Tuesday 13 August 2013


Photographer: Jonathan S. McElvery

It is well past midnight and the show has begun. But it is not what I expected. I imagined a dramatic, turbulent sky. A violent burst. A shooting, I suppose - they call them 'shooting stars'.
But it is an unhurried ballet. A gentle arc flung now and then, across a small portion of the southern pocket of sky above the farm.
I come and go, with hot cups of tea and chocolate biscuits and my thick plaid sofa shawl. I sit on the bench and don't mind the sensor switching on when moths flutter by.
I crunch across the gravel and stand head tilted back, making my wishes, praying for the well being of those I love and wrap the blanket tighter as I think in turn of other eyes watching such nights of diamond stars. Other eyes in war time, from deep within trenches, or watching the Titanic sinking into glacial waters... do you ever find yourself imagining you are a soldier or a survivor? And then catch yourself in the thankful realisation that you are quietly safe, and yet it's all so close, isn't it? We brush up against each other's lives, in fiction, in memoir, in poems, in accidental stories shared on planes, buses, in hospitals.
Photography: National Geographic.com

And I feel neither small nor insignificant with a world of stars looking down on me. They are the most benevolent of spirits because they allow us to see them from time to time, and there is so much we cannot see, or choose not to see. When I see stars, I think of myself at five in the crook of my father's arms, wondering, questioning, and discovering faith.

'You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them... In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night... You - only you - will have stars that can laugh.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Le Petit Prince 

Sunday 4 August 2013


A recent visitor to the farm was a 4 year old boy, a Noo Yawker, whose finer appreciation for the life of snails and ants was charming. Something nipped at him while he was pond dipping but once the sting had passed, he enlightened me on mosquito larvae and water boatmen - the characters in our collection. August is here, and so there is still time for Being Outside. I was sitting under a tree the other day (on my beautiful purple meditation cushion that once belonged to Sister Chan Khong from Plum Village), eating cherries, writing my beloved friend Mary a letter...
when a ladybird crawled up my arm and settled on to me for the afternoon and evening.
Before nightfall, I thought I better put her somewhere less peculiar than the crook of my elbow and the nape of my neck (she was a tireless traveller!) but I had already fallen in love. If I were a 4 year old Noo Yawker I would never have parted with her!
I have not been having an easy time of it this year. Nothing earth shatteringly original - simply the dull ache of a life with illness and the sadness that comes with the knowledge that I am not in the swim of things once more. The last time I felt so painfully out of the loop of my contemporaries was when my life with lupus first began... but I am a writer and where there are words there is a place for me. Where there are trees and the natural order of things, there is a place for me. So I breathe, pay attention and write!