Categories
Confict Russia Ukraine

War! What is it good for? ….

Sunrise over snow taken from a tank by Diane Woodrow's son Ben
Taken by my son four years ago

And finishing the line of Edwin Starr’s song – War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! – and I think that is one of the things that breaks my heart the most, not just for this invasion by Russia into Ukraine but for all the other wars, conflicts and atrocities that are going on across the world – many of which have been going on so long they don’t make headlines any more. They are old news and no one cares.

Because we live in an age of instant news we know moment by moment what is going on in Ukraine. I wonder if World War One would have panned out differently if people could have seen videos from the trenches and seen the waste of life. Because whether medieval war or modern war or all wars in between that is all that is ever achieved by war – loss of life.

Ok so the leaders are no longer riding into battle but one day they will died. No matter how invincible Putin or despots think they are, or even good leaders for that matter, they will all die. And they will be remember in various different ways by the generations that follow them in certain ways but they will still be dead, along with all those they led into this war.

My heart aches to know of the civilians in Ukraine who are taking weapons against fellow human beings. To see women making Molotov cocktails sitting together chatting is heartbreaking. No one should want to hurt or main another human being but they are being led down that road.

So maybe the Edwin Starr song should say “War, what is it good for? Encouraging innocent people to hate others”. And that is the saddest thing to me.

The picture at the top was taken by my son in January 2019 on maneuvers in Estonia. Even though I have mixed emotions about my son being in the army I am also proud of how he is developing as a human being. But also I love this photo because it shows such beauty with the sun rising and glistening off the snow and the tank.

One of my prayers will be that there is beauty comes from not just this atrocity but from all the awful things that going on through the world. I want a world full of hope to live in and I see it within some of the disadvantaged young people I work with. I just pray they can taken it onwards across the world to touch even the hearts of people like Putin, Trump, and others whose names do not come to me at the moment.

With hope we will not be afraid – or so I believe.

Categories
dog mindfulness National love your pet day

National Love Your Pet Day – February 20, 2022

I am not sure why anyone would need a “National Love Your Pet Day”. For me loving my pets is what I do 24/7. They bring me such joy and laughter and such love. I am not sure who else I would go out the house for at 7.30am on a wet and blustery day apart from my dog who needs a walk, and is always keen to go round the park where he can beg treats from other dog owners.

My cat does yoga with me in the mornings but also loves to come under the covers at night and sleep with her cold nose on my leg. Sometimes with claws extended.

We tease my son that he only married the person he did because she had a dog who took to him. She does have many other lovely qualities but I’m sure the dog drew him in first of all. I have adopted her dog as one of my own when they come to visit.

I was brought up with an eclectic collection of pets and, after leaving home whenever I could I would get some animal or other. Once my children came along we had various pets and we also would dog sit for other people when we lived in rented accommodation that said “No dogs”. We worked on the principle that the dogs were only visiting not staying permanently. I’m hoping that my old landlords are not reading this now 🙂

In fact when I married my husband the children and I worked on how to get him to have pets. Believe it or not he had never ever owned a pet. Then he got us and soon we got him to allow us to carry on with the dog sitting job we used to do. Then my son started work experience at the local pet rescue centre and we got the cat. That was 12 years ago. Then came chickens, a rabbit and then 10 years ago the dog. We are down to just the cat and dog now.

Pets give such pleasure and such joy. I can “hide” behind my dog when I go somewhere new. A lot of the times when I start on a new project or have to network with someone new I will bring the dog with me. He is cute and a real icebreaker. He’s small enough to fit anywhere, well behaved and very responsive to other people.

Just last week I took him on a 4 hour train journey to visit my daughter. He was amazing. You couldn’t do that with a cat or with a hamster. Though when we moved up here we did have cat on our laps in the car because she screams when put in a cat basket. So she was bought a velvet harness, the lead of which was looped round the passenger seat belt and she rode the whole of the six hour journey on the lap of whoever was not driving. At times she would look backward to the dog on the back seat squashed around boxes and give him one of those looks to say “just look at me”. Cats believe they are superior to any other creature.

I told the tale in Day of the Dead, of how Renly helped us laugh through our grief. In fact I’ve got a few pieces I’ve written about my dog. He does crop up quite often.

I am writing a short story in which I have just had to edit out the fact that she had a dog because it didn’t quite work, but it was very hard to then write about someone walking without a dog. My dog very much features in the centre of my life.

I believe God lets us have pets to encourage us to love one and other and to experience unconditional love in such an unexpected way. Dogs very much unconditional, cats maybe not so much! But also gives us something to love, to care for, and to experience loss with. The worst thing about pets is that we will out live them. I think pets help us learn the transient nature of life and also of how to seize the moment, enjoy the moment, live in the moment. For pets they do live in the NOW. It is good for us to learn that too.

So maybe for National Love Your Pet day I will learn more to live in the moment and accept that life is short, relationships transient, and to enjoy it as it comes.

Categories
Bridport Prize writer

What It’s Really Like To Be A Writer

Picture of bare feet under a table with shoes next to them. Logo for Diane Woodrow's writing groups - Barefoot At The Kitchen Table which occur in and around the Abergele/Conwy area
Barefoot At The Kitchen Table logo

The Bridport Prize newsletter today asks people to send in their thoughts on “what it’s really like to be a writer”. So I thought I would make my thoughts public on here.

I hope that must of us will put down something different. And I think that is when we have achieved what it means to be “a writer”. To stop comparing ourselves with others and be the writer we are meant to be. Also for me to be a writer means so much more than – to be a published writer!

I’ve just read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he says that one has to write 1000 words a day, but I am no Stephen King. My writing day also contains walking the dog, housework, cooking, shopping, supporting friends, looking for freelance work, planning and advertising writing groups. So I have more going on in my day than Stephen King.

I know of some writers who work outside the house full time, have a family and yet still are amazing and complete a book and get published. I am not like that. I get easily distracted by the shiny things – an email to answer, a WhatsApp from my kids or from a friend, a website I want to explore. I think if I’d been at school now they would have labeled me as ADD. I cannot sit and look at the keyboard waiting for a thought to transpire into a word/words/story. I flit off and check out Wordle or Solitaire or emails!

But on a walk, just me and dog, or in my car or led in bed the words come. Most times I cannot write them down, especially not when driving. But I trust that I will remember what I am meant to remember and will find the time to write it down when I do. I know one of the greats, but can’t remember who, said re-waxed the stairs in the huge house he lived in whilst writing one of his best known books. Wish I could remember who that was!

I am part of a group called The Write Place who meet in person in Frome but also meet on Zoom and just write. I knew them when I lived near Frome but not that I am over 250 miles away I connect via Zoom. Just we say a quick hello but then just get on and do the stuff. That does help but my nature is that, once I cannot think of anything to write I still get distracted. So good though it is for me it still cannot keep me staring at the screen waiting for that word to come.

But I love to write. I would say I’ve always written. I’ve always been a writer. I write to explore what I am thinking, to record an event, when something makes me laugh or cry or I feel passionate about. All these blog post are things I want to share with others. For me writing is a way to share my thoughts with others. I feel that if it’s written down then it has been a true thought.

I love to encourage others to write, which is why I run writing groups in my area under the name Barefoot At The Kitchen Table – barefooted so that one is connected with the land and the kitchen table because it is always where the best conversations happen. I could probably do more writing if I didn’t do this but I so love this. And I would say running these groups is also part of what makes me a writer.

So for me “to be a writer” means that I must write. And write I do though do get “confused” between what counts as writing. Take this morning for example – I was up at 6.30, wrote a plan for a short story I’m working for homework for a course I’m on, did 2 pages of “Morning pages“, then got dressed, walked the dog, read emails, had breakfast, wrote up the notes for my story, sorted the website I use for my writing groups and then am writing this. All writing and all part of me exploring me through my words but very little of it will be published but that is ok.

Being a writer means being ok with being me and who I am.

Categories
Ashes Beauty

Finding Beauty Everywhere

I don’t know about you but when someone points something out you start to notice it more. In Godspace for this season they are talking about Finding Beauty in Ashes during the Lenten season and so when I went on my walk yesterday I was drawn to noticing beauty in ashes.

This tree was one of three conifer trees that were standing in a row until Storm Arwen passed by towards the end of 2021. All three went down. I presume that the furthest one fell and then pushed the other two over with the force of its falling and the wind behind it. How often does that happen – that something or someone starts to slide and takes others down with them who are close by? Also with trees their roots are intertwined so they can communicate with each other so all it needs is one lot of roots to come out and they will take others with them. Again another interesting comparison with our lives. Though also people or trees standing strong can help to keep each other up when storms come.

What fascinates me here is the little beetle hole in the centre of the tree. Now this would not have been visible when all the trees were standing and can only be fully seen because of where the chain saw has passed through. I’m not a naturalist so could not tell you what creature lived there and is now homeless but I can see something was there. And to me that is the beauty.

The beauty is the amazingness of this creature to burrow through the bark, find the right spot and make its home. But we can only get to see it because of the storm.

I wonder how often beauty is hidden or that we are too busy rushing on past to notice. I only noticed this because I was on a “writing walk” which means that I walk slower, notice things, jot them in my notebook, and like with this, photograph them. Generally I am rushing on past with collar turned up to get back home again.

I believe that too often we can only find beauty in ashes if we slow down and take them time to look at the ashes. And like with our hurts and things that have happened to us, we do only see the beauty in the pain, the hurt, the ashes, if we take time to look closely, to look properly. To have time and not to be rushing on to the next thing, to be not trying to hide from the “ashes” but to just see the beauty and be grateful.

Categories
presumption Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day


Free download on https://pixabay.com/photos/flamingo-valentine-heart-600205/

First published on Godspace on 12th February 2022

I always hated Valentine’s day as a teenager. There would be so much hype going round school as to who was going to get the most cards. Yet for me I got none. For me it was another day in my school life that I dreaded and wondered what was wrong with me with my flat chest, thick glasses, dental braces on my teeth, home-knitted jumper and second-hand clothes. All the pretty, popular girls woulbe showing off their pile of cards and loudly saying how many they had and looking with contempt at those of us who had not received any. When I was part of Family Ministries in YWAM Scotland one of the mums would get all three of her children Valentine’s gifts. I think her mother used to do that for her. That did not happen in our house. I wonder if it made her kids feel better or not.

There are various legends around who Valentine was. Though the one who might have brought him to fame would be that he allegedly performed illegal marriages for Christians who for whatever reason were forbidden to marry. But again it looks like the Catholic Church made his saint’s day special for commercial reasons. But as I have researched more things about St Valentine many sites say it could have been Christians reclaiming, or coming on the back of, depending on your stance, of a pagan fertility celebration. As with all things, even our own Welsh Valentine, St Dwynwen, there are many legends, stories and different ideas that surround the origins of these things, as well as our own viewpoint, hurts and expectations. So, as with so much we need to start where we are today not yesterday.

There was a lot of talk last year about things becoming the “new normal”, phrase I’ve noticed isn’t used quite so much but we are still in a new normal as we deal with life living with Covid-19 and all its variants. So it is with Valentine. Some will have family traditions they are comfortable with, others not so. Some will ignore it either due to their theology or to do with issues of their past. But if I have been really healed of my past, really am a new creation, really am living in my own new normal, then I need to have a look at this festival, this day which, whether I like it or not, will be acknowledge in shops, on TV, even on Google’s banner.

I’ve been working with a group of young people recently and one of things we’ve been looking at, amongst other things, is presumption – presuming we know what other people want and need because we have judged them from the outside. So for me this year, as I put aside my own hurts and expectation, and walking out in my new normal instead of selfishly trying to avoid this day or of presuming what my husband will want to do, I will ask. And as one looks at the ideas of love languages, one of the greatest gifts is to find out what those around you really want and not just walking out in your own love language think that you know best.

New normal, new Valentine’s Day, new expression of love – asking what others would prefer.

Categories
Alignment boundaries healing

No More Boundaries

A wall sheltering a shingle beach with rocks and seaweed on it, looking across to Anglesey with t he tide out. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Abergwyngregyn nature reserve taken by myself on 19th January 2022 at 9.15am

During my QEC session we talk a lot about not having boundaries but being in alignment to the world around you and your energy. I’ve been pondering a lot about it because it is counterintuitive to a lot of what one gets taught. How often have we all heard about “having clear boundaries” or even about “having boundaries that are flexible“. I attended a lovely workshop once around looking at boundaries – a fallen down fence, a brick wall and a wall with a gate in it, with the wall with the gate in it being what we should aim for. All sounded really good. Then I get this spanner in the works and because I trust so much else of what I’m doing through QEC I have to work this through.

As you can see from the wall above when a storm comes, or when it isn’t cared for, it falls and the sea rushes in. This is what we’re encouraged not to do – not to let the sea cascade in because …. because we could come to harm. So we spend a lot of energy working on those walls, even making sure the gate is in the right place and is well maintained. But alignment is a totally different thing.

I had gone through a bit of an issue with someone I was working with where I felt out of alignment with them and felt I was not getting the justice I deserved. Whilst pondering around this I was also doing some meditation around focusing on Jesus and the Cross and Healing what came to me was that “healing is once the pain has gone and the wound is clean” But how does that happen?

What I realised was that to get that healing I had been coming at it from a “your will be done” but wanting God’s will to actually match up with mine. So it was much more “my will be done. This has caused me thinking about my boundaries and what I wanted rather than what would being peace in my world.

As I let God/The Universe take over my niggles and need for my justice I felt myself calming, felt myself coming into alignment with God/The Universe’s peace for me. And that is the only word I can use to describe it – “peace“. I would say I got “healed of needing to know the bigger picture”.

So I may not look to the cross every time I feel discombobulated by something but I will learn to relax into alignment with a bigger will than my own. Once I can do that then there is no need for boundaries; no need to know what comes next; no need to even know why. There is peace. There is freedom. There is trust.

I know this will be an on going thing because I have been brought up for too long thinking I’m only safe if I’m behind a boundary but in fact I am safer when I am aligned to God/The Universe’s bigger picture and trusting God has it covered.