Monthly Archives: February 2016

About Wind and Faith

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We have had some wild weather lately. Recently I lay awake listening to the rain pattering against the window and the wind gusting and howling in the trees nearby. It made for a disturbed night but the following morning, the weather was much calmer and the sky looked as though it had been washed bright by the storms of the night.

I ventured out for one of my favourite walking routes alongside the canal and as I strode along, I pondered on the feel of the wind on my face. In the distance I saw how a small gust of wind gently rippled the surface of the water. It danced and shimmered in the sunlight like something magical. It was a special, striking, heart-warming moment.

It’s a strange concept –you can feel the wind but you cannot see or grasp it.

You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.

You can see what it does but you cannot affect or influence its behaviour.

You can hear it softly rustling in the trees or loudly gusting.

You can be stung by its cold bite, or cooled by its gentle caress.

You can smell it in a drift of autumn wood smoke or summer flowers

You can resist it or accept it, but you cannot change it.

You can see it as a wonder, or maybe a curse.

You need to believe in it because its evidence is irrefutable.

If to analogise is a word, then the wind made me analogise – in two different ways.

Firstly, I liken the way the wind behaves to the passage of grief – and how it is in the beginning when you feel as though you spin helplessly in the vortex of a tornado, tumbled in a chaotic maelstrom of shock and loss. You are buffeted this way and that, tossed heedlessly by this monstrous unfamiliar blast. And then —- gradually, the storm begins to lose power. The strength of it recedes. Its violence becomes spent through hours, days, weeks of working through your tears and sorrow, until the havoc of storm force drops back to an acceptable level that your poor bruised heart, mind and soul can accommodate.

You reach a point where the howling tempest of the early days can be consigned to memory. You know that your face has lost the windswept, bewildered look of early loss and that you have come through the fierceness of the storm and out the other side. Where before all you could see was cloud and darkness, now you can appreciate the sunshine and rainbows again.

The other analogy I applied to the wind on my musing walk, is that it is akin to faith.

When you are locked into the despair of grief, you cry out for help and you do not know where that help is coming from, but you have faith that it will come and it will help you.

You cannot see faith, and you might believe you live without it, but as time passes, perhaps you recognise that faith is helping to give you strength to get through the difficulties in life.

Faith is trusting what you cannot see.                                                                                                 Faith is like taking a walk in the dark and believing you will not trip over unseen obstacles. Faith is reaching out and knowing you will not be ignored or knocked back.                       Faith is trusting in your own beliefs without constantly seeking logical evidence.

The wind and faith share the intangibility of a concept that has no beginning, and no end. How often do you do something that you describe as a leap of faith when you step forward into the unfamiliar, safe in the knowledge that you will be supported and encouraged? Sometimes you underestimate how much your faith and self-belief can uplift, nourish and sustain you.

You will notice that my musings are not affiliated to any particular faith: it is important to say this is because I believe we all follow an individual spiritual journey. It would be entirely wrong for me to try to impose my jigsaw of beliefs on anyone else. What matters is having faith in the veracity and ‘rightness’ of your own path, not proving that someone else is treading what you consider to be the ‘wrong’ path. In faith as in grief, there is no right or wrong way to do it.

But whatever your path, consider this:

Are you a reed to be blown this way and that, or are you an oak tree standing steadfast with your roots reaching down deep below the earth, providing you with the stability to stand equably, regardless of what assails you?

I think I used to be a reed. But I am getting closer to becoming an oak. How about you?

oak tree

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Of Light Fittings and Love

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You are holding up a ceiling
with both arms. It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you. Your arms
are tired, terribly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceiling
will soon collapse.

But then,
unexpectedly,
something wonderful happens:
Someone,
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arms up
to the ceiling beside you.

So you finally get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood flowing back
to your fingers and arms.
And when your partner’s arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.

And it can go on like this
for many years
without the house falling.

 I was recently reminded of this poem by Michael Blumenthal, which we chose as a reading at our wedding in June 2005.

Shaun and I bought a new light fitting for our lounge, rather on a whim, because it looked good in the shop. We ordered it, and when it arrived, we realised it was heavy, being made of beaten brass. Thus whilst Shaun fixed it into place, I was required to stand somewhat precariously on a chair, holding up the fitting, so that he could position the wires inside before screwing the cover tight. It was a difficult task and we had to keep stopping to rest our cricked necks and aching arms. But it was one of those jobs that is shared in the kind of relaxed intimacy that comes from being together for a number of years.

My thoughts turn from the prosaic fitting of a light, to the far more emotive consideration of support in the face of trauma. I often say to Shaun,

I don’t know how I would have coped with losing James, without you to support me”.

He is self-deprecating and tells me that I would have managed.

But for me, the figurative relief of respite, when I finally get to take down my arms and am lucky enough to have my husband’s love and strength to sustain me, is significant in my progress along the grief road over the past ten years.

It is a sad fact that we had been married a scant six weeks when James died. How unfair it was on Shaun, to effectively also lose the woman he had just married, but thankfully he is still here, helping me to hold up the ceiling.

I am very lucky to have many other arms to help me hold up the ceiling, too. By expanding a support network as I work through my grief for the loss of my son, I have increased the number of willing arms that are there to give me the care that I need, just when I need it. And I hope that works both ways, through my being able to reciprocate.

And it is not just family and friends who help me so much …, spiritual support is no less tangible than the friend who offers a chat, a listening ear and a hug when it is called for.      In my solitary moments, even when I am physically on my own, I do not feel alone in the true sense of the word.

These loving arms take many forms and as long as I remain open to their embrace, I feel that I can forge ahead through many difficulties. It is exciting to explore different modalities of support, and learn to trust them with faith.

Ironically, once the light fitting was secured, we decided we didn’t like it as much as the one that had been before. Thus we had another pantomime event of ‘arms up in turn’ to take the darned thing down again. Anyone want a beaten brass light fitting?

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