Christmas Message, 2004. For anyone interested. (If not, bin it!)

I love the "Advice" of my Quaker religion: "No 27: Live adventurously! ...". I’ve been blessed with the time etc to do this. For 6 weeks in January/March I did what I called ‘spiritual travelling’ in Sri Lanka and India. In S.L. I spent much of the time in a Benedictine Monastery, joining in many of their services, meditating, reading, and walking in a forest which I later found was a nature reserve – entry forbidden. In India I went around as the Spirit led me, doing some work for the charity I administer (a school in Haryana); visiting a very remote NGO in Orissa doing great work for Hill Tribes people especially women (tho few of their staff were women!); ‘discovering’ the source of the holy river Narmada; also visiting Quakers in central India, mainly Itarsi; and eventually getting to the Himalyan foothills to bathe in the Ganges, there cold and fierce.

I intended to spent April and May doing projects including Genealogy as I have had many Petter messages especially from New Zealand, but I took on the job of regional co-ordinator for the Green Party’s Euro election campaign. I have never worked so hard!

Much of the summer I agonised over two decisions. Where to live (1. back in London in No 8, my much loved but tiny flat; 2. self-sufficient out in the wilds, mid Wales or Cumbria; or 3. boring old here in Bristol. When I came to Bristol just over two years ago I warned that I might be moving on. More recently I have been less determined, and so I have accumulated commitments. It came to me in meditation and reflection that maybe Bristol is where I’m ‘meant’ to be. So I decided it’s to be Bristol. After years vacillating I’m selling No 8.

The other decision was which of my over-commitments to drop. Haven’t solved that one, in fact I’ve accepted another big job – Clerk of my Quaker Meeting. Another big job is as an Environment and Transport co-optee on Bristol City Council. I hope to be able to relinquish being treasurer of Friends of Sangam Foundation.

Jennifer’s fine book (‘Call of the Bell Bird’) on our travels together was published by Quaker Life. I recommend it (tho it’s not too complimentary of me) as both a good travel yarn, and as an exploration of spiritual travelling and testing one’s Quakerism.

In November I spent three weeks in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement. I worked with two Israeli groups, Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions, and Rabbis for Human Rights. With the latter we had a nasty brush with some ‘settlers’ – about the nastiest people one is ever likely to meet. I continue to work 1 to 2 hours a day for a Palestinian online newspaper (imemc.org) as a sub-editor.

I continue to enjoy sharing house with James and Flossy. She’s 9 now and very sensible and perceptive. She came with me to two Shakespeare plays, which she understood and enjoyed. All my family are doing well except my Aunts (all over 95) are declining and there was the death of my nephew Karl in a horrible accident. I spent much time in May to July with his family at their farm in Wales. They found my presence helpful; I was happy and spiritually refreshed clearing hedgerows. I also attended a conference nearby on "Exploring Spirituality and the Creative Arts".

Even more detail on my web log: sp37.port5.com. Love to all – Stephen, December 2004.

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