samedi 4 avril 2020

The Declaration o Aiberbrothock (Arbroath) April 6, 1320

Declaration o Aiberbrothock (Arbroath)
Tiomnadh Bhruis
April 6, 1320

The closing of schools, businesses, the cancellation of the Olympics, Wimbledon and sport does not sadden me as much as the inability to be in Arbroath this historic weekend. I have waited decades to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Declaration which signalled the rights of people to an independent nation. Scotland, like the original nations of North America, had been an independent nation longer than its colonialist English rulers when the papal petition was signed on April 6, 1320:
That crossing from Greater Scythia, via the Tyrhennian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and living in Spain among the fiercest tribes for many years, it could be conquered by no one anywhere…one hundred and thirteen kings have reigned of their own blood royal, without interruption by foreigners.
We do not fight for honour, riches, or glory, but solely for freedom which no true man gives up but with his life.’
That ‘kings’ should be chosen by the people was a concept born in Arbroath this weekend 700 years ago. Although I remain at home this weekend, my spirit will be in Arbroath, and Alba’s birth of social justice.

mardi 24 mars 2020

Scriptures Reworked: The Lord will perfect me

My gratitude today for the life experiences that taught me:

1. When in a snow storm, an talamh fuar, you hibernate and wait for better weather;
2. Reading and mindfulness is a connected, regular part of one's day📖
3. A woman can thrive alone after heartbreak; and
4. Meals can be made of almost anything, if you are creative and know the basics.🥘
I didn’t realise it while I was in pain, or discomfort, but ‘the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me’ (Psalms 138:8) She prepared me for today.

lundi 23 mars 2020

Discovery of Witches: Oxford Film Settings

Actors Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer filmed Deborah Harkness's (2011) Discovery of Witches in two tiny square blocks in Oxford: 1. The area around Exeter College (character Diana's 'New College' at Oxford uni) and the Bodleian museum next door; and 2. the College's boat houses on the edge of Christ Church meadows.

Those who know Oxford will recognise many of the filming spots. What surprised me as I toured the scenes from the 2018 series was how deceiving the shots were. For example, Diana rides her bicycle left past the entrance to the Bodleian museum, but then chains it up two blocks behind her at Duke Humprey's. She walks across a 'square' to her lecture (but the doorway is right behind her).

It's great fun though to identify the very place where the camera must have been as Matthew Goode was standing, or Teresa Palmer was running.

Scriptures Reworked: By the silent waters I am led

The University of Oxford in the time of Coronavirus is one of silent contemplation, reading and solitary walks along the silent Thames. It is, I imagine, what Oxford may have been like during its formation - filled with religious scholars use to quiet study, rather than tourists teeming the town.

On this trip, the outbreak of Covid-19 closed my workplace, but before I was able to return home, I was able to revisit the still discoveries of my twenties. I strolled the ancient banks of the Thames, disturbing the peace of the mating geese nearby.

Filling my lungs with the Spring rain and magnolia blooms, I marvelled at how calming a field of daffodils or a slow river of life can be. These 'silent waters we are led by' are peaceful. Still. Eternal. While sickness and death fills our streets, life is reborn through the waters, the rain, the amniotic river of life. Here I return. Here I am brought to peace; a reminder that in every ending, there is a new beginning.

A great (x4) grandfather of mine, Rev. John Wesley, walked here too. Once a student of Lincoln College, he gave song waves to scripture, the beginning of the Common Book of Prayer for methodists, all by the silent waters of Oxford.
'She trails a wake of rosy gold,
and doth a lone musician bear
whose melting music leaves a sigh
as tho' the heart of dreams were by' (Oxford Poetry, 1910,p.138)

dimanche 22 décembre 2019

Scriptures Reworked: Jesus to Paolo model social justice

This December 25th, celebrate the model of diversity that was the nativity:

A single, homeless mum gives birth
in a byre to 
a middle-eastern visionary,
supported by
a companion and future step dad for her son;
witnessed by blue collar workers and crofters,
in the middle of a political storm,
and honoured for her courage
by three wise astrophysicists from
three distinct cultures,
travelling without fossil fuels.
The animals provided heat for the night,
and the single,
mother is celebrated
for her rigour for 

This December 25th, celebrate difference, and the courage it takes to ameliorate oppression.

The more radical the person is, the more fully s/he enters into reality so that it can be transformed. This person is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to enter into a dialogue with all people.” ~Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

mercredi 18 décembre 2019

Scriptures Reworked: 'Better to give than to receive?'

'It is better to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35) is what we are told.
'Share.' 'Be thankful.' 'There are those less fortunate.'

How does this make one feel when you cannot give?
When a mother cannot buy food;
when she cannot clothe her children;
when she cannot find work.
What worth has she then, when the need is real?

'It is better to give than to receive,' said the man.
The woman on the street looked on.
If it is not better to receive than what are they
in poverty, those who have been left desolate
because of war or migration; violence or

'It is better to give than to receive,' she heard.
She looked around her empty house,
bare floors and cupboards;
tea, some rice.
Holes in the walls,
and the socks. 
She was not a giver.

Is it not better to receive? Is there not courage,
hardiness, a resilience in asking?
Acknowledging there is need.
That without receiving one might starve;
their children will never know self worth.
This Christmas, know
that it takes spirit and strength to receive.

Rising Damp

Because of the damp, it was undervalued;
floors like a thick jelly, and
nine years of wallpaper
a mossy flower
yogurt violets
orange rinds
thick bruising cornflowers
drooping off of the walls like a
boneless used car man,
swinging his hot air,
arms over room
and silky carpets.

Because of the damp, the water rising
was undervalued,
cleaning, filling and reclaiming what
once belonged to it.
Allowing  glue and nails and
lino to reconnect with their earth,
 ancient descendants of
plant and rock and
wood they were, and became again.

Because of the damp, the croft, walls
slow moving seascapes were valued,
stood tall and rose up.
People pondered.

dimanche 18 août 2019

Scriptures Reworked - The Reformation

Story 1:  The Reformation

I had an epiphany this week: I am fearful of following my heart.

After 20 years of presenting research at conferences the same way: preparing the method, analysing the data, and presenting the findings in a powerpoint, I was tired. Uninspired. I wanted my participants’ voices to be the centre of the research, to have their authentic words be what people left remembering.
No more boring powerpoints. This time, I was going to represent their findings entirely in their voices. I was going to write my entire paper in narrative, a story of their world.
I spent weeks on the writing. It was more difficult than I realised, like exercising and expecting a muscle you had never used to perform. I revised again and again. I admonished myself for breaking back into the same old expository form that I was trying to shatter. Then it was time for the conference presentation, presenting these voices, in an unconventional narrative, to colleagues I wanted to belong.

I had not thought about how to convey the same voices to a traditional academic audience. No powerpoint. Would I simply read the stories? Shouldn’t something visual be up on the screen? How long would it take to read the 15 page paper aloud? Wasn’t that going backward to the 1950s? Just reading?

I panicked on the day. I had nothing! The chair asked me to load my powerpoint. I said I didn’t have one; I was just going to read the narrative. She looked at me with scepticism. I felt fear. My session was scheduled at the end of the day: 17.30. Surely no one would be there? It would be a good time to experiment with this form. Why not try it? What did I have to lose? Aren’t I always asking my own students to take on Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’? Who was I if I could not even risk modelling the mindset: Just risk, try something new; learn from the failure.

More and more people arrived for the session. People came that I did not want to fail in front of: the editor of our national journal, a professor from our largest rival university, the chair of a research group I wanted to be part of! Why were they all there? For goodness sake, why did they have to come to this one?

I was announced, and began to explain the paper I was about to give. I explained it in expository form! My face felt hot. It was red. My chest tight. I started to read from the paper, but then realised there was no framework for them to put it in – only the words. I explained again. My face went crimson. I lost my place. I searched for the next section, the next narrative. I continued to read, to stutter. I looked at my watch and my time was almost up. I looked at the chair. She shrugged.
I gave another explanation and tried to sum everything up, ‘well, that is a taste of the narratives within, and the important thing here is that…’ I stopped embarrassed.

It had not gone well.
Are there any questions?’ the chair asked.
An older professor, not sure of his name, but everyone seemed to know him. Quantitative I think…
‘Where are the statistics about the students? Your title says you were going to be presenting on students!’ he accused me.
My face went red again. I was taking it all in. He didn’t like it. I could tell he didn’t like it. No one in the room said anything. There was stunned silence at the assault. At the question? At me?
Humiliated publically, I stumbled awkwardly, ‘well, it’s a narrative, I mean, it’s presented, or written, as one narrative. There are no statistics on students. It is just the voices.’

Okay, that’s all we have time for at the moment,’ the chair said. Either saving me from further humiliation, or admitting defeat.
Hurt, I retreated to a table at the far side of the room. I wanted to cry, but simply pretended to be busy. I have ruined my career, I thought, what will these people think of me now? Why did I do this?

I went over and over the session on my way home, and none of it good. I should have done this,…if only I had said this… In the end, living through the failed attempt made me realise what my own students must feel. They want to belong as well, and yet I have far less to risk than themselves. If I cannot reflect upon this, and overcome such adversity, why in the world would I expect them to?

Why did I hate myself so? Who is more important? A room full of respected strangers, or my own heart?

I went for a walk that evening, and happened across a set of stain glass windows in the lady chapel in Bath Abbey.
I sat and continued to reflect upon the day. I looked up at the windows. In them, was a familiar reformation scene (even though the windows were not created until the 20th century). The King’s guard or soldiers look as if they are ready to seize control of the church (the knight has his hand on his sword; there are keys with the sword between), and the priests are standing on the other side of the altar with the ‘word of God’ open in defence, golden slippered feet slightly off the ground in the stars.  The caption below states: ‘In memory of Sydney Adolphus Boyd…faithful guardian of this church.’

It must have been courageous indeed to stand up against armed men in defence of the church as you believe it should be. You could have been hanged, burnt at the stake, your very church and all you have worked for desecrated. I have always believed this to be the very epitome of integrity. And yet, on this day, looking at that window, I thought, But why should there not be change, once and while? There must have been an underclass who suffered under the church as well. Why and what are these men guarding? Why should the people not have a say in reforming their church, their own spirituality?

It struck me that there are men guarding my profession as well. They stand with ancient ways in defiance of difference and opposition as well. And these are the men I most fear. I always thought it would be the soldiers I would fear, taking away my church. But as I sit here tonight, my church lies within my heart. It is the traditional guardians I fear more. I fear that they are not open to new members; that myself and my divergent ways are unwelcome.
I fear the opposition to the path I feel, in my heart, is the right way (for myself, if no one else.)
In the end, following one’s heart may be more fraught with fear. Yet, that is why the path less travelled is so rewarding.

In the weeks to come, this series will reflect upon those children’s stories that have guided me in my life. Perhaps the guidance is not always what was originally intended, but a message has assisted me, nevertheless, in the telling.

mercredi 26 juillet 2017

I'd like Pancakes for Breakfast

I’d like pancakes for breakfast
with an orange juice sun and lime sherbet sky.
Bring me the lemon grasses and the
maple syrup streams.
Do you have any bacon tree branches and
black pudding ponds?
I’d love some fragrant green mosses and
massive mushroom munroes;

Yes, I’d like pancakes for breakfast.