stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Beginning anew

Ringing in a new era

Ringing this bell in Shoren-in temple in Kyoto in November felt like a new start somehow. One had to hold the rope attached to a huge log, and fling it toward the bell. I had rung it eighteen months before, on my last trip and it felt wonderful.

But this time it had a profound effect on me. I could hardly walk. I think my whole body and being reverberated too, (just like a bell, with hindsight) I found I was breathing in staccato breaths. Hyperventilating? No. Was my pulse fast too? No, I checked it to make sure. But I was shaking all over. Eventually I stopped "ringing" in sympathy, but it took ten minutes or so. Luckily, one of our party had lost her way inside the temple and couldnt find the exit, so I had time to recover. Which was as well, as I found it difficult to do anything but stand still, and stare at the reflection of clouds passing, in a nearby puddle. Not very spiritual!

Ringing in the New Year

Tonight at midnight I will be ringing English bells the more traditional British way. They will sound out their own kind of healing and hope. But will bring nothing like the phenomenal effects of their cousin in Japan.

Happy New Year and I hope the ahead brings all good things for you.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas from Dorset


Just add food, family and friends!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nearly Christmas

Where would we be without a midwinter festival of light to look forward to in the depths of the winter darkness? Some snapshots of the weekend before Christmas in Dorset, England :-

It dawns cold, with wonderful frost patterns on the roof of my car.

But the sun shines, with fluffy seedheads of Golden Rod Solidago against the sky.

The important ingredients of a Saturday morning! A drive to the next village results in a granary loaf straight out of the baker's oven - it smells and tastes wonderful. And a paper with so many sections that it will take me a week to read it, (with an excellent general knowledge crossword too)

Later on Saturday evening there are carols on the village green, to raise funds for the children's play area - a community event. Its getting quite chilly, and the cold sky shines with stars.

My husband is asked to bring along his brass band friends to accompany the carols. Their breath floats on the frosty air along with the music.

Sunday morning, and I am off to bell ringing in Charminster. Rowan berries are still shining on the trees in the church yard under the ancient bell tower.

The band, ready to ring the front six (of our ten bells). The tradtional words said by the treble ringer (thats the smallest and lightest bell which is on the left) before pulling off are " Look to. Treble's going. She's gone" They are said as you pull the bell off the balance and start ringing. We ring around the old font at the back of the church, on the ground floor - rather than in a belfry, higher up in the tower like some churches.

Youngest Daughter is now a journalist with the Western Gazette, and is the reporter responsible for the Sherborne area. There she is at the top of the main street of Sherborne, on a Sunday afternoon, with some of the lovely old buildings. I can so easily imagine it with coaches and horses in the streets rather than cars. Its hardly touched by the last century.

Back home to Frampton to the candle lit Carol Service in our village church, but there is light from a few wall lights too. Our neighbours donated and decorated the huge tree. I only had my phone but took a quick shot from my seat, past the wooden barley stick candle holder. We had mulled wine, mince pies and delicious cheesey biscuits afterwards (I am trying to get the recipe).

The organist is a very elderly spinster, who has played here for years. Sadly her fingers and feet are not as nimble as they were (she uses a zimmer frame) and the whole musical event is rather like something from the Vicar of Dibley (if you have ever seen the BBC TV series). She plays at a consistent speed - funereal and deadly slow. You can always tell the newcomers to the village as they are caught out, and are singing at the usual speed. They are at the end of the second line before she has started on the first! Bless her, its just one of the special things that makes a village Christmas. No-one would dream of asking her to stand down, even though it takes a long time to get through nine lessons and carols at this rate. At one point there is a brief power cut, and the church is plunged into darkness - a good job there are candles. Of course the organ drones on for a few seconds, before the air from the electrically driven bellows runs out, and there is no air left in the organ pipes. Silence. Then there is a loud whisper " God must be a musician. He is giving us a break!"

Back home to our Christmas tree. Yes that's a bear in a fairy dress on top of the tree!
Its nearly the longest night of the year, the midwinter Solstice.
May we find our way out of the darkness into the Light.
Light and Love to you and yours.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Kyoto memories

By popular request, a few images from my recent visit. View slowly and enjoy (click to enlarge if you wish)

But first, a quote from "A guide to the gardens of Kyoto" by Marc Treib

"The famous Zen priest Muso Kokushi (1271-1346) wrote at great length about the intuitive nature of gardening as opposed to "words and phrases". Muso believed that one should not talk about the concepts and expressions of gardens : rather, the practice of zazen (seated meditation) and gardening intuitively supported enlightenment. Muso also believed that the garden of the Zen monastery is a "means by which we can give up the attachment to words and phrases and attain the ultimate reality"

Left to right - Robert, Bruna, Michael, Chris, Jane, Me, David, Colleen
We came from England, Scotland, USA and Australia. Thanks to Michael for this one.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mid winter

The weather is weird. Its too warm. Its not natural. It puts one very off balance to be able to walk outside in December without a coat. Its very stormy and windy, we have had tornadoes. They are not new mind you, a friend has only just returned to his house in Birmingham that was dreadfully damaged the summer before last. But its not all cloudy and grey.

In between the wildness we have had clear skies that have revealed the glorious full moon. It is a pleasure to drive to work into sunrises that seem full of hope and take your breath away (illegally taken on a mobile phone while driving, shhhhh!)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Martial Art Librarian?

Living a long way from a city means I can't just pop into a shop to buy a t'ai chi sword. I am happy to carry on training with a wooden one. Its very traditional thing to do, and I want the right sword to come to me. I don't want to buy one over the internet, as they vary in weight and balance. I can wait.

Travelling through London on the way to Japan, the LLF took me on a tour of Chinatown. We found plenty of interesting shops, but no martial arts emporium. Being a librarian too, she had done some investigations and drawn a blank on where to buy a t'ai chi sword.

Last time I went to Kyoto, I found a bokken easily (you can see a photo of it here) - a wooden Japanese sword which we use in a set of enjoyable training moves. So I reasoned that I may be able to find a t'ai chi sword this time.

On one of our many meanderings between temples, I spied a small entrance to a shop with a rack of bokken by the door. Motioning to the group (who were strung out back along the street) to wait a bit, I ventured in. It was full of wonderful things - all manner of clothing, weapons (a bit like this one) - oh I wanted it ALL. Not a soul in sight, so I reluctantly drew myself away from drooling over it and found two people in a cubbyhole at the back, talking earnestly and totally oblivious to my presence. I coughed politely and mumbled something like "summimasen". The old man looked up and looked blank as I tried to explain what I wanted. Eventually the look changed. "Ahhh" he sighed, and stood up and waved his arm expansively around the shop. "Kendo, aikido, iaido, judo, kyudo....Japanese!" He grew an inch and stood proudly, and the concept of nihonjinron was embodied in every muscle. "T'ai chi....Chinese" His tone of voice now conveyed slight disdain and sadness for me that I should want something other than the very best. I felt dismissed, I bowed my thanks and slunk out of the shop.

I am still waiting for the right sword to find its way to me. And still slowly learning the t'ai chi sword form with my trusty wooden one, as befits a student. Its already been hinted that I should not be learning this form yet - normally it takes a few more years and mastery of the long form before being allowed a weapon.

But now I think of it, why did I go out of my way to persuade my sports teacher at school to include fencing alongside rounders and tennis and other girlie pursuits? Why did I take to it like a duck to water? Its true, I do come alive with a sword in my hand, albeit a wooden one. (Musashi Miyamoto could do a lot of damage just with his bokken!) I can even enjoy a whole evening of "push hands" - with no sword!

I discovered this article when I was following a trail through the wilds of the internet about librarians who practice martial arts. "T'ai chi as a metaphor for librarianship"

Monday morning at work in Library HQ will be more interesting than usual! Let alone Monday evening t'ai chi class.