Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

We have been given a mirror to hang on a wall. It has a dark wooden frame and bevelled edges to the glass, and was probably part of a dressing table before it had a chain fitted across its back for hanging.

I have written before on here about how I have been trying to change the energies particularly in our hallway, to create a more positive environment. The very cold turquoise blue that filled the centre of the house has always been hard to live with, but equally hard to change easily given the state of the walls, the difficulty of access over the stairs, and the fact it really needs doing last! (I tried to do it first, only the plaster fell off one wall. So one wall got painted, one was reduced to bare render, and the rest is still turquoise… including the ceiling!) Over the past year I have been creative in wall hangings to cover the colour and add to it, and now we have gained a mirror …

Mirrors can have the effect of reflecting light into dark spaces, always adding to whatever light is present. Assuming the glass is clear, they help to energise a space – not ideal in a bedroom, but great where energy is stagnant or where the flow of energy needs redirecting to fill the corners. They also help you see around a corner so are particularly useful in an L-shaped space such as we have.

Unfortunately the minute the mirror was up, I knew it was wrong. Instead of reflecting more happy, harmonious pictures and colours, such as the cute frog picture hung almost opposite it, it managed to pick up the turquoise and spread that back into all the areas I thought I had improved. Yes I could take it down again, but having taken three months to get it up, which involved making an attachment that could support its weight, I didn’t think that suggestion would go down well! So instead I thought for a while, and after a few hours the solution came to me. Paint just the bit of wall that was now being reflected. Doable while M has her nap, and dry in two hours. (I also considered hanging a coloured cloth, but cloths get pulled and tugged…)

So the wall is now a neutral straw colour, that being the one pot of leftover paint we had. Not quite as warm as I would have liked, but it has the advantage of being light and sunny which is exactly what our hallway needs.

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Life

What is life for? How do we define a good life, or a bad life? How can we judge anyone else’s life, or even our own for that matter while we are living it?

This morning I watched M emptying the clothes from the washing machine into the basket for me, while I cleared away breakfast. She does not find this easy yet, and needed some help to position herself and the basket, but such is her delight in each item she manages to get out of the machine it becomes infectious. In some cases she names the owner of the item, or when it is hers, gives a cry of pleased recognition. I almost wanted a video camera. Then when she had got it all out, she half-carried, half-slid the full basket across the kitchen to me, feeling ever so proud of herself. Finally she climbed onto the tall stool I put by the sink all by herself, so that she could supervise me washing up.

In the eyes of Rudolf Steiner, she is learning about life through doing, and through imitation. She is enjoying helping with jobs I once detested and put off for as long as possible, because I saw them as jobs. I learned some years ago to simply see them as things that need doing, so got on with it. Then when M was small they were an escape to normality, an opportunity to do something worthwhile and productive, and a bit of breathing space! Now I see them as opportunities for enjoyment and sharing. Yet they are the same jobs.

There is much written about spending ‘quality time’ with your children. I confess, I do not know what this means. I do not often ‘play’ with M, because I do not seem to be able to conjure up an imaginary world, and her language development is such that she wouldn’t understand it if I did. So instead I do the things I either want or need to do but find ways for her to join in. When sewing she hands me pins, and has learned not to pull them out until I am sewing the fabric together. She will also play with fabric, or indicate by the actions the song ‘Wind the bobbin up’. And can go off to any of her other ‘toys’ when she gets bored of me. When drawing, she will join me for some of time with her own pencil and paper. When cooking she will stir the soup, or fetch me any ingredient within her reach, or come outside to pick herbs or dig up a leek. She comes shopping with me, and to the library. It is only when I am at the computer that she cannot join me at all, so instead I have constant interruptions for stories or songs. I try to limit my activities to short bursts, which can make me surprisingly productive!

There are many more groups we could join, and sometimes I have found it hard to meet people away from groups because they maintain a full timetable up to the point they return to work. But for us, three mornings a week seems to work well, leaving plenty of time for other activities as well as time to just Be. I don’t want life to pass me by, I want to experience whatever is happening, while it is happening, and enjoy it. Life is what you make of it.

Learning

“But we don’t want to TEACH ’em,” replied the Badger. “We want to LEARN ’em–learn ’em, learn ’em!” (from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)

I have been pondering the how, when and why of learning recently, because I have come to believe that we each individually made the decision to incarnate because, in part at least, we wanted to learn and develop in various ways. (Some say planet Earth is one of the toughest schools…)

When growing up I had some idea that we learned things at school, and when we knew everything we would be grown up. We would then get a job and use all those things we spent years learning. Learning was therefore about knowing things. It could be fun, it could sometimes be very satisfying, but frequently it simply had to be done. Spellings. Times tables. French verb declensions. Physics equations. Do children still learn these? I’m sure they are still taught, but as Badger said above, learning is quite a different matter.

Then there was learning a musical instrument, a skill that required many hours of practice and eventually some fun came out of it. Changing from the violin to the french horn helped me find the fun aspects! To reach the highest levels I can see with hindsight it was necessary to become an independent learner; to want to practise, to improve, to be the best I was capable of. To want to learn.

Whitewater kayaking and canoeing was something I did for many years, from my early twenties until shortly before I got pregnant with M. I eventually learned not only how to sit in a boat and stay upright with minimal effort while letting the river do all the work, but also a lot about visualisation which has been useful in many other ways. There was also, for me, a lot of learning about how to cope with the emotional side. Running rapids, be they rocky and technical or large and powerful, surfing waves, going over ‘drops’, is to experience nature in a very raw state. The mental anguishes I went through, and on occasion saw others going through, ‘learned’ me a lot about preparation, confidence and eventually trust. The fact I kept going back for more suggests that on some level I wanted to learn.

It was when suffering from ill health in my thirties that I really started consciously learning about life and developing my awareness of how I behave and think. A very different sort of learning, and life can present some tough lessons at times! Somewhere along the way I think I finally managed to become that adult I thought I’d be in my twenties, and become my own person. Lessons tend to have a much more practical nature though, like learning how to relate to other people with honesty and integrity, to be aware of their needs and also my own. I’m still learning; I still get things wrong and take people too literally, but I’m learning.

But what interests me most is how our rate of learning doesn’t seem to change much throughout our lives. I have spent many hours over the past year and more watching M learn, and just as I was struck a few months ago by the fact that we change and develop mentally all our lives, I have been surprised to notice that she doesn’t actually learn any faster or slower than I do, or than most people do.

Take language. Some people have a natural gift, others struggle. M appears to understand a lot more than she does, and can make a few words go a long way – in exactly the same way as a foreign exchange student will work out the jist of what you are trying to explain. Like the foreign student, she has a few words that she can say very well, a few ‘starters’ where I can work it out, and unlike the foreign student who would probably feel silly, a lot of babbles. Adults in the right environment are equally capable of learning a new language. Physically, M learned to walk, and then to cope with uneven ground, steps, etc at pretty much the same rate that most people I have taught to canoe or kayak learn. Looking back I don’t remember seeing a great deal of difference in those learning canoeing at age 16 or 56 that couldn’t be explained by self confidence; age itself was rarely a factor. Behaviourally three weeks is long enough for M to learn most things to a basic level, whether it is not to bite me when feeding, or to leave things in a particular cupboard. This is the same length of time we adults are told it takes to break a habit, or to form a new habit.

If, as many have suggested and I believe to be true, we are all eternal spirits having human experiences, then this makes perfect sense. Our higher selves have different levels of experience, but are all old enough that the differences between say a million and one or a million and forty one or a million and eighty one are negligible. So where does this leave us? We can all learn whatever we want to, no matter what age we are, and have every expectation of succeeding. We can put our fears aside and give things a go. Trust in life, and trust in our ability to learn.

Moving Kitchens

Some people are really organised. They make plans for their home, carry them out, and finish the job all within a few months. We don’t seem to manage that. We make plans, then discover something else that has to be done first, then find something that has to be fixed, then escalate the plans, then circumstances change and the plans have to be put on hold, eventually we return to the plans to find we have to remake them… you get the picture!

Today we moved into our new kitchen. We drew up the plans for it in around 1998. We have had the kitchen units in our shed since about 1999, thanks to a salesman who said (when we wanted advice on plumbings and electric points) we could order the kitchen and they would store it for us until the room was ready…

The outer shell for the kitchen was completed in 2001 – the two year delay being caused by the realisation we had to build the garage / workshop first because what was there was completely unsound. We had some help for both of those major undertakings, thank goodness! Since then we have done almost everything ourselves, including bricklaying, repointing, plastering, plumbing, electrics… I won’t go into all that has happened in the past decade, but a boundary wall got built in the garden, a chimney got rebuilt, the living room got stripped to bare brick and wood floor and then was redone in true Edwardian style, and the garden, garage and workshop all got some attention as well as many other smaller jobs. We planned to get to the kitchen some day, but lets face it, ours worked, sort of, and there were only the two of us. Finishing the extension was not the highest priority in our lives.

Then I got pregnant, and we knew we had to sort the house out. I got people in to get the room plastered and floored, then the fitting of the kitchen was started the week before M was born. Plans had to be remade slightly along the way (luckily we still loved the units and worktops!) and M accompanied us to tile shops as a tiny baby asleep in her car seat. Finally another year on it nears completion and we have had the grand move into the new space. Not finished, the old sink and drains had to come out before the new cabinets could be fitted on the other side of the wall, some painting and tiling needs finishing, there isn’t a bin under the sink yet, but it’s good enough to move into.

So what have I learned through this long process? Above all, how to hold onto a dream. That it is possible to rekindle the energy and enthusiasm for a project and complete it with love. Acceptance that we are only human and not everything can be done at once. Learning not to blame anyone else for what I cannot do myself. Forgiveness for when we fall short of the high standards that we set ourselves. That beauty is possible everywhere and is eternal; it doesn’t matter how delayed it is, the beauty is still there to be found and is what lasts. Even in a kitchen, especially where my stained glass is reflected onto the wall late afternoon in winter. I’ll try and get a photo of it when it returns in a month or so.

Birthdays

I had a birthday this week – like most people it comes around once a year! So I have been pondering age, and my approach to it.

It seems to me that we all strive to be approximately Twenty Two. I have read that in the spirit world everyone either ages or regresses to Thirty, but here on planet Earth that seems ‘old’ to most people – a term that is most often derogatory, rather than implying any advantages of wisdom and experience. Twenty two (or thereabouts) is an age that teenagers aspire to, when they will be ‘grown-up’, taken seriously, able to do whatever they want. Most people at twenty two are unlikely to have many responsibilities yet or be weighed down by cares; by thirty many people are coming to terms with the fact that they are no longer ‘young’, and would happily regress back a few years.

A year ago I reached the proud age of forty. There had been a time in my thirties when I was so ill that I really didn’t reckon I’d reach forty, certainly not to see the whole year, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be sharing the day with a child of my own. The ‘dis-ease’ had been building in me for many years, and it was only when I walked out of hospital and took responsibility for my own life, my own destiny, that I was set back firmly on the road to health. Interestingly I have heard many stories since then of people who have been through an initiation to dedicate themselves to being their best selves then find that their life falls apart in some way. Health, family, work; Spirit has ways of ensuring you deal with any problems in your life that are not being faced up to! In my case my health spiralled out of control, forcing me to look beyond ordinary boundaries and see new connections. I had choices, and I now try to be conscious of them. Like other people who have been through this kind of fire, my only regrets are not making the changes and following my intuition earlier – but I also accept that I was not ready earlier. Things happened as they needed to.

So now I feel as if my life restarted, I get a second chance, and every year is a bonus to be filled with good experiences and lived as fully as I am able. In the present. I feel neither old nor young, just take each day as it comes and find something good in it. Make the most of my ‘bonus time’ and see where I am led.

One aspect of living in the present is enjoying M’s company. Many people tell me to enjoy it, because babyhood lasts for such a short time. Some days I want to reply ‘Thank goodness!’ as fascinating as it is, like most people I also look forward to her talking and doing things independently. But she has always had her own character, her own personality, her own interests and as she mostly lives for and in the moment, so do I. The switch from crying or frustration to laughter can happen in the blink of an eye, and we spend hours giggling together. I will have no regrets of having missed anything, or not having done a thorough job!

However M has also taught me how life is a continuum. There should be no point at which we cease to grow and develop, unless of course we resist change. The changes happen in a very obvious way in the early years of life, but continue every year right up until the end of our incarnation on Earth, when for most of us we will be old. I haven’t stopped changing yet, and no longer expect to. I really don’t know why I ever did! And finally I have learned to enjoy if not every moment of my life, then most of what I am doing at the time I am doing it.

Cycling On

To live in touch with the Earth is to be aware of our impact upon it; one aspect of that is transport. For many years my bike was my main mode of transport, with occasional car or train use for longer distances. I was never particularly fast, so we bought a tandem when we started riding as a couple. It has carried us over the Pyrenees and the Alps, and with more difficulty over Yorkshire’s challenging hills. However, I haven’t been doing much cycling in the past few years, for various reasons, and then when I tried again I discovered I was pregnant. Not the best time to restart!

Now nearly three summers on, I have been keen to get my bike out again. Most of my journeys are around 5 miles, although being Derbyshire it is very hilly! Some investigation of options for cycling with small children followed, and a few test rides to shock the system. I didn’t want to mess about and miss this summer as well though, so after proving my bike worked and I could ride a short distance (three miles), I got out my trusty pendulum to dowse for what would be best for both M and me: a weatherproof trailer.

Bought on a Friday evening, we test rode it the following morning on a trip to the nearest town. I had the great idea that if my husband pulled the trailer I could watch to pick up some riding tips, and he might be slowed down enough that I could keep up. No such luck – we went slowly down the first hill, and then I didn’t see them again until he stopped to wait for directions. If we want to ride as a family, we’ll have to dust off the tandem…

After an even shorter test ride with the trailer myself, I spent the next two evenings checking out possible routes to the parent and toddler group. (The hours are flexible enough that my arrival time there wouldn’t matter.) While the first mile and a half had to be along the main road through our village, after that there were numerous options. I tried the cycle track route first – but some of it was so muddy that it was impassable on my bike, let alone with a trailer; I had to stop to scrape out the mudguards with a stick. The final part was a pleasant smooth tarmac, but when trying to exit the cycle track onto roads on the way home, I discovered that the posts across the entrance were too narrowly spaced to allow a trailer through.

Day two I attempted to retrace my route along the back roads, and promptly missed an unsigned turning. Glad I didn’t have the trailer on when climbing back up that hill! Having corrected my mistake and got to the place successfully by road, I then tried to come back using a popular ‘green road’. Fine for mountain bikes, but not my tourer and trailer; the combination of worn out concrete overlaid with worn out tarmac didn’t make for an easy ride, the potholes having pretty sharp edges to avoid. Very pretty though between the hedges, and lots of birdsong so one of the best evening rides I have ever enjoyed.

I’m glad to say that the day of our maiden voyage was lovely and sunny, and not too hot. (Why would I expect anything less?) Given no route that I had test ridden was any good, I followed another possibility I had checked out on Google maps. It was the prettiest yet, taking us down a well-surfaced footpath alongside a large duck pond, a quarter mile link that I would happily walk regularly were it not for the difficulties of manoeuvring a bike with trailer around a wheelchair-sized kissing gate at the far end. We returned along the road.

So now I have ridden there and back with M twice. It is hard work, and my lowest gear has been not only used but really needed as I twiddle up the steepest hill, but it is also really enjoyable. There is just something about the speed of a bike which I really love – I’m the one with the silly grin on her face when riding in the pouring rain. The traffic is less of a problem with a trailer than when solo, but I just trust I am doing the right thing and most drivers have been exceptionally courteous. As for M, she hops in and out quite happily, and then sleeps really well!

Individuality

Frequently I read a book, or a magazine article, or even a post on someone else’s blog, telling the story of some amazing contact or conversation with spirit. There are even people who communicate with spirit as easily as they do with you and me, or at least that is the impression I get. Lorna Byrne with angels, Mia Dolan with her spirit guide, Sandra Ingerman with her spirit animals, Tanis Helliwell with her leprechaun, Verena Stael von Holstein with nature spirits, Rudolf Steiner with just about all of these… I could go on! I used to wish I could do the same, thinking how it must be wonderful to have such a deep connection. No matter that I too have had some amazing experiences, although mainly whilst in a meditative state, and may well have more in the future!

However whilst reading ‘Nature Spirits of the Trees’ this week and briefly wishing I could have the same sort of conversations myself, I was reminded of a realisation I had a couple of years ago when listening to a flute solo played superbly. I wish I could play like that, I thought. And then a millisecond later I realised, actually I don’t need to play like that, she’s playing like that! I sat back and enjoyed the moment with the freedom of sixty bars rest or whatever it was, just listening. Then in the next concert, playing second horn because of being six months pregnant and losing my upper register, I was suddenly aware of the whole orchestra and my contribution within it. How each player mattered individually, yet we were all part of this great organised structure, coming together to perform something we couldn’t do alone.

I am convinced that we are all connected as humans, and none of us needs to repeat what someone else has already done, unless we really want to. It is more important for us each to find our own special thing we can do. So I am grateful to Verena Stael von Holstein and Wolfgang Weirauch for taking the time to have the conversations and then writing them down for the rest of us to read; I now do not need to ask the trees the same questions. Instead, I can ask new ones based on a greater level of understanding than before I read their book, questions that are more relevant to me and my path which is different to theirs.

Ammer Veil Falls

This week it is the willow I have been most in communication with, enjoying the veil of fresh green growth, and the way that when underneath on a sunny day, it almost vanishes letting the sun reach the plants underneath. It has a very similar quality to veil falls on the Ammer in South Germany, in a completely unexpected way. (Pictured above; I’m assuming most people reading this already know what a willow looks like!)

Willow is a water tree, the weeping willow exceptionally so, through its shape, its branches, its leaves, and its choice of habitat. Standing underneath its canopy in a light shower will not keep you dry, like so many other broad-leaved trees will. Willow may rejuvenate from a branch plunged into the soil, so a tree may be very old and wise even though the wood we see may be young. This makes it relatively easy to communicate with; I have found in general that the older the tree the stronger its voice is. Willow’s soul quality is described in the book as ‘overcoming’; it teaches us how to be flexible and yet strong at the same time, as well as more direct help in the form of salicylic acid. Later in the year the leaves will form a thicker curtain, shading the undergrowth from the strong summer sun and providing a cool place to sit. However, such is its affinity with water that mud is a likely companion!

What’s in a name…

I have spent some time this week creating a ‘gravatar’ for myself, the one you now see on my profile, based on a Sorrel leaf.

Before creating my blog, in fact at intervals over the past few years, I have had reasons to consider what name I should use publicly. I could simply use my own name – but that might not be fair to others who share my surname but not my beliefs. I could have used my ‘spirit’ name, my ‘magickal’ name as some would term it, but it is too personal and too easily abused, given the power that lies in a name. I save it for conscious communications of the spirit kind. So I needed a new name, one to use for writing. And if it was to be a public name, it needed to say something about me, and to have the right kind of energies associated with it that I could use to help me with my writing.

I explored several ideas, and was surprised how many potential names were already in use by other pagans. But then as so often happens on this path, everything just came together one day and felt right – the blog name and a writing name, and neither were in use by others as far as search engines could reveal. The simple meanings are given in my profile, the deeper meanings will become apparent over time as they gradually reveal themselves.

Just to be sure, I checked the names using Chaldean Numerology, my preferred system. Sorrel = 22, the same as my own name, and the same as Dragon. Creator and Doer. Pen adds 18, or 9, the Spiritual number. 22 + 18 + 22 = 62 / 8. Theme of Balance. Under a rowan tree = 60 / 6. Theme of Love. As a group of numbers they expressed very well what I wished to create with my blog and I felt these energies should serve me well.

So I had a name, but I didn’t yet have a symbol or image to use.

Having considered and rejected various ideas, I read an interesting passage in ‘Summer with the Leprechauns’ by Tanis Helliwell, where she learns about various spiritual symbols or insignias. The leprechaun for example has a four leaf clover, symbolising control of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water. (What we sometimes interpret as luck, they see as manifesting what is wanted.) Her symbol is a rose, a seeker or keeper of spiritual truths; enlightenment. The elements each have their own symbols. What was my symbol I wondered, and could I use it for my blog?

The easiest way for me to find out would be to journey. (I say easiest, but nothing is easy when you have a small child as a constant companion. The journey was done with a drumming CD and M sleeping half on top of me. No wonder most traditional shamans are male or over fifty!) As is my usual way, I started at a familiar hollow oak tree, about half a mile from here, found my cloak and staff where I had left them, and stated my question to the guardian of the doorway. Oak likes to challenge me with my question before I journey to otherworlds, knowing that I am wont to set off without having properly considered first, just because I have a rare opportunity to do so.

Knowing my question, I thought I was well away today; I knew what I wanted to find out, and I hoped I would find a simple answer. But Oak stopped me in my tracks (not for the first time) by telling me to be sure I knew what it was I was asking, as I would have to look deep within myself for the answer. Also that when I add more names, I was adding more layers of secrecy, confusion, conflict, and potential. Make sure I do it consciously and by choice.

He was not wrong! The experience of having my symbol shown to me was both revealing and unsettling, and I learned more about myself and who I was and where I was going than I could ever have anticipated. Like having a deep truth brought out into the open, one that just felt right and comfortable, but was formidable at the same time given the expectation contained within the truth. However when I asked if this was an appropriate symbol to use, the answer was no. Sorry folks – I won’t be sharing any details just yet! I asked what I should use, and was told I needed to look within myself for something appropriate for the blog. What kind of an answer was that?

So the symbol I have chosen to use, as I said above, is a Sorrel leaf. The heart shape is very like an alder leaf, that of a watery nature with the drop bouncing back up, but tripled like a trefoil or a triskele which I generally interpret as being of three worlds. Very green, so it is aligned with the heart chakra in colour as well as shape. Celtic knotwork is not something I have done much of recently, but it felt appropriate here – one line, connecting all. Following it as I drew and coloured became a meditation of its own, much like walking a labyrinth, considering what it meant and what I hoped it would bring. The fact that it took three attempts to before I was satisfied only deepened my connections. And so my ‘gravatar’ brings alive the craft part of this blog at the same time.

I knew I had got it right. And I also know that had I simply been told what to do it would not have been half as rewarding as working it out for myself.

Tree Quilt Triptych – Part 1

Winter quiltLast autumn I was inspired by the colours of the leaves beneath some maple and cherry trees to design a seasonal wallhanging, bringing their vibrant energies into my home. The project quickly grew, as creative ideas can, before settling back to something manageable… I hope!

I spent some time exploring traditional quilt patterns and coming up with a plan for three quilts that will be displayed in rotation, but that could potentially hang side by side. (Unlikely in this house!) Autumn would be the leaf colours I had seen, done in an irregular Maple Leaf pattern. Winter would be the colours of bark and dead leaves, silver birch and catkins using a very square design, while Summer would be the dappled greens of grass under oak or other deciduous trees.

By the time I had completed my designs the seasons had moved on, and to be honest Autumn looked so challenging that I wasn’t sure how to put it together. So I started last December with Winter (shown above), an irregular Pandora’s Box design that I hoped I could manage with a crawling or cruising M tugging at whatever part of me or my sewing machine she could reach. As it happened the only time she had to be banished from the room was when I lay all the pieces on the floor, there being no other space large enough for them, but apart from that I discovered various new ways of working and concentrating to be able to stay in the now, focussing on the fabric but also stopping whenever she needed me. She was present for all except about half an hour… and mostly seemed to enjoy watching it come together. Machine sewing is great that way!

I particularly enjoyed my first ever free motion quilting, doing a very organic design and just being guided by intuition as to where to go as the design grew. I haven’t yet seen another quilt with the same shapes as this one, roots and spirals combined. Little hands pressing foot pedals or pulling at fabric added the odd bit of character! However, while I am happy with the overall effect and like the way the pattern helps bring harmony, I was sorry to loose a bit of the detail in the fabric by quilting over the top. As a result I may quilt the others differently.

It has also achieved my second aim, to shift the energies in a positive direction in our hallway, the centre of our home, most of which for various complicated reasons (including the plaster falling off one wall) remains the cold turquoise blue that was there when we moved in. I love seeing the quilt when the sun falls on it at lunchtime and brings out the gold colours, showing how much beauty there is in browns.

This week I have bought the supplies for Summer. Given that Winter took a month to cut and piece, and another month to quilt, bind and hang, I might just get it done in time for the change of seasons. (Or I might not if the leaves all continue to come early…) Part 2 will follow in a few months time.

Right place, always?

Some say the world is always perfect, I take the view that everything is how it needs to be at any given moment. So with that in mind, I will relate an incident that happened the other day when my usual routine was altered in such a way that I may have been able to help a fellow human being.

Every other Friday is our Library Bus Walk, about a mile each way to where the library bus stops long enough that even with my vague timing I can catch it. On this occasion I was early and almost took a longer route, but decided against it and instead spent five minutes enjoying the spring flowers in the memorial garden opposite and finding pinecones for my daughter to play with. So we were earlier than normal, and had the bus mostly to ourselves.

One of the usual librarians was away so M didn’t have anyone to charm and play pat-a-cake with as she sometimes does while I browsed; then her crawlabout had to be limited by me after she emptied one too many shelves of books and she had to go back into her pushchair – not something I’ve had to do before. I was about to get our books checked out when a young man boarded the bus, struggling with crutches and the world in general.

I’m not really sure what led him to the library, but it was clear he was at breaking point. He said he wanted help to report two police officers who had mistreated him the evening before, and then laughed about it. No one would listen, no one would help, he had been homeless for five months, didn’t know where he was supposed to go or what he was supposed to do, had tried to kill himself twice this year already, no one wanted to know. The library staff didn’t either, suggesting he went to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Derby. Or Chesterfield. Or anywhere else, just please don’t bring your problems here, they wanted to say.

I felt quite sorry for him; the energy he was giving out was so negative and defensive that he was getting the same in return, yet he couldn’t see it. He was asked to moderate his language given there was a small child present, which he managed to do while reiterating his complaint that no one would listen to him. I asked if they could find him the number for the Samaritans. The driver gratefully made his escape to the laptop to search the web, and I went and engaged the young man in conversation for a few minutes, feeling completely useless as a counsellor (I’m not one) but hoping he’d calm down enough so that he wouldn’t do anything stupid immediately. We tried to think where there was a phone box, but could only remember where there used to be one, and the library staff would not allow him to use theirs. I didn’t have one… nor even any money to give him for a payphone, should he find one. Before leaving he asked if they had a Haynes manual on weightlifting. They didn’t carry Haynes manuals on the bus. But they could order him a copy. He would have to join the library they added, neglecting to mention that he would need an address to join.

He was encouraged out on the lift, despite the fact he wasn’t ready to leave, then I was delayed with smalltalk since my normal route home was they way he had taken. He smelled of cigarettes, the temp said; he obviously had money from somewhere. He might not have bought them himself was my reply. Besides he was a person too, and only a few steps away from us really. I’ve been poor, you don’t spend what you don’t have on fags, came the brittle rejoinder.

I walked home the long route, wondering if fate would see our paths cross so that our conversation could be continued, but it didn’t. I hadn’t given him much, just a phone number and a listening ear for five minutes, I could only hope it was enough.

An interesting comment from Landscape Angel in Call of the Trees by Dorothy Maclean (co-founder of Findhorn Foundation):

When you love one beech tree, for example, you love all beech trees, you are connected with the whole genus of beech. Even though it may be one particular specimen that brings out the love in you, that specimen is incapable of taking your regard to itself, and thus you are automatically linked up with the soul of that species. If the human kingdom could learn this quality, it would mean the end of war and rivalry, competition and strife.