surfsensei

Reflections and observations on life in general.

Category: Uncategorized

Just one day?

It’s a bit late in the day, literally, I am referring to International Women’s Day, to post something on this subject but here’s my bit anyway.

I’ve been busy taking my car to a specialist garage on the edge of Glasgow and, while they were dealing with it (successfully I might add), I made use of the time to get some art materials and then visit Kelvinhall Art Gallery and Museum to see the exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.  It’s a small exhibition but worth the visit, especially as it is easy to combine with time amongst other superb items: Dutch paintings from several Scottish collections, including beautifully precise paintings by one of the few Dutch women of that time, around the 18th Century, able to become professional artists; paintings by “The Glasgow Boys”; the Diplodocus skeleton from the Natural History Museum and more.

I went outside to eat a sandwich before taking the bus back to retrieve my car and sheltered from the drizzle behind an impressive statue of three figures; an aging man with instruments that I guess represented the scientific pursuits, a woman reading from a large book and in the centre, an imposing priest clad in heavy robes and his hand raised in a two-fingered gesture of blessing.

It was the woman’s figure that reminded me of International Women’s Day and got me thinking of how important it has been, and remains, for women/girls to have access to literacy and education to break out of the restrictions imposed by traditions and rigid views on people’s roles and abilities and, more subtly, men’s fear of losing power and privilege.

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I started to wonder why, when we have things like Black History Month, there is only one day set aside for remembering/celebrating/commemorating women.  One day….

Not enough time, considering …

 

 

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Thank you for…

A post by PMu in Daily Doodle has reminded me of something important to remember, especially in these turbulent times of delusion, confusion, myopic avarice and collective stupidity, appreciating what I have rather than dwelling upon what I do not have:

I am grateful for many things:

  • a warm and safe place to sleep,
  • enough food,
  • the luxury of a shower and toilet and hot water,
  • a body that, despite its faults, allows me to explore mountains and sea, make things (including my comfortable bed!) and see/hear/feel well enough to make and appreciate art and the amazingness of the world,
  • knowing good people, educators, artists, musicians, scientists, volunteers, writers, military and ex-military, lamas and monks and dharma teachers, potters, carpenters and people without job descriptions who are and have been part of my life,
  • several friends in the forms of rabbits, cats, a magpie, a couple of horses and dogs,
  • having shared time and love with two amazing people over the years, most recently somebody who inspired me to learn Dutch and move to Scotland,
  • having done and planning to return to work that really inspires me and helps others,
  • the teachings of the Buddha,
  • living and working in Scotland, a nation with far more potential than many of its own inhabitants admit and than is allowed it by an increasingly remote government in London
  • both my parents (see past posts)
  • My sister and her family,
  • the National Health Service and the dedicated and overworked people who work within it despite continuing attempts to undermine and dismantle it,

Most of what I am grateful for, beyond the things necessary for basic needs, are not material things. They cannot be taxed, stolen, vandalised or, until I lose my memory and leave this life, lost.

It’s a day off, a Friday, it’s frosty and sunny and beautiful here, I’m going for a walk up a small hill before going to get some things I need in Glasgow.

If you’ve read this far,  may you continue to enjoy both the ephemeral and lasting things that you are grateful for.

Pass it on. 🙂

Sunlight before dawn.

0450 – I have just woken up with a vivid feeling of immense warmth and light in my body and mind, most of all in my head and heart, the remembered faces of friends and family, and others, circling, all of us bathed in this feeling of warm light.

I’m sitting at a newly-made desk, rain falling outside in the dark early morning when I should really be sleeping, the experience from earlier still very faintly present, like the slow warmth of dull embers in last night’s fire.

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It was a feeling of a warm spring day, a morning when you feel refreshed, relaxed, safe, healthy and able to sit or lie in the sunshine, no need to do or be anything else right now. I could describe it as a little like a solar system of people, some individual animals too. Some were very clear and close by, within embracing distance, others further out, so to speak. Some were present or past friends, some family, a few had been much closer for a while.

To say “faces” is incomplete, your images were clear but there was a feeling of your reality too. It felt a bit like a hug or sharing warmth and light, a metaphorical embrace that brings those sunlight-bathed feelings yet allows complete freedom to move, not constraining, not posessing.

This feeling lasted a few minutes, spurred me to sit up in bed and decide to get up and write this down; it felt important enough to share, however trivial it may seem to you as you read this.

If you’re reading this, you may well be one of those people whose presence appeared, vividly or not, in that brief early-waking experience. If you’ve read this far without dismissing this as trivial or inarticulate waffle, thank you. In any case, thank you.

My alarm is sounding, time to get up and do the necessary things today. I wish you some warmth, safety and sunshine, today, real or imagined.

False, and Real, Gold

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It’s the end of a busy week, less stressful than previous ones of late but wearisome with tasks I find uninspiring and the reality of working to live rather than living to work at present… a negative view I know but it’s what’s been arising of late, leading into more constructive rounds of reviewing my situation and aspirations.

Having a loose and non-functioning wisdom tooth removed probably didn’t help my energy levels either; the tooth now sits in a plastic tube, a sort of memento mori, a visible step in the eventual dissolution of my body, a useful “wake-up-now!” meditation.

Thus Friday evening is welcome, the weekend a time of recharging and opportunities to do some of the things I am really drawn to.  Last weekend it was a superb day on mountains I hadn’t previously climbed, some plein air sketching and painting too, achieving two objectives and enhanced by the company of a handsome Raven during my lunch, sitting on glittering crystalline snow.

I called by the railway station to collect my tickets, bought well in advance, for a Christmas visit to my sister, then into the nearby supermarket for a couple of things.

Music, loud and hammering in my weary brain, lots of people, slightly frantically searching, calling out, filling baskets, so much stuff, choices and more choices…. my mind felt numbed, I noticed I was wandering through the aisles, a feeling of nagging and unfulfillable un-satisfaction (not dissatisfaction)… I began to feel like a hungry ghost, mentally plucking goods from the shelves yet never losing the hunger.

Reaching the night air outside again felt surreal, a transition into a new phase of a dream.  Back to the car, home, through slow queues of traffic.  A welcome shower, food, recovery.

Now I feel simply tired, waiting for the washing to complete its spin cycle so I can hang it up to dry, a simple, useful, task that is surprisingly satisfying.

At the beginning of the week, I cycled to work on a bright, cold, crisp morning. The trees in Bannockburn heavy with bright autumnal leaves, beginning to fall around me.  I find these colours and the scent of the season  as rich and nourishing to my spirit as the best food and most subtle wine; that sweet beginning of decay and return to the soil, the hot colours in cold blue air and silvery frosts and mists.

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I’m reminded regularly by little things like these of a recurring question.. what is wealth, really?  What do I actually want to do with my energy and experience and time?  What is of enduring value to me?  What are the things I genuinely need and what am I holding onto through unhelpful attachment? How do I distinguish false Gold from real?

The rhythm of Pink Floyd’s song “Time” echoes in the back of my mind as I notice that the washing machine has stopped..

The washing’s done

The spin is over, 

Thought I’d something more to say… 

Goodnight, and I wish you a weekend rich in real Gold.

 

Re-blogging: World Mental Health Day – A Sea Kayaking Parable. — Life Afloat

I’m sharing this very well written account by a friend and former colleague, I recommend it strongly to read.

Best wishes in your own journeys.

https://www.lifeafloat.co.uk/blog/2018/10/9/world-mental-health-day-sea-kayaking-parable#commenting=

Walking in the Wind

We had planned to go further north and west, a friend and I, to climb bigger mountains in the Mamore range, near Ben Nevis.  The weather has been keeping just ahead of the forecasters and what appeared promising for today became a prospective struggle in arduous winds with likely snow and hail in that area; Plan B was formed, Ben Vorlich, the western one, by Loch Lomond, shorter, closer, still a quality mountain and, for me, a new one.

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The wind was strong, the air cool, I put on extra layers for the first time since March.  The walk in, from the car park near the hydro-electric power station south of Ardlui, revealed rugged peaks and advancing bands of rain and lower cloud.  My camera was going to have to be my  sketchbook today.

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We had a good ascent up a clear and well-used path, good conversation and challenging questions augmented by challenging squalls of wind and rain and good scenery.

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Despite the wind, perhaps 45 knots on the summit, we found calm shelter behind contorted rocks to eat lunch and greet other visitors, including a pair of ravens to whom we offered encouragement, but no lunch, in memory of an incident on another mountain.

There were many moments of dramatic and fast-changing light, mist, views, too fast to draw, even had I been alone; memory and the camera would have to capture what they could, for later reflection and inspiration.

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I love the drama of strong contrasts, the many greys of clouds, deep inky-black land-forms under murky masses of cloud while dazzled by a bright shaft of sunlight and slivers of silver light off wet rocks or a wedge of vivid green-yellow grass against deep blue- or brown-black mountain sides behind.  I feel the urge to paint these things, the motivation is building again to do this.

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Descent felt tiring, though not difficult, my feet chafing more than usual, my faithful boots feel like they are less a part of me than previously. Less conversation now, more concentration.  Reaching the road felt good, we had completed a “quality mountain day”, as the guidance notes for my logbook used to say.  We have had food for body, spirit and mind today; bon appetit!

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Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond

Voices of Geese

Friday evening, it has been a busy week at the school, filled with opportunities to practice patience, forbearance, compassion, assertive communication, active listening, constructive speech and working “smarter, not harder”…. it seems I have several undercover gurus who pose as colleagues in order to set me challenges and opportunities for personal development;

steps forward, slips back, work in progress, meditation is helping.

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Cycling home with a strong wind behind me, I pass fields of stubble where geese are gathering, mustering for their migration, there must be at least a thousand of them in one field.

Further down the road, I take a detour to visit a local curiosity, a partial “folly” build in the 1700s, now owned by the Scottish National Trust, a set of orchards and a building surmounted by a giant pineapple in carved sandstone.  I walk slowly around the garden, photographing and noticing the changing flower stalks, drying and brown now, and curling, dehydrating leaves that become shelters for small huddles of ladybirds and other small creatures.

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Autumn is beginning, the green becoming gold, brown, red, yellow.  Nutrients drawn back into stems, roots, fruits, for winter storage or reproduction.  Early smells of drying and decay are in the cool air.

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In the peaceful orchard, where time has slowed for a little while, I feel the quiet thrill of the turning of the wheel of seasons, towards the next stage of the cycle.

From a mile away, the voices of a thousand geese come on the wind,  announcing change and a new energy,

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Mist, clearing…

It’s been a pleasantly mild, damp, misty day… somewhat “dreich” but a welcome disincentive to prevaricate and go out on the bike or on foot and, instead, make some progress indoors at the keyboard on something I’m writing to try to persuade the local government to deal with some dangerous gaps in local cycling routes…

Still, I had to get outside for a short while and the Forth Estuary is only a few hundred metres away, over the dykes that keep the shore away from being almost a private, muddy, beach near the house I live in just now.

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Nobody else was around, though I could hear distant traffic on the Clackmannan Bridge, “normal” people were watching TV, gaming, Face-booking or whatever, not walking in wellies over squelching salt-marsh grasses with the warm scent of nearby mud and water and wet grass filling their senses.

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Perched on a yellow navigation marker, high above the low water, a small group of Cormorants sat making quiet noises and hanging out their wings in the damp air to dry.  Other birds circled and screeched but remained invisible to me, their pale plumage blending them into the low cloud above.  An occasional gull stood on the mud, looking at it with a pessimistic air, in my mind at least.  Water bubbled quietly in a few thin drainage channels while I made a sketch and took a few photographs.

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I returned over a tidy line of spring-tide flotsam, leftovers of many lives, up against the dyke, climbed up through wet vegetation and back, pausing to smell the intense scent of the remaining wild roses, a bumble bee frantically busy collecting nectar and pollen.  All activity felt remote and small-scale, as if the world were taking a Sunday rest.

The misty air was clearing, a bit, from the West and with it, my mind felt a little more active and ready… home, coffee, cookies, words.

Balloons, post-script.

Looking back just over a year through previous posts, I found the post linked below, (Balloons, EBI) which I’ve updated with a postscript.  I’m in a better place, now, but see much of the same thing going on.  Even in a small circle of influence, I am doing what I can to leave things better than I found them and to leave the seeds of improvement in the minds of others I work with.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Photo: David E. Gurniewicz, https://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

I would like to be planting, metaphorically in this context, a forest of oaks and beech and ash trees, interventions that lead to a big shift in how things are being done, that leave a lasting result. Unrealistic aspiration, grandiose self-delusion?

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In reality I am probably sowing smaller seeds, in the hope that they give rise to plants that can thrive in devastated land, like the Willow-Herb that is abundant in this part of Scotland, and produce flowers that feed many insects… less spectacular but possibly more widespread benefits…  I will never really know, but it helps prevent cynicism.

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If none of this makes sense, have a look at the original post, I don’t feel articulate enough this evening to labour the point.  I’m off now to make another cup of tea and continue work on turning old scaffolding planks into a dining table.

Balloons – EBI

Despite everything, I think it is still worth it.

Thank you for putting your trash in a bin.  It does make a difference.

————

https://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

Alternatives to Balloon releases.

On the buses..

From where I live now I have three realistic modes of transport to and from work: cycling, driving and a combination of bus and, in Stirling, one of the hire bikes. Last week I decided to take the third option, as I am a member of the hiring scheme and the first half-hour of rental is free. I could combine trying out the bikes with testing this route and, perhaps, enjoy a more relaxed commute at the end of the week.

Both journeys went smoothly, the hire bikes were free of serious faults and the buses on time. Stirling Council has put in place some pretty good cycling routes in the city that are useful for my journey and I could allow my mind to play a little, with the cares and demands of driving in the hands of our shared chauffeur.

I noticed in my stream of mental chatter the usual turbulence of ideas, observations, shifting awareness of bodily sensations, memories and plans, emotions and so on, all arising and fading like glittering fishes and assorted treasures and detritus emerging briefly from the muddy eddies before sinking back out of view into the depths.

Occasionally there were longer-lasting impressions and insights. This time it came as I noticed familiar patterns and prejudices appear almost as childlike crayon graphic overlays between my general awareness and the appearance of people around me on the bus.

It was a striking moment of clarity that was neither shocking nor surprising – I have become aware of this before – but it felt fresher and more vivid this time. A background chatter of judgement and opinions, of sorting and categorisation, like a suspicious and short-tempered receptionist trying to decide who gets in and whom to turn away, unaware that the boss is wise to his old employee’s tricks and is spending more time sitting in reception himself.

The terms “stereotype ” and “prejudice ” are heavy with negative associations these days, used as they are in mostly negative context; to admit to their presence in one’s mind is seen as an admission of a shameful guilt, of heretical thought-crime.

Yet this feature of our minds serves a purpose, not least to enable us to navigate the complex world of our experience quickly enough to keep up with events and, most of the time, avoid serious trouble. If everything appeared completely fresh and new in our minds, we would have long ago been eaten by lions or bears who simply saw us as “lunch”. We need to learn quickly to compare our perceptions with pre-formed models, stereotypes, simply in order to move around and sit down; “dog” not= “chair”.

“Life’s easy, seen from here…”

It’s a matter of awareness, keeping an eye on the mental processes that filter the flow of phenomena and noticing when they are useful, keeping us out of trouble and assisting rapid decision making, and when they are unhelpful or even harmful, triggering defensive and ill-considered reactions that, in the end, harm us all. This isn’t easy, especially in a culture that is itself ambiguous about self-awareness and restraint and that circulates prejudice and simplistic, stereotypical thinking at many levels; it does make life feel simpler, after all.

All I can do, for myself, is to keep observing, practice noticing when my mind is distracted and judgement clouded by the cartoon vision of that metaphorical old receptionist, the moments when the boss has retreated to the office and shut the door, leaving control to the subordinates. It takes an effort, repetition, acceptance of failures too; self-punishment is unhelpful and doesn’t foster the compassion needed to share with others.

The bus journey was uneventful, the other passengers chatted with each other, listening to the fragments of conversation helped me remind myself that every one was another story, another centre of the universe, a constellation of myriad untold tales.

Perhaps it’s this that draws me to sit in cafés, airports, buses, trains, listening, sketching, writing; human stargazing through the scudding clouds and distorting lenses of my own mental activities. Looking for a clearer view.

It’s time to go. The coffee and cake were good, time now to go home and plan for a few days of holiday. Happy travelling!