Category Archives: winter

29 January: Snowdrop Time.

dids.snowdrops
Ah, hush! Tread softly through the rime, 
For there will be a blackbird singing, or a thrush. 
Like coloured beads the elm-buds flush: 
All the trees dream of leaves and flowers and light. 
And see! The northern bank is much more white 
Than frosty grass, for now is snowdrop time.

It’s a while since we tapped into Mary Webb, but she gives pause for reflection. Rime is the soft hoar frost that coats the ground and trees and disappears as the sun gets to work. This short poem is full of hope, inviting us to look and listen and ‘dream of leaves and flowers and light.’ And the snowdrops are a promise that those things will come.

Once you could buy posies of violets or snowdrops bundled with glossy ivy leaves. The snowdrops someone planted a few yards from our door are increasing, year on year. They are working towards a self-sustaining community with the trees above them – and below them, for tree roots run deep, bringing nutrients up to where the bulbs can harvest them.

Enjoy your walk today!

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Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry, winter

28 January: Consider the flowers of the wayside.

violets.ct27en.4.1.20

And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?

Matthew 6: 28-30.

The photo is from January last year, but could have been taken today, had the skies not been so grey. I always enjoy our early violets that bloom before their season. They put me in mind of this Gospel passage. I don’t think this was just a throwaway line of Jesus; he wants us to give our attention to the flowers and how they grow and are provided with sunshine, soil and water. That includes solid science.

These violets did not appear by magic, nor do they survive by magic. The bed they grow in was created at the edge of a footpath maybe 20 years ago, with shrubs lining a brick wall and violets providing ground cover beneath, shadowing out any weed seeds that might try and grow there. It’s almost a self-sustaining habitat now, requiring annual pruning of the bushes, and an occasional thinning of the violets.

I once declined to look after the garden of a lady who wanted me to uproot the violets carpeting her rose bed. The combination struck me as one of the most attractive prospects of her plot and she wanted to be rid of it! Removing the violets would have been against nature. Other plants would have come along to fill the space, requiring repeat weedings in turn. Working with nature allows our violets to do what they do best, bringing a smile to the faces of passing humans.

Pat, a girl I once worked with, had no money on her mother’s birthday, but had never noticed the bank of violets by their front fence. We gathered a fine posy to mark the day. Consider the flowers! They can speak of our love for each other as well as God’s love for us. Let’s work with him to restore beauty to our world.

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27 January: from Emily, with flowers

From Karin’s garden

With Flowers

South winds jostle them, 
Bumblebees come, 
Hover, hesitate, 
Drink, and are gone.  
Butterflies pause 
On their passage Cashmere; 
I, softly plucking, 
Present them here!
Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, via kindle

Flowers yesterday, flowers today; it’s winter, so why not hover and hesitate, pause for a moment; present them to their maker in loving gratitude. This beautifully arranged bouquet was placed in our room by Karin when we visited her and Winfried, a gesture of love which stays with me although we are long gone!

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26 January: Honesty

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There is always something to see, if your eyes are open. Behind a hedge, skirting the tarred footpath, this array of silvery white caught my eye. Not flowers, but the seed heads of honesty, or lunaria to give its official name. Lunaria comes from the moon, of course, since the pods look like little silvery moons, but they last the winter through without waning or waxing. I was told as a child that honesty refers to the way the seeds can be seen in the silvery pods. Can any of us claim to have nothing to hide, or to be totally open in our dealings with other people, with ourselves, with God? Maybe we have to grow in honesty, to flower and see that beauty give way to grey pods that eventually shine as we see here. It may take a lifetime!

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Fireside Gathering Concert

Irish Chaplaincy will host a ‘Fireside Gathering’ concert on February 5th 2021 at 7.30pm. Headlining again is the London Celtic Youth Orchestra, and we’re delighted as well to have Thomas McCarthy on the bill. Thomas, an Irish Traveller, singer and storyteller was named Traditional Singer of the Year in the Gradam Ceoil Awards 2019. Various other talented musicians and poets will complete the line-up, there will be a special message from the Ambassador and it promises to be a great and uplifting evening. The event will be Live on the Irish Chaplaincy Facebook Page and is free to watch. Follow the Fireside Gathering link to find the flier.

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10 January: Holes of hope

The Baptism of our Lord: a cold shock to his system!

Father Tom Herbst describes winter mornings facing the sea at Margate in this previous post from Advent time. I don’t think many baptisms happen there in January, but the sacrament is an assertion of trust in the loving God, either personally or on a child’s behalf. Jesus trusted that this moment was crucial for his growing into the One mature human, Son of God, Son of Man.

Above we see a grey sky in the Polish Tatra mountains, with light breaking through the clouds. Today Sister Hanne-Maria Berentsen OCSO shares a reflection on January grey skies over the fjord near her monastery in Norway. It comes from Northern Light, a book I shall return to.

Pope John Paul II wrote of celebrating the Eucharist ‘on the altar of the world.’ Perhaps we can give some thought to the meaning of Water, in sky, river, lake and sea, and accept a daily ‘baptism in the font of the world’ – we are within the water cycle in this life – rain, river, sea, cloud – but called to put out into deep water, like Peter and the Apostles, trusting in the loving God.

There is much pain needed to make us fully human and Christ-like … if you feel down, you can look up, look out, go out, and receive the vast sky above and around you, finding again your trust in the loving God who created all this. Even on a grey, stormy day, you can find blue spots between the clouds, holes of hope.

from Northern Light by the Cistercian Nuns of Tautra Mariakloster, Collegeville Minnesota, Liturgical Press, p4.

We will review Northern Light after re-reading it, or should I say, reading it properly! More from Cistercians later this week.

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8 January: The Embankment at Night, Before the War.

A stormy London skyline today from Greenwich.

D H Lawrence meant before the Great War, 1914-18. When he is not trying to be over intellectual and convey abstract ideas in poetry, when he is being human, as here, he is a better poet. We can surely all sympathise with his mixed emotions, as Christina and I discussed a while back. The Embankment would be described as a dyke or levee elsewhere; busy roads and broad footpaths run along it, under trees. Let’s not forget those people it is hard to help this Christmas.

By the river
In the black wet night as the furtive rain slinks down,
Dropping and starting from sleep
Alone on a seat
A woman crouches.
 I must go back to her. I want to give her
Some money. Her hand slips out of the breast of  her gown
Asleep. My fingers creep
Carefully over the sweet
Thumb-mound, into the palm’s deep pouches.
 So, the gift! God, how she starts!
And looks at me, and looks in the palm of her hand!
And again at me!
I turn and run
Down the Embankment, run for my life.
 But why?—why? Because of my heart’s
Beating like sobs, I come to myself, and stand
In the street spilled over splendidly
With wet, flat lights. What I’ve done
I know not, my soul is in strife.
 The touch was on the quick. I want to forget.

” (from “New Poems” by D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence 1885-1930)

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6 January: So Quiet the Night

Sheila Billingsley understands that the sweetness we need at Christmas is more than soft-centred chocolates or saccharine carols in the Supermarket. Those bring very little joy. But the joy of Christmas is paradoxical …

When Christmas seems like Calvary
And stars concealed by cloud, 
With stable dark
And manger cold, we seek our childhood's needs
Of sweetness and angels' song.

So quiet the night ...

As we,

Rest in the care,
The wondrous care, of a new-born scrap - to be ...
Our King,
     Our Hope,
          Our Strength,
               Our Love.
to be our Joy.

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6 January: Going viral LIX, Epiphany Carol Service.

You might like to attend St Mildred’s Carol Service for Epiphany, especially if you are unable to be present in person under the current Covid arrangements where you are. Follow the link.

Many thanks to Revd Jo and her team: Oh that we were there!
Epiphany carol service from St Mildred’s
.

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3 January: And the Angels Sang.

Here is another posting by Eddie Gilmore of London’s Irish Chaplaincy. I’ve just shared a paragraph from the middle, but the whole article, and the links he provides, are worth your perusal. Eddie writes as a musician, so his thoughts on angels and other intelligent beings’ singing are most interesting.

We are told that angels sang at the birth of Christ. Who were those celestial beings that sang at an event that was never going to be on the front page of the Bethlehem Gazette? Whoever they were, I’ll bet they laid down a good tune, with some sublime harmonies and with no one angel hogging the limelight. And what about their unusual audience that starry night? Shepherds, who were outcasts in their community because staying out in the fields at all hours meant that they were unable to observe the normal rituals of the Jewish faith, and who might as well have been a bit tipsy, since they were known to have a little toddy to keep themselves warm. And then those three mysterious characters who had followed a star and who arrived with gifts that the mother of a newly-born wouldn’t exactly find that practical!

I have to say, though, I thought the wise men’s gifts had their uses. Gold would have got the Family to Egypt and bought new tools for Joseph. Frankincense might have sweetened the air of the stable, myrrh helped look after Baby Jesus’ skin, especially in the nappy area. At least, so I used to tell the children!

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, corona virus, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Mission, winter