Sunday 9 November 2014

Update from Bognor, home of the A Graceful Death exhibition, the closing in of the year, and rain.

Chapter one.

Rain today is my friend.  When I am in control of it, I love it.  When I am not stuck in it and cold and wet, I love it.  The sound of rain falling outside gives me a sense of peaceful melancholia, and because I am not actually miserable, I can indulge in a little nostalgic remembering. I have the sounds of rain playing on my laptop too, ten hours of it on Youtube, to help me to focus. It is white noise, and though I know ten hours of listening to a dishwasher would be the same thing, I can't bring myself to look for that on Youtube.  There is romance in rain falling and none in dishes being washed. 

November has brought with it darkness, shorter days and a feeling of things ending.  I am ready for this year to be closing, and feel comforted that though this is the last part of the year, a new one will follow and the cycle of ending and beginning will run as it always does.  (Like a dishwasher programme).  There is something peaceful about the expansiveness of Summer drawing to a close, and the prospect of closing in and folding up over the darker and quieter months of Winter.  In the Summer, I wear colourful cotton dresses, flip flops and bright earrings; I hold my arms wide open to catch the sun and the light.  I like to breathe deeply, smile into the sunshine, and feel the warmth and heat on my skin. There is so much daylight, there is always so much to do.  I eat fruit, and scones, and think of the bigger picture in life. I imagine huge projects and plan extravaganzas with people who think like I do.  Time is slower, and space larger, everything is possible.

Today, November, it has all come to an end.  It is dark at teatime, it is dark in the morning, and the rain is falling outside buffeted by the wind.  I have to cover up to go out, and today I have chosen to wear black because it feels good and comforting.  Now, I don't consider the bigger picture.  I want details, to think things through and to make plans.  I eat hot food and wrap myself in warm soft blankets when I sit down on the sofa in my sitting room.  I wear a blanket in the studio while the heater makes my hands less cold.  I put on my fairy lights in the hallway, in my sitting room and outside the studio because in so much darkness, the lights look like magic, like stars.  Now I am curling up in my home, and feeling the need to sleep and to hide away.  As I write this, over the sea in Bognor lightening is flashing, and over my house there is thunder.  Banging in the Sky the children used to call it.  I remember once being stuck in my car outside our old house in London with one of the children aged about four, in November, with the rain falling loudly on the car around us.  In the darkness the thunder crashed and we had to wait for the deluge to stop just a little, so that we could run out of the car, up the street and into the house.  That was where the phrase banging in the sky came from.  It was magical being cocooned in the dark in a safe but tiny space in a violent thunder storm with a little child.  The rain was so loud it was hypnotic.  We held onto each other and imagined we knew who was doing the banging up there in the sky.  We went through all our neighbours, friends and family, and by the time we had finished the whole lot of them, the little one was asleep in my arms.

Chapter two

November and December will be less busy, as I have studio work to do and I am planning to get in there and paint.  This means less hoovering, less food shopping, a lot less longing to see people who live half a day's journey away, and less thinking about my next mealtime.

It is best if I give you bite sized accounts of October, which was a very good but exhausting month.

  •  A Graceful Death went to Ascot at the end of September, to a weekend festival run by an environment awareness movement called Ascent.  My dear old friend Sharon Galliford and I did an adapted AGD for two hours, and very successful it was too.  In every exhibition, there is at least one person who comes away feeling awakened and lightened.  AGD has succeeded only when that person, or people, have come.  At the Ascot exhibition, a man who had to leave the next day to see his dying mother for the last time, was able to come to terms with what was happening, and to understand something of what he was going to see and experience.  My heart goes out to this lovely man, and wherever he is, I wish him peace and his mother a safe journey home.

  • The Conversations Project is fully up and running. My new colleague and friend, palliative care nurse Gill Lake, and I held our fourth "Conversations about the End of Life, Finding Time to Think in Our Busy World" at the New Park Community Centre in Chichester.  As with AGD, the one person who comes without knowing anything, and leaves with a way to start thinking about what dying is about, means the session has worked.  For our last session, not many people came, but those that did come, really needed to.  Here is more about what we are doing in an article I wrote for Dying Matters -

  • Swansea!  AGD went up to Swansea to the Elephant in the Room event run by husband and wife team Kiera Jones and Jim Fox.  Oh that was such fun.  Utterly exhausting but so worth it.  A huge event to inspire, challenge and reassure, with a new venture for an event like this, a play directed by Jim called Colder than Here by Laura Wade.  Terribly funny and terribly sad, but oh so wonderful.  Here is another article from Dying Matters about the Elephant in the Room Event .  I love Dying Matters because they always let me write about what I am doing, and anyone who keeps saying Yes to me is a life long friend.  The event was full to bursting with tea and cake, and I saw what I always knew, that Kiera Jones, alongside my dear friend and colleague Mandy Preeece, both are absolutely fabulous Soul Midwives.  Both ladies really do the job.  And Jim Fox is up there with Sarah Weller as a Sound Bath Maestro. I also met and talked with Dr Penny Sartori, who researches Near Death Experiences, Out of Body Experiences and all such astonishing and fascinating phenomena at the end of life.  Penny struck me as a deeply intelligent, experienced and dedicated researcher.  Her PhD is on these subjects and her latest book,  "The Wisdom of Near Death Experiences:  How Understanding NDE's Can Help Us to Live More Fully" is out now.  I bought a copy and made her sign it. Actually we got on really well and I didn't make her do anything.  

Kiera and I hugging after her moving and powerful talk on Soul Midwifery.  Kiera is a palliative care nurse and in her spare time, runs The Centre with Jim, offering free support and complimentary therapies to those suffering from life limiting conditions and their carers.  Me, I'm holding a hot kettle because I was so cold and wouldn't wear anything to cover up my pretty jumper and so not look nice. 

  •  Reiki.  I have begun to practice Reiki from home.  I love healing, and have always done it.  Now I have a name for it, and a wonderful teacher in Mandy Preece.  I have a healing room and have begun to do an hour long session for anyone that wants to come.  I charge £30 for the hour, and am thinking of extending it to cover conversation afterwards, as it seems some clear and profound thinking comes to my clients as they sit quietly afterwards.  Here is the best picture yet of my darling friend Claire after her latest session.  Claire and I fell about laughing at this and don't be put off, if you do look like this after, it will feel lovely. 

Claire does not suffer fools gladly and would not allow Reiki if she didn't feel safe.  So when I took this of Claire and we saw it, we nearly fell off the sofa laughing.  I promise I won't laugh at you though if you come for some healing.   Unless you are very funny and then I will tell you it is part of the healing.

  • Qi Gong.  I have started Qi Gong and the first time I did it I felt so sick I had to sit down.  You have a good mind, and good energy, the teacher said, but no essence.  So in the hope of finding some essence I have been practising it every morning.  I am no longer sick, and am going back tomorrow hoping he will feel sorry he ever said I lack essence.  It will be shooting out of the top of my head and that will be that.

  • Paintings - I am doing another of the God's Life series.  I have done God's Study, God's Kitchen and now I am commissioned to do a third.  God's School Day.  Here is the original God's Study, I have done a good few of them now.  So far, only one God's Kitchen and God's School Day though.

The original God's Study. The God's Life series are a snapshot of the room God has just popped out of, and we get to glimpse into what is happening for the few moments God is absent, answering the door, or putting the cat out.  The ones I do now are customised to include references to the person who is commissioning it.  
  • And finally.  Father Dominic.  I am painting my youngest brother as the final painting for AGD.  After this last painting, I will do no more paintings for A Graceful Death.  It will be big enough, and Dominic is a most wonderful subject for the final painting and interview in this most extraordinary of exhibitions.  Dominic is living with stage four bowel cancer, and is doing well after much surgery and chemo.  But his life and expectations are different, turned upside down, and he has shown enormous wisdom and humanity in his acceptance - and fighting the fear of -  his cancer.  I have been raising money to pay for the painting, and all the work that goes into creating the interviews and writing to accompany the portrait.  I have raised £600 so far, and am so grateful for the love and kindness shown to Dom.  Here is the Go Fund Me page.  Have a look, read what I have said, and if you wish to, make a donation. I cannot pretend I don't need the money, so please do what you can. And a million thanks to all those who have already donated.  Thank you.

Chapter 3

If this blog was a play, you would need an interval now.  So off you go, have some tea, and have a lovely quiet thoughtful November. Wrap yourself up warm, spend time listening to the dishwasher if it isn't raining, and we will meet again in December.  I look forward to it.  

I would love to say this is me doing Reiki and laughing, but it isn't.  It is taken by my son, Giant Boy after he has been telling me jokes.  See you all in December.