groundsel and tutsan

I’m worried.

I don’t try not to be worried because I don’t really know what to do when it descends like it does. Ride it out?

Or perhaps I need to consider groundsel, creeping buttercups, tutsan.
I was out in the garden today trying to restore order. I have been struggling with what to plant and when to plant it. I am trying to practice crop rotation. The pieces don’t fit harmoniously, there are gaps that should have vegetables. Where there are gaps there are weeds eager to fill space. It seems chaotic.

Except what is a weed?
What is order?

There is one corner that is a complete mess if you think of an orderly garden that gets mowed at least once a week.
I went to cut it a few weeks ago but stopped short. I stopped short because I’ve noticed that goldfinches like to eat the seeds of the weeds. If I sorted out those ‘weeds’ and had a lawn there I wouldn’t have goldfinches to surprise me when washing the dishes on dreary Monday mornings.

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I was hanging washing out today and heard an unfamiliar whistling noise coming from the tree. It was a female bullfinch. She took off, her partner joined her and landed on my spade. Then they both jumped on to the weed in the corner that the goldfinch liked and munched a few seeds.

I’ve not paid enough attention to flowers over the years which is a bit of a sin I suppose. I’m not sure what the weed is.
Looking for its name on a website  I stumbled across the names of a few other plants I noticed in the garden today and which I am going to try to remember:- tutsan and groundsel.
And I’m going to learn more names. I am going to consider the lilies of the fields and the weeds of the garden and look at finches feeding on the weeds and read these words again.

“…what’s the use of worrying? What good does it do? Will it add a single day to your life? Of course not! 26 And if worry can’t even do such little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies! They don’t toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are. 28 And if God provides clothing for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, don’t you suppose that he will provide clothing for you, you doubters? 29 And don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink; don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you. 30 All mankind scratches for its daily bread, but your heavenly Father knows your needs. 31 He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.’

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dry wells

I am  tired despite returning  from a holiday at the beginning of the week.
We have family that live near Almeria and I had never been out to see them and where they live. So this year (and thanks to a kind Christmas present) we flew over to the south of Spain on the new, improved, nice and caring Ryanair for a week. Which is how we ended up spending a few nights in a nice Spanish village

This time last week I was walking around the beautiful Spanish village of Mojacar on a holiday.
If that sounds lovely you should also know that a fight with your wife is still a fight with your wife no matter if it’s a lovely village and knowing that you’re spending money in something that you don’t do very often but having a fight instead of making the most of it can make you pretty miserable.

So although it was nice to be away I’m knackered and didn’t find the holiday relaxing. Heat tires me and my inner Presbyterian couldn’t get the hang of the resting in the afternoon business.  I never got the hang of when you are supposed to eat lunch and dinner. The language as well.

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That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Spain and seeing where my nephew and niece live because I like seeing new places. Some might think that the endless acres of plastic greenhouses that supply Europe with tomatoes and watermelons are an eyesore but I find them interesting:-
Where are the getting the water to grow watermelons in the driest part of Europe? Are they going to desalinate seawater and use it? How is climate change going to effect this area and how is that going to effect my sister and brother-in-law. my nephew and niece?

Then  it starts boiling over into the problems with the world:-
How do people work inside those greenhouses in what must be phenomenal heat? Are the migrant workers treated fairly? Do you realise that flying on your Ryanair flight on holidays is contributing to climate change here in Almeria? 

The one thing I really wanted to do over in Spain was to see new colours and draw new things, to feel a surge of inspiration surging and to be creative again. I feel like any wells of creativity that I had have dried up, a bit like the countryside and river beds around Almeria. But I felt uninspired and too awkward to create. No paints, no markers, no skill.

On the way home from the airport I was complaining to H about the way people act on Ryanair flights. ‘There are schoolgirls having to walk miles each day to get clean drinking water and then there are 50 yr old men who throw their dummies out of the pram when an air hostess moves their hand luggage a few metres away to section 29A’
 I said ‘People are so fortunate to be able to go on holidays, they should recognise this and stop acting like they….etc etc.’

Of course I was doing the exact same the whole holiday, moaning about the heat and my lack of ability to order a tapas without embarrassment. There a kids sleeping in refugee camps tonight and I’m having a meltdown because I have to sit under a sun shade and it’s making me sweat. Saying that out loud seems to make perfect sense. I need to get a grip.

Yet I’m tired as well. And I also think that saying things like ‘We should get a grip because we have it pretty good compared to so many in the world’ is a bit arrogant (?) in a way or perhaps untrue. It sounds as if we’re not really that sick or needy and screwed up and under the thumb of oppressive systems which as a Christian I don’t believe. ‘The World’ or Kingdom of Death or however you want to phrase the way Satan works against us is an ever present reality. Just because I don’t live in a country that persecutes or oppresses Christians by throwing them in jail doesn’t meant that we’re not oppressed. Like the sense of hopelessness that I get from absorbing the ways of the world does a pretty good job of robbing me of vitality for life or for serving.

I was thinking about this sense of hopelessness  or why we complain in the face of so much privilege while reading Jacques Ellul.

‘One can prove to the members of our modern societies that our ancestors never enjoyed this much means, freedom, happiness, well-being, available opportunities, long life, culture, pleasure, leisure, communication, and dialogue, but one will never convince the person in our modern society that he is living in a little paradise’

Also:-

‘In the most pacified and guaranteed society which has ever existed, man is living in uncertainty and growing fear. In the most scientific of societies, man is living in the irrational. In the most liberal of societies, man is living ‘repression,’ and even hyper-repression. In a society in which the means of communication are the most highly developed, man is living a sort of phantasmagoria. In a society in which everything is done to establish relationships, man is living in solitude…’

 

 

flying snow

There is sleet sliding down the living room window, wind blowing down the chimney, silence in the house. My thoughts are grim.

There is so much broken around me,broken in me.

Someone called to the house last week, a single parent . Watching him drive off with the kids I thought how black and heart-breaking to loose someone you love but have to carry on, carry on, carry on picking up the pieces carrying on for the kids.

Thinking about it some more there are many single parents in ‘our place’. Then there are those who are currently separated from children not through choice, but because of having to flee persecution in their native land.
Imagine not seeing your children for many years ? Then imagine not being able to afford bring them over when free?
Then you keep picking up other bits of sadness  from an infinite sea and adding them together. Imagine that happening? What if that happened?
Spotting some report about the threat of bird flu on the corner of a website or wondering how we will cope whenever death comes makes me feel ill. Basically it’s scary out there. Basically I wonder how we’ll cope.

I appreciated reading this  Wendell Berry poem the other night in bed and for moment thought about the seeds I plan to plant in the garden come spring.
I’m not sure why the sight of garlic appearing through the water logged soil or imagining the smell of broad beans  calms me a little, but it does.

February 2, 1968

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

Wendell Berry

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autocomplete anxiety

anxiety

anxiety is a living hell, all in your head, a gift, affecting my work
anxiety is back, bullshit, bad, bad for your health
anxiety is coming back, controlling my life, crippling me, considered disordered
anxiety is destroying my life, destroying my relationship, destroying me
anxiety is exhausting, eating me alive, easy to treat? excitement
anxiety is freedom, fake, fear, fear of the future
anxiety is getting worse, getting out of control, getting the best of me, good
anxiety is holding me back, harmless, horrible, hereditary
anxiety is it a mental illness? is it real? is it hereditary? is it genetic?
anxiety is just a feeling, just a state of mind, just fear? just a bad habit?
anxiety is killing me, keeping me awake at night, keeping me from working, keeping me from school
anxiety is love’s greatest killer, like a rocking chair, living in the future
anxiety is making me ill, making me feel sick, making me suicidal, making me depressed
anxiety is not real, normal, not a sign of weakness, not a mental illness
anxiety is on the rise, OK, often treated with___, out of control
anxiety is pointless, paralyzing me, painful, paralyzing
anxiety is quotes, freedom quote, quiz,questionnaire
anxiety is ruining my life, ruining my life yahoo, ruining my relationship, ruining my health
anxiety is stopping me sleeping, scaring me, stopping me from working, stupid
anxiety is taking over my life, the dizziness of freedom, the handmaiden of creativity, the only real emotion
anxiety is unbearable, uncontrollable, untreatable, unhealthy
anxiety is a vicious cycle, vs depression, vitamins, vomiting
anxiety is worse in the morning, wrecking my life, worse than depression
anxiety is xanax
anxiety is your friend, in your head, yoga, yawning
anxiety is zoloft

the pleasure of being sad

A good friend got us an interesting and appreciated Christmas present, ‘A Field Guide to Melancholy‘ by Jacky Bowring which I have been reflecting on and reading the past few days.


At one point on New Years Day I found myself alone drinking tea and reading this book, looking at a big lonely Christmas tree in a hotel lobby thinking that everything fitted together very nicely. It looked sad, purposeless, days numbered yet also beautiful in the first gloomy day of 2014.

At another point in Sligo I found myself trying to draw the hotel and getting really down that it just didn’t look right, that the lines where wrong and my colouring pencils didn’t match the colours, that I can’t capture things properly when drawing while simultaneously enjoying the whole process.

And yesterday in Cookstown I was getting sad about how the once thriving Saturday market in my home town has all but disappeared now thanks to M&S, LIDL, Asda, Tesco,Argos, Homebase etc while also taking delight in the nostalgia of what it used to be like (or what I imagined it used to be like).

In fact the more I’ve thought about it the past few days, the more I realised that I’m maybe just a sad guy at heart and maybe that is OK. Not all the time, but maybe as a sort of default setting that is part of who I am.  And perhaps 2014 is the year to accept that and even see the value in it instead of wondering ‘What is wrong with me?’ Maybe it’s just time to value the paradox of it all.

Although I found the book to be a bit dense sometimes I am grateful that someone has written a book casting sadness and melancholy as something that can be good, positive and even beautiful as it makes me feel like less of a freak.

So much of modern society seems to be about pursuing happiness or eradicating sadness which makes me feel out of place. It’s not that I don’t want to be happy more that I’m not so sure if I want to get rid of the dark, sad bits in me sometimes and that makes me wonder if I’m OK in the head as who wants sad, dark bits in them?.

There is one bit of the book that I keep thinking about:-

‘[However], psychiatric concerns cast the Field Guide’s advocacy of melancholy as a rich dimension of human existence into tricky territory, with global worries over the increase in mental illness – of an escalation of melancholy as madness. Writers such as Peter D Kramer are emphatic that depression as a medical illness should be eradicated, just as diseases like smallpox have been’

It’s something that I think about. Would I change my natural inclination towards melancholia if I could?

I don’t think I would.
One of the things that brings me joy in life is experimenting, creating and I although it also drives me crazy lots of the time I often feel at my most creative when I am down in the dumps, maybe even in some place beyond ‘down in the dumps’. As the book suggests perhaps that is the trade off.

It’s the paradox that although something might make me sad I can also feel extreme joy towards it.
I might feel alive and like I’m flourishing with creativity or appreciate the beauty in some sad work of art.
As the book suggest the lines seem blurry with many of these definitions, and I can only speak from my experience but I am not sure I would want the sad bits in me to be eradicated like smallpox as I am not sure how parts of me I enjoy and help me to love my neighbour wouldn’t also be eradicated in the process. Those bits seem linked.

There is a quote from Victor Hugo at the start of the book. Some part of me likes the idea of sombre joy.

‘Melancholy is a twilight state; suffering melts into it and becomes a sombre joy. Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad.

insecurity..

‘Constantly comparing your lot with others, especially those who have more than you, is not a prescription for feeling safe. IF you are always worrying about whether you have enough money and the right appearance, or seeking fame, you are digging a hole for yourself which can never be deep enough – the proverbial bottomless pit. You will have a nameless sense that there is something else you should be doing, a free-floating anxiety. You will be depressively running yourself down because you do not do as well as other, moving the goalposts if you do succeed. At the same time, you may deal with your sense of inadequacy by falsely building yourself up (exaggerating your wonderfulness in a narcissistic compensation and by desperate attention-seeking’

Oliver James, Affluenza