Saturday, December 29, 2012

Murray Creek, Late December Haiku

Entry for 28 Dec 2012:

December labyrinth:
Winding path sprinkled
    with oak leaves;
We walk the circle again.

Fooled by false gloaming: Full moon
Fluoresces through clouds

-28-29 December 2012

EFT Tribes Book Chapter Published

Entry for 27 December 2012:

The second edition of Pete Sanders’ popular book on the different forms of person-centred therapy (PCE) was released in the final weeks of 2012.  The first edition, published in 2003, has been a perennial favourite with the students in our post-graduate course in person-centred counselling, helping them to reflect on where they want to locate themselves as budding counsellors and what their options are.  In order to clarify the relationships among the different PCE therapy suborientations, Margaret Warner and others hit upon the metaphor of “many tribes, one nation”, pointing to unity amid diversity.  (From a Scottish point of view, “clans” works well also.)

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) was mentioned in the first edition, sometimes critically, but was not represented by a chapter, leaving it status within the larger PCE nation unclear.  Then, about 18 months ago, Pete asked me if I’d be willing to do a chapter on EFT for the second edition of the “tribes book”.  Although academic pressures nowadays lead me to turn down most book chapter invitations, this one made sense to me, and I was pleased to take up the challenge.  As is common, work on the chapter got delayed and deadlines were extended but eventually several months ago I had to buckle down and produce something, which in quick succession got revised, copy-edited, typeset, proofed, and, finally, two weeks ago, published.

When I wrote this chapter I had in mind my students on postgraduate counselling diploma and MSc courses in the UK and elsewhere, as well as for folks with previous qualifications as counsellors or psychotherapists who might be thinking about coming along for training in EFT to build on their existing skills.  However, there is a lot of complexity to EFT and a lot of jargon. I hope that I’ve succeeded at least in part in providing an accessible overview of Emotion-Focused Therapy, thanks to help from the folks at PCCS Book and in particular Richard Miller, a former counselling diploma student who read an earlier version of the chapter.

Reference: Elliott, R. (2012).  Emotion-focused therapy. In P. Sanders (Ed.), The tribes of the person-centred nation: An introduction to the schools of therapy related to the person-centred approach (2nd ed.).  Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Travel Narrative: Glasgow to California

Entry for 23-25 Dec 2012:

Leaving Glasgow after an exhausting season of moves and crises.
Twelve hour time shift: up at 3am, 4 hours earlier than usual,
six am flight to Amsterdam, then 8 hours jet lag
by the time we reach San Francisco.

On the way back home to California,
I read most of second of two long-delayed
Australian Emotion-focused therapy doctoral dissertations,
finally beginning to catch up with myself.

We enter the US at Minneapolis,
with surprising ease: short walk, short lines,
American security officers efficient
but condescendingly proud of their equipment and training.

Bay Area rush hour a week before Christmas:
We rent a car and make the drive to Pleasanton,
Risky from sleep deprivation and jet lag.

Arriving at my mother-in-law’s house,
Kenneth is already there.  
He too has been in transition
and is glad to see his long-lost parents. 

Northern California is having a wet year,
storm after storm sweeps through,
filling reservoirs; mudslides block roads,
early snow falls in the Sierra Nevada.

Cool, fresh mornings make for good runs
for Kenneth and me, as we begin to
catch up with the intense jumble of each other’s lives,
clearing a space for recovery and reconnection.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Toast for the Solstice

Entry for 22 December 2012:

For friends and family,
For light and darkness,
For continuity and change,
For wisdom and not-knowing,
For tears and laughter!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Dublin and Back

Entry for 26 November 2012:

My friend Laco Timulak invited me back to do another day on EFT for anxiety difficulties, after the first one I did for him 2 years ago, not long after my surgery.  I flew from Glasgow on Friday night, after a very full week of research methods and EFT training at Strathclyde.  It was very wet in Glasgow as we left but dry and cold in Dublin when Laco picked me up. 

It’s always nice to see Laco and to catch up on our latest adventures and misadventures; we have a history that includes the 6 months he spent in Toledo with me and my team on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2001. (His flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on 11 September 2001 was turned back halfway across the Atlantic supposedly for “maintenance issues”, in case there were terrorists on board.  This did not help his fear of flying…)

I had a lot more material on working with anxiety difficulties this time, thanks to two more years of research and the work I did for my keynote presentation at the World Associate conference in Antwerp last July.  As before, the group of psychotherapists was experienced and motivated, as this was the last session of a 12-day EFT training that Laco runs in Dublin.  This time, I was not recovering from surgery, had another two years of EFT training experience under my belt, and had had a reasonably good night’s sleep, so I was in good form, in spite of technical difficulties with a misplaced Apple Mac adaptor.

Laco is running a clinical case series study on the use of EFT with Generalised Anxiety Difficulties, with very promising results so far.  On Sunday, he generously spent six hours reviewing one of his cases with me, while we discussed and sometimes argued about EFT theory and case conceptualisation.  Laco’s version of EFT follows the recent work of Les Greenberg, Antonio Pascual-Leone, and others on the features of productive emotion and the emotional deepening process, which provides a fairly elegant organising structure that runs across different tasks and can help therapists learn the model. However, the exact relationship between the older, more modular task models and the newer more general model is not yet completely clear, so there is much room for interesting discussion. 

The next morning I caught the bus to Dublin airport and was soon flying back to Scotland.  Approaching Scotland, we flew past Arran on our left, Holy Isle standing just offshore, Goatfell and neighbouring mountains looming behind, covered in snow.  We also passed Bute and Cumbrae before reaching the Scottish mainland.  As we descended over North Ayrshire toward Glasgow Airport, I recognised Loch Semple below and thought that I could even make out the ruins of Semple Collegiate Church, which we’d visited a couple of weeks ago.  It was like a mini-review of many of our past Saturday Adventures, with a sense of our six years’ grounding here.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Coming of the Dark: Beginning of Celtic Winter and All Souls Day

Entry for 2 November 2012:

Clocks went back in Europe last weekend, and with the time change sunset was suddenly at quarter to five in the afternoon.  Here, the closing in of the early dark demarks the psychological boundary between Autumn and Winter, leading to a variety of responses: On the one hand, there is the switching to heavier coats, cocooning, even mourning and the urge to hibernate or hide.  On the other hand, people experience a compensatory seeking out of light, warmth, and company. 

In the middle of this week’s encroaching darkness was the late autumnal triduum of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls, the inverted image of the vernal passiontide sequence of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.  Both of these post-equinox festivals mark turnings and times for reflection on death and life, darkness and light. 

In the old Celtic calendar, Halloween marked the end of Autumn, the harvest time of plenty, and the beginning of Winter, the time of shortage and hunger.  As with the other three transition times in the Celtic calendar (31 January, 30 April, 31 July), the ancient Celts believed that at these times there is a thinning of the boundary between the worlds (life and death; everyday existence and the mysterious Otherworld of Magic and Fate). 

On these 4 nights of the year, for many years it was my practice to phone my mother, to wish her well and to reflect with her on the ancient time of turning.  Now that she is gone, however, it’s not clear to me what I should now do to mark these times.  This year I found myself meeting with the team of folks who are taking part in our new EFT for Social Anxiety Training Group, telling them about the day.  As I often do, I had a bag of chocolate pieces with me.  As I offered the chocolate to those assembled, I realized that this was in fact some of the stash of 2 kilograms of Trader Joe’s 52% Belgian chocolate that my mother had given me during one of my last visits to her at Murray Creek.  It was another chocolate communion!  I’d been here before; I’d even written about the ritual sharing of chocolate in the journal poem sequence about the time I spent with my mother during her final weeks.  This at least was something I could do to remember her.

Friday was All Souls Day, so we went to the 7.30pm service at St Mary’s, featuring Faure’s Requiem.  A key part of the service, which I hadn’t seen before, was the ritual reading of the names of the dead.  Alternating in stanzas of 12 at a time, two of the priests, Cedric and Chuks, read the long list of names people had submitted; they read my mom’s name fairly early on.  At the end, the list of names was carried up to the high altar, where it will be kept until next Easter.  This felt like a variation of the Focusing practice of Clearing a Space.

As the choir worked its way through the Faure Requiem, interspersed with the lessons, hymns, and the eucharist, I contemplated the words that the composer had set and how he chose to set them.  The imagery of hellfire and burning lakes doesn’t do anything for me anymore, but the repetition of the metaphors of rest/sleep and light stayed with me:
            “Rest eternal grant them, O Lord.
             And let light perpetual shine upon them.”

Rest: We wish those whom we have loved and who have gone before us relief from the pain they experienced in their lives and in their dying.  We hope that it is like a peaceful, untroubled sleep: healing and restorative.  At the same time, in so doing, we also make our peace with their passing. 

Light: We imagine those who have died to be surrounded by a warm, healing, sustaining light.  In imagining this, we shine the light of our memories on them so that they live again in us, where we keep them safely in our minds, warming them in our hearts.

Thus, we wish that the ones we’ve loved and who have died be soothed; and in doing this we soothe the image of them that we have carried with us, and find ourselves in turn soothed in and by this process.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Update for September-October: Adventures and European-UK SPR

Entry for 20 October 2012:

Over the past 6 weeks I’ve been extremely busy dealing with the move from Jordanhill and various work crises, on top of the usual things, and also being behind from all the time I missed between May and August.  I’ve never really caught up, and things keep piling up.  All of us are feeling overwhelmed and that includes me.  Meanwhile, I’m doing my best to keep sane and healthy, which means that a lot of things aren’t getting done when they should.  At times it really does feel like a crazy life, and it’s been hard to keep up with things like blogs.

One thing that hasn’t been sacrificed is our Saturday Adventures, of which we’ve had quite a few since early September.  Glasgow Open Doors day in mid-September was great for scoping out interesting churches and places in the Blytheswood area in the west side of Glasgow city centre.  In late September, we visited Crichton Castle, south of Edinburgh, and then Inverarary Castle, in Argyle, both of them getting ready to close for the season.

A high point was a trip to Falkland Palace in Fife the first Saturday in October.  This was another of the favourite haunts of the Stewart royalty in the 16th century, really a hunting lodge, restored in the 19th century and still inhabited by the current Keeper.  The little village of Falkland is lovely and I was particularly taken by the lovely Catholic chapel in the Palace and the larger than life-size wicker figure of Mary Queen of Scots with her favourite falcon, near a tree labyrinth in the orchard below the palace.  However, the most amazing thing was discovering on the grounds of the palace the oldest extant Real (or Royal) Tennis court, the original form of tennis, with lots of wacky rules, like having to serve the ball so that it bounces off the roof of the observer stand!  Apparently, this was all the rage with the nobility in 16th century Europe.

Last weekend, we went to the European-UK SPR meeting in Porto, Portugal.  This was my make-up SPR conference, since I’d missed the international SPR in Virginia Beach in late June, so I was very glad to go.  It was very well-organized and in a great site, the Portuguese College of Physicians; and Diane and I had a very good time, and ate a lot of fish while we were there.  The European-UK conferences are smaller than the big international SPR meetings, but have quite a lot of diversity.  This year I heard quite a few presentations by different groups of Psychodrama researchers, who have taken up various of the suggestions I gave them when I met with them Edinburgh several years ago.  They bring a lot of creativity and energy to their research, and are doing very interesting research, including a couple of new randomized controlled trials. 

This week I’ve been trying to recover form the Portugal trip while managing a very heavy teaching load.  Exhausting!  Nevertheless, we managed a drive out to Kilwinning (= St. Finnian, the teacher or St. Columba) today, where we visited the ruins of Kilwinning Abbey, dating back to the 13th century.  The village of Kilwinning is a bit depressing, but the ruins are lovely.  After that we went to Eglinton Country Park, which contains the ruins the Eglinton Castle, the site of the last major medieval tournament in the UK, which took place in 1839.  Like Kilwinning Abbey and its village, the Eglinton castle and its estate fell on hard times and only a few bits have been restored.  The theme of the day seems to have been an autumnal one: faded glory, decay and deterioration, but we’ve had plenty of chances to see signs of life over the past 6 weeks!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Castlelaw Hill Fort and Penicuik

Entry for 8 September 2012:

For this week’s Saturday Adventure, we started out at Castlelaw Hill Fort, a bit south of Edinburgh, not too far from Rosslyn Chapel.  This is an iron age hill fort, from around 500 BCE, with at least two concentric ramparts and ditches still visible, especially from the hillside above and behind it. It’s perched on a ridge above Castlelaw Farm.  Just beyond is a military firing range, from which volleys of gunfire sounded every few minutes, making the sheep nervous.  The most interesting feature of this hill fort, however, is the earth house or partially-underground storage chamber built into the inner rampart in the early years of the common era, possibly used by the local people to store up grain for trade with the Romans.  We spent about an hour rambling about the site, walking the inner rampart, climbing the hill above, and watching the rows of military at their gunnery practice in the valley below.

Lately, we’ve been following up our visits to historical sites by picking a nearby local village or town to explore.  Today it was the town of Penicuik, just a few miles from Castlelaw.  The town is filled with shops with “penny” and “cooking” in their names, playing on the name of the place, which actually comes from “Pen-Y-Cog” in old Brythonic (the Celtic language from which modern Welsh is derived):  “Hill of the Cuckoo”: A wonderful name for a somewhat grey town that has clearly seen better times.  I kept imagining the cry of the cuckoo echoing through the place.

As we walked down the one block of the High Street, we stumbled, almost literally, into the annual Doors Open day at the Penicuik Town Hall, also known as the Cowan Institute, a 100-plus-year old community centre created to support and uplift the citizens of Penicuik, especially the workers in the papermills below along the River Esk.  “Paper mills?”, we said, as the bored volunteers rose to greet us with smiles (for we had come to provide entertainment for them in the waning minutes of their day-long stint).  “Oh yes!” said the bearded gentleman who attached himself to us in order to take us on an expedited tour of the place, and to bring us up to speed on the history of Penicuik, its famous papermills and the progressive social practices of Alexander Cowan. 

As usual, we got just the barest introduction to another interesting little Scottish town, enough to glimpse a richness unfolding fractally before us:  The closer you look, the more complexity you see, repeating level after level, all the way to the base of world, which is the lived experience of each individual living being in each moment, opening forever new but always the same.

Monday, September 03, 2012

EFT Local Network Meetings Move to City Centre: Tuesday 11 September 2012

For four years a collection of folks who’ve done at least two levels of EFT training have been meeting in the Chaplaincy common room at the Jordanhill Campus of the University of Strathclyde.  This was arranged by Susan McKenna, of the Student Counselling Service, and organised by members of the network.  They’ve generally taken place on the second Tuesday of the month, from 18.30 to 20.00 in the evening.  The format has varied between supervision, videos, book study, and an occasion guest presentation.  The group is small, usually 5 – 8 people, and the sessions have been useful and interesting. 

Now, however, Jordanhill has closed and we’ve moved to the Glasgow City Centre.  EFT Network Meetings for 2012-13 will resume on Tuesday 11 September in the Counselling Unit’s new digs in the Graham Hills Building, 40/50 George Street. As before, starting time is 18:15 for 18:30, but we’ll meet us in GH506, the new Research Clinic Base, next door to my office, GH507, which we can use for watching videos.  The first meeting will be largely organisational in nature, but case supervision is always welcome.  There's a kitchen down the hall for making tea.  There is free parking on the side streets around the building after 6 pm; alternatively, there is regular train service to the nearest station, High Street, and Queen Street and Central stations are close enough to walk to and from.  The entrance at 50 George Street is often locked at 6pm, but the entrances at 40 George Street and at the back of the building on Richmond Street are open until 9pm. The Building is a bit of a maze but if you keep looking you will find us, on the fifth floor in the back left (northwest) corner of the building, up one floor from the Richmond Street entrance, which is the easiest way to get to us.  I know that some folks are on holiday, but I'm looking forward to seeing whoever can be there.

The group’s google site hosts information and announcements and is at:   
The discussion group is closed, but you can contact me for an invitation.

Look in the announcements section of the google site for information on subsequent EFT Network meetings.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fellow Status in APA Division of Clinical Psychology

Entry for 2 September 2012:

Last April I received an email out of the blue from the head of the Fellowship Committee of the Division of Clinical Psychology (Division 12) of the American Psychological Association, asking if I’d like to be nominated for Fellow status in that division.  Thanks, I said, but I’m a professor of counselling working in Scotland now; are you sure you want me?  No problem!, She said.  So I put together list of my clinical-psychology-relevant accomplishments and sent it off.

This past Friday, at the end of a long week running this year’s Strathclyde EFT Level 1 training workshop, I learned that I’ve been elected to Fellow Status in Division 12 of the American Psychological Association.  According to APA (

Fellow status is an honor bestowed upon APA Members who have shown evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology.

Election to Fellow status requires evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology. Fellow status requires that a person's work has had a national impact on the field of psychology beyond a local, state, or regional level. A high level of competence or steady and continuing contributions are not sufficient to warrant Fellow status. National impact must be demonstrated.

I was previously elected to Fellow Status in two other divisions (Humanistic Psychology, Psychotherapy), but with 3500 members Clinical Psychology is by far the largest of the three divisions to which I belong and the discipline in which I received by PhD.  It’s nice to have this recognition in my home discipline.

Londinium Magna Est Sed Biggar Biggar Est

Entry for 1 September:

In spite of a late start, we were determined to get back to our Saturday Adventures in Scotland.  Today it was the town of Biggar in South Lanarkshire, 30 or so miles southeast of Glasgow.  It’s a bit out of way, but situated in lovely rolling hills.  We arrived in the middle of the annual flower show and a Saturday afternoon wedding, the latter heralded by a lone piper playing in the old churchyard opposite.  Very quaint, but not so easy to find parking!

We stopped first at the Biggar Moat Heritage Museum, a cute little municipal museum in one of the old kirks perched on a hill overlooking the rest of the town.  Like other town museums we’ve seen, this one contained an eclectic collection of different bits from the past, with many carefully constructed models of prehistoric and history structures like hillforts, crannogs and castles.  The most unusual things in the collection, to my mind, are a couple intricate quilts from the late 19th century, featuring historical, theatrical and imaginary figures.  However, I was more taken by the section on the Biggar Archaeological Group’s work, including evidence of 14,000 year old reindeer herders who moved into this part of Scotland in the wake of the glaciers’ retreat after the last ice age.  It also contains an old sign in fractured Latin, quoted above as the title of this entry.

Our main destination was the Biggar Gas Works, the last remaining municipal gas works in the UK.  There, from 1836 to 1973, coal was treated to produce natural gas and coke.  We happily rambled through the small set of structures containing the retorts or ovens used to cook the gas out of the coal, the condenser for precipitating the tar out of the gas, the filters to remove the ammonia and sulphur dioxide, the steam engines for pumping the gas hither and thither, the metering equipment and the big round open-bottomed tanks resting in pools of water, used for storing the gas at pressure.  Steampunk! I thought: the 19th century technology of steam and gas, currently the subject of a romanticised revival of Victorian era aesthetic, popular in the speculative fiction field, ranging from novels (eg Powers, Gibson, Carriger) to graphic novels (eg the Girl Genius books) to fashion (Victorian clothing & goggles).  (For more see: .) Here, you can see just how messy and back-breaking this technology was, but still impressive!

Biggar proclaims itself to be a town of many museums of various types.  Because of our late start, we missed the rest of them, including the Covenanters House, Biggar Kirk, and the Gladstone Court Museum.  It’s on our list for a return visit!

August Update 2012

Entry for 1 September 2012:

Around noon on Wednesday, the first of August, on the old Celtic festival day of Lunasa or Lammas, the first day of Celtic Autumn, I arrived at my new office in the Graham Hills Building.  There was a desk with my computer on it, and my file cabinets weree lined up neatly against the left wall, but no chairs or any other furniture.  I went out and found myself a table in the common area by the classrooms.  After an hour I went back, and voila’!, chairs, table and lots of boxes of books had appeared.  I set up my computer.  The IT guy came by, got my computer’s MAC address and had me online within the hour.  I spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging furniture in order to open up the space.  At 5pm I walked the couple of minutes to the High Street train station and caught the 17.05 train home. 

I spent the next two days trying (and failing) to get enough work cleared up to be able to leave on vacation with a clear conscience.  In the end, only the most critical things got done, and off we went to the US, where my laptop promptly died.  Our first task was to help our youngest son Kenneth move from Cleveland, Ohio, to Iowa City, Iowa, where he was about to start grad school in classics. Then we flew to Seattle, where we ended up helping our oldest son, Brendan, move house.  Next, we flew to San Francisco, and my sister Anna picked me up the next day and took me to Murray Creek to help prepare for our mom’s Celebration event.

After the Celebration Event, we had various adventures of a more sedate nature, along with recovering from all the moves, physical and psychological and restoring my laptop whose hard drive had crashed and had to be reformatted.  One day, we ventured part way up the Pleasanton Ridge, west of Diane’s home town of Pleasanton, high enough to be rewarded with commanding views of the valley.  Another day, we explored Sycamore Grove Park, south of Livermore, with its stands of large old sycamore, walnut and oak trees along the mostly-dry arroyo, vultures wheeling gracefully overhead in the late summer thermals of the 90F weather.  Rows of ancient walnut trees lined abandoned roads leading to the ruins of an old winery in the hills to the south. If hadn't so hot, it would have been romantic, in a desolate sort of way...

We returned to Scotland by a circuitous route: San Francisco to Paris to Cardiff to Glasgow.  We cleared immigration at Cardiff International Airport, where we were questioned closely and subsequently had our carry-on bags scanned multiple times by very serious officials, who scolded us for not taking our kindle and small Mac keyboard out of our bags.

On our return I had no time to recover, as I was running this year’s 4-day Strathclyde EFT Level 1 training with Lorna and Anja.  Although relocated from Jordanhill, the space worked out reasonably well.  Amusingly, it was on the 8th floor with a bunch of engineers temporarily displaced by the fire in their building earlier this year; with their ties and ID cards on lanyards they made quite a contrast to our motley band of counsellors.  Moreover, we were very pleased to be able to work with such an enthusiastic group of participants.  As always, it was a real pleasure to facilitate this training, and very rewarding to see the participants begin to pick up and use the various EFT tasks.  

Afterward, on Friday night, we collapsed, and when my bread machine’s beeping woke me up the next morning I was startled to see that it was 10 am already.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Celebration for Ann Elliott, 18 August 2012: Invocation and Closing

It’s been a very busy several weeks, which is why I’m only now getting around to posting this, just as we’re about to leave California to fly back to Scotland. 

These are the two pieces that I composed and read at the Celebration event we had for our mother, last Saturday. It was a great day, with about 60 people, sunny and warm but with just enough cloud and breeze to make it bearable.  Many people shared their experiences of Ann, including quite a few of her grandchildren.  There was processing, labyrinth-walking, singing, reminiscing, crying, ash scattering, and nice food.  Mom/Ann would have approved!  I'd been feeling generally unhappy about her death, but somehow the process of the day helped me put that aside.  It was wonderful hearing the impact she had on people, and the siblings and grandkids really came together in a positive and hopeful way.  I guess that's why human being have these kinds of rituals...

1. Invocation

Oh spirits of the Murray Creek Valley,
I call on you to witness what we do here today!

Ghosts of the Miwok,
Who ground their acorns by the stream below!
Chinese gold miners,
Who built their dam just up the valley from here!

European settlers,
Who built houses, planted orchards,
Drove their stagecoaches on the road above!

Bob and Ann Elliott,
New Age Rural Professionals,
Who followed their vision of a great time of turning
To this place where we are gathered today.

I call on all the spirits of those
Who have gone before us here in this place
To join us this day in celebrating the life
Of Ann Helena Kearney Elliott.

During her last days, she asked us not
To mark her passing with sadness and gloom,
But instead to celebrate her life,
By gathering together to have a party.

But let's be clear:
All emotions are welcome at this party,
Especially contradictory ones:
Sadness and joy; anger and love;
Puzzlement and certainty; fear and safety;
Solemnity and mirth; guilt and forgiveness;
Brokenness and healing.

So we begin our celebration with a parade,
A procession, a ritual journey
To the sacred center of this place:
The Murray Creek Labyrinth.

Let us travel in whatever way we can:
Walking, riding, singing, dancing,
With our feet, in our imaginations,
Talking philosophy, having visions.

Let us travel a short distance down the road,
But travel in time as well,
remembering and rejoicing
In Ann, mother, grandmother, mentor, friend,
Fellow traveller through life.

2. Closing: Murray Creek, a Vision for the Next 100 Years

In her last years, Ann set up Murray Creek,
With its Creative Living Center, Quiet Garden, and Labyrinth,
As The Elliott Family Trust. 

Ann stated that the purpose of the Elliott Family Trust is:
"The preservation and care" of this place,
"As a place of beauty and quiet,
As a sanctuary for its wildlife,
And as a gift to be shared with others."

In accordance with the laws of the State of California,
The Elliott Family Trust is set up
To last for 100 years, like a fairy-tale castle,
In all likelihood, this is beyond the lifetimes
Of all of us here.

I think It's clear to all of us that these next 100 years
Are going to be crucial for human beings and the planet Earth. 
There are multiple crises converging on us right now:
Environmental, economic, and political;
Educational, health and health care, cultural, and spiritual.

We think that Murray Creek and the Elliott Family Foundation
Has a role to play in how humanity meets these crises. 
That role could simply be to provide a place
For Ann's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren
For replenishment or refuge. 
Or Murray Creek could become
Part of the larger solution to our current crises,
Through promotion of innovative practices
Such as permaculture or nonviolent communication.

That's up to us now. 
I don't know what we'll do with it,
But I do know that we're a creative bunch,
So I'm hopeful that we'll come up with something. 
I also know that whatever it is we won't be alone in it,
Because we are being watched over
By those who came before us:
The native peoples who came here first
And whose troubled spirits Ann and Bob made peace with,
As well as the ghosts of those who came later;
I know also that Ann and Bob are watching over us
And in our hearts, inspiring us.

Moreover, we are surrounded by,
Embedded in, and held up within a network
Of caring friends and loved ones. 

Now, as Ann commanded us,
Let us start those 100 years
With another procession-parade and a party!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Will the Last Person to Leave Jordanhill Please Turn Out the Lights?

Entry for 1 August:

Yesterday I rode my bicycle over to the Jordanhill campus of the University of Strathclyde on its last day before being locked down.  It was a lovely, sunny day, a break from the constant cloud and rain we’ve been having.  I couldn’t access the bike racks behind the Wood Building because the moving trucks were blocking the way, so I chained my bike to a lamppost in front of the Stow Building. 

Brian, Diane and I had spent the past week packing up my office and the Research Clinic, throwing out lots of stuff and organising for the move.  There was no sign of the movers in the Research Clinic so I went over to the third floor of the Wood Building, where they’d already cleared most of my colleagues’ offices. 

I went back to the Research Clinic, where I hung around for most of the day waiting for the movers to show up to move my stuff, having a meeting or two, doing email, and catching up on MSc course admissions.  When I helped a colleague carry stuff out to her car, I got locked out of the building and had to wander around for 15 minutes until I found an unlocked entrance.  Some estates management guys came by the Research Clinic checking the radiators to make sure they were in working order in preparation for the building being closed up.  “What a waste!”, they said, shaking their heads.  They said it had to be kept heated, because it was a listed building, but they had no idea what the University intended to do with it.

Finally, about 4pm the movers came upstairs to say that they could only take our computers today; they would have to come back in the morning to get our data, my books and files, and the Research Clinic furniture.  I had to give up my plan to see my things safely packed up and carted off.  When I headed out about 4:15 I seemed to be the last remaining academic staff member to leave Jordanhill; however, I suspect that a few others might have come back later to look around nostalgically. 

I was never as sentimental about Jordanhill as the folks who’d been there for 30 years, but for me it’s been a great six years: We’ve done some wonderful training here, collected a lot of important data, in our time fought our battles big and small, and shed more than a few tears along the way. 

As I cut through the Frances Tombs Hall one last time, the light over the stage was still on, as it had been for days.  I hope someone turned the lights off after I left!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Langland Moss in the Rain, and Strathaven

Entry for 28 July 2012:

Saturday Adventure: We found our way to Langland Moss, a restored bog just outside of East Kilbride, about 20 miles south of Glasgow.  It started raining fairly hard just as we arrived, which seemed appropriate. It’s a bog: a soggy place that’s hard to blog about.  (But here goes, anyway:) We’ve all read about bogs, and maybe even seen the gruesome preserved bodies of people who were thrown into them, thousands of years ago, like in the National Museum of Ireland.  And we’ve read about people cutting and burning peat, which is still used for roasting the barley in making Scottish whiskey.  So: What are bogs, and what do they have to do with peat?   

Well, it all goes back to the end of the last Ice Age:  The retreating glaciers left lakes of  melt water behind, which gradually silted up and became filled with dead vegetation, preserved by the acidic conditions, basically tundra, of a spongelike consistency.  Spagnum moss could survive under these conditions, cranberry, certain kinds of heather on the drier bits.   This happened over thousands of years, then people came along and dug ditches to drain the bog (in other places, climate change and drier conditions eventually prevailed).  In some places, they spread lime on the soil to neutralize the acidic pH so that conventional crops could be planted.  In other places, they dug out and dried the peat to use for fuel, for example for making whiskey.

At Langland Moss, the bog was drained and a conifer plantation was put in.  Starting almost 20 years ago, however, preservationists removed the trees that had been planted as crop and dammed up the ditches to re-new the bog. Today it’s a bog again, once again laying down layers of peat.  It’s a lonely place, and the rain seemed appropriate; however, the weather was too miserable for the birds or other animals about today, and it was hard to linger in the wet and cold.  In a week, we’ll be in the sultry US, sweating out the month of August; I hope I’ll remember and be cooled by our visit to Langland Moss!

We had some more time after that, so we headed a few miles south to the little town of Strathaven.  “Strathaven” means “on the banks or valley of the Avon water (river)”, but it’s pronounced “Straven”, to rhyme with “raven”.  I’d been wanting to visit Straven because of the name, and today when I looked at my map, I noticed that there was a museum and a castle.  We couldn’t find the museum but we finally spotted the castle.  Near the castle was the old Town Mill, which turned out to contain a temporary exhibition gleaned from the museum, which had been closed and sold off for financial reasons by the South Lanarkshire Council last year.  The two guys there were very glad to see us, and happily talked at us for quite a while, filling us in on much of the local history: the weaving industry, the churches and pubs, the coach and train lines, the castle.  Oh yes, and an earful about the local Council and the museum folks’ hopes for preserving their town’s past one way or another. It’s amazing what you can find in little towns like Tarbolton and Strathaven.  For more on Strathaven, go to .  Everyplace is full stories!