Saturday, April 28, 2007

Da Vinci's cavern

Not sure if I've put the quote here...
Just in case, here it is, viewed last December, virtually on the anniversary of my deconversion, at a Da Vinci exhibition in London....

I wandered some way among gloomy rocks,
coming to the entrance of a great cavern,
in front of which I stood for some time,
stupified and incomprehending such a thing…
Suddenly two things arose in me,
fear and desire;
fear of the menacing darkness of the cavern;
desire to see if there was any marvellous thing within.

Leonardo da Vinci

That quote has expressed for sometime how I feel about the way I'm going in life....deeper and deeper into the cavern.
I haven't yet got to a point where I feel it is explored sufficiently to leave, nor am I ready to stop.
Earlier this week I nearly bolted out of the cavern and back onto solid, safe ground in brilliant daylight but I think that time has not yet come.
Still more to find out, I think....perhaps just being slightly more cautious about inching my way forward.

Anyone got a torch?

Book of Job

I wrote this in March 2005, just 2 years ago.
Today I was thinking about the book of Job again, after doing other things , some of them a million miles away from that place I used to be.
And I thought that the poetry of the book of Job may still have a place in my understanding of suffering.
The story is simple.
The devil is wandering around the world and gets a bit peeved to see good old Job happily worshipping and praising the Lord.
"I bet if he lost everything" said the devil to God, "he'd curse you."
So God, being a fair sort of chap, allows the devil to carry out an uncontrolled n=1 experiment on Job (not really having taken on board that such a thing cannot be extrapolated and really should be regarded as anecdotal evidence.)
He kills off Job's family, lets him lose everything, but doesn't yet touch Job's person.

And Job is annoyingly placcid in all this.
A line that often used to come to my head in times of loss is uttered...
"The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."

So the devil is allowed by God to up the ante.
He touches Job's person.
Boils cover him and he is reduced to sitting alone, wondering why, as I often did. Why has God allowed this? What could I have done to deserve it? What part of his plan is this suffering?
His friends come along and suggest possible hypotheses but it is not until the end when God speaks to Job that we get some hint to what the true meaning of suffering is....

And the answer?
That there is no intrinsic meaning in it.
It happens.
Life is.
There are no whys to be answered in the sense that I spent so long asking- "Why me? Why Julia? Why Tom?" Now before, when I believed, I did have my answer from God and it was "Trust" but now God has gone, I think my answer has to be the annoying one I like to give four year olds who continually ask why.


Suffering happens because life happens. It is just part of it, not to be avoided, but that exists.
In a way, that knowledge brings more peace than the "Trust!" answer did- a peace that religion cannot bring. Religion brings with it questions about judgement and punishment that I could never be fully at peace with. A world without a capricious judging fickle creator somehow allows a more peaceful co-existance with the rest of it, at least for me.

Maybe I'm odd, but even yesterday, as I sat and listened to the sermon about how peace cannot be given by the world, I felt more at peace now than I did that two years ago when I wrote that first entry...

Even as I venture further into unknown territory.

Maybe just the calm before the storm.

We shall see.....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Still haven't found what I'm looking for....

When I was pregnant with Son2, all of 16 years ago, I belonged to an ecumenical gospel choir ("Sing it Sister!") and used to bolt out soulful ditties. We made tapes of the things we were learning, and at the end of one of the tapes, someone stuck this version of the U2 classic.
I loved it. Played it loud whenever I could, especially lying in the bath, on high volume, hands on my naked pregnant belly, feeling "Toby" (as he was called then) kick and leap about as I sung. And after rehearsals, he couldn't keep still, very excited by it all.
As cassette tapes do, it finally broke and whenever I heard the song from then on, I would think of this wonderful vibrant version, with the passion and intensity of the faith of the choir I was singing with echoing through the years.
Scroll forward many years to a Saturday night, sipping red wine and mixing the red drops at the bottom with the tears that were falling over something too sensitive to mention. Words had hit home, I had just seen Den and was so aware that in facing her passing, I was to do it without the faith and belief that once held me so strongly. And that in my exploring in the here and now, I still hadn't found what I was looking for....
And in more hope than belief, I entered it into youtube, and to my utter amazement, found it there.
The words still speak...

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains,
Carried the cross of my shame,
Of my shame
You know I believed it.....
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for.....

And as on an uber website far away, those who once denied the truth turn back to the light, I seem to head further and further into the darkness. This dust here is mere dust, once more all is straw.
And talking to Den's mother I used the old familiar words, not wanting to wound her in her darkest hour, comforting her with the faith I still know but do not believe.
And on a day out, back to the Glastonbury where I sat and contemplated as my faith slipped out of my hands, I headed further into the darkness of Da Vinci's cavern.
I still haven't found what I'm looking for....
....but the search goes on.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


On April 24th 2007, the wonderful Denise died. At 49, she had lived all her life with her parents, needing full physical care, she was tiny, had speech that was hard to understand and a wicked sense of fun and love of life that is rarely found in anyone. She loved her family, but like any woman, she wanted independence, her own place, maybe a man in her life, children, but none of that could be. But never once did she groan about not having what she wanted, she just went on her merry way, living each day she had as fully as the last.

And we went on holidays together, in various combinations. Five or six of us, girls of the same age, becoming women of the same age, holidays that with one exception were the essence of laughter throughtout. Denise bore being hauled around by us, dropped occasionally when we all had drunk too much gin (her favourite tipple) and had an eye for the absurd that she would draw to our attention at the most opportune moments.

Like in a quiet moment in the Blessed Sacrament procession in Lourdes. Being pushed ahead of us, behind a young Italian man in tight trousers which remained at her eye level for sometime. At a pause in the proceedings, her voice rang out, as clear as a bell for once. "Nice Bum!" she said admiringly....

She often had to tolerate being treated like a child instead of the woman she was. Head patting, patronising well meaning comments she usually bore well, except when tired and fortified with gin, when the remarks back might be less complimentary than they were taken to be. But she retained her good humour about it all, often after the person had gone, a mere look would be sufficient to send us all into spasms of laughter.

"She doesn't drink, does she" a worried comment might come, as we poured out her fourth gin "just 2 (vertical) fingers" she would call. "Lemonade" she'd say, her speech loosened and limbs eased by the relaxing of her muscles, ever ready to go into painful spasms.

One year, she was ill on our trip away, gravely so. A chest infection nearly carried her off while away from the family that adored her, but she scraped through. Not once during that week of tension did she moan or bewail her fate, and as she recovered, we lay there at nights, not able to sleep all of us, reading a torrid romance we had found in a corner of the hotel aloud, crying with laughter at the antics of the handsome dashing hero.

Ten days ago, she went into hospital for some tests. She had been losing weight and was in pain. Last Wed, a week ago, the doctors told her parents, both elderly and struggling to contain the tears, that she was not long for this world. I managed to see her Saturday, in her bed, queen of the ward, with the nurses running round her and we shared photos of her at my wedding, holding my babies and holding a litre of beer at a French cafe in bright sunlight, with her arm resting casually on the arm of the latest fancy man to fall under her spell. She could hardly breathe enough to speak, but her first words were to ask about my mother, my sister, Mike and the boys, no sound coming out but her lips forming the words.

And yesterday morning, after coming home 24 hours before, she slipped away peacefully. Her mother had realised the end was near in the evening, and had the priest straight round, who anointed her and prayed with her as the doctor came and eased her pain.

She slipped off into a peaceful, tranquil sleep, then at 2am, opened her eyes and sighed, and left this life.

"And I know she was in pain, and I know I didn't want to leave her here without me" her mother said to me yesterday, "but I'm going to miss her so much."As will we all.

The world is a much better place for having had Den in it, and a poorer one now she has gone.
And as I look at her photo here, from 15 years ago, her arm resting on the shoulder of the young Italian man in tight trousers, her face alight with that smile, I smile too and hope the memories of the joy she gave and the laughter she brought will help her wonderful parents through the next few difficult months.

Goodbye Denise...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

week three....

Shattered by Friday evening.
I'm not made of stern stuff anymore, a bit too fragile for my own good.
Still, I got through it, the clinics, the ward, the meetings, the teaching...
And at home, things trundle along.
My zest that I found has flattened a bit, I come home and just want to flop, to stop, to switch off and do anything except interact with other inhabitants of planet earth.
But something inside tells me in a strict and forceful way it would be singularly unhelpful to do this, that I need to keep switched on, that in time, my body will adjust and not feel so fatigued anymore.
And while I work, in a far flung corner of France, thousands of happy children and their helpers are dancing and singing their way through a week that once was the highlight of my year.
Leaving only a tinge of sadness now, as my mind focuses on what I lost through dancing that particular dance for so long.
But they have just landed back happily...
so my sufferings in November weren't exactly in vain!
And my dance now is slower but interesting still.
I plan to keep on going, whatever my body is telling me....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

End of week2

End of week 2
To everyone's unsurprise, the local young people have mangaed to work out a very easy way of getting through the security fence. They just remove the bolts which were meant to be security proof but clearly not youth proof. Now as well as having a lovely area to play in at night, they also have lethal missiles.

G spent most of today chasing various youths out of the premises, and they recognised in this former miner's wife veteran of many strikes, someone not to be argued with.
Meanwhile clients came and went, phone calls were answered and emails responded to.
And my joints, which are supposed to be better, grumbled and groaned as I went up and downstairs for coffee and to interact with the rest of the team in their overcrowded noisy offices.
I drove home in relative calm, this gradual return helping, so that when T opened the door and berated me for his game not arriving, Norway not being in the UK and TV not having Sky on it anymore, I could answer with this unusual relative calmness as I entered the house and placate him. (And the iPod wasn't charged up...he carried on complaining regardless.)

And Mw got 84% in his second English paper, thus bankrupting me and teaching me never again to promise a cash reward for exams...

And M and I are at peace, relatively, despite more revelations and difficulties coming out in the family. He takes my latest escapades in the manner of a man who can take anything and despite my selfish explorations, lets me continue, gently helping me along with his observations and own limited explorations. My time at CF is over, I don't even read it now, and that helps me feel more at peace than anything else, sad to say. And as I reach for something that I have never had and probably will never had, I learn a lesson that I am trying to teach T; sometimes, you can't have everything you want, even if you feel you need it. Sometimes it must just stay a distant wistful dream, even if to think that makes the tears fall. That sometimes is the lesson to learn.
I hope I learn it soon and move on from where I am now....