Scam Art Buyer

 
I was contacted by a person called Russell Holtsman from Ontario in Canada. He loved my work blah blah, could he buy some. And he detailed the ones he wanted and was very convincing in his description of where they would go. When a price was agreed, he said he would send a cheque to cover the paintings and add extra for the carriage. If there was a surplus I would have to send a cheque back to him…..hmmm. Beware he is a scam art buyer and will demand money for carriage once you have lost your paintings and got no money for them! Could think of a few words to call him but I shall just count my lucky stars I didn’t fall for it.

Dance or Die.

I am lying in a hammock listening to words that I will never be ready to hear but are inevitable. All around me the evening birds fling their final songs on the darkening valley, and away in the town the fairy tale steeples of the Church light up. It is Hansel and Gretel time, but I haven’t laid a bread trail and I will never get home again. Home is now in me, wherever I am. Currently it is unearthed, suspended in a hammock, the closest thing to the ground is my bottom and it feels like it’s getting a kicking. Bats flit between me and three purple clouds that are dissolving like gun smoke and it is becoming very chilly.

There is a time when life calls us away from the comforting certainties that grounded our existence. We don’t have to go…actually that’s not true, because if we don’t go, we come round again and again to the same bleak, night time station where we wait, and wait, and wait. Station life is not living, it is only waiting and by God, the place is crowded, some are even having dinner parties.

Make the train stop for you! Throw the luggage on the track. Wheel over the kiosks and shove them off the platform one by one until you bring the train to a stop and get on. You will leave a mess behind, and the dinner party will pause, and after a slow shake of their heads, will resume at their table, forgetting you. 

And, of course, the sacrament of life will continue to roll you along and roll you over, in the unremitting ordinariness of attending to the project of keeping the unbearable wonder of things alive in your own heart and the hearts of those you love. Feelings come and go in a kind of wild dance where you don’t always get to be the DJ. But dance or die, these are the only options.

SHEEP what could possibly go wrong?

What can I possibly have against sheep? Being here in the Alpujarras, where there are no sheep, I am in breathless wonder at the visions of wild flowers, herbs and shrubs that carpet the mountains and meadows that I walk upon. But just to keep you reading, did you know that every household in the uk pays £245 per year towards the continuous destruction of the UK uplands, causing soil erosion and flooding in our lowland towns and villages? No? Neither did I. Keep reading

In the rest of the world, including all the deserts and the really cold bits at the top and the bottom, over 30 % of uplands are forested. Along with this rewilding comes an ecosystem that supports insects, birds and a wonderful diversity of plants and species. In the uk only 13% of our uplands are forested. Mostly this is because of sheep who shave everything down to the ground, preferring nutritious tree saplings, but ensuring that there is no chance whatsoever of the reforestation and restoration of wildness in our uplands. “Oh but what about our poor sheep farmers?” I hear you cry. Well, my dears, they don’t make their money from sheep farming….they make it from subsidies, paid for by you.

The situation in Scotland is even more galling where a huge proportion of the land is privately owned by a few wealthy people who keep ‘their’ land artificially denuded by deer, or burn it for grouse shooting. This is so they can charge other rich people huge amounts of money to go deer stalking and grouse shooting. The activities of this tiny proportion of our population are not only destroying our countryside and ecosystem, causing flooding and eco degeneration,  but we are actually financing these activities! Where are the BBC when there is some real news to shout about???!!!

Just saying…..

Alpujarras

They have softened now into blue,

And with clouds falling like a wedding veil,

They repose with mountainous thoughts of ther own.

A man, straining to impress, told me their names,

But they don’t know them.

They have endured, nameless for billions of years,

And I have crawled up them, skittering down like a stone,

And have waded in their waters,

And knelt among their flowers,

And felt the rain upon my face.

Hear, O Israelites, the Name you cannot speak,

All nature resounds with it.

Nearer my God to Thee,

Nearer my God to me.

 

Kaleidoscope

You become one with me in a timeless mirada,

A  look of love, and you meet me completely.

‘What is this?’ I ask holding a tiny metal tube.

‘A kaleidoscope. It gives you a different view of reality.’

And you knows I need one. 

I want to fall at your feet, feel your hands on my head.

‘Bless me Mother.’

And looking up through the tube,

The sky shatters into a thousand possibilities.

 

Orgiva Market Day

The market wakes slowly like a dawn chorus building to a performance of sound and colour. I buy dos ajos y cinco tomates and the juiciest apricots I have ever tasted, not like the dusty ones we get in England. From a small table a woman is selling precious oils. I buy the Patchouli, a heavy and earthy scent. In broken English the woman tells me to open it this way, tick-tack, she says. I am accosted by a skinny asparagus seller who, for 3 euros provides my needs for a week. I can’t say no to anyone today. I meet Gide the darkly beautiful and heartbroken hostel owner who I stayed with in January. “Te quiero.” (I love you), she says and pays for my coffee. On the church steps I am beckoned by a man sitting with a pile of pamphlets and a pipe. “Buy my poems!” He calls in a Yorkshire accent. (I can never resist a poet.) Glancing through his home made book I marvel at how we who love to write, cast our souls upon the world with all the careless abandon of an autumn tree. 

Returning home I hitch up a handful of skirt and wade across the river, and I suddenly realise why I love coming here. There is a wild energy that is less constrained by social programming. I guess it is possible to come here and not notice it. You can tell those ones by their pristine lycra shorts, smart rucksacks and clean boots. But for others it is an emergency that calls them to free their caged spirits. We wash up here like flotsam from every part of the world in order to reach back to a wilder, untamed self. 

I get home clutching a book of poems, juice dripping down my chest and no apricots left for the fridge.

 

Greener View

 
Hope and patience are difficult to hold on to when you are suffering from Green Fatigue, that state experienced by people who are actively involved or concerned about environmental issues but who are suffering from distress and tension to the degree that it creates a secondary traumatic stress for them. I suggest that if you are against depleting and exhausting the world, yet feel depleted and exhausted yourself, it may be time to rethink your priorities.
 
A peaceful world has to start at home, in your own heart. Modernity plunged us into a world of beyond, beyond nature, culture and religion. It spawned the American Dream where more money, more fame, more glory and success are mandatory for happy endings. It seems that what we now need is a new dream of limits. Limiting our impact on the Earth’s resources and particularly limiting our own consumption as individuals. But how to live more simply in a complex and competitive world that is hardly fit for humans any more? 
 
Here in Cambridge many people are doing jobs they hate for far too many hours in order to provide goods and services that other people don’t really need, but hardly anyone questions this psychotic paradigm. 
 
Religion in many circles is considered anathema and you would be very likely to lose credibility if you admitted that you are in anyway religious. However it is interesting to ponder that Religion is the most powerful cultural force oriented around not doing things, and limiting excess. Don’t work one day a week. Rest!
 
Perhaps we don’t have to wait for this new paradigm but we could begin to examine why we feel the need to be so busy, so exhausted, stressed and weary. When was the last time you asked someone how they were and they said, “Fine, I’m not busy.” Let’s maybe find time to do nothing.
 
Don’t eat and drink more than you need, if you have two coats give one away, don’t covet things that other people have. Not to suggest we should retreat into the past but it would be good to have a vision for a new spirituality of restraint to be part of the evolving consciousness of the human race. 
 
Do we really need to buy more stuff or replace things that simply need repairing? Cambridge is leading the Repair Cafe movement – there are cafes springing up in our city and outlying villages.
 

The Little Voice of God

 
Apparently God used to talk to Moses in the mountains. In fact God seemed to talk quite a lot back then, often to the Israelites who he rebuked for fooling around with other gods in sacred groves. Moses must have been up the mountain some considerable time, months I am surmising because while he was away, the Israelites made a golden calf and began to worship it. I have never made one myself but it I imagine it would take some skill and some organisation, to say nothing of all the gold you would need.
 
When Moses finally came down from mountain, he was glowing. The Israelites clearly found this somewhat upsetting because not only did they ask him to cover his face but they also decided that they did not want to go anywhere near God themselves. You speak to him they said, we don’t want to. We never do, which is why we hate silence and why we run from bed time to bed time. We are running from God and if we did speak to him we would die. Which is in fact the point. Dying, letting go, giving in, being born again, are all poor indicators of coming face to face with God, or god or whatever divine thing you acknowledge.
 
Most of us are running too from what we have become. We have mined, chopped, excavated and built over all the sacred spaces until we are very hard pressed to find one. We have drained and poisoned sacred rivers and flung so much rubbish out to sea that the beautiful albatrosses are being found dead with their bellies full of plastic. It’s not so much that there are no sacred places, it’s just that there are ever more desecrated ones, both in the land and in ourselves. It is very hard to desecrate a place and then have a change of heart. For those who are changing their heart, it’s like carrying a tealight on a windy night in the hope of illuminating the darkness of a city. But if a tea light is all you have then it must be lit and carried; my burden is light.
 
The holy bushes are still burning, but now they are consumed by a generation of consumers. The holy mountains speak but you have to be there on your own for many hours, and you have to forget all you think you know about speech. The voice you are waiting for is very still and very small and we usually miss it because we prefer the drama of an earthquake or a mighty wind, or a raging fire. When have we ever heard the BBC report a still small voice? And in other news….there was a small voice crying in the City today but no one heard it because they were too busy recording their emptiness.
 
 

Coming Home and Telling Stories

Linton, February 2018
 
I have to remember and remember again
the power of telling a story –
our own and others’ stories,
stories of love and shame and glory –
stories of loss that break and remake,
stories that deify, demonise, hate,
of forgiveness held out as love’s bait.
Stories so bleak that you cry for a week
and stories that fill you with joy so you weep.
Never forget to tell stories…..
 
(And don’t let your meetings be a series of monologues.
That is so f’ing boring. Listen too.
Tell each other stories and you’ll never need to warm yourself by a fire.)
 
I came home and whatever had driven me out to Spain was peaceful, at least for a while. It was snowing at Trumpington park and ride when the National Express coach dropped me off at midnight, and I was very pleased to see Paul walking through the freezing black car park.  We were shoved along by a brunt wind, and then as we huddled in the car we babbled to each other.  How are you? How’s your Mum? Did you eat?  Thank you Paul Richardson – you are the best friend I have ever had.
 
 Sinking onto our bed when I got home was an exquisite pleasure after the hard, single bed of the freezing hostel.  The silk, the cotton, the feathers, the warmth – I savoured it deliciously while knowing I could live without it. A hot water bottle and a cup of tea, a soft pillow and unconsciousness, and when I woke in the morning I had no idea where I was, what time of day it was and why there was someone in the bed with me. There were several long lurching moments before I gained reliable consciousness.
 
What have I learned? That I have a lot more to learn. That journeys, both inward and outward are essential. That mountains are great teachers. Robert Macfarlane says, “The mountains that we climb are not made only of rock and ice, but also of dreams and desire.” And yes, also vision. We inhabit a darksome world where we are stretched between godly and demonic – how can we relate to ourselves and each other when so many people hate themselves and lose themselves because they try so hard, and fail at being someone else? A world that feasts on our hunger because we construct our lives on the things that we own, forgetting that we are so much more, that we are divine.
 
I had not been prepared for the splendour of the mountains, for the silence in which they dwell in perfect dignity. Description emerges very slowly within the one walking among these giants, the one like an ant clinging and crawling slowly up the flanks and along the ancient ledges. Waters sparkle and bubble on their joyful way down to the valley, rivers ripple and sing, foaming  far below.  The rocks all around are tortured in many thousands of ways, as are the mountains themselves, until they crack open into clefts and fissures. Rock of ages….let me hide myself in thee. Words do not reach easily into mountains like these, upon which light falls, travels and moves on. They emerge from a great silence and the only language you can speak is the language of prayer, and love, and you can leave them your tears. I found myself deeply and hopelessly in love.
 
The silence of rock, snow and water brought my heart to stillness and filled me with an inner peace that had been missing for so long. The wild energy and expansion that had prised me apart on my previous visit in October was transformed from an unbearable animal howl into a radiant energy that brought me skipping and running down the mountains. The pain that brought me here leaked out and dissolved into the rocks, the scree and the sky where it caused no harm. I had known that I had to return, it was already late enough, and I am so glad that I finally trusted the instinct had been insistently jabbing at my heart.
 
Thank you lovely friends and family for reading my stories, this is the last one from Spain. You are now part of my journey and I am part of yours. I hope my stories have amused, informed and inspired you a little bit, but more than all of that I hope my stories have given you courage to make journeys and stories of your own.  A final word and perfect poem from Mary Oliver:
  
The Journey
Mary Oliver
 
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.