Tag Archives: Scotland

October 19, Readings from Mary Webb X: Volatile Sweetness.

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Not once only, but every year, the fair young body of the wild rose hangs upon the thorn, redeeming us through wonder, and crying across the fetid haunts of the money-grubbers with volatile sweetness – “Father . . . they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.34)

Xtlily

I love that expression, volatile sweetness. Worth pondering; how readily do I give out my loving kindness?

I did think of saving this post until Lent, but I miss the wild roses, so here is a reminder of summer. These were beside the Canal near Edinburgh. Christ crucified on the lily is on the Isle of Wight. In different ways Mary Webb and the unknown island artist remind us that all creation is one, and we all have responsibility not to be money-grubbers, but to use all we have, including money (that tainted thing, as the Jerusalem Bible translates the words of Jesus in Luke 16.9) wisely and generously.

And naturally, Laudato Si’!

 

 

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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 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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23 October: Wit, wilderness, weeds and wetness.

waterfall

Neither Scottish burn nor chalk stream, but a brook in the way, roll-rocking down a Polish Mountain.

He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head. Psalm 110.7

I was reading a letter written ninety years ago by Fr Arthur Hughes, MAfr, later an Archbishop. He told his sister how he regretted that rain and subsequent Hampshire mud meant he would not be able to go down to a brook near Botley and there, as was his custom, drink, citing Psalm 110.

Then, on the train home I read an advertisement for an urban survival course; readers might feel confident they could find water in the wild, but after a disaster, could they find water in the city? Hughes had a reputation for finding fun in the Scriptures – by my reading drinking from the brook was a concrete prayer, laughing at himself in the process.

The apocalyptic warriors sound paranoid. Weren’t cities abandoned when disaster struck, from Great Zimbabwe to Roman Canterbury? Plenty of water elsewhere outside the city, and more food!

Hopkins’ poem Inversnaid, describing a brook very different to the clear waters of Hampshire, is a prayer without the name of God being mentioned. Is the beadbonny ash  perhaps the rowan  or mountain ash? (This one grows beside Canterbury’s chalk river, the Stour.)

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Inversnaid

This darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth

Turns and twindles over the broth

Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,

It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew

Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through

Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern

And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet,

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

MMB.

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August 7: John Duns Scotus Festival 2016

“The fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination and if no one had fallen … Christ would still have been predestined in the same way.” Blessed John Duns Scotus.

The idea that God was coming to be part of his creation – whatever mess humans may make of our corner of it – has great appeal to me. For an imperfect analogy, just think of the way we play: even adults can get lost in a world of our own making, like my friend John with his model railways. See our post for 14 May: A World of My Own . I’m sure I oversimplify Scotus, but I am learning to rejoice in the world of God’s making. I hope you get chance to over the summer.

This post looks ahead to Autumn and the 2016 John Duns Scotus Festival which will take place in and around Duns in Berwickshire, Scotland (not too far from Edinburgh) during September and October.

Born in Duns 750 years ago this year, John Duns Scotus rose to become one of  the leading philosophers of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. Educated at Oxford and in Paris, he was a leading figure in some of the great arguments of the Church, with his followers earning the name ‘Dunces’ from the followers of his rival St Thomas Aquinas – the origin of the dunce’s cap. They were called this not because they were stupid, but because they stuck to the teachings of Duns Scotus.

A series of events is planned to mark this occasion designed to re-awaken interest in this son of Duns.

from the publicity flyer for the Festival.

The Catholic Churches in Berwickshire have posted details of the Festival, beginning on 17th September with an exhibition and lecture. Berwickshire RC Churches There you will also find pictures of sites in Duns associated with Blessed John Duns Scotus, more biographical details and links to sites about his writings.

MMB.

This is the Festival Website:

enquiries@dunsscotus2016.com

 

 

 

 

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July 5, Relics III: Domestic Relics

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, SaddleworthThere are objects round our house and garden that remind me to pray for people. Outdoors we have Siberian iris, given to us by the Dominican friar who blessed our wedding, Aidan Deane. A couple of years ago we were able to give a crown to the Dominicans in Edinburgh for the garden around their new chapel.

I like Bro Guy Consolmagno’s comment, linking such things to our pre-Christian roots:

Our knick-knacks define home to us; they are, echoing the practice of ancient Rome, our ‘household gods.’ [1]

I recently had an exchange in verse with Frank Solanki about this. He wrote:

Walls

Without you here
This ain’t a home
Not even a house
They’re just walls

(See more of Frank’s work here: https://franksolanki.wordpress.com/ )

My reply may tell you that my mind is more cluttered than Frank’s – or is it just my house?

Walls and crannies.

But now, reflect, all these years on,
Each room still breathes my girls, my son,
Though from our home they all have gone.
Photos stand among my books,
Seaside shells in little nooks;
Serving spoons on kitchen wall,
And, dear friend, that is not all.
Stored for years in the loft above
Are things they need not but can’t shove:
Toys that whisper words of love.

What objects might the holy family have kept around the house? I expect the Magi’s gold was used to set up home in Egypt. Is that where they are in this picture? Mary has a rose around the window to help make the house a home.

We can pray to the Holy Family, that our home may be a safe Ark for all our family:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul, I give you my family and loved ones.

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth.

[1] http://www.vofoundation.org/blog/across-universe-moving-experience/

 

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27th June: Doors come in all shapes and sizes

When we were in Scotland last year, this boat took us to Skye. The bow door opens down to allow vehicles to ‘roll-on, roll-off’ between the two Islands of Skye and Great Britain. The Highlands and Islands were both brave new worlds for me but this was an everyday voyage for the crew and many of the passengers.

When we reached Skye, the bus was waiting to take us on, as promised in the timetable; and so it went on, rain and shine, through the two Kingdoms till we were home again. When people work together they can achieve great blessings and mercies for each other.

Once a crew of experienced boatmen were surprised by a storm; their passenger slept through mercylogoit all. They were worried to death; the passenger calmed the storm. (Mark 4:35-41) Our ferries today are  safe, at least in Europe, but those cockle-shells and inflatables used by refugees in the Mediterranean are much less safe than the disciples’ craft on the Sea of Galilee.

Let us pray for God’s mercy that the storms of famine, war and cruelty may be stilled, allowing these people to stay at home in peace to build up their communities. And let us pray for the wisdom to know how best to help them and the courage to do just that.

 

 

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