Friday, September 13, 2013

Marginalised Mussels

I was blessed to be offered a week at a seaside cottage in February this year. It was a break from 'the world' that I needed, and that brought me much rest and restoration. It was very good for my soul for me to be able to walk alone and uninterrupted on the beach, fiddle around on the rocks, stare out to the horizon over the ocean, dabble my feet in the tidal pool, watch crabs and little fish  in small rock pools, and generally meditate and let my thoughts run freely.

 This photo shows an area of mussel covered rock where I spent some time. I noticed the large number of mussels of varying size - with larger ones being closer to the water line/ rock-water interface, and the decrease in size the further they were from the water's edge. Which got me to thinking......

The larger ones closer to the water-line surely benefitted from the constant washing of the waves, as they were closer to the tides - whether high or low - and the first to receive nutrients. The smaller ones were farther away from the water and would only have had the benefit of the nutrients when the tide was higher, with a gradation of size according to the amount of water washing over them during the day/ night. Which means that those closer to the nutrient resource were more prosperous looking, while those further from the resources did not seem to be faring as well.

Which led me to think about resources available to people. There is so much demand, currently, for 'equality' and for everyone to be granted the same access to and quantity of resources as everyone else. But this expectation is unrealistic. It is evident that where we are positionally places limitations on our access to whatever it is that we want. Our position in relation to resources could be termed 'an accident of birth'. But that does not provide an excuse for resources available to those on the 'front-line' to be held onto and prevented from being shared with those towards the 'back-line'. The position of the closer-to-the-water-line mussels could also be said to be 'accidental' in that they did not intentionally choose where to attach and grow. And neither did they restrict the resources from reaching those farther back. It seems they absorbed what they could of the resources each time the water washed over them - as did the ones further back. But their advantage lay in their proximity to the resources which enabled them to absorb nutrients througout the day and night - throughout the times of tide-in and tide-out, whereas the further back mussels had periods during the day and night of no access to resources. However this did not lead to them giving up and letting go - they continue to remain attached to the rock and absorb whatever comes their way whenever it comes - and they grow bigger albeit at a slower rate than the foremost mussels. I am also pretty sure that the bigger mussels would be harvested and consumed by the hungry much sooner than the smaller ones! And, of course, the mussels are available as food to whomever walks along the beach or is in search of a meal - irrespective of status in life.

I believe there are some principles in this that we should allow to challenge us.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Benefits of Burnout?

It is exactly, to the month, 27 years since I knitted a garment by hand. At that time I was in the process of knitting a pullover for 3 year old Allan, when Ian was 5, and Richard was a baby. It took me so long that by the time I had completed it, it was too small for Allan. I realised that if I was to supply such like garments for my family, hand-knitting would not 'work'. So I invested in a basic knitting machine, which kept us going for the next about 15 years - at which time I no longer had time for even that, and, the fashion had changed for teenage boys to wearing other kinds of jackets and tops. That was, I believed the end of my knitting days, and I donated the needles and other equipment to the women's ministry department of the Mozambique Outreach from our church.

That was until I found myself in serious burnout in 2010 - when I started knitting teddy bears - an occupation that did not take much in the way of thought or concentration, but kept me on the edge of sanity. Many are the little teddies of various sizes that I have made and donated to WAR (Women Against Rape) during the months of furlough that I took in 2010 and again in 2011, and also during times of needing to 'opt out' in the stresses 2012.
Since being on Leave of Absence during the first 4 months of 2013, I have continued to knit some teddys, but have got a bit bored with it and decided to go back to 'the olden days' activity of attempting to knit a garment by hand.

Fortunately I have a collection of knitting needles belonging to my mother, who, presently in a Frail Care Centre, no longer has a use for them; and a fair collection of oddments of wool. Seeing as I no longer have any patterns, I resorted to 'google' and found one that looked reasonable and possible to do. I am pleased with the result, and hope that it may fit my grand-daughter! Perhaps this is the start of more knitting. Time will tell!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tapping in

This morning, as I was nearing the end of my contemplative time,  I became aware of a tapping sound outside my bedroom window. There was Mrs Barbet, tapping away at a branch of the frangipani bush. I wondered what she was doing as that branch is not nearly large enough for a nest to be made in it - besides which, it is not springtime in this hemisphere. Then I saw the hole she had made, and that she was enjoying a morning repast from the contents thereof.
How she knew that there was something there, I don't know! Whether it was the sap she was drinking or grubs that she was eating, I also don't know. Perhaps I would find out if I were to 'google it'. However, what I do know, is that she was tapping into that branch for some much needed sustenance, while I was tapping in to the 'bread of life' for mine.

I was reminded that I am connected to the rest of creation and have needs like other creatures. We tend to create problems for ourselves and complicate our lives when we don't seek to enjoy that which has been provided, but rather manufacture needs which we then seek to satisfy for ourselves.

So I guess this was, for me, a reminder to keep pursuing simplicity and contentment.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Being a Hermit or Hibernating?

Hibernate - animal/plant - spend the winter in a dormant state - person - remain inactive or indoors for an extended period of time. Hermit - person living in solitude as a religious discipline.
Which of these applies to me at the present time?
1. There is the inaction indoors part - not that there is complete inaction. The usual routines of living go on - like eating, sleeping, interacting with family to a limited degree, limited shopping for necessities, and so on. Activities like reading, doing crosswords, playing card games, thinking and reflecting take up a fair amount of time, and I would classify them as 'inactive' as they do not involve other people. More like going through the motions of living rather than actually participating in life.
2. There is the solitude part - a state of being separated within from what is going on around me. This is there whether I am alone inside, or whether I am out and about like at the beach, or in a coffee shop. And in this state of separation/ solitude I am continuously in conversation with my Lord. It's like I am living inside myself.
Both of these hermit and hibernating conditions seem to be applicable in varying degrees. But perhaps the hibernating part is there in greater part. Hibernation is a winter condition - a time of drought and barrenness, yet a time when roots push down deeper into soil in search of water and nutrition . It is a time of energy conservation, displaying fruits of impatience, irritability and inability to deal with other's needs and problems. This certainly explains the condition in which I find myself at this time.
I shall continue to embrace this time of withdrawal and energy conservation at all levels (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) while waiting on God, knowing that He is present and active, and trusting that I will recognize the signs of new life - a season of spring - when He judges that I am ready for it.

Dyslexic Plumbing?

It has seemed to me to be the norm that when it comes to taps on basins, sinks and baths, that the right hand tap is for cold water, and the left hand tap is for hot water. Now, on the coast of KZN, specifically in a dwelling at Salt Rock, I have encountered the reverse. At first I wondered whether the taps had been mistakenly put in that way - and that the tap labelled cold would actually be hot and vice versa. But in taking a risk to find out in the shower, it turned out that the right hand tap labelled hot was indeed hot. And this has proven the case for each of the installations! So it is a relief that I can take the labeling as being accurate.
But other questions now arise:
- Is the installation specific to this house only, or is it common on the Natal Coast? To find out the answer I will have to do some investigating in other houses and buildings. Unfortunately, being a visitor to this area, the opportunity doesn't arise for me to do this. So, I guess, the easiest way to find out would be to visit a hardware/ plumbing shop. Or maybe to simply ask the owners/ builders of this establishment - which is by far the easiest way of finding out.
- Is the hot/ cold water arrangement global or a north/ south hemisphere thing? Perhaps like the direction the water circles down the plug hole - i.e. clockwise below the equator, and anti-clockwise above the equator [don't laugh - I saw this for myself when I spent a year in the USA]. So I shall have to ask my northern hemisphere friends about the arrangement of their taps. I wonder what they will think of my question? - perhaps that I am going batty?
- Is the tap arrangement British versus Other? If so, then this part if the Natal Coast, or the builders of this establishment were/are not of British extraction - because in my experience, the taps in the United Kingdom have cold on the right and hot on the left. If it is a British versus Other thing, then this is a potential scandal as KwaZuluNatal is considered by some of its inhabitants (who are in the minority although you wouldn't think so if you we're to spend time among the little commercial enterprises in the Natal Midlands) to be the last outpost of the British Empire.
Whatever the answers, at least I can know that for now I will not scald myself when turning on the tap labelled 'C' for cold (unless both taps are labelled C as for the bath!). But it will be good to check wherever I go, in case the plumber who did the installation suffered from dyslexia.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shoes I Walk In

I have been having a problem for the past few months in finding shoes to fit my foot, which is short, broad, and with a high instep. The styles and makes on the market just don't fit - even if I try a larger size than I normally get. It's not as if I have a lot of pairs in my cupboard as I have a very limited range. The problem is that my everyday shoes have been wearing out and I am left with a pair of black sandals, a pair of blue flat soft shoes, and a pair of slip-slops which I now wear most of the time.

In reflecting on this difficulty I realise how much it is indicative of where I am right now in life. I have come to the end of a 'season' in ministry. The last number of years, I have not been fully operating in my particular giftings but havebeen having to do a lot of other things.  They have been important and I know that is was God's direction that I do them, but the toll that it has taken on me has been significant - enough to 'wear out my shoes'. Therefore, in looking for the same styles and makes, I have not had success because the time for walking in those 'shoes' has ended. I am no longer ministering in the community in which I have lived, worshipped, worked and ministered for the past 23 years - the community in which I heard and responded to the call to the ordained ministry.

During the 4 months leave of absence that has been granted me, I trust that the Lord will plant seeds of passion in my heart as to the direction He is now leading me in. As I spend time in rest and reflection, in seeking the Lord in quietness and retreat, I am confident that not only will I hear His clear direction, but that I will also find new shoes to fit the new direction and journey that I will be 'walking in'.