Monday, 29 August 2011

The Fault-line at Thingvellir*

Unlike the eminent poets, Armitage
and Maxwell we don’t hurl insults
across, being too grumpy for words.
Under cold grey clouds, we trudge
disinterestedly, won’t even budge
to admire the open-air rift of Iceland’s
ancient Parliament. Two blocked creatives
standing on the fault-line bearing our grudge.

This is where Europe meets America.
We chose the new world, don’t make me
cross back again. Sunlight is unfurling -
I reach for my notebook, you your camera.
Across the lake, the ice breaks and we agree
we are more thinged against than thinging.

Susanna Reece

*The great fault line at ├×ingvellir, where the geological plates of America and Europe are tearing slowly apart. The first Al├×ing, or parliament, was held here in AD930. In Moon Country, Further Reports from Iceland (1994) Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell followed in the footsteps of Auden and MacNeice’s Letters from Iceland (1936).

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I've always been troubled by the phrase or proverb:


It has an ambiguity that is open to misinterpretation, suggesting an unchanging and universal notion of home as 'a good thing', the saccharine view of the world that likes to portray ' the family' as all that is wonderful. If, like me, your experience of home and family life has not always been rosy, this phrase can acquire a sinister meaning, twisted into some kind of moral obligation:


It's why I've always been concerned about the messages behind such films as 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'It's a Wonderful Life'. Should Dorothy and George really stay at home, meeting the expectations and demands of others, in effect denying their hearts? This would seem to discourage all enquiry, development and spirit of adventure.

It seems to me that a much more authentic reading of this phrase is possible, a wonderful unfolding of one of the great truths: that wholeness and fulfilment is to be found in seeing life as a continuing search, an evolutionary journey that never truly reaches its end.

With this interpretation we can re-write this as a glorious phrase that conveys its real, deeply spiritual meaning, of having found all that is worthwhile and meaningful in our existence:


Of course this may lead you to the same conclusion as the traditional version. But you have to make the journey in order to find out. Perhaps that's what those old Hollywood movie directors meant all along.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Flower Power

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Adventure

"You can either regard life as a general adventure or as a general burden..."
Eric Linklater

"Live Adventurously" [Quaker Advices]

"The Call of God is to adventurous living, to extend our vision and ourselves."
David Adam

Monday, 15 August 2011


Blessed are those who don’t even want to begin,
preferring the sunbeam surface to the dark
uncharted oceans below.

Blessed are those who dive in anyway,
anyhow, who know how to equip themselves
with oxygen, a diving-suit, lights, a lifeline.

Blessed are those who’ve plumbed the depths
many times, the underwater cartographers
who are never complacent.

Blessed are those who risk all, plunging
to the ocean floor, living at the breathless
edge between death and adventure.

And blessed are those who return with news
of coral pink cities and creamy white
pearls beyond price.

Susanna Reece

Saturday, 13 August 2011

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As Kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbles over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells;
Crying what I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his going's graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -
Christ - for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
to the father through the features of men's faces.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Inspirational Woman

Paying tribute to peace activist Dekha Ibrahim Abdi who has tragically died in a car accident. I first met Dekha in 1994 when we were both students on the Responding to Conflict Programme at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. As part of the course we did a role play on her conflict situation in the Wajir province of Kenya, and it fell to my lot to play the part of a Kenyan Elder. With her typical bubbling-under sense of humour Dekha gave me very positive feedback on my performance saying I had captured perfectly the required intransigence! For the rest of the course whenever we were debating something she would gently wag her finger at me and say "very successful Elder". Dekha's life is an exemplar of how one person can make a real difference in the world. Alongside the sadness and warm memories this week I have been truly inspired to think harder about the difference I can make, particularly in response to the violence we have seen on our streets this week. How we respond to this is a measure of what we are but also about what we could become. It's great to see the clean-up initiative in London but not so good to see people wearing tee-shirts that say "Looters are scum". Of course we should condemn the opportunistic criminal behaviour and the tragic loss of three young lives in Birmingham. But my own response is also that I need to understand the ways in which I may be sowing the seeds of violence and conflict in my own thoughts, words and deeds and to reflect on what I need to do to change. Dekha's obituary says: "(Her) method was first to listen carefully, without interrupting, to all involved in the conflict. She knew that humiliation is one of the main drivers of violence, and that the best antidote to humiliation is respect. When everyone felt their point of view was understood, she would work to restore relations between victim and offender." You can view a video clip of Dekha's work by clicking on the link at the top of this post. Her Guardian obituary is here: