Soul and the arts 

On this page, you will find a collection of poems, other writings, drawings, paintings and photographs contributed by members of the Spaceforsoul community.  

If you would like to contribute something to this collection, please send it to us at spaceforsoulbristol@gmail.com

Footprints in the snow

 

It’s easy to see footprints in the snow.

Virgin purity despoiled with tracks

which path is lost

when comes the thaw,

and the path, well trod, is known no more.

 

It’s easy to see footprints in the sand.

Sea swept beach patterned by steps

Which, come the ebb of tide

are washed away

And the journey, lost, belongs to yesterday.

 

It’s easy to see where saints of old have trod,

Landscapes scattered with pilgrim paths and places,

Rituals and rites set in church and chapel stone,

But, cultures ebb, generations flow, certainties thaw,

And the way to ‘God’ is much less certain than before.

 

A new path is needed for this generation

The old ways have only brought us here - not there

To where we journey, forward, together,

Equal, sharing, honest, accepting whosoever.

 

Break new ground,

make new tracks –

leave footprints

Which forge a way -

for faith to flourish,

soul to soar,

Hearts to race, and,

embrace in the love of the Divine

To dance the real,

touch the earth

and find -

heaven. 

 

Meryl White  

'The soul works in the medium of the imagination: she knows herself, creates herself, and reveals herself through images... If we wish to deepen and nurture the soul, we must open ourselves to imagination.'   

                                                                     David Elkins

'Rising' by Miranda Marsh

Inspired by another artist's painting 

Rising

Instinct lifts me higher,

Rising into the light.

The ground of my being recedes.

Rich, fertile ground nurtured my spirit, 

Energised, inspired.

Struggling I try to rise, 

Sink back,

Try again.

And at last I feel the lightness

The air, the silent space.

So don't clip my wings

Or ring my legs.

Don't label or restrain me.

I choose to fly.

 

Miranda Marsh

Dark Arches

 

An archway, a bridge, a tunnel, however dark and continuous, is, after all, just a way under, a way through.  There is nothing to be scared of.  No indescribable monsters are hiding in the shadows; there is nothing, really, waiting to get you.  For why would anything bother with you?  What, for heaven’s sake, could be so special about you that you should be the target of some unspeakable attention?  What meaningless paranoia!

 

And so, if a young boy, let us say an early teenager, perhaps a little timid and yet also armed with perseverance and an adventurous spirit, were to be cycling along the busy North Circular Road in west London (taking somewhere entirely at random), free-spirited for a brief period during which he was able to be away from somewhere more oppressive, if such a boy were to find himself approaching a threatening series of dark archways and railway bridges, such that together they almost formed a continuous gloomy tunnel, what possible reason could he have for feeling in his young gut that he had unwittingly come across the very image of the end of his world.  There would seem to be no logic to it.

 

Yes, admittedly the heavy traffic might be intimidating and noisy.  A mistimed wobble on his bicycle would have him done for.  And that was back then, when the traffic was nothing like what it is today.  Today no young boy in his right mind would take to that particular (random) road on a bicycle.  But, in those days, provided you were sensible and didn’t panic, you could easily survive the journey under the bridges, even if it did take you a good few minutes to get through to the other side, the unfamiliar other side, albeit less intimidating in its bleakness.  You could do this, if you persevered.  But there was no getting away from how he felt about it.  He carried the darkness with him - it stuck to him - as he pressed on, persevering. 

 

And yet for all the foreboding, he still had momentum.  He would see it through.  Was it the somewhere more oppressive behind him that fuelled this part of the journey, that drove him on?  Did his despair come from the hopelessness of being trapped between two zones of malevolence; the need to belong and the need to escape?  In front of him and behind him? The oppressiveness behind him was particularly tricky.  It was something he always had to go back to, something he both needed and hated.  And it too was something that both owned him and resented him.  He needed it because he had nowhere else to go.  It needed him because that was what it was born to do, to have him and to need him.  But it resented him too.  It resented him because of how much it needed him.  And he hated being resented, so he resented it right back, despite his own need for it.

 

But on that afternoon, all that time ago, he escaped from it and cycled out.  With no destination in particular in mind, but for the journey away, for the feeling of escape, the momentum of forward movement, for the illusion of self-determination.  For the sense of freedom.

How long was he on the road before he began to feel the doom ahead of him?  An hour maybe, before the sense of being drawn into an ugly black hole became symbolized by the thick dark arches of the looming railway bridges?  The transition from initial feelings of freedom to oppressiveness was stealthy and insidious.  The changing landscape, at first residential, slow-paced; then a distant buzzing, indistinct but steady and expanding; then the more recognisable noises of heavier, busier, faster traffic; fewer people on foot; stranger people, unfriendly and suspicious; more commercial traffic and more commerce around him; then darker, industrial, then heavier, where pedestrians were not welcome; harsher landscapes, rejecting, begrudging him his presence, begrudging him his existence.  Was it resentment again?  Was it indifference again?  A blend of both, again?  Oh the inescapable, disorganised, ambivalent feelings.  The rootlessness, the need for comfort.

 

And, eventually, the journey home.  Because that’s how it had to be.  And, when home, what would he face?  The need, the resentment, the indifference, the unpredictability?  Some or all of these maybe, and the powerlessness that that accompanied it all. How would he cope with it this time?  Perseverance again?  Or defiance or misbehavior when it felt like the feelings would otherwise overwhelm him? 

 

But of course that was then, and in due time he would opt for simply leaving this toxic mess behind.  Moving on from it, drawing a line under it, and trying to ignore its ongoing and insistent grasping from an increasing distance.

 

*****************

 

I had business in London and booked a place to stay over as the evening was going to be a late one.  I say business as a generalisation, because it wasn’t actually business at all.  It was a night out with my son and his wife.  Fantastic, about as far from business as you could get. Also, earlier in the day I was meeting a number of ex-colleagues from the office I had retired from a couple of years earlier.  That was about as close to business as the day got and my lunch with the guys in east London was very enjoyable.  After taking my leave, promising to do it again soon - because we said we must - I decided to deposit my holdall of overnight gear at my cheap hotel in west London, checking in before making my way to my son’s house further north.  I thought I might grab a cup of tea at the hotel in the process and that is what I did. And so, thus fortified, I ventured back out to walk up the main road to the Overground station.  The ring road was of course noisy, its busyness almost overwhelming.  The heavy smell of spent fuel clung to me.  Nevertheless, I was enjoying my brisk and solitary walk through the bleakness, following the slow curve of the dual carriageway.

 

The slow curve.  The slow realisation.  The slow recognition of the old feelings.  The bridges, the dark arches of grimy brown brick.  They had been waiting for me.  Fifty years.  They had more than matched my own perseverance.  Their presence seeped into my consciousness.  But - no shock, no triggering of terror.  Just distant echoes gradually morphing into recognition, awareness edging its way in. My God.  I’m here again.  And I remember.  Deleted memories that have somehow undeleted themselves.  The archways still impassively overwhelming, bleak and at the same time potent, barren but pregnant. 

 

What was different though?  Something felt different.  Even though I could see, hear and sense that they were completely unchanged in their uniquely defiant way, something was, actually, undeniably different.  I thought about it, turned it over, took my time.  I thought too about the process of doing this. 

 

And that was it, right there.  I was really curious about it.  Turning it over, taking my time, because … it struck me … it was interesting.  That was the difference.  Before, it had been bewildering, overpowering.  But now it was interesting; and memories of my adolescent bewilderment too were interesting.  The atmosphere had lost none of its potency, its magnitude, its loomingness, its status, after a gap of nearly two generations.  But my relationship with it … I found myself looking on it kindly and I slowed my pace and lingered with it, and I sensed that it welcomed me, that it had in fact been waiting for me, like the patient parent of a prodigal son.  And I let it embrace me.  And it felt good.

 

Paul Todman

Sacred space

A photo of Stourhead in Autumn

by Kaitlyn Steele

Sanctuary

 

I am undone,

wounded by the tender beauty

of this place,

pierced by such a longing

that it takes my breath away.

 

I am undone,

surrendered to the mystery

of this place,

held spellbound in the

gossamer web it spins

within my aching soul.

 

I am undone,

adrift in the timeless flowing

of this place,

bathed in the cool waters

of its healing touch.

 

And my soul is lifted up

to touch the face of God

and to know what it is like

to come home. 

Kaitlyn Steele

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