...and, whoosh, in the blink of an eye November was gone.
Saturday 28 November 2009
Thursday 26 November 2009
I read those posts every year on the blogs of American friends about what they're thankful for, and I love them and am heartened by them. But it doesn't come easily to me to do the same. Partly, I suppose, it's because I didn't grow up with this festival and the accompanying rituals - and I rather wish I had: what you're grateful for is a lovely thing to pause and focus on. Partly, I fear, a temperamental tendency to negativity and, um, moaning stands between me and voluntary engagement in this exercise - oh dear! So, anyway, I tend not to make these annual lists, although I enjoy reading other people's.
However, it so happens that I spent a happy half hour on the morning of this Thanksgiving Day feeling full of gratitude, so it seems appropriate to record this. I was on the bus, reading Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope, recommended by my favourite book reviewer, Litlove. I sat there smiling more and more broadly and then giggling. I could feel my toes curling up with happy gratification and delicious hilarity. Although it made me giggle, it is not a silly book. It is full of searing wit and a quite merciless sense of the ridiculous, though never cruel or misanthropic. It is beautifully written in a peerlessly sustained tone of ironic amusement which is never so distancing that you cease to vividly picture the scene or to care for the characters and to catch your breath, so powerful is the mixture of laughter and sorrow.
I laughed and laughed and felt sorry that I hadn't laughed much recently, dauntingly busy yet again at work, and glad that my sense of humour was intact (is there anything more resilient than humour?). And I thought: where would I be without books? Where would I have been for as long as I can remember? Somewhere an awful lot bleaker. Even if these days I don't always look first for escape into my head, but for greater acceptance of being right where I am, there will always be a place for taking a break. I'm grateful now and always for the sweet change of mood and voyage into imagination, for the stimulation and renewal that is a gift from someone never met, perhaps long dead.
Wednesday 25 November 2009
Saturday 21 November 2009
Friday 20 November 2009
Thursday 19 November 2009
It's been a nice thing taking a photo each of these past nearly 20 days. To tell the truth, I thought I'd probably 'cheat' a bit and post one I already had on occasional days when there wasn't time or I saw nothing of interest. I haven't done that at all because the whole point, it turns out, is the doing it - the practice, every day, however rushed, whatever my mood, of stepping outside myself and looking around.
On work days, often my only opportunity to take a photo is on the way to the office in the morning - too busy to take a lunch break and it's dark long before I leave in the evening. Welcoming, yes actually welcoming a traffic jam because the bus stands still and I can shoot through the window (ahem, spot the ones taken through grubby glass!). Looking for something new or a new angle on the same unvarying route I walk most days, the last couple of miles into the city centre, so I get some exercise. It sets a whole new tenor for the day and I love it.
I think of my father, who in his youth painted (flowers and birds, mostly), played the clarinet in a band and crafted leather bags. And who knows what else. When I had a travel piece published, many years after he died, my mother said: 'Oh, that's like your father. He wrote stuff about his town for the local paper and the tourist office'. I'd had no idea he wrote anything. By the time I knew him, he'd given it all up. So sadly symbolic of how he gave up on himself. I didn't really know him well. He was scarcely there. Exercising our creativity, in however tiny a way, is a way of staying alive inside.
Friday 6 November 2009
In their book, Individualization, translated from German by Patrick Camiller, sociologists Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim write radically and persuasively about the fragmentation in our times of nations, societies and families, and ask:
" So, what is left? ...we would like to indicate at least the possibility of a different kind of integration and to put it forward for discussion. To summarize our basic idea: if highly individualized societies can be bound together at all, it is only, first, through a clear understanding of precisely this situation and, second, if people can be successfully mobilized and motivated for the challenges present at the centre of their lives (unemployment, destruction of nature, etc). Where the old sociality is 'evaporating', society must be reinvented. Integration therefore becomes possible if no attempt is made to arrest and push back the breakout of individuals. It can happen if we make conscious use of this situation and try to forge new, politically open, creative forms of bond and alliance. The questions of whether we still have the strength, the imagination - and the time - for this 'invention of the political' is, to be sure, a matter of life and death. "
I guess I do believe, in a small way, but fiercely, that the links forged across distance and difference and the reflective self expression fostered by the Internet, online communities and blogging are potentially part of this reinvention.
Sunday 1 November 2009
November being when bloggers set themselves some sort of challenge, and since the many months of this year when I took no photos led to a depressingly reduced 'hit rate' of half-way decent pictures, I thought I'd try to take and post a photo every day this month.
Injury, assault, deformity, weakness, genetic inheritance, degeneration, inflamation, viruses, cancer... of course. But also complex, less definable interactions of body, soul and environment. Famously, x-rays may show you two spines similarly marked by wear and tear - one patient has disabling back pain, the other none. While doctors can do a lot to fix the definable, for the less easily definable we need healers, shamans, of whom there are fewer. Not that fewer are born in our times, I suppose, but the speed and chaos of the way we live now scarcely encourage them to embrace and develop the faculty. Ingrid Bacci is one who has. Here she gives a particularly clear and vivid summary of her approach and experience.
" A teenage girl was brought to me for chronic headaches that had resisted all treatment for a year. The headaches were so severe and constant that the girl had to be home-schooled. In just a few sessions that combined bodywork and conversation, her headaches disappeared. Why? On the physical level, her headaches were caused by severe tension in the shoulders and neck. The tension in the shoulders and neck, in turn, was an expression of the girl's inner conflict. She was a person of high intelligence and natural sense of independence whose need for self-expression conflicted with the strong deferential patterns of her ethnic background. Her culture taught her to respect her elders and bow to authority, while her educational upbringing was teaching her to speak up and think for herself. Our sessions gave her the opportunity to recognize and address this conflict, rather than just acting it out unconsciously by tensing up. To heal, she needed both physical release work through hands-on healing and sensitive dialogue and problem-solving around the mixed messages she was receiving in her home and school environments. If she had received just one of these, her relief would have been temporary at best.
A woman with chronic pelvic pain came to see me after removal of a cyst in one of her ovaries failed to resolve the problem. The ultimate cause of the pain wasn't her cyst. It was chronic tension in the muscles of her pelvic area. In fact, this tension was probably the cause of the cyst. Why? Tension maintained in a given area of the body over a long period of time will tend to reduce blood flow and nerve conduction in that area and contribute to congestion or inflammation in nearby organs. This woman had held tension in her pelvic area since childhood. Was it any wonder that her ovaries suffered? To find a deeper resolution to her problems, and to help her avoid further gynecological problems, we had to both relieve the tension through manual therapy and help her identify and release the emotional triggers for that tension. In this client's case, the emotional triggers were related to childhood abuse. To fully release her physical tension, this client had to recognize, process and release the emotions of anger and hurt that she held in her pelvis. She had to start the process of living in her body in a different way, with more love and tenderness toward herself."