Tag Archives: trees

11 July, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXIX: He preaches to people and the birds.

ceramic.swallow

Saint Francis rose up with fervour exceeding great, and said : “ Let us be going in the name of God”; and he took for his companions Brother Masseo and Brother Agnolo, holy men. And setting forth with fervent zeal of spirit, taking no thought for road or way, they came unto a little town that was called Savurniano, and Saint Francis set himself to preach, but first he bade the swallows that were twittering keep silence till such time as he had done the preaching; and the swallows were obedient to his word.

He preached there with such fervour that all the men and women of that town minded through their devotion to come after him and leave the town, but Saint Francis suffered them not, saying : “Make not ill haste nor leave your homes; and I will ordain for you what ye should do for the salvation of your souls”: and therewith he resolved to found the Third Order, for the salvation of all the world.

And so leaving them much comforted and with minds firm set on penitence, he departed thence and came unto a place between Cannaio and Bevagno. And as with great fervour he was going on the way, he lifted up his eyes and beheld some trees hard by the road whereon sat a great company of birds well-nigh without number; whereat Saint Francis marvelled, and said to his companions: “Ye shall wait for me here upon the way and I will go to preach unto my little sisters, the birds.” And he went unto the field and began to preach unto the birds that were on the ground; and immediately those that were on the trees flew down to him, and they all of them remained still and quiet together, until Saint Francis made an end of preaching: and not even then did they depart, until he had given them his blessing. And according to what Brother Masseo afterwards related unto Brother Jacques da Massa, Saint Francis went among them touching them with his cloak, howbeit none moved from out his place.

A terracotta swallow from Italy, at home in Canterbury.

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22 May: In the Cathedral of the Forest

firtrees.sky (800x672)Many years ago I worked in a ‘Subnormality Hospital’ as they were called in England, or as this one was called in Switzerland, an Asylum. The men and women who lived there had often been committed by their parents who had been told that they had no place in society, but would be happy and safe in the asylum.

There was a young, international staff who were gradually changing the regime, recognising the human potential going to waste. Many of the people I would meet at L’Arche Kent in the early days had spent long years in such places.

Martin was around fifty, but looked older. Shortly before I arrived he had gone missing for three days and nights before walking back, very tired and hungry.

‘And do you know where he was, Maurice? He doesn’t talk about it any more, but he took a promenade in the woods, and spent those days and nights watching a family of fox cubs. Their mother seems to have known that Martin was no threat.’

Half an hour sitting still and quiet in Canterbury Cathedral is pushing it for me! Make that a quarter of an hour…

crypt (640x481)

Martin found his own chapel in the Cathedral of the Forest and was like Wisdom at the Creation: at God’s hand, observing and enjoying creation. A personal Pentecost.

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out:The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.

When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Proverbs 8.

 

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25 March, Palm Sunday: Another excerpt from the Dutch Catechism

Photos from the Missionaries of Africa

Two posts today!

Our long-neglected copy of the Dutch catechism provided a thought for Valentine’s Day. Here is another excerpt (p162 of the 1978 edition) that recalls us to the  joy of the first Palm Sunday.

A week before Easter, Mass is preceded by a procession, with hymns in honour of Jesus as King. Branches of greenery, or real palms, blessed for the occasion and carried in the procession, are taken home by the faithful. The palms are hung up in the house, a sign that we are sharing the gesture of love and reverence made by the Jews. Sometimes these sprigs are used to sprinkle holy water.

So another Christian tradition inherited from our elders! And a reminder that our religion is not an intellectual exercise, but body, blood, soul and humanity for our part, responding to body, blood, soul, humanity and divinity on Jesus’.

Hosanna!

Laudato Si’!

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Spring is rising!

cathedralbyellie2

We were hanging the bat box at L’Arche’s Glebe garden in Canterbury, and to do that Vince had to saw through two thin branches. I was footing the ladder, keeping still and keeping him safe.

Drips fell onto my hand as he handed down one of the branches: no rain, this was sap, the sycamore’s lifeblood. This is an invasive maple, and remembering the maple syrup farm I once visited in a Canadian March, I licked my hand. It was sweet!

I don’t think we are about to start tapping the sycamores, but Vincent recalled tasting birch syrup, and very tasty that was, he said.

Laudato Si! Thanks for a little taste of Spring!

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January weather: beauty under a grey sky.

.woods.jan

Do we call her the Silver Birch or the Diamond Birch on a grey, drizzly day in January? This is our next-door tree, an exiled Lady of the Woods, her jewels bright against the dark bricks. Open your eyes when you go out, whatever the weather, and Laudato Si’!

WT

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December 24: Is Yours a Metal or a plastic Christmas Tree?

Inline image

I guess your Christmas tree is now indoors and decorated? Perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a metal one would be Tanzania. This story comes from the Missionaries of Africa  and is by Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr. 

When I visited for the first time the M.Afr. house in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, [now called Atiman House] in the 1960’s, I saw in the courtyard a sort of metal Christmas-tree and wondered what one would be using it for. The top was 1.5 m high or more, and it had some 50 upending branches. The amused confreres explained that one used it to drip-dry wine-bottles after having been cleansed and rinsed. But in those days they rarely used it anymore.

The house was the procure, or distribution centre for the missions, and imported the Mass-wine and table-wine for upcountry. In addition to individual bottles one used damjan [= dame-jeanne], bottles of  + 20 litres in a wickerwork basket. Later on drums of 100 litres were used, which were bottled in the respective diocesan headquarters.

Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr.

Father Marien’s story left me wondering at the effort that went into making sure there was enough wine for Mass so far from any vineyards, but grapes have been grown in Tanzania since soon after he arrived there. So maybe the Christmas tree is not needed at Atiman House.

We use a modern version of this once or twice a month at L’Arche Kent. Some readers may remember that it has among its activities a small brewery project. It is hoped to make this into a commercial micro brewery in God’s good time.
Unlike most UK brewers, we recycle bottles. They go through various washing and sterilising processes and are hung out to dry on this handsome red plastic Christmas tree. These are all jobs that core members of the community can do without constant, overpowering supervision, and which they take pride in.
One of our brewers, Paul, recently took some bottles to Japan on a visit to the community there.

Happy Christmas to all,

Maurice, Will and all the team.

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23 October: Readings from Mary Webb XIII: sticky brown hope

horse chestnut bud

As a sick young child I was sent to a prison-like convalescent home in Worcestershire, hoping that fresh air would do me good. My best memories are of celandines and crocus, those early spring flowers; and sticky buds of horse chestnut which the teacher brought in and allowed to open in the classroom. Mary Webb was thinking of these same buds in autumn when they come into prominence.

MMB

Curiosity is awakened by the small brown bud at the end of a chestnut twig in autumn, a little farther on than this year’s fruit. How much of the future form is hidden in that small sphere? How much embryo tree is wrapped in its inner cases of wool and velvet? What hint of next summer’s white chalice and green finger dwells in its innermost recesses?

Long before the unfolding of these buds in April, when the downy leaflets uncurl, you can see, if you open one, the compressed cluster – each yellowish ball about the size of a pinhead – which is the future flower, and the faint dawnings of leaves all wrapped in soft wadding.

The thought of the sap forming itself into these marvels, of the skilful, silent artistry going on without hands at the end of every bough and at the heart of every root makes the world a place of almost unbearable wonder.

Laudato Si’!

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18 October, Saint Luke: Watching

trees-wind-moon

 

The wind whisked and sighed all night and

at sunrise-time some secret sun

shed what passed for light, but even

bats were sceptical of day and shot

by in fitful flight, long past their

vanishing-hour,

 

while wind kept sweeping through, rustling

like ladies in long silken skirts.

Nothing sparked or spiked in morning

sunshine that wasn’t, and yet,

this shadowed and speaking scene seethed,

strange with the life

 

I strained to see.  Autumn’s sunflowers

rocked and swayed, scarcely able to

stand, like tall thin drunks on their stems,

sleepy heads lolling, and they seemed

about to slither down, feet first,

into a heap,

 

while wind – I relished standing in

it – used its huge hands to swish the

leaves of trees and push tree tops round

in circles and made sounds like surf

foaming, swirling, hurling itself

on the seashore,

 

sliding back, all slick, and hurling

itself over and over –

 

such

dark, brooding exuberance –

 

such

fierce sibilance –

 

such lavishly

lively gifts of Being –

 

all mine, at dawn

 

as I stood

in the dark wind

 

watching.

 

 

 

SJC.

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Sister Johanna’s poem about Watching and the Wind seems appropriate for Saint Luke, who gave us his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, where he tells how the Spirit came in a great wind and settled over the Apostles.

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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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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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