In The Clouds

Today we are fog bound, we can only see about 100 metres. It’s a dense, wet fog, the kind that stills sounds and feels really cold. We even lit a fire this morning and that very rarely needs to happen, especially in October.

This week  we had a beautiful, hot, sunny day. Right from sun-rise we had a lovely hot and summery day. We were outside working on our house, putting up rafters with tee-shirts on and a water bottle up on the scaffolding with us to stay hydrated. I even had on a hat to prevent my face from sun-burn.

However we couldn’t see the valley below us because of a low lying cloud of fog that was really thick. The previous day had been foggy in the lowlands however the fog  lifted by mid-morning and we could see really far into the distance.

I went down to the nearest big town for some groceries and cat food sometime before lunch on the really hot sunny day and I put on a shirt over my tee thinking that I would be warm enough. As I drove down the hill I started to chill and regretted not having grabbed a jacket, the temperature really dropped quickly.

Town was really cold and everyone that I met and talked to in the shops (because we talk to each other in small towns, even if we don’t really know each other) was in a downcast mood.  It was as though the fog was clouding everyone’s joy.  I did the shopping as quickly as possible to get back up the hill to the sunshine.

As I put the messages (that’s what we call the groceries here) away in the van I was thinking, once again, how lucky we are to live up on the hills. The radio was on and I was listening to Today FM, a channel that has friendly morning chat and music, nothing too political.

The dj had been interviewing someone and took a break for the “good news” which was a little strange. As I listened to the news I realised why he had called it the “good news”, the newsreader spoke about a little girl who lived in Cork who had the stabilisers removed from her bike and was doing really well. There was mention of a couple who had just moved into their first house together and a beloved school teacher who had been ill and was back in the classroom. All of the stories were good news stories!

The person being interviewed was really impressed and asked if all Irish radio stations did the same thing, unfortunately they don’t – yet. The “normal” news was on ten minutes later and wasn’t nearly as much fun.

When I got home, back up the hill into the hot sunshine, I told my husband about the “goodnews” broadcast and we wondered when was it decided, and by whom, that news broadcasts should be predominantly bad/sad news. Who decided that? Why was the decision made? Who benefits from broadcasting bad/sad news to the nation, every hour on the hour?

I know that it is important to know what is going on around us however I think that it is important to know both the good and the bad news. We don’t have the balance right at all.

Most of my friends don’t buy or read daily newspapers or watch the tv news, most also try to avoid the radio news however that is lots of work as they broadcast it every hour. Thank you to Today FM and the Ray D’Arcy show for the good news! I must listen more often and find out if the good-news is a daily event.

I thought that it was quite fitting that I had driven above the fog to the sunny heights of our hill to have this chat about listening to the mass media version of news and what we are supposed to be concerned about.

Sometimes I wonder about people who listen to the media version of events every day, who read all the papers, broadsheet or tabloid, who watch the tv news – are they living in a fog?

A fog induced by a daily diet of overwhelmingly bad news, fear inducing, power-sapping news that makes them think that they cannot possible change the world, their world, our world?

If you think that there is nothing that you can do to influence change do you give up trying?

I sure hope not ‘cos a lot of people do watch the daily power-sap commonly known as The News. I know that I had to stop watching it every day as it was certainly overwhelming for me. I can only speak for myself of course.

How do you feel about The News?

Please add a comment and let me know……..

‘Last Night in Syria’

This article is posted to highlight a sad story. The Women For A Change Community have been supporting the families of the young people who have been imprisoned so harshly in Iran.

On 26th July last year, Emily – a UK student of Arabic – married Basel – a Palestinian artist.

They had a beautiful fairy-like wedding in Damascus, Syria. You can see it here:
http://womenforachangecommunity.ning.com/profiles/blogs/last-night-in-syria-sarah

Emily was helping with the Iraqi Student Project, teaching refugees at Yamouk. Her friend Sarah, from the US, was a volunteer there. Sarah came to Emily’s wedding, with her lover Shane, and their friends Josh and Shon.
Sadly, the fairy-story quickly turned into a tragedy.

The following day, Sarah, Shane, Josh and Shon set off on a much-needed holiday.
They lived their lives determined to correct negative misconceptions of the Middle East and to help repair damage done by the US government, in cultural relations. (They wrote many blogs and articles to this effect).

Their holiday took them to the mountains and waterfalls of Iraqi Kurdistan, one of the most peaceful regions – also staggeringly beautiful and increasingly popular with tourists.

On the 31st July, Sarah, Shane and Josh were hiking on a tourist trail and, it is not known what happened, but they disappeared after a brief phonecall from Shane to Shon (who was back at the hotel) to say he needed to call the US Embassy.

2 weeks later, Iran broke the news that Sarah, Shane and Josh were in Evin Prison, Tehran, on suspicion of being spies who, they claimed, had hiked across the border into Iran…

So, sadly, this beautiful wedding video now tells a very different tale.

We are working closely with the families and friends of Sarah, Shane and Josh, especially Sarah’s mother, Nora, and Shon, the ‘4th Hiker’. We have also, over the last 2 weeks, come to know Emily and Basel, who generously have allowed us to share their wedding video with the world, in order to help show dispel any last doubts that Sarah, Shane and Josh could be spies.

You may have seen in the media, 2 weeks ago, footage of the mothers visiting Sarah, Shane and Josh for the first time in Evin Prison.
In which case, you may know that Sarah and Shane announced their engagement to their mothers. Shane had woven Sarah a ring out of his shirt threads, in Evin.

‘Last Night in Syria’ shows a deeply-moving scene of Sarah and Shane dancing together.
Sarah is now in solitary confinement, and sees Shane – so we are told – for an hour a day.

Emily and Basel’s story does not yet have a happy ending either… They are also embroiled in governmental policies which means that, nearly a year later, they still live thousands of miles apart while Basel awaits permission from UK immigration authorities to join his wife in the UK.

With today’s shocking news about the Israeli governments knee-jerk reaction to the Flotilla, the two love-stories in this film become yet more poignant and symbolic of how governments and politics impact on the lives of peace-loving civilians.

For me, personally, there is the added personal element that, this day last year, I was on honeymoon in Tel Aviv. We had just spent 2 weeks with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian friends, and made many more new friends along the way, all of whom said they wanted to be free to get on with their lives, and – importantly – to get on with each other…

Please help to share this video as widely as you can, in any way you can…
On your websites, blogs, the media, women’s magazines…
BBC Persia has already expressed interest in using some of the footage, and ABC7 in America.
further suggestions welcome.

Love, peace and gratitude to all,
Chris

Chris Crowstaff, film-maker

BRIDGET’S DAY

Happy Bridget’s Day
Although by many calendars today, February 2nd is Imbolc and for many that includes the olden goddess Bridget, in my local community and for many in Ireland February 1st is considered St Bridget’s day.
In one of my local towns – and even as I say that I realise it sounds strange however there are a few towns around here that feel like local towns to me now because of where I shop or go to night classes – now where was I? In Ballinamore in Co Leitrim there is a shrine to Bridget above the town and beside the graveyard. It is always well cared for and has candles lighting there regularly and sometimes little mementoes or even coins left there for special intention.
I would say that most people who spend reflective time there may be addressing their intentions towards St Bridget, for me there is simply Bridget and I love that connection between the older pagan type spirituality and the newer christian spirituality.
Bridgets Day is still held as a pattern day in Ballinamore. A pattern day is a very old custom in Ireland and thankfully is respected still in many rural areas, when the local people gather and pray at a shrine or  holy-well or even at holy rocks. There is a pattern to the praying, a certain ritual to be followed whether it be walking sun-wise (clockwise) around the shrine for a set number of times reciting a certain prayer or group of prayers such as a rosary.
In Ballinamore the pattern includes walking around the shrine and through a small part of the graveyard – I need to ask more about this locally. Last year I took part and did what I saw others doing. There is a lovely feeling in taking part of an ancient outdoor ritual with people from the local community, even though I only knew a few faces.
I loved the fact that this pattern is considered such a regular part of life here. There were people young and old, walking alone as I was or with family, neighbours or friends. Some pray aloud, some pray quietly, moving their lips and many were simply reflective or praying to themselves, rosary beads swaying as they walked slowly and reverently in the footsteps of so many before them.
There were many cars parked at the roadside in which some people, many quite old and stiffened with age and life, had travelled to the shrine. Most local people had walked the distance from town as people had done in years gone past, for many the walk from town is part of the pattern and they pray as they walk. Even the younger ones who walked with friends were keeping a respectful atmosphere, chatting very quietly with each other. Others, like myself, had maybe travelled from the surrounding countryside to be there.
This year as I took a few moments of quiet at the shrine lighting a votive candle I noticed that there were a lot people setting off down the wee side road that runs alongside the graveyard after they had finished their rounds of the graveyard. They were all wearing wellies (rubber boots), some were carrying little empty water bottles and they were all keeping the silence of pray-full space with them.
Always up for an adventure, especially a spiritual adventure, I followed off down the road too. This was great fun and unexpected, to be heading off down a road I never walked before, not knowing where I was heading, how long it would take or even if I would get there as everyone else was obviously dressed for all sorts or terrain with their waterproof boots and big coats.
I was wearing bright summer sandals on my feet because I had only gone to town to post some packages and had forgotten that it was pattern day until I saw all the activity. I did notice that some of the people coming back the road were amused and dismayed in equal amounts by my choice of footwear. I, however, was gladdened to know that people were coming back! Now at least I knew that this was a “there and back” journey, not a tramp across endless terrain towards who knew what! I am exaggerating there a little I think!
People nodded towards each other, and me, when they met on the road but other than that a silence pervaded which was very peaceful. After some time we turned off the road and into a field, however it looked to be fairly dry so I followed along.
I decided that if the going got very wet I could then decide to either turn back or get very wet feet, as it happened I didn’t have to make that decision because the ground, although very soft in places, had a well worn track and I was able to keep my socks dry.
We were some distance now from any roads and it was so lovely to be following along in quiet procession, just walking. I had no destination in mind because I had no idea where we going. It was obvious to me now that we were to eventually come to a well because of the empty bottles so many people were carrying and those coming back had full bottles, beyond that I was in blissful ignorance.
It was a beautiful day, cold and clear, with a slight threat of rain to the west. The fields were silent other than the occasional bird song and the sometimes tick of an electric fence hidden behind briers to one side of us as we walked.
Then I could see a turnstile in the hedge at the far end of the field that we were in and realised that was our destination. Leitrim farmers are not in the habit of erecting turnstiles in their hedgerows. Once through there I found myself in a little garden with a statue of St. Bridget and a path which I dutifully followed until I came to a well.
I decided that in honour of the triple goddess I would walk sun-wise three times around the well before drinking a beautiful mug-full of deliciously cold water from the well, using the mug placed there for that purpose. I stayed there for a wee while, drinking in the scene after drinking the water. There were lots of daffodil bulbs, bravely sticking out their first greenery, dotted around alongside the path, under the trees. It will be a lovely place to visit once the daffodils are in bloom.
The rain finally started to fall softly as I neared the graveyard on the return journey. There were still as many people heading towards the well and a fresh bundle of Bridget’s crosses was being left at the shrine by a local woman. The crosses are made locally and left at the shrine on Bridget’s day with a sign asking for donations which this year are going towards a hospice.
I got into my van and headed for home, passing many people still walking out from town, ready for their spirit adventure.
Bridgets_Cross
Bridget’s Cross, traditionally made with rushes

Although by many calendars today, February 2nd is Imbolc and for many that includes the olden goddess Bridget, in my local community and for many in Ireland, February 1st is considered St Bridget’s day.

In one of my local towns – and even as I say that I realise it sounds strange however there are a few towns around here that feel like local towns to me now because of where I shop or go to night classes – now where was I? In Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, there is a shrine to Bridget which is above the town and beside the graveyard. It is always well cared for and has candles lighting there regularly and sometimes little momentoes or even coins left there for special intention.

I would say that most people who spend reflective time there may be addressing their intentions towards St Bridget, for me there is simply Bridget and I love that connection between the older pagan type spirituality and the newer christian spirituality, that they can often exist side by side, chose which ever you wish.

Bridgets Day is still held as a pattern day in Ballinamore. A pattern day is a very old custom in Ireland and thankfully is respected still in many rural areas, when the local people gather and pray at a shrine or  holy-well or even at holy rocks. There is a pattern to the praying, a certain ritual to be followed whether it be walking sun-wise (clockwise) around the shrine for a set number of times reciting a certain prayer or group of prayers such as a rosary.

In Ballinamore the pattern includes walking around the shrine and through a small part of the graveyard – I need to ask more about this locally. Last year I took part and did what I saw others doing. There is a lovely feeling in taking part of an ancient outdoor ritual with people from the local community, even though I only knew a few faces.

I loved the fact that this pattern is considered such a regular part of life here. There were people young and old, walking alone as I was or with family, neighbours or friends. Some pray aloud, some pray quietly, moving their lips and many were simply reflective or praying to themselves, rosary beads swaying as they walked slowly and reverently in the footsteps of so many before them.

There were many cars parked at the roadside in which some people, many quite old and stiffened with age and life, had travelled to the shrine. Most local people had walked the distance from town as people had done in years gone past, for many the walk from town is part of the pattern and they pray as they walk. Even the younger ones who walked with friends were keeping a respectful atmosphere, chatting very quietly with each other. Others, like myself, had maybe travelled from the surrounding countryside to be there.

This year as I took a few moments of quiet at the shrine lighting a votive candle I noticed that there were a lot people setting off down the wee side road that runs alongside the graveyard after they had finished their rounds of the graveyard. They were all wearing wellies (rubber boots), some were carrying little empty water bottles and they were all keeping the silence of pray-full space with them.

Always up for an adventure, especially a spiritual adventure, I followed off down the road too. This was great fun and unexpected, to be heading off down a road I never walked before, not knowing where I was heading, how long it would take or even if I would get there as everyone else was obviously dressed for all sorts or terrain with their waterproof boots and big coats.

I was wearing bright summer sandals on my feet because I had only gone to town to post some packages and had forgotten that it was pattern day until I saw all the activity. I did notice that some of the people coming back the road were amused and dismayed in equal amounts by my choice of footwear. I, however, was gladdened to know that people were coming back! Now at least I knew that this was a “there and back” journey, not a tramp across endless terrain towards who knew what! I am exaggerating here a little, I think!

People nodded towards each other, and me, when they met on the road but other than that a silence pervaded which was very peaceful. After some time we turned off the road and into a field, however it looked to be fairly dry so I followed along.

I decided that if the going got very wet I could then decide to either turn back or get very wet feet, as it happened I didn’t have to make that decision because the ground, although very soft in places, had a well worn track and I was able to keep my socks dry.

We were some distance now from any roads and it was so lovely to be following along in quiet procession, just walking. I had no destination in mind because I had no idea where we going. It was obvious to me now that we were to eventually come to a well because of the empty bottles so many people were carrying and those coming back had full bottles, beyond that I was in blissful ignorance.

It was a beautiful day, cold and clear, with a slight threat of rain to the west. The fields were silent other than the occasional bird song and the sometimes tick of an electric fence hidden behind briers to one side of us as we walked.

Then I could see a turnstile in the hedge at the far end of the field that we were in and realised that was our destination. Leitrim farmers are not in the habit of erecting turnstiles in their hedgerows. Once through there I found myself in a little garden with a statue of St. Bridget and a path which I dutifully followed until I came to a well.

I decided that in honour of the triple goddess I would walk sun-wise three times around the well before drinking a beautiful mug-full of deliciously cold water from the well, using the mug placed there for that purpose. I stayed there for a wee while, drinking in the scene after drinking the water. There were lots of daffodil bulbs, bravely sticking out their first greenery, dotted around alongside the path, under the trees. It will be a lovely place to visit once the daffodils are in bloom.

The rain finally started to fall softly as I neared the graveyard on the return journey. There were still as many people heading towards the well and a fresh bundle of Bridget’s crosses was being left at the shrine by a local woman. The crosses are made locally and left at the shrine on Bridget’s day with a sign asking for donations which this year are going towards a hospice.

I got into my van and headed for home, passing many people still walking out from town, ready for their spirit adventure.