Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Everybody loves the Sunshine

Only time to post up a few videos today. Will update you on renovation works on the houses and gardens next month.

River on the road to Cambas...

The snow covered mountains of Serra de Estrella...

Joshua's 12th birthday pancake picnic with a rare cameo appearance on film of the elusive Shanti B...

Right after, we took Moses (!) for a swim in the Rio Zezere...

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Thoughts. Ponderings. Musings. Cogitations. Considerations. Reflections. Observations. Meditations. Deliberations. Ruminations.

But first, white waters from this morning you gotta see...

Cos it’s been a tad wet here of late, Von and I have been feeling like the characters ‘Sally and me’ in The Cat in the Hat book, with outside being all too wet to go out to play, simply sitting, staring out through our windows at the torrents of cold rain showering the landscape with their blessing, whitening the docile streams into turbulent rivers and saturating the soil into colossal underground reservoirs. We’ve managed a few hours of work here and there taking down another wall in our house at the top, throwing out huge piles of stones and wheel barrowing mountains of clay for reuse later in plastering and building with cob. And, a bit more urgently this week, we had to cut out a canal drain in the ground floor of the house we’ve just renovated to channel an underground stream that’s emerged and forced its way through the bedrock flooding into the house. Now we have a cute internal water feature that will run dry as the waters subside over the next fortnight but inevitably will reappear again with the next unusually high rains maybe in a year or 2.

Most afternoons we’ve had the time to rest, to read, to think. Lovely. Pondering on what we are doing, how we are doing it and why. It’s a big deal for me to think. No kidding. Most of my life is experienced in the outside, external realm. I’ve never really forged any consistent internal personal meditative practice that could be described as anything close to being a spiritual discipline. Although I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by those disciplines inherently found in the more mystical wings of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism as well as some of the aesthetic rituals of African, Native American, Aboriginal and South American tribes. Yet here, in the middle of rural Portugal, surrounded by thousands of hectares of pine and eucalyptus forests, snow covered mountain ranges and endless skies, I’ve been able to recognise a few things.

First, we are in the midst of timeless story. Since the beginning of the universe, creation has been constantly happening. The matter that surrounds us, like the stones we’ve been daily handling, might have been formed millions of years ago, yet it was also quarried from these hills only a few centuries or even decades ago by Portuguese men and their families who built the phenomenal houses that we are now in the process of crafting into being our homes. A continuous story of creation right from the beginning of time until now. Our shared human history is of course littered with global conflicts and crises, but as I’ve written about previously, this part of Portugal has been largely unaffected, or at least a long way away from, much of that turmoil. Almost Shire-esque in its location and characteristics. However, even with our remoteness, I still feel undeniably connected to that human history as well as our earth’s physical history.

Second, there’s been some clarification, in the context of that universal story, of what I believe about the future. I’ve just finished reading a great philosophical book called “The story we find ourselves in” which is an attempt to distil the narrative of the Bible from a post modern perspective. In it, there’s a wonderful description of the future which calls into existence the present. A description that resonated with my own musings on the subject over the last few years. Here’s a short extract from a chapter I read to the kids last night.

“[Since the scientific revolution] we’ve been trained to see history being pushed from behind. Causes launch effects, which become causes of new effects, creating a chain of events that started at the big bang and leads to this moment right now. Even [Western] religious people tend to see things this way, with the added proviso that God sometimes can intervene in the mechanism and change outcomes that would have otherwise unfolded. I guess you could say for most people, God hovers over the present moment and intervenes as the chain of events that he started long ago kind of rolls on beneath him. Let’s assume there’s a lot of truth to this model of things being driven from behind. But let’s say there’s a completely different way of seeing things that’s no less true. Let’s say that instead of the present being pushed into the future by the past, that the past is being pushed out of the present by the future that is constantly rushing in. Instead of history being driven by the past, what if history is constantly being invited to receive the gift of the future?
An image that comes to mind is of a mother holding her little baby, who is just learning to walk and the father goes across the room and calls the baby to come to him, and the baby takes some steps. The baby isn’t trying to walk. The baby just wants to come and receive the gift of the father’s presence that is being offered across the room. [In this view] history is not just being pushed from the past or even engineered in the present, it is pulled, invited, called into the future, which keeps coming to us as a gift. God is waiting to give himself to us across the room and so we are pulled toward him by hope and desire.”

Taking on such a gigantic and imaginative restoration project like we have, is regularly quite daunting. We talk of it being 40 years before we will see this place in the way we have envisaged it. For the trees we will plant in the next couple of years will require, like us, this length of time span to grow into their full maturity. What has been sustaining me through the times of doubt over our capability and capacity to do this thing, is the notion that the beautiful future we can see in our minds’ eye, is no less real than the past or the present. It exists in concept because we have seen it, because we have actually imagined it. How and why we have seen it is another matter, but I have to tell you how wonderfully freeing it feels to realize that God might just be standing in that future calling us into it every day. With this future perspective, hope and desire and faith do flood in like tides and replace my fear and self-doubt with overwhelming gratitude at being given the chance to participate in this story of life on earth. It’s a chance to contribute to the continual creation process, a chance to paint my own unique impression, an artistic and cultural signature as it were, on this glorious cosmic and inextricably human canvas, until the day my body finally returns to being ashes and soil and my soul and life are judged by the One who started the whole thing off all those years ago.

Along with this assured reaffirmed sense of my place in the bigger scheme of things, has grown an indisputable nagging in the depths of my spirit and mind, that it would be good to cultivate, sometime soon, a practice of prayer. The nagging emanates from the recognition that if my future is being called into closer and closer proximity to a mysterious and loving God, who is as present in this present moment as he is in the stories of our collective pasts and in all the potential futures imaginable, why put off engaging whole heartedly with the Master Creator any longer than right now? Cultivate something Memphis, anything. Open the doors more regularly than you’ve done before. You have a plethora of inspiration of how to do it, formed through the ages by your fellow truth searchers. Pick one. Pick them all. But get yourself into a space where you can listen to what the Alpha and the Omega wants to share with you.

All very exciting, which is what I am really trying to explain in this blog today. I am learning to listen to what might be driving me internally. It is a quiet, softer drum beat than the usual external motivators but nonetheless the music is audible. And it’s time for me to explore that rhythm and learn to play along too with a bit more awareness and sensitivity, energy and passion, thankfulness and joy than I’ve done to date.

Each dawn of each new day is bringing this same exhilarating, albeit gentle and unobtrusive invitation to join in. What you gonna hear today Memphis? What you gonna create today? You’ll never have the chance to live this exact day again. So make the very most of it.

Yes Master. I hear you.