Between the Bricks

Meanderings of a grown up girl

Water

I tread upon the ancient earth
Of mountains rising far and wide,
Where life itself to life gave birth,
And gods and goddesses reside.

I dip my cup and bow my head
To drink of sweetest water,
In honour of ancestral dead,
Your grateful Himalayan daughter.

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Swim Strong My Son

 

What is this tranquil scene upon a lotus pond
that stretches far and wide,
and captures all the silence in one breath?
A painted canopy of rural life,
transformed of horrors beyond belief,
to cool blue calm,
a past – hushed,
thrust to distant times,
beyond reach,
no place,
no space
within the pause of this most pleasant scene.

As swallows dart and dive and dip their wings,
skimming the fluid surface,
and pristine white butterflies glide gently on a luscious breeze,
fluttering from one soft grass to another,
the water,
smooth and dark,
glassy,
embroidered with islands of succulent green,
embellished from time to time with blooms of deepest pink,
soothes them all.

Here and there humankind skims the surface too,
in search of life within.
Aquatic dreams fit for half-clad fishermen,
who cast their bamboo rods from bamboo stilts,
and bend like bamboo switches eager for an evening catch,
knowing the sun will fall within the hour,
when everything transforms,
when soft blue light of day yellows,
and yellow fades to orange and orange again transforms;
and when the pink light comes,
the fisherman,
for now just one remains,
knowing,
as he does so every day,
as his father taught him
and he now his son,
that when the pink light comes,
when the pink light comes – make haste.

Make haste my son,
do not delay,
for twilight wraps her cloak,
She casts her shadows far and wide upon us fisherfolk.
Her patience does not tarry,
she paints the evening black,
make haste my son to lift these fish upon your lithesome back.
Home cooking fires await you,
your ma awaits you too,
she beckons with a homeward song:
My legacy, my life, my love, my son,
Swim strong my son swim strong.

 
(From Travels Across Cambodia)

I Am Not My Name

I am not my name today.
The name that crawled into tiny spaces,
The name that knew before the first word was uttered,
when simply knowing was still enough.

I am not my name today.
The one I never belonged to,
When belonging mattered – and love.
The one that crouched between the bricks,
That hid in bathrooms,
Makeshift safe havens under lock and key.

I am not that name that knelt on pebbled beach when mummy wept,
Not knowing why.
No knowledge of her pain,
No premonition of my own pain yet.

I am not that name that screamed and stamped, bewildered
by loss and grief, confusion
not permitted to express.
No more words, no sound,
Just silent lips and body for one whole year –
Though not in head!

I am not the name that felt the shadows pass.
The ones that trespass night and day,
Tempting a glimpse of other worlds.
Nor that name,
Arrived from distant lands
with foreign tongue and other’s recollections.

I am not the name that fell short of love and loving in return.
Or the name that long ago zipped up the bubble from the inside – the safe side –
Gazing out, gazed at unwelcome,
And most definitely never heard!

I am not the name that ruined everything
because everything felt too good to be true!
Deserve?
Such an inconceivable word!

I am not the name that shared a life created.
A tiny life, a momentary life
just visiting.
Ripped from womb,
A womb transformed into a tomb,
Cold, stone, closed.

I am not my name today,
Nor any other name,
Not this one, not that one,
The one I sometimes prefer,
Nor the one I supposed was mine,
Though now I know that neither are.

These names I did not choose.
They are not mine.
I am not my name today.
I do not need to be named.

I am spent

I am spent,
I am invisible now, to all
save those with eyes to see.

I do not mind,
I’ve lived a thousand years, and now
I see how it is meant to be.

And though,
I sometimes long for what I do not know
and cannot be,
I recall the words he spoke –
Accept, accept, accept!

He spoke them thrice and three times I heard,
Accept, accept, accept!

Do not cry.
Do not shed tears.
Accept, accept, accept!

Birdsong

There is a breath that takes us to the end,
But not today my friend, not today!

Today is full of birdsong and sunlight
and a warm soft breeze that whispers in my ear…
“I’ll tell you a story if you want to listen.”

Oh I do, I do, I do!

Giant bamboo dances to the story of the breeze,
Swaying, gently at first and then with wild abandon.

I want to dance wildly like bamboo! I long to abandon myself too…
No self, no me, no need to be,
Just nothing is enough.

Birds sing of far away places,
Of winged adventures,
Of a life short lived,
Though courageous.

Take me with you little bird.
I will close my eyes and follow you.
I will dream your dreams along the way
as we fly beyond.

There I will stay…drifting…until it is my last breath,
But not today my friend, not today.

 

Mae Mut, 3 December, 2017 (Edited)

Together

Give me your hand and I will dance with you!
I will smile and laugh and sing with you!
I will cry with you, and then
I will dry your tears.
And when it’s time for you to choose
to unlock a different door,
I will walk with you.
This I will do if you take my hand.
For when you give me yours,
You take mine.

(Sharpham, 16 October, 2017)

The First Time You Meet Me

When you meet me for the first time, please don’t ask me, “Where are you from?” Don’t ask me, “What do you do for a living?” Or tell me, “Oh, I thought you must be from the UK because you sound soooo English!” Why do you care about my accent or which country I was born in? It is not my accent that defines me nor where I was born that I belong.

If you are truly interested in who I am, then ask me what I believe in. Be curious about my passions. Find out what makes me feel happy and joyful. And yes, what makes my heart bleed too!

I don’t care what your job is, how much money you make or where you live. I care if you feel connected to what you see around you, whatever that is. A rising block of concrete, metal pipes and jazzy lights or a swaying bamboo grove. It doesn’t matter. But what do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? That does!

I don’t care about your politics or what football team you support. What religion you practise or god you bow down to. I don’t care what rituals you follow, what law you feel tied to, who you love or how you choose to spend your time. I care if you are kind to your brothers and sisters, the ones you know and the ones you do not. I care if you honour every single speck of life on this planet for its place and its purpose. I care if you are curious to learn and evolve as a part of the environment around you, not because you think you are above it. And I care if you recognise this wondrous gift called life.

So when we first meet, please don’t ask me where I am from. Don’t assume that you know. Instead, let’s both take a moment, step back and observe. Silence speaks volumes. It allows us to hear.  In fact, the first time you meet me, don’t ask me anything at all.

Before you go a-wandering

This morning I woke up in the place I call home feeling well and strong, blessed and grateful, following a small operation and several nights stay in hospital. I gently disentangled myself from my cat who was snuggled up against me under the duvet, went out onto the verandah of my little wooden house and absorbed the misty mountain view. It was a very chilly morning. I fed my cat, lit a candle in my meditation room and made myself a cup of fresh coffee, as is my usual habit each morning. By this time it was just past 7.00am.

Mornings and evenings are cold at this time of year in the mountains of northern Thailand. Socks and thermal vest under pink pyjamas and a woolly jumper kept me warm as I sat on the verandah sipping my mug of fresh Lazy Man Coffee. And as I sat there breathing in the myriad tones of greens that appeared before me with the changing light and listened to the waking sounds of the farm, my mind wandered to all those who do not, who cannot and who will never see what I see. I found my heart expanding, especially to Aleppo. To her people, to the bloodshed, the destruction, the pain, the sorrow, the loss, the grief, the bewilderment, the devastation, the rubble, the cries, the grey – the mist of a different kind. My heart saw people across the globe – too many people – in a similar predicament. And my heart bled. Yet I did not feel sad. Not in that broken kind of way. The way you feel when you just can’t deal with the thought of any more suffering around you because it leaves you so numb and exhausted, feeling hopeless and impotent because you are not doing anything to help! Not because you don’t care but because you feel so helpless!  I don’t feel that any more. I used to, but not now. I’m not sure exactly why not. Yet I know instinctively it’s not a negative change. Is it foolish to believe that if I can feel something or even imagine something good hard enough, I can experience it on behalf of someone else? Can I see and experience joy and love and beauty for others? I believe I can.

I’ve seen so many posts on social media recently, read articles and watched soundbites about what a terrible year 2016 has been. The worst year! The pits! Annus horribilus! How glad people will be when it is over!

It has indeed been a horrible and shocking year on a global scale in so many ways. Undeniably individuals have suffered and continue to suffer horrors that we are all too slow to do something about! We have all had our personal challenges too and some still have their crosses to bear. But how can we decide upon resolutions to make things better, to turn towards the light instead of slipping into the abyss, if we do not, either individually, or globally, experience failure, loss and disappointment? We do not have to suffer (unless we choose to) but neither do we have to leave the world to suffer too, wallowing in helplessness and despair and the belief that we cannot make a difference. Each morning as I wake and feel my body, the blood pumping through my veins and the breath in my lungs, I know I have another day to experience and learn; I have another opportunity to change myself, and for that I am happy and grateful. I am grateful for every day. Has this year been any better or worse than any other? Or has it simply – been?

The words of Jana Stanfield often come to mind at times like this, “I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.” I believe it is increasingly important that each and every one of us starts small. We don’t have to all climb mountains. It’s ok. There are lots of little hills to conquer first! Be the stone that creates ripples when you throw it in a pond. Be that spark of energy that affects another, that fuels the fire that spreads far and wide. Be the catalyst that ignites a chain reaction that can and will make a global difference. Frustration and despair, annoyance, grief and anger all have their place. It’s ok and positively healthy to express these emotions. They are not good they are not bad. Just don’t let them define you.

Be the change you want to see in others or the world around you. I know it sounds cliched but it is fundamentally the truth. You can affect change. Each and every one of us can affect change. Whether it’s that we want to improve a relationship with a family member, persuade our boss to another point of view, improve our own life in some way or convince our local community that every diverse and different human being has something positive to bring to the table. Just like the Hawaiian shamanistic practice of Ho’oponopono, if you want to heal the world – first heal yourself!

On that note, I’m currently rereading The Alchemist (Paulo Cohello). It feels like the right time to reread it. It’s a good reminder that the treasure we seek is within us. There it lies all the while we go a-wandering! Ironically however we must first embark on a journey to understand that. For it is the journey and the experience of it that teaches us all what we need to know.

Songs of the Lilly

There is a lily in a pond that sings to me
a song of love and peace and golden times
when man held hands with man because he understood.
He understood that connection is stronger than separation
and acceptance of differences profoundly more rewarding than dismissing others,
because they are not other.
There is no other!

There is a lily in a pond that sings to me across the water
a mournful song of longing.
A longing for an end to hate-filled rhetoric, of cunning and unabashed ignorance,
of machinations designed to blind, divide and splinter all that was once whole,
was content with that wholeness.

There is a lily in a pond that sings to me
songs that break my heart into tiny precious pieces.
Seven billion fragments of blood and tears,
of sweat and bone and pain and courage,
of perseverance, compassion and everything in-between.
Of good and bad and right and wrong,
of male and female and everything in-between.
Every fragment is part of me too,
but when there is division I am not whole –
and I want to be whole again!

There is a lily in a pond that sings to me
a song of remembrance of who I am – and of you,
and who we are together.
You are not other.
I am not other.
There is no other.
Sing louder lily, I beg you sing louder!
Sing louder so that more may hear and pause and see and understand and then,                     only then, this bleeding heart can rest and bleed no more.

RENAISSANCE

I took back my breath today!
I gasped, and air as sweet and pure as the first day, filled my lungs
and I looked.
Clouds wrote in the sky.
They told me dusk was drawing near. Soon, not yet but soon, I still had time.
So I stopped a while and looked – and when I looked I saw.
A Sun, as bold and bright and white as any light I’d seen,
Angelic rays encompassed valley wide.
And every minute blade of grass in every mound and trough surrendered, peaceful, content to bathe in early evening glory.
Gentle mountains, undulating hills of green,
Hues of emerald and olive, sage and lime – and more – rolled out in grainy texture.
Such comfort for my eyes! Respite for my soul – unencumbered.

I took back my breath today – and gasped again for you!
What do you see now? What do you feel now? Who hands you succour in this age of crisis, grief, violation and death?
I am so sorry. I am so sorry it cannot be you, too!
I long for you to view this same vista,
My sister. My sister. My sister!
I long for greens and blues and gentle browns to take the place of black shrouds and jagged grey of rubble and all that’s broken; and blood stained garments.

I stopped a while and looked – and when I looked I saw.
That every minute blade of grass, in every mound and trough, emblazoned in bright white light bore
your names…

Women of Syria, I bow down to you!
Women of Iraq, I bow down to you!
Women of Palestine, I bow down to you!
Women of Afghanistan, I bow down to you!
Women of Iran, I bow down to you!
Women of Israel, I bow down to you!
Women of Pakistan, I bow down to you!
Women of Kurdistan, I bow down to you!
Women of Burma, I bow down to you –
Women of Somalia, I bow down to you,
Women of Central African Republic, I bow down to you!
Women of the Congo, I bow down to you,
Women of Sierra Leone, I bow down to you!
Women of Mali, I bow down to you!
Women of Nigeria and your lost daughters, I bow down to you!
Women of Rwanda, I bow down to you!
Women of Thailand, I bow down to you!

Women
of every ethnicity, in every nation, of every age, every struggle,
Every displaced, abused, violated, murdered – grandmother, mother and child,

I see you, I see you, I see you!
I see for you,
I breathe for you!

(Chiang Mai, Thailand, 28th September, 2014)