Downstairs in a pandemonium of claws then out into the spring sunshine. T had hardly noticed the weather, being absorbed in collating a report on Random Acts of Kindness between Earthly Species. The chihuahuas had contributed to the field-work, or rather park-work, that lay behind this thesis. They maintained, from a canine perspective, that when a dog looked at a human eye-to-eye, with tongue at half-mast in what some people called a smile, it was the dog initiating the exchange of kindness, not the human who scratched the dog between the ears or under the chin.
It was well drilled into the chihuahuas that they did not enter Peter’s Fish Factory. ‘After all’, said T, ‘You never went near the kitchen in Ossyria.’ ‘As if anyone ever would!’ retorted Alfie. ‘I never knew where they were, and I never wanted to.’ He broke off as T entered the shop, then turned to Ajax. ‘Well done, getting him out of the apartment. He’s spent too long on that report that will never be read. Even if it gets back to Ossyria, it will be suppressed. Random Acts of Kindness would upset the whole system. What’s the point of them in the best of all possible worlds?’
‘Best of all possible worlds? I don’t quite believe that any more.’ Ajax would have said more, but T had come out of Peter’s carrying a big paper bag with a blue fish printed on the side. ‘Beach steps or Winter Gardens?’ asked T. ‘Gardens’, came the reply. Aggressive, hungry gulls were intimidating to lowly chihuahuas, and there was more cover in the gardens. If necessary, a dog could hide under a bench, though not too close to another dog who might fancy the same morsel, or receive a larger whitebait.
My wife and I often sit together in silence, or work quietly in the garden together, unafraid of the absence of words. It’s the same when I am working at L’Arche Kent’s garden; most of the time we are all of us content just to get on with our tasks quietly. Gardening is a visual art, and like a good film, the action often proceeds in silence – especially the action of the Unseen Gardener.
For our wedding anniversary once we burrowed under the Channel to Lille, where patronal loyalty drew us to Mass at the Church of Saint Maurice. Silence was an effective part of the liturgy, as was that essential component of the motion picture, the movement of people. Blessed with a big church in a depopulated city centre, priests and congregation opened the Word in the nave before processing towards the altar after the homily.
Before the homily – silence.
For some minutes the priests joined the rest of us in contemplation before the preacher opened his lips. All were ready to listen. Silence had allowed us a period of reflection and, dare I say awe; a deeper hearing of the Word that was enhanced by the homily.
All this is a roundabout reflection on today’s Liturgy just before Corpus Christi. I am firmly in the camp that holds that the language at Mass, spoken and unspoken, should be readily understood by those present. Although mostly the priest is addressing God, there is no need for long or rare words – the Lord knows what we want to say even before we do. What can I give him, poor as I am? I can raise my heart and mind to him, but I often find myself deliberately switching the mind off, as the translation we have now is a stumbling block, inelegant, inharmonious; puzzling rather than enlightening.
This was the sight that greeted me when I got to work at the Glebe this morning. My corona virus sanctioned exercise for the day: three hours of gardening, in sunshine or those cool shadows. And the first radishes awaiting attention.
There was rapture of spring in the morning
When we told our love in the wood,
For you were the spring in my heart, dear lad.
And I vowed that my life was good.
But there's winter of war in the evening,
And lowering clouds overhead,
There's wailing of wind in the chimney nook,
And I vow that my life lies dead.
For the sun may shine on the meadow lands
And the dog rose bloom in the lanes,
But I've only weeds in my garden, lad,
Wild weeds that are rank with the rains.
One solace there is for me, sweet but faint,
As it floats on the wind of the years,
A whisper that spring is the last true thing
And that triumph is born of tears.
It comes from a garden of other days,
And an echoing voice that cries,
Behold I am alive for evermore, And in Me shall the dead arise.
Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy
It was lunch time and chat time at the Glebe, just two of us there to be together, preserve social distance and be safe and happy while the watering got done.
D remarked that he had not seen a robin all morning, which was unusual, even unheard of. So we listened: the blackbirds were singing, the seagulls were screaming, and the traffic was rumbling by, but no sound of a robin. Had the black-and-white cat got it? Neither of us had seen a body.
Then we realised why the robins were so quiet. At the top of the arch over the gate was – a baby robin, in full view of those murderous seagulls and magpies. Indeed, a gull swept down very near the arch as we watched. From out of the hedge flew a parent and chivvied the baby away. Let’s hope it survives!
A Master of a house (as I have read) Must be the first man up, and last in bed: With the Sun rising he must walk his grounds; See this, View that, and all the other bounds: Shut every gate; mend every hedge that's torn, Either with old, or plant therein new thorn: Tread o'er his glebe, but with such care, that where He sets his foot, he leaves rich compost there.
Robert Herrick lived in turbulent times: 1591-1674. In other words Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I; the revolution and Cromwell; Charles II and the Restoration. ‘Husband’ here means householder as well as spouse. Looking after one’s estate, however small, was important then, and so it is now. Happy gardening and DIY!
Both of us retired, both gardeners, both riding to the local supermarket before the crowds but after the baker has started work. It went without saying that there was never enough time in the garden or allotment for either of us, and we agreed on the importance of keeping in touch. His family are at a distance, mine close at hand, but they do worry! ‘Dad, you shouldn’t be going to the shops, you can get it all on line; we’ll do it for you.’ We agreed that while we can do it we will do it: shopping, gardening, walking. My 70+ friends in Dublin may not go to the allotment which is usually their base for the afternoon! Their daughter leaves their shopping on the doorstep.
It was in the bargain box at the door of the charity shop – a large cardboard egg, covered in a design of crocuses, clearly intended to be the target for an Easter egg hunt. Last year Abel followed the clues well, with a little help from Mummy, up and down and around granny and grandad’s house and garden. The treasure was finally revealed in an unexpected place; this year will be just a bit different, mostly for grandad’s benefit.
Some years ago he was gardening for a living, and around the end of Easter week was at an old garden in town with Abel’s mother and sister, who were both little girls. It was a lovely spring day, so much so that Mrs Turnstone brought a picnic lunch to share in the little park opposite. While the adults were finishing their meal, the girls played happily on the grass, until there came a shout, Mummy, Daddy, come quick!
Among the daffodils they had found a splendid Easter egg shell, like the one at the charity shop. We had no way to tell if it had been a prize in someone else’s hunt, or just possibly it had been left as a present for the finders. We felt it should be seen as a gift, since no one had claimed it and it would spoil if left outdoors, and so would the contents.
Mary went through the garden, looking for her lost Lord one spring morning. He found her. She went from ‘Jesus is nowhere’ to ‘Jesus is now here’ in an instant. Jesus is a gift, he will not spoil. The living Jesus was a much bigger surprise than even a very special Easter egg. He claims us. Let us accept the gift and follow him.
And if one of our readers remembers hiding the egg in the daffodils, thank you; it was greatly enjoyed!
Let us add another post about seeing clearly, bout using our eyes to find beauty even in difficult times. Herb Robert is a humble plant. Here it is growing in a crack between pavement and wall. It’s likely to be passed by, unnoticed, but look at those beautiful leaves in red, pink and green.
I hope there are beauties for you to enjoy wherever you are allowed to walk – Laudato si!
The ladies of Saint Mildred’s Church in Canterbury are mostly stuck at home, and the Church is closed in any case, all of us praying at home. Today, however, I had to water the L’Arche Garden at St Mildred’s Glebe, so took the opportunity to thank the parish for their support over the years by making them an Easter garden. Note the cross, the cave, the cloths that were wrapped around His body; Rosemary for remembrance, a baptismal pool of water and pilgrimage cockle shells. Thank you Saint Mildred’s for taking us under your wing for all these years. And Happy Easter to all our readers. Let your joy be unconfined, wherever you find yourselves.