Tag Archives: city

10 March. Desert XIII: Wilderness.

City dweller Robert MacFarlane wondered if there were any wild places left in the British Isles, and he set out to find them. Often enough early Christian monks and hermits had been there before him; to islands and other inaccessible spots.

But what did he mean by wildness? Early in the book he discusses the idea:

Wildness … is an expression of independence from human direction, and wild land can be said to be self-willed land.  Land that proceeds according to its own laws and principles, land whose habits — the growth of its trees, the free descent of its streams through its rocks — are of its own devising and own execution. Land that … acts or moves freely without restraint; is unconfined, unrestricted.’*

Town and city dwellers live in human directed lands, concrete, brick and glass, but also most of the British countryside is farmed, drained, controlled. Can we find wilderness, to use the old Biblical world, without travelling to distant places?

We have to look for it nearer to home, in pockets and cracks. There are the weeds that devise and execute their own growth and spread, like traveller’s joy rooted on railway land. Or there are remnants of countryside, like the plum tree that Abel likes to hide behind; it is surely a sucker from a rootstock left behind when the orchard was grubbed up for housing in the 1960s, since its fruit is insignificant and unpalatable. There are overgrown cemeteries, like that in Mile End, full of life that is quite unexpected in London’s East End.

The wild tries to return, perhaps we should salute it and follow its example to revisit the corner of our heart that moves freely, without restraint: that is open to love, growth and renewal.

*Robert MacFarlane, The Wild Places, London, Granta, 2007, p30.

 

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14 July: The Shepherd girl and the goldfish.

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Here’s a Story from France for July 14. A small town girl, delighted by the sights of the big city: here is a letter from St Bernadette of Lourdes to her sisters back home. She is describing her journey to Nevers where she was to enter the noviciate of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, the sisters who had educated her. On the way they stopped at Bordeaux.

Let me tell you how we made our journey. On Wednesday at six o’clock in the evening we arrived at Bordeaux, and there we stayed till Friday at one o’clock. I beg you to believe that we made good use  of our time there to get around – and in a carriage, if you please.

We were taken to visit all the houses (presumably of her order). I have the honour of telling you that they are not like the house in Lourdes, especially the Imperial Institute for Deaf Girls; you’d think it was more like a palace than a religious house.

We went to see the Carmelite church, and from there made our way to the Garonne to see the ships. Next we went to the Jardin des Plantes: I tell you we saw something quite new: can you guess what? It was fish: golden, black, white and grey. The loveliest thing for me was seeing this little creatures swimming around in front of a crowd of little urchins who were watching them.

Although as a child I liked to see the fish in our local park pool, I perhaps wouldn’t have appreciated that last paragraph as I do now, seeing Bernadette as an excitable young woman. It is always good to see the humanity of the saints.

I wanted to share this with you because Bernadette is revealed as a flesh-and-blood young woman, rather than the unattainably super-holy, superwoman put before us in primary school, at least as I recall. Saints are truly human and enjoy the blessings of this life as well as anyone else. Another Laudato Si! moment.

MMB.

Photo by Stan Shebs.

 

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12 June: Precious green spaces in the city.

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Although we visited Saint Mark’s Baslica, I’m not sure a trip to Venice counts as a Pilgrimage. And it did not take so much preparation for just the two of us. Mrs T’s reading before going to Venice was the guidebook and Salley Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel. I’m not sure which was better preparation for our visit. My book made more sense once we were in the city, and helped make sense of the city. Ellis Peters, best known for Cadfael and all things Salopian, wrote Holiday with Violence soon after the Second World War, during which Venice escaped bombing but endured great hardship. There are glimpses of that poverty, of the rundown buildings, and also of the precious green spaces:

She saw in the drowned shade of the little waterways, narrow between high palace walls, the occasional green of trees looking out from secret gardens, in a city where all the rest of the spectrum was spilt recklessly, but green was jealously hoarded.

Such a secret garden can be seen on the background to this picture. Some of these plots had walls surmounted with a hedge of Canary Ivy, home to blackbirds which had their singing posts nearby to celebrate the dawn and dusk chorus, all the more audible with the lack of motor traffic.

If we make room for nature, nature will move in!

Laudato Si!

 

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June 30: Contrasts.

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A few thoughts scribbled down after a couple of days in the North West last July. The next picture is of Saddleworth in November, but it shows the stepping stones crossed to seek out the bilberries. On this occasion the stones were not passable… but how have your days been?

It took two hours to negotiate the roadworks and rush hour around Stockport on the way into Manchester. And they say the most disruptive roadworks have not yet started!

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Wandering around Saddleworth in the rain, to find a bilberry patch destroyed in favour of a park with lawns, when other parks are reverting to brambles, if not bilberry patches!

A fire in July, and very welcome too.

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Sunshine in Manchester, sipping beer in the open air in Albert Square with live music and interesting sandwiches.

A wren outside the window of a holiday cottage in nearby Derbyshire. But will the farmyard cock waken us in the morning?

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. 

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

PS 136

30 June 2018:

Readers in the United Kingdom will know that Saddleworth Moor has been exceptionally dry this summer, with heath fires burning and people forced to leave their homes, ash falling around Manchester. Let us pray for all affected by the fire and for those fighting it, and pray that the lost moorland may be restored.

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May 30: P is for Portsmouth and car Parks

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This shows the Southsea end of Portsmouth from the Isle of Wight Ferry. I went to school behind those trees.

Genteel Southsea rather held its skirts away from the main city, I felt, a city that had not recovered from the Second World War and the subsequent reduction in British sea power. Once, on the way to the ferry, I took my family to sea the ugliest building in Britain, the brutalist Tricorn car park, a favourite suicide spot. Our big car park in Canterbury was not so ugly, except that it too attracted would-be suicides. Whatever the buildings’ style, they were places of great sadness; we are better off without them.

Of course getting rid of multi-storey car parks cannot take away people’s distress. But sometimes it falls to us to help, even if just to be there with them.

The rest of this post is from the Samaritans’ website. Worth reading for the odd moment when something feels not quite right.

MMB

How you can help

Suicidal feelings can be overwhelming, but they will pass.

How someone behaves in this brief window is as unique as the individual themselves. But there are signs you can look out for.

Signs someone may need help

  • Looking distant, withdrawn or upset
  • Standing alone or in an isolated spot
  • Staying on the platform for long periods of time/failing to catch trains that stop

Someone looking out of place or a feeling that ‘something isn’t quite right’. If you feel that way about someone, trust your instincts and try to help.

Approaching someone in need

We know that when a person is suicidal having someone to talk to them and listen to them, and showing that they are not alone, can encourage them to seek support. There is no evidence that talking to someone who could be at risk will ‘make things worse’.

A little small talk can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help start them on a journey to recovery. If you think that someone might need help, trust your instincts and strike up a conversation, with a comment about the weather for example. Life-saving questions used by rail staff to help people have included:

  • Do you need any help?
  • What’s your name?
  • It’s a warm evening isn’t it?
  • What train are you going to get?

So strike up a conversation if you feel comfortable and it’s safe to do so. Or tell a member of staff or call 999. Your involvement could help save someone’s live.

What you can do if the person needs further help

If you sense the person might need help after your initial approach, then you could ask directly if they’re ok.

You could introduce yourself and encourage them to talk if you can, and listen. You could then offer to take them to a safer environment where you’re able to get them the right support.

Tell a member of railway staff as soon as you can, or call 999.

Rail safety

We do not recommend you make any kind of physical contact. If the situation is an emergency, eg the person in on the track, tell station staff or call 999 immediately. Do not go onto the railway line under any circumstances.

Looking after yourself

Interventions make a huge and positive difference. It can be emotional and if you feel you would like some support after making an intervention or would like to talk to someone about it, you can speak to Samaritans by calling 116 123.

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24 June: Dipped in Grey.

starburst-sjc

 

I do not

wish to write

poems dipped in Grey

that everyone

seems so wild about

today as if Grey

makes them weigh

more be more

original

have more truth

 

what about

original light?

Light is true.

So let there BE

light.  Let it pour and

let there be

more and more

 

 

lashings of it

splashing everywhere

boat-loads bath-tub loads

bus-loads of original light

slapping up the sides

sloshing over

slopping over

 

waves of it

 

flooding

city streets

mountain meadows

washing

dirty clothes

my face

streaming off

factory walls

coursing down

ditches

running off

my nose

my fingers

 

this sentiment

will not make me

popular with

other poets.

but am I

writing

for them

or for

You

SJC.

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