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The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 25, 2018 at 12:02 am

Alt, Advent Cal. 25Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!

THE EXTRA DOOR:

Advent calendars usually only have 24 doors, ending on Christmas Eve. But as the Merry Midwinter calendar has in no way resembled an ordinary advent calendar so far, I thought that an extra door would be appropriate.

This is a door which I want you to open literally. It is the door to your home… your own front door. Step outside it. Take some deep breaths. If anyone is walking past, smile and call a seasonal greeting to them. If anyone is driving past, smile and give them a cheery wave. Look around you. Notice the buildings, the trees, the plants, birds and animals. Know that you are connected to them all. Know, too, that in some measure you are also responsible for them all. They are a part of you and you are a part of them. Nothing is isolated or separate in this world – this is an illusion which humanity has built up around itself out of fear or a feeling of superiority. Give to ALL your appreciation and thanks on this very special and blessed day.

Think back over some of the things which you have done this past twentyfour days. Did you find them easy… difficult.. challenging… satisfying… heartwarming, …distressing… enjoyable? What do you think the effects of your endeavours might have been? Was it worth it? (Although you can never really tell exactly what effect your actions may have had on others.) How do you feel about your Advent activities now? How have they made you feel?

It was suggested that you did these little acts of thoughtfulness and kindness for the community around you in the run up to our very special Midwinter celebrations to help you get into the spirit of things. But why stop doing this sort of thing now, just because we have reached the 25th December? Does a certain date mean that we can forget to be kind, to take care, to be involved and actively concerned, to show our love?

When you return inside, I would like you to open another door… an extremely special and unique door – the door to your heart.

A very merry Christmas to you all, with my love.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 19, 2018 at 8:07 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 19Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!

DOOR NUMBER NINETEEN:

Tell someone you love them.

As mature, rational adults we are encouraged not to show our deeper feelings, although thankfully this has begun to change over recent years. Many people assume that their nearest and dearest must know that they care, so why state the obvious? But conversely, I would ask why not? We have got very much better at showing our feelings, but not at expressing them verbally.

It is a sad fact that often, if you tell someone you love them, they respond with suspicion: ‘Why, what do you want?’ or fear, ‘Is something wrong?’ ‘Are you ill?’ How dreadful is that? Why should something have to be dire before it is acceptable to express our most dearly held feelings?

Bite the bullet! Today make a point of saying to someone how much you care. For a friend you may wish to tell them how much you appreciate them being in your life, how much you care for them; for a child, parent or partner how much you love them. It is good to clear one’s throat and actively, openly speak out. These days we are encouraged to speak our truth, to let the world know how we feel, to not just merely defer to others but to speak up for ourselves, so why not apply the same principles to expressions of care, gratitude, fondness and love?

In this modern age of numerous technical devices which all make it so much easier to connect with one another, one of our greatest downfalls is still our bad communication skills. All the devices in the world are not going to solve the problem for us if we still have difficulty actually  articulating the words and recognising and acknowledging the sentiments behind them.

It is good to hear these words of affection too. Sounds good in your own ears and certainly sounds good to other people. Have a practice while you are by yourself. Go on. Say ‘I love you’ out loud… now. And don’t forget yourself in all this. Tell yourself how much you really care too. We habitually leave ourselves out and although this Alternative Advent Calendar is focused on what we can give to others in the run up to Christmas, in this instance, telling yourself how much you care is also a gift because we so often ignore ourselves, deprecate ourselves, or at the very least leave ourselves out of any appreciation or consideration.

I shall start the ball rolling. To all of you who are reading this now, I care very deeply about you, even though I might not know who you are, and if you were standing here in front of me now I would give you a great big smile and open my arms to you and give you a great big bear hug. I truly and deeply appreciate all my readers.

Now it’s your turn. Be bold. Be definite. Stop beating about the bush. Do it. Make someone’s day. Tell those around you just how much you care.

Greetings for Saint Dwynwen’s Day!

  • Posted on January 24, 2018 at 7:14 pm
Saint Dwynwen's Island

Saint Dwynwen’s Island

Tomorrow is January 25th. Already a whole month since Christmas Day! Only eleven more months until the next one. (Joke!!!) But in the meantime, there are some other lovely things for us to focus on and celebrate. One of these is the festival of Saint Dwynwen and it just happens to be her special day tomorrow.

Saint Dwynwen’s Day is the Welsh equivalent of Saint Valentine’s Day and its celebration has enjoyed growing popularity since the turn of the millennium. Events such as concerts and parties are held, as well as the more traditionally recognised methods of marking the day with greetings cards, decorations and special dinners.

Dwynwen was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, a fifth century prince of Welsh and Irish parentage who inherited the kingdom of Garthmadrun in the Brecon Beacons from his mother. Brychan Brycheiniog reputedly had many children; accounts vary in number between twelve and sixty-three! In view of his religious status (Brychan had founded a religious order and sent men and women out to evangelise and convert the surrounding population, even as far as Cornwall) one wonders if these ‘children’ were in actual fact acolytes and missionaries rather than youngsters genetically connected by blood?

Whatever the explanation, Dwynwen was one of this group. She grew up to be the most beautiful among them. All went well until the lass met Maelon Dafodrill – visiting from another noble court – who she instantly fell head over heels in love with. Happily for Dwynwen, Maelon returned her feelings. Imagine the young couple’s horror when they asked Brychan’s permission to marry, only to be refused because he had already promised Dwynwen in marriage to someone else!

Distraught, Dwynwen fled from her father’s hall out into the surrounding woodland. After some time, exhausted and heartbroken, she finally sank to the ground beside a murmuring stream and dreamed of an angel who took pity on the girl and gave her a sweet magical potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. (Personally, I think that this was very unfair to the love-struck youth).

The potion obviously didn’t work very well anyway, because when Dwynwen was also granted three wishes, the first thing she wished for was that Maelon be thawed again! Then Dwynwen wished that God would meet the hopes and dreams of all true lovers. Lastly, if Dwynwen couldn’t have the man she loved she wouldn’t have anybody, so she wished that she would never marry. All three wishes were granted and as a mark of her deep gratitude, Dwynwen vowed to devote the rest of her life to the service of God.

The name Dwynwen means ‘she who leads a blessed life’. She travelled many miles and put as much distance between her old life and her new self as possible. Finally she reached the sea and crossed over onto the Isle of Anglesey. Here Dwynwen  founded a church and religious house on a tiny off-shore island which has come to be known as the Island of Llandwyn, literally meaning the ‘Church of Dwynwen’. After a long and lovingly dedicated life the lady herself died at a good age in the year 465 AD. The remains of her church and convent can still be seen today and the island has long been a place of pilgrimage.

Saint Dwynwen's Island, South

Looking southwest towards The Rivals

Dwynwen’s well can also still be seen. Allegedly, a sacred fish or eel swims here, and it’s movements are reputed to be able to predict the future fortunes and relationships of visiting couples. It is also said that if the water swirls and boils when a visitor is present, that person will have good fortune. Reflecting some of the work of Dwynwen and her holy women, she is locally known as the patron saint of farm beasts and sick animals, but more notably, she is the patron saint of lovers, for what she herself was denied in her lifetime she would ever after help to nourish and facilitate for others.

Stories such as this abound throughout the Celtic world. Many of the details are suspiciously similar to other Celtic Christian saints. Key details obviously have their roots in very pre-Christian beliefs. But what does any of that matter? It is what we do with it now that counts.

The Island of Llandwyn is a beautiful place with stunning views of the North West Welsh coastline, the mountains of Snowdonia and out across the waters of Cardigan Bay. It is a place of open spaces, fresh sea breezes, sunshine and huge skies, but more importantly it is a place of peace; somewhere to find the time and space for reflection and connection to our wonderfully amazing natural world. Once steeped in such beauty and tranquillity, who would not be ready to love… not just one other person but all of creation and this madcap, fantastic whirl of a physical existence that we call ‘life’?

So that we can all celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day and Saint Dwynwen’s Day, perhaps we should differentiate between them by leaving young couples in love to Valentine and devoting a love of our partners, families and life in general to Dwynwen? Could this largely forgotten lady not come to represent love rather than just lovers?

However you choose to mark Saint Dwynwen’s Day – spending some time out in nature; spending some quality time with wildlife or your pets; restoring a neglected bit of ground by clearing it of it’s litter; doing something in the garden, gathering your friends and/or family together; showing people how much you appreciate them; telling people how much you love them – enjoy it and yourself! Spread the love and laughter and ‘en-lighten’ these dark days of late January.

With love and peace to all creatures.

Saint Dwynwen's Island; Beach

The magical sea and beaches of the Island of LLandwyn

 

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