Waterfall

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If all the memories
cracked open in me
a waterfall would come
out
from within my heart
not a waterfall of tears and
sadness, nor a
waterfall of joy either
but one that is filled with every
emotion, thought, sigh
every laughter I ever felt
whether asleep or awake,
waterfall vibrant and alive
full of strength as it’s
gushing out
and all those memories
stored in my very cells
would explode in the symphony
as if singing with choirs of birds
millions drops of water
bursting from within
each representing a memory
sometimes glistening
in the light of the sun
looking like diamonds
or pearls,
sometimes raging
into a storm
as they fall
they would paint a different
kind of me
from year to year
and yet the same one
all along

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 17th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Wild

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This life is wild, unpredictable like the wind at times….even when you have a dream, and the stubborn inner certainty to follow it, still you can never know all the roads where you will be led on. Sometimes we don’t even know if those roads are right, or wrong, until perhaps later on. Even beauty is wild, goodness too, in this world that sometimes doesn’t value either of the two. I want to take all the goodness that I can and throw it in the face of the ugliness out there, all the terrors and wars and ways in which we walk over the treasures in someone else’s heart, oh if I could be that wild to stand up and say, ‘no, not here, you cannot walk over these people’s dreams. Here is a mirror, go and have a look, there is a treasure hiding in your heart, yes you forgot that you are good! Stop that war, stop that fight, rather take this mirror, and show others who they are’.

Horses, I always think of horses when I think of being wild. Wild horses, running free, untamed, knowing that freedom is their destiny. I suppose there is grace in their ‘wild’, there is pose, and elegance. They are who they are meant to be, and while I call them beautiful, in their wildness there is peace. Oh if people could learn from it!

© Iva Beranek (February 2017) #wildheartwriters

Solitude

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I like to roam in nature or around the city, with a camera around my neck, looking for scenery to open itself up before me and present me with a new version of beauty. Solitude, most people say, are those times when we are alone, but I think it is more than that. It is a quality of presence as we go about our day, a connection with everything, and with God, but also with oneself. It is those times when we don’t need to pretend. Sometimes solitude is alluring and pleasant, other times it burns like a transforming fire. It teaches of the essence of who we are, created and loved, but also imperfect. If we really want to get to know someone we need to spend time with them. Same is true for getting to know ourselves. We need to spend time with what is in us, with our thoughts, inner movements, experiences, everything that we are, even our contradictions. It may seem attractive to run from one thing to the next, avoiding to meet, befriend ourselves. But in those moments, rare or not rare, perhaps depends on the day, when we decide to stop, take a deep breath, we let ourselves be, in those moments peace slowly starts to enter in. I have to say, solitude is not always easy, it shows me the cracks in my very own being. But it also shows me not to be afraid of them. It shows me the road to open up to God even those exiled areas of my heart.

Solitude is, however, not only about self-exploration. For me, being alone is an invitation to create. I hardly ever write when there are lots of people around. One or two, I don’t mind. Or if I got to a coffee shop and bring the computer along, I don’t mind lots of people passing by, but I still have this quality of presence that helps me to focus on the ‘paper’ in front of me. Whether the means is the camera, writing, prayer, reflection, solitude provides this unique focus on what truly matters, and has the ability not to be overly distracted with the rest.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 8th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek
Photo challenge, Daily Post: Solitude

To a teenage daughter I never had

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don’t be afraid to cry
for the life you never had
for the years of joy or
agony
as they weaved a tapestry
in your soul
all the intricate moments
that sometimes come to you
in fragments and
other times they sweep you
like a river of memories
good and bad
all mixed up

that is
they would come
had my life been different
but I never bore you below
my breast
you never nested
in the middle of my being
the man who could have
been your father
is unknown to me
perhaps we never even met

if I ever am a mother
and you are born
you will never know me
as I am now
still somewhat young
struggling through life
loving and breathing
even when love is scarce
and breath costs more than
blood ridden gold from
an African goldmine

what comforts me the most:
you will not know
wars that are plaguing the earth
at this time,
there will be new ones
people never learn
but I hope at least
the war that is sometimes
raging in my soul
will be gone
before you are born

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th January 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Tonight Christ comes to your heart and mine

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“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her” (Luke 1:45)

The first Advent, when Mary became a God-bearer, was the end of waiting, a very long centuries old waiting. The Israelites had a centuries old promise from God that Messiah would come and now was the time when this promise was being fulfilled. I prefer images that show Our Lady being pregnant, as they are most evocative with meaning in this season. Even though during Mary’s advent Jesus wasn’t yet born, He was in fact already there, nurtured in silence beneath Mary’s heart.

In the last few years, I started to think that Advent is about NOW. About what God is doing at this moment in our lives, partly because the traditional understanding that focuses on ‘waiting’ no longer spoke to me. But what is more, in the wider context of the history of God’s people, Mary’s advent was not a very long season of waiting, it was the end of it.

This Advent was probably the hardest I ever had, and yet the most graced and meaningful at the same time. God brought light to the corners of my soul that were hidden in the dark, and simply allowing it to happen was terrifying. But all I could think of in the midst of it, and now, is how good God is. Had He not led me on this journey I would continue carrying a burden I was never meant to carry, but now because of His goodness, when His grace finishes its work within me, I will no longer have to. And that is a meaning of Christmas.

Christ comes to our most deepest needs. In the midst of circumstances that make our hearts feel ‘lowly’ or ‘poor’, Christ comes, because there is room for Him there. No matter how you are, how you feel, joyful or not, welcome Him this night into your home, into your heart. All He needs is an invitation. We don’t have to be perfect or perfectly prepared. None of us is, anyway.

C. S. Lewis said, “In our world, there was once in a stable someone who was bigger than the world itself”. That ‘stable’ tonight will be your heart, and mine, just one more reason to call it a Holy Night.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 24th December 2016; small part here was taken from my reflection written on 30th November 2014)

How many episodes of ‘Gilmore Girls’ can one watch in a day?

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Many, if you ask me, even though I did not count my record to date. I started watching it again on Netflix sometime in September. I say ‘again’ because I watched most of it years ago when I was still living in Croatia. It almost feels like I haven’t stopped since, but I have, and I forgot what I saw before. I knew the characters, yet I did not remember much of the story, which was good, so I can enjoy it as if watching for the first time. I got back into it really quickly. Soon I watched episode after episode, every free time I had: in the morning before work, in-between something, getting ready to go out in the evening, I wasted no time.

I probably broke the record with how fast one can watch through the “Gilmore Girls” seasons. On occasional free day I would not be surprised if I watched up to (at least) ten episodes; and a season normally has twenty-two. So when it came to the end of October, I was already half way through the 6th season, wondering what will I do when I finish 7th, and final one. But my withdrawal syndrome kicked in sooner than expected when a Netflix glitch told me at the end of the 20th episode of the 6th season, “Thank you for watching”. And it looked like there was no more.

“You gotta be kidding me!”, I thought. “I can practically become a citizen of Stars Hollow (where they live), after watching it. I already love coffee, I would fit right in.” I was not prepared for that. Thankfully, and I say that with a great sigh of relief, when I refreshed Netflix, all was alright and I continued watching. This month I watched much less, because for different reasons I had to watch over the phone. I could watch two or three episodes a day this way, not much more.

But now, as I am on the last episode of the last season, I don’t need to worry about the withdrawal syndromes! Because this is right on time for the new film that came out on Netflix a few days ago, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”. No spoilers please, as I still haven’t dived into the new episodes! To top it all up, a friend and I went to a Gilmore Girls themed party in Dublin just recently. While the party did not match our standard or expectations, we had fun.

I even tried ‘Rory’, the infamous drink they had for Rory’s 21st birthday.

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Well, I agree with Lorelai’s and Rory’s judgement, the drink sucks. They didn’t like it in the show, and while I was very curious about it, I didn’t like it either. Not sure how it feels when they put something dodgy in your drink, but it was a weird experience drinking it so I said “I ain’t finishing this” – and neither did they finish it in the show.

Thankfully, I still have a little while longer to spend in Stars Hollow, and if I see I will miss watching it when I come to the end, I may start all over again.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 27th November 2016)

A gift of being real (ramblings of a writer)

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It has been a while since I wrote something substantial. Not that I had nothing to say, my head was often full of various speeches that would formulate into wonderful rhetorics in the most unlikely circumstances. Most often I got the inspiration in the morning as I was getting ready to go to work, while eating breakfast and drinking coffee on the go. Topics would come into my head, either related to my own life or whatever was a buzz of the day, and I would tell myself snippets of a potential speech, but of course there was no audience listening to me. I would open the fridge to take something to eat, and a few profound thoughts were on my lips. But, for some reason, I did not take time to write those things down. Each of those fleeting thoughts ended up being like a wind writing its story through the falling leaves of autumn trees.

Sometimes I wonder why there are times through the year when I struggle with writing. A person is probably not a writer if they don’t struggle with writing. Why would they? They wouldn’t even think about it. They would commit their time to something else and be quite happy about it. I am not a painter, so the fact I don’t take time to paint is not such big a deal. Yet if I had the gift of painting and I wouldn’t do it, I would probably be aware of it.

I think I know what has been stopping me. Apart from being busy, and needing rest in my free time, there is something else. I prefer writing honestly, but I have not been allowing myself to let it flow out of me without trying to polish my thinking. I am not quite sure why I wasn’t allowing myself to commit my thoughts on paper. Not everything needs to be public. I could have written a journal, and perhaps my soul even demanded it. If we don’t let the thoughts out they fester inside. Sometimes the best reflections come through the written word. I often learned new things while writing, so why was I blocking myself in this learning process? Perhaps I don’t need to know the answer, just acknowledge it and integrate it somehow into my writing. I’m telling myself, “Write a journal Iva, don’t keep your thoughts in. First of all, you write for yourself, because writing is what makes you ‘you’. You don’t have to write in order to be read, even though of course you want that too, but don’t put pressure on yourself”. If I write for someone else I will always want to be excellent, whereas a journal doesn’t have requirements for this or that. I think I just need to write, honestly. Whether it’s good or not, who cares.

I was in Greece at the end of August; you may have read about it here on my blog. No, I didn’t go on a holiday. I volunteered in a refugee camp for a week. It was not an easy experience, though very valuable. I didn’t do it in order to gain something for myself, but I did get a gift while I was there. I was writing about my experience, as raw as it was, and shared it with my Facebook friends. My best friend said those reflections were one of the best things I had ever written; because I wasn’t censoring my own thoughts. I just said it as I saw it. That week in Greece gave me a gift of being real. Perhaps that’s what a place that is stripped to its essentials does; it stripes you to yours and you cannot but be real. That is exactly what I need in my writing, and not just in writing. I need this gift of being real in my life.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 23rd October 2016)

What I would pray today

Today on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi I would not pray “Lord make me an instrument of your peace” (even though I like that prayer), because I have to keep renewing that peace in myself (I am not a constant ‘carrier’ of it). I would rather pray,

Lord bring yourself and your peace to all the wounded parts of the world that are crying out for it. Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, everywhere. Bring it to every heart that needs you – there is not one person on the planet that doesn’t need God’s peace, and bring it soon, now. Tell the noise of wars to shut up, calm them like you calmed the storm, change our hearts, into darkness of this world, bring your light.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 4th October 2016)

I am not she

woman-mysterious
I am not she
who speaks gently
to you at night
nor she who
finds a mirror
in your eyes

I am not she
whose passion flows
in your veins
nor she who
undresses your thoughts
at the end of a long day

I am not she
who when winds of change
come your way
stands still, unshaken
like a diamond next to a rock
loving you nonetheless
with vigour and might
proving against all odds
that nothing can shake
the home
of you and I

No,
I am not she
but she lives
in me

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 29th September 2016)

Experience from the refugee camp in Greece – unedited diary

Recently I spent a week in a refugee camp in Greece. Four of us from Dublin joined Remar S.O.S. in their work in a camp outside of Athens. In our prayer group we kept the refugees in prayers over the last year, and especially the countries they come from. Sometimes you have to bring your feet to where your payers were. Personally I wanted to go and see what the situation was like, away from the news clips, but in a real day to day life.

Just a day before the trip I celebrated eleven years of living in Ireland; coming to Ireland was my biggest ever dream come true so far. It took around ten years of longing, dreaming, waiting, praying, wondering, before the dream came to be. I am glad it was not quicker than that, because it makes me appreciate some of the feelings others might be having as they wonder about their future. As I was travelling to Athens that Sunday morning on 28th August, I was acutely aware that for every dream come true there are probably at least hundred shuttered somewhere else in the world.

Every day during the trip I was writing my row, often emotional, thoughts on Facebook about how the days went, and  I want to share some of it here.

28th August 2016 (Sunday) 

I want to share some of my initial impressions. You have to bare in mind I am still fairly ignorant, at the end of the week I may have other things to say, but this is raw, unprocessed, honest.

We went to the camp straight from the airport, helped until the evening and then back to Athens. We are going there again in the morning, every morning. Even before we were told that we cannot take photos at the camp, I decided I won’t, at least initially. It just didn’t seem respectful, and also I have a tendency to find beauty or to turn ugly into beautiful, but here it would give a wrong impression. The conditions are just so bad. My unedited thoughts about the camp are, “this is a place where dreams die”. If I had a family, I mean if my family was a refugee family, I would not stay there longer than a day; but I probably wouldn’t have much choice. And then I would probably die inside, or something would. Unless you are really a surviver type and tough situations make you dream more, but I suspect in general those people are exception.

People smile at you as you walk past them, they are absolutely beautiful, almost like their soul opens up with a smile; children run, play, guys try to flirt with you, even if they don’t know your language. That’s kind of normality and I think I would cling onto that normality for dear life if I had to be there, ‘stuck there’, as I’d say most are. I don’t know what gives them hope. I haven’t spoken to a lot of them, but one other volunteer said things that resonated with my first impressions.

I heard there is a poet in the camp, and he wants to write a book. Well, he seems to be keeping his dream alive. I hope to look for him tomorrow and talk to him. I don’t know how to finish this, as I said it’s raw, unprocessed, unpolished.

A few weeks on, I still don’t know how to gather my thoughts properly. I was reading an article ‘Prisoners of Europe’ about the bad conditions that refugees encounter in Greece. Many of them “said that the limbo they are trapped in – which has left them far from loved ones, without access to work and education, and without any clarity on their future – has led to a wave of depression and mental health problems”. I did not see that when I was in Greece, but I could ‘feel’ it.

31st August 2016 (Wednesday) 

Every morning I pray through St. Patrick’s breastplate. It focuses my mind in the right way and I come to the camp ‘clothed’ in God’s presence. One image that I remind myself in the morning is of a small bucket of water that I can use for watering a few ‘plants’; in other words I remind myself that I have only a small bucket of water with me (what I can do is limited), so I will not attempt watering the whole desert as that would be futile, but I can always bring blessings (water) to a few people.

Yesterday I wanted to bring joy, today in the morning I thought I wanted to bring life. Pretty soon after we came to the camp I deserted that idea. The place is so desolate that if I thought ‘I want to bring life’, the task would overwhelm me and I would fail at every step. I decided just to do what needs to be done and meet people with kindness, joy and hopefully love. Through the day I would remember occasionally that I have water to give, ‘bringing life’ would come into my mind now and again, but I didn’t stress over it.

One thing in particular struck me today. As I was walking in the camp I noticed that one of the families had a pet bird; most of you would know birds are my favourite animals. Normality of life again, having a pet. But the bird was in the cage, not just any cage, a very small cage. I think it was a goldfinch, so a beautiful little creature totally unable to fly. What is even more heartbreaking about it is that this bird in the cage is like a symbol of this camp. These people are all beautiful but their freedom is limited. They are allowed to come and go from the camp, spend the day in Athens, and many do, they don’t have to stay in the camp all the time. But they cannot leave Greece. Not legally anyway. If they try to leave illegally and they are caught, they will be sent back to their own country. And you don’t escape your home for no reason. What choice do they really have? What freedom? Same as that bird in the cage, their freedom is .. hm, I don’t know whether to be blunt or not, but their freedom is a fake freedom, it’s an illusion. It’s sad, really.

Another thing that struck me was during the conversation with someone, they mentioned ‘home’ and first I thought they meant their own country, but they actually meant the tent here in the camp. I know that when I go on a holiday, or I’m travelling somewhere, wherever I am staying I soon start calling it ‘home’. But this is different. What kind of ‘home’ are these tents for these people? They don’t deserve that name. If I think about it for even a little bit, I find it quite disturbing.

1st September 2016 (Thursday)

Today was a hard day. I don’t even want to write about it. I cried after lunch, though I felt like screaming. And then I cried some more in the van on the way to Athens. I find it hard to see where the people in the camp live, it’s not good. Not good at all. There were good things today too, don’t get me wrong, ….  I don’t like writing negatively here, I’m sorry. I’m used to using this space to encourage and inspire. But the desolation of the camp gets to me. And I wonder, what’s the use of my tears?

They should be living in better conditions. I could not get my head around that they were living in tents that were very much unsuitable for living, and this reality would get me down on most of the days. In this camp, in Malakasa, they have toilets and showers, they are not hungry, they can even cook for themselves, which gives them some dignity, but the conditions where they sleep are so poor that it makes the place really desolate.

I will write more in the next few days about my experience, but for now I want to say that Europe should do more. The people we were with are mainly from Afghanistan, wonderful people, but there are other nations among the refugees in other camps, people from Syria, Iran, and other countries. We cannot abandon them in Greece. They have nowhere to go, they have to stay there, and it does not seem like a good solution for all of them. It is good that Greece took them on board, perhaps generous even considering the problems they have anyway in the country. Yet certain things could definitely improve in the camps there.

I am not a politician, so I do not know what exactly needs to be done, but opening up some of the borders again, and providing an organised help, a thought-through project, may be part of the solution. As well as raising awareness about racism and trying to counter-act it with real human contact which has a potential to remove barriers. People we met were wonderful people, and same as you and I they simply want a better life.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 15th September 2016)
Photo ‘Longing for freedom’ by © Iva Beranek

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