For My Friend

‘When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him will be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.’

Ah, good old Kahlil Gibran, always trying to find the positive, the lesson, in the sometimes-tangled mess of life. I suppose this was his way of saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but sometimes absence is just that, a hole in your life, where something or someone once was and they cannot be replaced.

I’ve parted from several friends in my life, simply due to having moved so often and so far, but most of us are still in touch. Each on our own journey, but our paths still intersect from time to time. However, sometimes you get the news that a friend is on another kind of journey, one which we all must take one day, and from which there is no return. That kind of news is always hard to hear, and doubly so in this time of solitude and shielding, where the only comfort you can offer is words, and there is no guarantee that you will actually get to see each other again.

And so it has been for me this week. I am heartsore, and cannot imagine how it must be for her family, for her beloved, to have to deal with this news. Our friendship has been mostly virtual, but we have spent a handful of days together. And oh, such days, where time has stretched and twisted, allowing glimpses of other realms, and some of the most profound experiences of my life. Days of tears and laughter, of good food and company, of ritual and song. Days that have changed the course of my own life, helping me to explore who I truly am. And through them all, a thread of warmth and learning and friendship, of generosity of spirit and understanding that I’ll never forget.

‘I’m still here,’ I can hear her saying. And of course she is. And she will be for a while yet.

So perhaps I’ll finish up here with another quote, this time from Tennesee Williams. ‘Time doesn’t take away from friendship, nor does separation.’

I know you’ll get to see the heather bloom again. And I hope I get to see it with you.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

Why Turning Fifty Is Something To Celebrate

In Denmark this past December. Almost fifty…

Earlier this year, I turned fifty. As I approached the milestone age, I wrote a few pieces about how I felt. About those I’ve known over the years who left too early, never to see fifty, or thirty, or even twenty. About how women ‘of a certain age’ are somehow meant to disappear from the narrative, and how I won’t be going quietly (or anywhere!). About how I’m Generation X, and we really don’t give a shit about boxes and being put in them – all we’ve ever tried to do is survive. About how life, which seems so long when you’re twenty, seems so much shorter when you’re fifty.

With Gaz from Supergrass after their London show in March – I had a very exciting birthday weekend (just before the world changed)…

But none of these pieces seemed to truly articulate what I felt. In the end, I didn’t publish any of them. And I discovered that what I really wanted to do, in fact, was celebrate. Celebrate the fact that I’ve lived through five decades on this tumultuous planet. I’ve done so much over these years, yet wish I’d done more. And I really don’t feel any different to that girl in her vinyl mini skirt and big boots who left home to follow love, even though there is as much time between her and I as there was between her and the day she came into the world. Only what you see in the mirror changes, really.

In London, aged twenty-five…

Time, more than ever, seems to slip through my fingers. And I realise there is so much more I want to do and experience. I know I am fortunate to have choice, to have love, and to experience wonder.

And so, in fifty years, this is (some of) what I’ve learned:

Life is short

Children grow more quickly than you can imagine

Opportunities and people come and go

So dance all the dances,

Sing all the songs

See all the things

Visit all the places

Tell all the stories

Hug all the hugs

Watch the sunset

Watch the sunrise

Count shooting stars

And never, ever be ashamed of your age

Life is a gift, and to be here for another year is something to celebrate

Follow your heart

Your dreams

The wind

And see where it takes you

There is so much more, still, to do

Life, as much as possible, is to be lived. So look to the stars, to the night sky, to your dreams. They are free, and no one can take them from you.

We are stardust, after all…


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 5 – The Maiden

Stone and rain. Rain and stone. It seemed to be a theme of the weekend. No matter the weather, when we reached any stone of significance the rain would fall. From soft misty drizzle to gale force rain storms, we experienced just about all the types of rain Scotland seemed to offer, often in the space of just a couple of hours.

And so it was at our next two sites, both of which featured carved Pictish stones. I’d never seen such stones in real life before, so it was a thrill to see the first one, even though it had been reconstructed and sat in the middle of a modern housing estate. There had been a circle there, once, still marked with a ring in the grass, but it had been pulled down long ago, in days when such monuments were no longer revered, their carefully chosen stones broken for use in stone fences and buildings. Some still remained on site, said to come from the original circle, and, despite the cracks crossing the face of the carved stone, the images were still clear, a serpent and spear, thought perhaps to represent the nearby river, and a semi-circle and broken spear, the shape of which came to have more significance for me, later in the day. The rain was still falling as we got into the cars, a soft cool drizzle, dampening the stones but not our spirits, as we headed out into the landscape once more.

A short while later we pulled up alongside the road and saw the towering Maiden Stone. Sue has covered the legend of the Maiden Stone in her excellent post, but the short version is this: the stone is said once have been a young woman who, when tricked by the devil, ran from him. He caught her by the shoulder, creating the distinctive notch shape, and she was turned to stone forevermore.

I saw no woman in the stone, only the enigmatic carvings left on one side by the mysterious Picts, centaur and dolphin creatures, spear and shield, comb and mirror. One of the companions shared an experience he’d had at Easter Aquhorthies, which shed some light on the significance of the comb and mirror. It involved the moon and the role of priestess, a theme we encountered again and again over the weekend. It is not my story to share, but all of us felt it to be valid. In fact, that was one of the lovely things about the group, and something I’d also encountered on my last weekend away with them – that such experiences, thoughts and ideas could be shared freely and taken seriously, with no fear. I can appreciate that, to some, the things I ‘see’ when I’m on these weekends (and at other times too), can seem a bit out there, a bit like the imaginings of an overwrought author. And there are times when I think that as well. So, when you can share these ideas with others and have them corroborated, there is a validation there, a growth in trusting yourself and your intuition, that is a real joy.

Christian imagery had been carved on the other side of the stone, though the carvings were far more weathered than the earlier Pictish work. An intricate cross and wheel, as well as a figure supposed to be Jesus holding two ‘sea-monsters’. Carving continued along the edges of the stone, criss-cross diamond shapes it was said could represent energy patterns, and more intricate knotwork.

The setting itself was beautiful – next to a curving road, the land rising to one side of the stone, a tall row of pines the other side. I imagine when it was new the stone would have stood out in the landscape, its size and the bright colours that once decorated it making it visible for miles around. The symbols themselves are a mystery – the Picts left no explanation as to why they carved the images they did, but they appear over and over again. Theories range from clan markings to maps to storytelling, but it is all conjecture.

We stood around the stone, each of us taking photographs, sharing our thoughts about what we could see and feel. There was a wonderful sense of age to the site, of something that had been standing since long before we were born, and would continue to do so for centuries to come. But we couldn’t stay for too much longer – it was heading into the afternoon and we still had another site to visit, a site that had tested us the last time we were there. What would it hold for us this time?

This is my account of my recent weekend away with The Silent Eye in Scotland. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Writers In The Attic, Friends Around The World

sometimes-all-you-need-is-a-friendToday I’m quite honoured to be visiting author Louise Allan’s blog, as part of her Writers in the Attic series. Please do pop over and take a look, and also check out some of the other writers featured in the series – each of them have a story to tell, whether it’s about how they came to be writers, what writing means to them, and how they approach the creative process.

In her introduction, Louise talks about the idea of penpals, and how our digital friendships fostered through blog posts and email are the modern equivalent – I would absolutely agree. Through messages, comments and emails, Louise and I have forged a friendship I value, and I know that one day, when we eventually meet, we’ll greet each other as old friends.

In fact, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet some wonderful friends through this site, with whom I might never have otherwise connected. And so I just wanted to say thank you.

Happy Monday, everyone 🙂

 

Three Days Three Quote Challenge – Day Three

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And so I come to the final day of my Three Quote Challenge (courtesy of Meredith at Mezzalilly’s Teen Book Reviews – thanks, Meredith!).

For my final quote I’m going back to Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, and this quote speaks of friendship:

‘When you part from your friend you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.’

The first time I saw this quote was when it was presented to me as a piece of embroidery, done by a parent of one of my young martial arts students. I had been at the school for six years, achieving my black belt and becoming an instructor, so when I had to leave to move cross country, it was a difficult choice to make. The choice of this quote was quite profound, and I treasured the gift both for its thoughtful nature and the lesson it taught.

For many years my things were in storage and I moved yet again, to Australia. When I finally saved up enough to ship my items across I found the piece of embroidery, along with other memorabilia and cards from my time at the club. I cried quite a lot that day, as I sorted through items I hadn’t seen for years. But they were tears of joy as much as anything else, as I reclaimed a part of myself I hadn’t realised had been forgotten.

That concludes my Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge. As before, I won’t be nominating anyone specific to take it on – however, if you’d like to participate, please do.