Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scenes from a Holiday

Entry for 31 July 2011:

Because of our impending deadline for submitting our application for permanent leave to remain in the UK, we took our summer holiday early this year, in July, less than a week after getting back from the Society for Psychotherapy Research conference in Bern, Switzerland.

Whirlwind tour. As usual, we have spent the past three weeks visiting family in the US. This year it felt even more like one of those intense whirlwind 3-week tours of Europe. We started in Ohio with a short visit weekend in Toledo with our son Kenneth and our house-sitter/friend Linda, before flying to Northern California. There, first, in Pleasanton, we saw Diane’s mother and sister Marjorie and her partner Kris. Then, in Murray Creek, just outside of San Andreas, we visited my mother, siblings and their partners. After that, we returned to Pleasanton, then drove south first to Monterey to see my old high school friends Philip and Jackie before making a quick visit to Paso Robles to see my sister Anna (and my mother and sister Louisa again, who in the meantime had gone there ahead of us). Next, we spent another day in Pleasanton before flying up to Seattle to spend the weekend catching up with our son Brendan, his partner Mayumi and our 14-month-old granddaughter Mizuki. Finally, we flew back to Ohio for another brief visit with Kenneth, Linda and her son Jon, who also lives in our old house in Toledo. Even with all this travelling around, I was still able to maintain my running schedule, including two very long, challenging runs: the 7.5 mile loop around the Pleasanton ring road system, and the very hilly Murray Creek road 10k run to “town” (San Andreas) and back.

Overload. We returned to Glasgow two days ago, on Friday, very jet lagged but with our heads and hearts filled with a wealth of experiences. Yesterday we got up late, then sat down and mostly completed our UK settlement application, in the process reviewing our past five years here. But when I tried to go to sleep, I couldn’t: It wasn’t just the jet lag, or science fiction novella I was half way through. Something was unfinished: I needed to give some account of the jumble of experiences, to put them in order, before plunging into an intense month of work prior to this year’s EFT Level 1 training and courses starting again in September. This entry is a start at that; the rest will take time. Here then, are a few impressions of this time:

California Adventures. This year, with the encouragement of Diane’s mom, we initiated California Adventures, modeled on our Scottish Saturday Adventures. These are daytrips of varying lengths, some well-known, others quite obscure.

Our Famous Adventure was to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where we saw a wonderful exhibit, The Steins Collect, full of early Picasso and Matisse. This large exhibit made a big impression on me, demonstrating for me the dialectic relation between art collectors/fans and artists as a process guiding the history of art. However, I was even more amazed by the Belgian artist David Claerbout's video installation, The American Room: A moment suspended in time as the camera pans around the audience and performers at a small musical concert, each person captured cinematically and in their concrete physicality, as if we were there with them, lost in a “timeless moment”. TS Eliot would approve! For more:

Our obscure adventures were to two little-known local parks around Pleasanton, neither of which any of us (including Diane’s mom, who lives there) had ever heard of. One, in nearby Dublin (California), was a little historical park celebrating the early settlers of the area; the other was the Alviso Adobe Park, in the hills overlooking Pleasanton, a site linking the native American Ohlone tribe (represented by a 5,000-year-old grinding rock), a nineteenth century Mexican land-grant family (who built the old Adobe house there), and a twentieth century local dairy farm.

Murray Creek. I’ve already posted my annual Murray Creek poem, but the little valley where my mom, Conal and Holly live never fails to resonate deeply in me. This summer, because of the late rains it was unusually lush for July in California, the many shades and textures of green particularly vivid, and the peaceful atmosphere was accompanied by distant sound of water still running in the creek. Although the visit was short, I had some excellent talks with my mom and siblings, and got a good view of what is emerging in their lives.

Philip & Jackie in Monterey. After my friend Margaret died in February, I realized how important it is to maintain connections with old friends. Fortunately, we were able to organize a visit with two good friends from high school, Philip and Jackie. It turned out that Philip had retired four years ago and they had moved to Monterey, a place long familiar to me from family vacations with my grandmother in nearby Carmel Valley. Again, a brief, intense visit, filled with Philip’s excellent cooking and visits to my grandparents’ graves in Pacific Grove, walk through Asilomar State Beach, visit to Philp’s favorite local Bakery (Pavel’s Bakerei) and a visit to the Monterey Acquarium. The high point, however, was talking with the two of them into the night, with Philip and I reading recent poems to each other, just as we had done in high school so many years ago.

Brendan, Mayumi and Wee Mizuki in Seattle. We found our oldest son and his family much less stressed and more settled in and grounded than on previous visits. Our granddaughter Mizuki is an absolute delight, happy (mostly), walking with ease, interested (even if only briefly) in everything, and very sociable, with a very regal princess wave. Most amazingly, Brendan and Mayumi have taught Mizuki baby sign language, and she charmed us by signing for "more" and "please" and other things. There were also Seattle Adventures: one day to a farm-themed park with blue-berry picking, a first for us; the next day to Seward Park, a peninsula that extends into Lake Washingon. And meals out. And more really good talks about where lives are going.

Saudade. After dropping Kenneth off in Cleveland the day before flying back to Scotland, I was filled with a sense of sadness at not being able to see him and the rest of our family and friends more often. I think that friends and family provide an essential grounding and orientation for us in our lives, and it is difficult and at some background psychic level stressful to be so far away from them, cut off to a large extent by the distances and time differences. We had some great Adventures in the process of reconnecting to people important to us, and we resumed some important conversations, although these conversations are unfinished and left us wanting more. There is the character of nostalgic, almost painful longing about this. In Portugal, I think, this feeling is called saudade; it is the basis of fado music. This is an old feeling, an emotion scheme familiar to me; and I think this is the reason that the music of fado resonates with me so deeply. For me this feeling is a key source of inspiration for poetry, blogging, and even my work as a therapist. It needs to be fed, from time to time, by visits home to people and places I love, by conversations resumed but still unfinished, dangling, waiting to be continued, the warp and weft of my life.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Murray Creek Haiku 2011

Entry for 17 July 2011:


Almost a year since

I last passed this way: Sudden

Longing for this place.


Winter storms reshaped

the creek, sweeping up trees, rocks,

berry bushes… bridges.


Blackberries slowly

now return, repopulate:

plenty berries soon!


Labyrinth renewed:

buried stones dug up, re-placed,

gleaming in the sun.


Late rains, cool weather,

water still runs in the creek,

sounding in the dark.


Full moon rises over

eastern ridge of Murray Creek,

outshines Milky Way.


Summer morn, I run

the road to town. When will I

come this way again?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

8 July 2011: Reflections on route to the US: June-July Update

The last few weeks, since the end of May, have been very busy:

1. Courses end. The counseling diploma courses ended, amid the usual drama, tears and last minute marking of assignments. I continue to enjoy my work with the student groups here, counseling diploma & MSc students, counseling psychology professional doctorate students, and research PhDs. They are passionate and committed, which they have to be, because there is so little financial support for them.

2. EFT Training. Also in June, Anja Rutten and I delivered the third and final installment of a very successful EFT Level 2 in Veldhoven, Netherlands, and began planning Level 3 to start in the Autumn. The Strathclyde EFT Level 1 for the end of August is already almost full, thanks in part to the various one-day taster workshops I’ve been do around the UK. Over the past year or so, it has become clear that Emotion-Focused Therapy is gathering critical mass in Europe. The International Society for Emotion-Focused Therapy (ISEFT) is being formed to promote the approach and to develop standards and accreditation procedures for EFT therapists, supervisors, trainers, and training centers.

3. Settlement. After a month of intensive study, Diane and I took and passed our UK citizenship test, entitling us to apply for what is called Settlement, or Permanent Leave to Remain in the UK, equivalent to a Green Card in the US. The test consisted of 24 multiple choice questions divided evenly between blindingly easy questions (“What is Valentine’s Day?”) and mind-numbingly picky ones (“How many representatives to the European Parliament does the UK have?”). We had 45 minutes for the test; Diane was the first of our group of 15 to finish, at 7 minutes. When we return from the US at the end of July, finishing our application will be our top priority; we can’t submit more than 28 days before our visa runs out at the end of August. However, the process requires us to send in our US passports. Once we’ve turned our application in, we’re stuck in the UK until we hear back on our case. That could take anywhere from a month or two, to 6 months or more. I’ve already cancelled or rescheduled most of the travel plans for the period. We will have to be patient and flexible, just like when I was recovering from surgery during the same time period last year.

4. The Summer Solstice, with 17.5 hours of daylight, came, but it was rainy and gray in Glasgow. We’ve a couple of days of nice weather since mid-May, but that’s about it.

5. SPR-Bern. The highlight of my scientific year is generally the annual international conference of the Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR), and this year’s conference in the beautiful, historical Swiss city of Bern was no exception. There were many EFT panels on the program, and a group of us did the “EFT Tour” going from session to session, learning about the latest EFT developments, such as applications of Antonio Pascual-Leone’s recently developed model of the emotional change process in EFT, and a new task model of hopelessness (which turns out to be a form of self-interruption). I took Rachel McLeod’s HSCED study of my first social anxiety client (about to appear in Psychotherapy Research) and converted it into a change process study, which worked surprisingly well. Diane gave her first SPR presentation, on clients from the Research Clinic who dropped out after only one or two sessions, and by all reports was informative and entertaining. (I missed her presentation because I was scheduled to present at the same time in a parallel session.) We got together with old friends, like David Orlinsky and the Collaborative Research Network; Bill & Sue Stiles; Art Bohart & Karen Tallman; Chris Barker & Nancy Pistrang; and many others. All in all, Franz Caspar and his team, along with Guillermo de la Parra, the program chair, did an excellent job of organizing the conference, one of the best in years, in my view.

Now, it’s time for a vacation!