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Dec 12, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I joke guiltily about my membership in the Church of the Great Outdoors. People who do not attend church on Sundays, I was raised to believe, are worse than sinners. They’re not even trying.

Of course, I dropped that faith – or demurred when it dropped me. Later I found instead, and sunk happily into, a faith that affirms no place and no day as more sacred than any other. That-of-God is present in all. We do not say ‘church’, nor ‘Sabbath’. We do not say ‘sin’. We might say ‘loneliness’.

Our meeting places are simple, without altar or aspirational spire to direct our thoughts ‘up there’. The best meetinghouses are old and whitewashed, with bare beams and clear windows. I used to visit a tiny one in the New York woods, with an iron stove in the center for winter meetings. A practical focus, giving sufficient bodily comfort for the mind to quiet.

But there is no meetinghouse near where I live now. Instead, I find I persist in seeking the divine ‘up there’. I walk the hills of this rolling, golden land. The higher I climb, the more I meet that-of-God. I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, whence cometh my help, says the Psalmist – words preserved on a small plaque on a mossy bench, by the Peak District stream where my grandparents’ ashes are. We are hill people; and it seems that runs deeper than their quiet Methodism, my mother’s High Anglican mysteries, my father’s salt-of-the-earth evangelism.

Again and again, I meet the sublime where the land touches sky. Where ravens are agents of the Mystery and the scouring wind sings praise. I take worship with the cattle, communion in curious foraging; and the blood in my limbs surges and circulates, throbbing: here, here, here.

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Nicola, how much I love this from you. It is beautiful, in and of itself, as your own experience - but it gives me hope that I can belong to a faith community in this way too one day. And I get the same surge of energy from it as I do reading Annie Dillard. Thank you. Here is your link to your piece in the book's permanent story archive... Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#nicolapitchford

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I love your access to the sublime. There are more cathedrals than you realise.

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Dec 13, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I really like this: Again and again, I meet the sublime where the land touches sky. Where ravens are agents of the Mystery and the scouring wind sings praise. Thanks

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Dec 14, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is beautiful, Nicola! I especially love, 'I meet the sublime where the land touches sky. Where ravens are agents of the Mystery and the scouring wind sings praise.' Beautiful.

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Proverbs 31: 10-31 - The Closet

After her funeral, I found five coats in my mother’s wardrobe.

One I remembered from a childhood spent in the quieting-cold of weekly church services. Its silver-fox collar gave me more comfort than the priest's words usually offered my sad-eyed mum. Consolation seemed unlikely, as we hovered above uncushioned wooden pews and inadequate kneelers, listening to sibilant threats veiled as promises.

A second was a thin, green, canvas macintosh. Mum had bright red hair and green was the only colour that ever made her brave. I was sorry that the contents of the wardrobe were mostly blue.

On a padded hanger, charmed by a stiffening lavender bag, hid the slubbed-silk coat she’d worn on her honeymoon. The lining matched the sixties knee-length sleeveless shift I never saw her wear. ‘Too risky’, she once told me. And I didn’t have the wit to ask her what that meant, though the dress and coat were shot with green too.

The fourth was a long, woollen housecoat. Our kitchen was perennially cold and it embraced her against the chill during late night cups of tea, or early mornings when the fire that launched the boiler hadn’t stayed in overnight. I took it off the rail to pack away and found smoothed rosaries in both pockets. As though she’d say two at a time, if things were especially hard.

The last was a car coat I’d bought her four years earlier. Tucked at the back of the wardrobe in a careful plastic cover. Forest green. Expensive. Suede. I had never seen her wear it. I took it off the hanger and held it close. In that emptying moment I regretted the faith that had never comforted me. The coat smelled of her favourite mossy perfume. I wept that she’d worn it at all.

.......

El Rhodes - I read the passage from Proverbs at my mum’s funeral. It was everything she hoped she’d been. The following day I faced her wardrobe. Thank you, Tanya, for a place to remember and honour both her and those days.

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El, I've read this aloud several times this morning as I've laid it up in the book's permanent story archive: in my own writing, every emotion must always be anchored, earthed, to a material object. And so all this suede, slub and silver-fox fur in yours - this is how I myself feel all my strongest loves and losses. Beautiful. I've listed you - as per your Nan Shepherd announcement - as E E Rhodes. Do say if you'd like me to list you differently - quick to change. Here is your link to your piece on the book site. Congratulations once again on a truly exceptional writing read full of recognition for your gift, your work... Txx

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#eerhodes

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It looks so beautiful. I’m truly humbled. I almost never write about my mum, but these memory-feelings yearned for expression. Thank you for calling them forth. xx

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This is very moving.

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Dec 14, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

There is so much in these few words. Thank you, El.

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Dec 13, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

A very satisfying unfolding piece of writing, El. You are on fire these days! Thanks

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A few years ago, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I took my daughter and her friend shopping to Exeter. On the way home, in the dusk, on narrow lanes, I hit a rock or a pothole and punctured a tyre. I swore very colourfully, and we limped to a layby. I got out the jack and the twiddly stick thing, and cursed myself for not really knowing how to change a tyre on this car. And I said to my daughter "What we need now are some Scousers to drive past".

About 10 minutes later, a van stopped. A pair of (yes!) Scousers got out, changed the tyre, told us where the next garage was, and went cheerfully on their way.

Why is this about faith? Because I don't think they were angels, I don't think they were sent by some higher power, I don't think this was divine intervention. I just think I have faith in people. I believe in connections and kindness. I believe that people will reach out and help - not always, but often enough - and I believe it's good to be one of those people.

I would love to have faith in a higher power. Who wouldn't? What a relief, to know that death is not the end, to know that there was a purpose to all this. I've wrestled with that angel, though, as honestly as I can, and I can't make the step. I'm left with belief in my fellow humans, in the green force that sends the root through concrete, and in my own obligation to take responsibility for my actions and myself.

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Hi Sarah

Like others here, I love the last sentence! Pure gold!

Like you, I have faith in people and I always feel that things will work out, but for me that faith is ultimately in a higher power and whilst I don't know exactly what that higher power is, (even though I have searched for what feels like my whole life) what I do know is that it doesn't matter, at the end of the day, for me, it doesn't matter, because I have faith...

Hopefully that makes some sort of sense.

Tracey x

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Sarah - those closing lines: Yes (although I think now my faith journey is not over, as I felt it to be in Firle church that day: The Cure for Sleep still stands correct however for the arc of my first 50 years on this matter...). These lines in particular i want to copy out in my journal:

'I'm left with belief in my fellow humans, in the green force that sends the root through concrete, and in my own obligation to take responsibility for my actions and myself.' Thank you.

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#sarahconnor

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That's it! For me, 'the green force that sends the root through concrete' is power enough.

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Dec 21, 2021·edited Dec 21, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

It was the first time I'd prayed since I was a small boy. No-one had ever told me to pray, not then and not now. But what was strange now was that I had been an atheist, of sorts anyway, for decades.

I had just received the gut-wrenching news of F's attack – a cowardly shit of a man had assaulted her for the keys to her car, and F being F, she had tried to fight him off. He didn't know she was dying, of course.

I was 300 miles away, at work but now instantly by her side. Around the corner was a beautiful old church; I spent that lunchtime walking over and over whatever I considered to be its hallowed ground, praying for her. An atheist is supposed to see prayer as childish wish-making, but it isn't.

What it is:

a longing for grace,

for them to be held in gentleness

and care. That is all

This is something fundamental, and powerful, and good.

I would pray many, many times over the course of her illness. Sometimes pleading for mercy for her, sometimes for strength and grace for myself and others. And then an unexpected third type, which isn't really prayer at all.. but rather the sudden noticing and acceptance of a truth, that where you are standing right now, and everything that is happening, is holy. That every moment is sacred: every meal made with love, every moment of truly noticing and seeing the other, is intensely and powerfully holy and precious. And then you have no desire to defile anything with foolishness, or unnecessary anger. May I always keep that alive within me.

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Paul - how moved and glad I am that you did indeed spend time engaging with this theme. If I find my way into a faith community ever, it will be this kind of spirit, of explanation, that will help me get there. And how much I hope one day to experience what you describe so beautifully here: "And then an unexpected third type, which isn’t really prayer at all…but rather the sudden noticing and acceptance of a truth, that where you are standing right now, and everything that is happening, is holy." Thank you so much. Your link below...

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#paulmiller

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Thank you so much Tan... it feels very vulnerable and uncomfortable to write this kind of personal content, but you've created such a lovely, supportive community here, and that helps hugely. Thank you for all your encouragement and advice.

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Mar 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Paul, this is powerful, you strike right to the heart of what we all long for as you describe what prayer means to you and again with how your prayers evolved. So tender, your descriptions of what is holy, how this pierces us at different times throughout our lives when we feel great emotion, how we struggle to hold on in the day-to-day.

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Is that all that is left of life? A pile of carbon atoms?

I couldn’t bear the idea that after losing Dad, there was nothing more. Holding his bone-white ashes in my fingers and scattering the fine powder at his beloved bowling club and in mum’s garden, I refused to believe it was the end. I hoped that his soul was enjoying the wildlife that was a passion we had shared.

A seed of faith was planted when I visited Kata Tjuta in Australia a few weeks after his funeral. It was a freezing morning. It seemed that I was not the only one struggling with the fierce wind and arctic temperatures. There was no life to be seen at all. Sitting on brick-red stones, the pitted terracotta rocks towering over me like protective bodyguards looked as if they were crying sooty tears, joining me in my grief.

It wasn’t long before the most magnificent monarch butterfly flickered like a flame, dancing around my head. The wings were bright sunshine, the same colours as Dad’s funeral flowers. It was the only animal I saw that day.

Last Christmas, in lockdown isolation, I forced myself to get outside and walk. To place one metronomic foot in front of the other. To keep going. A robin flew to a branch above my head. It was fluffed up and looked cold. I vowed to take mealworms with me on the days that followed. Over time, he graduated from taking them from the ground to hopping on my boot and then flying to my hand. He grasped my fingers with his toes and tickled my palm as he pecked. This bird appeared every day until lockdown ended.

Every bird, every butterfly; he is with me. Whenever I am feeling down, I look to nature. Signs of life. I have faith that Dad is everywhere. But most of all, he is in my heart.

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Vanessa, I felt as if I were with you through each step of these walks, these memories. How beautiful. I'm so touched, too, that this space is become a place for you to pay tribute to your father. Txx

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#vanessawright

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Dec 13, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

The first marker I come to while walking the St Magnus Way in Orkney is attached to a wooden post. At its foot is lush greenery, but no path, and as I wade through the thigh-high stinging nettles, I hear myself thinking in a rather bad-tempered way, ‘shame on you!’. That’s a phrase straight out of my childhood and the Church of England in the 1960s and 70s; it’s not one which I expect to hear popping up in my head fifty years later. Shame on you - a turn of phrase, yes, but one which carries a world of significance. What I mean is, ‘how can the organisers of this pathway have let it become so overgrown, they should be ashamed’ and as soon as I hear these words in my head, I am ashamed.

The sermons I listened to during my formative years, the bible I read and learned by heart, the pictures I drew at Sunday School and the promises I made at Girl Guides, were supposed to make me a good Christian girl. I didn’t have an extreme upbringing, it was more of a cumulative thing, layers of hints about being a sinner laid down one on the other, blame and shame stacking up to form rock-solid foundations. Joining in morning assembly every day at secondary school and listening to exhortations to follow The Commandments, tasked to ask for forgiveness; I was steeped in it, and it wasn’t until I started to walk pilgrimage that I discovered that its tenets seemed to have lodged in my physical cells, maybe my very soul. Religion was there with its moral and ethical framework when I was learning to toddle, and apparently the action of perpetual stepping dislodges its toxic teachings.

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Tamsin - it so good to have another contribution from you. Thank you - so powerful these latest words: the physical effort required to get free of these old teachings... "I discovered that its tenets seemed to have lodged in my physical cells, maybe my very soul. Religion was there with its moral and ethical framework when I was learning to toddle, and apparently the action of perpetual stepping dislodges its toxic teachings." If you do go on to read my book next year, you will see that 'blame and shame' is a repeated phrase, key to all the most acute chapters - what it takes to remove that burden from others, and to step free of it when it has been unfairly, punitively placed upon us...

Your link below .Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#tamsingrainger

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Thank you Tanya, your comments are most gratefully received and your book has been on order for a very long time!

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When I think about the question, do you have a faith? I start to realise what a tricky word that has become, personally, and culturally. It seems that in the UK using the word 'faith' is a more palatable thing to say than religion. Religion has taken on a negative connotation in these postmodern (or is it post post?!) times, seen at best as an irrational quirk that humans should have evolved out of by now. But faith? That seems to feel softer, less threatening.

Back to the question- do you have a faith? Personally I find a yes or no answer can not suffice, however much I wish it could (and goodness do I wish it could!). It is easier to reply that it depends - on the day or hour. In reality, I no longer know with absolute certainty. Let’s say I did have a faith - in Jesus, in Christianity - and I have spent a significant amount of time in church circles.

I started off quite zealous, which isn't something I would recognise in myself now. So, what happened, a sudden reverse conversion on a dark night of the soul? No, it has been more a succession of small paper cuts, undetectable at first, then over time they began to sting. There have been no major scandals, no outrageous indoctrination. There HAVE been changes, losses, failures to understand on both sides, anecdotal stories from others, spiritual crises and endings too numerous to count.

How have I dealt with all of these? It has been a cycle of commitment, denial, despondency, withdrawal and return. Why return? It is a family, and like most families is fantastic and frustrating, comforting and challenging, with the need for autonomy AND community that I believe deep down we all share.

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Thank you for joining the project with this contribution, Sharon (I think it is your piece - and pre-Covid, I had an almost photographic memory, so would have known with absolute certainty: I feel so strange to be a year into old and trusted brain workings being so affected).

All the responses I receive to the many themes are fascinating to me, but I particularly appreciate the time you and others have taken with this one because it's the only theme I felt shy and nervous to publish. I feel such a child in these matters: never have really developed a clear position on what I think and believe in. And so I appreciated here how you showed me your mind working through the prompt and applying it to yourself. It felt like a very generous and engaged piece of writing. Thank you. Here is your link to it in the story archive over on the cure for sleep website:

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#sharonc

I do hope you'll respond to other prompts in the archive as I will be interested to see how you approach them.

Tanya xx

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Thank you for your kind response, Tanya. Writing about faith, my own journey in particular, was not easy. But very glad I put it out there! Certainly hope to contribute to some more prompts in future.

Ps. Loved your book so much.

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Touched that you read the book, and really do hope to spend more time with your words based on this first contribution from you. xx

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I have enjoyed reading your thoughts Sharon, they certainly are very interesting. I have been searching for an understanding of religion/faith for what feels like my whole life, following a deep feeling of knowing that there is more to life than what we are 'conditioned to believe.

I have fallen in and out of love so to speak with various beliefs and have, for some years now, finally reached a place of confident knowing that there is a higher power although I can't say what it is exactly. I see and feel its presence in nature and in people and it is more than enough.

I love your final paragraph too!

Tracey x

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Thank you for your feedback, Tracey. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on it.

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Aug 21, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

What if I followed desire like a butterfly seeks nectar, all impulse and instinct, sustained by beauty?

A butterfly starts as a flightless caterpillar, ruled by a stirring, driven by desire that eliminates even the need to eat, surrenders all to this devotion to find its next shape. This caterpillar secretes strong silk to attach itself to limb, hangs with faith and then, in time, sheds its skin to reveal the chrysalis, tender at first, then protective. Inside, the caterpillar dissolves, liquefying into imaginal cells, each thrumming with its own mission to create anew. The butterfly emerges wet and vulnerable, pauses to dry as it pulses fluid through wings, expanding them to power flight.

I live a life of small faith, craving the safety of the chrysalis. I avoid the magic of re-creation. The choice is to dissolve into something or to dissolve into nothing.

A butterfly on the bergamot just now, wings quivering, plunged in, head first, proboscis unfurled toward nectar. Then off it flies, blurry-eyed, not caring if the path looks meandering and nonsensical, unmapped to the rest of the world, knowing it was never meant to follow the duty bound path of the ant.

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I'm sorry it's taken me a while to curate this, Sheila. I read it just as I headed away for a festival without my laptop!

What a delicious response - shivering with possibility. And as ever with your work, I love the rich language that is then cut through by a plainer but nonetheless powerful statement: 'I live a life of small faith...' Wonderful. I do have a hope, secret until now, that you will over time respond to every prompt in the archive! I would be fascinated to see how you approach them, and then to look at your pieces all together...

Here is your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#sheilaknell

Tanya xx

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Beautiful words Shelia! The counselor in me wants to delve into this desire to stay safe, the artist in me wants to paint the scene and the writer in me is struggling to find the words to express just how much I love this approach to the subject matter.

Tracey x

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Mar 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Tracey, it is fun to hear the multitudes within you all churning at once. I really appreciate that you take the time to respond. It always feels so vulnerable putting things out there, the kindness is encouraging. Sheila x

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Jan 11, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Another unpolished response, but in my bid to push and respond all of these amazing extracts I'm focused on just sharing what I have managed to think and scrawl down in various ways. Poetry seems to want to makes is presence front and center, although for this I initially had it in prose form, and then by various steps isolated each sentence, stacked one on top of the other, took out the unnecessary words, and it somehow emerged poetic. Faith has never been about Church for me. The language has always made me bristle (after my grandfather died and the orthodox priest talked about my grandfather had sinned all his life I boiled red hot in my pew seat because there was no sin...). But music is something else...even religious or sacred music. If I have to put words to it I'd say music is as religious experience for me. I'm trying to capture that with this work in progress...

*****************************************

Vibrato

Ginger had traveled the world busking

with her flute, she told me on the sidewalk

outside the Chinese restaurant.

She wore a beret and there was a gap

between her two front top teeth—it

made you smile when she smiled.

I confessed to playing myself and

that’s how I ended up in

a small white church among green hills

with a borrowed flute

on an August day. It’s where I learned

why Church words never felt right

but the music always did.

“What vibrato you have!,” she exclaimed

after our first two-player round of

Dona Nobis Pacem.

My insides trembled from stopped up tears.

In all my years of playing I had never made

sound like THAT.

Big Velvet Notes

lived inside my fingers and lungs.

With my fingers and the air inside

I conjured stars and felt mountains.

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Amy, this is just thrilling. All of it and then those joyful, expansive last lines:

Big Velvet Notes

lived inside my fingers and lungs.

With my fingers and the air inside

I conjured stars and felt mountains

How lovely to get this from you in the last days of this first 'season' of The Cure for Sleep conversations. I think you know already how much your contributions mean to me, and I hope we will continue exchanging ideas on here when I resume monthly posts in March. Until then, wish me luck! The next few weeks are a lot for my body to cope with but I'm heartened by the idea of the book reaching readers in full at last. Tx

Your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#amymillios

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Tanya, I shall be thinking of you. Looking forward to the launch party and hearing you talk about this fantastic journey of yours… Xx

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Oh my Amy, this is, well, to be honest it is hard for find sufficient adjectives to convey how these words of yours make me feel, (without reducing it to something far less than all that it is). The words just have to be read, to be felt....sigh...

Thank you, I love this so very much!

Tracey x

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Mar 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you, Tracey 💞

Being a writer is to be solitary so much of the time, and so it’s often a mystery as to whether or not the work one does with words has any effect on others. It is, therefore, so much appreciated when someone takes the time to offer feedback on what has been sent out into the world. Wishing you all good things, Amy x

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A friend of mine, who is also an expert on sponges, took me as a guest to meetings of the Linnaean Society in London. Part of every such evening’s programmes was a section when new Fellows were welcomed. I was not paying much attention until I heard the chair announce. ‘Elaine Morgan, for her development of the Aquatic Ape Theory’. As the elderly recipient stepped forward part of my mind was experiencing surprise that such a controversial idea was being acknowledged while the other half was being flooded with warm feelings of delight, as however cock-eyed Elaine Morgan’s theory might be I believed it every time I spent time in the water. When bobbing on my back with gentle waves of green and gold around me and a clear sky above or diving down to search the rocks and scan for fish, I imagined that the sea was as much my realm as it is of the seals, the otters, and the dolphins, and perhaps my primate ancestors! Faith is sometimes seen like that. A profound reassurance of being upheld and belonging.

But reality always reasserts itself. I never swim much out of my depth and am such a poor swimmer that if try to swim quarter of a mile I am left exhausted. I have seen winter waves crest a headland in Cornwall and still wake up most mornings with a sense of dread. I can’t disregard a lifelong affinity with Kierkegaard. His famous words in ‘Fear and Trembling’, that holding on to faith is like being out upon the deep over ‘seventy thousand fathoms of water’ ring true’ for me. There is no easy or fanciful consolation, but faith keeps arising whenever wonder and love allow me to float above the abyss, even for a moment.

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Ian! What a surprising and beautifully-written response to the theme this is. I want to quote its lines back to you - always a sign that I'm excited by a way someone writes!

'Faith keeps arising whenever wonder and love allow me to float above the abyss'. Love how you take us from the Aquatic Ape theory to this vision of faith.

I'm so glad you kept going with the Substack registration to add this to the story collection here. And I hope other themes will interest you to try: I will enjoy watching how your mind moves through the archive...

Here is your link direct to your piece on the book site...

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#iantattum

...and I will add you to the A to Z on contributors on the Community page there, and also here on the By Reader tab within my Substack.

Very best, Tanya x

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Thank you Tanya,

When you and Electra prompted me the ape was waiting.

Great to be part of your wonderful project.

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Aug 29, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I saw from instagram that you were away. One of the greatest things of being human is being able to be happy for another and watching you embrace all of these good things that are now in your path always brings a smile. I do want to try to reply to all of them! It has been such fun, breaking out of my normal writing, trying to stay within the word limit, working on finding an entry point. The enjoyment I've found has surprised me. As always, thanks for your response and encouragement. It was a lovely way to wake up this morning!

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I'm fascinated to watch the progress of your writing - here and on other platforms. I think I asked you before if you were already a published author (apologies for not remembering - not at all like me, but I'm still struggling with covid brain fog from January!). You say here this isn't your usual writing - I'm so curious now to know what that is!!! xx

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No apologies necessary, you may be remembering something I wrote to you about in the posting about asking you a question. Also, I'm in the pre-menopause fog and feel my brain is always in too many directions. I am not published (but thanks for thinking I could have been) and was thinking of pushing myself to put writing out more this year, just not sure where I fit. I usually write personal essays. I was playing around with pictures this year and using them as prompts, sometimes I write about the women in my family -- my grandma was a war bride and this was a bad decision. We live on what was my husband's grandparent's sheep farm and most of it is wooded now, so I sit in the woods as often as I can and see what comes from that, and I have also written about my yearly gynecology exams....all over the map. Writing is so fun for me because I never thought I had any creativity at all and then started writing in my 30s and found I loved it, and it was free of any expectation of actually being a writer. That is the short and sweet of it. Thank you for asking!

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Dec 13, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Wow, "that hedge- and hymn-bound living" beautiful. Have I lost my same anger at that male-led institution? I have been writing about it a lot... Thanks for sharing your lovely words, Tanya

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Each of your contributions to the project this last year have been precious, Tamsin. I would be deeply interested to hear from you on this. I feel I'm still at the beginning of my faith journey, even though this scene in the book felt then like a terminal event, an exclusion and refusal both...

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Feb 14Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Faith. I write to make sense of where I am, of what I believe. I haven’t had a ‘near death experience’, a peek beyond the grave, seen a white light or glimpsed the pearly gates. I have had a strong awareness of a presence beyond the natural. I have read words from a holy book that seemed to be illuminated with a highlighter, just for me. ‘I know your name’. ‘Your children will come from afar, bearing their sons with them’. ‘You will pass through the valley of Baca making it a well’: words when in extreme distress steadied me and gave me hope in dark times. Was that a benign presence? God? I can’t write with absolute certainty.

While Faith and Church, seem different concepts to me now, it was through Church that I was introduced to Faith. There I am, four years old in my Sunday best, parcelled off to Sunday school with my two older sisters. I remember the boys who bent the brims on the red bonnets my mother had made and tall, young teachers exchanging smiles as they reached for the high notes of a hymn. No white lights. A move south of the border, and I am at St Andrew, C of E, Sunday school with Mrs Fish, loved, encouraged and taught about a God who is alive and near. In the sanctuary, before Confirmation, I experience a presence, overwhelming love. Alone, but not alone. It is unexpected, emotional but not the result of any coercion.

Fast forward to the present: marriage, children, a grandson, several house moves. Each new location brought a ready-made community which eased the challenge of change, and provided a place to give and receive. Yet still that Presence draws me, accepted and doubted in equal measure. A mystery.

Jean Wilson

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This was a joy to read, Jean. I love how you’ve given a sense of the holy book speaking just for you, and how you recreate the Sunday school experience (I went for years even though my mother wouldn’t take me or take part, and you’ve given words to what I also experienced but have never written about - that gentle teaching and sense of God/Jesus as a presence. Your penultimate sentence is particularly moving to me.

I always appreciate responses to all themes in this project, but there is something especially precious about what you and others have entrusted to the Faith theme - perhaps because it’s an area of life people hesitate to speak about increasingly, unless sure of being among those who share their god/practices/values?

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#jeanwilson

Txx

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Feb 20Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thankyou so much for taking the time to give such helpful feedback. It's truly appreciated. Yes I was sent not taken though both my parents returned to faith in their later years. Dad became the doorman with a pocket full of sweets and mum ran a craft group to reach out to the lonely.

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I already think of you as a kind and generous person, due to your thoughtfulness towards me over the last few years, and how you speak to other people online… it’s lovely to feel your wider family have these values too xx

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My great-grandfather was a priest executed shortly after the revolution. His family of 14 children was scattered across the globe. Forever lost to each other. My grandmother has managed to keep safe just one small piece that connected her to the lost family - a small icon. As an only grandchild I had to take care of it. It should have been a privilege, but it feels like a burden. It is wrapped tightly in a fabric and hidden away from everyone’s view. Sometimes I feel that I’m trying to hide myself away from this small piece of history, a relic that was touched by officially canonised saint, a martyr. Both, his daughter, and granddaughter became unofficial life’s martyrs. I want to break that family tradition of martyrdom. But the fear remained. The memory of my great-grandfather was betrayed, I wasn’t even christened as a baby. It was an awkward place – believers had to pretend to be atheists (it’s the other way around now – how ironic). Mother refused to join the party, father was weaker and had to join the ranks of sinners. He paid with his sanity for that. I decided to get christened at the age of twenty as a gift to my parents. How silly I was. The ceremony itself was unpleasant for its mundaneness. I wasn’t closer to God or divinity after that. I avoid churches now, all of them. Even the one that are museums now. I can only speak to God in nature. I just wish he’d tell me what to do the icon.

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How much you explore in this piece. My own writing circles again and again the Christian faith that held my grandmothers and their elders so safe and secure but that I resist accepting in any formal way. But how much more complicated the spiritual and emotional legacies in countries like yours where political revolution also severed centuries-long rituals of worship. I think I've told you already how I've read everything in English translation by Alexeivich, and so while not having spent time in your country, I have some idea from oral testimonies of how deeply this has affected the generations there. Another thing for us to talk about when I can visit you next year I hope...

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#Elena

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May 13, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I often tell my daughter Margaret the story of her naming:

“I was pregnant, and very scared. I’d lost a baby before your brother, at twenty weeks. And I was scared I’d lose you too. So, I prayed: “Let this baby live and I’ll name it after one of your saints! Tell me which”.

Later, a knock at the door. I open it to a smiling face: “Hello, I’m your midwife. My name’s Margaret Clitherow”.

Margaret Clitherow!

The Pearl of York, pressed to death on Ouse Bridge for holding Mass above her shop. I’d lived opposite her shrine for years, during my time at York University. I knew her.

You were born on the eve of her Feast Day. At the hour, actually, when she was sewing her own shroud, praying before they came to take her away.

That’s not all.

Rewind nine months. I was practising “visualisation”: “Picture your womb as a velvet-lined box, your egg as a precious pearl nestled in the velvet…” After, I prayed. “Will I conceive? Give me a sign…” Yes, a sign. “Send me a pearl”.

So selfish! To be demanding, bargaining.

But next day, at church, when I take your brother to Sunday School, the teacher says “Today we’re going to read Jesus’s parable of the Great Pearl. I want you each to take one of these.” She opens a box. It’s overflowing with pearls.

μαργαριτάρι (margaritári) – pearl in Greek.

But that’s not all.

Fast forward some years to us visiting for the first time your grandmother’s childhood church. My mother, who died sixteen years before you were born. There in the stained glass, Margaret Clitherow. There, in an alcove, a statue of Margaret Clitherow. My mother as a girl, dreaming beside Margaret, under her stained light, all those years ago.”

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Oh what a treasure this true story is, and your fine telling of it. I felt like a small girl myself, leaning in to listen to you. I put a disclaimer at the start of my book saying that my story was full of strangely-timed events that strain the ration of what we believe can be true - but that they were. And this is why I love true stories - there is room in them for unaccountable grace and mystery that we can't put into novels. Do you know Paul Auster's True Tales of American Life? Short true tales gathered from listeners to his NPR show? Some of just a few lines, others longer. Some are only weird or funny. Others are profound, like yours. It is the collection that is foundational to my own reason and way of being a writer. I think you'd love it. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Here is your link, and let me know by reply if there's a last name you'd like me to add to your profile... Tanya xx

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#maria

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Mar 30, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I was introduced to ideas about grace-based living in my late twenties. ‘What? Perhaps you don’t have to earn the right to good things happening? Beautiful things can happen just because we’re loved? Suffering is sometimes optional? WHAT? And fun and pleasure can be… abundant? Not just the trade off for pain?’ Revolutionary.

In my forties, I find faith can flap about untethered - close but out of reach sometimes. When I allow myself to connect, I sense its heart lies in the loving spaciousness of paradox. I think this might just be the main highway to wholeness and integration at all levels of the human experience; inside our own body-minds and within and between communities too. In the great allowing of simultaneous truths without diminishment or adjustment. For me, gratitude for a recent early cancer catch and a myriad of feelings about the future. Sometimes, wanting to be near and away from loved ones at the same time. Needing to keep busy and needing to slow down.

I imagine my attention slowly lowering down from my head to my chest for this is where the shared wisdom is. I feel it’s where I am attached to the spiritual network. My feet grow tree roots and my arms reach beyond the sky. I feel faith in my own body as safeness with room for uncertainty, with connection to rhythms and rituals in nature so repetitive I can feel outside of time.

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Kit! What a beautiful piece of thought/writing you have shared with us here. Thank you. It comes as I enter soon into a quiet and unstructured time after two years of book-writing and now three enervating months of launching it into the world. This perspective from you feels like a gift to me of grace and quiet possibility. Something to take into my newly-quiet days - where I will be out again in fields as well as in churchyards (which I gravitate to often even though I'm not Christian). Thank you so much. And this is why I've chosen to keep all the monthly themes open for submissions for the long term - for these beautiful surprises of responses long after I've shared an extract. Here is your link... Tanya xx

https://thecureforsleep.com/december-issue-on-faith/#kitdawson

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Thank you Tanya for your words and for your gentle call to creative courage. There’s a part of me that feels a bit braver because of what you have done with your writing and with the space here. I wish you well in your newly quiet and unstructured time. xx

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