Tag Archives: animals

5 March, Desert VIII: Fear 1

trees-wind-moon

Edward Thomas wrote ‘Out in the dark’ when he knew he was about to leave for the front during the Great War. No wonder fear drummed on his ear. Like Dylan Thomas, who admired him and claimed him as a Welsh poet, he was aware of the creative nature of night, but he was also often downcast.

We have to love the night, the dark, which is safe for the fallow deer, but does not feel safe to Thomas. Always remember that Jesus was afraid that Thursday night in the garden. Feeling fear is no sin or weakness but we must face our fears.

Out in the Dark

Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.

Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when a lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned;

And I and star and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together, — near,
Yet far, — and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.

How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.

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4 November: Death and God’s Mercy in the Frozen North.

fire.Moses

Sir Edward Leithen, a Scottish Lawyer is snowbound in Northern Canada, dying of TB in the company of trappers, Indians, and a Quebecois business man who has lost his bearings. Leithen finds his Calvinistic, predestinarian beliefs challenged in the face of the realities he is facing in the North.

The trappers kept a fire going to keep Leithen alive. Picture from SJC

 

Here in this iron and icy world man was a pigmy and God was all in all. Like Job, he was abashed by the divine majesty and could put his face in the dust. It was the temper in which he wished to pass out of life. He asked for nothing—”nut in the husk, nor dawn in the dusk, nor life beyond death.” He had already much more than his deserts! 

Now there suddenly broke in on him like a sunrise a sense of God’s mercy—deeper than the fore-ordination of things, like a great mercifulness… Out of the cruel North most of the birds had flown south from ancient instinct, and would return to keep the wheel of life moving. Merciful! But some remained, snatching safety by cunning ways from the winter of death. Merciful! Under the fetters of ice and snow there were little animals lying snug in holes, and fish under the frozen streams, and bears asleep in their lie-ups, and moose stamping out their yards, and caribou rooting for their grey moss. Merciful! And human beings, men, women, and children, fending off winter and sustaining life by an instinct old as that of the migrating birds. … Surely, surely, behind the reign of law and the coercion of power there was a deep purpose of mercy.

The thought induced in Leithen a tenderness to which he had been long a stranger. He had put life away from him, and it had come back to him in a final reconciliation. He had always hoped to die in April weather when the surge of returning life would be a kind of earnest of immortality. Now, when presently death came to him, it would be like dying in the spring.

John Buchan, Sick Heart River, 1941; Penguin edition 1985.

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19 September: Z is for the Zoo

The Zoo? It has to be Chester Zoo in our family, ever since his big sister was living there and took George during his herpetology phase He’d gone from learning all he could about birds to learning all he could about reptiles and amphibians. It helped that we had and still have frogs in the garden and wild lizards not far away.

But Chester Zoo had Komodo dragons. They were the main attraction in his eyes.

I preferred the smaller fry, like this little poisonous golden mantella frog from Madagascar, threatened with imminent extinction in the wild. Captive breeding in the zoo goes hand in hand with similar projects at home in Madagascar, and conservation of their habitat before all the trees are felled.

The Zoo remind us that:

NOW is the time to ACT FOR WILDLIFE. Conservation is CRITICAL; species are under threat. TOGETHER we can make a BIG difference.

Now, in Autumn, is the time to dig out a pond if your garden will take one; plant a tree or two, hang up a bird box or bug hotel. The birds may well roost in the box overwinter and spiders or insects will snooze through the winter in their comfortable guest house.

It’s a start. This comes down to the Franciscan love of creation which goes with love of the Creator. Each of us can do something; together it all adds up.

As Saint Francis and Pope Francis would say, Laudato Si!  But don’t just praise God in words, try changing a square metre of earth for the better.

 

Photograph by John Mather

 

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August 30: The Donkey.

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
 Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
G.K. Chesterton.
The day before I prepared this post, there was a blood moon, a total eclipse! I should have taken a photograph; this one is from Strasbourg Cathedral.
Who knows what fierce hour and sweet may have lit up someone’s life? We may never hear of it, it may be too secret to share with many, for fear of rejection or condescension. May we never treat another  personas a fool, even when they are acting foolishly.         WT

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May 2: Laudato Si! A lost world of compassionate agriculture

flight.egypt.amsterdam

I found this passage when I was researching a plantation-owning family in Trinidad. The author is Gerard Besson, a cultural researcher from the island. Here is describing how the agricultural sector of the economy has changed since the Second World War, although the changes had been cumulative since the Abolition of Slavery in 1833. The whole article  is interesting reading and appropriate the day following the feast of Joseph the Worker, here leading his family to Egypt.

An important factor that has impacted on identity was the end of the agricultural sector. (Besson means a diverse agriculture which has largely given way to big sugar plantations.)

People see the agricultural sector from the perspective of today. And they only see Indian people – the world of the cane farmer. In truth, the agricultural sector in the past was enormous. It included a lot of black and French Creole and mixed people. It existed for some 200 years. But the ending of the agricultural sector was one of the things that undermined notions of identity which were built through the 19thcentury and into the first half of the 20th century.

One of the effects of the loss of the agricultural sector is a more  compassionless  society. Because when you have hundreds of thousands of people, whether they are Indian people, white people, mixed people or African people, who are devoted to the bringing up of livestock, who are devoted to gardening, market gardening, vegetable planting, to cocoa and coffee and so on, you have people who have a lot of love for their animals and for their plants. You have to love your donkey!

So when you move hundreds of thousands of people out of that world of compassion, you create an increasingly compassionless society.

Let us pray that we may love our world, and become people who have a lot of love for the animals and for the plants that share our gardens and neighbourhoods. Lord, Fill us with compassion for a bruised world; help us to see where we can make a difference, and to do just that. For your love’s sake, Amen.

Laudato Si!

A well-loved little donkey from Amsterdam. MMB

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10 September. Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XXXIX. The Wolf, 3.

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Saint Francis and the wolf By Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta 

Saint Francis said: “Give ear, my brothers: brother wolf, who standeth here before ye, hath promised me and plighted troth to make his peace with you, and to offend no more in any thing; and do ye promise him to give him every day whate’er he needs: and I am made his surety unto you that he will keep this pact of peace right steadfastly.”

Then promised all the folk with one accord to give him food abidingly. Then quoth Saint Francis to the wolf before them all: “ And thou, brother wolf, dost thou make promise to keep firm this pact of peace, that thou ofFend not man nor beast nor any creature?” And the wolf knelt him down and bowed his head : and with gentle movements of body, tail, and eyes, gave sign as best he could that he would keep their pact entire.

Quoth Saint Francis: “Brother wolf, I wish that as thou hast pledged me thy faith to this promise without the gate, even so shouldest thou pledge me thy faith to thy promise before all the people, and that thou play me not false for my promise, and the surety that I have given for thee.” Then the wolf lifting up his right paw, laid it in the hand of Saint Francis.

Therewith, this act, and the others set forth above, wrought such great joy and marvel in all the people, both through devotion to the saint, and through the newness of the miracle, and through the peace with the wolf, that all began to lift up their voices unto heaven praising and blessing God, that had sent Saint Francis unto them, who by his merits had set them free from the jaws of the cruel beast. And thereafter this same wolf lived two years in Agobio; and went like a tame beast in and out the houses, from door to door, without doing hurt to any or any doing hurt to him, and was courteously nourished by the people; and as he passed thuswise through the country and the houses, never did any dog bark behind him.

At length, after a two years’ space, brother wolf died of old age: whereat the townsfolk sorely
grieved, sit
h marking him pass so gently through the city, they minded them the better of the
virtue and the sanctity of Saint Francis.

basil-dog

 

When Father Simon Denton OFMCap had a Jubilee one year, Maurice’s brother Christopher made a cake with the wolf of Gubbio in icing. Basil, the family dog, modelled for the wolf. Much better looking than a mangy old wolf. And never a terrorist!

 

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9 September. Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XXXVIII: The Wolf, 2.

287px-Sassetta,_san_francesco_e_il_lupo

Saint Francis and the wolf By Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta 

Spake Saint Francis again: “Brother wolf, sith it pleaseth thee to make and hold this peace, I promise thee that I will see to it that the folk of this place give thee food alway so long as thou shalt live, so that thou suffer not hunger any more; for that I wot well that through hunger hast thou wrought all this ill. But sith I win for thee this grace, I will, brother wolf, that thou promise me to do none hurt to any more, be he man or beast; dost promise me this?”

And the wolf gave clear token by the bowing of his head that he promised.

Then quoth Saint Francis: “Brother wolf, I will that thou plight me troth for this promise, that I may trust thee full well.” And Saint Francis stretching forth his hand to take pledge of his troth, the wolf lifted up his right paw before him and laid it gently on the hand of Saint Francis, giving thereby such sign of good faith as he was able.

Then quoth Saint Francis : “Brother wolf, I bid thee in the name of Jesu Christ come now with me, nothing doubting, and let us go stablish this peace in God’s name.” And the wolf obedient set forth with him, in fashion as a gentle lamb; whereat the townsfolk made mighty marvel, beholding.

And straightway the bruit of it was spread through all the city, so that all the people, menfolk and womenfolk, great and small, young and old, gat them to the market place for to see the wolf with Saint Francis. And the people being gathered all together, Saint Francis rose up to preach, avizing them among other matters how for their sins God suffered such things to be, and pestilences also: and how far more parlous is the flame of hell, the which must vex the damned eternally, than is the fury of the wolf that can but slay the body; how much then should men fear the jaws of hell, when such a multitude stands sore adread of the jaws of one so small a beast? Then turn ye, beloved, unto God, and work out a fit repentance for your sins; and God will set you free from the wolf in this present time, and in time to come from out the fires of hell.”

And done the preaching, Saint Francis, said: “Give ear, my brothers: brother wolf, who standeth here before ye, hath promised me and plighted troth to make his peace with you, and to ofFend no more in any thing; and do ye promise him to give him every day whate’er he needs: and I am made his surety unto you that he will keep this pact of peace right steadfastly.”

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8 September. Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XXXVII: The Wolf, 1.

287px-Sassetta,_san_francesco_e_il_lupo

There appeared in the country of Agobio an exceeding great wolf, terrible and fierce, the which not only devoured animals, but also men, in so much that all the city folk stood in great fear, sith oft-times he came near to the city, and all men when they went out arrayed them in arms as it were for the battle, and yet withal they might not avail to defend them against him whensoe’er any chanced on him alone. For fear of this wolf they were come to such a pass that none durst go forth of that place. For the which matter, Saint Francis having compassion on the people of that land, wished to go forth unto that wolf, albeit the townsfolk all gave counsel against it: and making the sign of the most holy cross he went forth from that place with his companions, putting all his trust in God. And the others misdoubting to go further, Saint Francis took the road to the place where the wolf lay. And lo! in the sight of many of the townsfolk that had come out to see this miracle, the said wolf made at Saint Francis with open mouth: and coming up to him, Saint Francis made over him the sign of the most holy cross, and called him to him, and bespake him thus: “Come hither, brother wolf: I command thee in the name of Christ that thou do no harm, nor to me nor to any one.”

O wondrous thing! Whenas Saint Francis had made the sign of the cross, right so the terrible wolf shut his jaws and stayed his running; and when he was bid, came gently as a lamb and lay him down at the feet of Saint Francis.

Thereat Saint Francis thus bespake him: “Brother wolf, much harm hast thou wrought in these parts and done grievous ill, spoiling and slaying the creatures of God, without His leave: and not alone hast thou slain and devoured the brute beasts, but hast dared to slay men, made in the image of God; for the which cause thou art deserving of the gibbet as a thief and a most base murderer and all men cry out and murmur against thee and all this land is thine enemy. But I would fain, brother wolf, make peace between thee and these; so that thou mayest no more offend them, and they may forgive thee all thy past offences, and nor men nor dogs pursue thee any more.”

At these words the wolf with movements of body, tail, and eyes, and by the bending of his head, gave sign of his assent to what Saint Francis said, and of his will to abide thereby. Then spake Saint Francis again: “Brother wolf, sith it pleaseth thee to make and hold this peace, I promise thee that I will see to it that the folk of this place give thee food alway so long as thou shalt live, so that thou suffer not hunger any more; for that I wot well that through hunger hast thou wrought all this ill. But sith I win for thee this grace, I will, brother wolf, that thou promise me to do none hurt to any more, be he man or beast; dost promise me this?”

And the wolf gave clear token by the bowing of his head that he promised.

Saint Francis and the wolf By Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta

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29 April: Saint Endellion.

St.Endelyon

I wonder, dare I introduce yet another Celtic Princess and Saint?

Endellion was a sister to Tydfil, the South Wales Martyr; their father was King Brychan of South Wales. It seems there was a family-run mission from Wales to Cornwall – the royal family was as busy then as their descendants are today, but more directly evangelising rather than fostering good works.

Even so, Endellion felt the call to a quieter life, spending more time in prayer as a hermit both in Cornwall near the village which bears her name today, and more remote from humanity, on Lundy Island. She had a cow, whose milk was her principal source of nourishment. I like to think of her making cheese as well as drinking the liquid milk, and sharing cheeses with her sister and brother, Saints Dilic and Nectan, who lived nearby.

Quite a family!

The story is that Endellion was martyred by Saxon pirates and buried on a hill-top, where a church in her name stands to this day. The icon was made by John Coleman in 2005; we were glad to see such a peaceful figure in the church. Her cow is there and the symbol of themartyr’s palm, in view of her death at the hands of heathen men.

The Church hosts many concerts and arts events as well as its regular Anglican worship.

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24 April: Intergalactic Explorations XXXII: noses to the ground

white.violets.jpg

Alfie: I really would miss Spring, if ever we went back to Ossyria! Breathe in! Spring smells different here in wet Canterbury. Plus we get some Abel time.

Ajax: Hmmmph. Don’t you get fed up of walking in the cold? Even Will’s neighbours noticed I was shivering. I could have stayed curled up on Mrs T’s sofa.

Alfie: Are you missing pod life then? I don’t remember any scraps of roast lamb there.

Ajax: True. But …

Alfie: But … Will has got himself out to give us a walk on a cold, wet morning. How can we say Thank you?

Ajax: By turning for home now?

Alfie: Don’t be soft! Now where’s he taking us? Are you telegraphing him? A short cut before the fox’s den? No, come on, pull this way. And stop.

Will, responsive to the dogs’ wishes, walked on another ten metres, then stopped while they sniffed around for the fox.

Will: White violets! Fancy that, just four yards away from the path I cycle along and I’ve never noticed them before in thirty years! Thank you guys!

And with that they turned for home.

 

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