Hyacinths and Silence

In Hebrew, the words spirituality and fragrance have a shared grammatical origin and are therefore almost identical: the word for “spirit” is Ruach and for “scent” is Reach. This reflects the ancient belief that sanctity is characterized by divine fragrance. ~Dr. Naomi Poran

My mother-in-law has just phoned to say that she and my husband’s stepfather are on the top of  a mountain.  They’ve been married for a year and we gave them a book called 501 Day Trips in the UK when they were visiting us this weekend. The weather is blue sky glorious and they’ve just tried out one of the suggestions in the book – a trip up the Cairngorm mountains on a funiculaire. She was brimming over with happiness and it warmed my heart.

Family get-togethers can leave me fraught and frazzled if I’m unable to retreat into silence to recharge my depleted energy, so before they came to visit – they left today – I filled my home with flowering potted plants and jugs and vases of flowers; French lavender, fresh daisies, yellow carnations with red tinged petals, rust-red gerberas with golden centres and a jug of fragrant hyacinths and freesias. If ever I felt frustrated, saddened or on the brink of angry blurting, I went into the kitchen and stuck my face deep into their heady scent and inhaled their healing fragrance. (I wish you could smell them below!)freesias-and-hyacinths-cropped

Be still. A daily practice of silence bears gifts — a heightened sensitivity to beauty, deep inner peace, and a profound feeling of connectedness to all living things. ~ Cheryl Richardson

Recognising our challenges and acknowledging each other’s humanity is a vital step towards finding peace and claiming our personal power.  If you have a challenging relationship with your in-laws, maybe even your parents, I hope the following article helps. It appeared in my Coaching Moments column in 2007  and describes an experience that helped me turn a corner. I was reminded that change has to come from deep inside us, while help can come from the most surprising places.

I’m still evolving, still learning, still doing my very, very best to honour the person who gave birth to my husband, and that phone call today was a moment to treasure. 

I’m also trying to teach my children that we contribute to our own pain when we expect people and situations to be different from how they actually are; when we resist what is.

The Gunless Game

The woods were made for the hunters of dreams
The brooks for the fishers of song
To the hunters who hunt for the gunless game
The streams and the woods belong.  ~ Sam Walter Foss

A few weeks ago, my widowed mother-in-law phoned to tell us she’d got engaged on a dance floor to the lovely man she’s been seeing for a long time. I was delighted!               
One of my biggest coaching challenges over the past few years has been trying to improve the fragile relationship I have with her. Fortunately for both of us, the more I evolve as a coach, the easier it gets. Twenty years down the line, I no longer feel the urge to slam the door and storm off cursing. At best, we’ve enjoyed an uneasy truce spanning two decades but I really want to make our relationship the best it can be for all our sakes.

I’ve tried to do the work on why I let her affect me so much, constantly asking myself what my feelings say about me. What am I scared of? What do I dislike about myself? How can I get rid of the shoulds, accept what is and change my thoughts? She is, after all, a decent woman, a good woman who in addition to raising a family, has had a challenging life, devotedly looking after her wheelchair-bound husband until he died. I keep coming up with the same answers; the sad truth is we’re both judgemental and I can’t be my best self, my authentic, creative self with her. We simply wouldn’t have chosen each other even though we both love the same man – my husband, her son.

It’s a drizzly, damp, grey day today and I’ve been daydreaming at the kitchen sink, remembering one of my mother-in-law’s visits a while ago.

She’d travelled the length of the country to visit us. As I couldn’t do any coaching, I’d decided it was a chance to practise at home instead, getting rid of old stories and any stuff of my own that had been stopping me from moving forward. Here was my chance to communicate from a clean place, relish her as the woman who gave birth to my wonderful husband, respect her humanity, her limits and the difficult, stressful life she’s had. I decided to say less, listen well and use my intuition to hone in on her needs.

If the first few hours had been a coaching session, I suspect I would have excelled at silently relishing the truth about fraught relationships with in-laws, but not much else. I would have failed Step 2 of the IAC exam miserably, and not just for having an agenda and trying too hard!

So my husband decided we should all spend the day at a deer and falconry park. His reasoning? Plenty of open space to wander around in, lots of things to see and do and game wardens with tranquiliser guns close at hand.

After some hot Scotch broth in a café with tartan tablecloths, I found myself relaxing as we strolled around and encountered all kinds of deer. In one enclosure, I sprinkled some dried food pellets on the ground for a small Muntjak deer and couldn’t resist stroking her rough coat as she ate. Suddenly, she stopped eating and reached her head up towards me. As I stood there stroking the soft, beige fur under her ear, the world stood still. Nothing mattered except two creatures gently breathing – connecting silently on a grey day in a damp Scottish field. I have no idea how long we stood like that until, startled by the arrival of another family, she bounded off.

I smiled gently to myself and the whole weekend took on a warmth and connection I would never have dreamt possible. The universe always makes sure we get what we really need. All we have to do is reach out and trust that we’ll find perfection in the silences.


Every day, I make time to bask in moments of silence and the fragrance of flowers. When I lived by the sea, I walked, watched, breathed in deeply…
What helps you heal?


  1. I can attest to your comment about living by the sea and just breathing in the sea air. Other than that meditating helps me to heal. Silence. Pure and simple.

    Walking my dog Ellie is another sure way to calm me down and centre me.

    Marc´s last blog post..5 Ways to Take Control of Your Life

  2. I love your opening quote about the etymological kinship between fragrance and god. There are many things in my life that can heal me and calm me and make me feel holy. But your quote reminds me of the time I spent at a Trappist Monastery. Each evening after compline was sung, I would re-enter the oaken nave (bathed in light as the sun went down) and breathe in the deep, lingering fragrance of the incense. To this day, I cannot breathe the fragrance of incense and not be transported back to this memory of holy calm.

    Chania Girl´s last blog post..Happiness 101

  3. Hi Janice,

    This post was what I needed to read this morning. Thank you my dear friend for sharing your heart with all of us.

    As for what helps me heal…great question. Being by the beach does wonders for my soul. However, since I do not live by the beach, what helps me heal is being with my thoughts and seeing things as I need to see them and not how others want me to see. So when I am need of healing, I go to the bookstore or a local Starbucks where I get my drink and just wander around. Inevitably I am led to the perfect book which then leads to the perfect realization and then I feel stronger again.

    Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog post..Happily Ever After?

  4. I’m touched by the beauty and wisdom of your post (again), dear Janice!

    Play is healing for me, many forms, especially those where I have a direct experience of my (embodied) aliveness with body sensing and/or freedom of imagination.

    I like to play with associations around a concept, so choose the shorter word:

    H-ere (in the present)
    E-mbrace (what is now real for me)
    A-ware (associated inner sensations)
    L-ive (both “live what is so now” and “feel what is live in this moment”

    So it’s not a once-and-for-all healing, rather repeatedly becoming aware of my aliveness, an embracing attitude that increases my equanimity. Again and again…

  5. Thank you to everyone who’s commented. I’m sorry these are so short. I’m still a bit weary and worn out from the weekend.

    @ Marc,
    Soooo jealous. I ache to be near the sea again.

    @Chania Girl,
    Incense does it for me, too. I light it at home but there’s nothing to beat the smell of a Greek church. There was one in the square next to my school and I used to slip in for some peace and silence and to light candles during breaks between classes.

    I’ve bought most of my favourite books through synchronicity. I actually did some reading with a quotebook today to try and build my spiritual strength back up!

    You are so talented! This is a fantastic acronym, easy to remember yet very powerful. I’m glad you read this post; you are one of the few people who know how hard I’ve worked over the years to build my relationship with my husband’s mum. And your wisdom always reminds me that I don’t play enough. It always refreshes me when I do.

  6. Janice,
    I commend you for how hard you have worked on your relationship with your mother-in-law. Too often, people write off those types of relationships as hopeless. The phone call from atop the mountain is a testament to your ability to see past obstacles.

    Your quote at the top was very timely as I am in the middle of putting together a post on how scent affects us emotionally. It’s almost like you’ve read my mind. You’re good like that.

    What helps me heal? The sound of rushing water. Hearing birds singing before I get out of bed. 80’s songs. The vivid colors of spring. Walking. Irish dancing. Teaching children. Listing my blessings. The complementary red and green of a tomato plant. Sunbathing at the pool. The library. Ice cream. Friends who say the right thing at the right time.
    Trivial Pursuit. Sleeping in front of a fan on a hot summer afternoon.

    Randi´s last blog post..Sign My Guestbook!

  7. Hi Janice,
    Today I strangely felt to reconcile with an old friend who helped me, but took me for granted (as many times it happens). I thought I need to remember his help rather than dwell on his misdeeds, or some unkind words about me. I took the phone and called him.
    I’m so happy that you reconcile with your mother in law, with the perspective that she gave birth to your loving husband. What a great thought! I too have a strained relationship with my in laws. We often argue on that. I felt my good and beautiful wife is a gift from her.
    Whatever may be the other person, let’s not stop loving him or her. I felt we have no business to think otherwise.
    Really, your post has opened many insights which otherwise we won’t see.
    Great spin on how to heal ourselves… meditation.
    Beach also helps me as Nadia says… the high tide flushes out the anger, hurt etc; and the low tide takes in the good of all.
    Thanks for sharing a very personal feeling of yours, it has a greater purpose to serve (it served in touching us, and many more). Hence, it came through you!

    Solomon´s last blog post..How to unshackle your writing muse?

  8. @Solomon,
    “the high tide flushes out the anger, hurt etc; and the low tide takes in the good of all.” This is a great image! I hope some of these ideas help. Just sitting reading longer posts helps, too. It creates little oases of calm, reminding us that blogging doesn’t always need to be rushed. That sense of calm then filters through to our relationships.
    In among that lovely list, I can feel a space for “chatting by pool with Scottish friend”. You’re such a positive person – your warmth comes across in print! I look forward to your post on fragrance. I’ve a few scent ones planned too, but they’ll keep as it’s one of my permanent obsessions!!

  9. Janice–You’re on! Sounds lovely. Let’s not forget to add the ice cream when we have our poolside chat. 🙂

    Solomon: I agree with Janice; your tide imagery is beautiful. I’m grateful we have gotten to know you. You have a way with words that is very comforting.

    Randi´s last blog post..Sign My Guestbook!

  10. Randi – can I make mine an iced frappé, please!

    One of the things I enjoy about internet life, even when I’m tired or down, is the chance it gives you to mind travel around the world – drinking iced coffee and chatting to friends you haven’t met yet!

  11. I don’t always mesh with the people in my life, my neighbors, my co-workers, my community (!) for example.

    But today when I was working in my studio, my large, male golden retriever Sunny came and put his head in my lap for some loving and as I scratched the top of his head, and he was breathing heavily, standing there with his giant mug in my lap, I realized that I am the one he needs to feel loved and secure. And I do a damned fine job of it. His opinion matters to me more than the neighbors. I know if the neighbors were open to it, I would respond with kindness. But for now there is a wall.

    Diana Maus´s last blog post..One enchanted evening

  12. Healing is a life time endeavor of maintenance. My children and best friend Sean have been the 3 grounding forces that have helped me chase away the evil (which is live spelled backwards). Today my daughter and I skipped around a duck pond, placed bread crumbs in a circle and sketched the ducks as they gobbled up the crumbs. We sang “Tomorrow” from Annie, loudly while holding hands and nothing in this world could have topped that moment after school today. My children remind me of the vitality life offers and how I have a second chance to live childhood again and do it the way I (we) feel is balanced and harmonious.

    Cindy´s last blog post..Mothers Who…

  13. @Diana,
    I hope you enjoy our international frontier crossing community here. I don’t know what your situation is with the neighbours, but keep smiling, keep sending them blessings and loving thoughts so that if you choose to let go, you can do it with some peace. And you’re right about dogs; they teach us such wonderful lessons about unconditional love.

    I am so glad you’re having this second chance to love and embrace all the wonders of childhood that were denied you. My kids keep me going on the darkest of days. I’m healing some of my own childhood pain by letting my inner child play with my kids. She was lonely growing up.

  14. Janice!
    You’ve a great expression! But the thing which normally hard to get is a PURE HEART, that too you are having. You’ve introduced me to eliminate negativity, through touching the nature. Your concept is divine, though you rarely used the spiritual language. Your simpilicity of expression can reach upto any depth.

    Let me know how you enlarge your expressions because it is natural but nobody can be born with such a talent? Who taught you this skill. To whom you attribute your skills, most?

    God bless you!


  15. Hi Shankar,
    Thank you for your kind words and for visiting.

    No-one taught me to write; I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been an avid reader all my life. If you want to write, you must read and write like your life depended on it. You must be present and really love your life, because if you don’t live and breathe every moment fully, what will you have to write about? Love life’s details, even when you’re focusing on your big picture.

    I guess I’ve always been spiritual. I read the Desiderata, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran when I was just a teenager. I’ve always, always believed in Spirit, that there’s so much more to life than our senses reveal. As I’ve got older and had kids, I’ve also become more and more grateful.

    I enjoy books about writing because they make me feel like ‘a writer’ and offer lots of lessons about life; there are a few of my favourites in my book shop in the buttons above.

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