The Questions of Being
You can listen to this post here (12 mins)
How are you all being out there. Yes, being. Really, how?
I wonder about these things. How are you all being, because I think we are all doing too much.
Can I let you in on a little secret, my TV indulgence – the UK version of First Dates! Oh, I love those awkward first encounters, those glances, those nerves. I love when someone shows up fully as themselves –unapologetic, boldly daring to be just as they are (Why is that such a rarity?) I feel sad when I see someone holding their pain against them, like a shield. And I cringe when that first question, which kills it all, is so often declared, ‘So, what do you do?’
Gosh love, you can do so much better than that. Instead, tell me, what are you curious about these days? What is bringing you alive? What is bringing joy? Tell me, what makes you tick? What keeps you up at night? What do you hold dear to your heart? How are you? These are the questions which build trust, open doors, welcome connection. These are for starters.
OK. I’ll go first.
What am I curious about these days? So many things! I think wonder is at the heart of everything. I’m learning the names of wildflowers and wild things in West Cork, sitting low with them, watching how they unfold and bloom. Bee orchid, heath orchid, speedwells, common vetch, a meadow brown butterfly, and what I think was a cinnabar moth. I am interested in their mythic and medicinal qualities. I am curious about how learning the names of things helps me to see more, then encounter more, and then be altered more. The naming is a shaping thing.
Then there are the stories. I am interested in the old stories – the animal lore, the fairy ways, the legends. I wonder about reviving them, and whether they can give us the kiss of life, restoring a natural order of breath and being in direct relationship to the mystery which binds both.
You see, I am starting to work on some new books, and late at night, when the sea has calmed and the stars are doing their twinkle, I welcome the stories in. They bring me to my knees sometimes, in reverence and in awe. There is always so much to learn, and I am humbled at that door.
And I am increasingly fascinated with our relationship to the creative process- how ideas form, then express themselves. I wonder too how might we best prime ourselves to respond. I am thinking that walking has to do with it. Perhaps it is to do with travelling at the pace of story. These days, I am keen to walk slow.
A story arrived recently, you see. There was I, just moving along not thinking about anything in particular, and there it was, sitting on my shoulder, then knocking on the corners of my heart, willing me to open it. So I turned a blank page and the story entered through some strange cognitive dance to begin its journey into form. We are still dancing, and it is spinning me in its web of narrative wonder. I’m trapped, in the best kind of way. And I feel so alive I think I might burst.
So I think this creative force is everything. Life-giving. Even regenerative.
Let me tell you about a woman who inspires me. She’s an artist, Jackie Morris, who lives by the sea and has a studio in her attic. She brings stories to life through gold and imaginative forces. She paints labyrinths on stones and rests them in rock-pools and waves. She paints hares and herons, charms of goldfinches, wrens and otters. On the page she let’s them encounter poems. And it all glows.
Just the other day said something which I immediately transcribed into my journal and circled in thick pen, to remember:
‘In a world that is increasingly dark and aggressive’, she said, ‘making beauty is an act of rebellion, and that is what I am trying to do’.
Something deep in me shimmered when she said this. I recognised myself.
So, I want to tell you, with a degree of rage and a degree of grief, that I agree, things are shifting on this great spinning sphere of ours, and I think we can all sense we are moving into darker times. I admire how the Guardian newspaper is demanding in the language for this. They have moved their words from climate change to climate chaos; from global warming to global heating, from climate skeptic to climate denier.
We need strong language. We need strong acts of rebellion and defiance. And we need beauty. For what is there to dream for if not beauty and joy, if not hope through regeneration, if not a vision of another way.
So, what keeps me up at night? All this. All of it. Always. But it is also the poems, and the tides I am falling into. You see, some nights, when the moon is full or near full, and when silence has surrendered itself to the skies, I feel the pull to the shore. I walk until my feet meet the lapping. It is a place where wonder dumfounds me. And so I wait there until it moves me to the edge of new dawnings. This week, while waiting, I read Eagle Poem, one of Joy Harjo’s gifts to us;
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Then, when I fell out of that poem, I landed in Underland. I was marvelling at the words of Robert Macfarlane, reading them on a hillside as swallows swooped by. He speaks of dark places, underground- what we hide there, what is revealed there, and what we have yet to discover. He has a whole chapter on fungi and mycelial networks. And he writes words such as these:
‘Nature, too, seems increasingly better understood in fungal terms: not as a single gleaming snow-peak or tumbling river in which we might find redemption, not as a diorama that we deplore or adore from a distance – but rather as an assemblage of entanglements of which we are messily part. We are coming to understand our bodies as habitats for hundreds of species of which Homo Sapiens is only one, our guts as jungles of bacterial flora, our skins as blooming fantastically with fungi.
Then when I fell out of that book, I fell into the musical spells of Cosmo Sheldrake whose cuckoo calls and owl songs, dawn chorus and recordings in hot air balloons —full of whimsy and delight—had me dancing to my shadow and reaching for the stars.
Ok, maybe I do need more sleep! But they are bringing me alive these words, these songs. Dreams too. And visions. You see, I have been thinking of gathering again, and of learning spaces. I have been thinking again of creating a place where we can get intentional about the lives we are called to lead, and learn the skills which are required to take us there. It is an old dream of mine, but resurfacing and reforming. I’m listening. I know I don’t have a choice. I know the vision is there to mould and shape me too. I bow in reverence to the gift of insight. It’s a carrier. I follow.
And by the way, I am curious about the human conversations we need to be having about our humanity — the very essence of it — in the face of Artificial Intelligence and automation, and all these machines. It is about being, and what makes us so. But sometimes it all feels too much, and so then, as counterpoint, I want to learn how to make sourdough, and other fermented things. Call it gut instinct too. My current sauerkraut is a little bit ‘off’ though, so I have a long way to go. But I am liking the tactility of the learning. That my learning might be edible, all the better.
And so while all this is taking hold, I am also learning about literary agents, and publishing houses. I am posting my first chapters, in envelopes sealed with kisses, even as my heart pounds and imposter syndrome shifts from kindle to flare. There was a bloom of self doubt- as in the cancer kind of bloom —as that envelope dropped into the postbox. But it was the pull of the shore, and of my vision which is pumping me onwards. I’ll keep posting, I promise.
And so, what do I hold dear to that heart? All this, all of it, always, and, of course my white fluffy scruffy waggle of a woof. (how could i not!) In fact I hold so much dear that sometimes I think I might explode. So, I want to let you in on another behind the scenes, an explanation so to speak, that if you meet me in person, I might seem a little distant, at times. I say this, because I have been told this. So I want you to know that it is not you, I promise. It is just that I am trying to hold it all – the rage, this wonder – so that I might put it to good use, and maybe even make things of beauty to be a part of the rebellion. So, can I tell you that I am trying, but sometimes I bump into my fear and shyness instead. So it is that you are meeting, the part of me just trying. We can get through though, I promise. I may just need some of your breath. I’ll give you some of mine in return.
So, back to that question. What do I do? Now you know why I think it is the least interesting question of all. I am still trying to figure it out, after all, and in the meantime, there are dreams in the shape of books, and gatherings, and vegetable gardens, and swims. Always swims.
So, let’s scrap all this definition by doing? Instead, let’s ask, ‘what’s alive to you today? What’s coming into view? Where is wonder leading you astray? How are you being today?
Onwards and with love,
Related to above:
My new ‘Design Your One Wild Life’ mentoring programme has just been announced too.
Not sure what direction to take next? In a transition, or a rut, and need some fresh thinking about your ideas, options and callings? What to get intentional about your next moves?
This is a process combining design thinking, values and purpose work, inner reflection and creative practice. The process will help give you the tools and clarity to create a vision for your life, and build prototypes of action.
It is about what you want do, and how you want to be while doing it all.
Earlier in the year, I hosted a week in UCD’s innovation Academy for 24 undergraduate students. They said some amazing things.
I think it is something everyone needs, at various points in their life. It is a process I have used to constantly build my future forward, and it is something I am offering now, so we may live into intentional, values-driven lives- with careers, relationships and inner and outer lives in alignment.
How exciting is this! Find out more about my one-to-one programme here.