Thursday 30 June 2011

One day to go - river's eve!

1 Mosaic

"I am astonished in my teaching to find how many poets are nearly blind to the physical world. They have ideas, memories, and feelings, but when they write their poems they often see them as similes. To break this habit, I have my students keep a journal in which they must write, very briefly, six things they have seen each day—not beautiful or remarkable things, just things. This seemingly simple task usually is hard for them...
...Their journals fill up with lovely things like, "the mirror with nothing reflected in it." This way of seeing is important, even vital to the poet, since it is crucial that a poet see when she or he is not looking—just as she must write when she is not writing. To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing."
~From The Art of Finding by Linda Gregg
Join the river of stones to practice this way of seeing. If you are a writer, it will help your writing. If you are not a writer, you soon will be, but, either way, this kind of seeing gets you closer to the world. I've used a longish quote from Gregg's article because she describes how the type of exercise we're proposing can help make us better writers and poets. We found Gregg's article during the January challenge I think, and it's confirming to see other writers encouraging people along the sames lines as us. We're not saying anything new though, really, just encouraging lots of people to join us.

renegade reds dot
a leaf brown landscape—
a pack of newports shouts
viridian blue

Robin Turner

I hope all of your journals fill up with lovely things like "the mirror with nothing reflected in it", and that you share your small stones with us on your blogs. Find out how to get involved here.

We begin tomorrow!

P.S. Remember that Fiona and I will be on a silent retreat next week. We'll be keeping our small stones in our paper journals and writing them up online at the weekend, when we'll also enjoy diving in and reading all of your lovely contributions.

P.P.S Thanks to Leo Renyolds for the countdown photos this week.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Two days to go - almost there!

2 Mosaic

"Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable", and "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” Brenda Ueland
You should join us in July because you are incomparable, talented, and original. Each of you is unique - there are beautiful observations about the world that only you can make.

An empty muffin case lies flat and folded in the road like a fan, abandoned mid-dance. 
Peggy Riley

Each of us is falling in love with the world in our own way, the things you notice will be different to the things your neighbour notices - and both will come from a wonderful place. Human beings are born to be creative, and this creativity comes out of the unique relationship each of us has with the world. Notice one thing each day, write it down and share your very special creativity with us.

Let us know you're joining (click here). Get the badges, and tell your friends to join us too!

Happy writing!

P.S If you haven't read Brenda Ueland's books about writing, I can highly recommend them!

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Three days to go

3 Mosaic

"...even on a material level, the other is a great mystery. When we struggle to relate to it, we fall back into personalised approximations. Keeping our sense of wonder and our willingness to encounter the other requires a special kind of reaching out." Caroline Brazier 
Why you should join the river: Because having a notebook, or a blog, and a vow to write one small stone in it each day can help you keep a sense of wonder about the world. Deciding to take part in the July challenge, to notice something each day and write about it, sets in motion that willingness to reach out - that willingness to really look and listen to the world - and to stand in awe.

Some days our sense of wonder will be clouded, and that's okay and normal. The commitment to write something everyday can keep us going (and writing) through those cloudy days until the sun comes out again.

On the black river,
a pair of great-crested grebe nod
towards the ceremonies of spring.
Kate Noakes

Let us know if you want to join us. Put our beautiful badges on your blog, and share the joy on twitter and facebook (use the buttons at the bottom of this post).

Happy writing, see you in the river of stones!

Monday 27 June 2011

The joy of July - four days to go!

4 Mosaic

I really look forward to getting back into focusing on the things around me. Too often we just get so caught up in the stress and chaos of our daily lives that we put off being observant. I really need the discipline of learning how to slow down and take a good look around me. The River of Stones was a wonderful exercise for me in January and hopefully I won't stop after July. ~ Mary-Jane, Cracked Sugar Bowl
Why everyone is joining the river: Like Mary-Jane, in January hundreds of people made a commitment to write a small stone every day. In July we'd like you to join us as we do the same again. To reach beyond yourself and notice one small thing each day, and to write it down.

We believe that it's better to be connected to the world, than not to be. We believe that it's better to notice the unnoticed, the weeds in the cracks in the pavement and the aphid on the bud of the rose, than to let them slip by. And we believe that writing can help us pay attention to, and become intimate with, the world.
It is like a bonus, the thirty-first day. Suddenly, no more fog. Blinding sun. Raging blue, and lacy wisps of cloud to prove the Earth hasn’t stopped in its tracks. Oh, wow. We are never still.
Lis Harvey
You can keep small stones in your paper notebooks and journals, or like hundreds of people did in January you could make a blog for them. Click here to find out how to let us know you're taking part, and click here to dive in the river and see the small stones people have already started writing.

Sunday 26 June 2011

River of Stones book on Amazon

Floresta Amazônica, até quando? / Amazonian Forest, until when? / Amazona Arbaro, ĝis kiam?

That's a photo of the Amazon river to celebrate that the book pay attention: a river of stones, that we created after the January challenge, is finally available on and

I can only imagine that the reason it took so long is because a real, living, human being needed to read and approve the book before it appeared on their sites, rather than the completely automated process of Lulu. But it's here! We've had some lovely feedback from people who bought the book earlier in the year, so if you've been waiting now's your chance!

pay attention: a river of stones is a collection of lots of your lovely small stones, and some longer prose pieces about the process of writing them. It was winter in the northern hemisphere during the first challenge and there are lots of beautiful stones about that season (and some sunny ones, from our friends in the south) as well as some more esoteric small stones.
the red cherry
at the bottom of the glass
to the beat
from the dance floor

Mary-Jane Grandinetti
The July challenge, to notice one thing and write it down, every day, begins on Friday. Are you ready? Click here to find out how to take part. I'm looking forward to reading all of your July small stones!

Saturday 25 June 2011

Wedding pics

Fiona writes: 
So, the knot is well and truly tied!

We had a wonderful time on honeymoon and we're very much enjoying being mister and missus.

If you'd like to have a sneaky peek at a few of our Buddhist wedding photos, here they are.

Many of you wrote us small stones on the day, and we're looking forward to making these into a website later in the summer.

We were overwhelmed by everyone's support and good wishes on the day - our friends and family, and our friends across the world. A heart-felt thank you and deep bow to all of you.

So, what's next? There will be no more talk of weddings, because.....

The river is nearly upon us, of course! We begin this Friday, the 1st of July. Have you got your badge yet? Have you invited your friends to join you? I can't wait....

Happy weekend, all!

Saturday 18 June 2011

Today is our wedding day...

Today is the day.

As you read this blog, we'll be putting our posh clothes on, or greeting all our friends and family with a hug. We might be in the middle of our Buddhist ceremony (with candles and water and chanting and a specially-designed wedding scroll to sign), or eating a wide selection of puddings (you can tell it's Fiona writing this post) or dancing to the Irish fiddle, or having post-wedding-drinks at our hotel with our lovely friends.

The photo is of Kaspa in India - before we got together, when he was still a Buddhist monk (that's another story), when we were courting by email. We didn't admit that it was courting at the time, but courting it was. I am very very lucky to have found him. I'm grateful for every moment we have together.

We'll put up some pictures up when we get back from our honeymoon, but in the meantime we're hoping you might be noticing something and writing a small stone and sending it to us here

I hope you have a wonderful day. Let some of our happiness shine out from the Malvern Hills and warm you, wherever you are. And we'll send you some virtual pudding, too. 

Thank you for reading, lovely readers.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

What this strawberry whispered in my ear

Fiona writes:

Since I got home a couple of hours ago, I've been faffing about.

You may have heard on the grapevine (!) that I'm getting married on Saturday. Today's task is to write some blogs for the river while we're away on honeymoon and in France. Instead I've been faffing.

And then I ate a bowl of strawberries. And this one whispered in my ear...

Look at me... it whispered. Look how shiny and red I am. Look at how the red deepens at the top, near the place I was attached to my plant. Look at my tiny seeds.

Smell my sweet strawberry scent. Imagine the field I was plucked from. Imagine the journey I've been on, to end up in your white bowl. And now.... eat me! Taste me! Pay attention!

The strawberry reminded me that it doesn't matter if I'm getting married on Saturday or in two years time. What I've got is today - now - with the rain coming down and jobs to get on with and this exquisite bowl of strawberries.

Writing small stones helps us to hear what the strawberry has to say. Trust me, it has a very quiet voice. But once you start listening to the objects around you, they will remind you of what's important. They will bring you back into the world. They will calm your jitters, pre-wedding or otherwise. They will show you how you can love them.

If you want to experiment with a daily small stone practice, join our river in July. Or just choose an object from around you right now, and hear what it has to say. Let us know in the comments!

Friday 10 June 2011

Why join the river in July? Joy.

So, what's this river small stones thing? And what does that bird have to do with anything?

Just a bird?

A goldfinch. Notice his golden stripe. The red blush across his crown. His pink scaly feet, gripping the dandelion-head. Observe the fluffy seeds, ready to lift off into the breeze. The tatty yellow petals.

Now imagine paying this much attention to a 3D goldfinch - listening to him singing, touching the soft seeds, a breeze brushing your cheek and carrying the scent of roses...

This is what the river of stones is all about. It will give you the opportunity to notice the world properly, one glorious day at a time, all July long.

To take part, all you have to do is notice one thing every day and write it down. Ta-da - a small stone.

You don't have to be a writer. You don't have to show anyone your small stones (although there are plenty of places where you can share them.) You just have to pause. Look. Listen. Smell. Touch. Hear. Feel. Snuggle up closer to the world. And then write down what you've observed in your notebook.

Give yourself five minutes a day in July, and you will receive clear-seeing, insight, connection, compassion, richness and joy. You will receive the world.

We do hope you'll join us. Get our badge. Tell your friends. We'll see you in the river!

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Without gratitude, nothing is enough

Yesterday, I was grumpy.

Maybe it was wedding nerves. Maybe it was a build up of those little day-to-day annoyances. Whatever it was, I couldn't shake it. People were nice to me, and made me soup, and made me cups of tea, but the grumpiness stayed.

One thing helped. From within my black cloud, I looked at the world. And the skies were blue. The clouds were white and fluffy. And I felt grateful for this, even from the middle of my grump. 

It felt OK to be grumpy. We are all human, and we all feel grumpy, sad, and confused from time to time. 

But we can try to remember to pay attention. And, if we're lucky, the blue sky will infect us with its cheerfulness and we'll hear the birds singing again. Paying attention helps us to practice gratitude.

During July, we would like to offer you the opportunity to pay better attention to the world, one day at a time. To notice something every day, and write it down. Give yourself a gift this July. Join us.

If you have ten minutes to spare today, do watch this video which inspired this post - Julio Olalla talking about gratitude. It's very moving and very true. 

"Without gratitude, nothing is enough."


PS Have you got your badge yet? Have you added your blog to our blogroll? Have you let your friends know (on Facebook and Twitter) that you're taking part, and asked if they'd like to join you? Did you know we're doing mindful writing prompts on Tuesdays now?

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Blogsplash: Wedding Small Stones

Blogs all over the blogosphere are reposting this post to help us celebrate our wedding by collecting as many small stones as possible. If you'd like to help us celebrate please copy this post to your own blog! (Instructions here)

Thanks to everyone that has taken part already!

Fiona and Kaspa have taken over my blog today, because they need our help...

They are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of June.

For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the world to write them a ‘small stone’ and post it on their blogs or on Facebook or Twitter.

A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more about small stones here.

If you’re willing to help, we’d love you to do things:

1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and give your readers a chance to hear about what we’re doing. You can simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html here.

2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we’re saying our vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send it to us.

You can find out more about our project at our website, Wedding Small Stones, and you can also read our blog at A River of Stones.

We also have a July challenge coming soon, when we’ll be challenging you to notice one thing every day during July and write it down.

Thank you for listening, and we hope we’ll be returning from our honeymoon to an inbox crammed with small stones, including yours.

Kaspa & Fiona