18 December 2011


her umbrella protected me from the drops that fell from the sky
but not from her eyes

13 December 2011

come on in, the water is fine!

If you have spent even 5 seconds on this blog, you'll know that a lot of it is dedicated to writing small stones.*  This all started earlier this year when I took the challenge to participate in Fiona and Kaspa's River of Stones in January.  I got the email from them sometime in the Autumn last year and read it, thought "hmm, that's interesting", and then starred it in my inbox but hadn't really thought to follow through and participate.  Then for the next few weeks (or however long it was) a little voice popped up in my mind everytime I opened my inbox: "you should sign up for this"  Me: "shush you, I'm too busy".  The battle went on in my head until eventually, I'm not actually sure why, I emailed them and told them to put me on the list, that I was taking the plunge and participating in the January River of Stones.  

Even so, I was still pretty sure that I was going to A) suck and B) not have the discipline to follow through with this.

Whatever.  I was committed now!

January came and, I have to say, I was so surprised by what participating in the River of Stones brought into my life.  I didn't have to write anything "good", I just had to pay attention and write about that.  I didn't travel to some sort of exotic place.  I didn't have to make witty observations about my surroundings.  I didn't have to make some sort of cultural commentary.  In fact, I didn't do anything differently than before and absolutely nothing changed in my day to day life except that I was paying closer attention to it than before.  And then trying to capture it.  And as I tried to capture it, I saw myself looking at everything more closely, in more detail.  It seemed to me that I heard more, felt more, saw more.  Somewhere, hidden under all the mundane, everyday, I've-seen-and-heard-it-before-sameness, was a rich world that I had never appreciated before.  Birdsong, sunrise, matchlight, a stranger's smile, my walk to work, grief, all came to life in a new way.

And if all that wasn't enough, there was a bonus that I had never even thought of: reading other small stones and connecting with their writers!  (and being inspired by them and trying not to be jealous of their gorgeous pebbles!)

So with all that said, I'm very excited to see that Fiona and Kaspa will be lifting the floodgates again this January and the River of Stones will soon be overflowing its banks and splashing out of a blog near you (this one, in fact).

Now the question is: will you be joining me?

Learn all about writing small stones here and then come on in, really, the water is fine.  More than fine, in fact. 

*(writing experience not required)

07 December 2011

sometimes the sleeping breath of a loved one
the gentle rise and fall of their chest
is the most sincere prayer I can offer

06 December 2011

favourite shirt

it's not cold, but i'm shivering.
i button up my autumn-hued, checked flannel shirt
closing my eyes, i feel the warmth of home embrace me

05 December 2011


not too moist
not too dry
a bowl of perfect
white grains.

such a basic food
that I've eaten
seen prepared
in so many kitchens
in so many countries.

but today
for the first time
I feel I can say:
I'm nearly 30 years old
and I've finally learned
how to prepare
a perfect rice.

more kindness

I posted the poem Kindness on my blog early last year.  At the time, my marriage had just started going through the rough patch that would finally end it sometime later and I felt that the future that I had dreamt was slowly crumbling.  When I heard this poem read aloud during Sunday Service at the Buddhist House, it brought tears to my eyes.

There is a truth in this poem that reveals itself to me just a little bit more each time I read it.  It has helped me understand that true kindness is an instinctive reaction from the heart.  It is not something that can be acted or faked.  Only once our barriers have been brought down and our ego reserves depleted, can our hearts be laid bare enough for the skin to be scraped back just that bit more and allow for the true seeds of kindness to be planted within us.  Once planted, it's up to us to cultivate these seeds, but I think that the planting of them is something that life must do to us.

The journey goes on, and the poem continues to teach me.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~

(Words From Under the Words: Selected Poems)


04 December 2011

I eat my porridge more carefully here
exploring each spoonful to find bits of oat husk with my teeth.
they sit in a little pile
on a scrap of paper
next to my bowl.

03 December 2011

what is poetry?

Not too long ago, I said that "I'll never be a poet because I'm too impatient".  I love to capture moments, thoughts, feelings and play with the words until I'm happy with them.  But I seem to lack the discipline to turn my hobby into an Art.  I've deliberately named the category for my writing on this blog (and the folders on my computer) "scribblings" as I don't see them as poems.  Maybe others do, I'm not sure.  When I was younger, I was obsessed with writing poems that were metred and rhymed.  Because that's what poems do, isn't it?  At least, that's what I understood then as poetry.  Now I've swung the other way entirely and amuse myself with writing scribblings that "sound right" regardless of metre and rhyme.  Sometimes I also want it to "look right", and focus more on the layout and the flow of the lines as the words themselves.  I suppose there's a balance to be struck.  Maybe from the discipline that I pursued when I was younger, to the freedom I need now, to something else in the future.

Ever onwards, ever changing.  What matters to me is that it is something that speaks to me.

But what prompted this little reflection was the Guardian's poem of the week from the end of December 2009 (Facebook brings up all sorts of randomness).  It struck a chord with me and I found that its rhyme and rhythm enhanced it all the more.  So I post it here for you to enjoy The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
    The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

29 November 2011

rain-speckled wind clears the cobwebs
i smile to the sun

22 November 2011

everything readjusts to fill the emptiness of time
the distractions busy you
and allow you to put that which is not in sight
slowly out of mind 
(as the saying goes)
the spaces grow smaller
the gaps fewer
and the distance greater

21 November 2011


the taste of garlic, roasted to perfection by accident, breaks through all the other ingredients to delight my tongue.

20 November 2011

a handful of stones

Am very pleased to say that October 15th's small stone appeared in the handful of stones blogzine on the 15th of November.  (there's a bit of symmetry there that I didn't see until just now!)

Another one is scheduled for December.  :)

one safe place

unexpected company

My luxury for the weekend: a creamy, ripe avocado.
A moment's hesitation before I split it open to share
it won't last as long now
but it will be twice as appreciated

19 November 2011

the perfect tension of the surface jiggles as another drop from the tap falls into the pan of water that it has been filling, patiently, one drop at a time, all night.  I watch the water bubble become fuller and fuller, wondering how much it can take before it bursts and spills over.  And then begins again, like it's done before. 

18 November 2011

Destination: Unknown

The woman at the ticket window contradicts everything I was told about the journey.
Different time, different route, different stopping points.
But what she says makes sense
I trust I'm understanding her
I trust that she's understood me.
I buy my ticket.
The driver knows my stop
I breathe easier
and sit in seat 34.
Seat 33 strikes up conversation
He overheard me speaking to the driver
my stop is about 30 minutes after his
Reassured, the nervousness fades.

Now the man who took our tickets at the bus door comes on board
He calls out seat numbers and tells them they must get off.
He calls my number
Recoge sus cosas y baje, mi amor.
I do what I'm told
not understanding
Nervous again.
33 joins me outside
we wait.
Clustered outside the departing bus
we're told that the rains have washed out part of the highway further south
we have to take a different bus that will take us the other way around
1 and 1/2 hour to wait.

I buy lunch
a young man sits across from me
devouring greasy, fried chicken with his fingers.
I eat my rice and beans with knife and fork.
His eyes are indifferent to his surroundings
he's seen it all
but when he talks to me
everything I say opens his eyes wider
as if all my responses are a surprise.

and I'm back on the bus
seat 18 now
Nervous again.
I see 33 board
he smiles and sits further back
Reassured again.
The other passengers are talking
there's been an accident in the mountains.
The engine starts and we pull out of the station
the girl next to me crosses herself
and falls asleep.

07 November 2011

meeting the neighbours

twin beagle puppies, an old wheezy calico and the owner of the knitting shop all say hello to me on my way home from the office.

03 November 2011

giant's remorse

A few weeks ago, I set my purse on the floor of an office on the second story.  Several hours later, it was full of ants who had managed to smell and discover the sandwich that I had stored in there for lunch.  Not only did they deprive me of my lunch, but spent the rest of the afternoon biting me. 

I spent all afternoon being annoyed with the ants.
Little monsters.

When I got home that evening, I sat at my kitchen table and a single, injured ant limped off my sleeve, struggled around the table for a few moments and then died in front of me. 

Taken 100 miles away from its brethren 
By me,
who could make another sandwich.   

02 November 2011

the cleaning lady and I go shopping together.  We pick out soap, scrubbers, and a variety of cleaning implements that are not familiar to me.  Even mopping the floor seems to need some translation.  Two types of rags hang next to each other on the shop wall.  I tell her to choose which one she needs.  "Whichever one says it's for the floor," she tells me, "I can't read."

31 October 2011

i miss autumn

a single yellow leaf flutters to the ground from the lush green tree.

28 October 2011

a moment of thanks

rice, beans, tortilla
a simple meal
enriched by appreciation

27 October 2011

after the rain

I lie on the bench in the park in full afternoon sun, feel the heat on my skin, the light shines through my closed eyelids. A lazy, languid breeze stirs my hair.

Suddenly, a cricket warbles.

I laugh.

I know how he feels.

26 October 2011

bad mood

buttercup butterfly butts in

25 October 2011

survival over trust

I gently call to the orange tabby across the street, but it just looks at me with terrified eyes.  Disappearing down a drain pipe with a whispering swish of its tail, my heart breaks for the life it must have known.

24 October 2011

spider chrysanthemum

first thing I see this morning is the centre-piece of my flower arrangement in a heap of pale purple petals on the grey fleece table cover.

23 October 2011

concrete walls topped with coiled barbed wire surround the apartment
a hummingbird's delicate feet find a place between the metal spurs
her colors are lost against the gray morning sky
a black, songless profile
beak sharp as the twisted metal

22 October 2011

changes in the fabric of things...

polka-dot sheets draped over the furniture
how I wish I was a kid
and could just play in the fort
without worrying if they'd be dry before bedtime

21 October 2011

muddy footprint

it's been raining non-stop for days now
and it's beginning to show

20 October 2011

my favourite shop

the tiny shop floor crammed with buckets
a perfumed maze of green and petals
the owner has taught me: rosas, clavel, estrellita, gladiolo
I have yet to learn: gerbera, baby's breath, iris, lily
and so many others that I've never seen before
I pick my bouquet
one stem at a time
always over-estimating the size of my vase

19 October 2011

anger and pride

burn my fingertips
until they can't touch the keys
to write the words
that would sooth their aching flesh

18 October 2011

there's a knack to balancing the load in the washing machine
the thump thump thump as it begins to spin
says that I don't have it yet

17 October 2011

frantic fluttering catches my eye
a bat, I think
then I see its soft wings
a moth, I realise
the size of my fist

16 October 2011

up the stairs
to the single room that rests on the others
like an afterthought of excess building material

back and forth
back and forth
out the window
a flock of pidgeons

wings flashing white and soaring gray
an interweaving ballet melts across the blue
each ugly-city-bird transforming
to glorious-sky-dancer

15 October 2011

between work and home
the only dog that doesn't bark as I walk by
has the saddest eyes

14 October 2011

newly paved road
winding up the mountainside
still under construction

all this used to be forest
so thick you couldn't see more than 20ft on either side

now the foliage has been ripped away
exposing the twisted remains
of already simple houses

38 people disappeared in the earthquake

yet they stay and rebuild
74 eyes and hands fewer
because they have nowhere else to go

but where in this world
would the ground not shift
beneath their feet?

12 October 2011

between the highway and texaco
and a banana tree

11 October 2011

clematis twisting around the neigbour's tree
iridescent purple blooming between heavy ripe oranges

10 October 2011

seasons within

I am in anger
the hot summer sun
scorching a blazing path
through the unprotected grass

I am in love
the winter hearth
of cocoa, presents and laughter
snuggled up close

I am in melancholy
the crimson leaf
balanced on a breath of wind
between clinging and falling

I am in joy
the growing mystery
of tender spring roots
touching life within

I am no one season
but a shifting landscape
of rain, sun and snow
mirroring the facets of my soul

09 October 2011

perspective (or ungrateful little modern girl)

when i sigh about the time-consuming nature of laundry
i must remember
the machine does all the hard work
and the clean water piped into my patio
makes it possible

08 October 2011

sluggish morning

the generator at the top
chugs in time
to my laboured steps up the hill

07 October 2011


perfectly round shell
deceiving in its orange-like appearance
its hard exterior resists my fingernails 


the top tears off
revealing a coagulated mass of black seeds
individually encased in a gelatinous bubble


delicious between my teeth

06 October 2011

a hi-vis vest
over his smart white shirt,
he stands every morning in traffic
a blue pad-locked Salvation Army box in hand
sunglasses and a smile on his face

05 October 2011

pedestrian's commute

car horns accompany my footfalls.
bright-red, 4-door cars
assume I'm only on foot
because I haven't yet found
an available taxi

04 October 2011

blind corner

three directions of traffic
rush hour
lights change
one foot on the curb
one on the road
no, wait,
a truck tears around the corner
lights change
ears straining

03 October 2011

getting it under Ctrl

Ctrl + O = Ctrl + A
Ctrl + A = Ctrl + E
Ctrl + S = Ctrl + G
Ctrl + U = Ctrl + S
Ctrl + B = Ctrl + N
Ctrl + I = Ctrl + K

my work inturrupted by my unthinking habit of Word shortcuts now excuting different commands in Spanish

02 October 2011

living alone
routine and organisation
become close companions

01 October 2011

midnight pilgrimage

Before the shadow etched brilliance, 
Sound seeps away into the earth, 
As the gravestones cast shadows before me 
I listen to the noiseless echoes of light 
And time upon the walls.

I wish I could take credit for today's gorgeous pebble, but this is one that was given to me by one of my readers.  Lovely.  Thank you  :)

30 September 2011

taste of home

melting milk chocolate
sliver of almond
tart, juicy raisin.
never have I held
so long on my tongue
a single square
of Cadbury's Fruit & Nut

29 September 2011

baked potato

black and brown pepper speckles yellow melting butter in steaming white flesh.  it sits in the middle of the ceramic plate, blue-handled knife and fork poised on each side. my mouth anxious for anticipation to become reality.

28 September 2011


trees on each side arch their arms over the road
fingertips overlocking.
our headlights burrow through this living tunnel
no moon
no stars
the darkness pushes at us
trying to snuff out
even our strongest hi-beams

27 September 2011


the night air is heavy,
thick with the lush green forest
and spiced by the woodsmoke
of a hundred kitchen fires

26 September 2011

in the meeting

above our heads on the lime green wall
a sticky-footed gecko undulates across

why I'm writing small stones again

I started writing this as a comment on Kaspa's blog post "Three reasons why I love writing small stones" , then I realised that my response was pretty much a post in itself and wanted to explore the subject a bit for myself.  (In addition to agreeing with all of the Kaspa's very accurate reasons!)

Sometime last week I also had the realisation that I missed writing small stones.  I enjoyed participating in January's River of Stones, I remember it as a particularly enjoyable month of just noticing things.  I remember smiling, I remember walking outside in the cold January air, and, as strange as it may sounds, I even remember breathing.  January was very alive.

I didn't participate in July's River of Stones on the pretext that I was too busy moving house and country.  Then in August and September I was busy with more of the same and lots of "figuring out" of what was next in my life was also going on.  So my mind has been very occupied these past few months.  Last week, I realised that somewhere in all that busy-ness and self-occupation that I had lost touch.  Walking through the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica, I realised that I wasn't seeing them.  Well, I was seeing them well enough to dodge traffic, which is generally a good thing, but I wasn't seeing the birds, the plants, the people I passed.  I wasn't hearing what was happening outside my window.  I wasn't seeing what was happening outside my window.  It was all just noise to me, part of the backdrop of everything that was going on in my own little world.  How could I allow my mind to be elsewhere when there was such a richness before my eyes and under my nose just sitting there in all it's glory / splendour / sadness / disgust / discomfort / joy?

And aside from all of that, it's easy to feel disconnected out here on my own.  But really, it's up to me to connect with what's right in front of me: Life, in all its unapologetic reality.

25 September 2011

baby talk

outside my window
a babble of sounds
the little girl speaks her own language
but I can hear the smile in her voice

21 September 2011

san jose

ringed by mountains
the city is nestled in a green sugar bowl.
after their morning coffee
the gods replace the cloudy lid,
which fits snugly over the mountaintops,
or wrap the bowl in clear cellophane,
and the sun glints off the coloured roofs.

20 September 2011


masked eyes
blue mohawk
the little brown bird's trilling song
too sweet
for his punk costume

19 September 2011

night work

half past dark
a car waits in the street
horn blares
her heels like clockwork
past my window

quarter to dawn
the courtyard gate opens
rusty hinges
her heels like clockwork
past my window

18 September 2011

On dove wings

"Guess what! Can you hear that?"
And across the distance
bouncing off countless satellites
to channel through my computer
a newborn's cry crackles in my ear.

Welcome to the family, little one.

17 September 2011

rainy season

rain falls on the metal roof over the courtyard
and falls
and falls
and falls
thunderous drops
creating blissful silence

watery grave

kitchen tops cleaned and dried
but morning still finds another cockroach
dead in a puddle turned copper green

14 February 2011


Dew drops on white blossoms
catch the morning light.
Bejewelled tee branches
sparkle in the wind
filling my imagination
with their shimmering song.

10 February 2011

Choose your stone!

To my dear readers,

As you may have noticed, January has come and gone in a cascade of small stones. If you've been involved in the small stones project as well, I hope you've enjoyed as much as I have the sounds of the shifting river of stones as it has flowed past us every day and has carried us along. It's been such a wonderful experience reading everyone's observations this past month. Being invited into another person's moment of stillness, of observation is powerful and touching. Something about a small stone draws you in. You know that it was written in order to capture
that feeling, that brief moment of clarity that eludes us most of our lives. Fleeting and profound.

So I can't say thank you enough to Fiona and Kaspa, what a wonderful project! Thank you.

And to my dear readers, people who have actually read my blog and clicked to follow it....I can't tell you how touched I am. Thank you for reading, for commenting. It's meant so much to me. Your support has spurred me on.

You may or may not already know that Fiona and Kaspa are asking for submissions of people's stones to be made into a collection (wow!). I'll be choosing my own favourites to submit, but I'd quite like to know what you think! Reply as a comment to this email, let me know your favourite stone(s). What can I say, I'm curious what you think :)


I’ll sit myself down with a cup of tea
and I’ll sift through
the pebbles of my life.

I'll hold them up to the light,
these little reminders
that I’ve collected
and carried with me.
Selected on their worth,
some match
some create a set
and some stand out
in a subtle radiance.
I’ll forget their weight
and remember
the point wasn’t to collect pebbles
wasn’t to carry them.
There’s nothing to be done with them
no sculpture to build
and no value in their selling
but only in their sharing.

And someday
when the sun is setting
I’ll sit to rest
and never again rise
into a pile of pebbles
to be scattered
and carried on.

01 February 2011

touch the earth

At midnight I stopped
and was still

exhaled the old day
and inhaled the new

wind stirred the branches
and I heard it

30 January 2011


with enough heat
the wax turns clear

without the flame
it returns to its natural state


29 January 2011

saturday morning

nature's unfamiliar alarm clock wakes me from my slumber
what's that?
knuckles that crack in the cold
turn angry red in the hot bath

26 January 2011


sleepless nights
hang heavy under his eyes
i want to ask
but we play our roles
...too well...

25 January 2011

the sunrise reflects off the church windows, turning them into sheets of rose quartz.

24 January 2011


my hands work in blind, trusting tandem
rough scratch of match on box
a feeble blue light sparks and dies


the wooden tip flares to life in a hiss of sulfur
touched to wick, the darkness is dispelled
and the day begins

23 January 2011

sunday morning

church bells ring out over the village
the gong sounds outside the shrine room
"let those with ears now show their faith"

just noticing

the softness of black fur under my hand as the cat seeks my affection.

20 January 2011

unseasonal chorus

frosty asphalt
diamonds embedded in the black
my breath haloes around me

another wintry start to the day
yet the air is as alive with birdsong
as a soft spring morning

17 January 2011


I'm fine, she says
in a voice that says she's not

at the bus stop

dressed in business black, wearing matching careful masks of no expression, the woman and I wait, our thoughts anywhere but here. across the road, a construction crane springs to life and performs an unexpected aerial pirouette over our heads. I am taken by the complexities of the machine and thoughts of balance, of mechanical precision and progress, of building and tearing down crowd my mind. But then I see the woman and watch as her mask slips. For the rest of the day, nothing delights me quite as much as that moment of her unguarded smile.
woodsmoke hangs in the air
the incense of hearth and home
the night smells almost holy

gratitude collection

They didn't have to do that....

the shop assistant carefully selects for me the best piece of fruit available from the meagre offerings on the counter

I bite into my sandwich in the waiting lounge at the train station. a man sees me and wishes me "bon appetit!" as he leaves the room

the young man in tracksuit bottoms says "after you darlin" as we get off the bus

I arrive home late. My flatmate does all the washing up for the third night in a row


I see your lips moving
buzzing in my ears
all sound
no meaning

Don't you know he's dead?
after the rain, glistening in the sun,
a second shower falls from the tree leaves

Collecting Stones

I've been away. And I've been busy preparing to be away and then coming back. Of course, I managed to find some time in there to beat myself up about not posting to my blog in those days. I had promised myself that I would be disciplined enough to post something everyday, even if it wasn't any good. But then I remembered, the point of small stones is not to blog something every day, but to notice something everyday and capture it. So while I've been away, I've been observing and collecting stones on modern scraps of paper (my iTouch notepad). And now I'm back to share my collection of travel stones with you.

As an aside, one thing I've noticed is how much I am aware yet not aware when I'm out of my routine. We talk about seeing things anew in the midst of our daily routine, but I noticed how much I get caught up in the busy-ness of being away, of catching trains, reading timetables, and going to "see" things. Caught up so much that I don't actually see the world around me any more than I normally do. My expectations, excitement and the storylines in my head get in the way, just as they do every day. So I found it interesting to notice how new place vs old place, old routine vs no routine made very little difference sometimes to my attention on the world around me.

I've done my best to collect a few stones while I've been away. I hope you enjoy them and now I'm off to do what else I realised that I've missed whilst being disconnected: reading other people's stones!

09 January 2011

"People always want to change their lives instead of using their lives to wake up."
- Chögyam Trungpa via whiskey river (as usual)


in the flickering candlelight
the Buddha maintains his posture
so effortlessly

08 January 2011

dream stone

in the wandering dreamscape of faded edges and muted gray
i wore yellow socks
upon waking my hands rummaged the jumbled drawer of cotton pairs with sleepy certainty
knowing only that my feet must go forth today
clad in magnificent yellow

06 January 2011


rosary bead

05 January 2011

lazy sunday drive in wednesday evening traffic

the bus driver whistles
a care-free tune

white cables
trail from passenger ears
to their itunes

responsive stone

Three small stone lines.
And I am left to wonder,
did he shower with his clothes on?
you pour my tea
and i realise
your eyes are not blue

03 January 2011

East Clock

every morning
on foot
i descend into town

the church tower welcomes me with the correct time


he staggers through the busy shopping streets wrapped in a surprisingly white duvet
treetop branches brush the sky and paint the sunset
(colours available only in heaven)

Happy New Year, Life Gardens, and a River of Stones

Happy new year. Well, a belated one, but no less sincerely wished for.

Just looking at the phrase "happy new year" derails my original train of thought for this post and makes me wonder: what makes this year new? The end of the old year was full of a flurry of parties and entertainments as we tried to keep the cold winter's night at bay. Yesterday, to rest my tired body, I submerged myself in a bath of warm water. The light from the window refracted on the luridly pink wall, just like it has any number of times whilst I bathed and I realised that, really, the day was no different than any other day that had come before it. The new year and the old are separated only by ink on a piece of paper that hangs on our walls to mark the days. The sun rises and sets on December 31st and January 1st, on birth and death, love and loss, beginnings and endings with no distinctions made. It is as though the stage is constantly set and the lights will be switched on and off regardless of the performance that is to be given.

For a moment, I was adrift in an uncaring universe which had become simply a place in which things occurred. No direction, no point, no purpose. Every day like the last. When I entered the bath, I was happy from a several evenings spent with a good friend and generally hopeful about the year ahead. I was energetic and motivated. Now I was saddened, listless and not terribly motivated. I reflected on this sudden change of mood which was triggered by nothing but the workings of my own mind and I saw how within me I carry seeds of love, of laughter, of sadness, of hope, of anger, of joy. And each day they have the chance to flourish or die under the impartial and fair sun. Under this sun I am tending my own imperfect garden and I’ve got to do my own digging to get anything accomplished.

It’s a disjointed set of analogies but it helped me realise that pondering Big Questions and trying to figure out What To Do With My Life shouldn’t demotivate me and distract me from the beauty of a single rose sprung from a laughter seed and shouldn’t allow me to plant an entire packet of anger seeds in carelessness.

To return to my original question: what makes this year new? I can say that 2010 was one hell of a year: losing a brother, moving house, starting a new job, etc. It’s been a lot to take in. But there’s been a lot of beauty too and sometimes, absorbed as I am in the whirlwind of my mind, I forget to take these things in as well. So what makes this year new is my wish to step onto the unmarked snow in the meadow of 2011 that stretches before me and be there for every step of it. It’s not so much a fresh start as a fresh mindfulness Maybe 2011 will bring better things, maybe it will bring worse things, I can’t know. But every day I’d like to try to drag myself out of my own preoccupied head a bit more and, in doing so, be a bit more engaged with the people around me, love a bit better, forgive a bit more.

So it seems like the perfect time to introduce A River Of Stones, a clever project cooked up by my friends Fiona and Kaspa to encourage us to slow down and notice things. I’ll be posting a small stone every day for the month of January here on this blog. You can read more about small stones here but briefly “a small stone is a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment.” A good idea, good practice and good exercise. For all the reasons above, I’ll be doing this for January. And for one other reason as well: it will also force me to write a little something every day. I think about writing every day, and I used to be do it regularly, but not any more. Why? I don’t know but it’s time that I got on with it.

So here’s to 2011, to 2010, to unmarked meadows, to the meadows we’ve trampled to mud and to just getting off my ass and getting things done. Now if you’ll excuse me....I’ve got 3 stones to post.

P.S Do join in! It's not just a project for's for everyone!