Sunday, 17 February 2013

Four Years On ~ Computers, Beaches And Bumholes

February is full of mixed feelings. The weather can feel like we're still in the middle of Winter and yet there are the first signs of Spring appearing. Snowdrops, hyacinth and narcissi are blooming in my garden. There is the lightness of the very early Spring sun as well as the feeling that we're moving towards warmer, longer days and Summer!

But February also brings the sadness of being the month my brother died. On entering February it can feel like a bit of a countdown towards the 19th/20th where thoughts of what was happening this time four years ago bring increased anxiety and keep me awake at night. Because there can be no hiding or turning away, I decide to rise to meet it each year with some kind of creative process. Something practical and engaging. Some form of an offering, which in the making, helps me feel closer to my brother at that time when I think he probably felt intensely alone. I see it as a piece of magic, to imagine that I am throwing my attention back through the years to wrap it around him during those dark days, that dark night, to surround him in lightness, warmth and love, for then and for now.

This February, I had a go at using movie/photo editing software for the first time. I got quite hooked! Entering the software to work on this project felt a bit like entering a sacred space. It was interesting as I usually find computers and screens generally to be a bit of an antithesis of the sacred, an invasion of my internal and external space. Give me an old tree in the woods anyday for my temple. But I suddenly found myself tapping away late at night and in the very small hours of the morning. My brother spent much of his time in the 'temple' of the computer screen, so this was probably quite fitting.

The visit to his old house for the photo was quite a big deal for me as I have managed to avoid going down his road ever since the house sold over 3 years ago. I still can't really get my head round the fact that if I ring the bell, I won't see his shape through the glass, coming along the hall to open the door. I don't think I'll ever fully understand that. For some things the brain just will not compute. At those times what are our choices? Shut down, hibernate or switch user? That's the challenge I suppose, to remain entirely ourselves, power on, ready to open to a fresh new page.

The visit to the beach for this project was  part of the same afternoon 'ritual', a ritual in which a pathway can be mapped out through the sometimes overwhelming chaos of grief.  A candle, the shingle, the waves, the sea gulls, they can all be anchors to this moment now and they can also all be a bridge to then. Paul, this is for you... we miss you so much.

A few words about Paul's box of angels... I found this when we were sorting out his stuff. I felt like I wanted to contact the maker of them to tell her about Paul's death in case she didn't already know, to thank her for giving him such a beautiful gift, for obviously being someone who had brought some blessings into his life at one time and to offer her the opportunity of taking back her 'angels'. My letter went all the way to an address I found in America and a few months later came back to me unopened. So, I keep them safely with me now, letting their blessings remind me of some of the most important things in life. I hope their creator would be happy with that.

And there's one last thing I want to put out there Paul, if you're somehow picking this up. Your nephew came across something which made him laugh a lot! We really wanted to show you! It's the little things like this which sometimes hit me with your loss the hardest. So here it is - you kept this a bit quiet didn't you, don't worry, your secret's safe with us! Look, it really is you!  xxx

From 'Loads More Lies To Tell Small Kids' by Andy Riley

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Imbolc Brigid Poetry Festival 2013

It's the Brigid Poetry Festival time again. Find out more about it and join in yourself by clicking here!

This year my contribution is this poem written by Jehanne Mehta , which I discovered on a Bristol Transition Group website. Although I've never visited Minchinhampton Common, the poem speaks for my feelings about the land in many places I have been.

Having been involved recently with the protests in the Combe Valley, land ownership has been at the forefront of my mind. Who owns it, sells it, buys it (by compulsory purchase if they choose) and all of these so often completely detatched from those who care for it and inhabit it. Whether defined as a Common or as privately owned, I feel in a world where nature is receding so rapidly and great violence is being done to the land and what springs from the land, we have to question more and more the responsibilities of wild land ownership and even question whether anyone can truly claim ownership as opposed to environmental stewardship. I dedicate this offering to Brigid and to the fallen oaks of Combe Haven, who I know belonged only to themselves.

On Minchinhampton Common

I am walking,
walking barefoot on the common,
on this warm green ground,
ground that belongs only to itself,
to the four wise winds,
to the treasures it conceals under its
ancient crinkled gown, cow trodden,
unfurling it all along the changing
seasons of the sun,
in subtlest colours of gold, violet
purple and dark blue,
finely stitched and embroidered with
bramble, briar and hawthorn
and spangled with the dew.

This is common ground,
never ploughed,
never dug, since
long forgotton folk
built round houses,
buried their dead,
threw up bulwarks against
and watched the stars,
glimpsed through forest
ages since unseen,
dipping and wheeling
in their round dance
horizon to horizon.
Here I walk on Albion’s ground,
her secret spirit still awake,
in spite of the fog that fetters feeling
and tangles thinking into knots we do not
even notice,
her secret spirit will awake,
still calling through our feet;
and do we hear, do we hear
the quiet insistent voice of the ground,
the common ground that belongs only
to itself?

~ Jehanne Mehta, 2011