Tag Archives: mountain

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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August 17: Water of life

fountain.st.peters.rome

It was my joke, when I was researching in Rome, that my constitutional walk was down the Via Aurelia, round the fountain and back to the HQ of the Missionaries of Africa, and the (thankfully dust-free) files in the archives. The fountain was a good goal to aim for: you could hardly miss it, unless you mistook it for the one on the opposite side of the piazza. And a thing of beauty it is with the water playing in the sunlight.

This summer it is not playing. When the old popes brought water from the hills to furnish these fountains and many others throughout Rome there were many fewer people drinking less water, using less for washing and all the many processes that need water. The spring rains have not come this year: the City of Rome may soon ration water, so the Vatican City has turned off the supply to many of its fountains in solidarity with the Roman people.

People come before ornamental fountains, though even in April I was glad of the drinking fountain in the wall of the Vatican. I hope that is still running in the heat: my friend Fr Dominique Arnauld told me that the water in the fountains of Rome is reliably fresh and drinkable; and cold. You could spend a small fortune buying bottled water!

Let us not take water for granted – nor the needs of our fellow human beings, brothers and sisters. Nor indeed all the creatures that depend on water from the hills and from springs and rivers and the clouds. I’m sure I could use a little less each day. And you?

Laudato Si’ !

 

 

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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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9 May Monday: Make his paths straight

1sta3 (640x342)

Sometimes the Bible seems to contradict itself. For example we read that God wants sacrifice, or else that he insists that he does not. Well, I rather enjoy one minor contradiction, setting:

‘Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain’ (Isaiah 40:3) against: ‘I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.  My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 120:1-2)

Where would the world be without mountains? I don’t want them all bulldozed, though I am glad of the tunnels, cuttings, banks, bridges and viaducts that make a highway or a railway through them: a colossal feat of human ingenuity and hard work to conceive, construct and maintain them. But lest we get above ourselves by taking too much pride in our works, or give in to the self-improvement temptation and set about to construct a self-designed ‘real me’, let us look to the mountain top.

DSC_0309 (373x640)Unlike Moses, we do not need to go up there to see God. And even when we have our moments, like the Apostles with Jesus on the mountain of Transfiguration (Matthew 17), the daily round soon awaits us.

Those special moments are gifts, most of them not obviously religious in nature. Time spent with a loved one, a walk by the sea or in the hills; even the journey home from work: that acquaintance who greeted us, a smile and good news on their lips? Did you hear the thrush? Or notice the rainbow? As Paul tells us, there are diversities of gifts, including that of discernment! (1Corinthians 12).

Let us be thankful for the gifts we have received, and let us look up and pray, every day, for discernment.

MMB.

Buttermere Chapel, English Lake District. Rain outside.

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