Tag Archives: rain

October 6: The Lady of the Woods

 

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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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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

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August 23: K is for Kyle of Lochalsh

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From a junction, yesterday, to the end of the line today! Kyle of Lochalsh station is out of sight to the right of the photograph.

I’m not necessarily in favour of fixed links where ferries used to ply, but they do make life easier. We have the Channel Tunnel between Kent and Calais while Skye has the Skye Bridge linking it to the Scottish mainland. Its echoing of the rainbow when we were there helped reconcile myself to it, as did the fact that the tolls were abolished some years ago. Our plan to walk across from Kyleakin on Skye to Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland were washed out. The rain was fierce, but there was a bus we were not too proud to catch.

The Isle of Skye’s website says that Kyleakin used to be choked with cars, lined up for the ferry; it’s quieter now but still the hotels do good business.

We were amazed by the quantities of baggage carried by the French coach tourists who shared our hotel, and the mistrustful refusal to accept assistance in getting the cases through the automatic lift door. What a burden for the mind! It is good to travel light whether to Skye or beyond the sky.

And I hope I won’t always need a rainbow to remind me of how beautiful the world is. Even those bits of it engineered and built by mere humans can reflect the beauty of God’s creation.

MMB.

 

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July 27: Portraits in a Mirror.

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The silence in the lounge continued. No one said a word. They all

seemed to be staring into the distance or searching for something to

gaze upon.

Yves Rivière’s face was depressingly sad. His expression was one of a

person stuck in an empty shell, a person who holds an unfamiliar

sorrow within and a shame unrecognised. Everyone in the lounge

felt it. As if thinking aloud, they revisited the part they played in the

whole issue.

If you were there and could just look at each of their faces, your

heart would be broken. They all exchanged painful glances with

moist eyes. The lounge felt cold with a quality of sadness. Every eye

was tearful. It was a desperately solemn sight to behold and even

more painful to retain in the memory.

Yves kept staring at the portrait of Felix hanging over the

fireplace. To distract himself from his emotions, he reached out to the

book on the walnut tea table next to Florence. The book was entitled:

Portraits in a Mirror. The words on the very first line on the first page

were:

There were four poems …

Yves gently took his eyes off that page and I think he dropped

the book suddenly on the floor, I am not entirely sure. Letting his

gaze fall on the floor, he bowed his head in shame. One feeling was

reawakened in him: guilt.

Meanwhile in the bedroom, tucked in their cot, the twins: Flora

and Felix seem to have stopped crying.

It starts to rain.

The End

VE

raincloudsCaernarfon

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July 7: Readings from Mary Webb, VI: Joy rushes in.

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Out in the fresh, green world, where thrushes sing so madly, the sweets of the morning are waiting to be gathered – more than enough for all, low at our feet, higher than we can reach, wide enough even for the travelling soul. Joy rushes in with the rain-washed air, when you fling the window wide to the dawn and lean out into the clear purity before the light, listening to the early “chuck-chuck” of the blackbird, watching the pulse of colour beat higher in the east.

Joy is your talisman, when you slip out from the sleeping house, down wet and gleaming paths into the fields, where dense canopies of cobwebs are lightly swung from blade to blade of grass. Then the air is full of wings; birds fly in and out of the trees, scattering showers of raindrops as they dash from a leafy chestnut or disappear among the inner fastnesses of a fir. Pinions of dark and pinions of day share the sky, and over all are the brooding wings of unknown presences.

The east burns; the hearts of the birds flame into music; the wild singing rises in a swelling rhythm until, as the first long line of light creeps across the meadows, the surging chorus seems to shake the treetops.

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July 2: Introduction to Mary Webb

 

Mary_webbMary Webb, 1881 – 1927, the Shropshire poet and novelist, suffered from Grave’s Disease, a thyroid problem that is much better understood and treated today. The introduction to her book, The Spring of Joy reveals:

One to whom life was pain, and death a charnel-house, came under cloudy hollows stained with sunrise into a country pleasant as lilac in the rain. Wandering down aisles of birdsong to the brink of a river, she drank where the ousels and the stars had been before her, and found comfort and joy. So she brought back in the palm of her hand for those in need of healing a few drops of the water which sparkled and held the sky.

Some readers may find her writing sentimental, but it is nevertheless authentic and from the heart, and Franciscan in its living in God’s Nature. An ousel is a water blackbird.

WT.

 

 

 

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15 March, Human Will X: No permanent city here.

 

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The future Archbishop Arthur Hughes is front centre above with fellow Missionaries of Africa in 1934 just before he left Europe for Uganda, where he would later be posted to Gulu. Here are some thoughts of his on carrying out God’s will and the joys and hardships he experienced in the process. He is writing to his parents. Missionaries of Africa are commonly called White Fathers because of their habit.

I stayed in Gulu until on the 27th March 1942 I got a telegram from the Mombasa  [Apostolic] Delegation asking me to go to Abyssinia.

Like a true White Father I obeyed instantly and the very next morning at nine was crossing the Atura ferry on my way back to Rubaga en route for the coast and Abyssinia. I will not hide from you that I found it a wrench leaving Gulu and the journey was rather sad in a way: but missionaries have no permanent city here and sadness is not part of our life and certainly not part of mine. The will of God must rule our life and in carrying out that will we find our greatest joy.

I left Rubaga the following Wednesday and went to Mombasa to await a boat for Berbera. I arrived in Berbera on the 6th May and went up by military convoy through Somaliland to Ethiopia.[1] The journey through Somaliland has no attractions: poor old Somaliland being for the most part a most appalling desert with an amazing number of camels (more than I ever saw in North Africa). We stayed for a few days at Lafaruk: an appalling camp in the desert while our convoy was in formation.[2] Once you rise up towards Jijiga the country becomes green and then becomes cold – too cold for my liking. The famous Mahda Pass is stupendously beautiful and then the first view of the town of Harar is really rather lovely. It’s a very old town; really a sort of Turkish[3] town amongst the hills.

From Harar to Diredawa you have thirty miles of sheer beauty amongst the mountains – a most wonderful road winds round the hills and above you on the heights you can still see the remains of the ancient camel tracks over which tradition has it that the Queen of Sheba travelled when she went from Ethiopia to the Holy Land in the days of King Solomon… At Diredawa I left the military convoy and the good Officers with whom I had made friends on the way and took the Littorina electric train to Addis.

From the 12th May to the 12th August I stayed in Addis with of course occasional trips to other places rendered necessary by my work.

…  I must confess that I did not like the Ethiopian climate. I found it too high for me (it is nine thousand feet up in most places) and I was there in the rainy season and found it most unpleasant after sunny Uganda. It simply rains unceasingly for three or four months and is most unpleasant and always cold. I found this very painful indeed. Also I was there only on a temporary mission and there was not as much to do as I should have liked. It was therefore a very great delight to me when on the 29th July I got a letter from Archbishop Dellepiane in the Congo[7] writing to inform me that the Holy Father had decided to confide in me the control of the Apostolic Delegation of Egypt and Palestine.

[1] Berbera was the principal port in British Somaliland. The road to Ethiopia is being rehabilitated with European aid: http://somalilanddevelopmentfund.org/news/75-official-launch-of-lafaruk-berbera-sheikh-road-rehabilitation-project

[2] The British had a POW Camp for 35,000 Italian soldiers; its desolation can be imagined from the background to the Lafaruk Madonna by Giuseppe Baldan. Did Fr Hughes celebrate Mass before this triptych? No doubt the convoy was a precaution against guerrillas. http://scottishchristian.com/the-maize-sack-masterpiece-that-symbolises-hope-in-africa-over-60-years-on/ . Accessed 4/11/2016.

[3] Harar had been a Moslem city-state.

[4] Where he was Apostolic Delegate – http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bdell.html

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10 February: The Lord hears and answers

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Today is Friday in the Fifth week in Ordinary time. It is also the memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin.
In the Gospel of today, Saint Mark 7: 31- 37, Christ healed a man with an impediment in his speech. He also had ear problems. Jesus took him aside in private, then He looked up to heaven and sighed. What does this sigh mean to you? He turned to God with a heavy heart. He made a request from God the Father Who looked into His heart and answered Him – the man’s ears opened and he began to speak clearly.
Saint Scholastica, who was consecrated to God as a virgin, went to visit her brother Saint Benedict, as she usually did once a year.  She went on this very day and as her brother wanted to leave her, she asked him to stay but he refused. Scholastica turned to God in silence and with a heavy heart, and God answered her with a very heavy rain, so that her brother could not leave her again that night.
How often do you turn to God for your problems with a heavy heart? Christ turned to God the Father with a sigh for someone who was sick to be healed and God the Father answered him. Saint Scholastica turned to God and God answered her. What is it that you are struggling with today; is it sickness, lack of a job, no promotion, failure, lack of faith, lack of identity? Please do turn to God today just the way that you are feeling right now and He will answer you. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God never changes.

FMSL

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18 December … Like the Dew-fall.

 

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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

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Notes from a pilgrimage.

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Praying woman, Chichester Cathedral. MMB.

Sister Frances Teresa Downing is sending us news from her pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi.  Let’s follow her and see how she gets on. WT.

Day One. After a good flight, more or less on time and not at all bumpy, I arrived in Rome where I was met by Fr Murray and Fr Andre. We set off back to the centre of Rome, stopping a the autogrill for a snack on the way. It was 1.30 by then and my spoon or two of Muesli was a distant memory. Easyjet do not pamper you with meals and anything you have you need to buy. Desperate, I had a mug of coffee which was, fortunately, quite nice since it cost me £2.20!

Shown my room which is on the seventh floor, a sort of very mini penthouse suite, I peeled my anti thrombosis stockings off with great difficulty and had a shower. The temperature must have been in the upper eighties and very soon there was a massive crack of thunder which rumbled on for nearly 15 minutes before the rain began. There are two parakeets nearby making their unmistakeable call and almost invisible in the tips of the acacia tree outside. The room has a splendid view onto, of all the surprises in central Rome, a field! It might be a park and if there is a chance I will try to find my way to it along a road I can see round the back.. Also if I can solve the technology, I will try to send a picture of the view.

I gather John Cella ofm is in town tonight and we are going to join him for supper. John is the director of the Franciscan Pilgrimage Programme so in a real sense, our boss! He does the hiring and firing too! However he can always be counted on for a good and generous meal, so that will be nice. I shall be starving by then, muesli and salad having vanished over the horizon!

Tomorrow we shall work at the papers, medical snags, bookings etc etc, have our own post mortem on last year and get everything as ready as possible. The next day will probably be shopping for the Christmas pranzo and going to Assisi to collect things like the pilgrim´s handbook which is distributed at the start of the pilgrimage here in Rome. Tuesday is a rest day and Wednesday the pilgrims arrive and the show starts.

Love to one and all
Ft

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