Friday, October 22, 2010


There seems to be much talk about the brain these days. It's like deep science and the foreign language that describes it are being demystified so we can all get a reasonably accessible picture of what happens up there, if we so choose. As someone who will be hovering in mid-50's for not much longer, and whose memory keeps dropping small things (not pennies), there's some comfort in learning that our 'plastic' brains keep doing the business of spurting new connections and synapsing (new word for the people's neuro-dictionary), and is not a growing pool of dead and dying cells.
I haven't retained much detail of what I've read or heard about brains in my own lively jungle, but one piece of the information that has gone in keeps reverberating. Apparently the part of the brain we use when we talk about ourselves autobiographically, ie tell stories about our own experience, is that same part that's activated when we improvise music. I find this fascinating. All sorts of things spring to mind (thank you brain). One is the sheer beauty of the notion that as I recount my own story, I sing a song. Not necessarily a melodious or even-tempoed (sp?) song, but one that is spontaneous and creative - in much the way that dreams are.
I love this idea in relation to my work as a counsellor, when I sit with a number of people who are feeling their way into their own story, finding ways to articulate and integrate their own experiences - perhaps (with this in mind) not so much to make sense of them, as make a song of them. It also re-minds me of the unique facility we have as creatures to speak the stuff of our lives. (Elisabeth's rich blog is themed with this idea.) Linking it to improvisation, can we look at recounting our own life tale as an act of creative surrender? Like birds at sun-up perhaps, but with an infinitely variable tune, and the the dubious ability to choose whether we open our throats or swallow our song. (I've enjoyed Marylinn's eloquent exploration of this territory in her last two blogs.)
And finally - away from the metaphor and back to making music, it's good to know that for those times when there are no words, no right person to hear, there's something about the act of humming that's more than just a hum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Recently, and a long way from here, (still milking that trip of mine...) a woman I had just met talked to me about her work as a facilitator in conflict resolution and team building in groups. She said something I've known to be true, but I heard it with fresh meaning: people will start to pull together as soon as they see what unites them. It has hung about in my mind. I've been enjoying this idea. Life is continually thrusting me/us into groups and small communities. As I mentally stretch the tarpaulin, plant the tent pegs wider, I start to create a shared space. I am surely then more able to be present and with those I am with - including those I may have otherwise been inclined to distrust or judge. (I can't help contrasting this with my own tendency to navigate my way to those who meet, match or mirror me.) I'm not sure how much sense this carries in writing it, but I tried this recently - envisioned the rim around the edges of a new group I was part of. It was simply an act of the imagination; an intentional decision that was not reordering the way I saw or behaved, but recognising the bigger place. Medic and therapist Naomi Remen talks about 'holding people large.' Perhaps this can also be applied to people in plural. These are small beginnings for me - grains of insight - but I'm wondering: is this the way to inclusive, gritty, meaningful community?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tuesday poem: Deep Sea Swimming

This is a teetering-on-Tuesday poem. It is in fact Monday evening here in nz, but I want to post this before that whale called work swallows me up. (Starting tonight, but not lasting forever).

Recently Claire beckoned us to the sea, and that trail of thought took me back to this poem which I wrote at 40 - one of the first I ever wrote. I would now describe my immersion differently, but this was how it was then ...

Deep Sea Swimming

I'm out of my depth here
Who would have thought it?

You walk the world for 40 winters
Have children who rise to meet you face to face
You expect by now to stand on sturdy feet
Calves like plaited loaves
Gleaming above the water line
Baskets of fish and tools to catch them
Fair and square on each bent arm
The fanciful high tide of childhood
Going going gone

But no
There's water
underfoot and rising
An ocean tilting
Holding me not quite firm
My basket tumbles
Fish turn and flick
While I, wrinkling
in my shimmery world
Roll on my back
Ease my limbs
With unusual grace

A middle aged mermaid
Out in the depths
Her heart on the horizon


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Away and Home

I'm home. I hear the birds in my garden (hello birds), see the line of Mt Cargill through my bedroom window, that pleasing tiny red roof perching on the horizon. An hour ago I unfolded my computer to travel back through blogs of friends, and now, here I am, back in the portal of blogmedium. I left these things behind more than a month ago, and it's comforting to find them again, (although diving back in here has a small touch of the scare and thrill of a cool sea).

Someone said to me: you'll come back changed. I'm not so sure I would say it with such big words, but I can sense that a raft of gifts has come my way. Some of it feels like good food. The flavour still lingers a bit, and now my insides are getting on with absorbing the nutrients. Other aspects are still bright in my mind, and I'm tempted to look for shields and mirrors, to keep them focused and sharp for as long as I can. I am waking early - is this a gift too? It could have something to do with the fast moving ground I've landed on at work, but I prefer to think that part of me, beyond my say so, is still away, and refusing to surrender to these down under diurnal rhythms.

Anyway, the up-side is that I have time to savour the France and Britain that I got to meet. There's something about being here in Aotearoa NZ - beautiful, spiritual land that it is, that still leaves me aching for the structures - the footprint - of my early early line of forebears. And I found them. Not the bloodlines so much, but the cultural cradle. Drawings etched 17000 years ago onto the limestone cave walls in the Dordogne, France; ancient monastries and churches (I added my song into the stones of one, built 900 years ago.) Then there was the Bronte parsonage - a stones throw from my friend's home. I looked onto it from my small upstairs bedroom window, and this neighbouring family came alive as I read my book - an account of their lives in beautifully wrought fiction: A Taste of Sorrow. (Thanks Mary M for this recommendation on your blog.) Oh, and much more.

My hands went to work there. It didn't seem enough to see and to smell. I wanted to touch, so I did: stone after stone. At other times I put the soles of my feet to work. Stripped off, soft, and so short-lived in the scheme of things, they did their thing. Padded out onto those stubborn remnants that speak our history, and laid down another invisible layer all of their own.