How come the dying vestiges of autumn
look so much like joy?
A paean of praise
all dressed in yellow.
The forest floor littered
with a million drifting and dropped
forms of gold.
Treasure that cannot be earnt, bought, bartered or won
This is a line from a poem called Today, by Mary Oliver. The context is:
Bearing it in mind has led to my beginning again to share contemplative short videos on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLGIrKgiMCpkOyOAvKB4wUg
Even the process of uploading the videos, which involves watching them again, has brought a kind of stillness, settling over me at the beginning of a new season. It seems to me that we are living in increasingly anxious times. This stillness sparkles like a jewel when you find it. I hope these little videos will help many people to find stillness. Without it, I fear we will inevitably find ourselves making decisions out of anxiety, which will rarely, if ever, be good decisions for us or for the planet in general.
I had the extraordinary experience of encountering Gaia, by Luke Jerram, hanging in mid air outside at Greenbelt Festival recently. It’s an inflated globe, with NASA images of the earth from space somehow projected on it. It glows at night. During the day, you could hear recordings of the astronauts’ astonished conversation as these images first came into view for them as you walked under the globe.
Then there were these other worldly golden beings giving everyone pause for thought about the sun, global warming, this year’s increasing droughts, wildfires and the looming reality of climate crisis. I can’t really articulate in words the effect all of this had on me. But it was something to do with awe, wonder, stillness and a commanding of my attention in a beautiful way. May this stillness lead to compassionate and creative action that will make a difference. That is my prayer, which I am seeking to live out, keeping open to possibility of how I might embody it.
A friend shared a vision they had from God, which reminded me of this today. A lovely invitation to deep rest. I listened to the music below and reread the ancient poem below that and dwelt with that image of the weaned child. Wonderful.
This is my favourite recording of Spiegel im Spiegel (« Mirror in the Mirror ») by Arvo Pärt, performed with such brave vulnerability by Daniel Hope. Most violinists would add vibrato to make it sound professional. But he captures the simplicity and vulnerability of this music-prayer beautifully: https://youtu.be/QqmZxtrUVK8
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time on and forevermore.
It amazes me how easy (and yet how difficult) it can be to find a still moment in the middle of a busy city. I have made a habit of seeking out stillness and filming it for a minute when I find it. I love it! It makes me receive the gift of the moment; the birds, trees, water, reflections; of just being alive.
If you’re the kind of person who sometimes just needs a minute to stop, be still and reconnect with yourself, and with nature, have a look at this👇🏼 and the other videos on my YouTube channel. I am finding that sometimes just a minute of stillness can make all the difference to my day.
I love the paradox of stillness and movement in this video and in life in general.
And for some reason I find it fascinating how the waves never come up exactly the same distance onto the shore. There is a sense of endless variety and unpredictability about it, even when it’s quite a calm day.
And a little further out the waves look like folded cloth: https://youtu.be/1KaARQxBStY
I wonder what or who you notice in the sunset video below? It’s only when I stop to contemplate things for longer that I notice what or who is actually there. My eyesight has been poor since childhood, though corrected with glasses. Maybe that’s why noticing visual things has never been my strong point. It was a while before I noticed someone right in my line of sight, quietly contemplating the scene herself. https://youtu.be/mTgnKGPSa5A
Recently, two years after the first UK lockdown, I contracted Covid 19 for the first time. I have found the fatigue the most significant symptom; it has stopped me in my tracks, repeatedly. But one of the benefits has been waking at dawn and hearing the dawn chorus of Spring. What a delight! https://youtu.be/XIfqlePyx2A
A poem written in response to this thought; « We are a community of people failing in the company of others who are failing »
Lying face up
on a trampoline
a friend to my left
and to my right;
they bounce with glee!
Their bounces send me skyward, briefly,
which makes me giggle.
Then I am still
and I am gazing;
gazing with delight
at the sky,
and a fleeting glimpse of my friends’ arms
The trampoline has my back.
Constant movement and stillness. Everybody’s going somewhere all the time. (This was taken near the station in the city.) Rushing like the water onto the next thing. I’m currently in Covid isolation though, which is making me appreciate the stillness the stepping aside from any rush at all.
A moment of moving. And of stilling…
You are looking at the face of someone who has finally got around to changing to a much more climate/environmentally friendly bank, having first thought of it nearly a decade ago! As I showered this morning, it was like washing away all the negative vibes and latent guilt/sense of powerlessness about climate crisis.
When I was seriously ill 5 years ago, I was mainly reduced to walking everywhere, as I didn’t want to get the bus (having low immunity), and, being unwell, I didn’t always feel safe driving. Because I wasn’t contained in a box on wheels, I became much more aware of the pollution, vehicle noise and litter in the city. I drew this cartoon, and resolved to drive less going forward, and give the earth and all of us a rest from it all:
A friend subscribes to ethical consumer magazine, and when we borrowed a copy a couple of years ago I was shocked to see from their tables that most of the major banks were still investing in fossil fuel production, despite all the media attention on the issue. I resolved to change my savings account and current account to more ethical banks, but, you know how it is…
Then, last year, on Earth day (22nd April, uncannily close to my birthday), another friend led an online reflection about the Earth, which made me decide to publicly commit to this action I had been thinking about for years. I posted my intention on social media and shifted my savings account from Santander to Triodos (rated top from a climate/environmental point of view, and generally streets ahead of the other banks in this) as a starter for ten, and felt lighter. A step in a good direction.
But it has taken until today for me to finally fully shift my NatWest current account to Monzo, whose environmental policy is way better (as is their app!).
In September-December 2019 I travelled around the world (not the most environmentally friendly thing to do, I know, but I paid to offset the carbon from my flights and ate a lot of vegan food!). I was shocked that within a week of the sixteen year old Greta Thunberg sailing to the USA on a carbon neutral yacht, I arrived to find most people I met there had never heard of her.
Everywhere I went, I found myself speaking with all kinds of people about the climate crisis, and often encouraging young women to look Greta up on YouTube and be inspired by her example to step into their power.
It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of climate crisis, but changing bank accounts has actually made me feel like I am taking back my own power from those banks who haven’t grasped the urgency of the situation and acted quickly enough. And it feels so positive to effectively be encouraging and rewarding those banks which have taken this whole thing seriously with my custom. I don’t have much money in the grand scheme of things. But the money I do have I want to be invested and spent on things that will renew the planet not destroy it.
I don’t have any children, grandchildren or nephews or nieces. That’s just the way life has turned out for me. But I have no desire to saddle other people’s children and grandchildren, and people in the poorest parts of the world with the terrible and worsening consequences of climate change.
Here’s to doing what we can, as soon as we can. And here’s to all the people and organisations who have taken action much quicker and more effectively than me. And here’s to you, for reading this far! I wonder how you might begin to, or continue to step into your power with this…?
I recently re-read a poem about prayer that I have come to really love, and a new line struck me; « this isn’t / a contest but the doorway / into thanks » Suddenly I felt a weight lifted as I read that. I realised that so much of the time, conversations, meetings, even prayers feel like a contest to see who will get in first with the wisest comment or prayer. But prayer is not a contest. What’s the point in competing when God knows every hair on all of our heads, and knows what we will say and what is real for us before we even begin to know it ourselves?
…And if prayer is not a contest, most other things needn’t be either, I think. What if every encounter we have became a doorway into thanks for us…? And into a world of possibility and love…? What if we could carry with us, wherever we go, a silence in which another voice might speak…?