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    Nicholas Mackey
    Nicholas Mackey commented on the blog post, A life in trees

    Thank you, Rosy for reading and commenting.

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans commented on the blog post, The Lessons of Gurnemanz

    Interesting -thank you! have to see if I can find those books. The Osiris story is in my Emerson play, though I use the version from Plutarch's Morals.

    Yes, Wolfram in a centerpiece to be sure :)

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, The Lessons of Gurnemanz

    I read this today in Eliot's notes on The Wasteland:

    Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston’s book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognise in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.

    You forgot to mention that Wolfram in your book is an Irish Wolfhound who, basically, holds it all together! :-)

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    Monika Schott PhD
    Monika Schott PhD updated their profile
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    Monika Schott PhD
    Monika Schott PhD commented on the blog post, Expectations

    Rosy, I'm so touched by your beautiful description of my writing, it's never been described in that way before - thank you!

    Interesting that you share that quote from Albert Camus as Julia Baird quotes those same words in her book. ?

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    Monika Schott PhD
    Monika Schott PhD created a new blog post, The three Cs

    The three Cs

    Posted in Blogs on Monday, 03 August 2020

    A friend recently reminded me of the power in kindness when she asked, what makes an urban area kind? My first thought was, how can an object or mass of solid be kind? What makes anything kind? It’s a huge question, with a valley amassed in a field of flowers for answers. Being kind is about expressing goodwill, whether emotionally, spiritually, physically or materially. It’s the act of being generous and considerate, looking out for the needs of others. There’s such grace in being kind, just as there is in receiving kindness. For some, it can be difficult to accept a kind gesture, especially those that give so frequently and don’t make time to receive. And then there are those who feel kindness is associated with the naive or weak. And yet kindness in any and all form is the epitome of courage and strength as it requires an openness that exposes vulnerability, especially when the kindness is being extended to oneself. To give directions to a lost traveller in a city of skyscrapers Or buy a second spare bike for yourself so you can give your other spare to a friend For a son to text his mother late at night to tell her to look up at the moon if she’s still awake … Kindness can melt a heart, crack a shell to ooze a luscious goo. It’s giving without expecting in return, giving with genuine concern. Being kind is a gesture that is sincere and doesn’t occur because we should be kind or expect ‘good karma’ out of it. It’s not pity either; there is a clear line between the two. To pity is to be sympathetic to suffering, distress or misfortune, to show mercy and feel sorry. A warm hug from someone who seems to feel your pain is kindness woven in care. Receiving help when you’re down and not when you’re strong, that’s pity. Pity is fleeting and insincere, can be demoralising; kindness stays with you well after the kindness has occurred. Offering work to someone who isn’t working, mailing a care package of home-baked biscuits sealed with a smiley face to someone far away … they’re little gestures that can make someone’s day, turn an ugly mood into a gleaming uplift in both the giver and receiver. Kindness can soothe the beastly harsh and thaw the biggest of ice bergs submerged in arctic waters. It can uplift to breathless heights and become buoyant in puffs of weightless jubilation; a gladness of glee. Compliment someone on their new red shoes and watch their face light up Hold the hand of a friend who bleeds out their heart Be taken to lunch, or have the lunch bill unexpectedly paid … there’s such humility in kindness, a respectful, thoughtful and generous consideration for a person, animal or something. Kindness comes with affection and warmth, gentleness too, to want to do something good. It’s the giving of time and patience, of wanting person, animal and environment to feel better than they are. Being kind is to love, whether in friendship, romantic, parental, environmental or spiritual love. To sit with a family pet for two hours after her surgery Be the angelic guardian of a brother’s galaxy Talk to a friend who is reluctant to talk and after an hour, hear the glee in their tone. That’s the bonus of course, the delight we can feel in imparting kindness, to know we’ve done something good, helped someone feel better or special, helped something, Mother Nature. But not pity them. To see kindness in action is enchanting, captivating. It’s a desirous quality layered in modesty that can never be measured. Kindness is a simple smile, a thank you, or a helpful hand to a stranger. As Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, says: The true essence of humankind is kindness. There are other qualities which come from education or knowledge, but it is essential, if one wishes to be a genuine human being and impart satisfying meaning to one’s existence, to have a good heart. Be concerned, caring and considerate. Be kind. Accept kindness. Expose it in all its glory. And honour it, for it’s in us all.

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, A life in trees

    Trees have such awesome vigour and staying power. There's a silver birch, fifty or sixty feet high, outside my study window and it's indispensable to calm and creativity. For logistical purposes, my desk was recently turned round to face the other way and inspiration fled.

    Those moments you describe are the breath of life and, thankfully savoured, give rise to others. So kind of you to share, Nicholas.

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, Expectations

    You have vividly highlighted the dangers of automatic expectation which can so rapidly morph into a demand for perceived rights and national and global ferment. The word 'fight' has never had wider usage. Many people bear suffering with immense grace, but I never knew anyone who had quite your natural gift for sharing positive energy, which actually has the power to deflect trauma and crisis. That doesn't come from 'a charmed life'. It is gained with a generous spirit through adversities. Thanks, Moni.

    The Julia Baird quote reminded me of this:

    In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

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    Nicholas Mackey
    Nicholas Mackey created a new blog post, A life in trees

    A life in trees

    Posted in Blogs on Friday, 31 July 2020

    The other evening, my wife and I went for a stroll along the Thames Path  not far from London's Chelsea Harbour and stopped to sit awhile in a  delightful spot known as Imperial Park where greenery and calm are to be  found.   As we parked ourselves on a bench savouring the ambiance of a summer's eve in a big city blessed with trees, grass and flowers in abundance, I took  these two pictures from where we sat for those few minutes.  A gentle breeze made its presence known by playing out a symphonic poem on the panoply of leaves of the rock elm trees standing close to each other: music that sounds out a message where life is in the ascendant and it means  so much to be alive and to be able to appreciate moments of magic like this.    These two images will always remind me of the simple, sublime happiness  one can experience from the existence of nature all around us.    Onwards and upwards, Nicholas  Chosenia tree     Rock elm trees      

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans created a new blog post, The Lessons of Gurnemanz

    The Lessons of Gurnemanz

    Posted in Blogs on Tuesday, 28 July 2020

      From Parzifal by Wolfram von Eschenbach, Twelth Century poet and Minnesinger, for whom Wolfram in my novel The Marriage of True minds is named. Gurnmanz teaches the young foolish Parzifal the ways of knighthood.  'And thus I begin, do thou hearken—From true shame shalt thou never flee, A shameless man, bethink thee, what place in the world hath he? As a bird that moulteth ever so his honour doth fall away, And hereafter he hath his portion in the fires of Hell for aye.' 'So noble methinks thy bearing, a folk's Lord thou well mayst be; If high be thy birth, and yet higher the lot that awaiteth thee, Then see that thy heart hath pity for the poor and needy man And fight thou against his sorrow with free gifts as best thou can, For a true knight must aye be humble—A brave man who need doth know Full often with shame he battles, and sore is that strife I trow, For him shall thy help be ready—(Who lighteneth his brother's need From Heaven he winneth favour as rewarding for righteous deed.) For in sooth his case is harder than theirs who as beggars stand' Neath the window, and succour seeking, for bread shall stretch forth the hand. Thou shalt learn in a fitting measure both rich and poor to be, Who spendeth as lord at all times no lordly soul hath he— Yet who heapeth o'er-much his treasure he winneth methinks but shame, But give thou unto each their honour, so best shalt thou guard thy fame.' I saw well as thou earnest hither that thou hadst of my counsel need— Yield not unto ways discourteous but give to thy bearing heed, Nor be thou so swift to question—Yet I would not that thou withhold An answer good and fitting to the speech one with thee would hold. Thou canst hear and see, I wot well full five shalt thy senses be, An thou use them aright, then wisdom it draweth anear to thee. 'In thy wrath remember mercy, and slay not a conquered foe, He who to thine arms shall yield him take his pledge and let him go; Unless he such ill have wrought thee as sorrow of heart doth give, An my counsel thou fain wouldst follow, then in sooth shalt thou let him live.' 'Full oft shalt thou bear thy harness—When thy knightly task is sped Thy hands and face thou shalt cleanse them from the rust and the iron red, For such is in truth thy duty, so thy face shall be fair and bright, And when maiden's eyes behold thee they shall deem thee a goodly sight. Be manly and of good courage, so shalt thou deserve thy fame; Hold women in love and honour, it shall be to thine own good name; And be ever steadfast-minded as befitteth good man and true, An with lies thou wouldst fain deceive them much harm can thy dealings do. If true love be repaid with falsehood then swift shalt the judgment be, And a speedy end to all honour and renown shall it bring to thee. As beneath the stealthy footsteps of the thief the dry stick breaks, And the slumbering watcher, startled, to his danger swiftly wakes So false ways and dealings crooked in their wake bring but strife and woe; Prove this by true love, for true women have skill 'gainst the hidden foe, And their wiles can outweigh his cunning—An thou winnest from women hate, Then for ever art thou dishonoured, and shame on thy life shall wait.' 'So take thou to heart my counsel—And more would I tell to thee; Husband and wife united as one shall they ever be, As the sun that this morning shineth, and this morn that we call to-day, So the twain may be sundered never but one shall be held alway. As twin blossoms from one root springing e'en so shall they bloom and grow; With wisdom receive my counsel that its truth thou hereafter know.'   Translated by Jessie L. Weston  

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans commented on the blog post, A Good Book

    Genius sets its own terms :) But I agree density of expression was not his gift. Though compression of emotion into dialogue certainly was.

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, A Good Book

    Pretty much rules Shakespeare out!

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans created a new blog post, A Good Book

    A Good Book

    Posted in Blogs on Wednesday, 15 July 2020

    “I was inspired by the marvelous example of Giacometti, the great sculptor. He always said that his dream was to do a bust so small that it could enter a matchbook, but so heavy that no one could lift it. That's what a good book should be.” ― Elie Wiesel

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    Monika Schott PhD
    Monika Schott PhD created a new blog post, Expectations

    Expectations

    Posted in Blogs on Tuesday, 30 June 2020

    Over the years, I’ve written about some of life’s certainties — birth, death, time and change. You can guarantee we will all experience those things. Birth and death are at the centre of our existence. We are birthed onto this Earth, to leave it again. No matter where we’re from, how much material wealth we may accumulate or what colour our skin, the scent we exude. Us humans are birthed into this world to die. Animals and plants too. Birth and death occur in tandem with time, which leads to change. Life is in a constant state of flux, sometimes deep and challenging, other times gloriously joyous and uplifting, tender and sensuous. Change happens as time passes, ticking over every minute, day and year. Tick, tick, tick … Rushing, darting, dashing, being somewhere, anywhere, and nowhere. Time, there's never enough, we always want more. Time to act and do. Time to be and play and have fun, time to walk and run. Faster, quicker, need it yesterday ... I don’t have time. More and more, more time to work and more work. Time’s ticking, always ticking. Time to feel, time to heal. Time to see and be. Time to love and be loved, and feel the love. Time to feel sad and hurt and heal from the sad and hurt. Or, we can have too much time. To think, and do nothing. The trepidation in time. Life’s certainties don’t stop there though because we also have the dreaded: Expectations. We all have them, no matter how hard we try not to. Expectations come from the act of expecting, wanting, requiring. Demanding. They can be ego driven, selfish and ungracious, and can creep in like muted millipedes found curling in a corner of your home. Black, hard little critters. Or they can thrash in as a heavy, weighted monster that won’t budge. The problem with expectations is when they aren’t met, they lead to all sorts of frustration and disappointment. I’d go so far as to say that unmet expectations can be killers. You set your mind to attaining something, and when you can’t achieve it, become disheartened. It becomes doubly so, tripled and quadrupled even, when that something hindering your ability to reach your expectation is something you have no influence over. An expectation of a sound sleep can be lost to a neighbour playing loud music at 2 am; the expectation of juicy apricots in summer can be lost once insects bore into the 20-year-old apricot tree, and dies. Most obvious is COVID-19. Without banging on about the obvious impacts, the expectation of many to carry on with our ‘usual’ life has been quashed by the outside influence of COVID-19. Many expectations pre COVID-19 are today unmet, and the impact of that can be debilitating. Unmet expectations aren’t necessarily in the extreme and can be as simple as expecting to walk your puppy around the block in 15 minutes, only to be gone double that time because your puppy wants to sit or chase a butterfly, or refuses to walk and instead wants to bite at the lead. Of course, it can go the other way too. That rascally puppy who runs amuck in the backyard, chews the skirting board of your home, might be the epitome of the model walking dog. The expectation of mayhem and mischief on a walk is a pleasant surprise when the puppy walks tall. The challenge is in managing those expectations, especially when they’re unmet, is letting go of them before they twist you into a tourniquet that’s too tight to untie. Some say to have a goal and set a plan in action to achieve it, but be prepared to change the plan if it isn’t achieving your goal. Perhaps it’s as a friend said to me the other day, who believes everything derives from and is love. Life is about ‘the love of the self, to become sovereign to the self.’ I liked that and took it to mean being respectful of one’s self in all one’s entirety, in all beauty and flaw. And to be grateful for what is, appreciate who you are and what you have and don't have. In our constant motion of time, look around and breathe in what we see, drink it in and savour it, whether bad, sad or positively blissful and everything in between. Wonder at life. Be inspired by the expanse of red soil that meets a horizon of blue in the distance, find the awe in the incandescence of snow laden mountains illuminating at 2am in an Arctic winter. The natural world is full of marvel and being in awe of it puts expectations into perspective and can shrink them into a manageable insignificance. Sit with a young child that’s waking in your arms, and appreciate their faith in your love and protection. Meditate with the birds calling in sunrise, or fall asleep to waves that never stop their rumble into shore. Take a three hour lunch with a friend on a sunny winter’s day, chat with someone who has known you over lifetimes; appreciate kindness. I love this quote from Julia Baird in her book, Phosphorescence: on Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark, for it’s a reminder to take the time to appreciate: We need to learn how to regard and pay attention, to mine our inner strength, and accept the possibility that we can emerge from pain and grow by moonlight — in times of darkness — that we can push ‘right back’ on winter and find inside a summer. We also need to seek and settle upon a purpose in life — something many people seem to discover once they fully open their eyes (Baird, 2020, p. 204). Perhaps that’s another of life's certainties: learning how to let go of, and manage expectations. Maybe it’s a case of expect the imperfection in life, where expectations are one of them. And take note of those moments of satisfaction and fulfillment in simple pleasures.

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, Florence

    Thank you for your delightful comment. It is good to reflect on a way of life that has been lost.

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole created a new blog post, Florence

    Florence

    Posted in Blogs on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

        This is the moment she lets down her hair, newly washed at the Belfast sink, and offers it to a beneficent sun. The coiled braids, set free, ripple in a fanciful breeze and glisten with silver. She is standing on a grassy incline, next to the hawthorn hedge, where no one will see her in this state of disarray. No one except the small girl who is bemused by the transfiguration. An elfin shadow falls aslant behind her.For Florence, it echoes of another little presence, far away and gone. She knows about grief. After going into service, she gave birth to a son fathered by her master. The child was torn from her life, as though he had never lived, and the long conspiracy of silence only stresses her the more. He would be a young man by now, perhaps with a wife and family of his own. Sometimes, she is sure of it: her psyche is populated with shadows that live and move and have their being within the wings of everyday reality. Young men did not come courting after that, but how could they when they lay lifeless in some corner of a foreign field? She bears her shame with meek fortitude, holding her head high among those who do not see her.     “Least said, soonest mended,” is what she tells her sister, Bella, who bicycles over the hills in her hat and coat on visits. Bella is inclined to pretend Daisy isn’t there. The sisters whisper overhead, while Bella glances down her nose and chides Florence for being put upon. Daisy catches a phrase or two, though she is more interested in the magpie browsing the apple tree. “Lonely child, lonely woman,” says Bella. “She mixes well enough. I don’t mind,” Florence tells her. And adds, somewhat cryptically, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Florence keeps house for her engineer brother, a saturnine fellow who likes a lot of mustard on his food and finds children tiresome. 'Your wife, your dog, and your walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they be,' he jokes. "Give over," Florence scolds. It is whispered that he has taken up with a woman two villages away and plans to marry. Daisy is fascinated when Florence gets on her knees with Lol’s boiler suit spread over a wavy brick floor, lathering the tough denim with Sunlight soap and scraping the slurry off with a blunt knife before it goes into the copper to be boiled in suds created with soap and a cheese-grater. Men have fought for their country in trench, jungle and desert. They are the breadwinners, the prime holders of mortgage agreements, the payers of rent. Way must be made for them and their interests served.   She is a country woman to the core and delights in her garden, the digging and planting and picking, the rogation days and harvest home. The child capers back and forth with a toy watering-can imprinted with mermaids, dipping it into the rainwater butt and dragging it to the thirsty plants. Daisy loves her floral ‘choir’ that stands tall at the edge of the potato crop. The ink-blue of delphinium spires, the chuckling sunflowers, the hollyhocks and ox-eye daisies, the canterbury bells, and snapdragons whose jaws are gently prized by furry bees prospecting for gold. Her favourites of all are the marigolds. Her wheaten locks, parted and tied in bunches, bob up and down behind her ear lobes as she darts to and fro. Startled, her little forefinger guards her mouth and she is motionless, sure that she can hear singing from some far distance place. Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green... Florence is seized by a moment of undiluted joy. “See the piggies?” suggests Daisy, off on another tack. “I’m all behind like the cow’s tail today,” says Florence. “There’s Lol’s shirts to iron and...” Daisy is crestfallen, because Lol’s shirts are definitely not top of her agenda. “Well, you’d best go and put your bonnet on, then, while I take my pinny off and make myself fit.” Daisy squeals with delight and does her happy dance. In the afternoon, they call at Farmer Knight’s where Daisy clambers on to the pigpen gate for a lofty view of a litter of inquisitive snouts. Fortified by flapjacks and squash, the pair stroll home through field, wood and churchyard, sucking barley sugars, the luminous air filled with the hum of summer, while silken butterflies alight on flowers and dragonflies hint rainbows.                 It is a beloved ritual through the seasons, the naming of flowers. Snowdrops, aconites, anemones, Star of Bethlehem and wood sorrel. Violets, bluebells, lady’s smocks and dog roses. Speedwell, ragged robins and Queen Anne’s lace. Cornflowers, campion and tansy. Autumn crocus, Jack-in-the-Pulpit… Daisy can reel off this litany to her heart’s content. A mosaic of tiny yellow petals, tinted with crimson, half-hidden in the grass, catches her eye. Delightedly, she pounces on it, losing hold of Florence’s hand. “Egg and bacon!” “That’s right,” says Florence. “But you couldn’t eat that for your tea, now could you?” She thinks of the apple cake resting on the pantry shelf and a gratifying brew of pekoe tips to round off the adventure with her small charge.“What’s that?” asks Daisy, pointing. “Baby pansy?” “Why, that’s heartsease,” says Florence. But Daisy has no time for sighs. She is telling the time with a dandelion clock. The flossy seeds float upwards and away, to take root in some other pasture. Florence will hug this day of mystical balm to herself for ever. And she will never know the treasure she has bequeathed. The lady is aptly named.     These images reveal the glorious exuberance of nature in a churchyard during lockdown.    

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans commented on the blog post, Florence

    Enjoyed this so much. Charming, evocative, and lyrical.

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    Monika Schott PhD

    Thanks Rosy. The story had to be told and I've been the fortunate person to be able to tell it. The gratitude goes both ways. x

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    Stephen Evans
    Stephen Evans commented on the blog post, Milton: A Limerick

    Helpful context :)

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    Rosy Cole
    Rosy Cole commented on the blog post, Farm Reflections: Lands faraway

    Monika has taken us on a wonderfully illuminating journey, full of interest and humanity. We are so grateful to her for generously sharing it with us. A PhD well deserved. Thanks, Moni! xx

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Latest Blogs

A friend recently reminded me of the power in kindness when she asked, what makes an urban area kind? My first thought was, how can an object or mass...
The other evening, my wife and I went for a stroll along the Thames Path  not far from London's Chelsea Harbour and stopped to sit awhile in a  deligh...
“I was inspired by the marvelous example of Giacometti, the great sculptor. He always said that his dream was to do a bust so small that it could ente...
Over the years, I’ve written about some of life’s certainties — birth, death, time and change. You can guarantee we will all experience those things. ...

Latest Comments

Nicholas Mackey A life in trees
08 August 2020
Thank you, Rosy for reading and commenting.
Stephen Evans The Lessons of Gurnemanz
06 August 2020
Interesting -thank you! have to see if I can find those books. The Osiris story is in my Emerson p...
Rosy Cole The Lessons of Gurnemanz
06 August 2020
I read this today in Eliot's notes on The Wasteland:Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal...
Monika Schott PhD Expectations
03 August 2020
Rosy, I'm so touched by your beautiful description of my writing, it's never been described in that ...
Rosy Cole A life in trees
02 August 2020
Trees have such awesome vigour and staying power. There's a silver birch, fifty or sixty feet high, ...