Monthly Archives: October 2019

Sparks will fly #42 #ephemeral

Katoomba has been my home for the past week and with 54 others we shared our lives, played and made music together. Each precious moment, each breath lasting just as long as it needs to last. To live completely in the now, to understand and live, as if for just for one day, to squeeze the life out of each moment and infuse each moment with life, starts with the act of taking a deep breath. You turn up, body and spirit, you open your heart, your ears, your lungs in that order. There is no voice without feeling and listening.

To live on earth, as it is in heaven is surely to live with all the harmonies and each person finding their own note. We will have conductors and guides to help us sound better, take more risks with ourselves and those who will invite us to go to new horizons because they can see something in us we can’t yet. These are some of the many lessons singing in choir gives me – and singing as an Ephemeral Choir – and the lesson I seem to need learn over and over is being in the moment, living the now, is writ large.

This has not been an easy week waiting for the days and nights to tick over into the second anniversary of my love’s death. I spent the dreaded day surrounded by beauty, in song and in a space where love and compassion were the only currencies being traded. Giving grief an ephemeral nature allows it to come and go, to swell and subside, to flow over rocks and through caves. There are days where you find depths in the shallows, in little pools there can be rivers of pain and sadness. Equally, the quietest smile across a room from a friend can ooze just the right amount of love you need at that moment. More than once I recalled the line from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

To live with a plan and act as if there isn’t one, capturing the moment as a complete and never to be repeated experience, is also the practice of living life with all the lights on the stage not in rehearsal mode. The discipline of living in an ephemeral way is quite a challenge. Plumbing the inner silence for courage and unlimited access to the well of peace, is the call, time and time again. I need to get my breathing right in order to be up to the response. Singing reminds me how to breathe and helps me to accept the invitation of sounds and silence. The spaces between the notes are just as important.

I am heading back to Adelaide, borrowing other people’s roofs to put my head under for awhile. I am returning to communities in which I work and play. The pilgrim or perhaps it is a swaggies life I am walking, continues.

There is a litany of gratitude for all the visible and invisible help that has accompanied me and enabled me to be in these spaces. I am grateful to the generosity and abundance of this precious life I live. I know sparks fly in caves, in song and can be found in the pounding hearts of lovers of the ephemeral life.

Sun set over the Blue Mountains.

Sparks will fly #41 #buffers

Starting last week of the Big Holiday in Sydney and heading to Blue Mountains for singing and sights after I had built a little buffer in to recover from the jet lag and to re-enter my homeland.

Buffer zones have been a feature of past few weeks – that time and space you build in to your schedule to accommodate delayed flights, wrong turns and surprises.

The place of a buffer in your day has the potential for easier breathing. When you make space for a buffer you are giving your future self a gift of time to absorb or at least reduce the stress or shocks of the unexpected and unplanned. I have learnt buffers can come in the shape of people, places and empty spaces. You can make buffers for yourself or even be one for others.

Buffers have intentionality attached to them, while being completely agnostic about why they are needed. Only when they are required is their purpose validated. From time to time we are buffers for others, holding space, holding quiet, being in between, while the full extent of why we are there may not be immediately revealed. This kind of detachment to purpose and being defined by the arrival of a surprise, often unwelcome, defines us as much as any purpose we might define for ourselves.

Buffers come in and out of my life to protect and hold me to keep me safe is such a blessing. Like the spaces in the music critical for the sound to resonate and seep into the soul, so too do buffers enable thresholds to be noticed and traversed to enable the journey to continue.

Already this day buffers have delivered coffee, a friendly face, respite from negative thoughts, joyous sounds in four part harmony, lunch between friends and a walk in the sun.

Building in buffers as a self-care practice is providing the space for embers to be coaxed into life by bellows for sparks to fly.

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Sparks will fly #40 #maps

Mapping out where to go, working out where you have been or perhaps where you are going requires some orientation. First you need to know where you are. You need to be able to recognize a symbol, sign or perhaps a landmark. When you don’t know what to call what you can see, or are searching for the word from a time gone by it can add another layer of complexity to the challenge.

There have all kinds of maps around me lately from the yellow arrows of the camino, to the new AR of google maps, maps embedded in memories and others drawn on the soul. Maps to guide me away from locations that may no longer serve me and others to pull me towards destinations that are on a horizon not yet fully in view.

The humble map of a bus route on a guided tour in a city like Berlin, that reveals polarities and integration around every corner is the kind of map I find encouraging. Just enough information to support discovery and not too much so there is still room for error, to get lost and find your own path.

Where others can see you going and go calling out to you to go this way or that, and for another to pull you back from a kerb when you don’t see a truck coming, and another to hold the map for you and take you with them are the kind of sojourners with map reading skills I need around me. Recognising these people as part of the landscape, signs and supports in my map of life also requires some knowledge of knowing where I am.

I begin this week as the last of the first in my sixth decade, knowing there are less days ahead of me than behind, more settled and unsettled in real and metaphorical ways than I have been for this past year. I have inner maps so well worn and frayed at the edges it is hard to read in places where there are tears and repairs, faded print, where new lines are being drawn and some of the signs are yet to be properly interpreted or named. I have new maps which are waiting to be unfolded and perhaps some that never will.

The sparks of light flitting off the device to guide me sometimes takes a while to catch up with me or tells me where to go a different path to my intuition or what I can see in front of me – it knows about things I can’t see, like road blocks and traffic jams. This would be quite a helpful feature for my inner map!

The poet Hafiz says ‘the place you are right now, God has circled on a map for you‘. The birds know when to sing, the clouds know when to hide the moon, the tiniest of ants follow the sugary path to gather what they need for their nest, the stars have provided maps since the dawn of time, and remind me they are the original sparks that fly. Soon, I will be piloted from this hemisphere to the next where familiar signs will give an edge to my navigation. No guarantee however that I won’t get lost.

I will be aiming to keep open to reading maps made just for me and ones that others will introduce to me, keeping the pilgrim’s way ready to accept visible and invisible help and to be guided in equal measure by curiosity and clear directions.

Over the Alps en route to Berlin.