Looking forward to ordering the new John O'Donohue title, Walking in Wonder.
How are you with meditation practices? Does the word itself put you off? Do you prefer mindfulness as less religious and more practical?
My first meeting with meditation was in 1974 when I attended a yoga class. No preconceptions other than there was no way I’d be able to do the lotus position with my stiff knees. By the end of the first class I’d decided this yoga definitely suited me, after the instructor told us to stop if it hurt. You have to remember this was in the era of no pain, no gain exercise videos. The second reason I liked it was that we lay down at the end with a suggestion we imagine a candle flame. If you’d told me that was a means to meditation I’d have disagreed. It seemed to me simply a beautiful image to hold.
Fast forward many years and classes, I still couldn’t do the lotus position, but I had realised the benefits of regular yoga. I approved its aim of uniting mind and body. Through the varying approaches of teachers I absorbed different ways that I could still my mind if only for moments. When my final teacher gave up, I struggled to fit in a class with my self-employed lifestyle but continued at home with DVDs.
By then I’d begun to practise meditation as a separate daily exercise with varying results. I found some methods too severe for my taste and my mind struggled to understand the logic. In the last five years I’ve tried Buddhist classes, Centering Prayer in the Christian tradition, Hindhu methods. Each has added to my understanding but something in my personality finds it difficult to stay with one method for longer than about three months. There’s the need to keep it alive and as one teacher called it, juicy.
Having posted a beautiful card yesterday about Peace, I have to admit I love a good crime novel. Not enjoying all the visceral, serial killing, dismemberment novels, I prefer a classy psychological thriller. I'm more interested in the why rather than the gory details of the how.
In the last couple of years I've enjoyed the series published via the British Library from the golden age of detection. These may seem less interesting to our bang wham culture but I've discovered some fascinating authors like Anthony Berkeley, responsible for the formation of The Detection Club, an invitation only group of writers which still exists. Its current President is Martin Edwards, editor of the British Library series. In his own right a very fine writer with series set in Liverpool and the Lake District.
I'm part way through a book of short stories put together by Martin Edwards as a tribute to Peter Lovesey, creator of Cribb and Peter Diamond. Fun read as each author weaves into their story connections to Peter Lovesey's writing. Contributors to this 80th birthday celebration include Ann Cleves, Michael Jecks and Simon Brett.
I was lucky enough to hear Martin Edwards speak about his own writing and interest in The Golden Age of Detection. It's always good to hear what starts people writing and I learned a lot about that period of writing though I've re-read Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers for years. They're some of my go to authors when I'm frustrated with my own writing.
Two early presents this morning. A wonderful sky and meeting a young tabby cat. Can't show you the cat but here's the sky.
As a follow up to my post about Jacqueline Freeman and her book Song of Increase, this is a musical description of bees in the winter.
BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition was based on a text, The Bee Carol, by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate.
Following a trail from the first clue in my crossword I found this reading of a Christmas poem by Penguin authors. A delightful 4 minutes.
Last year my friend Janet Conner introduced me to a book about beekeeping. Not a natural fit for me you might think but this book as well as being a plea for us all to help bees in whatever way we can, is written by someone who talks to bees. And they talk back to Jacqueline Freeman.
Any gardener will understand that the balance of nature in a garden has to be maintained or we end up with barren wastes of concrete. Whatever their practical uses they do not lift the soul.
Having been privileged to witness a swarm before I left my last home, I’d seen at first hand the power of a large number of bees. It’s easy to think we’re under attack. In truth the bees are simply trying to find somewhere to build a colony. They chose to swarm around a rosemary bush, one of the colours they prefer. They also according to Jacqueline Freeman prefer clumps of favourite flowers rather than a single bush here and there. Collecting nectar needs energy and the more they can concentrate on a small area, the more effective they are in their efforts.
Song of Increase is an absorbing book. The subtitle is Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World.
From the half a dozen petitions on various websites this year, it seems we’ve woken up to the damage we’re doing. Particularly with pesticides and monocultures to maximise profit. Every little action we take as gardeners to help bees means we’re less likely to lose the important work they do on our behalf.
Like the Joni Mitchell song warned us, if we don’t value what’s important, we will lose something we can’t replace like the work of bees.
Great Tarot card to select this morning coming up to Solstice. It's from The Wild Wood Tarot by Mark Ryan and John Matthews. Illustrations by Will Worthington.
Having read a Guardian article about the problems of setting up a new bookshop I wanted to give a shout out to Five Leaves Bookshop in the centre of Nottingham. Down what initially struck me as an unprepossessing position en route to the bookies at the end of an alley it's outlasted the bookies. The staff have created a pleasant alley now with plants in pots and hanging baskets.
Inside there’s a warm atmosphere and staff who love books, writers and readers. Though radical in their stance, any reader is welcome there. I buy little from the stock on the shelves, but I order all my books through them as my contribution to keep them alive.
They’ve become a community based shop with links to many organisations locally. Involved in festivals, events in the shop and links to many sectors of the city’s diverse inhabitants they richly deserved being voted British Book Awards Independent Bookshop of 2018.