Posts Tagged 'life'

Have You Fed The Fish?

“Sometimes you’ve got to rewind to go forward.
There’s some good times around the corner.”

From “Have You Fed The Fish?” by Badly Drawn Boy.

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The other weekend I headed up to the North West Coast of Scotland with seven others.  The minibus drive through the glens brought us closer to stags than I have ever been as they sheltered in the comparative warmth of the valley in the wee small hours.  We awoke to the beauty of the view from our lochside cottage on Saturday morning to see a dusting of snow on the hilltops.

We drove north to a secret spot and watched the lines on the water come across the horizon with increased rhythm as the tide withdrew and the swell built.  We stripped off in the November air and clambered into our wetsuits, trying to read the sea and the positioning of the rocks on the reef break. 

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I felt exhausted just paddling out beyond the whitewater and was happy to just sit on my surfboard and lap up the scenery as I looked over towards the Hebridies.

Truth be told, I was out of my depth, nervous of undoing my knee’s gradual recovery and scared of dashing my board or body on the rocks and boulders below and on the shoreline.  I felt unsteady, tired, injured and out of my comfort zone.  The few waves I tried for took me off with such force that I felt every ligament pulled and stretched close to snapping point as I went through the under surface washing machine desperately trying to protect my head from being whacked.

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The afternoon session on the beach break was gorgeous, but I just couldn’t get my technique together despite the near perfect conditions and beautifully peeling waves…

Saturday night, I felt quite discouraged, out of practice, injured and a bit of a fraudster.  Maybe I should sell my board and wetsuit and recognise I’m getting older…

Sometimes, we just need to humble ourselves, stop pretending and recognise our limitations.  There are times to ask advice and questions – to be prepared to take a few steps backwards, to deconstruct notions and rebuild things afresh – to see ourselves as others do and to learn from that – to reposition ourselves – to stop battling against the waves in our own strength, using our own technique and bad habits.   

On Sunday morning we returned to the reef break.  I sat the session out, resting my sore knee and simply enjoying the scenery and the sound of the ocean.  I just took the time to feed my soul and to find pleasure in everyone else’s stoke.

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We returned to the beach in the afternoon and, having constantly repeated all of the advice from the day before, it all came together with me catching most of the waves I went for. 

The waves were cresting perfectly and with precise rhythm as the spray projected small rainbows in the offshore wind behind the line-up.  I came out of the water under a setting sun as the stars began to light up, exhausted but deeply chuffed and focussed.

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I need humility.  I need to listen.  I need a different stance at times.  I need discipline.  I need practice.  I need focus on the areas I need to work on.  I need to get fitter.  I love the rush.  I love the sence of feeling so small amidst creation.  I love to hear the whoops of my friends’ delight when the conditions come together or someone catches a really great ride.

Maybe the lessons reach far beyond surfing?

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Flies And Blue Skies P.S You Rock My World.

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Today started strangely.  I took the car to work as I was chairing a meeting first thing.  As I was about to turn into the street our office is on I discovered a policeman stood in the middle of the road directing the traffic not to turn from the main arterial route.  After a dodgy U-turn and an alternative route, I got parked and walked the short distance to the office only to discover half of our street cordoned off.  There was police incident tape, a heavy police presence and various people in plain clothes conversing intently as a forensic officer in white boiler suit, face mask, gloves and shoe covers sealed off the area in front of a building diagonally opposite our office.  It provoked a strange sense of knowing something was seriously wrong combined with intrigue in wanting to know what had happened.

As the day drew on, various people in our office would make periodic trips to the windows to see if they could decipher what was unfolding below us.  Emotions ranged from people adopting dodgy Scottish accents and impersonating Taggart by saying, “there’s been a  murrrrrder” to a general nosiness or a desire to gossip about what the latest word on the street quite literally was.

As I type these words before going to bed, all I know is that the press have disclosed that a man’s body was discovered face down outside the basement level of the building diagonally opposite our office.  Not  a man – but just “a man’s body”.  Death changes everything.

My mind has been caught up in it all at various points throughout the day, but I came to think that I don’t need to know the details.  Ultimately my only connection is proximity to the place where the body was found.  He could have been in an accident, he could have been attacked, he could have simply collapsed, he could have been sleeping rough…all of the detail will emerge in the coming hours I suspect.  More than any of that I got to thinking that whoever he was, he must have been somebody’s someone – a son, a friend.  There was probably a time he played in the park, laughed at a joke, shared a drink with somebody special.  It removed a degree of that blanket of invincibility we tend to wear.

As I get ready to sleep, there are a couple of songs playing in the jukebox of my mind.  Lines which are simple, yet, profound…

“There is life.

There is death.

And the difference between either one

is one single breath”.

From “Flies And Blue Skies” by King’s X.

And…

“Laying in bed tonight I was thinking
and listening to all the dogs
and the sirens and the shots
and how the careful man tries to dodge the bullets
while a happy man takes a walk
and maybe it is time to live”

From “P.S. You Rock My World” by Eels.

Transatlanticism

“I want you so much closer…”

From “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab For Cutie.

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I recently looked at the structure of my daily routine: the amount of time I spend in front of a PC at work; the number of lunch hours spent scoffing sandwiches whilst checking emails; the amount of time in the car with the radio on; the number of evenings spent simply preparing for something else in the diary; the constant pressure of trying to beat the clock; places to be; people to see…Was it any wonder I constantly felt tired?  Was it any wonder that my mind was often elsewhere?  Was it any wonder that God often felt distant?

Of late I’ve tried to take 20 or 30 minutes over lunchtime to find an empty room in the office and to eat my sandwiches and fruit slowly, to read my bible and scribble in my notepad.  A small thing has made a huge difference.  I’ve tried wherever possible to walk or cycle instead of using my car for non-essential car journeys.  Life is so much better with the wind in my hair, my iPod in my ears and a range of smells in my nostrils (cherry blossom and bacon butties were notable moments today).

 Maybe a walk with God can be literal aswell as metaphorical…

These Are Days

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It felt like we crawled out of 2008 exhausted after the strain of the psychological deadlines of work before the Christmas break, several bouts of flu that circulated around our home, the frenetic schedule of ferrying a pre-schooler to all of their Christmas activities and a raft of birthday parties.  All in all, I just wanted to hibernate.

Our Christmas holidays have been a treasure.  We have managed to spend lots of time with loads of different people all of whom are very important to us.  We’ve managed to see all of our family.  It has been so refreshing to be with friends and to really talk at a meaningful level without my mind wandering to all the things that I need to turn my attention to later in the week.  We have loved the freedom of letting our daughter stay up late so that she feels included with the people that mean the world to us safe in the knowledge we’ll all get a longer lie-in in the morning (something parenthood has deprived us of).  It’s been great to stay up till the wee small hours with our home full of friends chatting, laughing, eating and drinking as our little stove glows in the room and keeps us cozy whilst the heavy frost forms outside.  Friends, family, our small group, neighbours – all sat around our big table simply doing life together.  Life feels great in the slow lane. 

Happy holidays.

“These are days you’ll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, you’ll know its true that you are blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days you’ll remember.
When May is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles you see in every hour.
You’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days.

These are the days you might fill with laughter until you break.
These days you might feel a shaft of light make its way across your face.
And when you do, you’ll know how it was meant to be.
See the signs and know their meaning.
It’s true, you’ll know how it was meant to be.
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking to you, to you”.

From “These Are Days” by 10,000 Maniacs

Mercy

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On my previous post I asked what single song you would sing if you were lying out in the gutter dying and you had time to sing one song…One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on earth.  One song that would sum you up…

Whilst I often love clever lyrics, at the end of the day some things just need to be said as they are.  Whatever our life experience or standing in society, we all fall short and hide behind masks and ultimately there comes a time when we simply stop pretending…

Is there time when old hymnals come back to mind and we recite phrases like “amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”?  How seldom many of us see ourselves in that light.  And yet for untold numbers of others, they see themselves simply in that light with no hope of restoration.

I’ve been thinking it over for a couple of days and have concluded that I’d choose the same song as Scott.  So, when it all boils down to it the song I’d choose is as follows:

“Well I have wandered away from the narrow path

Have I gone so far that you won’t have me back?

You see my reaction to the world’s distractions.

If the apple is sweet, then I am bound to eat…

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me.

Well I came to you from that lonely place

At the end of the season from the sea and the sun

If you’re really there and you really care

Surely you will understand the depths of my despair 

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me.

Will you listen to me in my moment of weakness?

I’m your prodigal son and I’m looking for rest

Forever

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me”.

From “Mercy” by Gena Rowlands Band.

The above comes from the “Flesh and Spirits” album which I consider my best find of 2007.  I now regard it as one of the most important albums I own.  Whilst, the language may not always be the way in which I would articulate things, this record has helped me view life, love, attraction, temptation, sex, death, God and the human condition in a way like precious little other music has done for a long time.  If that has got you intrigued, then you can listen to some of the tracks at their myspace page here or order the album here.

One of my friends saw Gena Rowlands Band play a gig in Brooklyn last year.  They finished the set with this song.  Bob Massey sung the song whilst the rest of the band packed up their gear around him and those gathered in the venue began to sing along the refrain, “Lord, have mercy on us”.  I love that picture –  a small bar full of people, many of whom, I expect, would never consider entering a church and yet singing words together that they can understand and own.  It makes me think about how little time Jesus spent in religious places compared with how much time he spent with ordinary people in their everyday lives.

As Scott also recently commented in an email to me – church is more like a hospital for sinners than a museum for saints.  There’s a lot of truth in that and yet I wonder how many churches that actually rings true for?

October

“October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?
October
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on”

From “October” by U2

Twenty seven years after its release, these two minutes and twenty seconds remain some of my favourites within U2’s catalogue.  Autumn leaves are such a common metaphor for life and love and loss.  In these days of global financial crisis, the line about kingdoms rising and falling resonates with me together with the thought of something eternal and everlasting and bigger than all of this mess we find ourselves in.

In Love With A View

“So I stood at the station

A plan and a pocket of poems

Heroically tragic, bearded and blind with obsession”

From “In Love With A View” by Mojave 3

Maybe it’s the wanderlust in the imagery.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have long found it easiest to view life as a journey.  Maybe it’s my yearning to keep pressing forward, to experience new things and to grow.  Maybe it’s all of those things and more that render the above lyrics some of my favourites to have been penned.  Something in me rises everytime I hear that breezy, alt.country, line delivered. 

Last night I was fortunate enough to catch Neil Halstead of Mojave 3 playing an acoustic show in King Tuts.  He was down to earth and engaging and we were treated to a rendition of “In Love With a View”.  It cheers my spirit to experience gigs by artists whose songs I have carried around in my music collection, heart and very being for years.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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