Tag Archives: Spring

25 May: The Builder’s Dog without the Ossyrians.

buildersdog.1 (800x670)

The Builder’s Dog in his Hi-Vis coat was wary when he entered Will’s place. Were those Chihuahuas around? Nor scent nor sound nor scratch marks on the gate. All was well, except that he had a stretch of time, impossible to contemplate, without his mistress who could not take him on her sunshine holiday.

The food was good – exactly the same as at home, except for treats like scraps of Sunday dinner. The walks were OK, except that the Mistress was not there and Will and Mrs T avoided walking down BD’s home street. But the park and Abbot’s Hill were full of smells that humans were utterly unaware of.

It was coming down Abbot’s Hill one evening that BD gave Will his reward. Or was it the other way blackcaparound? An urgent, complicated overlay of scented canine communication required close study, and BD was pleasantly surprised not to feel the lead jerk. Will, too, was fixed to the spot. He was listening to a Blackcap, perched in a suburban Japanese cherry tree, singing his heart out, ignoring the human and dog below.

As Will said later, there’s always something to be grateful for. And he enjoyed another little link as he researched this post: according to Wikipedia, the Blackcap’s song provided the theme for Saint Francis when that famous bird lover Olivier Messiaen wrote his Opera, Saint François d’Assise. Not just any bird then!

Blackcap by Ron Knight

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May 4: A pleasure shared

Abel.bluebells

We walked home from church with a friend who wanted to see the bluebells in the wood. She had heard about them but did not know they were so close to home. A pleasure shared already, but she took pictures aplenty to share with her mother in East London, a pleasure further shared: her mother will enjoy not just the bluebells but the clear and infectious pleasure our friend received from them.

A gift that is special to an English spring.

A few days before we had walked that way with young Abel, who’s too small to damage the flowers as he walks, but he too loved the ‘blue flowers’: pleasure shared as a little child lets us into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t often quote Rupert Brooke, but I remember …

the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

The Kingdom of  Heaven is reflected in that very English carpet, but I’m less sure about an English Heaven? One that welcomes people from around the world, I trust, or it would not be Heaven, just an off-shore island …

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April 9th, Palm Sunday 2017: Shropshire Daffodils

daffsteps (640x317)

Wordsworth may have the fame when it comes to daffodils in verse, but in Shropshire last Spring we saw drifts of daffodils beside the roads, beneath the hedges, shining along the footpath edges … apologies; William is too easily parodied.

But I wondered why such county-wide devotion to a Welsh emblem: surely not love of the western neighbour? Rather love of the flower itself, and its defiance of lingering resistance from Winter’s rearguard winds.

And then I picked up Houseman, and these lines from A Shropshire Lad:

The boys are up the woods with day
To fetch the daffodils away,
And home at noonday from the hills
They bring no dearth of daffodils.
Afield for palms the girls repair,
And sure enough the palms are there,
And each will find by hedge or pond
Her waving silver-tufted wand.
In farm and field through all the shire
The eye beholds the heart’s desire;
Ah, let not only mine be vain,
For lovers should be loved again.

 

The girls’ palms are of course the pussy willow, whose ‘silver-tufted wands’ set off the Easter daffodils so splendidly in the vase.

How good to be reminded, even by the morbid Houseman, to link our native flora and ourselves, to the ‘Hebrew children’ who went to meet the Lord carrying olive branches, and singing ‘Hosanna!’

Pueri Hebraeorum, portantes ramos olivarum, obviaverunt Domino, clamantes et dicentes, Hosanna in Excelsis.

The Hebrew children, carrying olive branches, went out to meet the Lord, shouting out and saying, ‘Hosanna in the highest!’

WT.

Sheet music and recording of ‘Pueri Hebraeorum’

 

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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

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16 January: Laudato Si: Can Spring be far behind?

redwing_turdus_iliacus-640x427
photo by Andreas Trepte

The question is Shelley’s and finds its answer in what has gone before in the Ode to the West Wind:

……..O thou,

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth … 

Spring is here already, waiting for the moment to blow her trumpet announcing new birth and rising.

Shelley cannot avoid Biblical reference: the seed must die to bear fruit (John 12.24) and while Shelley’s chariot may be borrowed from Donne, it refers to Elijah’s whirlwind departure from this earth:

And it came to pass, as [[Elijah and Elisha] still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

2Kings 2:11

For me Winter arrived when I saw my first redwing of the year, come over from Scandinavia to spend the winter eating berries.

The watchful tree (a very early cherry) is flowering for Christmas in the park in Canterbury. (Jeremiah  1:11) Birds, trees, wind, whatever takes your eye; always look out for the signs of the times.

WT

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A Sabbatical with the Franciscans in Canterbury

 

Monica Tobon, who writes for this blog as MLT, has another life, teaching at the Franciscan International Study Centre Canterbury (FISC) and bringing the Centre’s new website to birth.

She has just issued, on behalf of the centre, this invitation to join our community for one or more terms from October 2016 to June 2017. We have welcomed students from all around the world, women and men, religious, priests and lay; some Franciscans in all those  groups, others not. We would gladly welcome you.

WT.

The Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, is now accepting applications for our Sabbatical Programme 2016-17. We offer a welcoming community, peaceful atmosphere and beautiful hilltop location overlooking the ancient pilgrim city of Canterbury.

For Michaelmas Term the theme is Scripture; for Lent Term, Franciscan Studies, and for Trinity Term, Spirituality. Sabbaticals can last for between one and three terms.

Sabbatical students are also free to attend all modules of our Certificate in Franciscan Studies and most modules of our Certificate in Training for Franciscan Formation.

For more information email Monica Tobon, monica.t@franciscans.ac.uk, or call 01227 769349.

Read more about the Centre here: http://www.franciscans.ac.uk/

cathedralbyellie2

Autumn view of Canterbury from near FISC, Eleanor Billingsley.

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Interruption: Dylan Day

 waiting wood

The leaves are just colouring the ends of the twigs on the trees, but the gorse is always in flower.

 We should not let Dylan day pass unacknowledged, even if we missed Shakespeare’s birthday, mea culpa. 

Dylan is a great story teller. He proclaims in the prologue to his Collected Poems: ‘Hark: I trumpet the place.’ The place is Wales, eternal Wales, God’s own Wales – with all its people’s failings. That small Principality is concentrated Under Milk Wood, between the sea and Llareggub Hill. As Mary Ann Sailors says:

‘It is Spring in Llareggub in the sun of my old age, and this is the Chosen Land.’

mercylogoUnder Milk Wood celebrates life, a ‘greenleaved sermon on the innocence of men’. Hearing the words brings sight to our inward eye, insight to our hearts. The townspeople are brought to God by the Reverend Eli Jenkins, who like his Biblical namesake praises his Creator morning and evening. For him, Llareggub is an earthly paradise that he prays he may ‘for all my life and longer … never, never leave’. Eli is not blind to the sins of his flock, but they receive Blake’s blessing of ‘mercy, pity, peace and love’ rather than condemnation. his appreciation of Polly Garter reminds me of a saintly priest in my youth, doffing his hat to an unmarried mother shunned by many. ‘Poor Ivy,’ said Fr Lea, ‘she’s had more than her share of troubles.’

Let us celebrate life, and open our inward eyes to the innocence, rather than just the faults, of those we live and work with.

MMB.

 

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Mary in the waiting wood

I’d guess that when she conceived baby Jesus, Mary was of an age with the young poet in the previous post.

 

waiting wood

 

Tree, tell me

how to be all still;

without stir, without breath,

naked, brown arms

strong outheld to the far sky;

hushed, hung, held

yet vibrant with pulsing Spring.

 

No sounds.

Silence rounds,

rings the tree. Tree,

can you hear me

straining the stillness;

my soul’s silence lifted to

the limits of creation’s response?

 

Tree, tell me

that we understand one another;

we share together

the warm life welling within us.

Shall I dwell with you in the waiting wood;

alone, a quiet maiden

becoming a mother?

SMS.

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Gray Days and a Point of Light.

Margate we live in hope

Margate Beach on a Grey Day

Here, well up there in the Northern Hemisphere, the approach of the Church’s great winter feasts is met by ever shortening days, grayish sunsets subtly shaded with pastel colour, and the gathering shadows of storm-rattled darkness. Even now, as I look out from the giant bay window in my flat toward a slate gray sea, it feels like a slow motion dawn rather than what the clock prosaically states is high noon. And the Church, in her time-tested wisdom, has properly situated the purple cloaked season of waiting and hoping within a test mirrored by nature herself- will the Son of Man ever return; will I ever witness the eastern blaze of a 5:00 AM springtime dawn seen through the very same bay window now shrouded in a feeble mist? One can hope, but for now all I can do is walk my two bemused dogs in the bookended darkness of a seven o’clock dawn and four thirty afternoon sunset.

I have had critics of the Church, harboring grave suspicions of pagan flashbacks, point out the total lack of biblical witness for the date of Christ’s birth, the unlikely probability of shepherds out in the fields in the dead of winter and, far worse, the close congruence of the decadent Roman Saturnalia with the newly minted Feast of the Nativity. Shopping frenzy beginning at mid-November and a near-universal expansion of waistlines don’t help- as a kindly Jehovah’s Witness picture framer said once, utterly confident that I would agree. It seems, though, as if the whole point has been missed. It is the ritual celebration of Christ’s birth and the expectation of God’s promise fulfilled – born of an indestructible hope- that are being celebrated and the vast stage of nature herself hosts the drama. Yes, the shortening days followed by the magic threshold of the Solstice, when that longed for flicker of light begins to wax stronger, formed the reason for the Saturnalia but this has been embodied by the small child laid in a manger; the hope for Emmanuel realized at last.

 

TJH.

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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

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