of warmth and light,
approach their close,
yielding to autumn,
chased by winter. Continue reading
of warmth and light,
approach their close,
yielding to autumn,
chased by winter. Continue reading
Living a purposeful and fulfilled life can mean different things to different people.
There are those who are employed in a job which they enjoy or even love. Or work that they are content with, balanced with a home life filled with love, passions and hobbies. For a rare few, a career that is a true vocation; the realm of professions where one finds teachers, doctor, nurses, priests, aid workers, spiritual teachers, even lawyers and politicians, and many more who are fired with the spirit to make the world a better place. Whose hearts are in it not for the money or glory, which may be there if they want it, but for the greater good or to serve their fellow man.
Unfortunately that is not the lot for many employees. Many would quit their jobs if it was not for the necessity of paying the bills or a better job could be found. Some are trapped, any belief in a better life is long since dead; any vision beaten out of them by the system until they succumb to the false belief that this is as good as it gets. Going down the scale further are those living on social security when fit and able to work, squandering their lives, often in drink and drugs; directionless, unmotivated and consumed by a general malaise. Oh, if I had only half the time they have!
A lucky few win the lottery with a big enough sum to give up work. But how many of those fall by the wayside, after spending their millions, because there is no purpose in their lives other than materialism?
But there is another group, those who live lives of their own choosing, by design; building an inspiring business or pursuing one of the arts perhaps, living free and creatively, wanting to make the world a better place by what they create, touching peoples lives. Some make a fortune, others just enough to survive. If they are following their dreams then money is not important, only the greater goal. However they do it, life is lived on their terms.
Where am I? Somewhere between a content employee in a job I enjoy and find interesting, and the desire to live my own life, with dreams of living as a writer and artist. Is writing work? To an extent perhaps, to earn enough to live means paying attention to the business aspects. But it isn’t work in the common sense, it is a calling, a passion, something you can’t live without doing. As is often said ‘a writer would write even if he knew he would never be paid for it’. When work is done through love, it is no longer toil.
I hear, in my own circles, people discussing what they would do if they suddenly came into a small fortune. I have never heard any response other than what they would buy or not buy e.g. a bigger house, a better car. For me a large sum of money would buy freedom; freedom to follow creative endeavours, to live unconstrained by a fixed workplace waiting for the next pay-check.
Will I achieve it? I’m working on it, perhaps it is easier than I think; a question of self belief. But if I never earn enough to quit my day job it will be an enjoyable ride and retirement will be a busy and fruitful time 🙂 In the meantime, life is wonderful, I have a purpose beyond the daily tasks of life, a dream, a goal. To me, that is success!
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t’
Welcome to the final instalment of our sailing trip in July.
From Carsaig Bay we sailed to Tobermory on the island of Mull, a useful place to re-provision the boat after being out in the sticks for a week or so. Apart from that it is an attractive town to visit, all the seafront houses are painted in a rainbow of pastel colours. This was probably the inspiration for its use in the BBC TV childrens program Balamory, filmed largely at Tobermory and screened between 2002 and 2005.
Due to the lack of towns in the area it is a crossroads for cruising yachts, few pass by without stopping to use the small supermarket or to sample the selection of pubs and restaurants. So it is a lovely place just to sit and watch the comings and goings of many types of vessel; a seaplane was in attendance when we sailed in.
There is a pleasant walk along the tree-lined cliff edge which we set out for, only to experience the one day of heavy rainfall in our three weeks away – and without the foresight of waterproof clothing! Here also is a spectacular waterfall, the water heavily coloured by peat absorbed on its run flow down the mountains. It ends in Tobermory Bay and used to be a source of ships drinking water right up to the 1940’s when the Royal Navy had a base in Tobermory.
Two days later, a short sail down The Sound of Mull took us to Loch Aline. A secluded loch surrounded by woodland, where we relaxed on the sunny, windless afternoon and evening.
We were now at the turning point of our cruise, beginning the slow journey south, but with plenty of time on our hands to explore more places by taking relatively small hops each day, and our next stop was Puilladobhrain, (a few miles south of Oban) and translated from the Gaelic as ‘the pool of the otter’. In years gone by the small anchorage, surrounded by numerous tiny islets, was home to a community of otters but rumour has it that being such a delightful and popular anchorage in summertime they have moved on to quieter pastures!
The next day we headed to Loch Craignish for the night, anchoring off a small island, Goat Island. With little time, and thick mist, we contented ourselves with enjoying the tranquillity as the mist lent a peaceful ambiance as it hung around the hills and trees. A writers paradise!
For many years I have wanted to visit our following destination, a very small island – Eilean Mor in the McCormaig Islands. I have never been in such a tiny anchorage; apart from the anchor off the bow I had to tie a line to the shore, where mooring rings are provided to stop boats swinging around in the limited room, especially when more than one are present.
Other than two small speed boats paying a short visit when we arrived, we had the island to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We rowed ashore and explored the reason I had been wanting to visit. The island is perhaps half a mile by a quarter but there are the remains of an old chapel (used through the years as a chapel, a house and finally an illicit distillery!), a Celtic Cross on the highest hill and a hermits retreat – a damp cave, little more than a hole, in a rock face at the south of the island. Apparently, this was for those souls for whom the lack of people and community on the island wasn’t quiet enough. It is difficult to understand how anyone could contemplate anything spiritual whilst in such extreme discomfort! Nevertheless, for us it was a beautiful place!
Just one more stop remained before our return to Gigha, the starting point for the offshore passage back to our home port on the Isle of Man, Lowlandman’s Bay on the east coast of Jura. A lovely view of the Paps of Jura which we had anchored close to nearly two weeks before on the other side of the island. Other than that, a relatively uninspiring stop, though only in comparison to the stunning places! However, we spent much time laughing at a mother and baby seal on the rocks close to shore. The mother spent the entire time sunning herself on a rock while the youngster splashed about comically, in much the same way a child would play in the bath. Occasionally the mother would turn her head towards junior as if to say ‘keep quiet!’ 🙂
With no wind we motored from there to Gigha, to rest before the long haul. That, however, was broken down into smaller stages, first, Sanda Island a mile south of the Mull of Kintyre. The intention was to take a walk ashore the following morning but a heavy swell made conditions uncomfortable and we made a hasty, early departure.
We then sailed across the North Channel, at the north end of the Irish Sea, bound for a small island outside Belfast Lough, Copeland island. Fifteen miles from our destination a small yacht, Lola, had become disabled, there was no wind and she had lost the use of her engine. They asked us for a tow to Bangor Marina, which I obliged; it’s an unwritten law of the sea to help others, with the philosophy ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, the sea is an unforgiving environment. I happily took the vessel in tow but was a little peeved that we wouldn’t make our destination, strong tides exist in the area and the current was due to turn against us, too soon with the tow. Fortune smiled on us; an inshore life boat RIB was out on an exercise, spotted us, and offered to take over the tow. We were free and just made our chosen anchorage as the tide turned.
I’ve anchored at Copeland Island many times on passage and have always been the only yacht there. This time was different, it was mid summer, four other yachts were anchored and the next day it became a magnet for visitors from the mainland of Ireland; kayaks and speedboats, a passenger launch with tourists, and more small yachts and sailing dinghies, most people were heading for the lovely white sand beaches to enjoy the sun.
The penultimate leg took us down the coast of Northern Island to Strangford Lough, one of the largest sea lochs in Europe, most of which is a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The stay was for one night then we set sail for the Isle of Man, with a perfect, stiff sailing breeze and a steady sea, probably the best sail of the trip, a fine end to the voyage 🙂
If you missed any of the previous posts, here are links to previous episodes;
This beautiful sunset was witnessed on one of last years sailing voyages. I was sailing solo, on passage towards North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. The picture doesn’t do justice to the moment, but looking at it again I am transported back to all the emotions and senses I felt at the time;
The day soon done,
a quiet haven lies ahead
as Sól dips her blazing body
toward the horizon,
completing her majestic sweep
across the sky.
Colours change, creeping slowly
through clouds suspended, limp,
awaiting her touch.
Above me, the cosmos;
below, my vessel surging ahead
cocooned by the boundless ocean.
Colour burst! Golden light,
shining, reflecting, penetrating
warming body and soul.
Oh peace and wonder!
Such must be the joy
in higher realms
of consciousness, exalted.
My body imbued with perfect light,
I open my hands
and reach out my arms
in praise and gratitude,
they are radiant,
a glimpse of beauty
My spirit is lifted
to a finer vibration,
observing through a cloak of mist,
between grace and wretchedness,
good and bad,
the angst of our times.
Oh warmongers, if you could cease,
your senseless strife,
put down your guns, your bombs,
and be one with me
in this light.
Then you would know truth,
cutting like a scythe through your bigotry;
but you are blind
while my brothers and sisters see.
You are isolated, frozen in the dark past;
the future is light, you cannot last.
So I say farewell to Sól
as her light dims ending another day,
but she remains in my heart,
of a world to come.
My novel was half complete and bearing heavily on me after six hours of non-stop writing, I needed a break. As I stepped outside, the cool, fresh evening air hit me; it felt good as I drew in lungfuls, breathing in its life force. The moon was full and the skies clear, perforated by a trillion stars. I began to walk and my niggling headache subsided.
I passed neighbouring houses, most with lights ablaze and pondered the lives being enacted within; always the prerogative of a writer to imagine and create from what he sees. My thoughts reached out and expanded to the street, the town, the country, the heavens and all of creation. I felt dizzy, intoxicated by the infinite.
I needed nature, the peace and strength of trees, so headed to the nearby woodland; a regular walking place day or night.
The creaking boughs welcomed me into their embrace, the moon sparkled through the branches and the wind played with the leaves. I stood still, deep in the wood, absorbing the relentless energy; then a strange feeling came over me.
I felt as though I were being transported in my mind, seeing deeper, further than ever before. My mind flew high over the trees, surveying a wondrous expanse of countryside with ocean beyond, all too brief – I was plunged back into reality.
A new sound grasped my attention, a chanting, then a light. A small fire burned nearby, from where the voice emanated. Curious, I moved to see more.
A woman, old and dressed in black, was drawing the flames towards her, I was compelled to draw closer. She was pulling me into her circle.
The woman looked up, sensing my approach long before she could possibly see me, she beckoned.
“Come near, friend,” she said.
“You are looking for something, your future. I see you, all of you.”
I was uncomfortable with her penetrating gaze and slow, intimidating tone.
“Do not be afraid.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is not important. I am what you might call a witch. I can give you what you want.”
At what cost, I thought.
“No cost, unless you make the wrong choice.”
I hadn’t spoken.
“You are perplexed. You write, great words, oh yes. But you wonder where it will lead. Correct?”
“Um, yes, I guess so.”
“I can give you success, I can bestow fame and glory upon you. Or I can give you truth.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Simple. You have two choices. To be a writer of popular fiction, through which you will gain fame and riches. Or, to be true to your art, to write from your soul, not caring for profit or renown. To go down in history as a literary genius. Your choice. Decide now and I will give. Or spend years wondering what to do.”
I thought long and hard, what was she offering? Success on one hand, struggle on the other. In my heart I knew the answer, it had to be for truth and beauty. I was compelled to give a response.
“I choose art.”
“Very well, it is yours.”
“Why are you doing this? There has to be a catch, a price.”
“No, friend. I owe a debt to your great-grandmother. She saved me from persecution, many, many years ago. In return I promised to help her great-grandson, you, to achieve great rewards as a writer. Just as your mother did.”
“But I’ve chosen the path of hardship!”
“Is that what you think? Go and write your heart out. If you do that you will reap untold rewards, people will love your work, you will be famous.”
“But I thought that was the reward for the other path?”
“Did you? Write your truth. I can say no more, the promise is fulfilled. You will see. Now go.”
The witch disappeared, vanishing into the flames which died immediately. I stayed a while in that place, until I knew the truth, for the first time, of who my mother really was.
Tom regained consciousness not knowing where he was, except that he was lying on a clean bed. Bright lights obscured his vision, he could discern no sound or movement. His chest tightened and panic rose in him.
“Hello?” he called out, his voice, cracked and distressed, echoed back at him.
Memories began to form, an experiment. He had volunteered, in full knowledge of the procedure and risks. Now he remembered.
He heard a door open and voices drawing closer. A deep, male voice addressed him.
“Mr Williams, can you hear me?”
“Yes, what’s happening?”
“I’m Doctor Frank, you remember?”
“You’re OK, you’ve just come around and we want to run some tests.”
Another voice, a woman, who Tom sensed, displayed an edge of concern, “Doctor…..!”
“Quiet,” the doctor said.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing to worry about Tom,” said Doctor Williams.
Monitoring machines beeped into life, more wires were attached to his arms and chest. Tom was worried. There were anxious voices all around, he could sense an atmosphere of unease in the room.
He was fully conscious now and determined.
“What’s happening to me doctor?” this time he spoke with force.
“Doctor, we have to tell him,” the woman said.
“Tell me what?…. what!” Tom screamed.
“OK, OK,” said the Doctor. “Tom, the experiment has not gone quite as planned…..”
“What do you mean?” Tom interrupted.
“Tom, I’m sorry, instead of making you ten years younger you are now ten years older. My initial test confirm this, you have biologically aged ten years in the past twelve hours.”
“What!” Tom sounded incredulous. “Let me see!”
“If you’re sure you are ready for it Tom?”
“Just let me fucking well see what you’ve done!”
“OK Tom, take it easy, but this could be quite painful for you at this stage. Nurse, a mirror please.”
The mirror was placed in front of Tom. He looked, but didn’t believe, fighting against the reality until the cold hard facts were overwhelming. He had been 50 years old, with a full head of hair and little grey, and a face with youthful, almost boyish, looks. The reflection staring back at him was balding and grey. The face had many more lines around the eyes and mouth, the lips of which were cracked and thin. The eyes which peered back at him were bloodshot and yellowing with age.
He was shocked and speechless.
“Tom?” said the doctor.
“What went wrong?”
“We’re not sure yet.”
“I can’t stay like this! You have to do something!”
“Tom, I need to run more tests and check my data. We have been researching ageing and reverse ageing here for a decade, as you know, I have some ideas, just give me a little time.”
“Time! My time has already been cut by ten years!”
“We’ll work it out Tom. I’ll come back later.”
A nurse stayed with Tom, reassuring him until Dr Frank returned three hours later.
“Hello Tom, I have something for you, an idea.”
“Tell me about it.”
“There is risk, let me say from the start, but I believe it will work.”
“Yes. We can’t use the original procedure, after using it once on a subject that is it. But the one I am talking about we performed on chimpanzees years ago and it never failed. But…….”
“There are side effects but we can take you back perhaps 25 or 30 years, think of that!”
“What side effects?”
“The process involves tricking the cells into a time paradox then we effectively force them back in time. That can cause all kinds of crazy outcomes, like skin colour change, reversal of hereditary illness, and changes in mentality and personality, becoming brighter. All positive. You see, somehow this process purifies the DNA. It’s quite incredible.”
“What’s the problem then?”
“There is one other change that can take place.”
Tom underwent the procedure with full success, he was 18 years younger than when he started the program, fitter and healthier than he’d ever been and smarter too. As for the other change, well, Tom is now known as Tracy.
The young boy looked into the tired eyes of an old, weather-beaten man. A vagrant, dishevelled, who smiled though yellow teeth; dirty hair, grey skin and black nails.
The boy turned away, pierced by the eyes, feeling awkward and embarrassed. With school over for the day he walked and began to think of the tramp; something moved, deep, unfamiliar, unknown, in his heart. He had felt disgust and despair, but now there was pity and compassion.
Over many days they passed each other and the man waved. In time the boy acknowledged, the ice melting, and he spoke as the man sat through sun, wind and rain. Weeks passed and soon they were laughing together. His heart softened and he began to learn from stories told by the old man, of the wisdom gained from a life of pain. As months marched by, from summer into winter, they became true friends.
And the boy grew in learning, of things that matter; of space and time, of beauty, of nature, of spirit, of love and death, from the cracked lips of the old man.
One day in early spring, “I have to go soon”, the old man whispered. He took the boy’s hand in his and tears welled. “Be good, be true and remember,” were his last words.
In the morning there was an ambulance where the old man would sit. The boy saw it from afar.
Running, his heart pounding, he reached the spot too late. A stranger stood there, “the old man died, they took him away.”
The boy cried, but through tears he saw a photograph, where the man used to sit. It was of the old man when he was young, like the boy, as if he were looking in a mirror.
The boy remembered, and became a man.
A third of the way through my second novel and I have never experienced writer’s block. I’m not the only one to believe it doesn’t exist.
Sure, there are times when writing doesn’t happen, my novel has been in hiatus for two weeks – other aspects of life have got in the way. But could I have written if I wanted to? Yes.
So what comes first; desire and purpose. You want to write and you have a reason; the love of writing, or to create, or pass on ideas and thoughts, to tell a story.
You’ve got the time; you make time by getting up early, switching off the TV, or just finding a regular slot. Any problem there is down to self control, determination or procrastination –not writer’s block. Those who achieve remarkable lives have the same 24 hours in a day that we all have. And you have your purpose; otherwise you wouldn’t want to write. Then, you sit down to write but nothing materialises and you call it writers block.
Writing is easy, good writing is hard work. We can all write at any time, something simple perhaps. Anybody with elementary literacy skills can write. So what is this writer’s block? You’re part way through a novel and you clam up. Perhaps you haven’t done enough planning, you’re feeling lost as to where the story is going, you don’t know what a character should do next. Go back to your plan if necessary, but then write – anything that may be the next stage of the story. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, doesn’t fit, or is just poor writing. Only you will see it, that’s what re-writing and editing is about. Or, write on your blog, create some flash fiction, write some poetry, write a fictitious letter of complaint, loosen up and get the juices flowing. Proving you can write, if proof were needed.
Still stuck? The main reason, I believe, for this myth, is the fear of failure. That what you write will not be good enough. We are not perfect, our writing will never be perfect, but we strive towards it, learning and improving. But we can get hung up on our feelings of inadequacy. Writer’s block doesn’t exist; it’s an excuse for our fears, nothing more.
I’ve written these thoughts from the perspective of novel writing, after my own personal struggles with some of the above issues e.g. how to start the next chapter. I have never seen them as writer’s block; procrastination, idleness, lack of drive, perhaps 🙂 If your stuck for a blog post, it’s the same thing, write. If it’s crap you may not get so many likes or comments. So what? Get over it. A writer writes!
These are my views and my truths, they may not be yours but I hope there may be something of use to you. I have touched lightly on the subject, but if you haven’t come across them before here are some links to a coupe of excellent free eBooks, enjoy 🙂
Welcome to the next recap of our sailing voyage.
From Jura we sailed up to the Sound of Iona and found a snug anchorage for the night at the south end of the Sound in a place called ‘Tinkers Hole’. This is a small anchorage set amongst a group of rocky islands which some have likened to a disused quarry; though it is actually quite attractive. The following morning we set sail and passed close by the island of Staffa, made famous by the extraordinary formation of basalt columns surrounding the entrance to Fingal’s cave where, on a visit in 1829, Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write The Hebridean Overture, often known as ‘Fingal’s Cave’
After a quick sail past and photo shoot we bore off to the east towards the west coast of Mull, heading for one more of my most favoured anchorages, Carsaig Bay, tucked beneath the hills of Ulva Island which is separated from Mull by a narrow stretch of water.
Much like Jura, there is a panoramic vista of sheer beauty. 360 degrees of stunning views impossible to catch on camera without compromising the splendour, you have to be there 🙂
On another glorious sunny day we took a walk along the coast, to one side the sea, with views to the Ross of Mull, Iona, Staffa, the Treshnish Islands and Coll, to the other the towering hillside looming almost vertically up. A few glimpses were had of wild deer.
There is another side to this beautiful area. As in so many parts of Scotland it fell foul to the infamy of ‘land clearances’, an enforced simultaneous eviction of all families living in a given area such as an entire glen. Most often these evictions were sudden and brutal, whole communities were displaced from their homes at short notice, a form of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Many of the people moved on to other areas in the Highlands, Lowlands or coastal areas, many emigrated to Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.
It is sobering to think of the physical and emotional hardship placed upon the people.
A poem – The Dispossessed
mark the remains of dwellings where
loved and raised children.
They came with force,
No choice, herded, beaten,
The plight began, the tears, the homeless,
‘where do we go?’
‘Not our problem, we want our land.’
Land no man can own,
can own mountains,
valleys or streams?
Upon what act against God
for all to share,
did they deem to own?
Own what you make or earn,
you cannot own by taking
from fellow man
or God’s earth.
With few possessions, all
you could carry,
you searched new pastures,
far and wide.
Who lived, who died?
What became of you people,
long gone now?
Did you find fortune and joy,
or despair and poverty,
health or disease?
Was hope crushed?
I see your homes,
What became of you,
I wonder, as I pass
blowing in the breeze,
What became of you?
We walked more and then rested overlooking the sea, a light picnic of fruit and chocolate. Fewer insect bites than at Jura 🙂 We then made our return. Back on board we enjoyed a good curry washed down with wine in preparation for departure in the morning and said farewell to Carsaig Bay until next years voyage.
You weren’t there when I took the photo, I’m sure of that. I composed the photograph with care, every person and object aligned with artistic vision. Where did you appear from?
For hours I studied the photograph with obsession; I meditated and took myself back again and again to the time and location, still there was no answer. You couldn’t have been in the frame.
I processed and digitally enhanced the image on my computer. A face appeared, captivating, the face of an angel. My heart soared. I fell in love. I couldn’t sleep, but absorbed the image in my mind and heart. The smile, the knowing eyes, the golden hair cascading down your shoulders and framing the milky white, soft, and unblemished skin of your face.
I yearned for you.
I ached for you.
If I could spend one moment, one instant of time, in your company, my life would be fulfilled.
A dark pool welled in my heart. I would never see you again. You were merely a fleeting image, a ghost, a trick of the light and imagination, a moment, forever lost.
I fell asleep shortly before dawn and dreamed. In lucid dreaming, you were there again. I moved towards you and stopped when you noticed me. You held your hand out. I wanted you in my life, not in my dreams. My soul swung from ecstatic joy to deep despair. The image faded, I tried to awake but drifted into a black, unknowing sleep.
For three weeks I thought of you, I struggled to exist day by day. The routine of life, work, domestics, hobbies, continued, performed by an automaton whose mind was somewhere else; with you. At night I dreamed of you, every night, so real, so alluring; my heart was breaking. I was losing control, but couldn’t help myself. The vision of unearthly beauty, you, haunted me. Yet there was delight in this torment.
Food ran low in the house, which had become untidy. I looked in the mirror and was shocked by my unkempt appearance. With effort I wrenched myself into reality, showered, put on fresh clothes and cleaned the house. Hunger pangs shot through my stomach like knives being twisted, I had to eat. Cooking was just too much, so I headed out for a take-away from the Chinese restaurant half a mile down the road. The air smelled strange, but I drew it deep into my lungs. It had been so long since I had walked, driving to work every day, then dreaming my life away at home.
A screech of tyres. A scream. A figure, poised, frozen in the path of a car which was hurtling out of control. I ran and pushed the figure clear and then the car caught me. A tearing pain in my hip, then the world turned upside down, I span through the air and landed on the concrete of the sidewalk. A bang resonated through my skull, my last memory and then everything went blank.
I awoke two days later in hospital. I had concussion but the wounds were minor, I would make a full recovery. As my vision cleared a bright blue light filled the room . . . no . . . it was filling my entire being, mind and body; for the face looking down on me was you. Love filled your eyes
You have never left my side since that time, since we saved each other.
Thirty years have passed, but I know you love to hear me tell our story as we sit in the garden watching the sun set. We are aging now, your hair is grey, and lines add character to your face, but I see through those; I see only the face of my angel.