Monthly Archives: February 2009
One being in
A universe of many.
Empowered and encumbered by thought,
Wondering for what purpose I am,
While knowing that my existence is temporary.
Grasping for concepts such as love and happiness;
Recognizing their source must come from within versus without
Yet still searching for approval from those who surround me,
And striving to instill those feelings in those whom I surround.
Constantly defining and redefining who I am, but no longer asking why
My childhood’s characterized by dark and repressed memories while others traveled
Daily, taking the time to experience the healing power of a deep cleansing breath.
Feeling, at times, that I am not of this earth, but of the ether world,
That I am on the outside looking in, a mere spectator in this life of mine.
Perplexed by man’s constant inability to empathize with those who are differently abled
Considering, when life begins, no child controls the when or where of his birth.
Wanting to believe that there is a God, yet fearful there is not,
That this is it, but oftentimes sensing His presence, a spiritual influence.
Wondering how one sperm and one egg create a complex being,
And that from my womb emerged three of these miracles.
Grateful I became a citizen of this country as
Opposed to some war-torn nation, but wondering why.
Endlessly wallowing in the wonderment of words.
Appreciating the vitality of the sun,
Thriving in its penetrating rays,
Like water to roots.
And never tiring
It’s 5.30 am and I’m heading down to the garden. This is my favourite time of the day – just me and the dawn chorus. No people; no extraneous noise. Peace and tranquility.
The gardens are beautiful. Not regimented like the gardens of large buildings usually are, but rambling and cottage-like, and are obviously very well tended. There are little grottos made of stone dotted about, and some delightful statuary, and not all of it religious in nature either. There is a beautiful bronze mermaid laying languorously on a large rock, with her fingertips in the fishpond. The fishpond is only small, and is home to a few goldfish and a frog or two. It is surrounded by a variety of ferns.
Through a very ornate iron gate is the abbey’s walled kitchen garden. Every variety of vegetable and herb is here, and all grown on sustainable, permaculture principles. Every inch is used. There are compost bins in one corner and I can hear the steady buzz of a beehive somewhere. Espalier fruit trees – apples, pears and stone fruits – stretch their limbs across the faces of the walls. This all accounts for the delicious flavour and quality of the meals served to us.
I’ve wandered around, sniffing the flowers and herbs and I’ve made myself a small posey to put in a glass in my room.
I can hear movement now, so I will go and wash and make my way to the refectory for breakfast. I have no idea what the day will hold; I’m not sure if activities are organised or if you can wander at will, but I can ask someone.
Ah, there’s Woody and Sal, coming down the stairs. ‘Morning, you two. I’ll join you in the refectory in a few minutes. I just have to have a wash.’
‘Did your bed soften up after you got in it?’ said Woody.
‘Yes, I had a wonderful night’s sleep.’
‘Well, we’ve discovered another bit of magic. We were having a wash in that ice-cold bathroom, and I said ‘I wish this were warm water’, and, just like that, it was!’
‘Oooh, thanks for telling me. I’ll be down in about five minutes.’ And I headed towards the bathroom. I think I might risk a bath after breakfast if I can have warm water.
After a far too eventful start to the new year, I have decided to jump ship and take up residence at the Abbey for a while. I have been missing my horse Tinker and my caravan, and the feeling of living within the embrace of nature. Lorenzo, the Gypsy King, sensing my need for renewal, sent me a message – by some alchemy of Gypsy magic (or just a boat and few hefty gypsies to row it) he has transported Tinker and the caravan back to the apple orchard at the Abbey, and suggested I sojourn there for a while.
So here I am, sitting under the apple trees and contemplating the germinator jar I found at a bazaar on White Owl Island. What is a germinator jar, you ask? Well, I love munching on sprouts and the jar is for growing sprouts to munch on, from mung beans and the like. It’s just the right size for my tiny caravan kitchen. But contemplating the jar and what it does – germinates seeds just enough to make them fresh and green and lovely for munching, packed with vitamins and goodness – has set me pondering the nature of creativity and what I can do to renew the childlike joy of creativity that just takes pleasure in making something free and beautiful.
This has been bugging me for a while. My daughter Lana loves to cook, and for a while she worked in a kitchen and considered making it her career. But then she abruptly stopped,because, she said, making her creative pleasure her work took all the pleasure out of it – and the creativity. She wanted to go on enjoying pottering around her own kitchen with the same joy she had known as a child, learning to cook at home. So she chose another career, and enjoys cooking for family and friends.
Some people, of course, can meld work and creativity with consummate skill, but in my experience, I found that working as a writer robs me of some of that simple childlike pleasure. Having to think of deadlines, having to trim my prose to suit editorial requirements, having to worry about writing enough and well enough to pay the bills – it’s a business, and even in times not as economically stressed as this, it makes creative joy a low priority.
I left a good many seeds scattered about and forgot about them as I scrambled to `justify’ my writing passion by making money from it. Now I see that I need to gather these seeds up and put them in my own creative germinator jar and see what they grow into. I need to get away from the business of writing and back to the childlike joy of simply creating, for no other reason than that I can, and that nothing crucial hangs on the outcome – and for that sense of freedom I need my little caravan, the apple orchard, and Tinker’s warm muzzle pressing into my palm (he likes sprouts as much as he likes apples).
So here I am, and while I am putting mung beans into the glass jar, I am going to be germinating some seeds in my creative jar as well. A little bit of alchemy with sprouts on the side.
A Sonnet for Castalia
Achelous’ daughter dove into a well
To escape Apollo’s unremitting lust
She preferred the water to Apollo’s hell,
And became a mystic source whom all could trust.
At Delphi stands this spring where visions flow,
Where muses all their inspirations find;
It’s called Castalia, as most artists know,
One sips her magic waves to fuel one’s mind.
When Milton drank the waters from her spring,
It was on Mount Parnassus that he crossed;
He sought the inspiration she would bring,
Then penned his epic poem of “Paradise Lost.”
Oh the many tales that I could tell
With just one drop of water from her well!
The next day, I boarded the ferry to Lenora Island. I thought it was unusual when we entered a bank of swirling fog as I did not think this was a natural occurrence in tropical waters. Perhaps I had really passed through a veil?
As I pondered this, the mist began to lift and I could see the Abbey at Gilead in the distance.
Text and Image: L.Gloyd (c) 2009
I left my room a few minutes before seven and, just outside my door bumped into Woody, a friend from the ship. ‘I didn’t see you on the ferry,’ I said.
‘I was in the wheelhouse, chatting to Ishmael, and I didn’t get off until after the first carts had left. We have a friend in common and were having a good old natter.’
‘How’s your room?’
‘Cosy, seems an appropriate word.’ she said, ‘ Have you tried your bed?’
‘Mmm.’ I replied, ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to get out of it in the morning and if I do, I will be walking around like Quasimodo until at least lunchtime. My days of being able to sleep anywhere are long gone.’
‘I know, I like a soft mattress too. Maybe we’ll be able to get an overlay or something.’
‘Perhaps there’s a pea hidden underneath, to see if we are really princesses,’ I said, grinning.
‘I know this abbey’s order advocates austerity, but I didn’t think it would apply to the guests,’ said Woody, ‘We’ll probably get gruel for dinner!’ We got the giggles going down the stairs, but managed to get ourselves under control before entering the refectory.
On the right, as we entered the doors, was a wall of the most magnificent stained glass windows I’ve ever seen. They must have been about eighteen feet tall and were set off in all their glory by the setting sun. On the wall opposite were portraits of past Abbesses dating from about the mid fifteen-hundreds to the present day. The vaulted ceiling was high and made of stone, with gargoyles featured on the tops of the pillars. Along the short end wall opposite the door, was a huge and old wooden crucifix, and beneath it a long table spread with a white damask cloth and laden with a variety of foods and bottles of wine.
Several of the guests were already seated at the tables, and we joined them. All the nuns were seated together on one, very long table. At 7.00 pm on the dot, the doors were closed and bolted. (Mental note) Tardiness for meals is obviously discouraged. The Abbess stood in front of the food table and asked us all to join hands for the benediction, which we did. Thanks were offered up in Latin, which is not in my repertoire, so I just waited and joined in with the ‘Amen’.
‘We would like to welcome you as our guests.’ she said, ‘While we observe vows of poverty and austerity, our guests are not expected to do the same. Please, help yourselves from the buffet. We take our meals in silence, and would ask you to respect this. We hope you will enjoy your stay and take advantage of all the island has to offer.’ Woody and I were elbowing each other like kids at school camp. ‘Please, don’t make me laugh,’ I whispered, and decided to avoid eye contact until the meal was over.
The fare was delicious and far from the gruel we were expecting. There were tender, spring lamb chops, steaks and shepherd’s pie and a wonderful range of vegetables. The bread and the wine were products of the abbey, and there was a bottle of the famous abbey liqueur Liquid Velvet for us to taste after the meal. Apparently it’s made from roses, blueberries, mead and spices and has been made by the abbey for four centuries. I was so hungry I was really looking forward to the meal until I glanced over at the nuns and saw that they each had a bowl of thin soup and a roll. This took the edge right off my appetite, and I just chose a couple of chops and a few veggies.
The wine was excellent – very smooth and fruity. When everyone had finished eating, the nuns served each of us a tiny glass of the liqueur. Oh, it was ambrosia! I’m definitely taking a few bottles of that back to the ship.
We approached the Abbess with our concerns about the firmness of the mattresses, but she told us not to worry, all would be well, and that we would sleep soundly. We left the refectory and looked at one another with raised eyebrows, saying nothing. On the way back to our rooms, I asked Woody if she fancied a wander into the town of Gilead, which was situated a couple of miles inland from the abbey. ‘Sounds like fun,’ she said, so we grabbed a couple of cardigans in case it turned chilly later.
The roadway meandered through the woods and down to a sheltered hollow containing the town. No motorised vehicles are allowed on the island, but we saw a few bicycles and donkeys. There were also several people on foot. It was twilight by the time we reached the town and lights were beginning to appear. We wandered around the streets and gazed into shop windows. Lenore is noted for its artisans and there were some beautiful items on display. The shops were all closed, of course, so we decided to shop for souvenirs the next day.
The strains of cheerful music and laughter wafted towards us on the gentle breeze, so we went to find where it was coming from. It was a small cafe on the edge of the town square. Obviously a popular place, as it was quite crowded. We waited for a table and then sat down and ordered coffee. ‘Do you have Tim Tams?’ I asked. ‘My friend here has never experienced the delights of Tim Tams.’
‘Certainly, ladies. Coffee and Tim Tams it is,’ and he returned a few minutes later with our coffees and half a dozen of the delicious biscuits.
‘Now, Woody, I am going to teach you the fine art of Tim Tam straws.’
I showed her how to bite of diagonally opposing corners of the chocolate covered biscuit and then suck her coffee through it. Oooh, decadence!! The hot coffee melts all the inside of the biscuit and makes it all soft; but you can only do two or three. Any more than that and you would be sick.
Woody was delighted to have mastered the art, and we sat laughing over the mess the warm chocolate made. We sat and talked for an hour about our various experiences on the cruise, and then took a leisurely walk back to the abbey.
I think I’m going to have to check out if there’s anything in my magic walnut shell that can have some influence on that mattress.
*Postscript – Having found nothing appropriate in the walnut shell, and having no other option, I lay down on the bed. As I lifted up my feet and pulled them onto the mattress it suddenly became soft. Yet another amazing happening. That must have been what the Abbess meant when we spoke to her. I hoped Woody’s was nice and comfortable, too.
I packed my little wheelie bag with a few essentials – toiletries, a few changes of casual clothes, hat, shoes and art materials – and went to catch the ferry. It was a boat about 18 metres long and painted a beautiful turquoise and white. It was called ‘The Lady Lenore’. I was quite surprised at how few people were making the trip, but I suppose it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I didn’t see any men at all waiting to board.
We were welcomed aboard by the captain, who was also the ticket collector. A jolly, bearded fellow by the name of Ishmael. He had a ruddy complexion and eyes with the creases around them that bright sunlight will cause. In fact, he looked just how you’d imagine a seafarer to look, from his captain’s hat right down to his rubber boots.
When we were all seated, he told us that the trip to Lenore would take about an hour, depending on the wind and the current. He then gave us the safety talk and told us where the lifejackets were and what to do in an emergency. Then he cranked up the engine and we were off.
When we got out of the harbour there was a gentle swell, which caused the boat to roll somewhat. Two or three of the ladies paled considerably and were looking a little nauseous. The captain suggested that anyone feeling seasick should sit where they could see the island and keep their eyes on it. They all got up and went to the seats in front of the wheelhouse, but it didn’t work for all of them as I could hear the sound of vomiting, and was glad I couldn’t see it.
As we got nearer to the island, and our angle of approach changed, I could see the abbey perched high on a rocky promontory. It looked very old and weathered. I was going to enjoy my stay. It’s not often you get the opportunity to stay in such a place.
We pulled into a small circular harbour, built from local stone at the base of the abbey rocks. Ishmael wished us a pleasant stay and reminded us that the ferry only ran twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays, and left at 10.00 am for White Owl Island on those two days. We thanked him and wandered towards a cottage with the sign ‘Visitors Registration’.
Inside was a reception desk and a waiting area with chairs. The desk was unattended so we sat and waited. A few minutes later an elderly nun hurried in, all apologies and fluster. She got us all to sign the visitors book and gave each of us a weighty, numbered key to a cell. ‘The transport will be here in a moment,’ she said. I treated this as very good news. I’d already decided that if I had to hike up to the abbey dragging my bag, I’d give it a miss. I have learned the hard way that my body will not allow me to do many of the things that my ageless mind thinks I can.
Donkey carts lined up outside – room for two people and baggage. There were no drivers! We were assured that the donkeys knew the way and would deliver us safely to the abbey. It felt very strange just sitting there with a donkey in charge; but when you think about it, there are donkeys in charge of many aspects of life!
We pulled into the cobblestoned abbey forecourt where we were greeted by the Abbess. She welcomed us and showed us to our cells. Spartan is the word that sprung immediately to mind. The room was tiny – hence the name cell, I suppose. There was a single bed, a small chest of drawers and a bedside table and lamp. I dropped my bag on the bed and emptied the contents into the drawers. I then sat on the bed. It had about as much give as a slab of concrete. ‘This is going to be agony,’ I thought, ‘Payback for wanting to be a nun!’
We’d been given a little, laminated plan of the abbey and asked to be in the Refectory for dinner at 7.00 pm sharp. I went in search of the communal bathroom to freshen up. This was also an eye-opener. There were two toilet cubicles with toilets circa 1100 A.D.; a stone trough with two taps – cold and cold; and, behind a half-wall, there was a bath-sized stone trough and tap – again, cold water. ‘This should sort the men from the boys,’ I thought, and wondered how long I could go without using these facilities before I stunk. I like ‘hot’ to wash in! All part of life’s rich tapestry I supposed, and was beginning to wonder how basic the food would be? None of this was mentioned in the brochure. ‘Oh, well. Today is Wednesday, I always have the option of the Friday ferry.’