They Made a Difference – Miss Welsh

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Newlands Valley, the Lake District. With Catbells to the left and out of sight in this image.

Thanks to my walking companion (one of them) for this photograph.

I have been remembering people who have had a positive impact on my life. Miss Welsh, the deputy head of my secondary school, was such a one.

Miss Welsh left our school when I was a vulnerable twelve-year-old, to live ‘under Catbells’ in the Lake District, (perhaps on the Newlands Valley side). My one ally had gone and I was bereft,  I felt supported by her, in the jungle that was school for me at that time.

She taught needlework and I can still remember the round and hefty, stuffed with sawdust, pincushion I made as my first ‘piece’.  A somewhat tricky sewing project in that it required sewing a circle of fabric, without puckering, onto the straight edge of the ‘wall’ of the cushion. I got a house point for it. A Gingham apron followed. Small successes and recognition of them at that age, are profound and have a lasting impact. I’ve been confident at sewing ever since.

Ah! how many people have entered our lives briefly and left a long-lasting impression. I’d forgotten this woman’s name, she was just ‘there’, gently saying without words, ‘you’re all right, you will do fine’.  And I did! There are other people now coming to mind.

Thanks to Tim, the son of my Head Master who remembered the name of his father’s deputy. The wonders of the internet that I could find this information with such ease this afternoon. One can drown in nostalgia or one can take flight – with gratitude.

 

 

 

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Learning Late

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The view from my window this morning.

Why, love is easy, you discover
after a lifetime blocking that route
with boulders and trunks of trees:
simply remove debris you put there
yourself, and the road is level,
straight to the horizon.

Bless us, it is better to learn
just before the sun sets what day it is,
than not at all. Impious old
Uncle Charles took Jesus as Savior
mere minutes before he died.
Pastor was very happy.

Knowledge of what a sparrow means
by singing earns you no interest,
so acquire it only when you’re ready.
Something the young don’t realize:
late learnings lack years to harden
into dogma, the way arteries harden.

Mistakes make good students—
and that school is always in session.
It isn’t necessary that you graduate:
even the teachers are still learning.

Some say the greatest lessons await
after Pastor throws dirt on the coffin.
How about that for learning late.
By Russell Rowland
Published on this site.

Yes! A Thousand time yes. Although the ‘greatest lesson(s)’ are here and now, no need to wait.

Thanks to Eric who thoughtfully sent me the link to this poem.

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How Do We Know?

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A Winkle Travelling – Towards the Sea

A recent email conversation:
Mark: I’ve added one more photo to the Dropbox folder – ‘Winkle travelling’!
Me: Thanks. I’ve not had much of a chance to do the post I intended to do. Hopefully, things will ease here and I can continue with posting. As I like to do. BTW That was quite the ‘catch’ if I may say so.
Mark: I had plenty of time to frame the shot. They always travel towards the sea. I wonder how they know?
Me: How do they know? Perfect fit for my current thinking around our knowing more than we know we know.
Mark: Ah – synchronicity…
Me: Indeed! Coming fast at me this morning.

Threads of thoughts and insights have been coming together over the past weeks. It was this article by Norman Doidge a neuroscientist, that contributed a great deal to the ‘stew pot’ of my thinking on ‘knowing’. In this article, Doidge talks about unconscious knowledge, in particular the (other) immune system we don’t know we have.

Just as the Winkle knows to travel towards the sea we, with the shortening hours of daylight, reflexively turn towards our ‘inner life’. That’s probably less so for those of us who, of necessity, have engaging lives. Busy lives, however I find myself ‘drawn in’ and reflective at this time of year, that’s in spite of there being lots-to-do all day long.

Interesting isn’t it that our response to the dark season is to quieten and move within. There are many reasons this happens but are we applying reason when we quieten into the darkness? Do we know something we don’t know we know, like the Winkle heading seaward?

I relish the nights here, to walk in the dark and when the stars are clear – magic!

Thanks to Mark Rowan for the photograph, and all the other ones I have stored away in Dropbox.

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Exercising Choice…

This was originally published in October 2020 and now again with some edits. A year has passed and here we are, again!

Currently, I’m thinking of those in solitary confinement whether it be in prison in one’s home or some other way of being incarcerated. There is indeed a lot of ‘confinement’ going on in this world at the moment. It has ever been thus I imagine. Yes, physical isolation has such devastating consequences on the psyche as well as, of course, physically, emotionally and spiritually. All creatures suffer in their depth when in isolation and confinement, the evidence is clear to see. It’s not their choice and is largely imposed from the outside. Such situations etch away at the human ‘spirit’. This has to be more than lamentable. Here is a quote linked to this business of disempowerment.

In isolation, man remains in contact with the world as the human artifice; only when the most elementary form of human creativity, which is the capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world, is destroyed, isolation becomes altogether unbearable… Isolation then becomes loneliness.
Hannah Aredt

As I contemplate ‘renewal’, spiritual renewal, the matter of exercising choice has been exercising me, in my thoughts and to some degree my actions as well. This is because I believe choice has to be exercised to make it real, to make manifest the individual’s ability and ‘power’ to BE individual within the collective world. This brings choice directly to the core of Buddhist practice, formal meditation. Politics (the exercising of power) is clearly in the picture in terms of exercising choice, or personal agency, however it is not at that level I am speaking.

Onwards to a look at setting aside and planning for time with yourself. Formal meditation has a unique place in our lives which I point to at the start of this post. At no other time do we chose to do nothing in such an absolute way – for a sustained length of time with nobody standing over us making us sit there! Then emerging into daily life, the heart of meditation comes with us where we navigate the not altogether easy world of the opposites.

That’s the world we live in. Accept it, with bows.

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Litter Pickings

One ‘pick up’ leads to another. Where ever we may walk others have been also. Agricultural litter today. Some splendid finds strapped to my day pack, tolerant fellow travellers carried the rest. Later deposited in a bin in Hexham. Before tea and chat at Bunters.

Thanks to John for patiently serving us tea. See you when we open again for Sunday Festival days.

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives