MAKING CONNECTIONS IN AN EXOTIC WORLD

What has the Dalai Lama got to do with the address
I did in the Unitarian Church yesterday? 

Connection is in us and around us, from the moment we are born. From the moment the chord is cut at birth, to the moment when we fight to breathe in the air of the world we enter, we seek connection. And our search for connection and its opposing companion (detachment) continues throughout our lives, with our families, our friends, with ideas, plans, ourselves… we constantly seek connection. images Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

This morning we relived our birth, and our lives, in a metaphoric sense. We woke from sleep and set out, after a while, to go to a place of connection, this amazing church. It is no coincidence that the church is historically referred to as ‘Mother Church’ and has done so for hundreds of years. It’s because (very simply) it offers nourishment and protection in the spiritual sense. In reality everybody has their own reason as to why they come to church, some want to see their friends, other long to hear words of wisdom… and other recognise that this astonishing and beautiful place is a source of spiritual inspiration and sustenance, and it is worth repeating the pattern of visitation in order to benefit spiritually, and of course physically and mentally. So we come here to connect… with ourselves.

It must be said, that one feels very comfortable in this space. It is massively civilised. It’s one of the most beautiful churches is Brighton, and one of the most enlightened. You may be Christian, but equally you don’t need to believe in anything much to come here on a Sunday and get the benefits of this place… spiritually and mystically…. And apart from coming to church… the building itself is extremely special. It has classical proportions. One might say it has more in common with a flower than a church, because it embodies divine proportions, and it’s much more a temple than a church in many ways… and being an echo of something so ancient, by virtue of the light, and the sensation of familiarity, its defining shape goes back a lot longer than the actual age of anybody here, so it gives us a powerful sense of familiarity, and this sense of familiarity goes hand-in-hand with a feeling of connection, connection that goes back hundreds of years… to the temples 6th or 7th Century BC… This is the home of the soul, and the connection of the soul with things ancient is an entirely natural, and dare I say it, organic and poetic process.

And the feeling of connection doesn’t just apply to this wonderful church, this feeling of connection also exists in this City. I have spent time in a number of places in England France and Italy, and been here 25 years, but never have I come across a place where people have such a strong sense of belonging as Brighton. Version 2One may be standing anywhere, and a great personality dressed in the most outrageous outfit, a feather or two plaited through the hair, green and gold make-up, a weird earring or five, plus a purple sari and matching beard will happily drift past us, and rather than saying, ‘Dear me how shocking’, we of Brighton and Hove tend to say, ‘Ooh er, what fun… only here, only here… and  doesn’t he or she look great?’ and in some kind of affectionate way we feel comfortable and flattered that an outrageous purple clad person feels OK and safe here, and we feel OK and safe here too, because we all belong here. Belonging is very much about acceptance of ourselves… and others… and I will be putting on my feathers and revealing my beard after this service.

I think it is this sense of belonging that makes us actually want to thank the bus driver when we get off the bus. We feel grateful to be here… Whether we were born here or arrived in Miss Prism’s bag, or came by train or car… whatever… We feel connected… and rightly so.

But connection goes much further than a place of choice. How many of us have had friends, or maybe even lovers who came into our lives and we simply don’t know why, and these people, these forces of nature… were connected to us by virtue of their total difference with our own world view, their stultifying meanness, their mind-bogglingly anti-social behaviour, maybe their mystical superiority and beauty, or their sheer gruesomeness, whatever it was we all have friends or lovers who are distinctive by their difference… and yet there is connection. Connection is inexplicable and yet it is always there.

And then… how many times have we made connections, meeting (seemingly by chance) with people we know in circumstances that defy explanation, chance meetings in inexplicable places, love at first sight, encounters in far off lands, and not just finding a very particular person but meeting them at the apposite time, when we needed them or they needed us, or better still, when we were both thinking about each other.

But I do have to say, here is one anecdote, about this very address I am now giving… that happened last weekend, when I was walking back from the allotment with my sister in law; it was one one of the conversations when two people are sort of listening and not listening to each other simultaneously (it’s a family speciality I think), and I said aloud “I think I’ll write that address on Sunday about connection”, and Eileen (my sister in law) replied saying, “Do you know… we are just walking past the house of that woman who came to see me 18 months ago to talk about historical costumes and she never came back to me, I don’t know what I did to annoy her, perhaps it was political…” and when we got home, Eileen opened up her email, and behold there was a message from the self-same woman who had apparently avoided her. And this email started off with an apology for not getting in touch before, asking if could she do an article about Eileen’s company.” And I thought, “Oh hell! I’m going to have to write about connection now, whether I want to, or not.” This little incident is just another reminder of how powerful connections between people are, and the world likes to have a joke at our expense.

We have connections with so many things. Places, objects, good memories, bad memories, animals, pets, recipes, tastes, smells and people, soul brothers and sisters. The brain makes wonderful and clever connections, that sometimes are relevant, and sometimes completely inexplicable, but isn’t surprising… there are at least 100 trillion neural connections or synapses in the human brain, at least 1,000 times the number of stars in our galaxy. It’s a lot, and to this effect, our powers of connection should be cosmic… and I think they are.

Connections help us. They can come in the form of angels that save our lives, or the lives of our children, as well as helping us write books. Arthur Koestler invented The Library Angel, and here I quote Larry Dossey in his brilliant treatise entitled ‘One Mind’ about the ultimate connection, which I highly recommend.

Here’s what Larry Dossey says: “After reading scores of reports in which a book, magazine, article or quotation suddenly presents itself at a moment of need, Koestler said that ‘One is tempted to think of library angels in charge of providing cross-references…’” and then both Dossey and Koestler relate a number of anecdotes about research exercises of seeming impossibility where books have been selected in desperation and at random, and proved to be precisely the one needed, materialising quite inexplicably. In one case the story tells of a much needed volume that actually dropped off the shelf and fell open on the right page. I myself happened to be the owner of a particularly obscure and ancient volume on animal behaviour, which was thrown at me by a drunken friend one drunken night for no reason. I kept this tedious and ancient little paperback and it later turned out (25 years later) to be the missing link in my sister’s opus magnus on Virginia Woolf.

But perhaps the most baffling connections and senses of longing and belonging come from those that are no longer with us. The much loved dead and departed. The connections with those souls that lead us to find objects at very particular moments, as well as our own mysterious capacity to see and hear people that we haven’t encountered for decades sometimes before the very moment of death itself, and sometimes enabling us to avert death as well.  It looks very much as though our capacity to make connections can transcend time and life and space.

And last but by no means least, we must appreciate that this desire to belong, to connect is a fundamentally human drive that will carry entire nations to seek safety and sanctuary…and… almost all of us carry genes that bear witness to our antecedents’ journeys in search for places to belong and survive. It is so sad that this journey to a place we want to call home or sanctuary can be so precarious, and the welcome we may receive at the other end may seem so lacking in compassion. So many people in this country are just unable to understand that there is a story, somewhere far back in their own history, and in our own genetic makeup, be it Viking, Latin, Roman or Semetic that mirrors the very dispersion and struggles of people today, fleeing war, poverty and the hazards created by environmental degradation. We make connections, it is true, but sadly not always in connection with the judgements that enable us all to understand the sense of longing and belonging so passionately experienced and needed by our fellow souls.

And all this takes me back to where we began, the very much shorter journey we all made to this place of inspiration and love today… a journey to make a connection with our spiritual selves…and I will close with a few apt words from The 14th Dalai Lama:

‘Our Ancient Experience confirms at every point that everything is linked together, everything is inseparable.’220px-Dalailama1_20121014_4639

 

 

 

 

How Can an AGM be Beautiful? It Can…

UnknownOn Sunday 13th at 2.30 pm at the Friends Meeting House a very special and wonderful event will take place. It’s the Annual General Meeting of the Interfaith Contact Group of Brighton and Hove, a 20 year old organisation that proves that people of fundamentally different faiths, and none, can get together and talk, listen, have fun and harmonise, creating beautiful moments of spiritual brilliance and understanding, just by being together, respecting each other, and enjoying each others difference.

This Sunday we will be holding a discussion on the power of change through faith. We have invited four speakers from the Unitarian, Muslim, Buddhist and Pagan communities to tell us how arriving at their faith changed their lives, and the lives of those around them. Everybody will be invited to join in with the discussion. Before and between the business of the AGM, and the open discussion, we will be celebrating interfaith in harmony, with our wonderful Interfaith Choir. 22653811549_05bc1b5797_k23020133946_7e034478ed_kThe IFCG has the ability, with its small committee, to generate unusual events where people of different religions and none come together and celebrate in the most special way. After the AGM on Sunday, March 13th, the IFCG will continue to develop its interfaith choir. Other planned events include an interfaith concert in July, and a conference event in late September, called ‘Visions of Eternity’, when we will be inviting different faiths to explain and discuss their perception of life after death, or the discarnate state. In interfaith week we will hold our annual interfaith service at the newly built Progressive Synagogue in Hove.

If you are interested in The Interfaith Contact Group and its activities, please contact me… it’s time to bring about change through harmony.

For the Love of Animals

imagesI recently had to do a funeral for somebody who was deeply private, but one of the few things I discovered about him was his love for animals… so I went in search of a reading about animals, and came across these lovely words by Meister Eckhart which begin “If I were alone in the desert” … and with a bow and a flourish to the mystic who penned this exquisite thought 700 years ago, I have written a variation on his theme. I hope you like it:

If I Were Alone in the Desert
with thanks to Meister Eckhart

If I were alone in the desert
And feeling afraid
I would take an animal with me
Then my fear would fade
For that living spirit
Would be by my side
And make me strong
And the fear of loneliness
Deep, dark loneliness
Could never take hold

If I were alone in the wilderness
I’d take a dog with me
And we’d trot side by side
Through the windswept sands
The stony hills and the empty lands
Courage and resolve
Would be our companions
For the unspoken
Is the language
Of true friends

If I were a wanderer
In the chaos
Of man-made disorder
In a devastated city
I would walk with my cat
And my cat would walk with me
We’d have no fear
For our loving friendship
Would carry us through
Streets of desolation
Memories of sorrow

And… If I meandered gently
Through a flowered meadow
I’d choose to have
A friendly bird on my shoulder
So we could share
The joy of life
The beauty of harmony
The mystery of death
And the perfection of eternity

 

Music and the Soul

I am not sure about what the soul is, so I begin with a definition. Apparently the soul is “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being regarded as immortal”…. But there is another definition, and this is different and yet completely compatible and it is “emotional or intellectual energy, as revealed in a work of art or artistic performance.”

UnknownMusic creates a direct route to the soul, because there is no great need for words, and we are lumbered with thinking in words. Words may form part of the mix, but when one listens to somebody like Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, you realise that the words she’s singing are just part of the experience, so a song like “I’m in Love” which is both wistful and optimistic, has a zillion things going for it, in terms of soul, and taking one to a place of the soul.The Queen of Soul is producing a sound of massive richness…. which starts with her stupendous technique… that’s to say her internal knowledge of knowing exactly what note she wants to hit (she must have perfect pitch) plus there is the emotional quality of her voice, which is something of her own, but it’s also born out of her history within the Afro American community (generations and generations here) her history as a gospel singer from childhood, coupled with her intention to express emotion at the deepest level… So a lot of depth, technique, creativity and intention are all going into one song lasting just 2mins 51 seconds… providing a direct path to the soul. Most importantly perhaps, she is using her voice as much as a musical instrument as anything – she is after all, an accomplished pianist.

A lot of great art resonates with the soul, but I believe that music does it most immediately because of the time element. Music moves as we are moved.

Recently, it was drawn to my attention, that there is this wonderful research going on with people who have dementia and other mental problems who immediately reconnect with the world through music. They respond to music, when words won’t do, and I’ve come across this in life, first hand. Music is a very, very high way to connect to the higher self, when it resonates with us…

I think one connects with the soul through music very much on the principle of treating like with like, like homeopathy. So when one is very sad, or low, the best music to connect with seems to be things like Leonard Cohen, weepy Puccini, or you may wish to be deeply miserable to Barber’s Adagio, the most depressing piece of music in the world …

We are all unique, the preferred music that speaks to our soul will be always differ from person to person, so, in the hour of powerful emotions what may be achieved by Elgar or Bach say, can equally be achieved by Dusty Springfield, Eric Clapton, John Coltrane, Miles, Bill Evans or my wonderful friend, Tom Kirkpatrick… in other words one man’s Lady Gaga is another man’s Joan Sutherland, and that’s what makes music so divine, its uniqueness and our own sacred singularity. UnknownAs I mentioned before… we ‘think’ in words, but music reveals that we can ‘think and feel’ without any need for language. Just listen to Vaughan Williams “Fantasia on A Theme by Thomas Tallis” and meditate on the idea of fracking being carried out on The South Downs, and then… tell me what you feel; I would be really interested to know. I tried this one out while I was writing this, and it affected me physically and mentally, to great effect. Words are not needed.

The power of music to move us is exquisite and mystical. It is for this reason I’ve had to collect music all my life from Ambient to Dance, Classical, Easy Listening, (forsooth) Electronic, Folk, Film Music, Gospel and Religious, Jazz, Latin, New Age, Rhythm & Blues, rock and pop, World music and even sound effects – twittering birdsong, wind, sea and watery noises to name but a few. I believe that all of this harmony, in all its beautiful variations provides doorways to the soul that are heavenly.

When we listen to music we are often most closely connected to our true selves, our immortal selves. It’s like the time when we were babies, and we thought and felt without understanding language. And there’s another very valid reason for accepting music as a pure way of thinking and feeling. When people are close to death, and have near death experiences and out of body episodes, we are told that they don’t need language to communicate – but they do hear music – heavenly music… and this is important, so important… and quite lovely.

 

 

A Traveller in Time: the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Ferrara

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Street Art in Ferrara

There is something so exquisite about being familiar with a place far from home. I’ve been visiting Italy, the Emilia Romagna and the City of Ferrara for over 30 years and always find it enchanting and inspirational – a landmark in my life like no other. I just came back nine days ago and I’m still there in heart and part.P1010510 Italy has a true sense of its glorious past; it’s all there in its language, its architecture, its food, art and music. In the split second that I stepped off the plane and got that massive hit of white, sunny heat, and the perfume of the dust, I stepped into that place of timelessness that prevails. History is an issue of massive pride to the Italians. It affects the images on their predominantly crummy TV programmes, it’s part of their cities, and its spun into the very fabric of Valentino’s designs – it is here, there and everywhere, in sights both sophisticated and unexpectedly vulgar. This powerful language of the past affects everything Italian. Ferrara is beautiful and old. It is embraced by six miles of five hundred year old ancient walls; it is dominated by an elegant castle, a great Cathedral, fine streets, many ‘palazzos’ and lots of lovely shops, although sadly an increasing number are cloned.P1030096

Necropoli-4

Ferrara’s Museum of Archeology

This month I was treated to a trip in time like no other. On the day when Ferrara’s Museum of Archeology (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Ferrara) was closed, I was taken round the Palazzo Costabili, which houses the museum, and would be an astonishing building on its own, but is made even more extraordinary by the artifacts it holds. My guide was none other than the director of the museum, Dr Caterina Cornelio who generously revealed this fabulous museum with justifiable pride. Most of the exhibits come from Spina, an Etruscan trading port on the Adriatic, South of Venice that was doing its thing around the 6th Century BC. Being a trading City it was rich and busy and full of the stuff of life – jewellery, pottery and the bits and pieces we all need and use, some of which were local but a great quantity were imported from Greece.

There are always some very particular images and impressions that stay in the mind of a ‘traveller in time’; one was the two giant ‘pirogues’ – dug-out canoes that are thought to be late Roman (3rd C AD). They are simply two vast trees that have been carefully scooped out to hold people and stuff.

Piroghe-1In the room where they are displayed, one can almost imagine them in their place of birth and use, slowly making their way thought the muddy waters of a reedy canal. The museum brought so many of its exhibits to life – a wonderful showcase of pottery, full of light and animation, revealing the joie de vivre of the artists and the people of the time, the necropolis displaying greatly differences in lives and deaths. Other delights included some fabulous gold jewellery, and just a lovely ‘touch’ – a space to chill out where visitors to the museum can touch and examine exhibits with their hands. This is a museum that brings the past ‘up close’ in every way.

I wish (in this country) we could emulate that loving way that history seems to be eaten, worn, lived and breathed by the Italians. Yes we have our museums, but our history is not a great source of pride, apart from our TV dramas. I close with two quotes that just remind me of the massive importance of the past… If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree… according to Michael Crichton… Study the past if you want to define the future… Confucius.

Ceiling painting in the Palazzo Constabili

Ceiling painting in the Palazzo Costabili

 

 

Creating a Funeral – A Journey into an Unknown Land – without Front or Back

Many of us die without any kind of ritual or funeral. Those unfortunate enough to die far from home, victim to the cruelties or vagaries of man or nature may be deprived of a ceremony of departure, but more usually humans need to mark the place and time of the death of a beloved, whether they are just one day old, or 100 years. Our history, as a species carrying out rituals celebrating the end of human life through ceremony, can be charted as far back as 60,000 years before the birth of Christ, which puts many of our existing faiths in an interesting and modest place on the map of world history… P1030269

There is a move to celebrate death in a new and more creative way, focused on the sacredness of the departed. For people wanting to do things this way the established faiths don’t always deliver.  Yet free-flowing creative funerals are still encumbered by the way we’ve done them in the past… and it’s true to say just about any kind of ritual needs a beginning, middle and an end. The problem with these new kinds of funeral is that the tools — the readings, the words and the music that support the component parts of this three part structure, are not always there. When I started writing readings for funerals I didn’t realise that although I was creating ideas about unique people and circumstances of death, I was just writing content for the middle part of the funeral – www.funeralstoday.org

Now I am working on the beginning and the end readings, because it is so hard to find those bits, in fact near impossible. I have two obvious openings, one that was never intended for funerals, but has been used many times called Open the Heart, but it’s not suitable in some situations, so I wrote another, called The Moment of Opening.

P1030420It’s the closing words to the funeral that present a real problem. For those happy with tradition, The Lord’s Prayer is beautiful, but lots of people no longer resonate with biblical readings. For years now I’ve been using the Celtic Blessing (at the bottom of this page) but for some that doesn’t work either; it’s “the Son of Peace” and “God holding you in the hollow of His hand” that is just too much for some of us. So I change the words, but it still doesn’t always work. So I have set myself the tricky task of writing something that will bring spiritual and poetic closure to the service. Trouble is, the Celtic Blessing is hard to beat for sheer beauty and brilliance.  There is a nice musical version called The Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter, which shows that it’s possible to churn out authentic sacred music in the 21st Century, although it must be said, these words have astonishing power when spoken aloud.

Celtic Blessing

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall softly upon your fields
Until we meet again…
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand

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Enuff Already – I Need to Larf!

Sitting in a taxi listening to the news being read out, we were treated to a flabbergasting list of suffering and pain – shootings, despair, disease, death and destruction to name but a few. As in one voice (altogether now) the driver and I screamed “Enough! Enough!”
searchIt occurred to me that we don’t have to feel guilty about falling about with helpless laughter (thank you very much) and is it possible that all news is sad and sorrowful? With this in mind I turned my thoughts to the great literary tragedies that we have all been brought up on, and love so much, tales of sorrow, pain, death and destruction… so I decided to demolish them in spirit and sentiment in one fell swoop, and cheer myself up in these sorrowful times. Join me in this literary lurch down anti-lugubrious lane: imgresThe Picture of Doris Grey – A profoundly deep novel about Doris, a girl who keeps a Posy Simmonds cartoon of herself in the attic and stays young and beautiful for so long… that her name comes back in fashion.images

Romeo and Jeremy – A story of two star-crossed gay folk in the fast lane who live happily ever after.

 

Rosemary and Juliet – The thrilling legend of two girls that run off to Brighton and stay on permanent holiday for the rest of their lives.

King Leer – Fable of an old geezer with a reputation for being an ogling oddball, who turns out to be a surreptitious sweety, loved by all.

Julius Squeezer – A historical drama set in a BBC cookery studio about an insouciant chef who invents a gracile grater that keeps all users in a state of elegant equilibrium and graceful glory.

The Rime of the Mincing Mariner – The first lines are: It is a mincing mariner – And He stoppeth one of three – “and where are you off to tonight Ducky… Or should I say… Miss Congeniality?” The Last line is And you know what sailors are….

images-5Omelette, Prince of Danish Egg-heads.

Gertrude Jekyll and Charlie Dimmock- Hyde, an everyday horror story of gardens, starring and roses, lilacs, camellias, carnations, petunias and other double-flowered mutations.

OK so you didn’t smile? I give up. Look up “Things to Meditate on” in Google… and see if those cheer you up… tee hee… and hoho!

 

How Cremations Feature in Life and Death… Floating through the Air and impinging on the Air Waves

Yesterday I spent over two hours talking on 16 different local radio stations about cremations. The BBC had discovered that the cost of a cremation had gone up by a third in five years and wanted an interfaith minister’s take on this iniquitous hike in price, and they wanted it discussed during the Sunday morning ‘God’ slot. Clouds 4

Ten years ago pollution became a concern, so five years after that, the Government got its act together, and focused on the environmental  contamination caused by incineration. So DEFRA, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, placed legal pressure on the UK’s 300 or so crematoria, forcing them to introduce heavy-duty filters to reduce the volumes of poisonous matter being pumped into air. Apart from the pernicious glues and MDF, the worst pollutant is mercury from the teeth of those cremated. Mercury is toxic, poisoning the kidneys, the brain, affecting the nervous system, and producing problems of many kinds, some known, some unknown. It’s particularly bad for babies and young people. Mercury also travels great distance in the clouds, and then drops on us all… so we are talking about a serious public health issue… we are talking about extreme air pollution, of a dangerous and invisible kind. Clouds 6But the introduction of these mercury and toxic inhibitors over the past few years has resulted in a massive increase in the cost of cremations, which means that in the land of austerity, at a time of austerity, people with serious financial problems face even more tragic problems. They must tackle the loss of a loved one, as well as face up to the enormous cost of a standard funeral – between £3,500 and £5,500 depending on the funeral director one chooses.

The BBC and its 16 stations wanted to know what an interfaith minister made of this, and because this topic was dropped into the Sunday morning God slot, it seemed appropriate for questions to be asked. There was a lot of interest about other affordable options other than cremation, and I didn’t have time to discuss them all, but there are funeral directors out there trying to help people save money, and they can be found. There is something called direct cremation or delivery only, which is the most basic service possible, there is the possibility of selling ones body for science, and there is also a small grant from the Government – £700 for those on benefits. Burial, on the whole is not usually cheaper, unless one is a regular churchgoer, and the local cemetery has space. Burial is however a much more ecologically responsible alternative, and there are some beautiful woodland burial sites around. There is also burial on private land and something very new called Promessa. It is a good idea to think about planning ahead for ones funeral.IMG_0895

But there is another side to this altogether… we are talking about air pollution, and we are talking about everybody in this country. I reckon that air quality is something that the Government should take on as a fundamental responsibility, and the cost of keeping the air clean and our corresponding public health should not be dropped on those that are holding funerals for their loved ones. Why do we, ‘Joe Public’ always have to pay for everything? Surely the air that everyone breathes is the responsibility of the Government that taxed us all during our working lives? I commented on this during the interviews, but was not in a position to rant against this Government that wants us to pay for everything, even those institutions and welfare safety-nets that were created before this bunch of public school boys we call ”a Government” was ever born.

Perhaps HM Government should consider this: the rain of pollution falls on everyone, rich and poor alike — it does not discriminate… The quality of the air we breathe is a nation wide concern.

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to love the breeze

P1030191…But it helps. At the moment the breeze is not as I would like it. It’s cold for August, and walking through Brighton the levels of pollution have been bashing my lungs, and probably those of many others, too. On the allotment the breeze is exquisite when the wind is warmer – you get fabulous wafts of lavender, purple buddleia (yes, you can smell the purple) sweet peas and Verbena. In the wonderful world of mindfulness I dream of the floaty journeys of bees and butterflies, drawn by the most wonderful array of perfumes imaginable, and on our allotment these charming visitors get everything pure and unsprayed.P1030201 (1) It’s the breeze that carries the delicious scents, plus the seeds and the invisible particles of dust that could be anything. It’s the breeze that cools us down if one has been doing too much weeding (removing the germinated seeds) and it’s the breeze that moves so many poets and songwriters, to create everything from ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ to ‘Ride Like the Wind’.

The gentle wind is a wafty force of potential that drifts into our subconscious in a dreamy and inexplicable way. The breeze is in us and around us if you give credit to the nature of breathing. Perhaps this is why the songs about the breeze connect at the deepest level. Recently I came to appreciate the voice of Nina Simone, a sort of hooty warbling that had never done it for me… but I had to reconsider… when I heard her amazing rendition of ‘Wild is the Wind’. It is fabulous, but still (in my view) not as great as Shirley Horn’s version, which is a double entitled ‘Come A Little Closer/Wild is the Wind.’ This is breath-taking art. Also George Michael’s version of this wonderful song is definitely worth trying out… give them a try… and let me know what you think. P1030202And I say it again… you don’t have to be an environmentalist or Green to love the breeze — the pure, unpolluted breeze of nature… but it most certainly helps. Keep wafting!

 

 

 

 

Synchronicity and the Poetry of Life

Poetry – literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm

I don’t think of the readings on my website Funerals -Today as strictly poetry, but happily others do. These readings are mostly (by my reckoning) lyrical words written to recite at funerals and memorial services.

Since I started to write funeral readings eight years ago, I noticed something weird and wonderful often happens… it seems that the synchronicity of life produces patterns whereby some readings are well used at one moment, while others that were used a year ago feel and even sound all wrong. There are definite moments of popularity and preference. Is it fashion? The season? Zeitgeist?

Over the last three months it seems that a lot of strong, elderly ladies have passed away. Summer is not a season for many people to die, but this year there have been many deaths, and nearly all of them have been elderly, powerful ladies who seemed to be at the centre of extended families. And so the most widely used reading on the Funerals-Today website is one called The Matriarch.  The families I served at funerals chose this reading and it has been accepted without question. This happened so often, I started to find it a little uncanny… so when I went to visit one family, without a copy of the reading on me – thinking that the lady concerned might have been too young to have been described as a matriarch – the family carefully explained the reading they wanted, an explanation so specific that I had to get out my iphone, and recite The Matriarch to them; they responded saying that these were exactly the words they wanted, as if they had written them themselves. Apparently ‘Synchronicity’ is all about events that are more connected by meaning than cause. Suddenly things happen that fall into patterns that appear at very particular moments in life.

Scan 4Scan 1ScanHere are three pictures of my fabulous maternal grandmother, with her kids. Her name was Annie Victoria Schoental (later Marks) born November 20, 1887, died June 1985 – 30 years ago.

 

She was the matriarch of matriarchs  – brilliant, beautiful, brave and authoritarian. She went out to work to support her three children when her husband failed her, selling insurance door to door and playing the piano for silent movies. I think The Matriarch reading is dedicated to her… and some might even call it poetry.