When I'm trying to make sense of life and death - (or as I prefer to call it: life beyond life) - sometimes words will present themselves.
This is a poem that arrived today.
My painting was inspired by a journey to my beloved St. Bees a few years ago. St. Bees is one of my spiritual homes and, as such, an otherworldly destination, much like that in the poem.....
Into The Light (Nothing Is Lost Forever) - A Poem
Sometimes he had closed his eyes
and said a prayer as if he knew
that prayers, like hopes and spirits, rise
in streams of conscious déjà vu.
His life, at times a silent scream;
A butterfly with broken wings,
he lived and died within a dream,
of bittersweet imaginings.
But then he would recall the day,
a morning sun brought sweet release.
The very life that ebbed away
had ushered in a world of peace.
A new existence, nothing's lost,
he knew this place and felt no pain.
He didn't stop to count the cost,
But ran into the light again.
© Jason Endfield 2018
As many of us are currently enjoying the sight of young gulls finding their feet (and wings!) in our towns and cities, this time of year also brings reports of human intolerance and animosity towards these beautiful birds.
In Filey on the Yorkshire coast, not only are police investigating the shooting of several Herring Gulls by some gun-touting idiot, but the local RSPCA had to step in to prevent careless contractors from killing (apparently inadvertently...) dozens of gulls which were inhabiting a derelict building that they were in the process of demolishing. Distressed members of the public had reported seeing dead gulls amongst the rubble.
But the problem is not confined to Yorkshire, nor is gull intolerance only a trait of individuals.
Whole town councils too are becoming hysterical over what they call the gull 'problem'....
Dundee - The Most Hysterical City In The UK?
Dundee appears to be amongst the more absurd parts of the UK when it comes to persecution of urban wildlife. There, fuelled by farcical reports of gulls 'terrorising' the apparently panic-stricken residents, the council have deemed it appropriate to cull nearly 200 gulls. Figures obtained by Dundee's Evening Telegraph show that 174 gulls have been killed so far this year with the number likely to rise.
Dundee council is reported as saying that they are not carrying out a 'cull' but are rather "exercising rights under the Wildlife and Countryside Act".
Hmm. The dictionary definition of 'cull' is " to reduce the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter".
So, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, it seems that Dundee council are indeed carrying out a cull. Why try to dress the slaughter up as something else? Their claims that the gulls pose a significant risk to public safety would be frankly laughable - only there is nothing funny about the mass killing of a supposedly protected species whose population is in steep decline.
Hope Through Education
If incompetent councils continue to act on the demands of a few ridiculous residents then we might as well resign ourselves to a future devoid of urban wildlife.
There is hope, some more enlightened councils have refused to kowtow to the irrational minority.
Meanwhile we as individuals can educate others in our communities to delight in, and respect, these most impressive and misunderstood birds.
Long ago, I wrote a series of diaries in which I observed everyday life from the perspective of my youth.
Though I hadn't seen the diaries for years, I knew I wouldn't have thrown them out (unlike some of my other early attempts at writing which mercifully didn't survive to embarrass me in adulthood...).
So, a few days ago, after several fruitless searches through boxes of memories, some best forgotten and others fondly revisited, I uncovered them, ten volumes of tiny notebooks tied neatly together and wrapped in a polythene bag.
Tentatively I unwrapped them and began to revisit those long ago days from the first half of my life.
I thought I'd take the bold step of sharing some of those very private diary entries on here because, far from being embarrassing ramblings, I am actually quite proud of the young man I find in those dusty old pages....
Lonely but hopeful
I expected them to be the naïve, probably angst ridden, writings of a troubled young man because that's how I think of my young self. I remember being mostly unhappy. I was lonely, that I do know, and the diaries confirm this.
One entry says: "I could do with some friends I think...I can live without people but I think in doing so one can lose touch with reality...."
I wasn't sorry for myself but I was scared and full of self-doubt. I was socially awkward (still am) and trying to find a place for myself in what must have seemed like a very odd world. I did, however, appear to be doggedly 'hopeful' and optimistic: "...anyway things aren't so bad, tomorrow could be the best day of my life, who knows!"
But as the years went on, I can see, through reading the diaries, the point that I eventually spiralled into depression much of it no doubt stemming from being unable to 'come out' as gay. This was the eighties and, although attitudes were changing, being openly gay was still not an option for me, so I found making friends difficult. I acted 'straight' and became quite good at it, convincing both family and friends (and even myself at times) in the process, but I can see now from this distance and with the benefit of hindsight that it was destroying me on the inside and something would have to give eventually. It did - but it took several more years.
Though reading some of the diary entries makes me a little sad, seeing that young man trying to make sense of a life that had as its foundation pretence, misconception and uncertainty, I am nevertheless pleasantly surprised to find that, not only were the private thoughts of my young self fairly mature, but often upbeat and sometimes very funny. It was also good to discover that even then I was aware of the environment and troubled by the destruction of nature that I saw happening around me.
This entry related to a field behind our house: "went for a walk around the housing estate that used to be 'our' field. So very very sad. I used to watch kestrels, frogs, voles and see wild flowers and blackberries and elder trees - and so much more. All of it has gone. The awful part is that all that wildlife had nowhere else to go, it simply 'went'..."
But throughout my diaries there was always that thread of hope. That same day's entry ended with: "there's always some good if one looks for it, our garden is erupting in wild poppies, nature will always have the winning hand".
I was always taking little journeys of discovery - and self discovery - even whilst still at school when I would 'bunk off' and walk for hours by myself, a trend that continued into my late teens and early twenties.
I came across an entry describing a solo trip I'd made to North Wales. "Got on the train to Betws-y-coed and broke the journey at Llanrwst. Beautiful there, really beautiful. I walked perhaps five hundred yards out of the little town centre and gasped at the simple beauty of the autumn wooded hillsides.... I sat for over an hour on the banks of the lovely river and ate sandwiches. Brown trout leapt out of the water, having evaded an angler or two further upstream..."
It wasn't all nature and (borderline twee) observations on my surroundings.
Home life was sometimes very challenging but the people around me were often inspirational and the source of humour. Humour, I've discovered since re-reading my diaries, was the way I got through my loneliness and the heartache of a troubled and closeted youth.
My grandmother appears frequently in the diaries, as do other members of my immediate family. I hadn't however realised just how much the wider family had influenced me. Elderly relatives, Great Aunts and Uncles - now long gone - were often around and provided stability, wit and wisdom.
I'm enjoying thumbing through the diaries now, I'm dipping in and out of the ten volumes so there's plenty of reading to do. The diaries ended abruptly in December, 1990 but there were two further entries three years later where I spoke of the changes in my life. The first reads: "my family continue to provide stability in my confused life though I fear becoming a burden to them. I know I need to change some things and to face up to what is all too 'real'."
That thinly veiled reference to my sexuality shows that I was ready to take a leap of faith and embrace change. It seems I had emerged from my lowest lows and was ready to find a brighter way forward.
The very last entry was 24th September 1993. I wrote about having witnessed a butterfly being attacked by a wasp and it had obviously affected me. I wrote: "I saw how fragile life is. Why though do some butterflies fall victim to wasps while others survive? Is there, as some would have me believe, a karmic law in effect? Or is this life just chaos?"
In the twenty five years since the diaries ended, I did manage to turn my life around. Many challenges came along but, as most of us do, I survived. The family circle has grown smaller but is still central to my life, a very few good friends remain and I was eventually honest with myself in acknowledging my true identity - and living it.
The final words of the diary are some that I can still say with honesty today, all these years later:
"some truths will always remain constant in my mind. There is God and all is well"
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