Being Guided Part 1: Trust Over Fear

While on the Isle of Eigg, I had an eye-opening lesson on the rewards of faith.  Although many of us might profess a faith in God or a higher power, how many of us would be willing to act on it?  How many of us would truly pray, ‘Guide me Lord and I will follow’ and then do just that?

The Isle of Eigg is my personal choice as a place of restoration.  It is sublimely beautiful. It offers within nature what is most popular about Scotland.  You get thistle, heather, ferns and foliage which changes to beautiful autumnal colours in the fall.  You get the crags and huge rocks and lots of wild scenery.  There is hardly any light pollution so you get an abundance of stars at night and beautiful sunrises and sunsets and sometimes (if you’re lucky) the aroura borealis.  You also get migratory birds of various breeds and many sea animals.  You get all that and the sea as well with majestic views of other islands. It is truly paradise….

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sunset on Eigg

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Unfortunately, sometimes things can go wrong like the time a hiker broke her ankle while she was on the Sgurr and they had to get a helicopter to rescue her.  I can’t help thinking that it could have been worse.  I don’t know the full story but she was lucky.  Somehow, someone knew where she was and that she was hurt.  When I was there nearly three weeks ago, I was on my own during off-peak season.  Kids were in school so there were very few vacationers on the island.  Therefore, when I chose to do some hiking and broke my ankle, no one would know.  If I got lost, I would pretty much stay lost for some time…maybe having to spend the night on an area of grazing land…with cows and well…cow pats.  Not a pleasant thought but even more unpleasant is the possibility of falling off a cliff.  I don’t like heights much so it’s no surprise I guess that thoughts would run through my head such as, ‘If I fell off the cliff, how long would it take before they found my body?’  I am a bit embarass to admit this but I confess I thought of this a wee bit too much.  So much so, that even in the midsts of beautiful scenery, I felt a bit of tightness in my chest and I walked very very carefully in some places.  I didn’t want to fall knee deep in cow manure and break my ankle.  I especially did not want to fall off a cliff.

BUT…

I was on on a quest.  Ever since my first visit to Eigg, I had known about this Holy well.  It was on a map of Eigg which I saw on the wall in Tigh Eilidh.  Not many people on Eigg seem to know much about it or cared.  I had vowed that one day I would find it.

So one my second day on Eigg which was a Sunday, I thought it would be a good day to look for the well.  I knew which direction to head towards but didn’t have a route planned.  After about 5 or 6 miles walk, I lost confidence and assumed that I was going in the wrong direction so I decided to postpone looking for the well and just do some exploring.  My anxious thoughts were agitating just below the surface so I asked God to guide my steps.  All I meant was, ‘Please don’t let me get lost, hurt or step in any boggy, sh**-y mess.’ I just wanted to be safe and not have any mishaps.  The weather was beautiful and I was happy just to walk and explore a bit….safely.

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I came out from the woods, and down the path and had an instinct to go through a gate into an open safer looking area.  The weather app on my phone said I was at Galmisdale.  After walking only a short way, this was the view that met my eyes:

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I realized that God had something better in store than just keeping me safe.  He wanted to calm my spirit, to teach me to trust him more and simply to bless me with a gift of staggering beauty and wonder. He wanted to awe me.  I was.  His love never ceases to awe me.

Never Miss the Small Things

I find myself both amazed and thoughtful when I look back at photos I have taken and realize that it seemes more beautiful than I remembered.  Wasn’t I there?  Didn’t I actually experience that sun, those clouds, the breeze, the salty sea air, the colours?  Well, maybe I didn’t.  Not fully anyway.  Maybe my mind was engaged in other things.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I was thinking about work.  It became apparent to me that I was often missing out on life.

I also came to realize that so often I can be actively engaged in the present moment looking out at the sea or hearing the band play but may not have noticed the small things which have their own beauty.  Things we often take for granted or perhaps things we simply didn’t notice just how beautiful they are.  Take your eyes off the big scenery for a moment and zero in on the small thing. It’s the small things that so often our cameras capture that we may have otherwise deemed as insignificant but they have there own individual beauty.

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If we are not careful, we can overlook so many things in life. Things we can be grateful for. Things we often take for granted.

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Photo Source

We can also be grateful for the healing we receive when we notice beauty in nature. At times it is almost instant the way it takes our head out of a dark place and lightens our spirits.

What I am trying to say, is once in a while…

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…and I know you’re busy….

…but just slow down and really look and take notice and never miss the small things.

Ancient Rhythms of the Earth

 

Photo by Marilylle Soveran

Photo by Marilylle Soveran

“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”

—John O’Donohue

There is knowledge we obtain by studying books or listening to teachers.  There is knowledge we obtain by experience which is often called wisdom.  Then there is the knowledge we don’t obtain at all.  It is inner knowledge.  Where did it come from?  We always had it.  We don’t always know it but it is there just the same.  We can call this truth.  We can call this inner wisdom.  We can call it the word of God.  Like opening a book, we have the ability to tap into this inner knowledge.  Usually, we tap into it on a subconscious level.  Sometimes it is when we are in a state of awe or bliss that we sense it. Other times, it is through meditation or meditative prayer. If we want more of it, we receive it by the simple act of relaxing and opening ourselves up to it.  If we try to force it to come, then like a frightened child it disappears.  If we place our hand reverently on the trunk of a tree, or allow our hand to dip into the cool water of a lake or stream, we sense it.  If you think about it, haven’t you always known we were connected to the earth?  The trees, the oceans, the mountains all know our names.

Saying Goodbye (for now) to Eigg

Yes, I have written more than a few posts about the enchanting Isle of Eigg and maybe I am a wee bit obsessed with Eigg in a honest-to-goodness healthy sort of way.  Can I try and explain why?  Do I even need to?  Some may understand, some will not.  Although I am not a decent photographer by a long way, I think my pictures show that Eigg is a beautiful place.

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My photos don’t do it justice and funny enough, no one else’s photographs do either. I have seen some photographs taken by amazing photographers and those reveal only a bit of the beauty of Eigg. The reason I think is this: Eigg is a place of more than just visual beauty.  Eigg is a place of experiential beauty.  It may not be for everyone.  One reason, I suppose is that when you are there, you bring yourself there too.

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There is a sense of freedom on the Isle of Eigg.  I got the distinct impression from my conversation with Charlie that the human residents also enjoy this sense of freedom.  Yes, they are still Scottish but when I asked Charlie about it he said they feel a bit separate too from the rest of Scotland.  Some rules don’t seem to apply on Eigg such as wearing your seat-belt in the car and dogs being on leads.  On the other hand, there are no police on Eigg as there never seems to be any crime.  People who live on Eigg, live here because they love the place.  They don’t need much because there is natural beauty all around them.  Life is slower here.  Charlie talked about being able to sleep late most mornings.  People seem to have more time to breathe, live and create.  There are several creative individuals on the island, like Charlie’s wife Libby who makes beautiful felt artworks, All About Willow who supplied willow baskets for the TV series Outlander and A’Nead Hand Knitwear makers of beautiful cobweb lace products.  Obviously, this slow-paced life is balanced with lots of hard work as well.  Many of the locals are farmers or simply keep a few chickens and grow their own produce.  I am attracted to the idea of living here.  It isn’t for everyone and it has its own difficulties what with having only one shop and often having to do without if the shop has run out of something.  However, I sense people simply go with the flow and live life with less care and more child-like freedom than those on the main land.  I think I certainly would if I lived here.  As an outsider, I am not privy to any other acts of rebellion the islanders get up to but I get the feeling they have some (though I am sure quite innocent) good times here.

My last day on Eigg came after several days of non-stop rain.  I looked out through my bothy window DSCN1966_peand saw the Isle of Rum once more after not  being able to see it because of mist and rain.  I quickly got on my shoes and went outside breathing in what felt like freshly washed clean air.  I was relieved that the rain had stopped because that would mean my ferry wouldn’t be cancelled (or so I thought).  I went to Laig Bay and was met by Faolan.  It was a joy to spend time with my favorite dog on Eigg. As usual for Faolan, he left me first and went back home.  I saw him again when I was passing his house.  He was behind his fence and I went over and stroked his face and looked into his beautiful amber eyes and said goodbye.

On my way back from the beach, I looked over at Rum to see a rainbow rising from the sea right in front of it.  I remembered that a rainbow is a symbol of promise and I stopped and admired the rainbow and vowed that I would return to Eigg.

While on Eigg, I had some adventures and mishaps and joys and surprisingly many teachable moments.  I followed where I was led and learned when I was taught and on my last day thought this was the end of such adventures.  I think now, it was only the beginning…

 

The Best In Whole Food

Sometimes I am very aware of the fact that I exist as a body, soul and spirit.  Logically, I know I am one person operating in each of these forms in unity.  Yet I know as well that each part of me can be reached distinctly and that each can affect the other.  Last week, I went for a walk in an unusually sunny day for late September in England and I realized that all parts of me were being fed at once.  The sunshine. The trees.  The clouds.  The little King Charles Spaniel which walked past me all served in nourishing my soul, my spirit and my body.  Tension melted away when I hadn’t realized I was tense.  I was reminded that joy, peace and love were within…and yet fed from without.  Suddenly, I had a spring to my step.  Food for the body.

What is it about nature that feeds us so completely?  It is like the best whole food in the world.  We crave it even when we don’t realize it.  When we are in it, we are nourished and refreshed.  Food for the soul.

Spend time in nature longer and the joy grows deeper.  The love expands.  People are drawn to us and we are drawn to love them.  It is like having a spring which is overflowing within us which we feel compel to share with others.  Food for the spirit.

When I visited the Isle of Eigg two months ago I felt connected to the place and thought perhaps I am meant to live there.  A few weeks later I watched an interview with time-lapse photography expert Louie Schwartzberg.  In the interview LS stated that when we are in a beautiful place of nature, we feel ‘connected’.  So I guess it wasn’t ‘meant to be’ per se but how all human beings truly are.  With each of us, it may be a different place of beauty where we feel this connection.  I don’t fully understand why in an intellectual way, but I know that from time to time we all need it…to be immersed in natural beauty.  Anyway, in less than two weeks time, I am returning to Eigg for a one week stay.

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Isle of Eigg Part 2

 

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Eigg is a place for families and for those who value solitude.  It is a place for those who find perfect bliss in gazing upon the majestic in nature and listening to the music of silence. It is for those who…

–love the sound of the ocean waves crashing against the shore

–love the sound of brooks babbling

— love to explore and discover

–love trekking and climbing steep slopes

–love wildlife

As for me, my time in Eigg has offered all this and more. I have spent wonderful moments here with my husband and each of my teen-aged children as well as spent some time alone.  The Isle of Eigg has been on my bucket list for a few years ever since I read about it in a magazine.  I wanted to discover the ‘Singing Sands’, the quartz beach where the sands chirp when you shuffle your feet in it.

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I new that Eigg would be a place of beauty and serenity but I discovered more than I expected…

I had a happy shock when I realized that I could walk for several hours up and down slope-y paths and not feel tired or achy afterwards.  It was a phenomenon that I couldn’t get my head around at first.  To begin with, I am flat-footed.  I get constant back, shoulders and neck pains.  Generally, if I walk for an hour, I tend to come home feeling exhausted and achy so that I feel the need to take some pain relief (or a glass of wine) and put my feet up.  Not so on Eigg.  I even walked one day for six miles in a downpour and though I found it tiring going uphill, when it was over, I was absolutely fine.  No aches, no exhaustion.  I puzzled at this and have come to the conclusion that it is the combination of purer air and the salt from the ocean.  I have been to beaches before of course but on Eigg there is green energy and only a few cars so very little pollutants.

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The second thing I wasn’t expecting is a bit hard for me to explain.  I feel as if my spirit has found its resting place.  There is a sort of spiritual recognition about this place.  I feel like I have come home.

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So you see, I HAVE to come back here.  Also, if any of you decide to visit Eigg, one week is not enough!  There are so many walks and places to discover.  I have only explored a bit of the eastern side of Eigg.

Here’s another fact for all you Tolkien lovers: Charlie the taxi-driver told us that Tolkien used to stay here. Across the sea from Eigg is the Isle of Rum.  We think the mountains and inactive volcano may have been the inspiration for Mount Doom.  What do you think?

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Setting Off For Scotland!

I am setting off for a two week trip to Scotland.  We will be spending the first week in Largs and the second week in the Isle of Eigg,  home of the singing sands.

I am looking forward to silence and nature, reading and writing.  These are the books I am bringing.

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The top book is a new one by Michael Phillips about George McDonald’s and his theories on hell.  Not sure if I will get through that one during the trip bit I may make a start.

The second book is called, A Book Of Silence by Sarah Mainland which I bought especially for this trip.  The third is one I have been reading slowly.  It is the only way to read  John O’Donahue! The fourth is a book about mindfulness.

Stay tuned for blog posts from Scotland (if I can get Internet access).

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Seaweed, Barnacles and Woolly Bears! Oh My!

Growing up in a concrete city constantly hearing sirens, cars beeping, people shouting and radios blaring made me acutely aware of my need for greenery as a child.  Add to that the fact that grass turns beige in the winter time and sidewalks are riddled with round patches where people have discarded their over-chewed chewing gum makes New York City a pretty grey looking place during the day.  Suffice it to say I grew up on the whole pretty much nature-deprived.

People are often surprised when they visit New York City and discover that fence enclosed  school parking lot is in fact not the parking lot but the kids’playground.

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If you were lucky, the basket-ball nets gave it away and perhaps there was a hopscotch area.  If you were even luckier, there might be a few square holes cut into the concrete where a tree grows out of each of them.  I suppose I was luckier still, as in my school there was a bench under one of these trees.  I can’t say that I fully understand the connection between man and nature but I certainly sensed this connection as a child.  I yearned for nature and that one tree in the school yard of P.S. 127 with the bench next to it felt almost like my salvation during recess.  I sat next to it and discreetly sent loving thoughts to it and in a small, hopeful way imagined that I received something back.  Yet all around this school yard was this ten foot high fence.  It was there to keep us children safe but I often felt the real danger was within this enclosure and in the summer, the ice cream truck would be there….on the other side of the fence which was really unfair.

When I began to have children, there came a time when I made the decision to home-school my oldest three.  Gone would be the the fenced playground were animosity lurked.  It would be replaced instead by the loving walls of our home and in warm weather frequent trips to Bear Mountain and Sunken Meadow Beach.  This was almost always preceded by nature lessons.  I recognized the hunger for nature in my children evidenced in their excitement when we went to the beach for the first time on a day in October (having a red-headed child made beach excursions in the summer a bit dangerous for her fair skin).   Having learned in lessons what we might find at the beach, the children kept joyfully exclaiming over every new recognized item which they had learned about in their books.

“Seaweed!”

“Barnacles!”

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Another memorable day came after we were learning about insects.  (Incidentally, not Tara’s favourite thing about the natural world.  In fact, she began to affirm that she hated nature because of her aversion to insects). We were hiking in Bear Mountain when one of the children found something they instantly recognized from the picture in their nature book–a Woolly Bear Caterpillar.  If you have ever seen a Woolly Bear Caterpillar, you will probably agree that as caterpillars go they are pretty special and aptly named.  Check out the picture below:

Brittany was the most excited of all.  She held this caterpillar and sheltered it within her cupped hands for the rest of the outing.  When it was time to come home, she wouldn’t part with it.  I tried to explain to her that it was much better for the caterpillar to stay in it’s natural environment but she was so insistent that in the end we all got into the car and  drove home.

Brittany fell asleep in the car and when we got home she was pretty disorientated.  I called her attention to the caterpillar and she brought it out of the car and put it down in the front garden.  The next morning she was pretty upset and insisted she never let it go in the front garden.  In her mind, this was suppose to have been her pet.  We looked all over the garden for the caterpillar but couldn’t find it.  I explained to her that although she took great care of Woolly Bear, he needed to be free to make his cocoon in order to become a beautiful Tiger Moth.  Letting go is not always an easy lesson to learn but perhaps if we’re lucky, we can have the joy of seeing them fly.

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Delighting in God

Psalm 37:4

New International Version (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

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I woke up this morning thinking about the first part of Psalm 34:4 and what it means to truly delight in God.  It is wonderful that the bible says that if we delight in God, we receive the desires of our heart however I find myself thinking about how do we delight in God.  God is after all the Divine, the Almighty.  We are hopefully grateful for all that we receive from Him but do we delight in Him?

When I think of all the ways I delight in other people the concept begins to get a bit clearer.  For example, think of someone who is a great conversationalist.  How do you delight in listening to that person?  Are you rapt in attention?  Laughing at their jokes? Applying their knowledge to your own life?  Are you so delighting in this person, that you ask them to come over for a meal or to meet for drinks?  Do you feel like you just can’t wait to introduce them to your friends?

How do you delight in a child?  When you take them out to the zoo or a farm and you see their eyes sparkling?  Don’t you just delight in the joy they are so obviously feeling?  When they laugh, do you find yourself laughing with them?

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How about an artist—even one who is long gone such as one of the great impressionist?  The artist is no longer on earth but their paintings are hanging in galleries and museums for all to delight in.  Do you marvel at the work of the artist?  Does it make you wonder what they were thinking, feeling, experiencing when they did that piece of work?  Does the artist so move you that you buy their biography or a print of one of their works?  Are you inspired to paint something yourself?

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How about delighting in nature?  Ever go out during a thunderstorm just for the joy of it?  Exhilarating! How about for a swim in the ocean? Gazing at a night full of stars? Getting up early in the morning to see the sunrise? Do you take delight in playing with puppies? Feeding a lamb? Walking in the woods?

How about taking delight in the awesome joy of feeling loved by someone?  Receiving a warm embrace? Gazing into the eyes of someone who truly loves you and you see that love emanating from them….and wow….its for you!

God is like that.  God loves us as individuals and takes delight in us.  We can delight in knowing He loves us.  We can delight in all His creation.  We can delight in God’s sense of humour. (There are some funny looking creatures in God’s creation!)

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We can delight in feeling His loving presence. We can delight in hearing his voice when He speaks to us in our alone time with Him.  We can delight in losing ourselves in Him.  We can delight in an adjective way and in a verb way.  We can pass His love to others.  We can delight in doing good to others or following His direction in our lives.

When we delight in God, we receive the desires of our heart.  When we delight in God, our heart desires new things.  We become less shallow.  We become more grateful and joy becomes much more meaningful than simple happiness.  Happiness is the shell of the oyster, joy is the pearl.  I have heard people interpret the verse as, God will give us the desires of our heart on condition that we delight in Him.  No.  It is a natural God-placed law,  We receive the desires of our heart because we delight in Him.  By delighting in God, we are tapping into our spiritual essence, our pure selves.  Our desires are purer.  Our joy becomes deeper.  Today lets focus on delighting in God as he delights in us.  Let us experience joy and share in the delight of others.  Hope you all have a blessed day!

Being Like A Child Part 2

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Mathew 18:1-5.

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Part 2: How a child sees

In part One I talked about how children often have an inborn sense as to who God is without being told.  I talked about my childhood conclusion that God was all-loving and all-forgiving and both male and female and neither sex and how God is happy to receive our gifts no matter how small and that we should create gifts to give to people we love. If anyone has anything to add about what they thought about God when they were children or how their children think please click on the comment  link above.

Today I would like to continue the theme of what it means to be like a child according to the verses in Mathew 18 with how a child sees the world around them.  You see it from the time they are very young,  Their eyes wide open in sparkling wonder as they look around.

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Research shows us that the first thing babies look for with their eyes is another pair of eyes.  As they grow they take in more and more of their environment often focusing on one object at a time.

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In one of my earlier post Seeing Beauty I mentioned how it was my daughter Brittany who used to advise me when she was a child to ‘see the beauty all around’.  Until she taught me that, I wasn’t really paying attention.  Even living in NYC, Brittany still noticed little glimpses of nature that I didn’t know was there.  While walking down a block, she pointed out an adorable creature known as the praying mantis.  Seriously, when you look at them up close they are really cute and comical…almost sci-fi alien like.

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They have the cutest little faces.

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We spent a long time gazing at this thing and watching it because it was so cute and because I was worried that it was just standing there on the sidewalk where it could be trampled.

Brittany also noticed that the reason bird song got so much louder on one street is because one of the houses had a bird aviary in their front yard.  It was the kind where wild birds (and squirrels) could go in and out of easily for food.

bird-aviary-lgWe could just see through the branches of the bushes the aviary with a whole flock of birds inside. We noticed other things in our city walk as well.  Some houses had honeysuckle bushes in front that gave a lovely sweet scent when you walked past.

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There would sometimes be a friendly cat always happy to be petted or a neighbour and his dog.  There were many different types of trees.  Many!  They weren’t all the same and in the spring the flowers gave away the varieties of the trees.

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Now, we are a nature loving family partly because we didn’t grow up with a whole lot of it but there is beauty to be seen of things that aren’t of nature too.  The cool thing is that this makes for a great outdoor art lesson when you are home-schooling. Children can give some amazing insight to what they are looking at and why they find something beautiful.  Below are what I think are works of art you can see in Queens, New York:

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What gifts our children can teach us!  What can we also learn with our children?  Take the time to look in wonderment at things with child-like eyes.  Gaze at intricate details like the petals of a flower, or the veins in a leaf. Take time to see follow the gaze of a baby.  What is she looking at?  What are you now seeing that you wouldn’t have noticed before?