How We Love

I’ve been stalling, putting it off, but sometime in the next couple of weeks, I need to temporarily shut down the blog for some work that has to be done over at the server. I say “temporarily”, but tech-savvy friends have told me, sadly, that things often go wrong when you change root domains.

Even if I back up my content before I initiate the process, I could lose all of the subscribers I have left and that’s the heartbreaking part. Those of you who still read this and who have stayed with me through bustling bistro days and cyber-hibernation silences are very, very special to me.

If you want to reconnect with me again, I know you’ll find a way; the domain name will stay the same and most of you have my blog email address. But if this is it, if this really is the end of my blogging journey here because I lose what’s left of the blog’s quiet continuity, I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite songs, from my favourite singer-songwriter. It describes how I feel about about life, love, legacy and us.

I believe with all my heart that if you’re still reading this, if you still visit this blog, then you’re a kind, supportive person, a detail lover, a creative who wants to connect with others, with your best self and the world around you.

Some days you feel that who you are and what you do makes a difference, because you do little things with great love and presence.

Some days I can almost hear your creative soul screaming with pain as you wonder why you bother.

But still, you connect, you go online to enjoy the journey home to yourself; you seek out people and places who make you feel like you belong, like you make a difference.

Rightly or wrongly, that’s the you I’ve always written for, the you who makes me feel grateful for the gift of your presence.

Please wish my wee bloggling luck. I feel like I’m about to watch a loved one being wheeled in for elective surgery. ~ Janice

If the YouTube video doesn’t work for you – and I’m sorry, I’ve tried but have NO idea how to fix the UK/rest of the world  problem – then please try it on your version of YouTube or simply buy the track or the album. I promise you, How We Love is worth it.

How We Love ~ by Beth Nielsen Chapman

Life has taught me this
Every day is new
And if anything is true
All that matters when we’re through is how we love

Faced with what we lack
Some things fall apart
But from the ashes new dreams start
All that matters to the heart is how we love

How we love, how we love
With the smallest act of kindness
In a word, a smile, a touch

In spite of our mistakes
Chances come again
If we lose or if we win
All that matters in the end is how we love

How we love, how we love
I will not forget your kindness
When I needed it so much

Sometimes we forget
Trying to be so strong
in this world of right and wrong
All that matters when we’re gone
All that mattered all along
All we have that carries on… is how we love

Learning from Trees

In Greece, at the corner of the church square near my school, there was a solitary evergreen tree, a pittosporum tobira, rising triumphantly from the concrete; when it blossomed, it filled the whole square with its scent, and every evening, before I walked home or joined friends in a seaside taverna, I’d stand under it and breathe it in like a prayer. I still remember the deep brown eyes of the young man who first told me its local name in Greek – angelikí – as he plucked a waxy white blossom and silently gave it to me.

All through my life, no matter where I’ve lived, I’ve always had favourite trees. I just didn’t realise it until I was sitting in tears, in a supermarket car park the other day, parked under what I’ve been thinking of these last few years as The Crying Tree. Often, after visits to my my 91 year old dad’s house, to do his shopping, or take him out, I park there till I’m calm and collected enough for the long drive home, along narrow, winding roads, through hills and valleys that require full concentration. Stuck there in a city, between a fenced off car park and a busy road, with nothing but scraggy, prickly bushes at its feet for company, it seems to understand the overwhelm, exhaustion and stuckness that can come from being a sandwich generation daughter, a menopausal mother whose teenagers have recently left home. Yet it expects nothing, asks for nothing in return for its constancy and sheltering branches.

When I got home, and logged on, I found this excerpt from Cigdem Kobu’s Homecoming course in my inbox.

(Excerpt from Bäume, Betrachtungen und Gedichte, Hermann Hesse)

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.

In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.

Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Meet the Kid

I gave up the gun-toting five decades ago, and these days, all I corral are thoughts and ideas, but this is still pretty much me… pathetic eyebrows, huge soulful eyes, unflattering hair and a pen and notepad surgically attached. I no longer own a plastic horse or look after a herd of cuddly toys, but when I nurture my inner child, this is how she shows up. A loner, bright and bullied, who always felt a bit like a foreigner, at home in her head, in other languages, other lands, making up languages and teaching them to those same, obliging cuddly toys.

Our class at primary school was part of an experiment in teaching kids to read and write using a system called ITA, which was based on the international phonetic alphabet. ita policeman book

Here’s an example of one of our text books. Many of the kids in my class suffered because their families couldn’t help them to read and write, then suffered again when they had to transition back to normal English, which, ironically, was like a second language for us anyway, as we all spoke mining village Scots outside the classroom. Luckily, I not only coped with the language swapping, but thrived and went on to become a linguist, language teacher and translator.

In some ways I became a translator of life, too, as a parent and later, a life coach, helping folk make sense of their own lives and translate their dreams into action.

My favourite TV shows are still made in the USA, I’m still obsessed with clapboard houses and wooden porches and I still spend a ridiculous amount of time in my head or with a notebook, hoping to be a writer when I grow up.Puppies and Kittens (ITA version)

Who were you as a child?

How do you nurture your inner child?

What were the signs back then of your essence, your destinies, the person you are now?

When was the last time you and your inner kid went out to play?

I buy my inner child pens and notebooks, coloured yarn, DVD’s and books as presents. What do you buy yours?