Tag Archives: Art

13 May, Alice Meynell: rushes and poplars.

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But the bulrushes, the reeds!  One wonders whether a very thorough landowner, but a sensitive one, ever resolved that he would endure this sort of thing no longer, and went out armed and had a long acre of sedges scythed to death.
They are probably outlaws.  They are dwellers upon thresholds and upon margins, as the gipsies make a home upon the green edges of a road.  No wild flowers, however wild, are rebels.  The copses and their primroses are good subjects, the oaks are loyal. 
Now and then, though, one has a kind of suspicion of some of the other kinds of trees—the Corot trees.  Standing at a distance from the more ornamental trees, from those of fuller foliage, and from all the indeciduous shrubs and the conifers (manifest property, every one), two or three translucent aspens, with which the very sun and the breath of earth are entangled, have sometimes seemed to wear a certain look—an extra-territorial look, let us call it.  They are suspect.  One is inclined to shake a doubtful head at them.
And the landowner feels it.  He knows quite well, though he may not say so, that the Corot trees, though they do not dwell upon margins, are in spirit almost as extraterritorial as the rushes.  In proof of this he very often cuts them down, out of the view, once for all.  The view is better, as a view, without them.  Though their roots are in his ground right enough, there is a something about their heads—.  But the reason he gives for wishing them away is merely that they are “thin.”  A man does not always say everything. 
(from “The Colour of Life; and other essays on things seen and heard” by Alice Christiana Thompson Meynell)
And are we exiles or residents on this planet? Most trees are capable of outliving humans; is this why people feel a need to control them,  treat their timber as merely a crop, destroy the forests?
Jean-Baptiste Corot, Ville d’Avray, National Museum of Art, Washington. Public Domain.

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Going Viral XXXII: an unprecedented opportunity to create some new ‘normals’

Gwen Riley Jones is a computer imaging member of the John Rylands library staff iin Manchester. Since the team cannot get into the library, they are working from home, imagining rather than just imaging. William Blake would approve. I hope you do too.

Enjoy the walk!

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28 April: In sure and certain hope.

Our constitutional today led us to Harbledown, once home to Canterbury’s lepers, but we took an old sunken road that led us to the parish church, not the lepers’ one – which is now an almshouse. We spent a few minutes checking the gravestones for passion flowers. I would have said no joy, but these modern carvings were little joys, and each of them an Easter image.

The daffodils are often part of an Easter garden, and then the salmon: didn’t the risen Jesus accept a piece of grilled fish, since he was no ghost, but still human, still able to fancy food. And didn’t he barbecue fish for the disciples up North in Galilee? I don’t suppose they have salmon in the Jordan, cut off as it is from the ocean but surely he’d have caught the best in the lake? That would be salmon in England.

As for the boat (a Mirror dinghy if Agnellus is not mistaken) let it remind us of that lakeside morning, the shared meal, the reconciliation, the commission: feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my ewes. Let us share our Easter joy in this lockdown time!

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April 15, Emmaus III: Hurrying away from the city.

 

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Boargate, Leeds, by Atkinson Grimshaw.

The disciples’ journey does not start out as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is going to somewhere, but these two disciples are hurrying away from the great pilgrimage city of Jerusalem.

Where are they going? It feels to me like nowhere in particular, just a pub they knew they could get to before dark, where they could eat and sleep; provided they were able to get to sleep. Were you ever that tired but unable to sleep at night?

And yet the story finishes with a high-speed pilgrimage back to Jerusalem. In the gloaming if not the dark. No street lights to guide them. What happened to them in between?

What happened was that they listened to Jesus talking, setting their hearts on fire; the Spirit at work. And they knew him in the breaking of bread.

Back in town, they find out that the stay-at-homes have news of Jesus too.

When we think about this pilgrimage of ours, what will we remember? Who have we spent time with? Have we heard them speak from the heart? Did we enjoy eating together? Will we be happy to see them all again? Make home in our hearts for them?

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Going viral XVIII: this is the place

St Michael and All Angels, Harbledown

We have a right to a sacrosanct place set aside for encountering God … Jesus teaches that we must ensure that the temple is always conducive to prayer – silent, reverent, empty of all other kinds of pursuits. We need this place – perhaps much more than we realise. And Jesus defends this need. He is IN this place. This is the place where Jesus can be found.

Sister Johanna Caton OSB: Hanging on. See this morning’s posting.

Thank you Sister Johanna for a second taste of your wisdom today; and thank you to Harbledown church for this visual reminder that this is the place where Jesus can be found. Not the only place, of course.

Will T.

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27 March, Desert XXVIII: a quiet corner lit up

In the morning, before the rush of visitors, Saint Anselm’s chapel can be quiet; a desert place. Your eyes can turn to the window with its perennial question, ‘CUR DEUS HOMO’? Or, ‘why did God become man?’ Or you can turn towards the light cast by the window on the opposite wall. Pray with or without words.

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Going viral V: cast a cold eye

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There’s a virus about, so maybe we don’t want to look at skulls or gravestones right now. But Henry Brown of this town (Fordwich near Canterbury) has some fine lettering above his plot as well as the two skulls. Whatever else was wrong in England in January 1720/1, there were skilled stonemasons about, and they needed no W.B. Yeats to urge them to cast a cold eye on death.

The date 1720/1 does not indicate that the mason did not know exactly when Henry Brown left his town. It just shows the confusion that prevailed between England and Continental Europe in the years between Pope Gregory XIII introducing the calendar that bears his name in 1582 and its adoption by Britain in 1752. Although the Gregorian was more accurate and sorted out most of the slippage between the earth’s year and the calendar year, the British were not going to accept this crazy, Catholic, continental innovation. Not in 1720/1 anyway.

Why was I in Fordwich? Despite the virus, I’m still allowed exercise and I was preparing the way for a L’Arche pilgrimage, and Fordwich to Canterbury is the last 5 km stage. No major hazards is the good news!

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid,   
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago; a church stands near,
By the road an ancient Cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase,   
On limestone quarried near the spot   
By his command these words are cut:  

Cast a cold eye   
On life, on death.   
Horseman, pass by!

W.B. Yeats Under Ben Bulben

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11 March, Desert XIV: Unplugged Wednesdays.

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Fr James Kurzynski of the Vatican Observatory Website recently wrote about his coming sabbatical retreat. Follow the link to read his reflections before he proceeds to the desert of Arizona. Here is part of his article.

I felt a deep peace about what I would call “detachment Wednesdays.” Wednesday will be a day of silence, encouraging us to not speak verbally, unplug from anything that could distract us, and take a day of restful prayer.

Two weeks age, I gave a presentation about my sabbatical to St. Olaf’s youth in our Faith Formation Program. When I got to the part of explaining Wednesday Unplugged, I told them, “Don’t bother trying to get a hold of me on Wednesday, but do know each one of you will be prayed for that day as I prayerfully take St. Olaf Parish with me into the desert.”

Wednesdays and Fridays are traditionally the more concentrated days of the week in Lent;  ‘Spy Wednesday’ in Holy Week seen as the day when Judas went to betray his Lord; Good Friday when Jesus, his Lord and Ours, died for all our sin. All our sin, as the Sculptor of Strasbourg Cathedral makes clear.

We cannot all dedicate our Wednesdays to restful prayer, any more than Fr James can do during most of his working life, but let us try to find a desert moment to be restful and open to prayer, even if it’s sitting on the bus home, or a quiet cup of tea before going to get the children from school.

Happy Lent!

tea42

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2 March, Desert V: So near, and yet …

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This is not about Margate, as pictured, but a sandy-beached resort in the North of England. And it is not a neat, uplifting story, like yesterday’s blessed solitude. No, it’s one that should shake our complacency, and it happened last summer.

My niece Jo was there for a sand-painting event: we saw the project she was part of in Folkestone on Remembrance Sunday 2018.

As the team were finishing their work in August. there were two minibuses full of school children from districts of the town just a couple of miles away. Their leaders told the artists that some of these children had never been to the beach. Jo heard one of the boys say, ‘This has been the best day of my life.’

Gratifying for the leaders, perhaps, but, as Abel’s mother said, ‘You’d put them in the buggy and walk that distance.’ Why are their parents unable to do so? No-one is charged to play on the beaches in England.

Thank God for play leaders, but forgive us all that these deserts of deprivation exist – financial, material, psychological, spiritual – in a rich land like ours. This is one sort of desert that should not exist.

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February 7, Praying with Pope Francis: Listen to the Migrants’ Cries.

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Pope Francis’s mission prayer for February is: We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.

Pope Francis made a point of visiting Lampedusa within days of becoming Pope. That is the Italian island, close to the North African shore, where many migrant ships and boats have landed. The cross is one fashioned by an Italian artist from the timbers of such a boat, stranded on the island, its battered paint reminding us of the dangers of even such a short crossing.

The Colombian artist Oscar Murillo created this scene of waiting migrants for the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition in Magate, Kent. In a darkened room that would overlook the sea if a blackout curtain was not there, they sit in rows, waiting. Is it a church they are in, with its wooden benches, or a run-down station waiting room? Either should be a safe place, but it’s clear that this is not: the benches have been hacked about, and that only recently.

The three men on the right hand end of the benches seem to be listening: listening to someone or listening for someone? Are they waiting for a foreman’s call to work, one day at a time, or for the train to take them where they can earn for their families back home? Imagine your own stories.

murillo migrants

The two women on the front row have been eviscerated, their wombs and vital organs replaced by lengths of what looks like stainless steel waste gas ducting.

Hands pressed hard against the bench, the figures are ready to move, but where to? Each one is isolated in his or her own suffering, yet they form a group in our eyes. But let us remember that they stand for individual human beings with families and loved ones who may be anxious over them, hearing no news from the waiting room, the salle des pas perdus as the French have it, the place of lost footsteps. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?

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