SINGULARITY

For many years I have been an avid reader of Maria Popova’s learned articles. She is a gifted writer and created Brain Pickings in 2006 to cover such diverse topics as literature, philosophy, science and art. Since 2012 Brain Pickings has had the honour of being included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive.

In one recent article readers were introduced to the wonderful poet Marie Howe and her poem ‘Singularity’. Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s work, the poem was written to a short deadline; a daunting undertaking for someone whose creations are often years in the making.

The incredible and striking poem would not leave me and I hope you find it equally as thought-provoking. Below the poem is a video with an explanation and reading of ‘Singularity’.

SINGULARITY

by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?


There was no   Nature.    No
them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock
was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home

Finally, I want to thank everyone for the beautiful and thoughtful comments on my previous post. Owing to a viral infection morphing into a nasty and debilitating chest infection I, along with the whole family, are unfortunately ill. I will reply when possible and return fully to blogging when better.

FLOWERS AHOY!

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This time of year is a struggle for many gardens, and particularly in the UK as it endures an unusually long heatwave. For most of us, watering is not so tricky, but I wonder how this oasis of peace is faring on the ‘open’ seas?!

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Who’d ever imagined a garden on a boat? Not I! On a tour of this most unusual ship moored in Harwich I was wonderfully surprised to be greeted by this most unexpected addition on the deck of the ship.

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Thinking about my own passion for gardening, I realise it is a wonderful source of solace. The peace and tranquility brought by the tending to the plants, seeing their growth, caring for them is incredibly soothing. So it has been throughout time. Viewing the garden on the ship I felt an immediate sense of serenity, a hint of magic, the flowers sparkling, the details in every nook and cranny a delight to discover. The garden oozed with tranquility … it was hard to tear myself away and continue the tour.

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“Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It’s the one area where we can all use our nascent creative talents to make a truly satisfying work of art. Every individual, with thought, patience and a large portion of help from nature, has it in them to create their own private paradise: truly a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.”  Geoff Hamilton

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“It goes back to the garden telling a story. You make up bits and play with them to see if they ring true. Sometimes this works out first time and all is well and good, but as often as not you have to fiddle and reshape until it is right.

In the garden or allotment we are king or queen. It is our piece of outdoors that lays a real stake to the planet.”  Monty Don

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Sunset over Harwich Pier, courtesy of Tony O’Neal at 

I will write much more about this fascinating ship in a later post this month but wanted to share snippets of this tenderly loved and cared for garden today.

PS. Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support and comment on my last post ‘Loyalty & Trust’. For anyone who didn’t see my addition to the post during late Tuesday afternoon I found to my utter surprise that my reviews had been restored! A fantastic result and I was appreciative of their email apology later in the week, albeit without any explanation.

 

HAPPY MIDSUMMER

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Glad Midsommor to you all!

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A day when the heart can fly with joy, the spirits soaring with life and energy!

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Where both the body is nourished by good wholesome food, and the soul is rejuvenated through stillness and sharing.

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Where the mind flows between the present and the past; the two often seeming to merge. When the memories offer contentment and happiness, the present likewise a source of comfort and joy.

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Whether celebrating this Midsummer, the longest day of the year, or not – I wish you all a wonderful day filled with love, compassion and adventures!

To end this brief post I’d like to share a quote I came across recently – the words like a thunderbolt of wisdom!

‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply give you courage.’ Lao-Tzu

May we all find such courage … experience such strength.

Photos courtesy of Pixaby

HATS FLYING / SPIRITS SOARING!

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Ever since I started blogging, I’ve never failed to be astounded and inspired by the superb and moving posts here on WordPress. Some posts have become part of my regular weekly reading, and Feminist Friday by Bernadette at Haddon Musings  is a post I never miss.

Her post celebrating the life of a woman or women mark the start of my Fridays and I always sit down to read in the knowledge of a rewarding, interesting and uplifting article.

Last week’s article on Anna Quindlen’s graduation speech moved me to tears. It is a wonderful and brave speech, extolling life and love, celebrating the actual art of living! I felt heartened and warmed by the strength and power of her message and I hope it touches your heart as it did mine. I reread it. What a wonderful life-affirming message for these young people.

Here are just a few snippets to start with. The rest of the article can be read by clicking the link below:

“But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

“Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work

“Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.

“And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted.”

Please click the following link to read the whole speech viaFEMINIST FRIDAY 2018 

55-12266-anna-quindlen-photo-2-1390852019A quick aside, as I’d never heard of Anna Quindlen, I looked her up and discovered she is a renowned American author, journalist and commentator. In 1992 she won the Pulizter Prize for Commentary.

PS. Comments are turned off for this time, to leave space for any thoughts on Bernadette’s blog.

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THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE #1

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Sometimes a challenge arrives at the perfect time and this one – The 3 Day Quote Challenge – caught me when I find myself surrounded by quotes, absorbed in collecting them, reading through old ones, finding new ones.

For the next three days, I will be posting a quote and explaining why it’s made an impression on me.

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

Many thanks to Laura at laurabrunolilly.com for nominating me.

Rules and I don’t always mix well; so my quotes may be a bit longer and my first foray into the challenge begins with a ‘Blessing of Solitude’.

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The above is an authentic Celtic blessing found in a book written by John O’Donohue called ‘anam cara’ (soul-friend) and sub-titled ‘Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World’.

This book resides on my bedside table and one I dip into now and again. Its pearls of wisdom, gems of inner-understanding ensures it’s a book that not only has meant a lot to me but continues to do so. In recent weeks some of my friends are going through hardships and I found myself seeking solace and clarity within the pages.

My 3 nominees for day #1 of this challenge are:

Quick Aside

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I’m stunned and very honoured to have been nominated in the Best Pal category of the Bloggers Bash Awards! There are only a few more days to vote until the virtual box closes at midnight on April 30th (BST) so head over to the ballot – there will be lots of familiar names there in a whole host of categories … and towards the end is the Best Pal nominations. Press HERE to vote.

BEST PAL: Which blogger do you want to go to the pub with? Or maybe have dinner with? Who never fails to reply to comments, and has thoughtful things to say? Maybe they encourage the community through weekly challenges or blog parties. A blogger who makes the blog-o-sphere a better place is what makes the Best Pal. (This description courtesy of Bloggers Bash Awards)

SUNSHINE BLOSSOM

Two weeks ago only the daffodils braved the grey chill that clung all around. Trees barely seemed to be in bud and the occasional bulb peeked above the sodden ground, seeming to retreat as soon as they appeared.

What a difference a week makes with the welcome arrival of glorious Spring weather! As we basked under exceptional warm temperatures, the flowers in the garden woke with a blaze of colour. I cannot help but study them in awe and wonder, often whilst swinging on the wooden seat with hushed joy.

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Some of you I know still have a little (or a lot) of the ‘white stuff’, some are in Autumn, so I want to share just a few photos of the Spring flowers in my garden. As it is National Poetry Month, I’ve included part of a Spring poem to accompany the images.

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‘A sensitive plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.

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‘And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

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‘The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sent
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.’

img_0719The above are a few stanzas from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem entitled ‘The Sensitive Plant’  (published 1820).

WRITE FROM YOUR HEART!

Wow! I felt like a movie star as I left the school, a large bouquet of flowers nestled in the crook of my arm. My mind was spinning, my heart was light with joy. I’d just had a most wonderful afternoon with a group of creative writers at a local school. Aged from eleven to fifteen, the eighteen students were brimming with questions, ideas and originality. Their enthusiasm knows no bounds (a soaring and liberating sensation).  From my talk below the top tip that remained with the students afterwards was to ‘Write from your Heart’ – one couldn’t ask or hope for more.

Here is my talk to them in full for your perusal and if new (or not so new)  to writing I hope it can inspire you and your work.

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A heartfelt thank you for the invitation to meet you all today. I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to learn more about all of you and listen to some of your work.

First of all, how did I become an author?

Writing has been my lifelong passion. Just as I cannot imagine a life without books, nor can I imagine a day without writing. An inspirational teacher at primary school instilled in me the joy of creative writing and I haven’t stopped since. Writing became a way for me to paint with words, layering them for texture, using bold dramatic language on occasions, other times capturing the gentle nuances of a moment with subtle word play. It is an art form, that can be crafted, shaped, moulded to an endless variety of formats.

Three years ago I had the opportunity to start writing seriously and a well-established writing course gave me guidance on developing my writing as well as advising me on how to become published.

There are countless short story competitions available and entering some of these was my first port of call. I bought the magazines, studied their stories, and also, this is critical, read the rules to competitions. It baffles me how many fail to do this!

Very soon I won first prize in a Writing Magazine short story competition and the success of ‘Biding Her Time’ proved to be the confidence booster I needed.

I quickly developed a love for short stories and I delight in crafting them. They require clarity, conciseness whilst not being abrupt or missing out on the artistry of language and they can often be a form of character study. Every word has to count!

I draw inspiration from all around me — conversations, everyday experiences, and even news items. If an idea strikes me I make a note of it as soon as possible; after all it’s proven that ideas can float in and out of our consciousness within three seconds. If a notebook is to hand, I’ll scribble in that, otherwise I’ll tap away on the ‘note’ app on my mobile.

I’ve kept journals since young and they are a quiet meeting place for me to jot down my thoughts, ideas, concerns and story possibilities in private; never to be shared or scrutinised. I return to some of these at a later date and sometimes find a gem of an idea for a story, poem or even article.

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A small memento of my visit for the students. May many new stories be written with these.

The first line of a story is critical to me. Once that is in place the rest of the writing flows. It is as if someone is ‘dictating’ the story, it becomes organic and takes on a life form of its own. Subconsciously I will be writing away, the first draft always on paper, and many times I will be wonderfully surprised by a twist in a story or the strength of a minor character forcing their way to centre stage. It is a magical surreal experience and one that can last for hours.

The voice of the piece is a major factor in writing. I feel there are always two voices.

Your voice as the writer must be just that — YOURS. Be true to yourself when you write; this is what makes your writing original and enables it to shine out.

The voice or point of view of a story can vary. Will the point of view be first person, which is often more immediate and direct? Or will it be in the third person, which allows you more scope to examine events beyond just one person? There is also the option of the second person – you – format which I experimented with in one of my short stories. Of course, many books feature multiple points of views and it is important to make each distinct and at all times clear whose head you’re in!

Although I have printed a one-off edition of my earlier childhood work and also been featured as part of my writing group’s anthology, ‘The Storyteller Speaks’, is my first published book. I was encouraged to publish some of my short stories in a book by the readers of my blog.

My blog was set up following the recommendation by my tutor for the need of an online presence! As a result, I have made wonderful friends across the globe and also connected with people within all aspects of the publishing industry. Through this networking, I ‘met’ the cover artist for my book who lives in Australia and a company in Ireland provided extensive formatting support. 

Furthermore, I increasingly use Twitter to interact with readers, writers and publishers.

Planning a novel is not something I’d considered before I started writing mine a couple of years ago. ‘Island Girl’ is now in its final editing stages and I recollect its early days with fondness. Then, as with much of my writing, I set out to write it with just the backbones of a few ideas, themes and setting.

However, my time-line was slightly array, details of my characters and places were forgotten from one chapter to the next. It was a lot tougher keeping control of all the elements of a full-length novel. Quickly I developed various techniques to avoid future faults.

One way to spot both grammatical errors and glaring mistakes is always to read your work aloud! Since it is a lot to expect to read a whole novel aloud I started using ‘Natural Reader’ app.

Various writing programs are a huge benefit.The free online thesaurus is always open on my tab as I’m working. Similarly, a grammar program such as ‘Grammarly’ helps me to fine tune work, but I never automatically adopt its suggestions. I write on a software program called ‘Scrivener’. This acts as a virtual binder and allows me to plan chapters, look at my ideas on a virtual corkboard, include research documents, as well as writing the novel chapter by chapter.

Not content with writing short stories and a novel, I have also completed two children’s books.

What other advice can I give?

Throw yourself into writing and relish the experience! Find the magic within you and share it! Write from your heart! This may be easier said than done, if like me, your head tends to rule. Don’t disregard your mind but just don’t overthink.

Once you’ve finished a piece, and this can be tough, put it aside for a while. Returning to it with fresh eyes will be key to the next stage; editing. Here engage that brain, tap into your creativity, look out for ways to improve your writing. Perhaps you’re ‘telling’ too much instead of ‘showing’? Not only is it more enjoyable for the writer to show through their writing, it will lift your story.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of dialogue to carry a story forward, to show emotions, even description. It’s striking when you can have a sequence of speech without the ‘he said’/‘she said’. Try to avoid always using adverbs with these; the anger etc should come out in the language where possible.

Never be afraid of feedback of your work; after all we learn through constructive criticism. Also start to read your own written work with a critical eye when necessary.

Play around with your writing. Writing outside one’s comfort zone is a great way to bring new life into your work. Try another unusual genre. Shift your work around — explore new vocabulary and if writing fantasy, maybe even make up a few new words of your own! Use different tenses, viewpoints. I felt a sense of liberation writing from a male viewpoint in some of my stories and using the present tense brought a welcome sense of rush and urgency to them.

When not writing, read lots! Not just in one genre but across the board. It’s a wonderful way to learn. See what works well, and also look out for writing that falters, flatlines … learn from other’s mistakes.

When you start a new piece of writing, remember that this is your first and rough draft. If you wait to write down the most I and absolute best version of your work you may never start at all as you will feel inhibited before even writing a word.

Write with your Ideal Reader in mind — recall your own emotions and feelings when you are swept away by a story. There is nothing quite like escaping into another world; when the present real-world fades to that of the fiction. My dream has been to recreate that experience for all my readers — and hopefully I have. Make your characters three-dimensional, so real that neither you nor the reader wants to leave them!

Through the nitty-gritty of writing, the joy and power of creating worlds, characters, stories should never be underestimated.

As one famous writer said of short stories: ‘(they) are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.’

©Annika Perry, March 2018

10,527 STEPS

20180128_152729The first 100 or so Steps

In the quiet hush that can only signify a Sunday morning, my husband and I enjoyed the rare luxury of a breakfast together, exchanging small gifts and cards, before heading to the car for our day’s outing.

Twenty years ago we met for the first time and this was an occasion to be marked. We’d pondered how a few days earlier. Should we replicate the evening itself? That involved a flurry of pubs visits, one so empty and dull the security guards outnumbered the guests, the other so packed we sat like sardines on sunken sofas, embedded within the aged fabric. Even through rose-tinted vision of time passed we shook our heads in an empathic no!

Our interests took us elsewhere and with the promise of a few rain-free hours, we set off to a place we yearned to see again. Two years ago we’d paid a flying visit to Ely and it’s stunning cathedral set amongst the beautiful landscape of the Fens. We looked forward to seeing it again, enjoying the time and space to revel in its gifts.

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The car park in Ely by the Maltings, the Victorian brewery, kindly offered us free parking and requested we mention their generosity to our friends…duly done!

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Nearby an eel sculpture stood prominently in a park to commemorate Ely, known at one time for its eels and named after the Saxon word for the fish -eilig!

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The walk to the river opened up to reveal a bustling holiday atmosphere as canal boats and small pleasure cruises teemed on the water, the golden willows whispering their greeting to the river, children, and dogs competing for attention.

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Fishermen sat far apart along the river bank, nearly absorbed into the dark green of the grass, they seemed to blend seamlessly together in the picture.

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2,000 or so steps

Astonishingly, the busy lively riverside promenade was left behind as we ducked below a railway bridge to the path along the swollen river. Here only the serious walkers set out. The raised path stood just above the water level of the flooded field to our left, the yellow decaying weeds a fluttering reminder of the winter still upon us.

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3,000 or so steps 

To the right, the mighty river (by British standards) flowed with majestic elegance.

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Ahead arrow-sharp rowing boats raced past at dazzling speed, the long oars barely seemed to dip into the water, effortlessly carrying it along. The University of Cambridge has a boathouse here and often practice on the river; not surprising considering the extremely busy River Cam, clogged with punts and the numerous tourists!

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4,000 or so steps

We continued to traverse through the Fens flat landscape, the marshland of 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometres) stretching ahead, gently curving at bends. Here the sky opened up to lofty heights, the soft clouds of whites, pinks, greys dotted upon the lightest of baby blue hues. A gentle peace cascaded, rolled over us as we ambled on, my camera to hand.

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To the left, a sudden rush and hoot stopped me in my tracks – I hadn’t noticed the railway track before, set up just above the water level, the mechanical surprisingly not at odds with the calm of nature.

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The menagerie of birds seemed quite unperturbed, the dogs continued to walk calmly on as did we.

6,000 or so steps

I’ve never walked across a railway track before and approached this one with discernible excitement, heightened as the lights started to flash and the alarm sounded. Here is the video I took of the Train as it passed closely past us. (Since WP suddenly will not allow me to post videos I set up a YouTube channel to allow me to share this!)

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Yet again the wonderful Cathedral dominated the horizon as it sits on the hill in this ‘Isle of Ely’. Visible from miles around the towers reach up to the heavens and there is no danger of becoming lost with this constant reminder of the town centre.

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8,000 or so steps

We near the cathedral. Originally a church was built on this site in AD 672 before the Normans started work and it was deemed a cathedral in 1109 and thereafter the town formed around it.

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9,000 or so steps

We approached the awe-inspiring cathedral which is fittingly known as the ‘Ship of the Fens’  after its famous and unique Octagon tower which replaced the former Norman tower.

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This collapsed in 1322 and was replaced with a structure made from eight great oaks which served as the frame for the famous lantern inside.

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The interior of the cathedral filled me with wonder and overwhelming gratitude. It is unusually light for a cathedral, and I wandered down the nave, before glancing up to its ceiling. The amazing painted wood panels were installed in the mid-1800s by the Victorians in an attempt make the cathedral appear even more medieval.

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Walking around I admired the architecture, the stained glass windows and at one stage noticed the playful rainbow of colours on a pillar from one of the windows.

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Along the walls, plaques and statues of people buried or interned are placed along the walls and floor. One was a Robert Steward, a knight who died in 1571 and looked peaceful in his repose.

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10,000 or so steps

These last steps were used to visit the UK’s largest stained glass museum housed within the cathedral; more about these treasures in my next post. Tired but full of joy we ambled back to the car, letting the glorious sky sweep over us.

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On the drive home we were treated to a sumptuous sunset; a glory and riot of colours which made driving difficult but a wonder to behold for me, the passenger.

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Thank you for joining me on this 10,527 steps day out. Have you recently had a special day out? Celebrated an anniversary? As always it is a delight to read your comments and thoughts.

Author Annika Perry Chats About Inspiration for Writing

I consider myself lucky to have known Christy Birmingham since my early days on WordPress and have followed her blog ‘When Women Inspire’ with keen interest. As the title suggests, Christy’s aim of her blog is ‘to showcasing the efforts of women around the world to change the world in positive ways’. Wow!! She succeeds brilliantly and her posts are always inspiring, informative and thought-provoking.

Imagine then my delight to be invited to write a guest post about the inspiration behind my book ‘The Storyteller Speaks’! I’d hardly emailed her my enthusiastic yes and thank you before I started to write the post…read on to find out more.

For this time I’ve turned off comments here and look forward to continuing the chat over on Christy’s blog.

When Women Inspire

Please join me in welcoming author Annika Perry to the blog today. I have known her for years now and always enjoy her uplifting blog posts. Now she has published a collection of poems, short stories, and flash fiction pieces into “The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart”!

Upon hearing this news, I immediately asked Annika to come over to chat about the inspiration behind writing this book. She kindly accepted. And, you know what? Her taking the step to publish her writing has helped inspire me to keep going with my own short story collection. What a wonderful boomerang effect! Now, without further ado, here is Annika Perry on being inspired to write.

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OUR PATHS

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Our lives are a series of journeys – traversing various paths along the way, some straight and clearly signposted, others winding, confusing. We stumble over obstacles, the cracks in life. What matters is we move forward – time is never still, nor is life. 

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We might not be sure what is at the end of a certain road…but that is no reason not to explore, examine in detail. Take a risk, walk on. 

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Be aware how those oft travelled roads change form with the seasons. For a day or two a busy car-laden highway becomes a mystical wintry snow grotto where only the odd car passes. 

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The norm is never just that…a new angle, emotion is required to see the road in a new light…to see the view ahead in a manner transformed. 

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That doesn’t mean we should charge through life obliviously – take time to notice, be aware of the surroundings. They will raise a smile, ignite creative thoughts, inspire stories, poems, art. 

Along the way we stop for nourishment, sharing a meal with friends and family.

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Here we not only satiate our physical hunger but that of the soul as well; the location often setting the ambience and mood for the occasion. 

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Birds and their flight of freedom never fail to grab our imagination; their elegant effortless glide into the skies, their expanisve wings stretched to the full.

How often don’t we dream of just that – stretching out, soaring away. But then again, perhaps we already do – every moment of our lives…unconscious of the mystical flight of living. 

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Finally, I would like to wish each and everyone of you a wonderful celebration on New Year’s Eve and may 2018 be a peaceful year filled with joy and creativity.

As I’m hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner party, I’ve been busy preparing a menu which I would like to share with you. 

New Year's Eve Menu 2017