Sunday, September 02, 2007

Euphoria collides....


You know, words are elusive in the aftermath of such beauty. Moments of transcendance are now filtered by the everyday mundane - the juxtaposition of life I guess. Father O'Donohue once told me that the duty of maturity is to awaken one's mind and bring it home; he said that too many neglect their minds and so never awaken their hearts. I guess Greenbelt is such a waking bed, a place, an arena where we come back to the harbour of ourselves and ask who we are becoming. So often we are on the run from ourselves. Maybe if we were to sit down and travel to the heart of our own darkness and face our demons we just may begin to see that they don't quite have the power over us we once thought....

Fear can be like a fog and it's only antidote is love...something this festival is drenched in - a prophetic place of grace where God is illuminated in the mirror of our souls - a place of new frontiers - a landscape where we do not waste our hearts on fear anymore...but instead we look to hope, to possibility, before the euphoria of a thin place collides with the thick hard land of everyday life.

This year there was most definitely a fragrance of something that is in us and yet just out of our reach....

....my grace notes were

wonderful late night conversations with the lovely (want to take you home to meet my mum - she'd love you!) steve beautiful imperfect Pip belfast's delectable beauty Dr 'soon to be lost to the land of the free and exraordinarly brave' Higgins (not everyday you get a large pink brassiere thrown at you when you're on stage!!!!! the Woodie Guthrie of Wales, his side kick the beguiling Stewart Henderson< Ken, Big John Colin, Father 'O' himself and many more.... grace conversations 'that taught our hearts to fear, and grace...that fear relieved'

Talkin with an old prophet over crap hotel pizza (it didn't matter) and a bottle of claret, where I realised that we are not as strong as we think we are. I guess John (Smith) always seemed larger than life - a while back it seemed the only thing he couldn't do was walk on water (and I reckon he'd have got a fair way if he'd tried) - older in years now and awaiting tests on his return to Aus, I realised my own mortality because of his, and you know what? His fragility holds more strength than his Elijah like days ever did...someone who is most definitely on the side of the angels.

Pip describes him as a sensational singer and performer, real communicator rather than smug - flash - 'pretend-pro' performer. Michael McDermott was one of two acts I wanted to see - he did not disappoint. Wearing his heart on his sleeve he expressed an aching and a longing to find his place in this world through his own torture as a beautiful imperfect human becoming. A no holds barred artist - raw, real, sensitive, creative, beguiling and wonderful. Few artists reveal their true selves for fear of rejection, yet there was no bull-shit with this dear broken vessel. He embodied for me what Thomas Merton observes; that "The end of all seeking is purity of heart - a clear unobstructed vision of the true state of affairs,an intuitive grasp of ones own inner reality as anchored or rather lost in God. " A truly inspiring man who took me out of my comfort - thanks Dave for bringing him and for the introduction....look forward to seeing where the connection journeys....

Then there was the rather overweight kid who ran as fast as he could to give back a cool as hell teen god his daily diary that had fallen from his half way down his ass jeans (what is that about?) as he raced through the site on his scooter...not glamorous I know but it was a kindness I rarely see...I pray moments of grace come back on him tenfold...

My almost 'Greenbelt moment' (a bloody close call) was on friday morning as i was waiting in the hotel for a lift to site. I was sat reading when am man i recognised said hi. It was Mark Yaconelli, son of my dear messy departed friend Yac. I was sat in the very same place I was when I met his dad 7 years earlier. We hugged and exchanged a thousand words without speaking....when he left I sat and wept, his mannerisms, looks and rhythm of speech was uncannily like his father's....brought back memories of big moments....

* note, check out mark's talks - outstanding - he out sold everyone, and that has nothing to do with whose son he is!

Then there were my tears as I watched the L'arche community eat flesh and drink blood on sunday morning - they reminded me that the eucharist is the real presence where the veil comes down; the mystery where the balance between light and darkness is most apparent....No wonder Vanier and Nouwen learned so much there...

And on the final night, act number two on my wanted list - Duke Special - wonderful theatre, so original, affectionately funny and so bloody refreshing to see a band having fun on stage. They closed out the festival beautifully.

My 'Greenbelt moment' though came (as they always do) by surprise. It was Billy Bragg's fault entirely. In 'The Rising' on Saturday lunch time, Martyn asked Billy what, more than anything keeps moving and inspiring him to pick up a guitar; what had been his 'I have been to the mountin-top' moment. As the question was asked I instinctively remembered a few people he has worked/collaborated with - Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison sprang to mind - but no, none of them had shaped Billy more than a group of women from Weymouth who were terminally ill with cancer. Particularly a lady called Maxine, who loved Dolly Parton. She had breast cancer and had been given only a short time to live.

I guess we all struggle to say that which we need to to the ones we love the most, those who need to hear it. So often we are raised in silence, to do the 'right thing' and what I mean by that is we say nothing at all. The women who attended the song-writing workshops that Billy conducted at the Trimar Hospice in Weymouth during February 2005 had other ideas though. Mr Bragg was invited to take part in the project by Rosetta Life, a charity dedicated to helping those facing terminal illness to share their experiences through the medium of art, poetry, film or song. Every Friday morning for six weeks, he worked with half a dozen women who came to the hospice for palliative care as they fought against the effects of breast cancer.

Billy said that after a couple of weeks of talking about the process of song- writing and a few singalongs, the ‘Friday Girls’ began opening up to the idea of writing a song. Maxine Edgington had the clearest idea of what she wanted to do. In their first one-on-one session, she pulled a framed picture out of her bag and said ‘Look, I’ve been given six months to live. I don’t want to mess about. I want to write the song of this picture’.

When her condition was diagnosed in November 2004, Maxine’s thoughts turned immediately to how she would be remembered, particularly by her fifteen year old daughter, Jessica. Determined that Jess should have positive memories of her after the grieving was over, Maxine commissioned a professional photo shoot which produced beautiful images of mother and daughter smiling together, looking as if they had not a care in the world. This was how she wanted to be remembered. As Maxine said ‘Cancer is terrible, but at least it gives you the chance to put things right with those you love’

Billy performed the song and a few thousand people stopped and wept....the line that broke me was, 'The hardest part of living is giving back that which has been given.' hmmm....

...very much, heaven in ordinary...

So, i guess Gb is a place where strangers don't feel so strange, a thin sacred safe place for those who live in fear of themselves. And somehow it allows us to see that our lives are a beautiful mess, the way they should be...and that's alright, that's ok...because that causes us to kneel, and that my friends is surely the beginning of becoming whole...

I left this years festival recognising more than ever that God lies right here beside us in the gutter, whilst grace like a mother holds us closer than any mary could....my only disappointment was not getting enough space to chew that fat with such good friends as The Very gifted Mr Wroe Shirley Maggie Markus Cary Lovely Jude Pete (though we did manage a couple of organic beers) Rollins Beautiful Steve and the kindly Mog....and yet again I didn't manage to get to the bloody provocative and fantastically good IKON ....next year....please



....it's late tonight, but I raise a glass as it raises me.....the following shots are by the wonderful Andy - he is available for Ok weddings (and other glam occasions).....and can be found at enquiries@s2design.co.uk











21 comments:

Sue said...

Wow. Sounds fantastic.

Ooooh, and I see a labyrinth. They have picqued my interest lately after hearing a radio show about their resurgence. Did you walk it?

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

Sue, it is a remarkable place....truly

sadly I was too busy to walk it this festival but i do love them and like the idea that an ancient spiritual tool is being re-discovered for today’s post-modern culture.

have always found it to be a cultivated sacred space where the cluttered noise of our lives can be quietened. Moreover it engages not just my thinking mind, but also my intuitive psyche.

I find it helpful to know I'm connecting in some way to an ancient prayer ritual that has gone before and been so helful to so many - the three stages of the walk mirror the ancient prayer model of purgation, illumination and union.

Great that your interest has picqued. I reckon you will it will help you be renewed and refreshed for the often arduous onward journey.

Julie said...

Greenbelt - amazing, so different this year so deep and revalatory for me. Confirming things which had been growing in the dark all year. Another step in the right direction home for me.....

Hey Paul you know the lad in the multicoloured tea cozy hat with the sticker on his face? He's on the front of the review of 06 and in the centre of the programme on the youth page? well it's my son!!! and hey he's there again on your photo with the girl lookin at the stage(on this post) he's got a stripy blue t shirt on!!! so cool for me! Greenbelt has not only given me acceptence and a spiritual home when no where else did but it's used my son as the face of Greenbelt too!!! It blessed me.

Julie x

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

hey Julie

really pleased that it was a time of happiness for you - it still is the only truly inclusive place i know. no matter how fucked up and broken, gay, goth, straight, not sure it welcomes everyone how they are....truly a little bit of heaven....

I'll pass on your story to Paul Northup (one of the staff) as it was he who chose that picture and design - i know your story will be a little grace moment for him...hope the gragrance is still with you

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

sorry, that should be fragrance - doh!

Kathryn said...

Thank you Paul...Glad to have encountered you,however briefly and now reading your Greenbelt re-awkens mine (some of our grace notes{beautiful concept] matched too).
Just hoping and praying we can hold onto that reality for the next 51 weeks.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

kathryn, I know, it's kind of depressing....50 weeks and 5 days to go!

I love that so many have put out little cyber sound-bites to bring back those memories that are so thick we have to brush them from our faces....took me a week to try and process it all, and my words still don't get close

Kate's Typewriter said...

that looks incredible, to say the least... i love the way you describe things! your encouragement means a lot to me, so thank you. :) it's an honor to read about your adventures!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

ah, here's to more adventures like greenbelt Kate.... it is quite an original festival - people from your side of the pond say there is nothing like it there, and those from antipodies say the same....a treasured place

and i do think there will come a day when you write for a wider audience - keep everything you write

maggi said...

paul that's such a lovely "review" or memoir of greenbelt 07 - lots of similar things to me, and some different, but the same kind of feel. It was SO LOVELY to see you and so annoying not to get a couple of hours to sit down and chat... London soon, maybe? x x

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

hey maggi, thank you - means a great deal coming from you - we'll have to do the bombay and limes thing in London, Steve, myself and a few others have formed a 5 o'clock club - you should come a long...ask steve all about it...

lovely to see you...looking forward to hearing your talk

Awareness said...

i love your title......and love your descriptions, Paul. You have indeed found many gems to describe how euphoria collided for you.

shared a thousand words without speaking.....

a thousand moments rippling together for you. I think your grace notes together form a heartsong melody.

What first came to mind reading your wonderful descriptions was "heart, mind and soul".....GB provides a chance feed all three. And when all three are fed? Euphoria collides.

Tori said...

Welcome back. You have been in my thoughts. I am so glad that you took the time to describe your grace notes and highlights. I love how you describe love as being the only andidote to fear. As I struggle with my own fears I need to remember that self love is of the utmost importance.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

hi dana
welcome back - a thousand words with out speaking just hit me after i met mark - quickly scribbled it down (otherwise I'd have forgot - am getting rather flakey these days)

glad you liked it, and glad I put it together - it's good to remember such times

Tori
thanks for your kind words, Father O'Donohue also said over a whiskey just last week that we should take a little time for our hearts, away from the kinetic forcefield of other lives and i love what writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez says:
"Living is an art and we only beginning to master it as we are about to leave"

i guess it takes us so long to come home to ourselves - that love thing again i guess

am enjoying your musings...

nonizamboni said...

I found the Billy Bragg and Friday Girls very touching and hopeful.
So often we are raised in silence, to do the 'right thing' and what I mean by that is we say nothing at all. True enough. Thanks for the reminder. Nice post.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

noninzamboni - (quite a name)

it was painfully beautiful and sad and hopeful at the same time. He said he really has to focus when he sings it otherwise he ends up in pieces - just like the rest of us were

koffshun said...

not a bad review of the weekend, although it reminds me of everything I didn't see - which was far more this year than it ever has been. So glad to read that you found it inspirational as ever.

was great to chat with you: one of my 'greenbelt moments'. Your blog doesn't allow people to email you so here's my attempt at doing so.

the girl with the beer

mister tumnus said...

hiya. it was great to see you at greenbelt albeit briefly. CSs 4eva!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

Hannah,
thanks for your kind words - great to catch up and for you to pull me a few organic beers. Particularly enjoyed waxing lyrical with you and the lovely Pete (and Dr Higins and Mr Jones)...though I can't actually remember what we talked about...Samuel still remembers his chocolate though!!

Hope all is well

Shirley,
Yep CS for ever!!!

I was frustrated at not getting to spend time with you lovelt Belfast crew - for a long festival it goes very quickly....bugger!

Society's Elite said...

"somehow it allows us to see that our lives are a beautiful mess, the way they should be...and that's alright, that's ok...because that causes us to kneel, and that my friends is surely the beginning of becoming whole..."

that, my friend, is a quote that's golden... love reading your transparent thoughts... hope you are well...

Dave said...

Hi Paul
Really must get hold of your email address. Excellent review of festival - like so many others it helps me realise how much I missed! Maybe one year I'll just go as a punter and not spend the weekend worrying about artists and venues. A link for you to check out http://www.dailymotion.com/trendwhore/video/x37u3j_bruce-stringsteen-and-arcade-fire-k_music.