Monday, 19 March 2012


This is hard to put into words.  It’s about a sense of something, a feeling; hard to articulate, elusive – not easy even to identify in my thought or imagination, let alone express.  But it’s gaining in strength every day.

Please excuse my self-absorption in this post; I hope you find it interesting anyway, and that it may resonate with your own life and path.

I have had difficulty for a while now whenever I have to fill in that box on a form designated OCCUPATION.  ‘Crumbs,’ I think; ‘Glory! What is my occupation?’

Usually I put WRITER, because I guess I can wave ‘writing’ around as something I do.  And even a year or so ago I would have said a writer is what I am.  But I feel that less and less.  I have a few things to say yet that will take shape in the novels I have planned – but the day I run out of things to say I shall stop writing.  I write because I have something to say, where a proper professional writer searches around for something to say because they are a writer.  You get writers meeting with their agents and publishers to answer the all-important question – what might you do for your next project?  But I never ask that question, because it doesn’t interest me.  I only ever want to write if something real arises within me that I feel a need to communicate because I can’t find someone else already saying it, or not in a way that seeds it into people’s imagination.

Lately I’ve sometimes filled in that ‘Occupation’ box in the form with WRITER & THINKER, even though it sounds a bit precious, because it seemed to be true. 

But now I’m not sure.  Because both writing and thinking are about output, something a person is doing, and I have become aware that this is not an accurate description of my occupation.

On the Innermost House Facebook page, a few posts have particularly caught my attention – especially Michael Lorence’s thoughts that I wrote about here, concerning the Many, the Less and the One, and his observations about the complexity of simplicity that I quoted in this blog post here.  Then recently he has been advising us about the creation of boundaries – about identifying and setting aside one’s own space: here.  I’ve been thinking about that.  Slowly, something has begun to take shape in my mind.

Over the last few months I’ve found myself most urgently needing to dispense with any extraneous stuff (hence the 365 chuck-out and the principle of one-thing-in-two-things-out).  At the same time I’ve felt a mounting frustration at the never-ending stream of . . . what should I say . . . I mean the world tugging at my sleeve. Visit this person, phone that person, attend to this paperwork, deal with this buildings problem, answer the door for this delivery man/Jehovah’s Witness / social caller. 

Now, my life is pared down to a disgraceful minimum.  I rarely go anywhere, I ignore my patient friends shockingly, I avoid social visits of all kinds wherever possible; and, though I am immensely grateful for the work our builders have done on our home, by Heaven I’m glad it’s all finished at last and those good men are out of our house!

Puzzled, I’ve asked myself: why are these normal occurrences driving you crazy?  You don’t have to go out to a job in an office or care home or shop – why shouldn’t you do the numerous (endless) little chores and errands every homemaker does?

And at last I’ve put my finger on it.  It’s because I’m concentrating.  All these things drive me nuts because they break my concentration – they distract and interrupt.  ‘What are you concentrating on?’ you might wonder.  But I’m not concentrating on a what, I’m just concentrating – you know, like when you boil down stock, making it less and less to concentrate it.  Well that’s what I’m doing, concentrating like stock.  For the time being at least, that’s my occupation; concentrating.  Listening, looking, not for this or that but for Life itself.  Stilling and distilling, centring and paying attention, so that if at all possible I do not miss the glimmers and gleams of eternity, the quiet song the still small voice is singing, the beauty and wonder inherent in every living day.

Now then: I have one or two friends who reading this will instantly feel guilt seize them by the throat and shake them roughly, shouting accusations – “See what you’ve done!  She was trying to concentrate and you went and disturbed her! How could you be so selfish as to write/visit/phone? How could you? Never do it again? You hear me? Never!!”  Okay, well tell that demon to put you down and stop strangling you.  I love to hear from you. 
I take the view of Sherlock Holmes, that in this world people are perfectly free to write to me and I am free to not open their letters.  If ever I need to go higher up the mountain, I’ll disconnect from the phone and the internet and stop answering the door.

It just interested me to finally put my finger on what is happening in my soul – that this drive to simplify, always simplify, is about more, nor about less; it’s about intensifying attention.  Well, ‘concentrating’ is the only word for it; though I shall feel mighty silly writing it on a form.  Perhaps ‘distiller’ would do . . .


365 366 Day 79 – Monday March 19th
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)   

 I liked this skirt, but it was too short and too tight.  Though very pretty.

By the way, I have an apron to give away.  It's the one in this photo here.

  I love it, but I rarely wear an apron and when I do, I always wear my blue one.  Recently we went through the aprons hanging on the kitchen hook and it turns out nobody wears the white one.  So, would anyone like it?  As ever, if you'd like it just send me your address in a comment which I will not publish. Check the comments following this post first, because I'll leave a comment here to let y'all know when it's been claimed.
The apron is in used condition but clean!


Buzzfloyd said...

This sounds to me like recuperation.

Ember said...

Oh? That's interesting. Say more.

Pilgrim said...

I have only two posts in my google reader this am, yours and D.S. Martin's Kingdom Poets post on Mary Oliver. He quotes her poem Praying, which is echoes much of what you share here.

Pilgrim said...

In another context, I was just reminded of John Moffit's poem "To look at any thing," which also relates to these ideas.

Ember said...

Yes indeed - thanks for these; I did not know these poems.

This morning Hebe and I were sitting out in the sunshine, looking in detail at the wildflowers growing in the grass - speedwell, daisy, creeping jenny, selfheal, dock, dandelion, among others. And I suddenly saw what I had overlooked before, though it was right there by my foot: a very tiny hole in a small depression in the earth, clearly the doorway to someone's home because spread as a net around the entrance, spangled entirely with minute dewdrops sparkling in the sunlight, a spider's web had been spun. The hole was not even the size of my fingernail, the web only as big as the top section of one of my fingers. Entrancing. Hebe said it looked like a spider chandelier.
In my bones I feel that this was one of the principle reasons I came here - to see these wonders and marvel in delight.

BLD in MT said...

I really enjoy the metaphor of concentrarting stock. Well said.

I do love those full aprons the best of all apron style, but I live much too far away for you to send it. Did you make it? I hope you find it a happy new home.

Ember said...

Would you like it, Beth? Send me your address in a comment and I'll pop it in the post to you. xxx

Heather said...

This is scary-I have never commented on a blog before! I think I know exactly what you mean-too much activity and the essence of the day is lost! Please keep writing-you're so interesting, but as you say, only when there is something to say!

Ember said...

:0) Hi Heather - nice to meet you! I'm so glad you posted a comment! x

Pilgrim said...

Yes, I think so. I'm enjoying the second book in your first trilogy. Very interesting, and will bear re-reading.

Ember said...


Revsandy said...

Occupation is difficult. I retired from "paid" work 8 years ago but life is full as a Self Supporting Minister and the many other "occupations" that fill my day. I too am trying to simplify and get life a bit more holistic and less departmentalized. Thank you for your thought provoking encouragement.

Ember said...

Today I read this quotation from Pema Chodron:

"We may think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things may not always get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy, for release."

That important and true, to me.

Fourwheeler said...

I was struck by the thought of only writing when you have something to write. There is great wisdom here. I find that when I have nothing to write I either panic or pray: if I panic, little happens; if I pray, inspiration comes ... in God's own time, but it comes!

Ember said...

:0) My friend Emle tells her children: "Pray before you say". I like that.

Buzzfloyd said...


People undergoing trauma often become intensely aware of minor details in their surroundings. People whose systems are or have been under stress need time and energy all devoted to recovery. When people are unwell or frail, they can only go at their own pace and become very focussed on what they do.

So, I don't know what has brought it on, but you sound to me like someone who is recovering from illness or stress.

Ember said...

Oh - I see what you mean. Yes, I understand how what I wrote could come across like that, but it's not that I feel unwell or unhappy; I think I've just moved on to the next stage in my life or something :0)

Buzzfloyd said...

Yes, you didn't give the impression of being unwell or unhappy, but I just noticed the similarity between what you are describing and that condition of recovery.

keitha said...

This post has caused me to stop and reflect. Why do I write?

Just a thank you again to say that the Lord continually uses your words to help me see things from a new perspective. I'm thankful that you take the time to paint in word what your heart sees.

Hoping today is a blessing for you. Praying thanks for you.

Ember said...