The Light of Life

Sitting in a dark room,
Surrounded by an eerie blackness of despair,
For days and days.

Suddenly I see a light up in a corner of a room,
Is it a window or my imagination?

I get up and go over to the corner.
It’s a window of light in all the despair and darkness.
I struggle with the rusty lock and open the window wide.

I look through the opening
And feel the warm glow of the sun.

I see the sunlight, I hear the birds,
I smell the flowers, I feel the cool breeze,
I taste the flavours of freedom.

I climb through the window
Leaving the darkness far behind.

When a door closes, there is a window somewhere
Leading to somewhere wonderful:
a place you never knew was there.

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Catching Happiness

Patter patter patter
Patter patter patter
Pounce!

Tail wagging, lips
Pulled back
Like a
big smile,

My dog has chased, flicked and
Found
Her ball. 

She reminds me of the importance
Of being pleased
With the simplest actions

Of how
Happiness can be so easy
To find
If only we stop looking so far away.

Happiness is right here.

In this muddy field,
She knows it.
She found it.
She caught it.

Lassie does a form of victory lap every time she catches her ball. She almost never brings it straight back, she always does a small semi-circular run first. She chases the ball, picks it up and loops back to me to repeat the action all over again.

I like the repetition. I think it is good for me.

I am taking time away from my computer screen, from reading and words, from work, and playing with a creature who is full of the purest joy.

It is routine.
It is simple.
I am focused on one task.

For someone who struggles with clearing her mind and disentangling her thoughts from her worries, to be able to focus on just throwing a ball for half an hour is very calming.
My mind is free and unharassed thoughts lead to creativity.
I have written a poem, a post, out here in the open air.

This is my hobby.
This is my happiness.
My dog has led me here.

If I stop trying to move beyond this moment and instead enjoy being in it, I can catch my own happiness.

Stop.
Walk.
Wonder.
Breathe.

Pause long enough for happiness to catch up with you.

Resilience

I am a child of the Earth
Ever adapting
You can hurl meteors at me
But I will keep on going –
Tear out chunks of me
And I will make the scars beautiful
Like the moon.
I can be volcanic or cold
It depends which part of me
You decide to behold.

Morning has Broken

It is so rare for my husband and I to have a day off together. He works all week long in the lab at the university completing his PhD and for the past 6 months I have worked every weekend. The only time off we have had together has been when we are visiting family and whilst we are all very close, its not exactly quality couple time. But recently my timetable changed so I am now only working alternate Saturdays. We have a day off that coincides.

I mentioned how one of my reasons for starting a blog was to have a space for reflection that could document significant events and feelings but was not as personal or emotional as a diary or journal. But I did start writing in a jotter on our last day off and I haven’t felt so contented for so long. I have been happy during the last few years. I’ve not been depressed, suicidal and miserable the whole way through but the general upward trend in positive outlook has been quite recent. I really wanted to document this moment so I thought I would share it… online… which still doesn’t feel completely usual yet… despite how much I seem to be doing it now…

Typically, I have flu to mark the occasion of our shared day off, but even feeling disgusting can’t spoil this morning. 

I always wake up earlier than my husband. I have never encountered someone worse at mornings than Samuel. After giving him a snuggle, I got up to let the dog out into the garden and then we headed back upstairs. Samuel had his head under the covers so I was able to open the bedroom curtains without the sunlight disturbing him.

My intention was to read, but looking out of windows and daydreaming has always been one of my favourite past times and so I thought I would write down what I was feeling in that moment.

As it is early in the morning on a weekend there are very few cars or people about. The air is still, no breeze, no movement. Despite the spring sunshine it is still bitterly cold outside.

This is rather typical of Scotland. There is a week of extra daylight, sunshine, flowers and a slight temperature rise commonly followed by bad weather and snow…

The birds are chirruping to one another and as the new spring leaves are only just starting to bud, I can see them hopping about in the branches of the hedge below the window. It feels like the first time this year that it has been this light this early in the morning, but it might well be the first time that I have been still enough to notice. 

Our bedroom window is south-facing and I can watch the sunlight get brighter as I sit and write in my notebook this morning. 

A few doors down our neighbour has a holly tree shaped into a sphere and it means I can always glimpse life growing outside our window. 

Even though I am full of flu, I know that the air will smell of damp earth, sweetened by the sugar of fresh spring grass. It is the smell that, for the last few days, my dog has carried into the house on her paws. 

My husband is lying beside me,  not quite awake, nor fully asleep. Although strictly speaking she shouldn’t be up here, the dog has crept her way onto the bed and is nestled under his outstretched arm. She’s snoring softly and twitching in her sleep as she dreams. 

It’s the mornings we dreamt of when we lived in our pokey city flat. The double bed took up almost the entire bedroom (we couldn’t fully open the wardrobe doors) and only one person at a time could fit in the kitchen. Our bathroom was so small that my brother-in-law could only just get through the door.

But here we are. 

In our new home, with the sounds of the countryside all around us. With the sun warming a new season and shining on all the new life it brings with it. This lie in is renewal for us as well, as a family. It’s a time when as individuals we have the chance to refresh, recharge and reconnect with each other. On Sundays we have the chance from spiritual renewal at church. The week can be very fraught. We haven’t spent much quality time together recently, but today is new and fresh. 

Why Does the Ice Cream Van Drive at Night?

Well I said I would give free writing a go. It’s been long time since I have tried this prewriting technique. It was fun although I’m not sure how I feel about the outcome. What I have actually done here is termed focused free writing. It is as liberated as free writing but is based on a specific topic rather than seeing where your thoughts take you.

Last night I really did let the dog out into the garden, hear an ice cream van and decide for to focus on a question that has puzzled me for a very long time.  I must confess though to still not having an answer.

Why does the ice cream van drive around at night?
The air is cold and draughty,
The wind pinches with frost
It blows the promise of snow from the sea.
I open the door and let
The dog out into the garden.

It is cold and icy outside
The spring flowers are quivering
Snow is expected any day now
But the sound of Greensleeves
Comes gliding over the fence.
Why does the ice cream van drive around at night?

It’s dark outside
The lights are on
The children are in bed
There’s no one around to buy ice cream
They’re indoors with hot chocolate instead.

Greensleeves slides around the neighbourhood
Past the garden, round the back
Leaves rustle, a fox barks
Far away an owl hoots.
Why does the ice cream van drive around at night? 

First Efforts

What a great way to start a Monday! Logging into my Facebook this morning a quote came up on my newsfeed from Anne Lamott: ‘Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts‘.

When you have just sat down at your computer to start a hopeful day of writing, this is an empowering thing to read. It doesn’t matter if you have an idea that you feel confident about, the bare bones of a concept or whether you have no idea how your piece is going to begin or end. The important thing is that you have sat down to write something. That’s the other half of the quote: ‘You have to start somewhere‘.

One of my posts last week was about free writing, a great place to start if you have sat down with the intention to write and suddenly your mind has gone blank. It’s all about getting the ideas in your head into words, then getting those words out of your head on to the page. That’s why free writing with old fashioned pen and paper is still my favourite. I really feel connected to what I am writing then, and I have a mental image of the words flowing from my brain, down my arm, through my hand and on to the page.

Reading this quote this morning got me thinking about where I came from as a writer and storyteller. Like a lot of creative folk I started when I was very young. I was fortunate to have one of those grandfathers who would sit you on his knee and tell you stories. He set my friends and I in the centre of traditional fairy tales and suddenly we were the heroes of our own stories. I’m surprised that I never thought about were my interest in storytelling came from until now.  For as long as I can remember, and for as long as I have been able to write, I have been scribbling short stories. I  added illustrations too, but I was (and still am) a terrible artist. So I started writing long pieces of description, I suppose hoping that the words would paint the picture as I was persistently unable to do so myself.

I really came across poetry quite by accident. Of course I knew lots of nursery rhymes and made up a few myself, but they lacked any form, style or structure. Another girl in the village were I grew up went to a primary school near mine and our parents would car share. One day we were discussing our various homework assignments and my friend had been told to write a limerick for her history class. She wrote one on Anne Boleyn (it was very good) and I decided that I wanted to write one too for my history homework on the Second World War. After that I was hooked and most of my future history homework landed on the teacher’s desk with a poem attached.

I thought in light of the quote I read this morning I would share my terrible first effort. It is about Adolf Hitler, looking at it as an adult understatement does not cover how I described him as a character or the conditions and atrocities of the war as a whole. I hope that you will bare in mind as you read it that I was 9 when I wrote it. But as awful a poem as it is, it is the very first one I wrote and it sparked a love for poetry and writing. Therefore very significant and sentimental to me.

Hitler
Hitler was mean,
Hitler was bad,
He made us very
Shoddily clad.

He marched into Poland,
He marched into France,
He led the whole of Europe
In a merry dance.

The Allies won the war,
The Nazis lost,
50 million lost their lives,
It was a terrible cost.

(Age 9)

 

Free Writing

Today I read a post by Sara in LaLaLand about free writing, and it reminded me about a poem I wrote at my writing club at school. I’ve mentioned before that how I write blog posts is very similar to free writing, but I pay too much attention to what I am typing and have a very specific topic in mind. Whilst I let the post go wherever my mind takes it, its still bound within the topic and I am very conscious of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Free writing is incredibly liberating as you focus on the words and your thoughts and feelings and let them flow, unbound by language rules and you can skip from topic to topic and back again. I wonder if it could be comparable to meditation, in the book I am reading, Women, Food and God, Geneen Roch details a technique that focuses on feelings within the body and free writing focuses on what your mind is producing. You aren’t editing as you go, or dismissing thoughts as tangents or irrelevant. Everything that pops into your head ends up on the page. Then, when you let the writing overtake, you frequently forget about the sentence, or even word, that came before what you are currently writing. Just like meditation, you are only aware and concerned with what is happening now, in that very moment, without consideration to what came before or what might happen next. You’re not concerned with whether it is sensible or makes sense to anyone else. Thus, free writing is not only a great pre-writing technique, especially if you have writer’s block, but it also has great benefits for mental health. Free writing enables you to access your unconscious, to release emotions, process thoughts and feelings, and relieve stress.

I hope to do some free writing over the next few days. In the past I have used it as a technique for writing poetry, but I am interested to experiment with prose and see if it can get me kick-started on my novel writing project. For now, I hope you will enjoy the poem I wrote whilst gazing out of the classroom window, wondering what on earth I was going to free write about. In this regard it is like the exact opposite of meditation. With meditation the stereotype is emptying the mind, with free writing you are waiting for a thought to scuttle across your brain so that you have something to write about. On the occasions I have tried meditation my mind suddenly recieved a whole deluge of ideas, when I am free writing it suddenly becomes astoundingly blank…

That Leaf

That leaf.
That brown dry leaf.
Swinging like a crazy pendulum.

It dangles there
On slender stem
Brown and dry.

Dew drops still hang from
The droopy foliage,
Slimy even at midday.

They drip the seconds by,
A constant ticking
The time it takes for the last leaf to die.