The Inn of Great Happiness

What’s on my mind…as Facebook queries…is not independence. Or even Independence Day. This 4th of July what is on my mind is interdependence, loneliness and connection. Over the past few days I have been resting up, napping and sleeping long hours. Recuperating, in a way, from the marathon of workshops I have facilitated from last December. In between reading detective novels I have been listening to Brené Brown interviews on YouTube, as well as reading some of Maria Popova’s Brainpickings that have dropped into my email inbox. And in the way that things happen the themes of loneliness and belonging all coalesced. Hannah Arendt writes that loneliness is “the common ground for terror”. So, that “terror…ruins all relationships between men.” I guess she meant that to cover both genders and used it in the sense of the human race. That was how they styled the language in the 1950s and 1960s when she was writing.

Brown, in her National Cathedral sermon in January 2018, mentions that loneliness is so endemic that in the UK in 2017 it was recognised as a public health issue. Loneliness is a greater predictor of premature death than all the smoking, excessive alcohol imbibing, overeating and no exercise that are the usual warnings.

Arendt (and Popova) note that tyranical regimes and totalitarian regimes weaponise loneliness. They sow disconnection. Brown tells us how they do this – by dehumanising people, often those that we disagree with, by making them out to be somehow subhuman. That was what Hitler did. But we also do it, maybe not on the same scale, maybe in microagressions, but we still do it. And this dehumanisation of others is the the real public health and public discourse plague.

So, this 4th of July, that is what is on my mind. How lonely people can be angry people. They are certainly isolated and alienated people. It is a wonderful belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of Deity. But it is hard work to actually walk that talk, especially when the beliefs and actions of some are anathema. It can be hard work to discover where that divine spark is hiding. Yet, that is the work of being a human.

Poetry practice today is a mash up of Brown, Arendt, Popova, John O’Donohue and Rumi.

The Inn of Great Happiness

It can be awfully lonely
in your tribe
even if we all subscribe
to the same codes,
those screeds of belief. But

if we have not love
written into our tribal DNA
then it's all out of key.

It's good to sing with strangers.
It's also a good thing
to break bread and drink wine
with strangers.
It's a good thing to get together
even with the ones who really irritate.

Like Mom said, " Be polite."
Talk about the weather.
Ask after their health,
that of their family members.
Be Kind. Pass the cookies. Or more wine.

It takes some practice
this being human.
It's all about there always
being a room ready for
everyone passing.
Anyone passing.

So check your larder and linen closet.
Make sure some sheets are aired.
Plump up the downy pillows.
Have the instruments tuned and prepared.
(Don't disturb the cobwebs
because some spiders are guests there.)

Sing into the night
with strangers
as they become like family
if not quite like friends.
Sing into the new day's light
until they become our family,
blood of our blood, bone of our bone,
until it's not just pretend.
until we all comprehend
this being human.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Feature image Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Guest House

house guest

It’s full dark at 8am. The rain is beating on the double glazing.The house is muffled and I pad about by the light on the Christmas twinklies. I have been awake for over an hour and a half and still I am facing that blank page. I am preoccupied with what needs to be done before our Christmas guests arrive and how to dovetail tasks with concert rehearsals, feeding us and minding the menagerie. I was having a moment of Yuletide Mrs. Demento. Then Rumi came to me like a one man cavalry.

2018 has been marked by a steady procession of house guests from vernal equinox until the British late August bank holiday, with a few weekenders thereafter.  One friend dryly remarked that she wondered if I had registered with AirBnB. Some years it has been quiet, but not this one.  To stave off over-identification as a landlady I looked up the Rumi opening line from “The Guest House” in the Coleman Barks translation. This being human is a guesthouse.

I am reminded that hospitality is one of the four reverences in the Celtic spiritual tradition. The sacredness of the natural world and the divine in it is one, as well as the creative life of ‘making’ – whatever your art or craft. The last is anamcara,  soul friendship, the relationship with another that unites the body and soul. St. Brigid is quoted as saying for a person not to have an anamcara is like having a body without a head.


Come and rest.
Drink and eat your fill.
The sheets are clean.
The dog and cat hair
is never added to the bill.

But you may pet. They like that.
(Except the little deaf dog.
being the one caveat.)
By and large they will purr,
and lounge, and then
disrupt the Scrabble board.

Or they may move you to take
a sedate walk
up to the local holy well.
Because we all hope
to cure our cares.

Amidst the bubbles of laughter
and the murmur of chat,
there is a still point
in the constant motion
that is this being in transit.

With an occassional pause
to stop and share,
to break your journey,
to have a place at this table.

Sit with your hosts cozily,
your casually shed footwear
toasting by the firelight
along with all else
that needs to thaw.

Copyright © 2018 BeeSmith