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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Something New

I lit the fire on getting up this morning, it was so cold. Things are gradually warming up now. I’ve got two sweaters on, and have wrapped a woollen blanket around myself as I write.

The winds have been blowing wildly and constantly here in the north, knocking the trees and long grasses about. The sea is significantly stirred up, the white horses tumbling over each other as they race and rumble to the shore.

A part of the old shed next to the house blew down the other day as a result of the wind. I’ll have to go and try to fix that when things calm down a bit.

It’s been said that the best way to get through winter is to get out into it. I’ve experienced this to be true. However, saying that, in going out today one runs the risk of being blown to Norway. And with the current restrictions, that might get tricky.

At the break of the pandemic almost a year ago, we were all going at a pace, some of us fully in our stride with business deals to sign, travel booked, plays and musicals ready to hit the stage for the first time after months of writing and rehearsals, concert tours in full motion, exhibitions about to happen, exams to be taken, plans being made for future projects….

All of that came to a rapid halt. Boom. Kaput. Like a tire suddenly blown on a car mid-travel, or a still, sudden pause after days of blowing wind and gales.

Someone introduced a new word that I had not heard before: traumatropic. It refers mostly to the natural world. For example, when a tree root has been injured and eventually grows around the injury producing a new root or branch, and new life is formed and shaped. The world is being reshaped as we speak, adapting to a new ‘normal’, and we have to adapt with it.

When a new year begins, we feel like we should be moving, turning over a new leaf, busying ourselves with projects, new plans, work…. It’s harder to do this time, and the current lockdown has a very different feel than the first one when we were all baking sourdough bread or connecting with anyone and everyone via zoom and skype!

Maybe right now we need permission to ‘hibernate’ and rest like our fellow creatures; to adapt slowly, if time and circumstances allow.

And maybe it is still a chance to try something new, something we haven’t done before.

I have recently been attempting some recordings for a podcast. It is a very new thing, and not at all comfortable for me at times. It’s certainly not my area of expertise. However, it is something I’ve had a niggle to try for a while. I bought a microphone almost a year ago now with great intentions to start. It isn’t until now, a rather dormant season of the year, that I feel inclined to begin, after some nudging on the part of a colleague and friend.

Whilst unfamiliar and new, it has been a fun and interesting process! After the first attempt at reading something, my friend suggested I sit under a duvet to help contain the sound which was sounding hollow before. Initially I threw a wool blanket over my head while sitting at my corner desk. Since then, I have cleared up a room that was full of boxes and is now the reinstated library. I set up a temporary sound studio extending the corner cupboard space with an old wooden trellis from outside, and have hung a duvet over the ad hoc frame. It is now officially my recording closet. I’ve set up the mic on some boxes storing old books and firmly plant myself in the same place when standing in my little cubicle. It hails me back to my childhood and making forts and dens with my brothers and dear friend, Erika.

A Caithness band, Neon Waltz, has kindly allowed me to use an instrumental version of one of their songs and so we’ve incorporated this into the podcast.

Throughout this process, there were moments where I became tired, self-critical and discouraged, not quite satisfied with how I sounded, convincing myself I should not be doing this: it’s not my field or normal area of experience! I texted my technician and producer, suggesting that perhaps my voice was too high at one point and that maybe I should try again. (This was after a few different takes.) My friend gently responded ‘You have to learn to be slightly happy with it too, Monique’ ending with an emoji smile and hug.

And he’s right!

I can be hard on myself. Maybe we all can be at one point or another.

The perfectionist in me wants to keep trying, to get that perfect recording. But perhaps I have to learn to be happy with something as it stands and look to improving in upcoming recordings.

If ever there is a time for trial and error, this might be it. With everyone struggling to some extent, maybe the pandemic has set up a backdrop of a more forgiving and loving environment to try new things. If ever there was an atmosphere of grace and acceptance, perhaps it is now.

And if ever there was a time to learn to love ourselves and our neighbours more, it is today.

I listened to prayer of the day this morning. With Valentine’s Day coming up, there will be some who embrace this occasion as a time for romance, even if it is a virtual date on zoom, and others who will struggle with a feeling of loneliness which becomes more acute in moments like this. The Rev. Lucy Winkett expressed things in a beautiful and succinct way, suggesting that many theological traditions seek to categorise love (ie. romantic love, altruistic love, God’s love …). However, in contrast, medieval writers such as Julian of Norwich, Walter Hilton and Meister Eckhart talk only of one love — and that love is a God-given desire to want someone else’s good and in the process to give ourselves away; that loving our neighbour requires us also to love ourselves.

The other day I received a wonderful surprise in the post: a book of poems by Mary Oliver.

I have not really read much of Mary Oliver, though had heard her name mentioned before and I know she died about a year ago.

Now I realise what I was missing all this time and have some catching up to do! The book is called A Thousand Mornings and the poem that has come to mind in light of things I am sharing is ‘Today’:


Today I’m flying low and I’m

not saying a word

I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,

the bees in the garden rumbling a little,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.

And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.

Quiet as a feather.

I hardly move though really I’m traveling

a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors

into the temple.

~ Mary Oliver ~

from A Thousand Mornings, Penguin Press; 2012


Just to give a taster, here is one of my upcoming podcasts taken from a blog post that I did a few weeks ago, called 'Blow Out'. I hope to be posting the podcasts more regularly and will at some point get them up onto iTunes, so feel free to subscribe when I do! In the meantime, I may post a couple here and on social media. I hope you enjoy them. Let me know what you think!

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