Category Archives: lifestyle

Through a cloud…

moor
Stones or people?

 

Into the unknown, high through a cloud we trod

Haze hidden tarn, a secret from one, lost in the fog

Those words, unbidden, unplanned, dear and deep

Taking a path, converging, winding, slippery steep

To the well, to the well where they gathered

Mossed up history, stones old wind blasted statues

Deep carved words, wounds in the stone.

The well, she sings, she’s sung here forever.

Into the unknown, deep in our minds we delve

Hurt hidden turns, a secret from one, lost love solved

Those words, unbidden, unplanned, dear and deep

Talking the path, conversing, listening, pain to sleep.

To the stones, to the stones where they gathered

Propped up mystery, old stones gathered in pairs

Six leaning pairs, deep in the earth.

The stones, they stand, they’ve stood here forever.

Out into the known, back to the world we go

Cloud free, no secrets at all, jump beck’s flow

That view, unbidden, unplanned, clear and crisp

Taking the path, concluding, retracing our steps.

When we walk, I never know where we will go. One of us at least, knows the place, the geography, the way the path curves to the right; the name of the little field, or the old stone. But that’s not why we walk, where we go is important but it’s the stage upon which we extemporise, speak true and open. We go to get lost in the tangles of the tangles of the tangles. One by one, instinct seems to pick a thread and, gently, carefully, with love, respect and understanding, tease it free from the others.

I won’t share the things that we discuss, but it mixes with tales of the past, the origins of words, songs, places, and people to become a cleansing, somehow a theme which we follow to a natural conclusion. We manage to talk. We listen.

And what does this tell me? Respect, trust and kinship, this comes unbidden. It tells me that, within, we instinctively know what we want to, what we need to exorcise. And, as the body is distracted by the joy of exercise, the head distracted by the beauty of the open countryside; then, the heart can weave, gently, the worries and the concerns and find a resolution in the rise and fall of the feet, the ups and downs of the conversational journey. Listening is the way to have a conversation. And, like a cloud lifting, once the thread has been unravelled, it’s time to go home and ground again.

And I know it’s the old stones, the paths trodden for centuries, the heart-piercing beauty of the heather, moss, slippy stone, the peat stained becks, that make the conversation naturally flow and rise. There places hold wisdom, they have been special for centuries. Countless feet have trodden and created the paths. Hands have carved and lifted the stones, lips drank the water. Sun warmed backs and frost-bitten feet. Love found, lost and regained. Lives too. Old ways lost and new ways found.

All under the sky. All on the moors. The beauty, bleak and brutal. This is when I find my voice. This is when my soul finds an answer. This is where I go to be renewed.

That’s why I carved a hare. The symbol of rebirth.

hare

I see you…

I see youtree

Tree from the old days

Guarding the byways

You see me

You tree from the old days

Watching my hair grey.

 

I see you

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Road from the old days

Making the highways

You see me

You road from the old days

Feeling my gait sway.

 

I see youstone

Stone from the old days

Marking the old ways

You see me

You stone from the old days

Hiding my shade away.

 

This post is about looking. The gaze. Eyes. The eyes within the mind.

The idea that, as we look, so we are being looked at.

We rush through our lives, ascribing varying amounts of import to the concerns that are whooshing though our grey matter at that moment in time.

I live in an old place. The Romans were here; they buried their dead below the windmill a quarter of a mile away. They built the road less than a mile from me. This road was called Dere Street, running from York up to Scotland. It was built in the 70s AD, after Boudicca was savagely dealt with.

It’s humbling to know that history marches through the lanes and streets that I wander. Lives will have been made, lost, broken, saved and joined right where I stand, looking at the undulating road surface.

Trees watching me, each breath they take a month in the inhale, seasonal exhalations. What concerns the mind of a tree? Do they notice the scurrying people, flashing by in their rushed lives? Or is each week long eye blink of an oak too ponderous and serene to even notice the day I walked by, lost in grief, or the day I strode by, found in love?

And yet, even the Romans were new to here.

This road, this march, this ribbon of trodden earth has the age of an eon. Ten thousand years. For ten thousand years people have followed the line of the lane, Sneck Yates and the high drove road to the right, skimming the curves of the river Ure. (This river, once called Jor or Yore has gifted (in my opinion), the once capitol of Viking England- Jor-wick. The town on the Jor.)

Marking the way, the old folk left stones. Up on the tops, there’s a long barrow I visit, where rests someone from then. I sit and look out, overdown on this place I call home.

On the route, the Devils Arrows pierce the earth; standing proud, so tall that they hide my shadow when I stand under them. A short walk takes me to Thornborough. The henge there is special. Three henges, linked.

The number 3 is sacred to the people we call Celts. It represents the three-fold marriage of earth, sea and sky. The trinity, so central to Christianity, was taken by St Patrick from the Celts, appropriated as a marriage between the old lore and the new. We keep them still.

On the count of three.

Three is the magic number.

Weave a circle round him thrice.

The stones watch, their inhalations so slow that they barely register the sapling as it grows into a half centuried oak. Do the stones remember the forming? The heat and the flowing?

The worries of a stone are nothing to the earth; the worries of the tree are nothing to the stone; the worries of the man are nothing to the tree. Next time you look; look through the eyes of something older. There may be wisdom. There will certainly be a different perspective.

The road marches on. The river washes stone. Time to look anew.

 

Give us this day…

Making bread. Our daily bread. That’s what I’m doing right now. And this is what I want to explore in this post.

Why did people stop making their own bread? Time. It takes time to make bread. And most people simply don’t have the time it takes to make bread, so the supermarket loaf is an easy an appealing alternative.

The process is simple, but not something which you can speed up in any way. There are three distinct periods when when you have to wait. The first prove; the second prove and the final baking.

So lets go through the stages which include the gifts of time:

1: Mixing the ingredients:Bread ingredients

I use:

500g of strong wholemeal flour

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of sea salt

25g of fresh yeast (amazingly cheap from the local supermarket they won’t advertise it, but will sell it to you if you ask them)

25g butter

340ml lukewarm water

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Mixing the dry ingredients.

Now, my tip is to put the butter into the water so it melts,m thus making it easier to mix by hand. Ideally, put 200ml of very hot water in the jug, then the butter and add the remainder of the cold water when the butter has melted. Melting the butter in the water.

The fun bit comes next. Add the water and mix the dough with your hands. It’s wonderfully grounding to mix and knead and transform the initial soggy mess into a firm ball of dough after 10 minutes or so of kneading.

Then comes the first prove. the yeast needs time to eat the sugar and fill the dough with air, so its covered with a damp tea towel and left for an hour in a warm place until it has risen.

proving the dough by the fireside

2: The first rise:

And this is when I get the first gift from my bread. I have a spare hour. The bread can’t be rushed, so I have a while hour to turn to another task. Some days I will cook a soup; other days I will go for a walk, or pop to chat with a neighbour. This time, I am going to spend a little time finishing a lino cut for a Christmas card. Just a few extra slithers of lino removed, until I’m satisfied. Then Bert the pug is finished:

bert

After that, I will wash the dishes and have a cup of tea.

And this is the incredible benefit of making bread. We think that it is easier to buy a loaf from the shop, because it takes too long to make a loaf. Yes, it does take time, but making bread has it’s own swathes of free time, bookended by the stages of the process. This is the gift!

Here you go! Here’s an hour? What would you like to do? Read a book? Pop to the shops, or the gym? Have a nap? Watch a tv programme? The last loaf I made saw me sitting in the living room, kneading the dough in a bowl as I watched a film with my children. (Gremlins, if you are interested!). Making the bread didn’t interfere with a normal evening. It was just a part of it.

The first rise

3: The second rise:

After the first rise comes ‘knocking back’. Basically you knead the dough for about 3 minutes longer, gently. After this, you put it into an oiled loaf tin (I use a 2lb one). Then, here comes the second gift fro the bread! More time. This period is roughly 45 minutes as the bread rises for the second time.

On this occasion, I am going to play my guitar and intersperse this with another cup of tea. What would you do if you had a spare 45 minutes? Go for a run? Walk the dog? You have enough time to write a blog post maybe? I would be interested to know how you would spend this time.After the second rise

4: Baking the bread:

This is the wonderful stage when the house fills with the soul warming scent of baking bread. There is a sense of anticipation as the dough transforms into a golden brown loaf. The oven is set to about 200 degrees C, for about 40 minutes (until the turned out loaf sounds hollow on the base when knocked with a knuckle).

And again, here comes the third gift. More time! Another block of time in which I can do something. I’m going to tackle a bit of ironing. With the radio on. I find ironing a meditiative process. Soothing, calming and centreing. I appreicate the measured blocks of time that come with baking bread. Simple tasks of this nature have the effect of freeing the mind as the hands work. I find myself solving problems and coming up with  new ideas as i knead the dough. It could be a poem, a song, or a way to refine a part of my life.

5: The finished loaf: Time to eat...

And there it is. Hot, golden, smelling amazing. The finished loaf, tastes so much better than a loaf bought fom a shop. Partly because I have invested so much time in it; partly because I appreciate how much time it has given me to do other things.

Does a loaf take too long to make? I’d argue that the opposite is true. Making bread creates time.

What do you think?