PIGEON’S WING (Five Minute Friday: RUSH)

I’m late posting this week as I changed my mind about what to write and then had to fit it round family pre Christmas commitments. Thanks for being patient.

PIGEON’S WING

When you’re in the depths of despair
Or depression –
When I am in those depths –
All the energy sucked out of me
Like circulating water
Hurrying down a plughole,
Sleep chased away nightly
By worries in battalions
Mown down by the musket fire of logic
Only to be replaced by another line,
Exhausted, overwhelmed
Thoughts, tasks, actions, all jam like traffic to
A standstill, edge forward, standstill and edge again
No end in sight.

But in this enforced, unasked for gear change
I discover beauty I would have missed –
The exact leaf shade of autumnal wisteria,
The pink, blue, and lilac in a pigeon’s grey,
The moon’s corona explained by my boy
The calming rhythm of a row of knitting
The magical transformation that creates a loaf of bread –
A whole world in the small, the overlooked, the ordinary

And I wonder what really counts –
Deeds impacting many
Politics and philanthropy
Scientific discovery and invention
Career and dedication
Or knowing the exact colour of a pigeon’s wing?

Hope you like it. If you’d like to read more inspirational writing from the lovely Five Minute Friday community, you can find it here: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/12/05/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-rush/

The START of the Day (Five Minute Friday)

It’s a glorious feeling: being woken up by just reaching the natural end of sleep and by the light – light that permeates even the heaviest curtains to whisper a good morning in my ears and still closed eyes.

I creep downstairs and put on the first coffee of the day.

But I’m called to the windows, drawn by that golden low light of early morning, spreading over the hillside opposite like honey, gilding all the houses and undergrowth with an inner glow. It’s like tea to a thirsty soul. So gorgeous, that I throw open the French doors to let more of it onto the house and my vision, even though this northwards facing slope is itself in shadow.

Perhaps it’s the contrast with yesterday evening: our hopes of a painterly sunset washed away by grey drizzle clouding the view like garden fleece. This morning the air is free of moisture and clear, so clear, as if the new day has wiped away the accumulated smears on its glasses.

There is a warm cool freshness as the year teeters on the edge between summer and autumn, the change of colour on the edges of the leaves gleaming in that same dawn radiance. And I can hear the chug and rat-a-tat-tat drumbeat and roll of boat engines in the harbour below, like a band leading the carnival parade just around the corner.

The light, the view pulls me forward onto the terrace. And I stand, coffee cup in hand, soaking it all in, noticing new and familiar details afresh: pinpoints of swaying pampas grass; a pirate flag; a little white and glass conservatory peeping out from between the greenery; the brightness of berried shrubs and dancing laundry on a line; the vividness of painted window frames against white walls; leftover raindrops from last night globuled on leaves on our patio.

Strange how it’s the low light that transforms like this – not the obvious overhead-illuminating-everything light but the catching-you-by-surprise playing-with-shadows light, that only comes at the start and end of days and years.

And I think of the mellow fragile beauty of the start and end of lives and see its echo.

The main feature of Five Minute Friday is our weekly blog link-up. Each week Kate Motaung provides a one-word prompt, and we all set our timers and write for five minutes flat, then post our writing on our respective blogs and link up our offerings on that week’s Five Minute Friday post. You can find more on this week’s prompt here: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/09/12/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-start/

 

TESTIMONY (Five Minute Friday)

There’s a saying, isn’t there? ‘If being a Christian were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’

Scary thought.

If I were in the dock, who would be my witnesses? I guess the key ones would be those closest to me, those who know me best, those who see how I behave every day.

My family certainly know about my faith and how integral it is to my life. They have seen over the years how it is at the core of my decision making and choices, opinions and priorities. They know I pray daily for them.

But they also know better than most how imperfect my faith is, how often I don’t live up to the standards my faith calls me to. Because they love me, they forgive me much.

And when I get it right, how much, I wonder, do they realise is down to God and not just my original character and upbringing? They didn’t know me before I became a Christian. Most of the people in my life now don’t. So how can they see what a difference Jesus has made to me?

I’m no evangelist. I am honest about my beliefs if people ask. But I don’t shout about it. And I am terribly aware of how often I get it wrong – my impatience, anger, or unkindness.

Called to the witness stand myself, I can only tell you that God is Who keeps me going when life feels overwhelming, gives me the means to grow as a person, and daily opens my eyes to the wonders and beauty of this world around me.

Sometimes He sends people to teach me these lessons. Sometimes circumstances show me. Sometimes a sentence in the Bible shouts His reassurance or direction at me. Sometimes as I write in my prayer journal to Him, the way becomes clear. Sometimes it’s like a gentle whisper in my head and a sense of peace as I follow.

This is my testimony.

Boscombe Looking BACK

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/08/29/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-back/ reminded me of a poem I wrote about one our favourite places. It’s only an hour and a half’s drive away and great to escape to for a weekend, a day, or just an evening’s walk along the prom in any season.  So this week I’m sharing that poem with you:

The low late light is too dazzling to look at directly,
Obscuring all into silhouettes at most.
But look the other way
And see what golden beauty the blush glow casts
On large and small:
Myriad minion suns burst
From the gorse covered cliffs;
Skyblue sea silver broidered with waves;
Rain clouds lined with hopeful edges;
And my beloved’s face reflects
The outer and the inner light.

 

STORM (Five Minute Friday RAIN)

Welcome to this week’s contribution to the wonderful Five Minute Friday community. More on this weeks’ prompt can be found here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/09/06/fmf-link-up-rain/ .

I have to admit my own post wasn’t written in 5 minutes because it’s an edit of something I wrote a couple of years ago. Hope you like it anyway:

STORM

Midnight and the room sits heavy with too still air.

And then, like the flourish of a conductor’s baton,

an electric shock of lightening shorts from behind the curtain

and the timpani section begins its overture:

The bass drumroll of thunder;

Wind through the trees like the brushing of cymbals;

Percussion of rain striking different notes as it falls

on paving slabs (a tap),

or puddles (the triangle),

or next door’s laurel leaves (a muffle thud),

or the conservatory roof (a whole drum kit);

The increasing tempo as the gutter increasingly overflows in ever faster flow.

I open two ventilators, just a couple of inches,

and the sense of release is tangible.

The sounds of the rain flood into the room.

Cooler air seeps in behind.

Then I lie awake listening to the storm’s symphony.

I could shut it out again to find quietness for sleep

but instead I let this rough music be my lullaby.

TURN (Five Minute Friday)

I stayed up far too late last night. And all for the sake of a thunderstorm. Not because it kept me awake or frightened me, you understand, but to enjoy it…

The last few days have been unseasonably hot and sunny, like July in April. We’d eaten meals in the garden until the heat drove us back indoors. A smattering of damp air yesterday afternoon cleared the built up humidity, leaving that newly wet earth smell, fresher than clothes straight out of the laundry. Then the sun and heat and cerulean sky returned.

Strange how the weather can turn.

Late into the evening our conversation was interrupted by the loud rumble of thunder. Straightaway I was at the window, waiting for the accompanying lightening. The whole sky flickered like a faulty light bulb. And then I was counting the long moments to the next thunder clap to see how close the storm was. My dad had taught me that each second’s difference represented a mile in distance.

In fact, it was my dad who had taught me to love a thunderstorm, just like he did. This was nothing to be feared; this was a glorious show by creation to be relished! He joked that the lightning was God flicking heaven’s lights on and off and the thunder was God rearranging his furniture!

As a teenager, when a storm came at night, I would hide behind the curtain next to my bed to watch the natural pyrotechnics out the window. Now I sit my conservatory where it’s more like Ultra HD and surround sound.

How could I not stay up?

(Five Minute Friday is a community of writers who each write for 5 minutes on a given prompt word each week. More responses to this week’s prompt can be found here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/04/19/fmf-link-up-turn/)

 

The Beauty of a Sunset (Five Minute Friday)

To be honest, I’m struggling with this week’s word prompt – it feels too daunting, too big. What can I say about it that’s original or new or even interesting? My usual aids of looking up definitions or quotes haven’t helped either. Maybe just writing and seeing where it takes me will.

What I’d prefer to do with this post is just make it visual: show you photos of my children, the miniature irises pushing through the hard, frosty earth in my garden, landscapes I’ve gazed at, flowers my husband has bought me, or a glorious sunset.

Actually, sunsets are what I’ve been thinking about this week. It was the anniversary of my Mum’s death so I’ve been thinking back about her life (what a truly beautiful person she was) and the last months leading up to her death. It was a stressful intense time, painful and hard, but somehow there was glory in it.

For me, that was when I properly grew up and became a real adult, when my own resources were stripped away so I had to fall completely back onto my relationship with God for answers (He didn’t give many but did listen to all my questions and turmoil).

For my mum, her deteriorating health stripped away her independence and self-reliance, her physical capability and her mental agility. To be honest, near the end it seemed to strip away much of her personality too as she withdrew further and further from us. As she gave up her mantle of motherhood, I picked it up.

The dying process was like a reversal of her earliest years. It was heart breaking but somehow balanced. Birth and death. The sunset to balance the sunrise. And aren’t those times the ones where we find the most intense beauty?

 Back aching

You lay back in bed

Your arms reaching out

To hold me

In the first few minutes of my life.

Back aching

I bent over your bed

My arms curving round

To hold you

In the last hours of yours.

Work, Rest & Play (FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY)

I feel a bit guilty writing on this prompt, especially having seen all the Back to School photos on Facebook. My boys are too old for all that (although we may indulge in Back to University and Start of New Job posts of them in a couple of weeks) plus I am in the middle of what’s proving to be a very relaxing two week break.

We’re on holiday in Cornwall at the moment, just my Beloved and I, enjoying lazy mornings, walks on the beach, and a chance to decompress after recent events.

No conversations about our jobs and the stresses involved mean we’ve switched right off from the world of work. Our minds are fully occupied by good books and great scenery; the only decision making required is which pebbles to pick to take home and when to stop taking photos of the views.

We’re feeling incredibly tired at the end of each day but from all the walking we’re doing, much of it hilly. And we’re both sleeping so much better than usual.

The trick is how to transpose this to our day to day working lives? We’ve talked of daily, or at least weekend walks, of physically going away more regularly – booking it in advance – and certainly we want to come back here, out of the seasonal rush again and away from the tourist hotspots. I must impose on myself the long thought of discipline of restricted evening television watching for other activities like reading and knitting. I need to not be afraid of the silence (or put music or the radio on instead).

Perhaps we could reinstate our Sabbath meal and I could bake Challah again. Maybe 24 hours later than tradition when my Beloved has to work Saturdays. Prepare meals for the following day in advance. Find a better balance between work and rest, practise relaxation rather than exhaustion, build it into our routine.

Because, as Rob Parsons wrote, ‘Who ever got to the end of their life and said “I wish I’d spent more time at the office”?’

THE BLESSING OF THE BIRDS (The Blessing Jar Week 26)

Sometimes blessings are hard to find. Not because life has been terrible but just ordinary. Routine carries on, carrying us along with it: work, driving, cooking, shopping, laundry, Boys’ Brigade. Even simple pleasures can feel routine: that first sip of real coffee in the morning, pottering about doing small jobs in the garden, baking a fruitcake successfully after adapting the recipe. Unsurprising problems add tedium to the mix: a slow to respond computer, a traffic jam, plans confounded. The intimacy of prayer fades as the rest of the day takes over.

But even in the dullness of the ordinary and routine, if we stay attentive, opportunities to ‘stop the world and get off’ even momentarily, may still come our way.

I had one of those moments on Sunday early evening. After a weekend of catching up domestic chores, indoor and out, I was finishing off lots of little tasks in the garden – tying up errant growth of roses and clematis, pulling up salad leaves gone to seed, deadheading the buddleia – and wondering when I was going to see some blooms on the flourishing leaves of the summer bulbs I’d planted or the recent geraniums I’d potted out. At a time when gardens should be bursting with colour, mine seemed frustratingly reticent, despite all my efforts.

I’d just harvested the last of the peas and some lettuce for a salad to accompany the nut roast I’d got cooking in the oven when I saw him. Well, it could have been a her actually, I couldn’t tell.

There on the upper part of our water feature, which turned on becomes a running cascade but without power forms puddles unless the sum evaporates them, stood a young thrush (I think). He jumped in the water, just the right depth for him, fluffed up his feathers, and began to wash himself, splashing droplets all around as he wriggled in his watery version of the Twist.

Suddenly he froze. Something had caught his notice and he halted, alert for danger. He looked around then, once he was reassured, started fluffing, washing, and splashing once more.

Then he stopped again, still as a tree. He’d spotted me watching him, creeping closer for a better view. I mirrored his stillness, waiting. He jumped to the edge of the rocks, ready to fly away, but changed his mind, turned around and hopped back down to his ablutions.

Within a minute or two, he was gone.

But for those few moments, I had been absorbed, taken out of my own ordinary world and into his. There was just something beautiful about this commonplace bird, cleaning and cooling off in the evening sunlight There was something joyful in his exuberance, something hopeful in the continuance of the natural world going about its daily business.

And then I remembered early in the week, holding my coffee as I gazed out the window first thing in the morning. It had been raining all night. The garden glowed with the wet. And birds were flocking to it for refreshment, more than I had seen in previous days of hot dry sun. A whole family of blackbirds, sparrows camouflaged against the ground, a young thrush not yet in distinctive adult colouring (maybe my bathing friend), a pair of magpies (there’s joy for you), and wood pigeons, their flapping wings and tree landings heard before they could be seen.

My garden might not be full of bright hues for me but it had plenty of food, water, shelter, and opportunity for these feathered beauties – none of them exotic or outstanding, just ordinary, routine visitors. But they gave me the blessing of a few minutes respite from my ordinary and routine.

‘Consider the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than them?’ (Matthew 6.26)

And it strikes me that if I can look at birds with such benevolence, can feel blessed by their presence when I have no emotional connection to them, maybe, when He watches me, God might find me a source of blessing too, because He loves me. I hope so.

The Blessing of Taking Stock (BLESSING JAR Week 19)

It’s been one of those weekends where, thanks to migraine and back pain, the best laid plans an’ all that…well, you can fill in the rest. So we’ve had to do something different and today it meant getting on with some more gardening instead of a trip to the coast.

But I’m not sorry.

We’ve got on with a host of jobs: mowing and edging lawns, tying in pea plants, thinning out radish seedlings, planting the last of summer bulbs, weeding, cutting back an over enthusiastic Rose of Sharon and self-seeded geranium, unwinding the broken fairy lights from the pergola. We’ve been busy.

There’s still a list of tasks to tackle – the hanging baskets are in sad need of attention, next door’s overhanging laurel needs cutting back, there are summer pots to plant up, seats to be painted and repaired, and new slate to concrete in around the pond – but not now, not today. Now is the time to sit and look, to appreciate and take stock, time to pause and simply enjoy.

The bed nearest the house is a mass of white and pink floating on a sea of green. A visitor might think the colour scheme was deliberately coordinated but it wasn’t. I hadn’t thought about the colour or the timing of these last of the spring bulbs and even the unintentional survivors from before we had the garden redesigned a few years ago harmonize. They draw the eye to Clematis Nelly Moser which has, as I’d hoped, but much faster than expected, scaled the entire trunk of the Rowan covering it with candy striped blooms. Its timing is perfect – Clematis Montana Elizabeth has just finished. It has spread so voluptuously that I wonder how much of the fence will be on view next year. Next to the first butterflies of French Lavender, the first rose, an ivory one, has opened.

Our vegetables are flourishing. The recent rain has resulted in daily growth. The broad beans have sprouted generous sized leaves on thick stalks not quite high enough to tie in yet. Peas, on the other hand, are growing in almost every direction, hence the need to tether them to their supports now. Radishes in a line, needles of green showing the beginnings of spring onions, recognisable mixed salad leaves, with rocket and lettuces close behind in the growing race. The blossom on our only recently planted miniature apple trees has finished but one already has what look like green rose hips – the initial stage of actual fruit.

The pond is full from rainwater. If I wanted to, I could turn on the pump and listen to the gentle flow of the small cascade but I prefer birdsong for now. The rose behind it, which I planted in my mother’s memory, has greenfly but one brave bud despite its inauspicious positioning. The tropical- like marginals have developed new, more luminous growth.

In the long bed, some shrubs are thriving and other surviving, a few just taking their time to establish and spread. On one silver leaved bush, I notice a single convolvulus shaped flower for the first time – I wish I could remember the plant’s name. The Californian Lilac I planted two weeks ago is already showing signs of blossom, small bobbles of blue that look more purple against the lemony variegated leaves. My fern corner is prospering, taking over from the fading Bellis flowers around them. And the coiling wisteria has reached the top of its post, ready to colonise the crossbeams of the pergola.

A garden’s never finished, never complete. There’s always more to do, another season to prepare for. However, there are these times to stop and examine exactly what’s happening in it, to see what’s been achieved and what promises lie ahead. These moments – or hours – are precious, a hiatus in time, mindful and saturated. In taking the time to take stock I have found a new blessing. I wonder if I should try to apply the practise to my life too?

Postscript: I just thought I’d share the progress of the Amaryllis from last week’s Blessing post – so you can see what a blessing it continues to be. And yes, it turned out to be three blooms!