While gazing at my four season collages, an artist friend said, and when you look at them, doesn't it take you back to the moment you made them?

I gave a non-committal reply as that didn't quite fit for me. On the other hand, delving back into my writing journals, as I have been doing recently, certainly allows me to time travel. Seeing my words and the way they are formed - the size and consistency of the letters - on the paper, tells me a great deal about how I was feeling at the time.

I've been discussing whether it is possible to keep a reflective writing journal on line. Perhaps for some it is. However, I wonder whether the technology not only means that the writing loses its spontaneity, that 'before the thought is fully formed' quality, but also the visual impact of how it was written when reading back.

In my journals I've been finding titbits to inspire my present writing projects. I also re-discovered this which I still like as a meditative little piece:

Those moments I lost
in the pettiness of things,
I find again in the sea's
underwater calm.

Those moments I lost
in the fear of things,
I find again in the sea's
night terrors.


I love to sit at the top of our garden by our lavender bushes and watch the indsutry of bees. I am humbled that they put so much effort in and, over their lifetime, produce just a tea spoon of honey. I wonder what my tea spoon of honey will be?

Bee Keeper
Today I feel the weight of honey,
the deliberateness of bees.

I sip my lavender cup
then slip to the next,
through draped cherry skirts,
my bloomers pollen yellow,
with a certainty and a fecundity
insects know
and humans have lost.

I will have my portion of nectar today,
create my share of sweetness.


My mind goes back to the International Human Sciences Conference which I attended in July. One of the keynote speakers was Professor Bernd Jager from the University of Quebec. He spoke about creation myths and how they might be used to understand (rather than explain) aspects of our shared humanity.

He suggested some commonalities in these myths: action followed by encounter, then a 'standing back' and a 'calling forth' of what has been created. This is followed by a benediction, a 'seeing that it was good'.

And I thought that it is often the 'benediction' which I forget, the moment (in Gestalt terms) of satisfaction, when the desire has been fulfilled. Perhaps that's why sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel.

Jager talked about the importance in myth of the rhythmic succession of 'creation' followed by 'benediction' and 'rest'. I wonder if there is something unhealthy in having lost this sequence.


How to get started writing? It’s no secret that I am a great advocate of what I call ‘free’ writing. Free writing throws off any inflexible rules about how writing ought to look or about what it ought to say. I call it free writing. Others have described it in different ways, such as unconscious or automatic writing where we write whatever is in our heads in as muddled up or disorderly fashion as possible. From this ‘mess’ can be drawn words or phrases which are often surprising and can be the springboard for further, more crafted, writing.

Natalie Goldberg in her seminal work Writing Down the Bones, gives the following 'rules' for free writing: keep to a time limit*; keep your hand moving; don't cross out; don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar; lose control; don't think; don't get logical; go for the jugular (if something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy)
* I would suggest initially three minutes, working up to five or ten.

The aim is to 'burn through to first thoughts … to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel', to 'explore the rugged edge of thought.' (Goldberg, p8/9)

This does take practice and may initially go against the writing instinct, especially if you have a particularly rigid attitude to writing taken from certain experiences in the past, school for instance.

Surrealists used free writing before they painted and I introduced it to a local artist, John Bell. He has recently sent me this wonderful painting which expresses for him the process of ‘free’ writing.

John explains: I just thought you may like to see the attached picture entitled ‘Golden Thread’. It is about free writing; it reads left to right. The upper horizontal line represents thoughts we are aware of, but there's lots going on beneath.

Tracing free writing along this upper line gives a peak to represent a gold nugget dredged to the surface. This, tracing further, gives an opportunity to be enlightened by this revelation, and a realisation of more, perhaps even larger ‘nuggets’ to uncover later.

(For more information about John's art,

So this Summer, set your writerly hand free and discover the treasure just below the surface.

I have just returned from the 30th International Human Science Research Conference: Intertwining body-self-world (St Catherine's College, Oxford, 27th-30th July 2011).

It is difficult to encapsulate the experience in one word. It was so many things: interesting; challenging; scary; lonely; full of encounters; warm; thought-provoking; curious; confusing... I think that what it all means to me will unfold and change over the coming months, depending, perhaps, on what happens next and on what ideas and acquaintances will be deepened.

Under the curious heading must come the 'workshop' given by an American Dennis Rebelo, who tutors business entrepreneurs in creating a more effective personal story (and, most amazingly, gets paid for it!) He put up his first powerpoint slide with his title: 'Phenomenologically-Structured Storying for Threshold Moments in Life and Work'. What made me start and look again was that he had actually trade-marked the phrase: Threshold Moments. It came as a complete shock to me that you can trade-mark words, trade-mark a meaning. Is this even possible? What happens if I decide to use threshold and moments according to my own fashion? I wonder, even as I type this, whether I need his permission to put these two words together in a sentence.

Yes there were times during the conference when I felt out of place, a little lost. On the other hand, I was impressed by the other delegates' passion for their research within the human sciences, and also their capacity to hold onto a belief that what they are doing will somehow improve the world around them. That was comforting.