Monday, 12 January 2015

Infinite Variety

Bridge over splash pools on the Watkin Path

There are words, people and places that are worth revisiting - over and over and over again. Custom does not stale them. Their infinite variety is in their ability to create and maintain a lively connection within me. The necessity for change occurs only when that bond becomes broken.

Sunday, 11 January 2015



Adrift in the liberating, late light
of August, delicate, frivolous,
they make their way to my front porch
and flutter near the glassed-in bulb,
translucent as a thought suddenly
wondered aloud, illumining the air
that's thick with honeysuckle and dusk.
You and I are doing our best
at conversation, keeping it light, steering clear
of what we'd like to say.
You leave, and the night becomes
cluttered with moths, some tattered,
their dumbly curious filaments
startling against my cheek. How quickly,
instinctively, I brush them away.
Dazed, they cling to the outer darkness
like pale reminders of ourselves.
Others seem to want so desperately
to get inside. Months later, I'll find
the woolens, snug in their resting places,
full of missing pieces.

Jennifer O’Grady

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Listening to What the River Says

River Llugwy, Bettws y Coed

The river was in full voice today - a force to be reckoned with. I thought of this poem by William Stafford, and about the constant changing nature of things.

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made.  Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.  Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait.  We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Kryptonite Factor

Today's prompt was to weigh up whether I had more good or bad habits.  I believe that I probably do have more good ones than bad. My reasoning being that I have not become a social pariah to date. So rather than discuss habits - good or bad - any further, I started to think more in terms of personal strengths and vulnerabilities.

I think it is well worth checking in with our personal strengths on a regular basis. For me, it is all about knowing myself and keeping acquainted with who I am. In her book "The Gifts of Imperfection", Brene Brown uses the terms "superpower" and "kryptonite". Kryptonite is the behaviour pattern that unravels us. It is like a strength taken too far. For example, if a strength is to be an attentive listener, the kryptonite might be a tendency to remain silent when we need to speak up, or to become overly passive. Kryptonite is usually the reason why we feel vulnerable, negated or depleted.

I find it useful to reflect on whether and/or how my strengths have been sapped by the kryptonite factor - because you always start from the position of the strength.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Drawing Conclusions

Mexican bowl with soup

“I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever.” 
― Beatrix Potter

A couple of years ago I decided to write and illustrate a journal as a special present for a friend. The drawing would be a challenge for me as I had no experience or practice of doing it. My first illustrations were tentative. I drew with a black pen and introduced colour with water colour pencils. My intention was to draw each day for a month and as the days passed I found my level of absorption deepening, and that I looked forward to the time I set aside for drawing.

A friend once introduced me to the practice of Zen tangling. Basically, this is abstract and intuitive line drawing using a black pen on white paper. The paper is meant to measure 3.5 inches square, and the process is like a type of mindful and meditative doodling. I enjoyed this drawing too.

As F M Alexander said - 'End gaining is a universal habit'. It is the
tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means-whereby the result is achieved. Zen tangling is meant as an antidote to this.

I would like to reintroduce both these types of drawing back into my daily routine.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Breathing - a habit worth remembering

"Conscious breathing is my anchor". Thich Nhat Hanh

There is such a profound simplicity in remembering to come back to the breath.

"From birth to death this function of in-breathing and out-breathing continues without a break, without a stop, but since we do not consciously reflect on it, we do not even realize the presence of this breath. If we do so, we can derive much benefit by way of calm and insight".

The poem below made me think again of those excruciatingly painful moments of witnessing the last out-breath of those we love.

Still Life

I shall not soon forget
The greyish-yellow skin
To which the face had set:
Lids tight:nothing of his,
No tremor from within,
Played on the surfaces.
He still found breath, and yet
It was an obscure knack.
I shall not soon forget
The angle of his head,
Arrested and reared back
On the crisp field of bed,
Back from what he could neither
Accept, as one opposed,
Nor, as a life-long breather,
Consentingly let go,
The tube his mouth enclosed
In an astonished O.

Thom Gunn

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Letting Go

Today's prompt was to write about a habit that I had tried to break but had failed to do so.

Firstly, I have an aversion to the word break. It reminds me of that phrase used in relation to horses - to "break in". It pains me to think that the spirit of such a magnificent being has to be broken in any way.

I also think that the more I might fixate on ridding myself of a habit the more tenaciously it might cling to me. So rather than break habits that do not serve me, I intend to bring a more compassionate awareness to them. Rather than pry off the fingers of the habit, I shall learn to gracefully let go.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Habit of Harsh Words to the Self

In her book, Ruth Baer identifies self-criticism as a psychological trap. She makes a distinction between constructive self-criticism and unconstructive self-criticism. 

Constructive criticism provides specific insight into what went wrong and what to do differently next time. It’s considerate and respectful and it speaks to both strengths and weaknesses.

Unconstructive self-criticism is vague, inconsiderate, judges the person and is unbalanced.

An unhelpful habit of mine is to be self-critical in the unconstructive way. I need to practise non violent communication with myself.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Letting the Forest Find You

Six years ago I came to live in a cottage in the forest. In 2008 I wrote - "Life in the forest is heightened by having a minimum and living more fully...I feel that I have found the fulcrum - acknowledging that up and down, lost and found are essentially places along the way. I feel connected to the raven's raggedness, the branches' bareness and to the emptiness and fullness of the moon. I find feathers loose amongst the leaf meal that lift with the wind, as if the will to fly could resurrect - and perhaps it can".

A friend recently sent me this information:

"Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that means "forest bathing". The idea being that spending time in the forest and natural environments  is good preventitive medicine.  "The "magic" behind forest bathing is due to the naturally produced allelochemic substances known as phytoncides. When humans are exposed to phytoncides, these chemicals are scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, relieve stress and boost the growth of white blood cells. Some common examples of plants that give off phytoncides include garlic, onion, pine, tea tree and oak".

The forest is part of my daily existence.  As a Poetry Therapist, I work with individuals and groups, walking and writing in the forest. I know how it helps to heal.

I often read this poem at the start of  my "Treading Softy" sessions.


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner

Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Dog Has Always Answered

Running in the forest with my border collie Nel is a regular practice that brings me great joy. I feel privileged to have her companionship - to share her exuberance, witness her intelligence and be the recipient of her immense loyalty. The forest is a special place for us. It helped heal us both.


Sometimes we saw shadows of gods
in the trees; silenced, we went on.
Sometimes the dog would bound off
over the snow, into the forest.
Sometimes a tree had twenty
or more black turkeys in it, each
seeming the size of a small black bear.
We remember them for their care
for their kind ever since we watched the big hen
in the very top of the tree shaking
load after load of apples down to the flock.
Sometimes I felt I would never
come out of the woods, I thought
its deeper darkness might absorb me
or feed me to the black turkeys
and I would cry out for the dog
and the dog would not answer.

           Galway Kinnell

Friday, 2 January 2015

Marvel and Stare

A friend from America sent this card which arrived today. It reads, "If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare". Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Yesterday, I started the January NaBloPoMo challenge. The theme for January is "Habit". The prompt for today asked about any successful resolutions I had made throughout the years. One dictionary definition of "resolution" is "the firm decision to do or not do something". I think perhaps the most effective "resolutions" are those that enter us almost subconsciously, as through osmosis - we take in from the root of our need and lift it to every leaf. So without really knowing how and when it happened, I resolved to marvel and stare - to witness the extraordinary in the ordinary.

"And that has made all the difference".

Thursday, 1 January 2015


The first day of a new year - a time for resolutions.

In "Walden" Henry David Thoreau wrote:

"I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and
reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ”

And so I resolve to bring simplicity into my being and doing.