Monday, 27 June 2016

Some Days of Small Beauties

The gently wonderful feeling of being home after six long days away and the first sight of Himself at the station. My heart goes pitter pat.

How Stefi, who is the most beautiful of cats, gazes at Himself all the time with such adoration on her face, even when he is asleep. There is something about cats and people with Asperger's; they just work somehow. She loves him and that is lovely to see.

A further visit from the gang of baby blue tits and the continued gangly legginess of the roof seagull babies.

The sting of a nettle ~ I honour the connection through the skin.

A happy conversation at the supermarket checkout about the loveliness of winter weddings.

Days of stunning storm clouds and rolling thunder.

How Himself works so hard to understand himself and the world through his heart connection to She~Who~Is.

Happy time cooking, adding last week's dried nettle seeds to a jar, the smell of fresh basil and making pesto, a new kilner jar for flour, the taste of fresh green beans, and scrubbing mud off beautiful carrots with my vegetable scrubbing brush. Such simple pleasures but they make me blissful.

A baby woodpecker being brought to our garden birdfeeder by his parent to be fed. How much more lovely could anything be!?

(I think) spotting oystercatchers in the low-tide mudflats of the river that my train passes over on my way back to London.

The beginnings of gold in the wheat fields that until very recently were fresh, new green.

Hearing a young girl at the Monday school I work in singing 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' from 'Grease' in the school play rehearsals. Such a stunning and confident voice! And another, even smalller, girl showing me a butterfly picture that she was colouring in. The hearts of small girls and butterflies are so deeply entwined.

That my friend's 8 year old daughter has adopted the phrase, "what a lovely young man!", which she tells me makes her think of me and which makes her giggle. And that they did meet a 'lovely young man' who offered them his umbrella in a rainstorm.

When a little autistic boy who comes to play at my friend's house allowed me to help him make a boat. It felt like an honour.

Learning about sea snakes from 'Octonauts'. And a lovely bit of 'Abney and Teal'.

Strangely getting lots of random friend requests in response to a post of mine last week that was shared hugely. Apparently most of the requests were mistakes due to the strangeness of accessing Facebook via mobile phone but they did open up several lovely conversations. I liked that.

Watching the unfolding of huge support for Jeremy Corbyn. Heartening.

And that, even in the face of such difficult times, many people are making positive acts of solidarity with those from other countries. I hope that there will be more and more acts speaking out against racism until those who have taken encouragement from the Referendum result learn that this is a country of tolerance and beautiful diversity and that they are the ones who are not welcome here. This is still our land!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Reflections on the EU Referendum

(Pro-EU demonstration in Kiev, 2013 ~ Evgeny Feldman, Wikipedia)

Last night my wise friend and I spent the evening investigating why we should, or shouldn't, stay in the EU. I have been very confused by the arguments on both sides and realised recently that I had little idea what we were voting about! Having spent some time trawling through lots of information, I felt that what I found might be of value to someone here.
I have always felt inclined to vote to stay in, as I have no heart for further division in any aspect of life, but it seemed wise to put some proper research into it. It's always wise to have a proper independent think. We listened to a bit of Nigel Farage (ugh!), lost heart before we got to David Cameron, and admired the honesty of Jeremy Corbyn, who said what I think too, that the EU has much wrong with it but that we are still better in it than being at the mercy of the Tory Government.
Last night we particularly looked into the human rights aspect, as I had heard that even if we vote to leave we would still be subject to the European Court of Human Rights. And that is true, because that comes under the Council of Europe, which we would still belong to, not the European Union. Many people who are planning to vote leave have mentioned that the ECHR in Strasbourg 'wastes money' but they do not seem to realise, understandably, that tomorrow's vote has nothing to do with our membership of the Strasbourg Court. What it would effect is our connection to a second court, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which if we leave the EU we would no longer be subject to. And that is the one with the power to compel our Government to give us our rights. This is the court which oversees workers', disability, and childrens' rights, amongst other things. The ECHR can only note that we are refusing to comply, the ECJ can force us into it. If it is this bad now imagine how it would be without that court providing us with access to justice. I know that in practice it probably isn't that simple but it still makes me think that we are better off in the EU.
We also researched what environmental and wildlife groups are saying about the EU Referendum. They are ALL saying that in terms of the environment and protection of the wild we should stay in the EU. The EU has schemes to protect bees and is in the process of banning the pesticides which harm them; our Government resists these bans at every turn but at least they are under some pressurewhilst we remain in the EU. The EU has rules about the treatment of wildlife which has so far prevented the Government from gassing badgers, which would be far crueller even than what is already happening. The EU protects our beaches and our birds and protects our landscape in so many ways. Our Government could choose to keep all these protections even if we left. I don't trust them to choose well and, for me, it isn't worth the risk. Our wild doesn't get to vote so we have to vote with it in mind and not just for self-interest.
We then looked at some sites based in the Balkans, and others, and read about the fear that is gripping those who are here from other countries at the thought of a vote to leave. Although many here seem to hold the view that migrants come here just to claim benefits, 87% come with a specific job to go to and many more soon find one. I still believe that this is one of the most tolerant countries in the world and I am proud of that. I don't believe that those who plan to vote leave are racists, and I do understand many of the arguments, but were we to leave it would be a huge encouragement to those who ARE racist, and to the Far Right. We have such a tradition of welcoming others. We more or less wrote the Convention on Human Rights. Let's not be the ones to cause all of that to crumble through fear or greed.
Which brings me to the economy. I can't pretend to understand all of the ramifications of leaving or staying, and to be honest it isn't where my heart lies, but it does seem that the leave campaign's claims about how much money we give to the EU are wildly inaccurate. Last night we watched someone who was planning to vote leave on the Channel 4 News. He seemed like a nice man, and was certainly not anti-immigration, but he said that he was voting leave because of austerity. Austerity is an ideology of our Government and the global elites who wish to grind us into the dust for their own gain. I am sure that there are those in the EU who agree with it but the EU as a whole is not responsible for their goings on. Voting to leave will not save us from austerity and will potentially make it worse as our Government would then have greater power to remove our rights at their own whim.
I am also mindful that it seems to be mainly older people who disproportionately plan to vote to leave the EU. Our young people, who will after all have to cope with the after-effects of the vote for far longer than the rest of us, are massively planning to vote to stay in. That in itself is enough for me.
 I am certainly not going to tell anyone how to vote but I have been confused, and I'm sure that others are too, so I thought that I would share what we learned. I may not have understood everything that I have written about here completely but I have certainly given it my best and I am content that I know more than I did before. I still think that the EU is unwieldy, often undemocratic, and a bit scary at times. Despite all of that, and because for me a vote to stay in is a vote for peace, inclusion, and hope, I am voting Remain. The things that I care about ask that of me. I wish us all wisdom and brave heart for the vote tomorrow and in the days to come.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

I Write All These Poems For You ~ for Fathers' Day


All the songs of my heart are written for you
and spun to the silent music we danced to
when I stood on your feet,
with my face pressed into your green gardening cardigan;
the one with leather buttons and holes,
that smelt of earth and kindness and safety
...and sometimes blackbirds' wings or anger.
And I breathed you in.
How I loved our dancing.

All the songs of my heart are written for you
made brighter by the light in your eyes
when I did a thing that made you proud;
like learning to ride a bike or getting married,
or caring about robins' eggs,
or not crying when I grazed my knee,
...or when you died.
But you would have been proud anyway.
How I loved to make you proud.

All the songs of my heart are written for you,
made poems by the language you taught me
to love and play and dance with,
and work with, like you worked at your lathe,
and secretly in your garage to make me a dolls' house,
And once you took me there and showed me a wasps' nest,
delicate as parchment and intricate as meaning,
And I noticed that you never knocked it down.
And that's why I write all these poems for you.

(Jacqueline Woodward-Smith, 2011)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

We Fall and Rise on Waves of Fear

(The beauty of wild grasses in our garden)

It seems that we have always been afraid, my love and I. Perhaps that is partly how, and why, we found each other ~ the threads of our fear vibrating through the Web of All Things calling out for a kindred soul who could help us uncover our deepest woundedness and begin to heal what has cut us so deep. I have written nothing on this blog for some months, although I have thought of it often. Big changes are unfolding in my life, all of which are ultimately beautiful and healthful, but it has been hard to settle to the written word. And yet, today, out of the rising and falling of fear, words have once again begun to flow. I am grateful to Grandmother Fear for that.

Several months ago my love made a brave and courageous decision to no longer do what was demanded of him under our increasingly cruel 'Welfare' system. His Asperger's Syndrome is lifelong and unchanging and so there has been no need for those who oversee our benefits system to constantly try to break him, and so many others, in the way that they do with their threatening letters and wilful refusal to treat anyone as an individual with individual needs and gifts. With the prospect of being forced to attend a Work Capability Assessment, which almost broke him the last time and led to several years of deep depression, he said, “no more”. The State attempts to turn us all into needy children or into dead-eyed fodder for Capitalism. There is no appreciation of the role that each one of us plays in the lives of those around us, whether in paid employment or not. There is no credence given to goodness or creativity or kindness or community. My love would rather starve than make himself into the person that they want him to be, even if he could, and I support him completely whatever might happen to us. I am lifting a prayer for the day when no one feels that they must compromise themselves just to survive in this society that we have all created. He and I hope to find another way, and we shall. We are not born to be broken. Time to be children not of the State but of Life.

Truly I am proud of him for claiming his power in this way but one of the ramifications of making this brave choice has been a huge increase in his fear of falling through the gaps, just as many are afraid. And so we live in a land that is seeped in fear and that fear calls out our own. Often we feel brave. On some days, like today, we fall and rise on waves of fear; of losing our home, of starving ~ too afraid, too frozen to make decisions about our lives or act in any way at all. We live by the sea and sometimes the tide takes us. Like wild creatures we huddle together. Sometimes we come apart and can barely look at one another. Even then we make each other many cups of tea and, always, there is love.

As ever, I am in awe of the ability of Life to draw together those whose wounds call out the brokenness in the other. Himself has a fear of not being enough, and yet of being too much for many. I have a fear of being too much, of making others feel small if I allow myself to be bright, and yet of failing to ever truly shine. And so, the fears of one pull on the fears of the other and on we dance. It is a healing dance but often it hurts. Always there is love and, if it feels that love might fly away, we only deepen into even more. I am in awe of that too, and of a man who has spent his whole life being told that he can be nothing, is nothing, trusting so completely in Life, in She-Who-Is, or Mother as he calls her, that he would risk everything.

Those who wish to subdue us want us to be afraid, and we are, but that should not, and must not, prevent us from dreaming wildly, acting bravely, reaching out, trusting, creating supportive and hopeful compassionate community with all beings, nor from risking it all in the name of Life. And so he and I have decided to work together, to create something of beauty in the edge places that we both know so well in our different ways, and that something will be called 'Hedgetemple'. We hope that, in our own small way, we can support others in saying, “no more”. This is something that more and more of us will be led to do in these times I think. We will all need those who go before us to leave maps and signs to guide us on our way and to reach out a hand to hold. We will all need to know that we are not alone. And we will all need to know that it is alright to be afraid.

We are not quite sure what our new way of being will look like yet, nor what we can offer, although we have many wild plans. I hope to write more here as that unfolds. In the meantime, we are learning to be brave and to trust. We are learning what it means to live on the h(edge). We are trying to eat well, to care for our bodies and each others. We are tending our garden; there are deep red velvet roses and a community of nettles just outside our door and, further into the garden, a precious patch of wild grasses that my love has been nurturing, and where our local colony of cats like to make their nests. Only today, in the midst of our rising into fear, we were admiring the colours and movement of the grasses. A few weeks ago he noted that he hadn't seen any of those sticky little dart-like grasses that we used to throw at our friends when we were children. Today, we saw that some had moved in to our wild grass community. They feel like an affirmation and a prayer. I have taken to cooking from fresh ingredients every day and also to foraging in a little valley just down the road from here; we have been eating meals of nettle seed, sorrel, garlic mustard, and soon we hope to be drinking elderflower tea. I hope to write about much of that here. Almost every day we receive something from someone that supports us deeply in all that we hope to do, even if they don't know that they are doing it. We are grateful every day. Life is full of small beauties and magic. And yes, we are afraid, just as we have always been, my love and I. We fall and rise on waves of fear. The magic is no less bright for that.

(Common sorrel, who shares her deliciously lemony leaves)

(Beloved wild rose)

(My first ever home-made nettle pesto)
(The beauty of the wild grasses in our garden)