Could this Year be the Perfect, Blissful Summer…?

“My soul is in the sky.” ~ William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

It’s been a struggle to find time for my blog lately, what with end of term craziness, juggling my ‘working mum’ balls and looking after ginger tabby kittens Simba and Saffron; plus another exciting project I’m keeping under wraps for the time being.

I feel like a little poetry and an inconsequential natter about the weather might hit the spot. We need something to combat the frequent depressing news headlines about Brexit…

A recent sunset

The ongoing searing temperatures in the UK have been reminiscent of the summer of 1976.  I remember it quite clearly as a slip of a girl: splashing around in the paddling pool with my brother, who to our mum’s dismay, also took an unscheduled plunge into the murky garden pond.

Wow, it’s been a long time since us Brits have really had a decent summer! We always bemoan the drizzly, wet weather that mostly visits our shores, so I have been determined not to complain about the heat. I think we are slowly getting used to it…

Or not.

A selection of recent tweets about #heatwaveuk

The extreme temperatures have been challenging at times, even my computer is whirring grumpily and refusing to operate at its normal speed. Oh well, school is out for summer as of lunchtime today, and my children are officially on manana time.

Summer is symbolic of life, love and abundance. The opening lyrics to Gershwin’s jazz aria ‘Summertime’ from his opera Porgy and Bess springs to mind.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy… Well, at least it’s meant to be.

Mostly people are more relaxed and tend to be quite sociable; we spend more time enjoying nature and outdoor pursuits. And who doesn’t love alfresco dining on balmy evenings?

My brood have always loved the simple pleasure of picnics and barbecues with friends and family. It’s been so hot lately we’ve been able to take a few refreshing dips in the Wycombe Rye Lido.

I feel like celebrating with a light-hearted mix of music, art and poetry, and perhaps a sip or two of Pimms and lemonade, hic!

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir

As a mum I also love that my never-ending laundry dries in a nanosecond at the moment!

But can we have too much of a good thing?

Not when it comes to music.

Rimsky Korsakov – Flight of the Bumblebee with the Russian National Orchestra and Mikhail Pletnev:

Mendelssohn – Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for clarinet and piano with Alexey Gorokholinsky and Vassily Primakov:

In the summer of 1717 composer Georg Friedrich Händel was commissioned by King George I to write some suitably regal music to accompany his grand flotilla of royal boats as they set sail down the river Thames. The result was his Water Music Suite in F Major, HWV 348 performed by fifty musicians (a large number for the time period), on the banks of the river.

Canaletto – London, The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day c. 1750

It must have been quite an occasion, one that’s easy to visualise when you listen to the English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardiner:

The Heatwave

Intense heat: blasting, humid, relentless, baking the land,

Verdant, manicured lawns – turning the colour of sand

Butterflies dance and flit among hazy meadows,

Pollen seeking bees casually meander in hedgerows.

Golden Summer, Eaglemont by Arthur Streeton. This was the first Australian Impressionist painting that was sent to Europe for display in London in 1891 and Paris in 1892.

English roses, wild and cultivated, open then wilt,

The cadence of nature’s eternal rhythm and lilt

Soft, sweet flesh of fruits, hastens to ripe,

Even walking makes damp brows to wipe.

The Basket of Apples by Paul Cézanne

Hear the birds, chirping in a chorus of mirth,

Eager to pluck juicy worms from parched earth

Heady scent of honeysuckle hangs in the air,

Long, lethargic days, perfect for a summer fair.

Wild Honeysuckle by Pierre Andre Brouillet

Skin craves the cooling caress of a soft breeze,

Throw off layers, constraints; wander like Uylsses

Seeking adventure across kingdoms, never to yield,

Abundance thrives, opening up a flower filled field.

Poppy field near Argenteuil by Claude Monet c. 1873

Torpid days fade away in vibrant, orangey balls,

Horizons bathed in luminous hues, as darkness falls

My thoughts drift like weightless dandelion seeds,

Scattered. Where they will land? Which will take heed?

Pont Boieldieu Rouen at sunset by Camille Pissarro c. 1896

Summer’s gifts are bountiful; but no rain drops!

Without swimming, drinking or bathing we flop;

Halted, by an unquenchable thirst, dehydrated pores,

Water, wine and crisp cider are liberally poured.

Frederick Carl Frieseke

The last summer I remember as this, was seventy-six,

A young girl was I, unburdened by politics – polemics

Carefree in the garden, to dream of woodland sprites,

Tales by Barrie and Shakespeare create magical nights.

By Virginia Burges

The Adagio from Vivaldi’s Concerto for solo baroque violin and strings in G Minor, ‘Summer’ (L’Estate, RV 315), performed by Cynthia Miller Freivogel and the early music ensemble, Voices of Music beautifully captures the languor of a hot, humid day:

Summer Sun 

Great is the sun, and wide he goes

Through empty heaven with repose;

And in the blue and glowing days

More thick than rain he showers his rays.

🌞

Though closer still the blinds we pull

To keep the shady parlour cool,

Yet he will find a chink or two

To slip his golden fingers through.

🌞

The dusty attic spider-clad

He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;

And through the broken edge of tiles

Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

🌞

Meantime his golden face around

He bares to all the garden ground,

And sheds a warm and glittering look

Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

🌞

Above the hills, along the blue,

Round the bright air with footing true,

To please the child, to paint the rose,

The gardener of the World, he goes.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Frederick Delius composed ‘Summer Night on the River’ after being inspired by the sights and sounds of the River Loing, which he would sit and ponder during long evenings from the back of his villa in the village of Grez. The impressionist tone poem recreates the gentle lapping of the waves and boats bobbing in the summer breeze:

Boating on the Seine by Pierre August Renoir

Staying on a nautical theme, Debussy’s En Bateau makes me want to be in and on the water, especially with Fritz Kreisler at the helm!

Anthony Hopkins reads The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats:

The Poppy

Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare;

And left the flushed print in a poppy there:

Like a yawn of fire from the grass it came,

And the fanning wind puffed it to flapping flame.

By Francis Thompson

Maurice Ravel’s iconic ballet Boléro, with its hypnotic drum beat and mesmerising flute melody, building up slowly and deliberately to a dramatic conclusion is perfect for sultry summer nights.

Ravel worked on Boléro over the Summer of 1927 at the behest of the Russian actress and dancer, Ida Rubinstein. Here is a wonderful ballet version choreographed by Maurice Bejart with Nicolas Le Riche and orchestre de Paris:

I can’t end without the bard’s immortal Sonnet No. 18 – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Tom Hiddleston’s velvet voice was meant for Shakespeare:

Have a fabulous, sizzling summer!

Musings on the Wondrous, Indestructible Quality of Water… 🌎🌊💦

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water.” ~ Bruce Lee

Water fascinates me…

Its shades, sounds, textures and beauty, as well as water’s many uses are truly a gift to the human race. How we manage its resources will be key to the survival of our species and the innumerable amazing creatures that live beneath its beguiling surface.

The purifying and symbolic qualities of water are why it used for baptism.

Water has inspired many an artist. Claude Monet captivated the world with gorgeous impressionist paintings of his water lily pond at Giverny, as well as his French  landscapes and seascapes.

Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet c. 1919

Pont d’Argenteuil by Claude Monet

Somehow, the watery depictions captured by Norwegian Impressionist Frits Thaulow look so real, more like a photograph than pigments on canvas.

The Watermill by Frits Thaulow c. 1892

Composers have also been drawn under the magical spell of watery environments. I can imagine myself alive in one of Monet’s dramatic paintings of Étretat or on the cliffs at Fecamp, looking out towards the dramatic coastal scenery along the Alabaster Coast when I listen to La Mer.

Sunset at Etretat by Claude Monet

If you close your eyes, what sensations or visuals are inspired by Claude Debussy’s evocative orchestral piece?

The BBC’s Blue Planet II documentary, made by our national treasure and indefatigable champion of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough (and many other dedicated marine biologists and cameramen all over the world), showed us the devastating impact of man’s plastic pollution in our planet’s oceans.  But they also showed us in ravishing detail the many beautiful and diverse underwater habitats.

Our family watched it in awe.

This scene was heartbreaking:

We have got into the habit of using longer life, heavy duty shopping bags, ditching plastic as much as possible and we recycle like most families. It’s encouraging to see an Indonesian business man doing his bit for the planet with non toxic cassava bags:

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Water is such a fundamental part of life, essential to survival, to ingest, to promote physical strength, to cleanse and to create earth’s atmosphere. But it also provides us with relaxation, sporting opportunities, and memories. It is literally part of us, as around sixty percent of our bodies are made up of water.

The Adige River at Verona by Frits Thaulow

As well as its healing properties, water can be incredibly destructive; as we have witnessed at various times, the horrors of natural disasters such as tsunamis and torrential floods on the news. In a biblical sense I’m sure it probably wasn’t Noah’s favourite thing!

Concepts like flow state, and the language to describe Flow is to me, also reminiscent of enjoying time in and around water.

From Wikipedia:

In positive psychology, flow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

The term ‘Flow’ was coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975, which I elaborated on in my post: Shining a Spotlight on your Awesome Character Strengths.

Sometimes it’s good to let go, and stay in the flow. Wait a minute, that phrase sounds familiar…

“Water is the soul of the Earth.” ~ W.H. Auden

We can often take it for granted, but it is perhaps, one of our greatest gifts…

The Subsiding of the Nile by Frederick Goodall c. 1873

I love this eerily beautiful contemporary classical music, ‘Wreck of the Umbria’ composed by Jakub Ciupinski and played so exquisitely by Anne Akiko Meyers:

James Horner’s celtic Hymn to the Sea written for the blockbuster film Titanic, on Irish Uileann Pipes:

I’ve penned some prose in gratitude to this nourishing, life-giving (and sadly, sometimes life-taking) liquid.

The Wonders of Water

Water’s silky stroke rinses away dirt, revives the spirit,
Boiled droplets captured, to comfort shivery cells,
Cool sips to hydrate when heating we must limit,
Listening to gentle, trickling streams darkness dispels.
A primordial power, water’s subtle vigour is irrefutable,
Eroding rocks, gouging landscapes, shaping shores: illimitable.

Sunset on the Nile by Frank Dillon

Glinting sunlight, evanescent on its shimmering, undulating surface,
Free to flow as a waterfall, or be held in pretty ponds,
Mutable mass of vast oceans, an untameable temptress,
Beckoning us to unfathomable depths past waving fronds.
Floating blissfully on buoyant dreams, avoiding violent storms,
Invisible, swirling currents spewing and spraying fleeting forms.

Off the Coast of Cornwall by William Trost Richards

Liquid particles are greater merged, than a single drop,
Yet individual, like the human family, of one source,
H20 soothes my soul, but also dampens if rain won’t stop,
Frequently changing form – precious water; life giving force
Whether contained in a cup, bath, lake or sea,
Views of aquamarine awaken senses, inspire glee…

Antibes by Claude Monet c. 1888

Gliding through glistening pools, my heart’s longings,
Swimming weightless, no constriction, just water…
Sunset and moonlight cast their magic onto paintings,
A vision to behold or immerse in; the ultimate transporter,
Reflections of nature glimmer on mirrored, placid surfaces,
Tears of emotion, translucent and pure, shine flawless.

By Virginia Burges

Midnight in Boulogne by Theo van Rysselberghe

In keeping with my theme I’ll leave you with some highlights from Blue Planet II.

I don’t know about the crab, but this is hypnotising me!

Another hunting/feeding frenzy:

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
~ Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Poetry and Appreciation of the Seasons: A Winter’s Walk

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
 ~ William Shakespeare from Sonnet 97

We woke to thick flakes of snow falling on Sunday morning, and a white layer soon started to cover everything.

Winter Snow in Louveciennes by Camille Pissarro c. 1872

By the time I had got my act together the snow had turned to freezing rain and the dim light was fading further under a heavy blanket of cloud. Still, I felt the need to suffuse my stale blood with fresh air, clear my mind and stimulate my muscles, no matter the rather unappealing prospect the environment was making it.

It’s amazing how even on the coldest and dullest of days there is inspiration for a muse –  if she looks for it.

The Road From Versailles to Saint Germain by Camille Pissarro

Winter can be a tough time: reality sets in alongside the Christmas credit card bills, piling on worry with the extra woolly layers and the battling of virulent, seasonal germs, whilst rousing sluggish motivation.

Even Tchaikovsky agrees we should be warm and snug in January! Mind you, I’m sure Russian winters must be way more brutal than English ones. By the Fireside is the title of January from his 12 pieces of The Seasons, Opus 37. Richter reflects his sentiments on the ivories:

The days are short days and the nights, long. Everything seems to be focused inward.

It’s like we are curled up in a metaphorical fetal position, taking comfort from an enclosed, but secretly nourishing dark space, all growth shielded from view.

Garden Under Snow by Paul Gaugin c. 1879

We dig deep, perhaps drawing on inner reserves to see us through this forlorn time. Nature too, is hunkering down, despite her wintry displays. It seems to me that the stark scenery and empty trees are a sign of mother nature baring her soul to us, her naked branches giving us a sign that we too will flourish again.

Already I have noticed the days are drawing out in small increments.

All traces of snow were gone today. The sky was blue and the sun hovered like a low, bright disc, surely brightening all ragged spirits.

Effect of Snow at Argenteuil by Alfred Sisley

Winter certainly has its unique charms, when everything is stripped back and thrown into sharp relief, but they remain so because of their temporary time span. That is indeed, the magic of all the four seasons.

A Winter’s Walk  

Trees and birds are silent while relentless rain holds court,

A rhythmic, yet random patting against my hood, hypnotising,

Lazy lungs expand with chilly, desolate air, as breath is caught

Coalescing with mist, hot and swirling: my efforts rising,

Icy droplets numbing face, nerves sparking, fingertips tingling,

Under a darkening, dreary sky, life and death are mingling.

The hushed landscape wears a sparse cloak of glory,

Insulated feet stumble, eyes explore meadows, trees and bracken

To discover pockets of beauty, embellishing winter’s bleak story,

A silvery sheen coats soaked ivy leaves – refusing to blacken,

Precarious droplets of watery diamonds hang, almost suspended

From bare and spindly branches; my hibernating heart is mended.

I feel alive as winter reveals its cool, contrasting shades;

Mulchy leaves decorate slippery, muddy trails and stumpy grass,

Ghostly barks shimmer amid the muted inhabitants of glades,

Translucent pools occupy smooth hollows of holly; green glass,

Wet wings carry birds across exposed clearings; swiftly to go

Beneath nature’s cleansing tears; dimpling patches of snow.

Life holding life in abeyance; abundance in perfect stasis,

As unseen activity unfolds within death’s enveloping hands,

Humans eagerly anticipate spring’s invigorating, energetic kiss,

Warming damp, weary bones and awakening purged lands,

But subtle beauty lingers, in the wild depths of decay,

Winter’s test of faith and spirit never does betray…

I want to lose myself among elevated regal trunks,

Their rough and knotted surfaces standing proud,

Witnesses of earth’s creatures, and striding hikers, lifting funks

Their swaying whispers soothing senses; a welcome crowd,

My body feels cold, but my soul is wandering free…

Home beckons: promising shelter, and a hot cup of tea!

 By Virginia Burges

If we want to embrace winter, both the challenges and the beauty, Vivaldi evokes the musical themes that will eternally embody such sentiments.

‘L’Inverno’, Concerto for Violin and strings in F minor, RV. 297 by Cynthia Freivogel and Voices of Music:

You may like to be reminded of a true romantic bard’s words on the subject with the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ode to the West Wind 

Yours in wintry wonderment! Ginny

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” ~ John Steinbeck

Poetic Thoughts on the Chemistry of Life

“[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” ~ Werner Heisenberg

It’s been a while since I’ve attempted poetry, but every now and then the urge takes me to explore the bigger questions of life.

In order to more fully understand the universe we live out our daily lives in, genius, scientific minds delve into and develop Quantum Mechanics; which tends to fry my circuitry. I don’t think I’ll ever get my head round it!

To me it is the ultimate literary theme, how and why we are even here at all…

The Apotheosis of Homer by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres c. 1827

Looking back to the prehistoric swamps of single cell microbes on Earth a few billion years ago, to Darwinian discovery and biogenesis; studying life’s seemingly simple origins and subsequent progress, one might wonder: is creation and evolution one and the same thing?

When I mention chemistry, especially in the title, it is in the broadest sense of the word; not purely a scientific meaning. For the ‘chemistry’ within beings, between souls and all living things in nature has both a real and ethereal quality.

Noun: chemistry

  1. The branch of science concerned with the substances of which matter is composed, the investigation of their properties and reactions, and the use of such reactions to form new substances. the chemical composition and properties of a substance or body.

plural noun: chemistries

“the patient’s blood chemistry was monitored regularly”

2. the complex emotional or psychological interaction between people.

“their affair was triggered by intense sexual chemistry”

To ponder where and what ‘life’ will be in a millennia, let alone another billion years is beyond my comprehension, but maybe not for scientists and Sci-Fi writers!

“Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” ~ Werner Heisenberg, (Across the Frontiers)

I hope you enjoy my attempt at contextualising random thoughts in prose to arrive at a semblance of understanding of the oftentimes violent and disturbing, but also, profoundly beautiful world we live in…

I find listening to Beethoven puts me in a harmonious state of appreciation to access gratitude, contemplation and reflection…

The Chemistry of Life

Oscillations, multiple compounds and formulas,

Make up even a single, miniscule molecule,

Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen; chemical reactions abound,

Mingling the celestial matter of stars…

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Requisite, smaller parts of a complex, greater whole,

Primordial power creates the alchemy of life;

Diffuse quantum world – coursing through flesh,

Synthesis through eons, seeding infinite heartbeats…

Isaac and Rebecca by Rembrandt van Rijn

Inflating life’s vaporous, continuous, undulating breath,

Sparking billions of neurons; birthing artistry, creativity,

Intelligent, cosmic cellular communication,

Powerful and irrevocable, like a thermonuclear reaction.

The Alpha and Omega of physicality, existence;

Omniscient, spontaneous source; force of the universe,

Spirit – true essence of miraculous transmutations,

Infused with eternity; depleted through neglect.

An Emerald Sea by Albert Bierstadt

No on or off switch, just vibrations, instructions…

Harmful messages disrupt a divine diaspora,

Emotional dams accrue, obstructing ebb and flow;

Signals: benevolent or malevolent, misinterpreted, incomplete…

Interior or The Rape by Edgar Degas

Heavy, dysfunctional intensity, warping actions,

Indelible scars, woven into strands of human DNA,

The One Energy, splintered and diluted into duality:

Light and shadow permeating mind, body and soul.

Sperm and egg unite, ignited through love or desire,

Proliferation of life’s sacred, unique diversity,

Blood, bone and beauty are vital; animated,

Exposed to Gaia’s cycles of destruction and regeneration.

The chemistry of life manifests a zeal for life,

Evolution in flow, obeying its innate laws,

Behold swelling, stormy skies; rays glinting on serene seas,

Marvel at the elemental ardour of the universe!

Electrical pulses compose human symphonies;

Biological orchestras resonating earthly frequencies,

Sounds and rhythm, dissonance and harmony,

Cadences of humanity, expressions of the chemistry of life…

By Virginia Burges

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” ~ Werner Heisenberg

When You See a Sensational Sky: Images and Poetry From Cloud Nine… 🌥⛅️🌤

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore, (Stray Birds)

This is going to be a quintessentially English kind of post. Why? Because I’m talking about the weather, and for once, I’m not moaning about it! We Brits are not used to this kind of heat!

As I was sunbathing during Sunday’s glorious, baking hot afternoon, I watched the sun’s rays fan out spectacularly around a solitary cumulus nimbus cloud above me, and felt compelled to capture this astral scene in real time.

I took nine photographs as this huge cloud (my cloud 9), shrouded the blazing sun and then slowly broke up under the onslaught of a sweltering June heat wave. I was grateful to that cloud, without it I would have burnt to a crisp!

If I were an artist I probably would have painted it, but words came instead. My observations have been sublimated into a stream of consciousness, free-verse poem.

In that respect you could say clouds are the ushers of zen as well as the providers of shade…

“Clouds on clouds, in volumes driven, 

Curtain round the vault of heaven.” ~ Thomas Love Peacock

Contemplating Cumulus Clouds

My eyes crinkle at the contrast of silver-lining

Against foreboding, grey cotton sitting above me,

Enveloping every ounce of moisture in the air;

A luminous outline from the sun’s insistent rays,

This incandescent string of pure, bright light.

Illuminating my retina from behind the shadows,

As if nature is saying, there is good within the gloom;

I want to reach up and touch its rounded edges,

Grasp it’s elusive, fleecy form, behold for eternity,

But it is changing with every passing moment.

Life giving rays are only temporarily hidden,

Earth’s star, determined to dissolve suspended droplets

Scorching beams will once again permeate the ground,

Bathing all living things in its glowing reach,

Imperceptible breeze, to break up stifling humidity.

As I watch candy-like white wisps breaking away,

The puffy edges are swirling in constant motion,

Moving to form anther cloud, or simply evaporate,

Demonstrating the eternal flow of the universe…

How all primordial ingredients are reused, recycled.

Cumulo – these Latin piles of shaded air,

Resplendent swells of watery weather,

Floating purposefully or aimlessly, gathering or fleeing

Deliberate, or speeding; depending on the wind,

Patchwork ceiling for humans, lift for soaring birds.

We may frown and fret at an abundance of nimbus,

Bemoaning their frequent outbursts of precipitation!

Today cumulus shades me from the searing heat,

Another day they will bestow liquid on parched earth

Is God decorating the sky, with an ever-changing palette?

Meteorological material; from mysterious misty layers,

To floating pale tufts, or brooding, bulging monsters,

Swollen and violent with rain, blocking out the sun;

Ephemeral fluid shapes: never forever, and never the same…

Scarce or plentiful; permeating and patrolling the skies.

Cloud 9!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~ John Lubbock (The Use Of Life)

Revealing Reflections on Life, Survival and Soul Stamina

“In your soul there are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you. “ ~ Oscar Wilde

I have been pondering the meaning of life these last few weeks, or at least more than usual!  Lately I’ve found myself caught up in seemingly endless vicissitudes, and have been telling myself it’s all for a higher purpose. This thought helps me get through the chaos. We have to embrace all of it, the good, the bad, the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Writing is like a purging of my soul, it’s a cathartic comfort blanket that enables me to have perspective. I’ve written some poetry as I muse over developing soul stamina, which I hope you can relate to in some small way.

It seems to me that just one lifetime (even a long one), is too short a time for our souls to fully experience earthly life and attain nirvana. I have entertained the idea that maybe we get to come round many, many times, building on what we said, thought, did and achieved before.

This idea is nothing new. Plato believed in an immortal soul that partakes in a multitude of lives, and the concept of reincarnation is a central tenet of religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

The bigger picture of human existence and the universe eludes us for certain, but faith, love and hope are really all we need while we’re here.

I’ve also included some music which for me perfectly encapsulates soul stamina. The composer who I believe most embodies these qualities is Beethoven, (no surprises there!) but any music which really affects you emotionally is speaking to your heart and soul, being the universal language.

After all, Plato did say: “Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.”

Bach’s music was the backbone of his religious convictions, it was solely to glorify God. This particular transcription for cello and organ of his Adagio in C, BWV 564 by Jacqueline du Pré and Roy Jesson could only have been composed and played by individuals with loving souls:

Mozart knew how to plumb the depths of his being. He must have been wearing his heart on his sleeve when he wrote the adagio of his Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, in 1786:

I feel Richard Wagner captures the torment of the soul with the battle of the sacred and the profane in Tannhäuser – The immortal Overture and Venusberg:

While I’m at it, Tristan und Isolde could not have been written without a deep well of emotion. The glorious and heart wrenching Prelude and Liebestod (Georg Solti – Chicago Symphony Orchestra):

Vivaldi’s music brings joy and exalts the soul – The Gloria in D Major, RV 589 with John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and The English Baroque Soloists:

Beethoven’s magnificent Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (The Choral) was the pinnacle of his musical genius. For me, it encompasses life in all its guises and every day glory, with a finale that overcomes the suffering and struggle of humanity in unity and brotherhood – the unforgettable Ode to Joy by the Sabadell flashmob:

“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.” ~ Daniel Defoe

Soul Stamina

The mind may forget, but the soul remembers,

Explorations in humanity, countless footsteps…

The faces of yesteryear, now etheric embers,

Glowing from the heart of our eternal depths.

Do we bear these former translucent portents?

Embedded and merged, in our body of the moment?

Joan of Arc by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Soul wisdom is creative; desiring experience anew,

Looking behind your eyes, I see the real you…

The one who has always been; wore bodies through

Your radiance surrounds and shines so true.

Everything you are, is held and holding you fast,

It’s all here now; the future, present and past.

Self-portrait with a dark felt hat at the easel by Vincent van Gogh c. 1886

Do we transfer it over, the healing and the heartache?

A name, a pattern, a place, a talent, a skill,

Drawn to our soul’s connections; not fully awake,

Distant memories reflecting, through windows of Will.

Sojourns of unfinished karma, or perhaps dreamy plans?

With souls to share our journeys and time spans?

Reflection by Alfred Stevens

Meeting of souls: spiritual, chemical reactions abound

As astral beings reunite; immutable yet impermanent,

Knowing each other long before – apart then found,

Different yet the same; embalmed in the moment.

Living to enrich the soul, on its timeless fray,

Ancient selves expressing; mortal games to play.

The Storyteller by Hugues Merle

We envy souls on a seemingly smooth path,

Whilst we are buffeted on rocks for measure,

Honouring our struggle for growth, not wrath,

Physical interludes of pain, parsimony and pleasure.

En route to glory, souls are breached time and again,

With wounds that sear and scar; no two the same.

The Kiss by Carolus Duran

Whether in lofty social status, or ordinary life,

Have we chosen the routes to our Shangri-la?

Maybe comfort and warmth, or problems and strife?

In divine unfolding, we are blind to reason,

But for every learning; belongs a perfect season.

The Honeysuckle Bower (the artist and his first wife Isabella Brant) by Peter Paul Rubens c. 1609

The soul has no colour, creed, race or gender,

Myriad of vessels from life’s eclectic diversity,

Anatomical robe of being, searching for an answer…

Archetypal beneath, evincing modes of personality.

A pilgrimage of passion; rebirth will come,

Adventurous spirits, immortal inside, part of one.

Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Wake gently from sleep, oh consciousness,

Hear and know your inner voice, your soul

The higher part which exists in opulence,

I will see through those eyes, in fleshy stroll.

Do our human journeys build soul stamina?

Mind, body, spirit: metaphysical phenomena.

By Virginia Burges

Our Corner (Anna and Laurense Alma-Tadema) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

The soul of man alone, that particle divine,

Escapes the wreck of worlds,

When all things fail. ~ William Somerville

17 Quotes on Vulnerability that will inspire an Authentic Life

Vulnerability is the language of the soul and the voice of the heart. ~ Virginia Burges

To open up to life is to be vulnerable. To follow a dream is to be vulnerable. To be who YOU truly are is to be vulnerable. Whenever we strike up a friendship, embark on a relationship, start a new project, or pretty much any activity; we are vulnerable.

Every time we close our eyes and go to sleep we are vulnerable, and we trust that after our dreaming we will soon open them again…

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

I feel vulnerable every time I publish a blog post. A part of me always hopes that it will be helpful and interesting to at least one person! I’m exposing my inner self, a tiny voice in the vastness of the universe. But I’m not the only one, we’re all in this thing called ‘life’ together.

One of the biggest things in my life that forced me to be vulnerable was being pregnant and becoming a mother. You have no choice but to trust what is happening inside your body, and that you can support another life.

vulnerability-baby-hand

A new mum with a baby to care for can be vulnerable to the well meaning opinion of others, to sheer exhaustion, to not knowing what she is doing. We rely on the help and support of family, midwives, partners and other mums. But eventually we find our own way, and we realise how rewarding being a parent is, we embrace the responsibility of raising another human being; even though we are vulnerable as parents and they are vulnerable as children.

Suffering also made me accept and own my vulnerability. Being creative invites learning and growth, but also risks ridicule. When I published my novel I was terrified of what feedback might come my way.

Dr. Brené Brown really connected with me through her TED talk about the power of vulnerability.  A short summary of her wisdom and insights:

The first thing I usually feel like doing after a setback, a rejection or a failure is to retreat back into my shell. My inner voice pronounces, “You can’t do it, you’re not good enough,” triumphant in its ‘I told you so’ moment – just when I’m at my most vulnerable. I listen to it to be polite, (there’s no avoiding freedom of speech when it comes from within), and then I mentally reply, “Thank you for your opinion, but I’m doing it anyway. You can go back to your little corner now!”

In the spirit of vulnerability I’m going to wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s quite a worn sleeve, frayed at the edges, but the material has a certain faded toughness about it after all these years…

vulnerability-rumi

It seems to me that vulnerability is the only true path to your authentic self, the ultimate form of surrender; leading to what Brené Brown calls whole-hearted living: embracing compassion, courage and connection. But it’s a path strewn with pot holes of uncertainty, stones of insecurity and boulders of disappointments. It is the path less travelled.

I hope you enjoy these few verses; however, as promised in the title, I’ve saved the heavy hitting to the quotes that follow!

Vulnerability

Vulnerability opens up all possibility;

Tantalising outcome shrouded from view,

Emotions are unguarded, genuine,

To lower defences, let others in.

vulnerability-lone-tree

Hiding behind high walls, we are safe,

But life is not a medieval siege,

Vulnerability requires a two-way trade;

Open the gate and reception is made.

vulnerability-chateau-de-chenonceau

Over protection is airless, like a vacuum,

Do we breathe vulnerability or stifling safety?

Extreme caution leads to emptiness, numbness;

Is your life locked away inside a fortress?

vulnerability-girl-travelling-in-asia

We risk everything to show our light

And lay bare our earthly plight.

We may be misunderstood, maligned,

But also loved, appreciated and aligned.

vulnerability-elephants

The path to fulfillment and passion

Can only be navigated with the soul;

It knows the terrain, where to travel,

No light is hidden under a bushel.

vulnerability-tea-lights

A broken heart understands all hearts,

A failure procures respect for all who try;

A wounded soul does not aim verbal blows,

If it embraces the vulnerability we all know..

vulnerability-heart-rope

Introspection – arch enemy of arrogance,

Vulnerability tenderly accepts warts and all,

Blame vainly attempts to dissipate pain,

But without vulnerability it will remain.

vulnerability-bridge-hoikku-gorge

We may be rejected, insulted, ignored,

But shame and guilt win if we shield

Ourselves from joy, happiness and gratitude;

Forgive – move on, relax our attitude.

vulnerability-leopard

Flowers do not refuse to open tightly curled buds,

They do not fuss over a passing opinion,

Never ask admiration of their beauty, from seeing;

They simply blossom into a glorious statement of being.

vulnerability-wild-rose

Vulnerability keeps us humble, honest – alive.

Vulnerability embraces risk, uncertainty,

Vulnerability shows our true self, limits control;

Vulnerability is a map for the journey of the soul…

By Virginia Burges

17 inspiring quotes on vulnerability:

  1. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ~ Brené Brown
  2. “The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.” ~ Paulo Coelho, (Eleven Minutes)
  3. “What happens when people open their hearts?” “They get better.” ~ Haruki Murakami, (Norwegian Wood)
  4. “To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ~ Criss Jami
  5. “Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.” ~ Stephen Russell (Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior)
  6. “We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.” ~ Eric Micha’el Leventhal
  7. “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Brené Brown
  8. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” ~ C.S. Lewis
  9. “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. “ ~ M. Scott Peck
  10. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~ Hellen Keller
  11. “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strengths.” ~ Sigmund Freud
  12. “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” ~ Brené Brown
  13. “I feel like I’m a much better person when I’m developing my imagination and my innocence and my vulnerability. I like that version of me better than the version where I’m just working on my analytical mind.” ~ Brit Marling
  14. “Heroes are higher than their vulnerability. That is why they are heroes.” ~ Amit Kalantri
  15. “And maybe that was love. Being so vulnerable and allowing someone else in so far they could hurt you, but they also give you everything.” ~ Christine Feehan, (Water Bound)
  16. “What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.” ~ Brené Brown
  17. “I think one’s relationship with one’s vulnerability is a very delicate and precious relationship. Most people try to hide, disguise that vulnerability, and in doing that, you, I think, diminish a great source of power.” ~ Philip Schultz

Until the next time- stay vulnerable!

#SundayBlogShare – The Sound of Silence

Some days there’s so much noise around me I think I’m going to lose my mind. Noise from thoughts, caterwauling from the kids, traffic, horns, sirens, TV, radio and so on. Some days I long for silence; to retreat into an inner sanctum, where there’s respite from the onslaught of the world. Meditation helps, and so does playing the violin. Sometimes I long to hear the sound of your voice. But sometimes only silence will do…

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

The sound of silence, substrate of creation…

Noise of nothingness filling, expanding senses,

Priming them to detect violent vibrations,

Scales of dainty decibels, sonorous caresses.

Listen well; distinguish subtle intonations,

Auditory input on waves of turbulent air,

A tendency to love pulsing impressions,

Emanating forth, emulating, wishing to share…

silence-harp-in-concert

Silence surrounds; the base note of existence…

Without that peace, would I appreciate sound?

Lilting of inner voice, harmony not dissonance,

A palette on which to speak, sing and listen is profound.

Silence: a constant companion, blank canvas for music,

The space between notes, said Claude Debussy,

Clasping violin, I perform my favourite acoustic,

Exploring the infinite waters of a fathomless sea.

silence-panorama

Sounds can nourish – biting into crunchy apple,

Or jangle cells, like long finger nails on a blackboard,

The terrifying cacophony of war, sound of battle,

Some are sweet, like a lover’s kiss, desired, adored.

Some are jolting, startling – a sudden, strident scream,

Soft tears of God; comforting, steady rain drops,

Splashing onto Earth, in relentless, rhythmic stream,

Solace for my soul, time to ponder, until it stops.

silence-rain

Sounds carry me to exotic, far flung places,

Where turbulent waves crash over distant lands,

Creatures howl and cry, endless echoes, many faces,

Inaudible grains of sand slip through my hands.

Floating on a breeze, flowers whisper the joy of scent,

Icy, cruel winds have their own sharp language,

Thunder fulminates across quivering landscapes, spent,

Hear my heartbeat; primordial thud – free from anguish.

silence-barn-thunderstorm

Life force emanates from all that is – eternal silence,

Out of the divine shroud a rustle, a breath: quiet, loud,

Familiar sounds bond to heart, enable resilience,

Earth’s endless maelstrom, amorphous as clouds.

Energy fields to immerse in, align with…

No tone goes unheard by the universe,

Flight – the whirring of gossamer wings will give,

A soprano’s broken heart, on an audience does disperse.

silence-maria-bayo-orchestra

Silence sets the stage, from birth to old age,

In-tune with tranquil Self, absorb oscillations,

To travel down memory lane, from same page,

Exulting in emotions of pitch and modulation.

Healing human wounds, retreating back to source,

Stillness resides there, diaphanous spark of essence,

Surrender to the vibrations, relinquish force,

Return always, into the sound of silence…

By Virginia Burges

silence-stained-glass

#SundayBlogShare – Elegy for Earth 🐝🏔🌎

“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” ~ David Attenborough

In many respects the success of the human race has caused as many problems as it has solved for us collectively. Population explosion, the demands for food, pollution, the endless pursuit of profits at the expense of people, plants and animals, (especially the mega corporations such as Monsanto), who produce and use some of the most harmful ingredients known to man and nature.

monsanto-pollution

Governments only seem to care about the environment when there’s something in it for them, such as tourist trade. Don’t even get me started on the destruction of rainforest for palm oil and other ingredients that fuel our ‘convenience’ lifestyle.

So many endangered species in Asia and the Amazon are seeing their habitats destroyed for the sake of a few companies and individuals making more than a few bucks. This is the dark side of capitalism. Making money no matter the cost.

But the end does not justify the means, because billions of people live on this planet. Harvesting huge swathes of the ‘lungs of the earth’ for timber and other land use may give a short term economic gain, but how can we measure the huge cost to humanity in terms of loss of diversity and disasters bought about as a result of such ecological destruction?

gibbon

We can all do our bit, reducing waste, recycling, walking instead of taking a car, being aware of our buying habits, and asking ourselves, do we support environmentally conscious businesses? Do we buy cosmetics and food that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way?

Planet Earth II

I admire Sir David Attenborough in many ways, he is a brilliant broadcaster and passionate naturalist, but it’s mostly because of the man he is; the way he has dedicated his life to bringing the beauty of nature to the masses. Definitely a national treasure! He has done more in his life than probably any other person (except maybe Darwin), to help us understand and love the natural world, open our eyes to how complex and amazing planet Earth really is, showing us that humans and the natural world are interdependent. Their survival aids our survival.

Planet Earth II has been compelling viewing! Some highlights:

The last episode of Planet Earth II is airing tonight on BBC One, and it focuses on animals in urban environments. Here’s the trailer for Cities:

I hope you enjoy my poem, Elegy for Earth. It’s a bittersweet musing on what we’ve done to the animal kingdom and the planet we call home – Earth.

Elegy for Earth

Gravity pulls us to your perfect, rounded bosom,

Our feet, able to walk in soft earth, grass and sand,

Your endless bounty is a gift, pure and fulsome,

Evolved have we, to wield a greedy, grasping hand,

Eager to harvest, destroy and plunder your riches,

We continue to rape and pillage; burn nature’s bridges.

 brazil-amazon-caracol

Many of our people appreciate and value such utopia,

Those who do not, give no thought to rainforests or

Wildlife; they are deaf to earth’s cry of melancholia,

No longer can she sustain this global ravage before

We reach the point of no return – alas, this is it.

Improve stewardship, or spin on a barren crypt.

apollo-butterfly

Industrialisation supported our growing population,

Without thought of the consequences for our home,

We paused not, to notice the result of human invasion,

We lost the wisdom of our forebears, who used to roam

Mother Earth. Her resources are finite and dwindling fast,

If we heed not nature’s warnings; humanity will not last.

forest-stag-and-boars

Poisonous fumes, silent smoke lace the air; breathe death

Plastic and detritus fill oceans deep and clog sunny shores,

Living rainforest cut-down, decimated, with startling breadth,

Pyres of man-made rubbish, polluting Earth’s pristine pores,

How far we have strayed, in the name of material progress,

We reap what we sow, our ultimate destruction to manifest.

smoke

How much wiser, to preserve this green and vibrant land,

As indigenous tribes have done, no need for fossil fuels

Instead we mine, we frack, we drill, we kill; be damned,

Pause, notice our impact; let’s protect our precious jewel.

Climate change accelerates, while man still procrastinates,

To continue unabated means the end of the master-race.

pollution

Ancient, tall trees and rolling seas offer healing escape,

Mountain air revives, soul solace, fresh foods replenish,

Let’s not take more than we need – replant and replace,

Waste is unforgivable when so many, from hunger, perish.

What polluted wasteland will we create for our descendants?

In all haste, will we act, to save Earth’s divine resplendence?

water-lily

If thriving pastures and woodlands are turned to dust,

As we wage chemical warfare on all that is pure and good,

Complain we cannot, about modern plagues’ relentless thrust,

Wars, droughts and floods; apocalypse no longer misunderstood,

Through hardship of experience, source of harmful disease,

Species wiped out; no fish, no tigers, no monkeys or bees.

tiger

The ghost of Christmas past says, stop! Look! See!

How hunting made animals extinct, and smog is choking,

The spirit of the present says, you will not get off scot-free,

Serious consequences to stand and face; no point hoping…

For the ghost of Christmas future, to bring good tidings,

Redemption lies only in ceasing madness; our silver linings.

man-in-the-wilderness

Imagine hell on Earth; no pristine wilderness left to explore,

No clean seas to sail on or swim in, surf polluted waves,

Dante’s Inferno would be a nightmare reality to deplore,

We have the power to do our bit, our planet to save,

Halt the mindless massacre, before it’s too late,

If we do nothing together, then we seal our fate…

glowing-sunrise-canim-lake

By Virginia Burges

#SundayBlogShare – Honouring The Fallen on Remembrance Sunday

The Fallen

The fallen have no voice, our freedom is their sign,

Oh, brave heroes, selfless deeds claimed your prime,

Your words were left unspoken, on hellish frontiers,

But we still hear you, even after all these years…

History has veiled your suffering, sacrifice never to forget,

So many wars, too many battles; faced by general and cadet,

Greedy death, your serpent like tongue, too fast ran,

Devouring life after life; from cruel carnage of man.

The Somme’s sodden, bloody fields saw many a charge,

Cut down by a hail of bullets, bombs small and large,

Pounding hooves, feet and tanks, cover pestilent ground,

Ear splitting screams, explosions, to stealthy silence sound.

washington-memorial

When the smoke has cleared, gritty eyes cannot bear indignity,

Of mangled and missing bodies; but in courage lies nobility,

A debt we can never repay, you faced evil, settled the score,

Faces we cannot see, but your deeds are the stuff of lore,

Our hearts fill with gratitude, for your unwaivering duty,

Concrete shells of empty buildings, stripped of beauty,

Serve as reminders of lost limbs and shattered homes,

Your graves tended, sought are your lost, scattered bones.

The dice has been shaken; the dice has been rolled,

Your number is up; time to cross the eternal threshold,

You went into danger, knowing you may never return,

A mission impossible, no easy final sojourn…

war-graves

Last post played, last drink downed, from life’s bitter-sweet cup,

If lucky, you could savour the taste, before going up,

Was it sweet? Was it sour? Did you know we wear your flower?

Red petals bloom in a sea of crimson; your poppies empower.

You drew a line in the sand, to defend our cherished homeland,

But the tragic loss of life, is hard to fully understand,

Our freedom is won, and the many thank the few,

Conflict resolved, because of what you went through.

Stories of the fallen continue to be told; as is just,

Their tales must not pass unknown, into shadows and dust,

The fallen show us the true meaning of extraordinary bravery,

So that we may never again, be shackled by tyranny and slavery.

poppy-in-wheat-field

You answered the call; sentinels of the skies, preserving lands,

Plummeting the depths of oceans, with protective hands,

Platoons, divisions, armies of ordinary men and women,

You saw and did, more of your share, of spying and killing.

Infiltrating enemy lines, up against cold, hunger and snipers,

Risking it all, to intercept and thwart, cleverly coded ciphers,

Through ninety percent of human history a war has waged…

Worthy causes hailed by leaders, for followers to engage.

The fallen will cry no more: anguish and pain disappear,

The fallen paid the highest price for valour through fear,

The fallen fought for peace: to preserve a free society,

Honour and respect the fallen, by living with humanity.

canon-in-landscape

By Virginia Burges