Rainy Days

Sometimes though I have no clue where the theme for discussion will lead, I just know that it will be wonderful.  This month the group’s suggestion of Rainy Days was one of those occasions.  

We found that rain has so many associations that the conversation became an ever-deepening reservoir of ideas as they poured down from every direction. (Sorry, couldn’t help it).   

We talked about our personal and cultural relationship to rain, how it is a carrier of meaning and history, the literary and musical symbolism of it and we even created a playlist for you to share some of that richness of meaning https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2IwWWI6NjxMV08zZBCN5QM?si=e1f11f61748c4115

Read on to see some of the variety of thoughts that emerged….

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A Joyful Visual Arts Event!

As a follow-up to our last theme for discussion, Small Joys, local visual artist, Su Vosper, came along to share her skills and inspiration with the group. You can listen to the audio of that previous meeting, shown in two parts below.

Su and I brought along a selection of materials for the group to experiment with as we explored how to express what brings us happiness, contentment and gratitude.

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Reflections on Reading

The group shared two entertaining and meaningful sessions this month. The first was online where we enjoyed reflecting on then discussing our reading-related memories. Many laughs and coincidences emerged as well as some beautiful pieces of writing you can find below.

For the in-person session, which was part of the Chorlton Book Festival, we co-hosted with Professor Sophie Woodward. The event was sponsored by the NCRM (National Centre for Research Methods). As these beautiful photographs, taken by Rachel Bywater, show, it was a lovely, connecting afternoon, where guests and regular participants shared stories and thoughts on memories prompted by reading related objects. As one attendee said, “This is a place where stories can evolve, often in real-time. Where strangers can quickly become known to one another and find common ground by laughing and listening.”

Read on to see if any of your own memories of reading are evoked and to also see pictures of the objects on which our writing was based.

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Trying New Things

Our first session this month involved a discussion about when we have experienced novel endeavours, whether on purpose or by necessity.  It was a beautiful, funny and connecting chat and you can listen to some of it here.

Our second meeting, in Chorlton Library this time, was led by a fantastic guest facilitator Steve Beal, who got us trying practical activities designed to boost creative thinking. He used a range of thinking prompts, objects and writing exercises to get us exploring new ways of seeing things. Read on to see the reflections that emerged from the sessions.

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Events that have shaped us

Both sessions this month were particularly enjoyable, as someone leading the session seeing the group and the relationships within it grow, but also as a participant, hearing other’s relatable, moving stories, and getting to share my own.  In the online session, there was a small group of us. Gathering in a cosy cluster lent itself to a wonderfully open, supportive and joyful conversation about the situations, people and moments which have shaped us.  One participant said that it felt “safe” and “like an extended family” to be in this group, connecting the way we do.  

In the other in-person session we did later that month on the same theme, there were lots more participants but just as much trust.  For me, the golden thread that united us during both sessions was that everyone has learned and grown from the often challenging things they have been through, which reminded me of this quote I shared with the group.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Read on to accompany the writers on their journeys of change, as shaped by key events in their lives.

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Community, what it means and when it helps us to thrive, is a source of fascination for me. So, during the past two sessions, I asked the in-person and then online gathering the same question, “What does community mean to you and when have you felt a sense of it in your lives?” 

Here are some voice clips I recorded during a meeting, followed by some written pieces we came up with on the topic.  We would love to read your thoughts too in the comments below.

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Working with Withington Library

Library shelves with a colourful array of books in the sunshine
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On the 22nd of April, 4 members of the Stories of Our Lives group and I led a session at Withington Library for their regular over 50s club.  It was really lovely to widen our reach to more people, connect with them and hear their memories.  This blog post is a record of what was shared, both for them and for you, the reader, to get a better idea of the shape of our sessions.  

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I picture creativity as a constant companion we all have, one who can always be relied on, even though how they appear is sometimes not as we expect or want them to be. 

An example of this is worry.  Sometimes I have found myself catastrophising over terrible things that might befall me or my loved ones, and the detail has been so vivid that I have had a physical reaction; heart racing, clenched stomach, tension in the shoulders and given enough time, tiredness.  As much as I don’t enjoy these side effects, I acknowledge and welcome the creativity that caused them as a loyal friend.  It is doing exactly what my brain requested it to, painting pictures in my head, so well that I believed them for a minute.  I also embrace this form of creativity because it has a conjoined twin who, guided by intention, brings me the ability to visualise positive possibilities for myself and others. When I combine this form of imagination with the energy of hope, I can turn what I have pictured into moments that bring intentions to life.  

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