GLADvent Day 1

Three years ago! Wow! I must’ve had more time back then 🙂 Welcome to December all! May it begin with KINDNESS. xx

wordsthatserve

Ladies and Gents it’s my great pleasure on this December 1st 2016 to welcome you, one and all, to GLADvent! Just the familiar recognition of the passing of the days leading up to Christmas, but with an extra twist of Joy and Gratitude thrown in.

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To mark the passage of time, and offer daily invitations to reflect and give thanks, I’ve created a GLADvent calendar, which I’d love for you to ‘open’ with me each day, from now until December 24th.

This is not to deny that there are many and real problems we face right now, both individually and as a collective. It is to remind me, and anyone else who needs a nudge, that there is still much of beauty and blessing in this world. That remembering is a source of strength that can be used to face those challenges with courage and compassion.

The numbered stockings each have…

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Writers’ Well – Hands

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ground group growth hands

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So this week’s prompt comes from another old favourite, in terms of theme: hands. I’ve used hands in different ways several times before, but this time I simply asked my fellow writers to make a list of up to ten things their hands had already done that day (it was 9.30 in the morning). Here’s what I wrote:

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I then invited us to use those notes as inspiration for a poem, about our hands, written in seven minutes. This is my personal response. Enjoy 🙂

 

 

I couldn’t always use my hands,

couldn’t always control them enough

to make them do what I wanted.

But I learned, as we all do,

and now I take them for granted.

 

They call it muscle memory.

But that sounds like my hands have a brain.

If you x-rayed them I’m pretty sure

you’d find no grey matter,

but it’s true that they remember;

 

what a cake batter should feel like

when I stir so I can

guess at the weights when I

don’t have scales,

 

where the light bulb switch is

when I wake in the night

reaching out before I’ve even left

my dream to light the room

and start my day,

 

how to hold someone’s hand

when they need connection

and when to let go so they know

you’re there but they’re free

to connect or not as they choose.

 

What to write.

They seem to know

the words before I write them.

If I trust them.

Which I do.

 

Perhaps hands do have brains.

Mine certainly seem to.

 

 

What have your hands done for you today? 

 

And here are a couple of other posts, linked to this theme:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/of-hands-and-humility/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/napowrimo-22-in-our-hands/

 

 

And, you can find more writing prompts on a variety of topics here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

Writers’ Well – Opposites

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Opposites…are fun to explore, because mostly, they don’t exist. Most things are simply a somewhere along a continuum, and the extremes are oversimplified and rare. I’m reminded of the beautiful children’s book. The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark, where the owlet learns from his mother that night is actually a very wide range of shades, and is very rarely truly black. Sooo…

 

In this week’s writing group, we collected pairs of supposed opposites (an interesting process in itself!) and then used that gathering to inspire a poem.

 

 

This is what I wrote. Enjoy 🙂

 

Division is for numbers,

not for people.

 

Division is outside of life,

not in it,

because the essence of life

is indivisible.

 

Are you a lion

or a mouse?

 

Frankly, it should be clear

that I’m neither,

but I’ll answer.

 

Some days I’m small

and soft and timid,

prone to hide in my

bedroom and pretend

i’m not there in the hope

I won’t get eaten.

 

Other days I roar and rage,

wear my mane free and flowing

and say look at me, notice me,

hear me and know

my words count.

 

But my mouse is there on lion days,

and my lion hasn’t been extinguished

on mouse days, it’s just

everyone needs a rest now and then.

 

But I like it best when

my lion and my mouse

show themselves together

at the same time.

 

That’s when people really

stop to watch and listen

to see if anyone gets eaten,

and what will be left

to live.

 

 

I think ‘opposites’ is a rich theme, and it’s one I’ve explored here before, in a slightly different way.

 

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/equations-of-opposites-writers-well/

 

 

 

And, you can find more prompts on a variety of topics here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers’ Well – Mr Help

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Some of you will no doubt have read some of the Mr Men/Little Miss books as children, or indeed to your children. I hadn’t come across them for a while, but saw a few for sale on a bric-a-brac stall in a local market, and chose four. And then I wondered…

 

So, this week’s story prompt was to write your own Mr Men/Little Miss story, in ten minutes. Before we started, I read an example to the group. I then asked them to write down, without over thinking, five possible words they might use. Mine were; Brave, Hope, Shiny, Moan and Help. I then asked people to re-read their list, and choose the word they felt had the most ‘juice’.

 

There were some truly wonderful stories, and I was genuinely touched and amazed by how such a simple framework could bring about stories that, whilst often funny and certainly simple, had quite a profound and often poignant under current.

 

Anyway –  here’s mine! Enjoy 🙂

 

 

 

Mr Help was ever so helpful.

 

If he saw someone struggling to carry their shopping, he’d run to catch up.

 

“May I help you with your bags?” he’d say.

 

“How kind!” they’d reply.

 

If he saw someone crying, alone on a bench, he’d sit beside them, glad to be of use.

 

“Can I help?” he’s say.

 

“How kind!” they’d reply. And he’d listen until they felt better.

 

One day, he saw two people having an argument, and said, “Excuse me, can I help?

 

But they didn’t reply, how kind. They said. “Would you mind your own business, thanks all the same.”

 

Mr Help walked away with no spring in his step, no sparkle in his eye, and didn’t know what to do.

 

But nobody noticed Mr Help’s lack of spring, or his lack of sparkle, or his lack of something to do.

 

He wondered through the woods, finding he wanted to be alone.

 

The trees were losing their leaves all by themselves.

 

The river was flowing, but nobody was pushing it.

 

The birds were singing, but no matter how hard he looked, My Help couldn’t find anyone conducting them.

 

Mr Help felt his spring start to come back. He felt his eyes begin to sparkle again.

 

Mr Help had nothing to do, and it felt good.

 

What Mr Men or Little Miss story would you like to write?

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Writers’ Well – #everytreecounts

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This week, in the weekly writing circle I hold, we considered…trees. The Woodland Trust, a charity I support, is running a campaign #everytreecounts, and it is this which inspired the prompt. We began by collectively gathering some responses to that phrase…

 

 

 

Then, in just seven minutes, wrote a poem, taking that collective gathering as inspiration. Here’s mine…enjoy!

 

 

Soothing, beauty, breath.

Roots, holding, strength.

Shade, home, food.

 

I lean against trees

until the bark marks my skin

in a 3D reflection

like its wisdom is now written

into me, but the ink

is not indelible.

 

Given time my skin

will smooth out again,

and I won’t be able to read

what the tree gave me.

 

But I continue to breathe

what they offer me,

and marvel as the leaves

change colour, marking

autumn, marking

time.

 

Counting in circles

there is no final beginning,

no final end.

 

As long as seeds

find soil.

 

Blessings on your week, and blessings on the trees…xxx

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Creativity and Change

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Fears can rise at the thought of being creative, but in one of life’s paradoxes, it is my experience that creativity is also a powerful tool with which to address those fears – emerging wiser and stronger.

 

Change happens, whether we’re conscious of it or not, and whether or not it’s happening in the direction we would like it to. The act of creation is a highly adaptive process, embodied in the very cells through evolutionary biology, and it is something we can use to make change more graceful and fun.

 

It was New Year’s Day, and I took myself for a walk, by which I mean I insisted that my under exercised being and its fidgety disruptiveness leave the house because it was getting under my feet. I was alone, and the moment I was in the fresh air thoughts took off and began to run and play in enough space and with enough distance between them that I could watch and observe with a smile, without incurring the usual scratches and bruises. My feet were well enough practised in following this path to do so without much input from me, and I let them take me down towards the river, occasionally stepping onto the rough verges to allow vehicles to pass.

 

By the time I climbed the style just before the bridge, to take the trail to the river beach, my thoughts were much better behaved, and my shoulders were unburdened enough to allow my arms to swing by my side as every other step became a half skip. And then I was there.

 

The empty stony beach (by which I mean there were no other people present) and the noisy rushing river, riding the rapids before turning the corner and beginning to widen and slow down. But me, I wasn’t widened yet. I was rushing.

Looking around to admire the beauty of my surroundings, I still held a feather I’d picked up at some point along the way. It dragged almost imperceptibly through the air as my arms swung, until I and they were still. I don’t remember at what point exactly I closed my eyes and began to question the changes I’d recently set loose, like the waters of the wild river before me – unstoppable, beautiful – but why? Why was I leaving behind a community that I loved, a landscape that I revered and a life blessed in uncountable ways? The first answer was immediate and came in a single word – growth.

 

A raging hunger rose in me quite unexpectedly, and I began to cry. Comfort had become a cage, and my wings had had to be cruelly clipped. I needed to explore the edges of my potential, not grow fat and lazy on a diet of endless affirmation and appreciation from those who already admired what I did, without daring me, stretching me, demanding of me that I be more. By more, I do not mean in the pursuit of a bigger ego or greater worldly success, but rather in deep celebration and honouring of the otherworldly; that which still existed beyond the world I currently inhabited but that, with courage and practice I could bring into this world that others might experience and enjoy it.

 

That dance of the practical and the magical began to live in me and, inspired by the feather still held in my hand, began to form a poem. I had nothing with which to catch it, so I began spinning a web mid-air by speaking it aloud, the river as my witness, repeating lines to strengthen them, and the proceeding onward. Gradually, while I began to retrace my steps and make my way back up the hill, the poem grew, line by line, adjustments and refinements happening naturally until I walked back though my front door, and wrote it down.

 

Change is so much less frightening when we understand why it’s happening, and admit that we’ve set it in motion ourselves. Poetry helps me give that clarity and courage form, and its aliveness is much like change itself, for I find poems, as indeed most art, leaves enough space for me to visit time and again, and yet inhabit a different world each time. That’s not necessarily comfortable, but it is comforting.

 

A re-feathering

 

 

Whether faeries are real or not

I won’t risk killing one with

A disbelieving thought

For I have seen

Strewn at my feet

Feathers of my own wings

Shot from the sky

When doubt came hunting

 

But I am not a bird

And those wings

Were not of this world

Any more than a unicorn’s horn

Is hard and made of keratin

 

So it’s time for a re-feathering

Growing new shafts

From quill to tip

Fed with belief

’til once again

I fly

 

Three Minute Poems – How it all began…

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Me dartington.JPGThere is little in this life that brings me more alive, so I thought I’d share part of this story…of how it all began…because I’m planning to take this story forward, and hope to write a few more chapters soon… ❤️😀 Watch this space! xx

 

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You know you’ve hit on something when the responses are so varied. “God, you’re so brave! I’d be terrified!” “What a brilliant idea, how lovely!” Experience has shown that it’s when I’m able to step back from my desire to impress and please everyone that something far more alive and authentic comes through. Trying to make a cup of tea with the intention of satisfying everyone would make for, at best, something exceedingly boring and mediocre; at worst, an entirely undrinkable cuppa.

 

It wasn’t a new idea. I’d read about the Poetry Takeaway in a magazine several years previously, and later tried it out to moving effect in a writing workshop I led. We were all stunned, when the poems we’d asked for were read aloud. “Where did that come from?” Where indeed. A few years later, I decided it was time to try this out in a different environment.

 

As I walked through the woods towards Dartington Shops, shouldering the tools of my trade, I buzzed with excitement. I had no idea how this would go, and no specific expectations of the outcome, but this was something I really wanted to do, loved to do, and I was so full of the intention of generosity and play. What could go wrong?

 

I set up at my designated table, propping up a sign and laying out pad, pens and a three minute wooden egg timer. Actually, the three minute thing was random. I’d intended to do five minutes, but I couldn’t find a five minute timer in time, so three minutes it was. Now all I had to do was wait.

 

I remember the first poem I wrote that day, for a woman shopping with her daughter for last minute Christmas presents. She wanted a poem for her eldest daughter, about struggling to get out of bed in the morning. “Make it funny” she said, and left. I turned my timer, and wrote. It wasn’t great. It could’ve been worse. I had something.

I wrote it out in neat with a red felt calligraphy pen, rolled it into a scroll and tied it with golden thread as a gift. I read it to the customer, who gave me no big response, but took it. Great! First one done. I was on my way.

 

The rest of the day included laughter, tears and spontaneous wows and hugs from a steady stream of strangers. People shared so honestly, and in return I opened myself to see, to listen, to feel what was being asked for, and let my pen respond with respect and boldness.

 

When I came away from that day the word that kept coming up was Fun; sheer, pure, lively, tingly Fun with a capital F. I’d written about everything from gardens in winter to Minecraft, and been commissioned to write a poem to be read at the requester’s own funeral! It was quite a trip I took while sitting at that bench all day.

 

There was something so freeing about doing something so very, well, me. However, as often with experiences that transcend the everyday, it was full of paradox. Because I was being so me, I was connecting easily with the me of everyone I encountered. As I wrote ego me stepped aside, allowing me to simply let the words through. I was not, in that moment, in the least concerned about me the poet proving her skill, or writing something objectively brilliant. It was me Harula; human being, wordsmith, in service to that soul before me who asked me to craft something for them. What mattered was that they were served by what I wrote. I couldn’t have cared less if anyone else liked the poem, as long as the asker felt seen, met and served by those words.

 

When I wrote three minute poems again more recently, in the Exeter Library Café, I was reminded of the basic goodness and generosity of the majority of people. That day I was writing for coffees; not for me, but for donations so that anyone could enjoy a warming cuppa, whether they had the money for it or not. Thirty minutes and three poems later I had £15 to donate to their suspended coffees scheme. The experience so thrilled me that I immediately shared it on my blog when I returned home. That post remains the most ‘liked’ post on my blog, in almost six years of blogging.

 

Service is a beautiful thing; it’s when there is no distinction between the server and the served. I feel so gifted by the trust and openness of each request. I believe the hunger, the eagerness to receive something so personal is a sign of our times, at least in the West. Everything has become so manufactured, so de-personalised, digitalized, fake-a-fied and screen distanced that to come close, even for just three minutes, to experiencing the sheer power and potential of tangible, spontaneous creativity; to witness and experience just how easily two human beings can connect and recognise one another; well, it’s magic.

 

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For more information about The Poetry Takeaway, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/poetrytakeaway/

https://twitter.com/poetrytakeaway

 

 

For previous posts on this topic, from my blog, check out:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/poetry-in-three-take-two/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/poetry-in-three/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/poetry-to-order-whatll-it-be/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/poetry-to-order-part-two/

 

 

 

O Captain! My Captain!

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O Captain! My Captain!

Inspired by Carola Rackete and XR activists, and of course that moment in the film – Dead Poet’s Society

O Captain! My Captain!

There are laws,

and there are laws.

The written ones are flawed,

much like the system built to need them.

Trust has been so dismantled,

we legislate ourselves

into cages of good behaviour

until mere parking causes fear.

“I can’t park here!

There’s no sign says I can!”

Though some do take

such laws into their own hands;

like the woman who clamped

her own car, went shopping,

then returned to release herself,

and drive away.

But perhaps such laws

are merely distractions

from the true infractions

against basic laws of humanity,

enshrined in our common ancestry.

Laws not written, but living

in the very blood of our veins.

The kind of laws

that made one captain say,

“I’m bringing these people to land anyway.”

Barging past the military vessels in her way.

The kind of laws

that made the judge she later stood before

say this captain was just doing her duty,

to protect lives.

For now even the law

begins to see the need for a peaceful war,

because what’s the law for

if not to protect life?

And when written laws don’t do that,

something’s not right.

So some of our captains

climb on the roofs of trains

in the name of sustaining life,

in spite of written laws that say

they might be put away

for two years.

Two years,

for harming nothing but timetables.

There are laws

and there are laws.

O Captain! My Captain!

Liminal Spaces

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I’m about to go on an extended trip to visit family…

and I have a ‘to do before I leave’ list
written in two solid columns,
because that’s less scary than two pages,
so what to do first? Write a poem
about liminal spaces 😆😂🤣😆
That is NOT on the list!
But muse insists…

Liminal spaces are the places
we go when what’s been is behind
and what’s coming isn’t yet in view.
Where no one knows your name,
apart from the one checking tickets
who’s so full of names they don’t care
where your name came from.

It’s freeing to be nameless a while,
from your perch on the edge
of what was and what will be,
browsing unfamiliar faces
who undoubtedly have a name too.
But you leave them be,
let them savour the liminal too.

Because all too soon
the world makes you return,
and you pick up your name
like a coat you left in the cloakroom,
almost surprised to find it still fits
because something’s changed,
and you put it on to face the new place,
where you’re welcome by your name
heard in the voice of one who loves you… ❤️💕

He took off his tie

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In honour of Father’s Day, and to continue yesterday’s theme of my love for the ocean, here’s a poem from my poetry collection, Ignite. Enjoy 😀Blessings on all the fathers, and all the stories, beginning, and ending, and beginning again…❤️

 

He took off his tie

 

 

The woman beckoned me to the bridge

and pointed.

The salmon were leaping.

 

Dad shared a memory with me recently.

It was a song that sparked it, played

by the guitarist doing covers

in the restaurant where we ate.

 

I saw Dad as a young man

taking off his tie to cast off

office life for adventure at sea.

I add this image to my own story, a preface

to well preserved childhood memories

of so many salt scented holidays.

 

The sea has always beckoned me, and

now I know a little more of why –

because Dad took off his tie.

 

How do the salmon know where to return

to after years spent maturing at sea?

 

Because I saw it myself, they do know,

that somewhere just upriver from that bridge

where I watched them fight the flow

is where their own story must return,

to begin again.

 

My collection, Ignite, is available from Lulu.com 

If you’d like a copy, please follow the link.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/harula-ladd/ignite/paperback/product-24091712.html