Thursday, 1 December 2011


I noticed yesterday that at one of the December 2011 weekly meetings of Ph D students at St Mary's College Institute for Theology, the Imagination and the Arts (ITIA), St Andrews university, someone is going to speak about the American farmer-philosopher and author Wendell Berry. In 2000, I flew to Baranov Island in Alaska from my home in Chelsea, where I lived two or three doors down from the poet Kathleen (On a Deserted Shore) Raine. The purpose of my visit was to explore the native territory of a tree – Picea sitchensis - I grow as a commercial timber crop in south Lanarkshire. Kathleen had founded an organisation called Temenos, of which Wendell, a close friend of Kathleen's, was a member (as was I). As I left my house to go to the airport, I saw Kathleen and waved to her. On my arrival at Sitka, I discovered that the Island Institute was holding a literary festival, and walked into a room where Wendell Berry was telling the audience about a visit to Kathleen in London, and in particular about the fact that our shared back gardens had once formed part of St Thomas More's country estate, therefore how the little weeds and wild flowers we found coming up in them were in all probability descended from that time. When he finished his talk I put my hand up and explained that my garden was virtually next door to Kathleen's, and how I had seen her the day before. I had had no idea before I arrived that Wendell Berry was to be in Sitka. I classed this experience under 'synchronicity' and regarded it as a sign that my life was somehow 'on track'. On a less elevated plane: I was moved yesterday to write to the BBC TV quiz programme Only Connect pointing out that they had mis-spelled the word borshch - Russian beetroot soup - with an unnecessary, non-existent 't' at the end in an item about words of increasing length that only have one vowel. The combination of the four letters shch in English are represented by one consonant in the Russian alphabet. It occurs in the name Khrushchev - the first two letters kh are also only a one- letter consonant in Russian. A classic example of concision in Russian is the two word message sent by one Russian to another when the Soviet Union collapsed 'Neuzheli dozhili' - rendered in eleven in English: Is it possible that we have lived to see this day.


  1. I've just had a beetroot soup related poem published on Cyclamen and Swords. Thank goodness I eschewed using the word 'borshch' as I would have given it a 't' (perhaps several) although it wasn't the spelling challenge that deterred me but scan and rhyme. My spell checker gives me borsch or borscht

  2. Can the beetroot poem be shared here?

  3. Cyclamens and Swords Publishing was founded in 2008 by Johnmichael Simon and Helen Bar-Lev.
    "Life should be sunflowers and poetry
    symphonies and four o’clock tea
    instead it’s entangled
    like necklaces in a drawer
    when you reach in for cyclamens
    you pull out swords"

  4. My poem here:

  5. Quite clearly synchronicities are commonly experienced as validating that one is on the 'right' road. The fascinating question is what is the source of the validation? Jung says it is a person being connected with the collective unconscious. The results of my 50 year research of this challenging and perplexing topic is that the source of the validation of rightroadedness is a connection with one's personal not collective unconscious. Synchronicities prove to be self generated messages from ones own synthezised creative process. A synchronicity begin in the context of a seemingly unsolvable personal problem. If there is a dedication to struggling with struggle this dedication stimulates ones idiosyncratic creative process. What follows is a process I have dubbed a psychological scavenger hunt. This process is a search for 'meaningful clues' analogous to searching for pieces that will eventually fit together completing a recognizable patterned jig saw puzzle. The completed pattern (coded) is experienced as a synchronicity still to be decoded as if it were a waking dream. The decoded synchronicity will be seen to be a creative answer to the original problem. With it is always felt an expansion of consciousness in the realms of being and doing. Does this makes sense to you? If interested go to Amazon plug in synchronicities and look for my #1 book: DEMYSTIFYING MEANINGFUL COINCIDENCES (SYNCHRONICITIES):The Self, The Personal Unconscious, and The Creative Process. Gibbs A. Williams Ph.D.