Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pavement Artist

I watch the workman place the paving stone
And, with a craftsman's dextrous care, smooth fine
The ridges of cement which blur the line
Between the butting slabs. These hands have grown
To calloused prime in mastering their known
Accomplishment. Perhaps they could design
And execute mosaic, yet resign
Themselves impassively to what alone
Is needed for a busy London street:
A pavement artist to maintain the way
And cater for the heedless passing feet.
The chic shop windows offer their array
Of stylish artistry; yet none compete
With what the simple paving stones display.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Over the top

At the time of the Vietnam war a photographer took a memorable photo. It portrayed a terrified child, her clothes in flames, rushing with arms outstretched towards the camera. It is generally felt that this photo did as much as anything else to bring the American troops home.
Pictures are powerful. They speak to us individually and we take from them what our personal needs require.

The picture that I'm sharing with you was sent to me this week.
Whether looked at on the personal, communal, national, global or even universal level, it is undeniably powerful.

The thought of going 'over the top' conjures up disturbing memories of the First World War. But this is a very different situation. Look at the ladder in the picture. Whilst seemingly fragile, it must, in fact, be very strong.
And will we make it over the wall? That remains to be seen . . . if we're united in love with the brilliance beyond, what can stop us?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pay attention!

May I share a question with you, one that was put to me the other day. It's a simple question. What, I was asked, is the purpose of pain? This wasn't something I'd thought about. In my mind pain didn't give rise to conjecture, it gave rise to action.

The person who posed this question was Dr. Symeon Rodger, a scientist and a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church, "Why," he asked, during a lecture, "does the body experience pain?"
On the face of it, the answer is obvious - the body gives off pain when it is hurt, when it needs attention. Pain, in fact, is the body's mechanism for calling attention to the area in need of help.
But, Dr. Rodgers argued, the pain isn't summoning attention in order for the sufferer to rush to the doctor, knock back a pill, or slap on a plaster. It is seeking attention because that is precisely what the injury needs: it needs the sufferer to pay attention.

And note the choice of words. In this context we don't say 'give' attention, we say, very precisely, 'pay' attention. The choice of word is critical. If we make a gift we don't necessarily expect anything in return. If, on the other hand, we pay for something, we are paying in order to receive. We pay attention to our pain in the knowledge that we will receive something back.

Dr. Rodger demonstrated the power of attention on the body and, trying it out for myself, I was quite startled. Close attention, directed at a particular finger, joint, or what you will (dispassionate attention as distinct from anxiety) can actually be felt in that finger or joint.

What's more, as you move your attention you can 'feel' the movement taking place - either by
tingling, heat or some other indication. And it is this carefully focussed attention that the body needs. It is a healing factor in its own right. Paying attention to our bodies' needs can, in effect, offer a very good return on our investment.

Come to think of it, in a time of economic downturn, paying attention to the body's needs might well be wiser, and more rewarding, than investing it in the money market!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'Miss March'

I don't know about you, but Chloe and I are going to continue with the month of March for the rest of 2012!
We are choosing to have a permanent spring that will persist happily throughout the summer and autumn. After all, how could we possibly turn the calendar over to April and watch Chloe disappear?

By a perfect stroke of unintentional timing, Chloe became the Bengal Cat Club calendar's 'Miss March' three days after her second birthday. For me, even more surprising than her appearance on the calendar is the realisation that Chloe, my recently-arrived kitten, has reached the mature age of two.
Where have those two years gone?

True, in going they've taken with them three broken vases, a silenced answering machine, four decapitated ornaments, a bottomless kitchen drawer, a car key, a knackered clothes-horse and a punctured hot-water-bottle . . . not to mention innumerable other best-forgotten treasures.
But look at what those two years have given me in exchange.
An enchanting (if exhausting!) companion, love, laughter and constant entertainment.
There's not the slightest doubt that the scales are tilted in my favour.

Looking back at the early photos, it seems impossible that she was once so small and vulnerable . . . so eager to learn . . . so keen to explore her exciting new world.

Somewhere along the line, at a moment when I may have been distracted by the less beguiling aspects of life, my adorable, irrepressible, wriggling kitten metamorphosed into a mature cat. A cat who, in breaking out of her kitten's chrysalis, has achieved the impossible by gaining in charm, beauty and intelligence.
True, she is still irrepressible . . . although there are now stronger motivations for her antics. True, she still wriggles . . . although nowadays those wriggles quickly transform into cuddles. But these are all endearing facets of her loving and loveable nature, and surely no cat could be more captivating than Chloe.

In the centre of my living-room carpet sits an over-flowing toy-basket. The number of toys is a reflection of the kindness of Chloe's numerous friends and admirers. She has no need of toys from me.

So what can I can give her on this auspicious occasion?
A boisterous game with her favourite toy . . . an extra cuddle . . . a special breakfast? She deserves all of that. But, most of all, I need to give her a heart-felt 'thank you' for the infectious joy she's bestowed on all who've known her in the past two years.

"Happy Birthday . . . and thank you, Chloe!"