Thursday, 21 November 2013

Send Out Your Light - Part 2

Continuing my testimony of transformation, hope and healing from earlier post.

“You must have shadow and light source both,
 Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.”

 Before I can begin my story proper I should fill in some of my back story
 and let you in to at least some of the darkness.

I promise not to linger here any longer than necessary;
just enough to set the scene in preparation for the extraordinary,
 demonstrably powerful,
light of healing.
The part of the story that matters here began when I was around five years old
 and developed a tell tale butterfly shaped rash on my face,
 which with other symptoms, signified
 lupus erythematosus
I only retain three vivid memories of this time.
 Above all else I remember the intense burning of the skin on my face,
 then there is the picture of a bevy of white coated men standing in a semi circle around me
 talking about me as I sit perched on something that feels a long way off the ground
 in the middle of a shiny sort of room.
The third memory is to do with Miss Protheroe.
 She was our fearsome infants' school head mistress
 and I can see her now on the day she bore down on me as I played in the sunny school yard.
 Her mighty bosom billowed over my head as she caught me by the hand
 and wordlessly stumped me along to her office.
 I wondered what I was in for.
The shady room was a cool caress to the red hot patches on my face,
 even as I quaked with anticipation of what was to come. 
 To my surprise she sat me down and produced a large fluffy powder puff
covered in some white dust she explained was boric acid powder
 to soothe my "poor face".
Far from being soothing, the boric acid powder
seemed to increase the scorching irritation of my skin;
    my fear of Miss Prothereoe it forever eased.

Thinking of it now I realise there is a fourth memory.

Forming a background to everything else was my mother's distress.
I don't know what she had been told back then,
 but time was to tell that lupus pointed to a faulty immune system
 which could not be mended.

I have no memory of my recovery or the disappearance of the rash,
I do know how the subsequent years were marked with frequent illness.

My mother used to joke that
if somebody with something wrong only passed the end of the road
I would catch whatever they had.

For  me it as no joke to miss week after week of school,
returning to find the intensive grammar school programme had moved on so fast
I was forever scrabbling to catch up.

As hard as that was,
harder still was the constant sense of isolation when
on each return
hard won friendships were
lost to newly formed cliques.

The desperate exhaustion, and painful joints
 which had become part of my life
 flared into something more serious
when I was sixteen.

I was diagnosed with sub acute bacterial endocarditis,(SBE),
whisked into hospital, and began what I did not then know was to be
 two bed bound years.
These days an intensive course of  medication would probably
 be deemed enough to combat the infection,
 but back then as well as the antibiotics, analgesics, and steroids,
 complete bed rest was believed to be necessary to alleviate heart damage.
I think most patients on a public ward would agree 
 above and beyond our own symptoms and fears for ourselves,
 being surrounded by the sickness of others
 is the most scary and depressing thing of all.
  It certainly was for me.

At first I was in the feverish stage of SBE,
  too sick to know or care about where I was
 or who my fellow patients were.
Despite the large doses of analgesics the intense pain in my joints was ever present,
 and through my haze of fever and medication
 I could hear a constant metallic syncopation going on in the back ground.
 Then it dawned on me
 my heart was racing so hard
 it's rhythm was carrying through the rigid hospital mattress to the metal bed frame,
 setting up a constant clacking. 
 I had my own personal castanets!

To be continued

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Send out Your Light - Part 1

Acrylic on Canvas

It seems that everywhere I go the conversation turns to how bad things are.
The sense I get is that people generally feel let down by the powers that be,
and the old certainties that have failed us.

Around us are the catastrophes and instability of the world at large,
and in our own backyard,
our own lives,
 we experience need we at a loss to know how to deal with.

In spite of this evidence that the world is a dark place,
 down all the centuries there have been voices assuring us 
that behind it all the force of creation, 
of life itself,
 is one of light,
 and of love.

In all honesty we have to say from what we see around us,
 this doesn't make sense.

In the deepest part of my heart though,
 like most of us I guess,
I always peered into the darkness and suffering I saw,
with the yearning that somehow there would be the light of healing, love, or freedom.
The question always remained,
"How could love let this darkness be?
All too often my own answer has been 
"If there is light and love behind all this I can't see it"
 more than that,
"If it is there and allows this,
I don't want to know!"

Yet, here I am,
despite myself and my own cynical and doubting nature, 
joining my voice with those who speak of
 the abiding presence of light and of love,
simply because I have seen and experienced it.

 I admit to being apprehensive as to how much to say,
 or what is appropriate to tell because it will mean going back into dark places which,
though healed,
are not places I like to re-visit.

What I do know is that I need to tell it like it is, 
(perhaps in fits and starts,
 or in a torrent,)
however I can),
 so I can give others the chance to hear about
 the light that came into my darkness.
and therefore can come into anyone's.

You need to know before I begin my story that I will call the light "God",
but you do not need to subscribe to that name if it doesn't sit well with you.
I have become convinced
the light is there for you under any name or none. 


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Dark of the Year

Here we are
 with the dark evenings
suddenly having taken that leap forward they always do
when we put our clocks back an hour.
The curtains are closed early.
Some of us embrace the darkness
 at Halloween;
disguising ourselves,
 in an ancient attempt to fool the dark forces,
and pass unrecognised and unharmed
 through it's ranks.  

I write this on Guy Fawkes Night and the bonfires are blazing
 and the fireworks cracking the night open
 as we take another tack,
arming ourselves,
 defiant against the dark
by gathering to warmth and light of our own making.
I was reared in the blackout nights of the second world war,
when we scurried between our neighbours houses and our own
on the unlit Welsh hills.
Family ghost stories engrained in us,
 lending panic.
It seemed to my child's mind that God must be other than this fear and darkness.
Somehow or other grace led me to long for the Light I knew must God,
and to be filled with this Light.
In my childish way I pictured a lantern,
 and asked to have "clean glass" 
for His light. 
Amalfi lanterns
Many years later I found the words which confirmed His nature and His promise.
"I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life."
John 8:12
And, incredibly, his promise to us of our share in His light and life.
"You are the light of the world.
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl,
instead they put it on a stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your father in heaven."
Matt 5:14-16
The offer is complete. 
 We so imperfect, and ordinary in ourselves can be part of the light in a dark world.
Knowing myself as I do
It seems impossible
 but we are not meant to measure ourselves by our own yardstick,
but by a light of love beyond measure.
It is for us simply to give ourselves to the Light and Life of God
as much as we, by grace, are able.
I love these words of Tagore, and have often prayed them.
Let only that little be left of me whereby I may name thee my all.
-----Let only that little be left of my will whereby I may feel thee on every side,
and come to thee in everything, and offer to thee my love every moment.
-----Let only that little be left of me whereby I may never hide thee.

-----Let only that little of my fetters be left whereby I am bound with thy will,
and thy purpose is carried out in my life - and that is the fetter of thy love.
 Gitanjali  Song 34
I cannot think of a better way to face the dark of the year,
or the dark of life
can you?