Tag Archives: nature

September 23: Up the Apricot Tree III, after the rain.

A version of this post appeared in the Will Turnstone blog a few weeks ago.

2.00 p.m.: it was the summer storm we’d been waiting for, though not predicted by that morning’s weather forecast. A good 25mm, 1” of drain-blocking rain in an hour. Before I tackled that little job (and I would have waited for Abel, had I known he was almost on the doorstep) I looked out of the back door.

The rain had ceased. Movement in the apricot tree: a song thrush decided it was time to dry herself off. An all over shake; spreading first the left wing, then the right, preening each with her bill; fanning the tail and giving that a good shake, followed by a dance move no human could copy: head thrust forward and down, feathers all fluffed, then three or four undulations from head to tail. That did the job! Satisfied, she preened herself once more and flew away.

I’ve seen few thrushes in our garden over the past few years. It was an extra pleasure to witness this intimate moment in her life.

Sometimes these special moments are given to us personally, individually: I hope, dear readers, you can find a memory that sings in your heart as this does in mine.

Laudato Si’ !

WT

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si'

August 25: The truth about a camp

 

milkyway

Pattie said that morning, ‘Do you know the opposite of Faith? It’s certainty.’ Perhaps, in a ‘naught for your comfort’ way, certainty belongs to hope – or deep hope against hope – rather than faith?

But this passage from Roger Deakin’s inspiring book, Wildwood – A Journey Through Trees (Penguin 2008, p 14) makes Pattie’s case very well. The writer is describing sleeping in a shed in an orchard on an August night.

To sleep half a field away from the house, tucked into the hedge, with an open door facing south into the meadow and plenty of cool night air, must surely add very much to the chances of sleep.

…There’s more truth about a camp than a house. Planning laws need not worry the improvising builder because temporary structures are more beautiful anyway, and you don’t need permission for them. There’s more truth about a camp because that is the position we are in. The house represents what we ourselves would like to be on earth: permanent rooted, here for eternity. But a camp represents the true reality of things: we’re just passing through.

And as Saint Francis would say, welcoming Sister Death: Laudato Si’ !

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si'

August 5, Francis Thompson IV. THE HOUND OF HEAVEN: III

fthompson.pic.3

I sought no more that, after which I strayed,
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
Wantoning
With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
Banqueting
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured daïs,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
All that’s born or dies
Rose and drooped with—made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine—
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

May 5: Where Love Can Learn

 

I’ll have a garden full of flowers,
With many a corner-place;
Where love can learn from spiders’ webs
To make her mats of lace.

Since 1 March was Ash Wednesday this year, we missed out on  Saint David’s day. But let’s remember him now. David of Wales was very keen on little things: ‘Do the little things well’, he told his followers on his deathbed, so we offer another little verse from the Welsh poet W.H. Davies.  A garden verse, since it was in a garden that our first parents were brought together; it was in a garden that Christ was buried; in a garden that Mary met him on Easter morning.

The garden on the left, lacy with long stems, feathered leaves and daisy flowers was sown with English wild flowers on land that had lain neglected for years; the Easter Garden with its first little flowers of the year around the tiny empty tomb, we found in Northumberland, a country that knew the influence of the Celtic Christianity that formed David.

As Spring tempts out a new array of flowers, let’s continue  to look and learn; at ourselves, yes, but also at the world God has entrusted to us: Laudato si’!

MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry

8 April: Edward Thomas’ Anniversary

The Cherry Trees

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,

On the old road where all that passed are dead,

Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding,

This early May morn when there is none to wed. 

The photograph shows an orchard of new cherry trees at Amery Court, Canterbury. They will spend their spring-times protected from ravages of wind, rain, and birds and squirrels by nets rolled out on frames overhead. Few petals will reach the old road, now part of Cycle Route 1 from Dover to Scotland. But the farmer trusts that the expense of planting these trees will be repaid with many a harvest.

Edward Thomas and so many like him trusted that they were putting their lives on the line to help save England and bring about the end of War…

Also tomorrow we remember the Prince of Peace coming into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, not a tank or armoured car. And it is still not too late to pray and strive for Peace, starting by sowing a seed of love and peace in our own hearts.

And may Edward Thomas and all who fell in War, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

26 February: The Most Natural Thing in the World.

heart

Continuing with Father Andrew SDC.

It is to me a comfort to think that the most natural thing in the whole world is also the most supernatural, and that is love.

The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, p159.

And turning now to the Welsh poet, W.H. Davies, to amplify that thought.

Love is a staff, and Love’s a rod,
A wise man and a fool;
I thought that I was wise, until
Love sent me back to school.

The Song of Love IV, 1926.

mercy.school (640x465)

Let’s pray for the humility to go back to school and learn from those we meet. God loves us, ‘supernaturally’ as we used to say, through their natural love for us, whether as spouse, parent, child, friend, or the one who smiles at us in the ticket office.

MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

18 December … Like the Dew-fall.

 

hoar-frost-2-640x220

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,

and let the clouds rain the just:

let the earth be opened,

and bud forth a saviour.

Isaiah 45:8

One Sunday our walk to church took us across a field of crystals, each blade of grass glowing in its jewels, our path marked out by one who had gone before. I was reminded of the good bit of the new translation of the Mass, where the presiding priest asks God to ‘send down your Spirit [upon the Bread and Wine] like the dew-fall‘. Maybe the image does not work in big cities but that’s no reason to discard it.

The same verse from Isaiah is often used in Advent – ‘Heavens drop dew from above’, ‘Rorate Coeli’ and so on.

 

Scientifically, what’s interesting is that dew does not exactly drop from the heavens; it is water that is in the air all along, and appears when conditions are right. When the air is saturated with water vapour. And the dew is seen when eyes are open to it.

We do not need a thunderstorm to impart the Spirit. (1Kings 19:12) The Spirit is already  within us through baptism – water again! We can let ourselves be saturated, with grace, with mercy, at least sometimes. After all, it is for us to prepare the way of the Lord by letting the Spirit be visible in our lives. If one person sees the spirit of love in me today the Holy Spirit will be able to touch them, and change them a little. And maybe change me a little.

Amen to that.

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

David Jones, ‘Vision and Memory’, Pallant House, Chichester, to 21st February 2016.

Review by Maurice Billingsley

The sound and sight of the waves pounding the Sussex dunes still roared in my head as I came to the David Jones Exhibition, ‘Vison and Memory’ at Pallant House, Chichester.

At first sight, the contrast with one of the first works in the show could hardly have been greater: an apparently tranquil room, the bay window occupied by a large-leaved green plant. A still life, but for a feeling that everyone has just left the room en masse. What called them away?

What called David Jones away from the suburban drawing room was his vocation as an artist and poet. This wide-ranging exhibition shows many sides of a life that led him from frighteningly well-observed childish drawings of animals to his heart-breaking and heart-healing response to the Great War; through association with Eric Gill’s Ditchling community to a transcending vision encompassing all these influences and more, baptised in his growing faith as a Catholic.

Those waves are to be seen in Jones’s seascapes and in the snow-bloated torrent of the infant River Honddu above Capel-y-ffyn where the Ditchling brethren stayed for a while. Jones, like many a part-Welshman or woman felt a strong affinity with the Land of his Fathers. His visions of the Black Mountains or Pembrokeshire are truer than this writer’s summer’s day photographs; it requires a specially blest pair of eyes to see the beauty in melting snow, with the smudgy ochre of the mud bruising through the surface. Thank God those eyes can teach us, the half-blind, to look and to see.

Just a few yards from the Channel, behind the dunes where we walked, lay the quiet waters of Chichester Harbour. The peace was interrupted by a passing Chinook helicopter. No need to seek out memories of War in Jones’s work, any more than in life today with its constant news of conflict. In one work an aeroplane over Hampstead Heath seems threatened by a plume of smoke from a domestic chimney. In another, showing the back gardens of Brockley, the suburb where he was born, the curators discern reflections of the Trenches of the Western Front, though to my eye any of them could have welcomed the down to earth Christ of Stanley Spencer.

There is a small woodcut of the Ark, beached on the mountaintop, the waters gently ebbing from her keel as the dove flies to the olive tree in the foreground, where she will pluck a leaf from the tentative shoots on its blasted branches. In the background: is that the Dawn, or searchlights playing over the trenches and shattered trees of Picardy?

In a student sketch from soon after the War, Christ is crucified behind British Tommies dicing for his garments. The later ‘Vexilla Regis’ shows a triumph, set in Wales. His rough Cross is formed from two trees, hacked to stumps in the background. Yet not all Jones’s trees are abused by humankind. The first tentative buds are to be felt rather than seen while a thrush on ‘Laetare Sunday’ sins his heart out: to the mother of his chicks or to his Creator? Rejoice, rejoice! There is reason to rejoice, and joy for David Jones sprang from the wells of his Catholic faith and his Welsh roots whose stories sit well with Revelation.

For Jones the essence is that God so loved the world he created that he gave his Son to complete that loving story. Redemption includes all creation, with the trees and the animals processing into the Ark in another woodcut. The Artist who receives from God the eye and brush to whiten the waves or black the cheetah’s spots and make us look, works sheltered beneath a Cross-topped portico, surrounded by animals, in a woodcut made for Gill.

Gill, surely, awoke in Jones the love of beautiful lettering that appears in works toward the end of this exhibition. Each bears long and repeated gazing, even if many of the words are unknown to the beholder. But long and repeated gazing will offer wealth to the viewer. There is almost too much here to take in. I hope I am able to visit again.

MMB.

This review has also appeared in the International Catholic News website:

http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=28814

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews