Bill Bryson spent many years living in England, so many that he felt the call to reconnect with his native America, a call he answered by driving across 38 states out of 50. He visited the two Oceans, the mountains, prairies and deserts, until he crossed the border into his home state.A book worth looking out for, an interesting insight into America in its many guises.
It was wonderful to be back to the Midwest, the rolling hills and rich black earth … I passed back into Iowa. As if on cue, the sun emerged from the clouds. A swift band of golden light swept over the fields and made everything instantly warm and springlike. Every farm looked tidy and fruitful. Every little farm looked clean and friendly. I drove on spellbound, unable to get over how striking the landscape was. There was nothing much to it, just rolling fields, but every colour was deep and vivid: the blue sky, the white clouds, the red barns, the chocolate fields. I felt as if I had never seen it before. I had no idea Iowa could be so beautiful.*
Marie Curie said that the present moment is a state of grace, and so it proved for Bill Bryson when the sun came out. But all those moments he documented when his pilgrimage took him through inhospitable landscapes and inhospitable towns, motels and diners, they too were moments of grace – at least when seen in hindsight.
This pilgrim’s progress brought him home. May we be grateful for our holidays and thankful to be able to come home among family and friends. And may we all meet merrily in heaven when our journey is done.
Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent, Travels in Small Town America, New York, HarperCollins, 1989.
Or should I say, an encouragement for pilgrims? This particular stretch of Wales’s Pembrokeshire Coast Path winds down only to go almost straight uphill, or up 121 stairs – I counted them. At the end of the day you can discover how many metres you have climbed overall. If you began at sea-level you will have descended a similar amount. We were not counting.
Fellowship is one of the gifts of pilgrimage, as yesterday’s picture showed us. Christina Rossetti reminds us that in our life-long pilgrimage we have also the support of the Church Triumphant, the saints who have gone before.
And “Yea, beds for all who come”, though “travel-sore and weak.” She does not specifically mention blisters!
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come."
Waters above! eternal springs!
The dew that silvers the Dove's wings!
O welcome, welcome to the sad!
Give dry dust drink; drink that makes glad!
Many fair ev'nings, many flow'rs
Sweeten'd with rich and gentle showers,
Have I enjoy'd, and down have run
Many a fine and shining sun;
But never, till this happy hour,
Was blest with such an evening-shower!
From "Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II.
This was not an April shower, but a March one; a morning but not an evening shower yet I'm sure Henry Vaughan would have appreciated it, as I did, seeing the raindrops on the willows shining on the osiers. Laudato Si'!
The solemnity of today will be overwhelmed by the joy of Easter, but there were tokens of the coming feast for those with eyes to see.
Before the sun was properly up I was looking into the back garden. What was that hunched figure inspecting the flowerpots? A hedgehog woken from hibernation and going about its business, ridding us of a few pests. That was enough to mark the day.
After the prayerful L’Arche Good Friday service some of us found our way to the Glebe garden, where a shrine had been built of willow wands. If this was intended to be a place of quiet reflection it soon became a meeting place for people who had barely seen each other during covid; another hint of the resurrection to come.
Flitting across the garden was a brimstone butterfly, a caterpillar died but transformed into a creature of beauty no less wondrous for being totally expected.
Then to my task of adorning the church porch. The Easter garden needed the finishing touches, Mary’s jar of ointment and the grave cloths hidden behind the door (a scallop shell to be rolled to one side). What concerned me was the Easter lilies. We had some in flower the last two years, but it had been touch and go this time. Since today was warm, the first flowers were unfurling to be bright and white on Easter Day.
In the evening down to the Cathedral to hear Faure’s Requiem, with its upbeat finish: May the Angels welcome you to Paradise, may the martyrs meet you and lead you to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Walking home from the Cathedralin the glowing dusk, under the Easter full moon, three blackbirds, singing their hearts out, serenading the new life hatched in their nests. They will be busy tomorrow, as no doubt will I, but by these tokens and by other sure evidence I know that my redeemer liveth.
Not many Canterbury citizens would pause for a photograph here! I have cropped away some of the street furniture on this corner, but there are still bollards, a bin, contradictory road signs and a public toilet block. Oh, and a cherry tree.
A cherry tree so laden with blossom that these Japanese people have stopped to take each other’s photographs, despite the clutter. They see something we pass by on the other side.
There is beauty in places where we’d never look; sometimes it breaks out and hits us between the eyes. Sometimes we can be shown beauty by a friend, or as here, by complete strangers.
We will soon be celebrating the Man of Sorrows, ‘so disfigured that he seemed no longer human’.(Isaiah 52:14). Let’s cut away the clutter and stand beneath the Tree of Life. Cherry blossom will not take away the horror and evil in this world, and it seems that all we can offer to help is the wiping with a face cloth, the cup of water or vinegar, the money in the collecting bucket.
Let’s not scorn to offer such support, the Works of Mercy; it makes a difference, reminds people that we are one family, sharing one earthly home. There’s something about cherry blossom that touches the Japanese soul: my nephew saw Japanese people photographing each other beneath cherry trees; my wife saw the same in Rome some years ago. It’s a deep sign of home.
The Cross is a deep sign of home, in Heaven for Eternity; through suffering we can be one with the Man of Sorrows who will be lifted up; with him we shall see the light and be content.
Sheila Billingsley has had her eyes open! On the edge of Saddleworth Moor, spring has arrived! She gives this poem the title ’14th March 2022′. We hope Spring is enchanting your eyes, ears and sense of smell. Those cherry trees . . .
14th March 2022.
Today Spring arrived!
Slipped in!. . . Quietly!
Bright blue sky,
Pushing out thoughts of rain,
. . . until tomorrow!
The cherry tree in the lane is in blossom.
Delicate, tiny, hardly pink blossom.
Not the blowsy in-your-face Japanese,
Today the gardener arrived too,
To clear the detritus of winter.
Cheerful and happy within his whiskers.
Did many thank you?
Did many even notice?
That your world was still struggling to obey you,
Despite what we do?
At least your world obeys you,
While we fight and kill and poison.
Do they know that you exist ?
Do they know that you suffer?
I just wanted to record that Spring arrived today.
Laetare Sunday is three weeks before Easter. ‘Laetare’ means ‘rejoice’, have a joyful Sunday! Perhaps this is a good time to think ahead to Easter, so here’s a project for you. Last year Vincent and Maurice made Easter Gardens for the locked-down L’Arche Kent houses, and the slide show tells how we did it.
You don’t need to use big pots like these, especially if yours will be displayed indoors. Ours were outside people’s houses or St Mildred’s church for a few weeks, so we used big pots to keep the plants alive.
We think the houses could make their own gardens this year, so here’s our helpful guide. You’ve got three weeks, so start off by collecting the pits and pieces. Don’t forget to share your photos by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
There is a monotony in the affections, which people living together or, as we do now, very frequently seeing each other, are apt to give in to: a sort of indifference in the expression of kindness for each other, which demands that we should sometimes call to our aid the trickery of surprise.
The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 1796-1820, edited by E. V. Lucas
Yesterday the church celebrated the Annunciation, when the Angel told Mary that she was to become the Mother of our Saviour, and tomorrow in the United Kingdom we celebrate Mothering Sunday, Mother’s Day.
One image sticks in my mind from twenty-something years ago: seeing a car pull up beside a drift of daffodils, the driver getting out and hurriedly picking a big bunch of the flowers for his mother. Not quite what Charles Lamb meant by the trickery of surprise, though I was surprised and the motorist was certainly tricky.
I’m sure we’ve all got something planned, surprising but not alarming. A happy Mother’s day to all mothers reading this post!