from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 2 January 2012

flowers, holy wells, da Vinci's 7 principles, and battery hens

Wild gales sweeping the valley here in the southwest of England. I long to be on a high place on the moor, or the coast – this is I think the first time in almost my whole life when the Christmas and New Year season hasn't included at least one long walk on Devon's beautiful beaches; preferably the three miles of open sand on my childhood beach, Saunton. Somehow the year doesn't quite start until that happens.

My sister made it back up to her remote Scottish home overlooking the ocean just in time to miss the worst of the blizzards.

And what might have been a very difficult and turbulent new year here, with the loss of my mum fresh in my heart, and a deal of personal inner turmoil, instead was a warm, uplifting and loving time, with F and H, two of my oldest and most-loved friends, spending it with us.


There are a few wild daffodils in flower already, and already too the hazel catkins have shaken out fully fluffy tails. The first witch hazel flower burst out in the courtyard yesterday. And opposite Malcolm's pig field the little starry violet flowers of periwinkle have been blossoming all year. Periwinkle – vinca major, I think, from memory – is a plant from which medicine derives a cancer cure. (Periwinkle are also 5-petalled, another of the flowers dedicated to the Goddess, and later, Mary.)


A close friend has reminded me, via the gift of a beautiful new book on Holy Wells, of my old commitment to clearing out the old wells of this peninsula, a 'dana' (gift), in Buddhist jargon, that I began in my teens and have only kept up very sporadically. This is an actual gesture but it's also a symbolic one, of course – the waters of the world need to be kept flowing, and one of the most poignant symbols of The Wasteland in the Grail Quest mythos (echoed in the poem of that name by T S Eliot which drew from this source – no pun intended ) was the rape of the Well Maidens (the divine feminine) and the drying-up of the wells, which of course led to drought and famine.

The waters of the world are also the waters of the heart, according both to many indigenous teachings and also to archetypal/Jungian thinking. The Wasteland is a warning of what happens, individually and collectively, when the feeling nature, the heart-ability to empathise, is left out of a culture.


And speaking of the heart, I subscribe to a daily Buddhist teaching into my inbox. At a time of huge personal turmoil it's so easy to disengage, even if only temporarily, from the demands of remaining entirely present in all our relationships, especially when the going is tough. Here it is, from Tricycle magazine:

'Committing to Friendship
You do not learn non-attachment by disengaging and avoiding the intensity of relationships, their joy and their pain. It is easy to disguise as non-attachment what is not non-attachment at all, but your fear of attachment. When you really care about someone and you are willing to commit to that friendship, then you have fertile ground to learn about both attachment and non-attachment.'


A note of things positive (well, a little more positive) for a few million battery hens in the UK: at last the ban on tiny metal cages has come into force here. A hen will no longer have to spend her entire laying life squatting on the barred bottom of a cage so small – smaller than an A4 sheet of paper – that she can't turn around. She will still be caged, and her allocated personal space still tiny, but now she will have some room, if not to roam, at least to turn around and squash through a crowd of hens instead (90 hens per cage, with a personal space of only 750 square cms, but free-moving, ish, at least). A step, but still only a step, towards the kind of humane awareness we need to bring to call ourselves in even a small way an enlightened society – that is, for my purposes here, one in which exploitation of all other beings is phased out in favour of a deep awareness of what we do to one we do to all.

In December they were rehoming many battery hens. My daughter took three, to spend the rest of their lives with her small flock roaming free (and with a great view!) in the fields edging the moor.


H and I were talking about Da Vinci's 'Seven Principles' and their relationship to creativity and holistic living. I'll list them here for you, and if you are sufficiently interested, there's a book that unpacks them (in a self-help hands-on kind of way): How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: seven steps to genius every day, by Michael Gelb. I think these 7 principles are remarkable. The definitions below are taken from Gelb's book.

Curiosita: an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning
Dimostrazione: a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes
Sensazione: the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience
Sfumato (literally 'going up in smoke'): a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty
Arte/Scienza: the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination, 'whole brain' thinking
Corporalita: the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise
Connessione: a recognition of and appreciation for  the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

I wish you all a happy, fulfilling, creative, insatiably curious, connected, loving and peaceful 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive