“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Monday, 28 October 2013

Drunk on words

"I find it very easy to get drunk on words", to quote Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers' detective hero. So one of my favourite Facebook pages is The Liberal Lectionary, a Canadian page maintained by Rev. Stefan Jonasson, a Unitarian Universalist minister and historian, which posts "words of inspiration for common worship and personal devotion from the liberal religious traditions." Very often, the words he posts will resonate with me strongly, perhaps even giving me an idea for a blogpost or a service. Here is one he posted last week:

The Liberal Lectionary's logo

"We have all known persons to whom the rich intimacies of nature come best through the sense of smell. They love intensely the various enticing odors of the country. The woods after a rain; the newly cut hay; the freshly ploughed field; the aromatic tides from sweet-fern; the perfume of wayside flowers; the faint sniff... of burning leaves; the whiff from salt marshes; the deliciously indescribable fragrance from apples in a room; all these experiences and many more, beget a rare delight. To these olfactory devotees nature is a glorified, universal, broadcasting station from which is sent forth, wave after wave, yes, volley after volley, of delicious odors, perfumes and aromas." — Frank Wright Pratt (born October 23, 1866)

For me, this was a quotation to roll around my mouth, savouring and tasting it. (maybe I'm a taste person, rather than a smell person!). But I find well-crafted quotations and poetry - particularly poetry - so deeply satisfying, it is almost beyond describing.

I have blogged before about the power of words. And I still stand by what I wrote then: "Words have so much power, especially in conjunction with the human voice. They can be used to encourage, sustain, energise and uplift; or they can be used to arouse hatred, bitterness, despair and all other kinds of bad feelings. ...  With one word of praise or blame, one human being can build another one up, or fling him or her into the pit of despair. The human memory has an uncanny knack of remembering words spoken in anger or despite, which can cause people with fragile self-esteem (that is to say, all of us, deep down) to think badly of themselves; whereas words of praise may be shrugged off. ... Words have so much power. We all have the responsibility to use them wisely and well."

Friday, 18 October 2013

Coming Alive

A while ago, somebody asked me this question: "What makes you come alive?" and I have been thinking about the answers ever since. My first response was that it is interaction with the natural world - walking by the sea or in the mountains, making a garden, walking a regular route and noticing the day-to-day changes in the nature around me, being awed by natural beauty - all these play an important part in re-connecting me with the numinous presence of God, with making me "come alive." To which I would add, interacting with family, friends and fellow Unitarians and f/Friendly Quakers - being in spiritual community.

An appreciation of our world in its beauty and diversity is definitely something that makes me come alive. When I go for a run, it is wonderful to be out in the changing seasons - to see and savour and appreciate the blossom in Spring, the mass of wildflowers in Summer, the first conkers and the changing leaves in Autumn, and the elegant sparseness of the trees in Winter. this connectedness with the natural world is something that I have learned to nurture and treasure. It so often gets lost in Western society - we are so busy doing the job in hand, rushing to the next appointment, that we don't take time out to appreciate the world around us. My husband and I have, in the past few months, taken to having a half-hour walk when he gets home from work, and it has been lovely and enriching, It has not only re-connected us with the world around us, but also enabled us to re-connect more deeply with each other. What a blessing.

John O'Donohue has a beautiful blessing For Beauty:

As stillness in stone to silence is wed,
May solitude foster your truth in word.
As a river flows in ideal sequence,
May your soul reveal where time is presence.
As the moon absolves the dark of distance,
May your style of thought bridge the difference.
As the breath of light awakens colour,
May the dawn anoint your eyes with wonder.
As Spring rain softens the earth with surprise,
May your winter places be kissed by light.
As the ocean dreams to the joy of dance,
May the grace of change bring you elegance.
As clay anchors a tree in light and wind,
May your outer life grow from peace within.
 As twilight pervades the belief of night,
May beauty sleep lightly within your heart.
What a blessing.



Thursday, 10 October 2013

Moment of Liberation

Like most women of my age, I believe I could "do with losing a few pounds", so I watch what I eat and keep a close eye on my weight. And the slimming industry thrives by feeding our insecurities, backed by the cult of celebrity, which fills the magazines and television screens with images of slim (OK, skinny) celebrities with their air-brushed-perfect faces and bodies, back in their skinny jeans weeks after giving birth.

Today I was reading one of the 'before and after' stories in the slimming magazine I had bought that morning, and was brought up standing by the following statement: "It's amazing how your body changes. My waist has gone down from 45in to 30in, my bust has reduced from 46in to 36in and my hips are down from 47in to 34in." The lady concerned was understandably pleased about this, and was looking fantastic in her 'after' photo, but my reaction was rather different, as my vital statistics are slightly smaller than hers. I thought "My God; I'm an 'after'! What on earth am I worrying about?" My BMI is at the top end of normal, and I've been the same weight, plus or minus a couple of pounds, for at least the last decade.

It was a real moment of liberation. I finally realised that I have been suckered in to years of obsessive worrying by popular culture. I suppose that on the good side, it has made me eat more or less healthily, but what a waste of emotional energy!

Gok Wan has it right - all body shapes and sizes have their own beauty, and it is about time that women like me set ourselves free from the obsession with chasing after some externally-imposed standard of "the perfect body" and started to appreciate the wonderful, marvellous, intricate bodies that we have, that walk, stand, sit, lie, reach out in longing, caress, and generally do what we want them to do.

Every woman's (and every man's) body is a gift from God, and a home for our souls. if we must have an obsession, let it be about learning to be at home in them, and looking after them, treating them with the respect they deserve, by eating and drinking good stuff, and by doing sufficient exercise to keep them fit and healthy.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Many Bonds of Marriage

On the eve of a mini-break to celebrate our Pearl Wedding Anniversary, I idly start to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea and find the following passage, which describes the middle years of marriage:

"Here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of the lack of language too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. it is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges. The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself."
Written in the 1950s, these words hold just as true today as they did then. They describe our marriage well, and  make me realise, once more, how very blessed I am, how blessed we are.