely it was quite different. Different parts of the stands were separate from others, looking down onto different areas. I’ve also had a sense of vertigo in big football arenas like the Stade de France, but here, even though I was maybe much higher, there was no sense of it. It was less precipitate and sheer, sloping much more gently.

 

There seemed to be a kind of organ, but that is the only word I can think of, inside a kind of room, and I knew that the music I could hear was coming from that, dispersed and not direct like birdsong but not like the sort of Musak you hear piped into shopping centres. I understood that both playing this instrument and hearing it was somehow healing in a profound but gentle way. There were climbing plants growing freely everywhere and flowers of varying types nodded overhead, and added their scent to the air.

 

I must have walked further down the stands because I could see another vista, this time of pools. They seemed a little like swimming pools but while some were occupied by people who were lying in the water, there was a calmness and a stillness. The people were not splashing around or playing; they were just lying in the waters a little like invalids and I remembered I had been there before, years ago. I had been in those waters, when I was recovering from my death in the first world war; my comrades were also in the waters.

 

Looking around I saw other pools that had no people in them but had fountains and lights and other things I have no idea what they were, but it seemed to put a sort of display on that was healing for those who watched.

 

I cannot convey the vastness of this complex, or the fact that though I tried to see where everything was and how it worked, I simply could not. It seemed as though there was a combination of unknown technologies so alien to me I can’t even describe them at all. I do not have the words for it. There was also a great deal of simple loveliness and natural beauty, and a sense of it being familiar and utterly new all at the same time. There was a clarity of air and of colour and sound that was like being on a high mountain, with the morning light.

 

But the oddest thing of all was the sense that however new it seemed at that moment, I was in the right place, and that I somehow belonged there.

 

Doorways ~ an open and shut case?

This one?

or this one:

“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take towards the door we never opened into the rose garden. My words echo thus in your mind. But to what purpose  disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose leaves I do not know.”

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton (Four Quartets)

Reflections and shadows ~ what is real and what is not?

What is real and what is not?

What are reflections and shadows?

How do you tell the difference?

Stepping into the past ~ the Painted Church in Poitiers

 

Stepping back in time ~ The painted church at Poitiers.

 

The air in the square outside the church is filled with the scents of fish from the market stalls now dismantled and gone in the heat of the afternoon, and of soap from the soap-maker’s stall, still with his wares laid out. I buy Alep soap and pure Arabic kohl, and pass the time of day discussing the properties of bay oil and the power of ancient remedies like kohl to restore sight and clear the vision. The stall holder is swarthy, from the far south of France or maybe from the territories of the Moors; he is delighted to discuss his wares and seems free of the habitual disdain many French people have for the English. This far south, this coolness seems to have slowly warmed into something friendlier. Perhaps while he can tell I’m not French, he’s probably not certain I am English. I walk away, drawn by the music that plays now in the area in front of the main frontage of the church.

 www.myspace.com/keening

 

I stand mesmerised as the drone of small-pipes mingles with the guitar and drums beats, and a shiver passes down me. It’s thirty degrees and the sun on my bare arms is reminding me that I’m going to burn soon if I don’t seek shelter. Yet the sound of the music is unearthly and makes me want to dance. Me, dance? Yes, to swirl and twist and stamp in this bright public square, trailing long sleeves along the ground as I spin like a slow Dervish, and feel the swish of silken skirts as they brush the dusty stones.

Looking down, I see my navy blue combat trousers and my arms in white cotton to the elbow and wonder for a second where my gown has vanished to. The neat satin slippers are not there, and my feet are encased in sturdy walking shoes.

Dizzy and a little disorientated I seek shade and make my way into the beautiful Romanesque porch and see that the heavy wooden door to the church stands open and with the music still pulsing in the hot air, I step inside.

A scent of old libraries fills my nose. Parchment and pigment and a hint of mildew, this is how I imagine the Great Library at Alexandria to smell. A faint trace of incense tops the whole aroma off and I take a moment to breath it in, a fragrance of lost centuries and secrets vanished now into the abyss of time.

I gasp, as I glance around now my eyes have become accustomed to the dimmer light. Pillars and walls and ceiling are all painted in intricate patterns of colour and form that defy capture. They’re faded a little now, but for a spilt second I can see them still moist from the paintbrushes of the townspeople and the colour is vivid and startling. Blues like polished lapis-lazuli, crimsons and scarlets like blood and poppies, ochre and white, and greens like slices of malachite and jade. Then the vision fades and like a great old lady whose face holds the memory of the beauty of her youth, the church seems to simply smile at me, and tells me that true beauty is eternal. While paint and rosy cheeks may fade, the loveliness beneath them cannot be touched by time; for those who can still see them, both the realities stand sentinel over this moment in my life.

Talking slow steps that seem to mimic the tread of the processions of the faithful from the last centuries, I walk round, taking pictures to try and capture the feeling and the power. And yet, when I see the photos later, much like the paintwork, the power is faded. You had to be there, to feel and see it.

The music swirls on, little dulled by the heavy walls of the church and as I step back out into the sunshine, I am filled with the desire to capture and retain some of the music. I ask one of the crew if there is a CD I can buy and am brought over to meet the musicians as the finish their set. I tell them their music has touched my soul and that they are like the ancient troubadours who lived in this town in the fifteenth century. They light up with real delight and give me a web address to find their music, and I wander away, thwarted in some way of my desire to bottle this feeling, this moment so that I may uncork it and relive the memory.

Rejoining my group, I sit in the baking sun and drink lemonade and listen now to hip-hop and watch the dancers in the square and the contrast to the grace of the dancers in my vision could not be more obvious nor the centuries gone by more distant from me now. The harsh modern lyrics and the skilled but disturbingly graceless movements remind me that every era has its iconic markers. Perhaps the future will look at this era with the same visionary nostalgia that I felt for the music and the art of the time when this church and town stood as important places.

Too soon, it’s time to leave and I shepherd my charges back to the coach and we drive away, back to our very modern hotel. As I go into my impersonal room, I have a sense of something being very close to me, and I turn to see what is there.

 A breeze touches my face and is gone and the moment passes and I go inside to wash and change for dinner. Yet the distant memory of music and of lights and of dance and devotion haunt me all evening, and onwards into the future.

Museums of the World ~ Museum of Perfume Bottles

I’m going to start collecting pictures of museums, especially unusual ones and the following one I found in La Rochelle. I didn’t go in, largely because I was unsure if there was an entrance fee and I had a humungus backpack on and was sure I’d break things….

I collected perfume bottles in my dim and distant youth; I have some rare and possibly valuable ones hidden away. I wish I’d dared to go in…but I am sure the museum would have been relieved that I didn’t. Bulls in china shops are nothing in comparison…..

(edit: for all those who happened here trying to find Perfume museums of the world, try googling the Fragonard one in Paris. http://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/fragonard-perfume-museum.htm I know it exists as I drove past it )