Friday, 29 November 2013

Book 15

I am proud of my new book, The Wilderness Within You, (linked here to US Amazon)  because it is the fifteenth book I have written.

I can remember going to the party of a friend who is a writer, to celebrate the publication of his tenth book – and thinking at the time what an impossible place to reach that seemed; I think I had maybe written one or two then.

I have not had many achievements in my life; I didn’t do well at school, after college I spent a decade either expecting or feeding babies, my years as a minister of religion were sabotaged spectacularly by an avalanche of profound and complex family problems which shipwrecked my life as dramatically as driving a speedboat full-tilt into a concrete harbour wall.  

As a person I am difficult – hard to get to know, socially inept and ridiculously introverted.

But I have written these books, and that feels like an achievement to me.

Number 15, The Wilderness Within You (linked here to UK Amazon) is a Lent book of conversations with Jesus, which may or may not be imaginary – I say that because I am not sure myself, seeing that I do meet with and talk with Jesus.  How can I tell which conversation are made up and which are real?  You’ll have to decide for yourself.

It has come out how I hoped and I am pleased with it, so you will have to take a peek and see for yourself what you think.  There’s a ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon.

It's got Bible readings and then a conversation with Jesus for each day of Lent - a good book to dip into, and handy for if you have to source readings for assemblies or women's meetings or retreats or church services etc.  And a nice book if you like to have something just short to read at the beginning or end of the day - thought-provoking I hope, without being too intellectual or hard to understand.  So, basically a book for people like me, which you probably are if you're reading here (unless you are the Thought Police or a spy from the government monitoring my opposition to the badger cull and my support for the Arctic 30…).

I hope you like it - er, the book, that is!  x

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Komorebi and Forgiveness

Thinking today of those people who I have technically and spiritually, but not emotionally, forgiven.  The odd thing is, I do not believe they even are aware there is anything to forgive.  But what they did cut so deep.  It has skinned over, but breaks open every now and then, with all its hidden poison.  I wonder if these wounds will ever heal?

I think of the people kindly and wish them well.  I regard them as being under no karmic obligation to me, and I help them when they need me, and hold their welfare in my heart, their concerns in my prayers.  But I cannot like them, although I do see that they are good people, attractive and vital personalities.  Even the sight of them sends a shiver of aversion right through me.

Years have gone by, and the bitter residue remains, rising up like bile sometimes.  Today I will go back and look at the novel I wrote, The Hardest Thing To Do, which was my first try at resolving some of the knots of pain.

On more cheerful matters, let me tell you about Komorebi.

This is a word I learned from my friend Rebecca Sylvan, a Japanese term for sunlight shining through leaves, the interplay of the light and the leaves.   I came upon it when I was searching for a name for my tiny house, and knew it was right.

So far we have the foundation.  You can see it there as a whitish patch between the Badger’s woodworking shed on the right and our next door neighbour’s shed on the left.

This is the place I always thought it should go, but when we had the garden all filled with veggie beds, it was the only place left to be just natural and simple, and was therefore very precious to us.  Since then, we have made a little orchard where the veggie beds were, and meadow grass and wild flowers grow there (the trees are still little, and hard to see without their leaves; I will show you again in the spring).  So we replaced the essence of what we would lose before filling it up with a tiny house.  The garden is not really big enough even so, but there is nowhere else, and although I long for my tiny house life, I also want to be with and alongside my family, because I love them.

To keep costs right down, and because I have no building skills and am fully occupied exercising what skills I have to earn my living, we did nothing more ethnic or eco-friendly than go to Skinners and order a summerhouse.  This one.  10' x 8' with a 4' verandah.  It will be insulated and lined with matchwood (tongue and groove) inside.  I have a little stove to go in it.  This one.

On December 9th the men from Skinners are coming to put it up.  A few days later when it has settled, they will come back and clad the interior.  Then near Christmas the HETAS engineer (Hal Kaye, a chimney sweep) will come to take a look and quote to put the woodstove in, but he does not have space in his diary until the end of January to actually do the installation.  So, by Candlemas it will be all done.

In my soul, in my viscera, at my very core, like a fire, like a hunger, is this need for a small and simple space in which to dwell – not for a retreat or for an occasional holiday, but for the everyday.  I want not a vacation but a life. Institutions and social gatherings have become so unbearable to me that I can hardly hold still until such occasions are over.  I long most desperately for the quiet and humble, the earthy and plain.

I am hoping that the things I wrote about at the top of this post will finally be able to melt and undo in Komorebi, that in silence and simplicity, with the door open every day to the smell of grass and the sound of the wind in the trees, my heart will come home again from the distant star from where it has watched these many years.  I am hoping that here I will be able to finish the work by which I may be made whole.  God’s work, yes I know; but I have my part to do, and that is not finished.

Blessed be Komorebi.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Flower-pot heater

Atmospheric dawn light photo of my new winter room heater!

It is made of three nesting flower-pots joined together, with gaps between, by a half-inch-diameter bolt and a series of nuts and washers.  It is supported by two old housebricks sitting on a slate floor tile, and fuelled by two nightlights.

It’s a hybrid of two models I saw on YouTube.  The prototype is here and the advanced version here.  If you check out something like candle-powered space-heater or flower-pot heater on YouTube, there are several demos.

I made mine yesterday and I’m trying it out for the first time today. 

I will have my tiny house by Christmas but may not have a woodstove in until Candlemas, and as Dave King says we will have an unusually hard winter with snow on the ground from Boxing Day through to April, I’m resourcing possibilities . . .

I don't have a bread tin, and I couldn't remember what brackets you had to have when I was in the hardware store, so I'm going to see if what I've made works well.  Back to YouTube if not.  I'll let you know!

Friday, 22 November 2013

The First Slot of the Day

 There is this problem I have never been able to solve.

Every day should begin with prayer, and the right place for it is the first slot of the day – though in this winter season it is too dark to read in the first slot of the day, but if prayer and Bible reading are too long postponed, the reality is they may get pushed out of the day altogether.  So, as near the first slot as light permits.

Everyone should take exercise, and my work is very sedentary.  The best hour for my exercises is the first slot of the day – it makes sense, because I can exercise in my leggings and vest (undershirt not waistcoat), then wash and dress afterwards.  If I wash and dress first, the day tends to take off and I don’t get my exercise done.  It’s important to exercise before breakfast, too.

On the days when the Badger is home (he works away in Oxford half the week), I like to have breakfast with him, because once the day takes off we hardly see each other.  He gets up early, and has his breakfast in that first slot of the day.

On an average day (like today) I need to space out my writing stints, to allow gaps for thoughts to develop and wise reflection to work like yeast through the pieces in hand.  Today I have three writing tasks on the desk – a magazine article, then two Bible studies of a series.  This evening, the Badger and I are travelling to London for the launch of a book he published, for which I acted as outside editor.  We must catch a train mid-afternoon.  So my writing tasks need to be in the bag by mid afternoon.  Any time from 8am onwards, the day is peppered with interruptions.  Today a tradesman is coming to lay a concrete base in the garden (more on that another day), the Abel & Cole veggie box will be delivered, and I must speak with my beautiful mama on the phone about the jaunt we have planned for her tomorrow morning (she is very excited about this).  So it’s really important I get one of the three writing projects completed in the first slot of the day, to leave enough time realistically to complete the other two.

Do you see the problem?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


I expect that in recent days you have often found your thoughts turning to the people of the Philippines, wondering what it must be like to have your whole world flattened, just like that.  Left wandering, homeless, among the matchwood of what constituted everyday life.

Imagine – and be truthful, now – that you, too, lost everything.  What are the five things you would miss the most from your everyday life?  What five things would you miss the least?  What could you easily replace?  What would be hardest to replace?  Would you care most about the things that were hardest to replace, or not necessarily?

For the sake of not hurting people’s feelings, let’s leave family members out of this.  I mean, supposing in the event of a typhoon you might lose your spouse/parents/siblings/children.  If your silent prayer was “Thank God!” you would hardly admit it here, would you?

So let’s keep it to the following:
  1.  Actual objects – useful things like your car and household implements; and beloved things like an album of wedding photos or a baby’s first curl.
  2. Occupations and obligations.
  3. Places – your house, your church, your place of work
  4. Things that make life easier – banks and ATMs, hospitals and clinics, schools, fuel plants giving you electricity, water treatment works and mains, train stations, car fuel stations, shops.

You can’t have a generic item in your list, like “all shops”.  But you can have in your list of  things you’d miss most “a grocery store” (and to make life easier we’ll assume you mean a grocery store that has food in it – perhaps overseas agencies are supplying it by helicopter drops - explain when you list it), and in your list of things you’d miss least “a jewellery store”.

You can also tell us about why you wouldn’t miss things – for example that you would have missed the jewellery store a great deal were it not for the fact that you are a dab hand at looting and feel confident that, since your place of work has been flattened and you now have a lot of spare time, you could spend your days combing the wreckage for gold and silver in preparation for setting yourself up again once the infrastructure has been restored.  Or perhaps that you won’t miss the grocery store because your daddy taught you how and where to catch fish barehanded.

Then there are two more lists: “Abilities”.  In such devastating circumstances, what five abilities do you have now that you think might come in handy?  And what five abilities do you not have but think would be very useful?


My own lists:

Okay, assuming I had a basic outfit of clothes including shoes and a coat and hat, but lost everything else, here are my lists:

Five things I (think I) would miss most in a disaster scenario:

  1. A sense of safety – without the usual social boundaries of home or support of services.
  2. Allies – people I know I can trust and who understand me.
  3. Peaceful sleep
  4. My wood-gas stove (the whole pack, including its small saucepan and dry matches).  In fact I would have tried to save this if I could.
  5. A really sturdy large bag – I hope I could find one – for foraging.

Of course, food and water are a must, but I think I could catch rainwater and scavenge a container for it, and scavenge/forage for food - very dependant on weather, of course!

Five things I would not miss:

  1. Anything purely ornamental
  2. The church in the sense of the building
  3. Processed food
  4. Chairs
  5. My car

I wonder about communications.  Would I miss those or not?  Often, knowing how bad things are on a widespread basis just makes difficult situations overwhelming.  On the other hand they could be a source of giving and receiving help.

Five abilities I have that I think would be useful:

  1. I am good at lighting and maintaining fires
  2. I am extremely resourceful
  3. I can cook basic food from first principles
  4. I have a smattering of basic medical knowledge
  5. I can sit on the floor (a surprising number of people find this very difficult)

Five abilities I don’t have that would have been useful:

  1. Hunting – not only have I never done this, I doubt if I could bring myself to either.  Well – I guess I would in extremis, but…
  2. Building – I have common sense but no expertise
  3. Organising (people).  This I cannot do.
  4. Charm – I think this could be vital in a disaster scenario where one depended on the help of others.  What charm I ever have evaporated long ago
  5. Mechanical/engineering skills

I think it would also help that I know and profoundly believe in the power of prayer.

It would not help that I am a total wuss about pain.

It would help that I have no fear of dying.