Monday, 3 October 2016

Quietly Nurturing the Creative Spirit by Clare Weiner aka Mari Howard

Or How to get away to a quiet place for meditation …

It is brilliant, being a Granny! I’ve just been mending a baby blanket. A patchwork blanket made by my mother, forty years ago, composed of ‘Oxfam squares’. This transported me from our present world to worlds of the past.

The blanket, about 36 by 30 inches, reminded me first of my maternal Granny, ‘Granny Ham’, who had never learned to sew, because she was left-handed, and back then, I suppose nobody taught little girls who were left-handed how to do it left-handedly. Or not in ordinary schools for ordinary people. So my mother never learned to sew much, either, since you learn to sew from your mum, don't you?  Although both them could knit. 

I had Faure’s wonderful Requiem playing on the CD player: utterly evocative. This was reminding me of friends I never see now. The amazing Pie Jesu was played images in my head, or probably somewhere much deeper, as I sewed, using a variety of darning, blanket stitch, and  generally whatever comes to hand to mend small holes. Possibly bitten by greedy little moths, or possibly simply there due to the yarn being, now, over 40 years old. 

I’ve heard these words sung by some very privileged children, who are now grown, gone (to Cambridge and beyond), and disappeared to us: did they understand what they’re singing? Did the words touch them, or only the music?  Were they merely trying their hardest to be the best, and get the notes right, exactly as the music master demanded? Did they see deeper?  Will they forget Jesus, in their new, probably successful, twenty-something lives?

Faure had recently lost his parents (Wikipedia says nothing to do with this, but Donald Macleod, on This Week’s Composer, clearly suggested it did), when he was writing the already-commissioned Requiem. And it is perhaps this which makes it so special, so ‘heart-wrenching’ as we’d say today, so evocative and profound. He knew which keys would move us. He wrote lyrically, but not sentimentally. 

I stitched carefully, but not with the skill of the person who, after my mother had knitted the pastel coloured Oxfam squares, crocheted them together to assemble the blanket, for our first baby, who is now nearly 40. The wool they used, I suspect, came from the wonderful scrap basket where her ‘missionary knitting group’ collected all their odd leftover yarn. In order to knit it up for, well, Oxfam blankets for refugee children overseas.

What a piece of 1970s and 80s history that now is. We all seemed to live in a different, and apparently safer, world. Before children and music  masters were so obviously linked in news reports of misbehaviour in schools, before 9/11, before Syria … we could now use the words of the Requiem to find a prayer for our times. My mind was turned to the lost friends. I’d lost a close friend shortly before our older son (for whom that blanket was made) sang, aged about 12, in the chorus for the Requiem at his school concert. Her husband (also a friend) had been killed outright in a road accident, on business over in the USA. They’d been here for him to study in the University, and she had rushed back to the States, taking their young daughter. My friend and her husband had been enormous supporters of my writing, then in its early stages, and I felt bereft. I played the Faure continuously whenever I worked, tears streaming down (and I am not usually a crying type.)

Over ten years later, I lost another supportive friend, in other circumstances, and again turned to this magnificent piece. I wrote Baby, Baby, inspired, but often in tears.

Friends at a birthday party, in a ?safe world, 1982
Those were friends from the different world. It was a world where friendship was valuable and vital, where we were inside a network of Christians who supported and cared about one another, who held the same values and put faith before ambition. Doctors, academics, and even insurance company employees, saw their work in terms of vocation. We all felt secure in our little Christian world …that has changed. Not for us personally: we are still in a church, we are still Christians. The world has changed and brought changes with it…

It’s all about a blanket, and what can creep up and become more real, is more real, to us here and now, than the world of TV News, doom-laden journalism, Nordic Noir, and (whatever you think of it), of “Brexit”. It’s also about inspiration. About taking time out of today’s stresses, and stepping into your own life - whatever that might be. And about being more than writers... I was mending an old knitted blanket, because our daughter wants to use something from her own babyhood (it was passed down from her elder brother in the way things were back then…) for her own baby boy, now 6 weeks old. About putting on a CD instead of the radio …

It is even about how and why to be a writer.
A writer in these dark times.

Since I wrote this, there have been several posts and blogs about rest, slowing down, and similar subjects by other ACW's. God is telling us something ...

Clare Weiner writes contemporary fiction under the pen name Mari Howard. You can read about this, including extracts, on the Hodge Publishing website, where you can also access her blog, marihowardauthor.


  1. What an evocative piece Clare. Beautiful

  2. Beautiful post Clare. I really feel God is speaking to me about rest. God made us to rest one day out of every 7 and if I don't I find I get mentally and physically exhausted. Thank you for this.

  3. I loved reading this Clare. Isn't it extraordinary how some things can evoke such a range of emotions in us? Beautiful. Thank you.