Tag Archives: seeing

5 November: Autumn leaves

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After a night of high winds and rain, this was the view greeting me when I came through to the bathroom with its big Velux roof window: golden birch leaves, a great sprinkling of little, three cornered birch seeds, and at the top a lime (tillia) seed wing with two hanging seeds.

Seeds of both trees rely on the wind to take root elsewhere, away from their parent that would otherwise deprive them of light; both trees have their own method to prepare and form the next generation. An oak is growing from a small, abandoned patch of land nearby. A magpie or a squirrel must have buried the acorn.

If every birch seed grew to maturity we would soon be well afforested. Not entirely practical here and now, but maybe a little guerrilla gardening will help the oak grow to a good height before I’m too old to appreciate it. Who’s watching?

The golden birch leaves are enjoying their last moment of glory, and so am I – not my own last moment of glory, I need to grow a bit more and die a bit more first; but I am enjoying the gold of the birch.

So let’s get out and really enjoy the autumn – or even enjoy watching it happening through the windows.

A poor life this if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

WH Davies.

And the good Lord did tell us to consider the grasses of the field; (Luke 12:27-31) we should get to know our local area and have a care for its plants, even up to oak trees, or future oaks. Laudato Si!

Perhaps, too, we should be readier to take wing on the wind of the Spirit, blowing where She will.

 

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13 October: John Henry Newman: Loss and Gain.

young newman

Today in Rome Pope Francis will declare John Henry Cardinal Newman a saint of the Catholic Church, an English saint who was not a martyr but a hard-working priest and theologian. He tended the sick during epidemics in Birmingham as well as founding schools and Oratories and defending the faith through fearless enquiry.

All that and he found time to write novels, including Loss and Gain, The Story of a Convert. In the early pages he has these two contrasting passages about a familiar country walk. Draw your own conclusions!

“When we ourselves were young, we once on a time walked on a hot summer-day from Oxford to Newington—a dull road, as any one who has gone it knows; yet it was new to us; and we protest to you, reader, believe it or not, laugh or not, as you will, to us it seemed on that occasion quite touchingly beautiful; and a soft melancholy came over us, of which the shadows fall even now, when we look back on that dusty, weary journey. And why? because every object which met us was unknown and full of mystery. A tree or two in the distance seemed the beginning of a great wood, or park, stretching endlessly; a hill implied a vale beyond, with that vale’s history; the bye-lanes, with their green hedges, wound and vanished, yet were not lost to the imagination. Such was our first journey; but when we had gone it several times, the mind refused to act, the scene ceased to enchant, stern reality alone remained; and we thought it one of the most tiresome, odious roads we ever had occasion to traverse.” 

“”People call this country ugly, and perhaps it is; but whether I am used to it or no, I always am pleased with it. The lights are always new; and thus the landscape, if it deserves the name, is always presented in a new dress. I have known Shotover there take the most opposite hues, sometimes purple, sometimes a bright saffron or tawny orange.” Here he stopped. 

Loss and Gain is available on Kindle

Start reading it for free: http://amzn.eu/7WLLVaT  

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September 2: In Praise of Rain, I.

atkinson grims boar lane.png

I felt we could benefit from some rain this month. And before anyone gives in to feeling fed up at the very thought of it, here comes a set of reflections in praise of rain by GK Chesterton. And today’s appropriate picture is of Boar Lane in Leeds, by the Leodensian native, Atkinson Grimshaw. Over to GKC.

Sometimes walking upon bare and lustrous pavements, wet under numerous lamps, a man seems a black blot on all that golden looking-glass, and could fancy he was flying in a yellow sky.

But wherever trees and towns hang head downwards in a pigmy puddle, the sense of Celestial topsy-turvydom is the same. This bright, wet, dazzling confusion of shape and shadow, of reality and reflection, will appeal strongly to any one with the transcendental instinct about this dreamy and dual life of ours. It will always give a man the strange sense of looking down at the skies.

I hope the transcendental instinct is alive and well in our readers, leave the umbrella at home!

Last year Sister Johanna insisted we publish this poem by Sheila Billingsley on Easter Sunday. Did it rain that morning? Now I insist you go and read it!

We like a drop of rain at Agnellus Mirror.

From ‘A Miscellany of Men’, available on line and on Kindle.

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22 July: A Morning meeting, Feast of Mary Magdalene

easter.morning.frara.venice

This picture reminds me of the Song of Songs Chapter 2:

Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me:

Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come: the voice of the turtle is heard in our land: The fig tree hath put forth her green figs: the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come: My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.

A contrast to the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him.

Mary Magdalene was there on Good Friday, she knew how true that verse was. Now on Sunday she is in the garden, and through the lattice, with the spring leaves growing over it, she sees – the Gardener?

Eyes blurred with tears, heart in utter confusion, that is her first thought.

Jesus himself is not yet used to this body renewed, is not ready to meet her. Presumably he throws his cloak over himself before walking round to meet her. ‘Noli me tangere’, do not touch me, is completely understandable from a human point of view at this moment. But we know he later invited the disciples to touch him.

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19 July: Mite

sjc burnt forest.png

I would know her hands anywhere:
they’re tough and lumpy as rocks,
and lined with cracks – cracks
black as rills in a harsh land,

cracks thin as gossamer silk
hand-spun for a shawl. All

her nails are black, broken.
I have never seen her eyes.

We have never spoken.
But look – she clutches
something in her palm. Now:
she lets two coins fall
into a box marked Alms.

She bows her head,
then, limping down the disabled ramp,
returns to the refugee camp.

SJC

Thank you Sister Johanna.

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July 7: Readings from Mary Webb XV: just gazing.

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I had not realised how long it had been since I promised more from Mary Webb, until I began re-reading her official biography, ‘Mary Webb: her life and work’ by Thomas Moult, Jonathan Cape, 1935. These lines from pp23; 25-26 set me looking at her poetry again. What treat can I find for tomorrow?

One of her brothers remembers how in girlhood she would go out early in the morning and sit in the grass ad watch the wild flowers open. She would watch them at evening, too, seeing them close. he remembers also how she ‘lay for hours and hours, just gazing at the wheat field, as the wind ran across it.’

[Mary Webb] eventually praised it all so proudly and gratefully in her prose and verse.

‘Long, long ago I thought on all these things,

Long, long ago I loved them.’

Lord, give us eyes to see your world, and the grace to love and nurture it. Amen.

The picture shows barley rather than wheat, but the monochrome brings out the dancing, like tango partners en masse!

 

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21 June: Corpus Christi II. Enough and to spare

feedig 5000.ethiopia.rome

This picture hangs in the Generalate – the headquarters – of the Missionaries of Africa in Rome. It was painted in Ethiopia. We see, at left, the boy trustingly bringing the loaves and fishes to Jesus, who receives them with open arms and a look of encouragement, eye-to-eye. To the right, a crowd of people sitting on the grass, with two of the disciples offering food to them; a few of the 5,000. The two people about to be fed look dubious, wondering what exactly is happening; most of the others are watching those being fed, but one person’s eyes are on Jesus. In front are six of the baskets of left-overs.

Ethiopia is a country that has known famine more than once in my lifetime, and its share of oppression and authoritarian rule. The question then is, ‘Why should the people trust Jesus to feed them freely and without strings?’ ‘Let’s see what happens’, I imagine them saying. ‘Can we be sure he’s genuine?’

Jesus depended on the disciples to bring his gifts to the people. Today he depends on us. Are we dependable? Are we transparent enough for people to trust us? The Church has to do her work, Christ’s work, and we cannot leave it to the identifiable ‘professional’ members, clergy, religious if we want to get that work done.

May we take and eat. May we take strength from the Eucharist to meet our sisters’ and brothers’ needs, and to rebuild Christ’s church. After all, it was built up by those disciples who did not understand what was happening, even as they played their part in it. Let’s not worry, ‘what is this among so many?’

 

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14 June: Consider the flowers

MERMAID ROSE SM

What does the word ‘mermaid’ suggest to you? Andersen and Disney sweet young girl, giving herself to the man she loves? Or else the seal-women of Scotland, or the sirens of Greek legend, luring unloved men to their deaths?

The Mermaid rose is s beautiful as any of those, but has more in common with the sirens. Get too close to her and you won’t escape easily from her sharp, backward-facing thorns. But she’s lovely enough, if handled with leather gloves. She’ll grow 4m plus high and those buds will open to creamy yellow single flowers. The deep red berberis leaves set her off well.

 

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It’s not altogether necessary to go on pilgrimage to appreciate the ‘flowers of the field’. (Matthew 6.26) I think that when Jesus encouraged us to consider them, he wanted us first of all to look about us, to look around our feet, on in Mermaid’s case, at or below eye-level; we have to protect our neighbours from her by careful use of secateurs.

But think of all those patient souls who have bred the varieties we love; their considerations went much further, looking at the future and how this or that rose might perform. Or the men and women working to refine the healing power of plants from around the world for the good of all.

Consider the flowers.

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13 June: Apparent indifference.

 

walk5I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. I hope you enjoy this extract.

He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here.

The book is available at Project Gutenberg.

Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.

This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.

I made no comment when I published this extract on the ‘Will Turnstone’ blog, perhaps the best sermon or reflection, but ‘if you are still’ you may hear, or see in the corner of your eye, feel a breath on your cheek, smell the breeze that the prophet heeded.

As for apparent indifference to one’s surroundings: by some quirk of my mind’s working I’m put in mind of Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” There are many who seem indifferent to Jesus, but are able to be still and silent, to observe what needs doing, and get on with it without fanfare.

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I June, Pilgrimage to Canterbury XII: Getting Creative!

vw hut pilgrimage 2018

It’s been a few years since I made any art work for church, unless I count some of the photographs in this blog, at least as they have been adjusted to run alongside the texts. A few of my banners I felt happy with, but this pilgrimage has opened my eyes to real artists working together as a team. So it has been a pleasure to work with our three designers to produce works that we hope will make the pilgrimage more enjoyable and prayerful.

Antonela and Zsombor, who come from Romania and Hungary respectively, understand design techniques and work well with computers, but they are also true artists. And they make a good team. Run-of-the-mill photos when transformed by an artist’s hand have become lovely paintings. It’s a shame that they will be reproduced so small, as we are using the images as stickers to go in the pilgrim’s passport that will be issued each one. Another designer, Ines, comes from Portugal, and has produced very different illustrations. We are blessed to have such talented people – and the opportunity to use their talents in this way. We’ll share some of their pictures later. In the meantime here is a touch of creativity from last year: a beach hut disguised as a camper van. I hope the owners enjoy it even more than we pilgrims did, and don’t take it for granted.

Nothing asked of them was impossible, let’s hope the walk is not impossible either!

Best foot forward! May we not take our home town for granted, but see it anew when we arrive back in Canterbury.

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