Haiku-sday: Winter’s bones

The trees’ windward snow

shadows–hundreds of them–are

the night’s skeleton.

 

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Three things: Dead computers, Ignatian spirituality, and Advent

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It feels like such a long time since I have been on my blog! It’s good to be back. Just after I posted that I would be taking a break, my computer died–suddenly and irreparably. It was wonderful to be without digital obligation. But a little stressful too, because I still am making up for lost time with deadlines for things like newsletters (one of the reasons I was taking a blogging break)–the files for which are still on my dead computer and may never make it off. Sigh.

The other reason I took a break was because I began a course on Ignatian prayer and meditation. The course runs over a series of weekends in a retreat centre just north of Inverness. My partner was out of town for the first weekend, so I skyped in (from the office that had a view of a local university chapel, above), running home to see the kids in the breaks. Probably not the most mindful way of participating in a course like this, but it had to be done, and really, I got so much out of it despite the busy spaces between sessions. S.’s godparent, Katja, came and spent the weekend with us, and did all sorts of lovely and energetic things with the kids. (Do you know much about Ignatian spirituality? It is based on the nearly 500-year-old teachings of St Ignatius of Loyola [founder of the Jesuit order]. He instructed the early Jesuits to go out into the world and find the Divine in everything. By extension, Ignatian spirituality is contemplative, mindful, and very active in the world. A while ago, I heard an interview with the actors who played Jesuits in the Scorcese film, ‘Silence’. In preparation for their roles, they studied the Ignatian spiritual exercises. In the interview they reflected that these exercises are much like how an actor approaches a script–leaving themselves behind, and entering into the text/prayer with a great openness to creative insight).

Happy Advent to you all! I love this time of year. We’ve had some crazy weather–I am writing in the midst of high winds and snowfall. The days are so short and after a brisk walk, we come home to light candles, drink hot beverages, and do crafts. I know you are thinking: ‘what amazing Christmas crafts are you making?’… well, it is more like L. finds paper and goes all Edward Scissorhands on it, and I spend the next half hour picking up paper shards from the far corners of our flat while S. finds the discarded afforementioned scissors and goes all Edward Scissorhands on books, clothing, and upholstery. However, we did manage to channel our inner Martha Stewart over the weekend and make this wreath from willow (from the woods nearby), rose hips and alder cones (from behind Lidl), and ivy (from our garden).

Three things: Life and things, oil and coffee, and foxes

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Life is just ticking along at a lovely clip and I have finally got into the swing of the school day with S.’s naps and my daily agenda. Sometimes when I am feeling organised, I usher the kids out of the house 50 minutes earlier for a walk in the woods to visit our transplanted Christmas tree before school. This is never without complaint from myself or the kids, but once we’re on our way, all is well and the rest of the day just clicks into place. The weather has been bitter, but look at the quality of light! I love this time of year. We’ve had a lot of indoor time too. Water play at the sink has been the activity-du-jour. Our kitchen floor has never been so clean.

Do any scientists (or anyone, really) out there know why the coconut oil on top of my coffee (don’t ask why there is coconut oil on top of my coffee) went into this incredible formation?

The first signs were the toys belonging to one neighbour’s dog ending up in another neighbour’s garden. Then there were the shallowly buried bones in the garden, exhumed by the afforementioned dog. The flickering of security lights at strange hours finally illuminated the story…we have foxes, my friends! And, because we no longer keep chickens, I am very excited about this! And I can’t stop thinking about foxes. I’ve been reciting this favourite song for the kids, listening to this album while I write, and remembering my favourite scene from our beloved film, Fantastic Mr Fox. 

I’m going to take another little break from blogging over the next couple of weeks. My partner is out of town, and I have a variety of extra commitments that I am excited about, but also a little daunted by, as I will have to manage them alongside the extra domestic duties. I hope you enjoy the rest of Autumn (or Spring, you southern hemispherers), and I will see you soon!

Through whom You light the night

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We sang at church yesterday a hymn based on the Canticle of the Sun (sometimes known as the Canticle of the Creatures), a song originally composed by St Francis of Assisi. It is a joyful sound and always brings to mind how amazing the world is, and how fragile its ecosystems. Yesterday it also reminded me of a children’s book we have at home with another adaptation of the song. It’s called Brother Sun, Sister Moon, by Katherine Patterson. The illustrations are done by Pamela Dalton using a technique called scherenschnitten, in which sillhouettes are cut from paper.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Another amazing Scherenschnitterin is Lotte Reiniger, whose work I stumbled across about 7 years ago in Tübingen. If you have ten minutes up your sleeve, you might like to see her intricate work for this film Hansel and Gretel.

Three things: Projects, cards, and Who Gives A Crap

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It may be because school is back in session and I have one less being to engage with for 6 hours of the day, or it may be because the clocks went back and gave me another hour this week, but I have been productive this week.  I am not usually a productive person… I know… having a blog gives me the illusion of being a productive person… why do you think I have one?  On Monday, however, I was productive.  I only realised this when the boiler man came in to replace a piece of our boiler.  I saw the shock on his face when he went into our kitchen and found every surface covered with mini projects: a bowl of beech nuts and soaking nettles that we’d collected in the morning because the kids needed something to do with that extra hour of life, sauerkraut fermenting, 12 bulbs of garlic in various states of undress on the way for the other fermentation jar, defrosting marrow bones, thawing fish heads, and a big pile of stuff for our Christmas cake. Oh, and the veggies for tea that night. I may have just completed all the tasks I will get done for the year!

On a similar note of productivity… I’ve been printing Christmas cards to sell. Here’s a sampling of one design. Last year, a creative friend of mine printed a bunch of sweet cards which sold like hot cakes around the university we’re associated with. Then she had the audacity to move back to her home country.  So I am filling the void in the market.

I have recently learned of one product that I can promote without feeling like you will waste your money if you buy it. Or that the planet will curse me and you for the plastic involved. Or that you will be ripped off. Or that you don’t actually need this item. Or that other people in the world won’t benefit from you making this purchase. Loo roll from Who Gives A Crap! This is an extremely ethical company making a product that most of you (not all? No judgement here. You must have a very small footprint) use. I bought my first box of it a few months ago and am only making a second order now–it lasts for ages, is very well priced, high quality, and has that feel-good thing going on with its environmental and social ethic. Go to their website to check out what they’re about. And then use this link to get £5 off your first order. (Full disclosure: if you choose to buy through this link, I will also get money off my next purchase. But don’t worry–I am not getting into monetizing my blog, and probably won’t make another plug like this for another 10 years).