Updated

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I spent a couple of hours yesterday with a tech savvy friend from my writer’s group. Not only is she very clever when it comes to navigating technological mazes, but she is also a clear and patient teacher. (Thank you, Katie!)

The result is an updated and expanded blog site, with links to my poetry blogs, information on upcoming courses, a contact page and a poetry corner. Hope you enjoy having a look around.

(And for those of you in the Western Cape this weekend, keep warm!)

These Hours

What will our final perspective be on all these hours? The hours of work, the hours of wealth, the idle hours, the hours of failure and self doubt? Who stands up and divests themselves of this body of work? Who lets go of all these accomplishments, these so-called failures? Do we look back on the wealth acquired from the acquisition, the poems published and admired, the house built and sold, the land farmed and productive, or do we see the drama of the acquisition, the beauty in the act of writing itself, the happiness the house can contain, the love of the land and the sky that nourished it?…

It is the hidden in our work that always holds the treasure. A life dedicated to the goodness in work is a life making visible all the rich invisible seams hidden from the others. Good work is a grateful surprise. 

David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea, Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

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I love winter sunsets. The interplay of the fading light with the clouds, creates such beautiful forms across the sky. I love the way the colours intensify just before they settle into more subtle hues and finally melt into darkness. Last night the mountain was covered with a blanket of white, tipped with pink; it was so beautiful and I couldn’t stop looking, caught in some space between the ground I stood on and a world beyond the edges of knowing. A thin place.

I like dusk and sunset; they fill me with a sense of quiet and acceptance. Perhaps it has to do with knowing that the day, with all its responsibilities and expectations, is at an end. It is a time for settling into stillness and rest.

This has been a year of placing fresh demands on myself. I have committed to growing my skill and capacity, not only in writing itself, but in trying new things. It feels good, to come to the end of the day and know that I have taken just a few more steps towards my goals. But there is a line to be walked, between the discipline of getting work done, and that of entering deeply into the work itself. Some weeks I am so conscious of the expectations I have that I cannot come to rest, and the joy in the work is lost. I press into the tasks I have set for the day without being able to immerse myself in them, or delight in the process. And at the end of the day there is only a sense of all that was left undone, how far I have yet to go. Sometimes I feel as though I have been skimming the surface, not present to my words or myself.

Yesterday evening, as I walked in the last light of the day, I breathed in the quiet of the world around me. The trees and the mountains know time in ways we do not. Their days are not measured by the minutes and hours we use to determine our worth, the worth of our accomplishments. Much of their work is hidden below, in the roots, beneath our conscious perception. As David Whyte says, that is true for us too. When I skim through my days, trying hard to get it done, without dropping deep, into real awareness, I lose the ability to make ‘visible the rich invisible seams’. But when I do, I experience the ‘grateful surprise’.

 

Allowing

Use a sweet tongue, courtesy, and gentleness, and thou mayest manage to guide an elephant by a hair.

Sa’di

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This morning I spent some time with a horsewoman who is visiting the Cape for a few days, giving lessons. She came highly recommended by a close friend. I was skeptical; this journey into horses and riding has been so fraught with twists and turns and struggles. I’ve been exploring on my own for the past while, reading books and listening to what others have to say. Mostly I’ve been trying to listen to my horse. I’ve opened my heart and mind, and waited to see where the process would take me. Over the years, I’d put so much effort into getting it right and finding the ‘perfect’ path. I’d grown tired, and didn’t have the energy for more searching. I waited for the answers to come to me.

I was hesitant as I led my horse through the vineyards in the wintry air. I find it difficult to talk about the past years with Polar Bear, the emotions are so close to the surface. In the last year or so I have begun to feel that I am finding my way, and there are many highs to celebrate (like the joyous ride I experienced last week). But the gifts and wisdom I’ve gained are fragile, precious things. I want to guard them. I was unsure of whether this person, new to me and my horse, would understand. I worried that I would feel pushed into doing things I wasn’t comfortable with. I was afraid of not being heard or understood.

I started to talk about my journey with my horse. I explained how important it is for me to cultivate softness, that I want to communicate kindness and sensitivity rather than force in riding and working with my horse. She listened, and she took me seriously. I felt heard and acknowledged. I mentioned books I am reading and she knew them, and liked them. She challenged me too, spoke firmly but gently to the way I do not draw the boundaries that my horse needs. She helped me to see how I could do that without aggression or disrespect. Then she led me in a dance with my horse, and the two of us moved in gentle circles. I could use no tension on the lead rope; nor could I tap or hit him with it. Everything was about asking and inviting him to join me in a game. I ran with him, and he trotted joyfully by my side. I laughed and he tossed his head. We played together, and afterwards he rolled in the wet sand with abandon.

For a long time now I have been growing into the understanding that softness, gentleness and allowing are powerful. There is a time and place for being fierce. But even gentleness can be fierce. There is strength in yielding to what comes and finding ways to shift yourself and your circumstances with wisdom. The more I try to force and push and pull my way into things, the further they seem to recede into the distance. It’s not about being passive, but about having a heart that is open and hopeful, and free of suffocating expectation.

I came across this quote by Rumi a few days ago, and it captures so beautifully this lesson.

 When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret here for anyone who can grasp it.

Rumi

Keep On

You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.

Tom Hiddleston

 

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.

Paulo Coelho

 

A year from now you may wish you had started today.

Karen Lamb

 

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I returned just over a week ago from a short holiday with family in Johannesburg. It was a good time of playing games, talking and enjoying time with my niece, and although I had intentions of getting lots of work done, it was hard to find concentrated time for anything (except for one blog post and keeping up with mails). I came home ready to return to the rhythm of writing that I’d started to cultivate in the weeks before I left.

I woke up on Monday to a crippling sense of resistance and anxiety about all the things I wanted to do. Added to that was the fact that my day was packed with outings and other resposibilities. No writing would get done. I pushed through the week, having made schedules and goals for each day. By the end of the week I had accomplished more than I would have thought possible. But the resistance and anxiety persisted and I had to work hard to persevere through to the other side of it and get to the joy and satisfaction of achieving what I’d set out to do. There were a number of tasks that scared me. It took every ounce of determination to keep going. (There were moments when I contemplated going to bed and not getting up for anything, except maybe an offer of a holiday in Mauritius…)

I have often wondered why it continues to be so challenging to knuckle down to doing what needs to be done. I enjoy being busy; I like having things to do. I thought that all of this would get easier. I suppose in some ways it has. But it still so often feels like I have to wade through mud  just to reach the starting line.

This morning I woke up feeling sick. My throat was sore, my nose was running and I was tired from a night with little sleep. ‘Great!’ I thought. ‘I’m sick. I can stay in bed and not do any work. That newsletter I’ve been trying to put together (since forever) can wait.’ But a little voice countered that. After a hot shower and a warm breakfast I felt much better. And here I am, at my laptop, getting the next thing done and building momentum for the rest of the week. I’m so glad I did.