Love subdues all, and I am subdued by Love.
By love’s salt, I have been made sweet as sugar.
I learnt on Monday this week that a woman who influenced so much of my life had passed away aged 90 years.
Marie Bell’s name first came into my consciousness as a young child when my parents spoke of her and when my uncle (who was a colleague of hers) visited us. In the way that young children absorb things I knew that this woman was special and respected.
As a committee member of Wellington Parents Centre back in 1982 I met Marie for the first time. She ran some group skills training sessions for us and my notes indicate that in the first session we covered:
Welcoming techniques; feedback from practical exercises we participated in: a group discussion using the “fish bowl” technique; more feedback; introducing a film, how to use films in an ante-natal class; a general session to finish up the day.
All the time she was training us Marie would be saying “you can do this.” She was so encouraging and so passionately of the opinion that these skills were to be passed on by her and then from us to other parent volunteers. Learning through the experiential techniques she used, we came to realise that she was right. Empowerment happened.
For me the following points were gems from Marie and they were points that I carried in my facilitator’s toolkit and which I believe are still vital and timeless in any group situation:
Establish ground rules at any group meeting using group input to set these up
Time spent in planning every detail of a group pays off – the relationship with the group is critical
Things that look informal work the best in terms of getting feedback from the group
Prepare a climate for participation
Seek solutions – involve all group members
People and relationships were key to Marie. She cared deeply for humans of every age and for their health and well-being across all relationships. Her early childhood work reached my parents as they raised me and reached me at Playcentre with our third child.
Her adult education skills reached me through out all my years in Parents Centre. I was aware of her political voice in the Labour Party, her roles at Victoria University and her magnificent achievement later in life as she completed her PhD documenting the early pioneers of Parents Centre.
A story that she told, that has stayed with me, was, of a course in Assertiveness that she and some other women in Wellington set up in the 1970s. This was new stuff and the organizers only expected a handful of women to enroll. Hundreds, in fact, indicated their interest and in true style Marie and her group accommodated this and the courses ran with tremendous results and ongoing ripple effects.
I have so much to thank Marie for. She taught me a love of facilitation and the skills to use and so many other life long skills – listening, assertiveness, setting up a group, running effective meetings, group dynamics, parenting, healthy relationships and all the while she modelled of all these skills with an openness, a warmth and a wonderful sense of humour and care.
She was about grass roots movements, life long learning, empowerment, inclusion, peacefulness, healthy people, healthy relationships, early childhood education, the importance of the child’s holistic well being and development, women’s rights, the important role that men play in families and so many other positive causes.
Her influence has spread far and wide and her legacy will live on in so many ways.
I recently read a piece on a daily email I subscribe to about how familiar things are often very ordinary things which bring us enjoyment and comfort. Sometimes it is only when something familiar disappears from our life do we realise how much we took it for granted and what benefit we gained from it.
It might be as simple and ordinary as a view out a window, a tree in the garden, the smell of sunshine in dry washing, the laugh of a loved one.
There is much beauty and pleasure in the ordinary and focusing away from the bombardment of drama and hype, information overload, busyness and stress can be so good for our wellbeing.
Right now we are in the midst of spring, that familiar part of the seasonal cycle which turns each year. It is easy to feel the extraordinary power of this season but keep an eye out for the ordinary detail that we can sometimes miss and enjoy.
Here are some familiar, ordinary sights from my garden today.
Every so often I see that someone is doing something out of the ordinary that is simple, meaningful and moving.
Mary Whalley describes herself as an artist and an educator here.
Here is a link to Ornamental Thoughtfulness which was featured in the DomPost newspaper yesterday. The short article and photo caught my eye.
The following is written by Mary and tells you a little more
In upcoming weeks a series of little bronze hands will be installed in central Wellington. In walkways, shortcuts and places people pass on their paths to work or school. Their purpose is to hold offerings. Anonymous tokens of generosity or thoughtfulness. My intention is that others will use the little hands too, for leaving small items.
You noticed, thank you.
I think her work and purpose deserves highlighting and acknowledging. It touched something deep inside me.
I have two quotes about strength to offer to you today.
This one came from Karen in a comment she left on this blog. It spoke to me on many levels.
“Sometimes the bravery and strength is in how we deal with what is put before us, not in what we seek out”
The other quote about strength comes written on this piece of South Island granite or is it schist?
The quote was given to me by a friend some years ago and sits with me daily now on this piece of rock. “One of the greatest gifts I have is giving and receiving strength.”
The layers in this rock are testament to the forces that have been applied to it in nature but it remains; visible proof of endurance.
I hope you find strength today.
Normal transmission has resumed here with a cold southerly wind blowing rain across in drizzling drifts.
Jazz, our cat loves to keep warm and snug. He has always enjoyed climbing into a fitted sheet that has been draped over the clothes airer.
Once or twice he has misjudged his weight and angles and lines and the clothes airer has either fallen over or someone has grabbed it as it toppled.
Today however he arranged himself comfortably without mishap and while he looks a little worried in the first photo, the soothing pink and soft walls of his hide out were ultimately comforting and relaxing….
Cats remind us of simple messages – seek out a sanctuary in which to rest, seek comfort and relax……
Our tall, beautiful, self sown flowering cherry tree has just one last leaf on it.
I’ve been considering possible metaphors around this leaf and a range come to my mind:
Do we cling on to something long after we should have let it go?
Do we hold on to beliefs or behaviours that no longer serve us?
Do we have utter determination in the face of great opposition and stand firm?
Do we like to have the final say, be the star of the finale?
Is life just puzzling and full of quirks?
Do we show great strength and grit in circumstances that are threatening and difficult?
Are we pioneers, forging new ways that have never been achieved before?
When conditions around us are inhospitable and life diminishing and we feel frail, drained, worn can we find inner strength, in reserves deep within us?
What does this last leaf offer you as a metaphor?
And another really amazing aspect contained in this photo is the evidence of next spring’s bubs, already formed, as the last leaf hangs, speaking of hope.