Friday, March 31, 2006

Sorting some Pictures

I've been spending the last few evenings uploading some of my archive work onto Flickr. These are mainly figurative works of various sorts.
But while looking through some earlier photos I came across this one of a lively sea of the beach at St. Ives. I think I took the picture last year.
Much of my time at the studio is taken up with preparing for the next exhibition, "Sitka" which opend at the Kielder Forestry Centre on May 2. At the end of May it transfers to Jedburgh just over the Border until June 23.
Only a month left and still so much to do...... framing, attaching fixtures, packaging, cataloguing etc. Its always a bit hectic on the closing days proir to the show, but once its on the wall I can relax.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Joy of Giving

Yesterday's celebratory meal went well. The Cypriots are good teachers. I didn't take Brenda to Cyprus but I did mange to bring Cyprus to her, well almost. The food was authentic, as was the music, but there was no view of the sunlit Mediteranean Sea from the dining room window; only grey Lancashire drizzle. A least it was water so it had that in common with the Med.
I really enjoyed doing all the preparation and took pleasure in Brenda's subsequent enjoyment of it. It gave her a perfect Mother's Day cum Wedding Anniversary.
Such is the joy of giving, both on a human as well as a spiritual level.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cause for Celebration

A day to celebrate and for Brenda, my wife a double celebration. Today is Mothering Sunday better known as Mother's Day, in the Christian Calendar and this year it coincides with our forty second wedding anniversary.
Time does indeed fly like an arrow. It doesn't seem all that long since we had our Ruby wedding but here we are a further two years down the road.
Usually we go out for a meal together but this time I'm cooking the meal myself. I have planned a Greek meal, which includes a vegetarian mousaka that I came across in Cyprus. I spent yesterday shopping for the correct ingredients to make sure I get it right. Greek food is a lot cheaper in Cyprus than here in the UK. That's not surprising I suppose as Britain is not quite the Mediterranean, is it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Best Laid Plans......

.........of mice and men, as the old saying goes.
I was meant to be going on a retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey this last week end. That had to be seriously revised with my wife being in hospital. She has been quite ill with a ferocious attack of asthma.Thankfully she is now back home but not surprisingly is rather fragile.
Needless to say my daily routine has changed somewhat. Instead of the routine having the studio at its centre, it was hospital visiting. And now she is back home it centres on giving the needed support. I still get to my studio but for a shorter period. There is a rising sense of urgency now as I have an exhibition at the Kielder Forestry Centre in Northumberland which starts on May 2 followed by another at the Jedburgh Arts Centre in Scotland commencine June 2. Events just go to show however much we may plan ahead, we cannot predict the future.

The Immediacy of Death
No matter how much we keep the prospect of death, either of others or our own, shut away in the backs of our minds, "out of sight and out of mind" its reality and inevitability cannot be ignored. This was brough very much to the fore a fortnight (two weeks to non-English readers) ago when my wife, her name's Brenda, by the way, was admitted into hospital. She was in Status Asthmaticus which, if untreated is invariably fatal. During the emergency I had gone into "nurse mode" and just got on with what needed to be done. But after the paramedics had left and taken Brenda to the local hospital, I returned to an empty house.It was then the reality of the situation hit.
The shape of things to come? I wonder.
Rev. Mugo's recent blog covers this very subject. The site merits a visit.
It is one thing my wife being away on holiday somewhere leaving me here but quite another when she is not here because of illness.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Be Still and KNOW........

Amidst the surging waves and crashing surf, a small haven of calm clear water. Even in a howling gale.

Does Meditation Help?

This is a question that non-meditators tend to ask. It arises from the mistaken view that meditation is therapy. It can be used as therapy but in its pure form, therapy it isn't. What I can say is thatthe fruits of meditation are probably more manifest in times of stress. Like this past week, for example, my wife is still in hospital and the response to treatment is somewhat slow. Even amidst the inevitable anxiety and consequent stress the iron man can be seen. The "iron man" is the indestructible core of every living thing's being.
The stillness of meditation can be likened to a stone lying on the beach but below the tidal margin. The waves constantly crash over it but when the waves recede, it is still there, a stone. OK, so it gets rolled around a little and worn down a bit more but it still remains a stone. Alone. Inviolate. Yet part of a bigger thing. Sea, stone, sand, waves and the ever changing tide are all part of this one. Several small bit-player parts in the great symphony of the universe.
All of civilisation rushes to and fro in the headlong dash into, where? But somewhere in this turmoil, someone is sitting still. Always there is someone meditating somewhere.There is a stillness we all can share, even by thinking of this scenario. Meditation is not a selfish act.
Does meditation help? It helps everyone, whether they want it to or not.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Its a bit of a "drop everything" week. My wife's unresolving chest infection has led to her being hospitalised to borrow an American term. So my mind is on other things than the rise and fall of tides and seasons. As the BBC used to say, "Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible."
This is all a timely reminder that none of us is as robust as we pretend to be. Thomas a Kempis, a mediaeval Christian mystic put it very well where he wrote, "Why take pride (for Buddhists read "refuge") in a healthy body when a small disease can bring it to ruin?"
I live on a street set on a steep hill which seems to get steeper as I get older.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Holy Relic

Just up the coast from Land's End, near St. Just in Cornwall there stands ancient relic, the oratory of Saint Helen. I think she must have been something of a recluse, - a solitary monk ( or nun if you like). Despite the continuous turmoil of the sea and the unrelenting Atlantic gales there is an air of calm about the place. I can well imagine her going about her simple daily life of work and prayer and meditation. The building still has that feel about it. Almost as if she has only just left. You can find out who this obscure celtic saint was here. Turns out she was a man!
The calm amidst the storm seems to be a theme running in my own meditation practice at the moment. I was particularly touched by the contrast between the surging sea and the still rockpool in Majorca last week.
We sit in our meditation place while the world whirlwinds around us. We are part of all this. The stillness of meditation is a vital ingredient.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Those Dark Satanic Mills

Most of the "Dark Satanic Mills" referred to in Blake's patriotic hymn, "Jerusalem" are long gone. Some of these relics of the industrial revolution now serve as premises for small businesses or as in Luneside's case, artists' studios.
Others have quietly deteriorated into "romantick ruins" like the one shown here. This one lies behind the St. George's Quay works in Lancaster where the studios are housed. This empty shell has taken on some of the aura more associated with Fountains Abbey or Rievieulx in Yorkshire. But sadly, unlike the monastic ruins, they will probably not be preserved. I think one or two of these industrial ruins should be saved for the nation before they are lost forever. They are a memorial to an arduous way of life which thankfully has gone, but whose memory is worth keeping.
Properly preserved, a ruin such as this one could be something of an architectural asset in a modern development.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Stillness and Storm

I took this picture last week in Majorca. There was a stiff breeze and a real sea swell was running. Yet beside this surging ocean, here was this little rock pool completely still and unperturbed by the storm raging around it.
Meditation is like this.Not just the peaceful imagery but the fact that wind, ocean and pool are all one. This composition could not exist without any of these elements.I like it anyway.