Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers /That perches in the soul /And sings the tune without the words /And never stops – at all… ~ Emily Dickinson

Well, here we are, another snowy spring and another return to deciduous blogging. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year! You’re never far from my thoughts, though. I always hoped that I’d return to blogging some day, so I jotted down ideas, took photos and bookmarked so many quotes that my books ended up looking like they had feathers. I think Emily Dickinson would have approved of the connection between books, sharing and hope. (She might not have liked the post in my drafts box about hope, fear and resisting what is, but that’ll keep for another day.)

Looking at that photo and how many things I’ve wanted to share with you over the last year, I have NO excuse for not blogging. There’s enough material there for a few months, even if all I do is post one heartfound quote every few days! I’m my own worst enemy, agonising and maximising, censoring and curating to the point where I create – then get paralysed by – my own overwhelm.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. ~ Anne Lamott

So, this is the first of some catch-up, patchwork pieces I’m going to try and post as a messy retrospective.

July 2017

Not long after I told you in Silence how sad we were that ‘our’ blackbird and robin had disappeared, my husband and I were standing at the kitchen sink when the blackbird not only reappeared, but taught his bairn how to tap on the window and beg for blueberries! With gaping mouths and teary-eyed gratitude, we stood still and watched. Eventually, it occurred to me to grab my ancient phone and take some photos to show you.

October 2017

Today, as you choose to wrap your heart around the moments that make up a life, how will you share your precious gift with the world? You were born with talents, you’ve worked hard to build skills, to create connections – but they’re just the channel. You are the gift. ~ Janice (from Birdsong)

My daughter graduated with a First Class Honours degree last summer and released her first full length album in the autumn, on vinyl and CD. She sings, plays guitar and writes her own songs – everything from the harmonies to the band arrangements – and is now earning a living doing what she loves. It seems like such a long time ago that I wrote Sharing the Journey, the piece about hope, purpose and supporting people’s dreams that inspired the title of my blog. This is one of the tracks from her album. I’m so proud of her, words fail me.

“No matter what my daughter chooses to do, I’m reminded today that her young life is filled with promise. No matter what she encounters along the way, I know she’ll travel the road she’s meant to take.  No matter who she becomes, I believe with all my heart and soul that every day I’m allowed to share her journey is a blessing.” ~ Janice, from Sharing the Journey, February 2009

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

Every December Sky

The first time I met Beth Nielsen Chapman, I told her Every December Sky is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I asked if I could have her permission to perform it, and she gave me her blessing. I felt like I’d been trusted with a child.

This song is my response to dormant trees, dark days and nights full of fear, doubt and loss.  It expands me and connects me with heaven, earth, nature and humanity, with those I’ve loved and those I’ve lost. It makes me feel calm, hopeful, trusting, prepared, full of faith and lucky to be loving and living with every fibre of my humanity. It makes me glad I believe in angels.

Every December sky
Must lose its faith in leaves
And dream of the spring inside the trees
How heavy the empty heart
How light the heart that’s full
Sometimes I have to trust what I can’t know
Sometimes I have to trust what I can’t know

We walk into Paradise
The angels lend us shoes
‘Cause all that we own
We’ll come to lose
And Heaven is not so far
Outside this womb of words
With every rose that blooms
My soul is assured
It’s just like a song I’ve known
Yet still unheard

And every leaf of fire lets go
Melting in the arms of earth and snow
And if I could hold you now
You’d enter like a sigh
You’d be the wind that blows
The answer to “why?”
You’d be the spring-filled trees
Of every December sky

Manhattan

Sara Bareilles’ song Manhattan, from the album The Blessed Unrest, reminds me of movie soundtracks and piano bars at midnight. The haunting power of this heartbreakingly beautiful song is heightened by simple city photography. (Sorry about the horrible YouTube/google ads.)

Why am I posting this? Because I love it and because I love sharing music and you may not have come across Sara Bareilles. When I was a teenager, before the days of Walkmans and iPods, we used to listen to each other’s records on vinyl and talk for hours about music, film, books and poetry; when cassettes came out, we made each other mix tapes. Manhattan speaks to me of human resilience, of creating beauty from sadness and of knowing when to let go. The whole album is an anthem to brave authenticity and creative renewal. These are the lines I sing along with most loudly in the car:

“And so it goes, one foot after the other till black and white begin to color in…”

If you like her voice and lyrics, and you sometimes experience bouts of cyber hibernation, inner conflict and creative self doubt, then check out Hercules; there are a couple of discrepancies between the video lyrics and the song that bug me, but with lyrics like hers, it’s still worth pointing you to the song.

Your Assignment

 “Did you know, you were born as the first, and the last and the best and the only one of your kind, and that eccentricity is the first sign of giftedness?”~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Dr Estes’ words found their way to me twice yesterday, once today. Once would have been enough, but now I’m really listening.

Your Assignment

I assign you to be a beautiful, good, kind, awakened, soulful person, a true work of art as we say, ser humano, a true human being. In a world filled with so much darkness, such a soul shines like gold; can be seen from a far distance; is dramatically different.

Want to help? Show your deepest most divine self to the world. There is nothing more rare, more strange, more needed. Why would you wait? Not worthy? Oh piffle. Not ready? Okay, so when? Next lifetime? Don’t be silly with me about this. Inferiority complex? Okay, let me put it this way to you: you’re not good enough to think you’re not good enough. And you can quote me to yourself whenever you have need… Dr. Estes said so.

Have you forgotten that you made promises to your Beloved before you ever came to earth? The time to fulfill these is truly now. You want to cease feeling helpless, and you want to help the aching world? Serve someone and something. Everyone on earth serves someone and something. This means being your truest self now, fulfilling the promises you made to heaven long ago.

Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world. Anything. You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity can cause to be set in motion. Be outrageous in forgiving. Be dramatic in reconciling. Mistakes? Back up and make them as right as you can, then move on. Be off the charts in kindness. In whatever you are called to, strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small. Fall short? Try again. Mastery is made in increments, not in leaps. Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. Mend the parts of the world that are “within your reach.” To strive to live this way is the most dramatic gift you can ever give to the world.

Consider yourselves assigned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Xx~~~~~~

This song is from the album The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles, one of my favourite singers. I bought it for myself at Christmas after hearing only one track; I’ll share that track with you later, but for now, the universe told me to post this. In Spanish. (I do what I’m told!) It’s my favourite car listening album at the moment, and yesterday I was sent SO many signs along the winding road home through the hills that I’d have posted four songs from the album right there and then if I could have!

I heard this line “Maybe one of these days you can let the light in… and show me how big your brave is…” as the sky looked like this…

and I passed a truck with this Glenfiddich whisky advert on it…

 

Image result for glenfiddich ad one day you will

Which lines of Dr Estés’ beautiful invocation or Sara Bareilles’ song stand out most brightly for you today?

Falling Slowly

I ADORE this song. Love this version. My daughter and I used to harmonise and play it together and it always moved us to hugs or smiling tears. My son has it on a playlist and we used to belt it out in the car with the volume up when I drove him to college. So many layers of significance.

Some days it just says everything I’m feeling.

In my teens, twenties and thirties, I used to write my own songs and sang anywhere I was asked – cafés, tavernas, bars, college haunts, concert halls… These days, I just sing alone in the car. The first time I watched the DVD of ‘Once’, I had to leave the room, go to the bathroom and grab onto the sink with both hands, taking deep breaths, feeling like I’d drown with the pain of missing it, the moment when my voice resonated with someone else’s heart.

I could write about the film, write about the Oscar-winning soundtrack and the making of the film, but I’d rather urge you to rent the DVD and watch it. It’s poignantly life affirming.

This link used to take you to a video with scenes from the film, but it now says it’s only available in certain areas, probably just the States:  ONCE: Falling Slowly (Please let me know if it works for you.)

If you’re in the UK, the link below is music only:

Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice

You’ve made it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing it loud

The Path of Love

path of loveWhat I now know is that losses aren’t cataclysmic if they teach the heart and soul their natural cycle of breaking and healing. A real tragedy? That’s the loss of the heart and soul themselves. If you’ve abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything else, unlearn that pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart and soul will return home. ~ Martha Beck

Have you abandoned yourself to please someone, to hold onto something, to hold something together? Are you clinging on so tightly to the past, a dead dream or the memory of a loved one that you fear you might fall if you reach out for a new love, a new life? Have disappointment and fear eroded your heart, left your soul fading slowly like a photograph?

If I ever feel the grey gauze of depression drifting around me like fog, like snow settling softly in the night, I do what I can to connect with the vibrant creativity of others so that their energy kickstarts my heart.

Sometimes it’s photography, sometimes poetry. The architecture around me or a well tended garden. Gift shops, galleries, yarn shops or beautifully decorated cafés – anywhere that creativity leaps out and sings to me.

If the darkness descends without warning and I feel myself starting to curl up tight and foetal, I listen to music that wedges my heart open like a foot in the doorway, music that seeps into my soul and unfurls me so that the light can stream back in on the wings of someone else’s words and carry me home…

I listen to songs like this.

What could you do, right now, to live your truth, to beckon your soul home?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*This was a horribly prescient post. I planned to publish it on a timed setting while I was away on a surprise holiday in Greece, my spiritual home, but shortly after my husband booked the bargain last minute flights, we learned that our daughter’s oldest friend was at death’s door. As always, I can’t share details here, but she’s someone we love very much – have done since she was a wee girl, a bright smiling bundle of cheeriness.

A miracle procedure saved her life, and though she’ll have ups and downs, I know she’ll thrive. She feels grateful to be alive, to have the love of a strong and adoring family and is determined to embrace any health challenges life now sends her way. During her time in hospital, all I could do was ‘love, let go and let God’, praying that she’d find her way back home to us all.

I’ll be honest, it’s been an exhausting six months; too much intense emotion and fear and too many hospitals and traumas in any short period take their toll. My holiday was short but gloriously healing and I’m longing to share the photos and memories with you; for now though, I just wanted to tell you that knowing you’re here, reading this, makes my wee blog feel like coming home, however long I’ve been away.

I Find Your Love

The sun, the sky, the rolling sea
All conspire to comfort me ~ Beth Nielsen Chapman

This song is by Beth Nielsen Chapman, my favourite singer songwriter. She can still write like this after being widowed, surviving cancer and the removal of a brain tumour that affected her use of language. It’s one of those songs that makes sense of things, that leads me back to love and connects me to those I’ve loved and lost or simply can’t be with.  It’s also an invitation to keep open, to not harden my heart when things get uncomfortable or difficult, to love myself and remember we’re all waves in the same ocean. To embrace what Buddhists call maitri – unconditional kindness to oneself.

It reminds me what it feels like to be touched by grace.

Even when my blog’s dormant, I see things everywhere I want to share with you – photos, songs, helpful things I’ve learned.  Blogging makes me want to connect with love, to rise above challenges and find the common red threads of humanity that connect us all. I have nothing to share but my journey through life and an overwhelming curiosity about yours; no niche, no stunning photography, no marketing magic, no seaside cottage renovations to share, no insanely useful writing tips, specialist recipes, expert crochet patterns, computer wizzardry insights, invocations to boldness, conversations with goddesses or insider knowledge about surefire ways to coach certification.

All you get here is my filtering of the world as I live out my life wondering what it’s all about, wanting to jump up and down like a wee kid tugging at your sleeve and pointing when I figure any of it out.

I’m still haunted by comment boxes that were full of chat, laughter and support, but the harder it’s getting, the more my heart’s opening, letting go and smiling. Pain peels back layers, lays you bare like love does. There’s no place for ego in writing; you either want to write or you don’t. Then you write – or you don’t. You have to trust that if you send your words out in a bottle, they’ll reach someone who needs to hear them.

Beth Nielsen Chapman couldn’t stop writing songs even if she wanted to. I know how that feels and I think that’s what I wanted to share with you here today. Please don’t stop writing; whether your blog gets visitors or not, keep writing. Stay connected to the beauty in everything around you, like you do when you’re in love. Stay open. Be kind to yourself…

I’ll catch your smile on someone’s face
Your whisper in the wind’s embrace
Through diamond stars and songs, and dreams
I find your love in everything
The sun, the sky, the rolling sea
All conspire to comfort me
From sorrow’s edge life’s beauty seems
To find your love in everything
I’ve come to trust the hope it brings
To find your love in everything
Even as I fall apart
Even through my shattered heart
I’ll catch your smile on someone’s face
Amazing grace

Alfonsina y El Mar

(This is a post from August 2nd, 2009. It caught me unawares when I re-read it today; moved me as much today as it did back then. If you’re new here, please take a moment, lean in, breathe – this is how you’ll get to know me. I’ve left the old comments attached so you’ll know why letting go is so hard for me. I’m not great at Twitter and I’m not sure about Facebook. I love writing, unashamedly lyrical writing. That’s who I am. Who was I kidding… Spring cleaning? Blog gardening? Clearing out this blog feels like having to board up a part of my heart with the folk still in it. ~ Janice)

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley”

It’s sunny, but the lace curtains are billowing in a breeze as I write. I can hear the thudding of my son’s football in the street and the droning of planes criss-crossing the sky above the house.

My eighty-four-year-old dad has just freshened up in the family bathroom – deodorant sprayed too generously into his slippers has just reached me and lingers oppressively – and my daughter is strumming a guitar and singing at the other end of the house.

My husband’s listening to cricket on the radio in the garage, fixing or building something.

I could write about a million blessings, but right now there are gentle waves of melancholy lapping at my feet. Wondering whether to walk away or sit with it, I realise nothing I write will erase the haunting ache I have to be in a seafront café with a friend of mine, someone I studied with in Athens one August, a lifetime ago.

A poet, translator, dancer and singer, he embraced his dips into melancholy and despair when they descended, embracing the humanity of his pain and fear so that he could express them creatively and meet them with compassion in others.

Just as I never sought sadness, he never chided me when I yearned for days long gone, when ghosts shrouded my heart from the Athenian sun and let no warmth in. He simply smiled and took my hand, started singing in Spanish, knowing that my voice could never resist his.

One of our favourite songs – one that always reminded us of how we’d clung on to life when we’d loved and lost more often than young hearts should – was Alfonsina y el Mar.

It’s the haunting tale of the poet Alfonsina Storni’s walk into the sea on an Argentinian beach. Whenever I hear it, I remember the day my friend translated it for me, from Spanish into Greek. I left his ghost behind in Athens, too.

You and I read so many positive posts online, tales of triumph and epiphany, fables of hope, wisdom and family love but for me to refuse to write about death would be to renounce some of the people I’ve loved most.

AIDS followed my friend like a spectre, before his final silence. This song is one of the many that keeps his voice alive.

Before she died, Alfonsina sent her final poem Voy a dormir, (I’m going to sleep), to a newspaper. Her story inspired Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna to write Alfonsina y el mar.  Years later, this version, my favourite, sung here by Mercedes Sosa, inspired someone to create a video for You Tube. It’s not what I envisage when I hear it, but inspiration has no borders. As writers, we can’t afford to neglect the power of the lyrics that haunt us.

Spanish isn’t one of my languages, but this is the best translation I can do without murdering the beauty of the original.

Alfonsina and the Sea…

On the soft sand lapped by the sea
her small footprint will never be seen again

and a lonely footpath of pain and silence reached the deep water
a lonely path of pure pain reached the surf

God knows what anguish accompanied you
What ancient sadness silenced your voice
So you lay down, lulled by the song
of the sea shells
The song sung by the conch on the dark sea bed

You go, Alfonsina, with your solitude
What new poems did you go searching for?

…and an ancient voice of wind and salt
shatters your soul
courts and calls out to it
and you walk there, as if in a dream,
Alfonsina, asleep, sea-clad.

Five tiny mermaids will lead you
through paths of seaweed and coral,
and sea horses, glowing in the dark, will sing
a rondo at your side.
And the creatures of the sea
will soon swim beside you.

Turn down the lamp a little bit more, nurse,
let me sleep in peace
and if he calls, don’t tell him that I’m here
tell him Alfonsina’s not coming back
and if he calls, don’t ever tell him that I’m here,
say that I’ve gone away.

You go, Alfonsina, with your solitude
What new poems did you go searching for?

…and an ancient voice of wind and salt
shatters your soul
courts and calls out to it
and so you walk there, as if in a dream,
Alfonsina, asleep, sea-clad.

Still Loving Fleet Foxes

I had big dreams, when I created this blog, of filling it with music for you to discover and enjoy. As I’m still enjoying the blog-birthday indulgence of rediscovering my archives, I wanted to share his post with you. It’s the second musical post I did. The first was Falling Slowly, but I hid that one in the archives. I haven’t become technically adept enough to install a jukebox in our wee café bistro yet, but please explore the links in this post if you weren’t around this time last year. If you were, please bear with me, or join me on a meander through memory lane! I still adore ‘Fleet Foxes’.

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Fleet Foxes

I have a strange, intense relationship with music. It affects me so much that there are periods where I choose not to listen to any at all.

Some music from my past is so special that I deliberately avoid it; I don’t want the potency of the memories eroded by constant exposure.

Other albums, tracks and voices can unlock memories so dangerous and painful that I prefer them to stay locked up in deep, dark, distant caverns, never to be visited again.

If I listen to new music during moments of intense emotion, it will be coloured forever by that moment. So I like to be alone, to choose where I am and what I’m doing the first time I listen to a new CD.

I enjoy music on the radio because the playlists are out of my control. Music comes and goes as the charts change. I take the good with the bad and the DJ banter. But sometimes, I hear a track that makes me want to rush out and buy the whole album.

That happened with the single ‘Mykonos’ by Seattle band, Fleet Foxes.  I now own the  CD, the eponymous ‘Fleet Foxes’.

fleet foxes‘Mykonos’ is haunting. It made my ears prick up the first time I heard it; so unusual, so uncommercial, refreshing and different. It had a unique haunting ’sound’ of its own, a distinct colour that had nothing to do with the lyrics. To be honest, I didn’t even register the lyrics. The harmonies and travelling rhythms made it a soundtrack for a ‘road trip’ movie yet to be made!

The CD hasn’t disappointed me either. More weird, unusual, difficult to define tracks that connect straight to the soul and bypass the brain. Guitar pieces reminiscent of early Leonard Cohen; a whisper of  pan pipes; effortless, vibrant vocals and harmonies that reminded me of Gregorian chants, church spirituals, Neil Young, Aztec Two Step, Blue Grass music, British folk, the Beach Boys and something poignantly late 60’s early 70’s. Folk rock, bluesy ballads, a bizarrely timeless and eclectic yet somehow contemporary symphony.

Some of the sunny, soaring choirboy vocals and harmonies feel like they have…halos!

What can I say. It’s the first time in months that I’ve been moved to blurt to my husband “I’m going to get their album!” before even listening to sample tracks.  He bought me it to celebrate my blog launch.

Maybe I’m way behind everyone else here, but I just wanted to share it with you in case it’s new for you too.

Please give it a try. You can listen to sample tracks from the Fleet Foxes album or download it on MP3  here You can also download ‘Mykonos’ for free here. Just scroll down to the ‘listen to samples’ section.) I’d love to hear what you think.

I’d also love to know what your last spontaneous ‘must have’ music buy was!