Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Ladybirch shares the healing touch

FEATURED WRITERS CORNER

Vermont colors influence the heart, fill the mind of artist novelist, Genie Rayner

I first ‘met’ Genie Rayner electronically, when I read her heartrending poem Paradigm Shifts on KPN, a writers’ webcommunity we both belong to. Her fierce stance through personal pain struck me most significantly:

“In the grand scheme
the little things don’t
seem to make much difference …

Just as climate change
shrinks Mother Earth,
my father’s world
shifts too
and he’s lost his little girl.

As he bends closer to the ground,
turns off more lights
as he goes more blind,
he already wears his death mask,
shrinks deep into Alzheimer’s past …

Then a long, warm fall
with hints of the shadows
of spring,
one cat makes friends
with the others,
and new times to write,
to try to sing …
these little things
make all the difference in the world …

Even if
I’m no longer
his little girl.” Paradigm Shifts by Genie Rayner, 2009

For me it gave meaning to Robert Frost’s belief that ‘a poem begins with a lump in the throat’.

I learned more as we got to know each other. You know how these web friendships take time to unfold. Before the years of caring for her dad, Bill, she seemed to me somehow like a southern swallow homing in on her northern perch: originally from New Orleans, she just kept moving north until she found Vermont — and stopped. And stayed.

‘My soul had to find Vermont before I could gain the courage to call myself an artist,’ she says.

Genie Rayner, part migrant bird, part cat-woman, wholly writer

Maybe she is part-bird. Like me, she is deeply caught up in the seasonal movement of the flying creatures, owls, cardinals, hawks; also trees, flowers, anything green; she grows an organic garden, empathizes with frogs, deer, most mammals, autumn breezes. Like me, she has more cats than most people consider ‘sensible’. I make no excuses. I like her. In her writing on her ‘other’ wordpress blog, she goes by the name of Ladybirch — it is, after all, a Birch (B)log. She is poet, novelist, freelance editor, photographer, artist, quilt-maker, chair-restorer, writing mentor and consultant. Co-founder of Rutland’s BirchDel Poets and Druidfarm Creations, she encourages all talents focused on creativity for the wellbeing of mind, body, earth and soul. You get the picture: she’s a busy woman. At the moment she’s working on a poetry chapbook — or two — a novella and, if you need your own work edited, she’s your (Magiclamp Editing) woman. In her spare time she has written her first novel, Song of the Blessing Trees published by British small press Gilead Books.

i wasn’t certain I was being very kind when I asked her to take time in her busy schedule to contribute to my little Writers’ Feature Corner, but she readily agreed. And I’m so glad I did, because she brings to this sharing of our thoughts on writing — so many authors, budding or successful, with so many points of view — a gentle wisdom and deep perspective of what it takes to extract words from the subconscious and place them one in front of the other on the printed page.

Bless you Genie for this insightful piece.

The ‘Whole’ Meaning of Writing by Genie Rayner
When you think about it, words are funny things. There are, after all, easier and quicker ways to communicate: eye contact, touch, music, visual art, dance, even silence can all speak volumes – for good or ill – if we’re aware, attuned and receptive to the possibilities waiting to be evoked.

As writers – and speakers – we know all too well that words can be awkward, slow, difficult to find. They can cause pain or distress, tears, anxiety or fear; they can wound and cause irreparable damage. On the other hand, the right word(s), written or spoken, are among the most beautiful things in the world.

At least to this writer.

As much as I love and need the other arts, as much as I use the other ways to communicate, there is nothing quite like a beautifully-turned phrase, a thoughtful way of putting words together, to inspire a sense of meaning in one’s life.

Almost everyone is familiar with the popular definition – and concept – of logos. In his book A Man’s Search for Meaning, though, Viktor Frankl digs even deeper than the usual translation of ‘word.’ From his experience in a World War II concentration camp, Frankl explains that logos actually denotes ‘meaning’ first and foremost:

Genie at a recent BirchDel Poets' gathering in Vermont


“Frankl relates how he came to discover his new school of psychotherapy … in Auschwitz where he had been interned. He tells how, with his trained clinical eye, he began to perceive that his fellow prisoners were wasting away and dying physically because… they had no ‘meaning’ to live for, so they gave up the struggle and buckled under. Very unobtrusively Frankl started to pick up meanings in the[ir] lives… in casual conversation with them; then, he began very naturally and imperceptibly to feed these same meanings back into the lives of respective prisoners. What he noticed in sheer wonder… was that these companions of his, who had practically surrendered to their fate… came suddenly alive and could go through any torture, any trial, any hardship in the camp, thanks to the meaning or meanings that had been injected back into their lives….

“So it was that Frankl discovered and later developed his logotherapy – that is, making people whole (= therapy) by giving meaning (= logos) to their lives. For the primary signification of logos is ‘meaning’; its secondary signification is ‘word.’”
Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning Through the Spiritual Exercises (NY: Paulist Press, 2001, pp. 19-20), by Herbert Alphonso, SJ, quoted in Genie’s Master of Arts thesis

I think one of the reasons for this is because words – and by extension, at least for writers, the written word – connect us to one another. They can and do create relationships, sometimes when we don’t even know the other person(s). A wise woman recently wrote to me of the ‘umbilical connection’ writers have with words; that most basic relationship, then, grows and connects to untold others who read our words.

That is one of the fundamental reasons I write: relationship.

Sometimes I’m lucky – and privileged – enough to know that my words have made a positive impact on someone, and that is thrilling. Even when the impact is negative, at least I know I’ve made a connection, made someone think enough to argue with me or want to discuss something further. That, too, is exciting. I’ve done my job!

I’m also enough of a writer to fantasize about the connections some of my now-unpublished works might make after I’m dead and gone. If anyone goes through my desk drawers and the boxes under my bed, they’ll find reams of old poems, essays, jottings, story ideas, and books in various degrees of progress. Maybe that person or those persons will care enough for my efforts that s/he or they will take the time to read them. Perhaps a poem will be found at a time when it’s needed to help someone through a tough spot; perhaps one of the unfinished books will stir up enough ideas for the reader to continue it to fruition; someone might even think something is good enough to submit posthumously and it will finally get published and reach others somehow, somewhere.

But even before then, one can – and does – hope that some of the same things will happen. Some of my poetry and other writings have engendered lifelong or important relationships, just as others’ works have inspired me to contact and connect with them because of something meaningful in their words or craftsmanship.

More often, though, I have no idea how readers take my words or respond to them. Most writers don’t.

So what’s the point of writing?

I keep coming back to ‘meaning’ and relationship and connection. Perhaps the most important relationship, the most meaningful one, is that with ourselves. Though I always hope others will find some kind of meaning in my work and my words, they can’t if I don’t first. I suggest this is why blogging has become such an integral part of our recent technological lives: people need to connect with themselves and with others.

Of course, there are always pieces that will never meet other people’s eyes, heart or soul, but I still had to write them for my sake. I hope I’ve become a better human being because of the letters, poems, stories and fragments that have helped me work through trauma, crises, heartache, joy, even silliness… but they’re too personal or not developed enough ever to crawl out of the desk drawers or boxes under the bed.

Sometimes just putting words to paper – especially putting words to paper, rather than typing on a keyboard – makes that vital connection between head and heart that, I hope, results in a more developed person. Though the works themselves may not be complete, simply making the creative effort to find meaning makes me more complete. If I’m lucky, working through something by writing about it will spark insights and revelations that couldn’t have come otherwise or in quite the same way, and I am even more whole.

Righteous!

It truly is. One understanding of the word ‘righteous’ in the Bible is ‘right relationship with God.’ Though it may sound selfish and self-centered, if I can’t or don’t make that critical connection to me – to what’s going on in and with my ‘I’ (as in Martin Buber’s I and Thou) – first, then I can’t connect to God, or the Other. And I sure can’t connect to all the unknown others I hope will find meaning through my words.

It is, after all, a cooperative creative process, this ‘thing’ writers must and can do. We writers may think we’re solitary, but we’re not really. Call it spiritual, religious, holy, or any other term with which you’re comfortable, writing is a co-creative endeavor that involves many others—some known or intended and seen, some unknown and unintended – and many layers of involvement.

Just as Frankl’s spoken, and then written, words were healing – and ‘wholeing’ – for others, I think most (if not all) of us want our words to do that as well, regardless of genre or theme or plot. At least on a fundamental, intuitive level.

We strive for that connection, those relationships that complete our work – and ourselves – with our work, by our work.

With that intent, we can’t help but contribute to a better, more complete and healed world, even if it’s person by person, reader by reader. It may be a slow process, co-creating a collective world of and with meaning, but it’s worth it, in my view. Maybe it’s even better to be slow, more one-on-one. There’s an intimacy to that concept that really appeals to me.

Regardless of how long or slow writing is, how solitary or collected writers are, I suggest that we are working for and toward the umbilical relationship of wholeness with others and ourselves. That gives a meaning to my work that can be expressed only through more words.

Every time I sit down to write, I look forward to the anticipation of possibilities and connections that will emerge – for something unexpected always occurs. I always find a little more of and about me and I hope I always find a little more of and about others, the world, the human condition, God, and the mysteries of the creative process.

It doesn’t get much more meaningful than that.
©2010 Genie Rayner

October 13, 2010 Posted by | authors, birds, culture, environment, gardening, Muse, nature, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Swallow Language: the Voice of Light

‘One swallow doth not a summer make’
Aristotle 384-322BC

Alton Priors Swallow 2009

Swallows returned to their nesting sites in the chill temperatures of a shed in Northern Scotland on Monday last week. My heart rose to meet them. There were two of them. A third arrived yesterday. It seems like a very long time since I heard swallow song – that swooping, diving ‘weet-weet’ of recognition – in these cold north latitude skies. They left as a massing cloud on autumn equinox last September, fully three weeks early. And, as if on cue, winter started soon after and went on relentlessly until spring equinox. If you look at it from a swallow’s-eye-view, they’ve been gone fully six months.

Swallows: first sign of summer

No wonder we celebrate the sight of the first swallow. They presage summer. They symbolize transcendant spirit over adversity, They are the original bluebird.

I’m not alone in my excitement at their return: in the balmy skies of southern California, they’ve made a study of local ‘swallows’ into a science and tourist attraction. At the eighteenth century Alta California mission of San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, they do special swallow tours and swallow welcome rituals, especially for the return of the winged beauties, Stelgidopteryx serripennis (there they’re actually martins, but who’s arguing?) on San Juan’s Feast Day, March 19th. That’s a month and a half ago. Lucky ducks.

In other parts of Britain they celebrate too. In Orkney and Shetland, the return of the ‘hirondelle‘ coincides with May Day, ancient Beltane, the festival that heralds summer. Meanwhile at Bretton Lake National Reserve in West Yorkshire their Hirundo rustica have been back nearly a month; that means they braved snow and hail to get here.

At least mine arrived on a warm wind. And a full moon.

When Britain was a naval power, the swallow was like a mascot, a bird of good fortune and luck. Swallows were invariably seen over the mainmast when a ship came within sight of land. They implied ‘safe return’ after a long voyage. In even earlier times, when tea clippers plied to and from the Orient, swallow tattoos were an oceangoing tradition, an unspoken language, if you like: one tattoo for crossing the equator one way; another when you came back. In vessels to farther seas, a mariner earned his swallow tattoo for going ’round the Horn’ – Cape Horn in Antarctic waters of South America, and the Horn of Africa between the south Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. In another tradition, a sailor had his chest tattooed after he’d sailed five thousand nautical miles (5750 miles). So a sailor with a couple of bluebird tattoos was experienced, trustworthy, one with the gods in his corner. He was first choice for a captain looking for crew. In legend, if the fates stepped in and he drowned, the birds would alight on his soul, lift it from the swirling waters and carry it to heaven.

The bird implied loyalty, faith, honor, love, hope and safe return.

In some cultures still, the first swallow of spring signifies an omen of financial success or a surprise windfall. Two swallows – popular as a tattoo in barrio culture – represent freedom.

In indigenous American culture the swallow or bluebird totem, as a herald of summer, brings warmth and protection to the home. She incorporates the spiritual principles of objectivity and perspective, as well as communication in a group environment.

Hollywood created the ‘bluebird of happiness’ for the song Zippedy doo-dah’ in Walt Disney’s 1946 movie ‘Song of the South’, and the cartoon was based on the totem principles of contentment and joy to be found in everyday life, in its suggestion that we dance and sing with every step. That we enjoy what is happening now, or what is about to happen in our lives.

Swallow formation Alton Priors July 2008, formed in two stages, presaged solar eclipse nine days later

Perhaps it is this sense of anticipation I feel at the little bird’s return to the North – such a tiny creature, such a long journey. The European swallow weighs no more than three-quarters of an ounce, 20g. She has flown – from southern Africa to the shores of Britain – a total of 6000 miles.

So what are we anticipating? What surprises do this year’s aerial messengers bring?

Not crop circles. Not a single apparition. Not yet.

None so far in Wiltshire and Hampshire fields. But it’s still early days. The oil seed rape (canola) crop is only just reaching its flowering height. And it’s far too early for a resonating mandala to appear in barley or wheat.

In previous summers, swallow crop circles appearing in Cotswolds and Plains farms have been interpreted as presaging solar activity: eclipses, solar wind surges. electromagnetic disturbances.


While this video shows an interesting rendition of NASA’s SOHO transmission last week (April 25-30, 2010), its interpretation is better explained at the following link which cannot be converted to an image for ‘security reasons’. The commentator explains carefully and meticulously the presence of ‘two suns’ – an unknown very bright object within the orbit and corona of our own sun, which does not coincide with the orbits of any of the inner planets. I recommend viewing it at:

http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/44078/Wow____Possibly_Two_Suns_/

While the crop circle phenomenon has in past years delivered consciousness-changing designs or peace-inducing sonic mandalas, this year it looks as if we may be treated to the astral phenomenon first before the glyph appears as an embellishment in the crop.

It is not surprising that NASA has so far made no comment about the bright light-object. Nor am I surprised by my inability to transfer a link from the ‘Two Suns’ video to this page. I eagerly anticipate the first crop circle immediately following this SOHO object’s appearance.

Perhaps the swallows’ return three days early this year is a good sign: an indication that this summer will be hot, nay, blistering, and the hirondelle population may burgeon once more. It needs to. Despite British birders (‘twitchers’) considering their number as one which hovers in the ‘normal’ range for a migrant species, what they call a ‘species of least concern’, I worry about them.

I hope the summer they presage becomes one we can enjoy: not one where earth changes dominate. We have already experienced three earthquakes of major proportions over the winter, a volcano which is still erupting – themselves highlighting human dithering and unpreparedness; and the present oil-spill mop-up operation in the Gulf of Mexico will take every available human resource from two continents to avert a wildlife and environmental disaster. If the swallow totem signifies hope and happiness – if the bluebird hirondelle has its say and we are prepared to listen once more – we might learn a thing or two. We might rekindle our ability to focus: to concentrate on creating peace, joy and happiness for ourselves and in our world. After all, as my last guest blogger remarked: we create our own reality. And what we focus on increases.

One swallow may not make a summer. But three? There’s hope.

Welcome home.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | ancient rites, birds, calendar customs, crop circles, culture, environment, festivals, nature, seasonal, traditions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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