Tag Archives: Autumn

23 October: Readings from Mary Webb XIII: sticky brown hope

horse chestnut bud

As a sick young child I was sent to a prison-like convalescent home in Worcestershire, hoping that fresh air would do me good. My best memories are of celandines and crocus, those early spring flowers; and sticky buds of horse chestnut which the teacher brought in and allowed to open in the classroom. Mary Webb was thinking of these same buds in autumn when they come into prominence.

MMB

Curiosity is awakened by the small brown bud at the end of a chestnut twig in autumn, a little farther on than this year’s fruit. How much of the future form is hidden in that small sphere? How much embryo tree is wrapped in its inner cases of wool and velvet? What hint of next summer’s white chalice and green finger dwells in its innermost recesses?

Long before the unfolding of these buds in April, when the downy leaflets uncurl, you can see, if you open one, the compressed cluster – each yellowish ball about the size of a pinhead – which is the future flower, and the faint dawnings of leaves all wrapped in soft wadding.

The thought of the sap forming itself into these marvels, of the skilful, silent artistry going on without hands at the end of every bough and at the heart of every root makes the world a place of almost unbearable wonder.

Laudato Si’!

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18 October, Saint Luke: Watching

trees-wind-moon

 

The wind whisked and sighed all night and

at sunrise-time some secret sun

shed what passed for light, but even

bats were sceptical of day and shot

by in fitful flight, long past their

vanishing-hour,

 

while wind kept sweeping through, rustling

like ladies in long silken skirts.

Nothing sparked or spiked in morning

sunshine that wasn’t, and yet,

this shadowed and speaking scene seethed,

strange with the life

 

I strained to see.  Autumn’s sunflowers

rocked and swayed, scarcely able to

stand, like tall thin drunks on their stems,

sleepy heads lolling, and they seemed

about to slither down, feet first,

into a heap,

 

while wind – I relished standing in

it – used its huge hands to swish the

leaves of trees and push tree tops round

in circles and made sounds like surf

foaming, swirling, hurling itself

on the seashore,

 

sliding back, all slick, and hurling

itself over and over –

 

such

dark, brooding exuberance –

 

such

fierce sibilance –

 

such lavishly

lively gifts of Being –

 

all mine, at dawn

 

as I stood

in the dark wind

 

watching.

 

 

 

SJC.

stluke-199x200

Sister Johanna’s poem about Watching and the Wind seems appropriate for Saint Luke, who gave us his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, where he tells how the Spirit came in a great wind and settled over the Apostles.

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October 15: Readings from Mary Webb:VII, A wonder greater than any myth.

 

autumn-leaves-1

I promised more Mary Webb, since a good many readers share my enjoyment of her writing which complements our long-running theme of Laudato Si’. She takes me back to Shropshire, though in her time hillsides that are silent today were loud with mining or the ironworks along the Severn River. ‘Those atoms that move invisibly’, however, set me thinking of the stars and interstellar dust, the clay from which our world, and we were made. But no, she is in the Shropshire hills. Lay down beside her, and Laudato Si’!

When no tread of man or beast disturbs the silence, we are haunted by the footsteps of the dust – of all those atoms that move invisibly and mysteriously to fresh unions for the building of hills and the hollowing of valleys. On such a day all the ripples of motion are in full flow; the tide of growth is coming in; all green things and flowers hold out their arms to the sun. In autumn the tide ebbs; leaf and petal look down to the soil whence they came, as if they heard a call and longed to go back and intermingle with their kin; softly the petal flings herself down, and the leaf is not long in following. They go, not to death, but to a new incarnation among the unseen company that moves in silence, busier than a hive, creating daily a wonder greater than any myth – the world around us, with its mutable grace.

From The Spring of Joy:II Joy.

 

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12 October: Laudato Si’, again!

grow.wild (800x664)

There was a bonus to our harvest of wedding flowers at L’Arche Kent’s hidden garden.

Rupert, the Garden Leader at the Glebe, was telling us how they have been striving to have a garden friendly to insects – the other day you will have seen the little insect apartments we’ll be making over the winter.

And now, Rupert told us, the inspectors or advisors from the Wildlife Trust had called, and were pleased to see the flowers growing in the raised beds. ‘Those will attract the bees’, they said. Perhaps the garden will get a silver eco-friendly certificate this year to go with last year’s bronze.

So when we cleared the beds after harvesting the flowers Rupert asked us to sow more seeds. He had half a pack of grow wild seeds to hand, so with those and a few other old favourites that were languishing at the bottom of the seed box, there was plenty to scatter.

Can Spring be far behind? Autumn sowing is an act of faith, of trust in the good Lord’s bounty.The seedlings are showing green already, promise of more to come, like last year’s display.

Laudato Si’!

You can find L’Arche Kent on Facebook and at http://www.larche.org.uk/Sites/kent/Pages/about-larche-kent

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October 6: The Lady of the Woods

 

birch.lady

I trust that readers who also visit the Will Turnstone blog will forgive my recycling this  piece from there.It fits in well with Saint Francis this week, and with our theme of Laudato Si’!

One summer’s day Mrs Turnstone and I took Abel to the woods where we found this invitation to look at Betula, the Lady of the Woods. Isn’t she lovely? Find one of her sisters near you and enjoy the sight.

And now something I’ve been saving till the right picture turned up! This passage from Nan Shepherd’sThe Living Mountain’. A writer may reveal what the reader more than half knows, awakening joyful recognition in her audience.  I was reading Shepherd to learn about the Scottish Highlands, but I discovered something all-but known about the birch I see as I open the curtains. Here is Shepherd on p53:

Birch … that grows on the lower mountain slopes, needs rain to release its odour. It is a scent with body to it, fruity like old brandy, and on a wet warm day, one can be as good as drunk with it. Acting through the sensory nerves, it confuses the higher centres; one is excited, with no cause that the wit can define.

It’s always good to return home even from a quick walk to the shops. There is magic in fingering the keys as I approach under the lime trees – trees that may not flourish on Cairngorm but here share their bee-sung, scented glory every summer. Birch is wind-pollinated, needing no nectar, but its fresh-air scent, which I barely register even in wet weather, is part of coming home. I never realised till Nan Shepherd told me! And the blackbirds sing louder in the rain.

We occasionally berate the birch for its scattered seedlings, which occupy any bare earth and even take root in garden walls. As Rome fell away from Britain no-one removed the young trees, and the towns crumbled.

Not far from here at the derelict mine, a birch forest has sprung up on the spoil. Silver birch, I called it as a child – but it is pure gold in Autumn.

Do seek out Nan Shepherd’s book and see, hear, smell, feel with her.

And Laudato Si’!

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Autumn Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

austinFr Austin McCormack has been speaking on Thursday evenings this term: only three sessions remaining! I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
WT.
The subject of the course is:

“What is theology saying?”

8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?

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23 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XVI, An Inland Foray.

 

dogs.shortPsalms

Near Margate there was a small picturesque village called Minton and at its heart was a very old monastery occupied by Benedictine nuns. ‘T’ thought it might be a good idea to pay a visit in order to both soak up some of the local history and also gain some perspective on what the residents of the place got up to all day long. Plans were made and early one blustery morning what appeared to be two Chihuahuas and a middle-aged man boarded the fast train for St. Pancras at Margate, changed at Ramsgate, and detrained near their destination just a little while later.

autumn-leaves-1

As the trio trekked through the quiet streets of the village, each was impressed by the autumnal beauty. ‘I just love the smell of falling leaves!’ Alfie, ever the romantic, exclaimed. ‘T’ gave the Chihuahua a strange look and cocked a half-smile. ‘You know, you’re right, Alfie, but in my human persona I would never have thought to put it that way. People might notice the sweetly musty smell…but it’s the colour, texture, and sight of exuberant movement as the bright leaves swirl in the wind that thrills the eye rather than the nose.’ Both Chihuahuas snorted good-natured derision, marvelling- not for the first (or last) time- at the amazing eccentricities of the human race.

The gate opening to the wonderland of garden that fronted the ancient monastery was invitingly unlocked and the visitors slowly made their way up a narrow tarmacked path heading for a stone chapel where, inside, they could hear faint strains of lyrical chanting. ‘Look!!!’ Alfie’s tone was filled with wonder, ‘a parakeet…and we’re not even on safari!’ It was true. Not one but a pair of iridescent green feathered missiles tipped with ruby red streaked across the wide space above the dewy landscape as the awe-struck travellers looked on until, with a chatter of dismissive squawks, they were gone; most likely to gorge on sunflower seeds in a nearby field.

‘Will they, you know…’ Ajax gulped, remembering the keen sense of rejection felt when the Chihuahuas were denied entrance to Westminster Abbey, ‘allow dogs inside?’ ‘Well, we can only try,’ the Director murmured; attempting to sound soothing, he also had some doubts. As the inter-planetary fact-finders, disguised as a tall man and two very diminutive dogs, tiptoed through the great oak door of the chapel there was no one present to hinder them and soon they were reverently seated and awash in the strange, achingly beautiful harmonies of voices, both plaintive and exultant, raised in chanted prayer. Among the dozen or so nuns situated in their stalls in the sanctuary of the small building one or two did notice the rapt canine presence and a few feminine eye-brows were raised…yet, when all was said and done, and since it was patently obvious that the Chihuahuas were well-behaved, their presence was permitted (if not acknowledged) and the makings of a great convocation of creatures, those with two feet and those with four, was discreetly accomplished without any fuss at all.

To be continued

 

 

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Autumn Evening Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

austinFr Austin McCormack will be speaking on Thursday evenings this term. I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
WT.
The subject of the course is:

“What is theology saying?”

5. 10/11:   Who is Jesus Christ?
6. 17/11:  What difference does Grace make?
7. 24/11: What about Original Sin?
8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?

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19 October: A Physical Body, A Physical Cross

 

Xtlily

Godstone, Isle of Wight

R.S. Thomas knew a quiet place to pray, ‘In a country church’.[1]

He … saw love in a dark crown

Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree

Golden with fruit of a man’s body.

I was walking through an apple orchard the day I composed this post, and enjoyed a golden apple left behind by the pickers. In brilliant sunshine it was warm to the taste. Come the winter, that orchard will be muddy and less inviting; the trees bare of all but small and deformed fruit, waiting for the birds to devour them, peck by peck.

Many church crucifixes are golden, from thinking that precious metal should be used to represent the precious death of the Lord. Perhaps R.S. Thomas has some thought of the love of the artists who made the crucifix or glass in his country church, but principally it is the body of the Lord he contemplates.

The physicality of that body came home to me as I bit into that warm golden apple. A man’s warm body growing cold on a winter tree, but a loving heart, crowned with flaming thorns, never growing cold.

The scandal of the cross is that it happened – and yet we adopt this as our Christian symbol, rather than an empty tomb, say, or the star of Bethlehem. Thereby we proclaim ourselves as sinners: the cross is not a good luck charm, it is a true story.

Let us pray that we do not ignore the fruit that is ripe for the picking on that winter (or spring, summer, autumn) tree; may we taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

MMB

[1] SP p29

 

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A walk in the woods with Abel

hide-and-seek-462x640

A walk in the woods with Abel, now 16 months old, is another story. I’d greet all the dogs as a matter of course, but he enjoys them to the point of bubbling with laughter; there is disappointment that the brambles are now bare of blackberries, but even so he (and I) appreciate the seasons; puddles are for throwing stones into and exclaiming ‘splash’, or as  near as we can get, while a big pine tree is for hide and seek.

Laudato Si’ !

Will Turnstone

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