In the middle of much busy-ness, I am noticing the loss of deep stillness and silence lately, and an invitation to re-engage with it.
Hence yesterday during a glorious morning, when unsettled sleep had woken me too early, I went out. I lay on my back in the garden and saw this:
What glorious blue!
I felt queasy, due to sleep deprivation and not drinking enough water the previous day. But this was glorious. As I lay there for about half an hour, I saw at least 5 different species of birds fly past twittering their spring songs.
I am hoping to drop into this deeper stillness more in the coming time. Even when there is a lot of hubbub and activity around me and lurking in the back of my mind. Perhaps if I practise it, I will be able to lay it aside again as the silence falls…? This is what my brain needs I think.
I was in the queue behind a guy this morning who was on the phone while completing his transaction. “You’re too emotional… women, they’re always too emotional,” he declared into the phone, while demanding she put their child on the phone (I grimaced, imagining the irritation of this woman, who I guessed was probably doing the bulk of the bringing up of the child [also, how is it possible to be “too emotional”? Grrr…]). “Woman; the day is just rising…give thanks and be glad you opened your eyes this morning to greet it!” I exchanged knowing grins with the Muslim guy behind the till and said, “He’s preaching to us all this morning”.
I was just sitting on a low wall writing this when another guy began talking to me. People round here have an instinct for who has got time to listen. We said how much we were enjoying the sun. He said he didn’t like the cold so he was glad for the sun. I pointed to the trees and said how the blossoms were coming. He said, “Yeah this is our world… we gotta look after it isn’t it?” His words were very slurred and in a strong dialect so he had to repeat that three times before I could grasp it. I wasn’t expecting such care for the natural world from someone so vulnerable. But he probably spends way more time outside than I do. I stand corrected.
This is Easter where I live. Three completely different cultural backgrounds, at least two different faiths, shared human needs and flaws and an encouragement to notice that the day is just rising. We give thanks we opened our eyes to see it. And we resolve to look after this beautiful planet with all her creatures. 🙏💕
Last night I went for a magical walk through a wood. It was the last full moon before Christmas. Having had a day of crisp, clear, sunny winter skies, the skies clouded over, and I feared we wouldn’t be able to see the moon at all. But actually we could see it throughout, framed beautifully by thin bare branches and a halo of soft cloud.
At one point the three of us chose a path which took us to a place we had never been to before. (Or maybe we just didn’t recognise it in the dark?) We felt like somehow we had stumbled through a portal into another wood beyond the wood. (Curiously, there was a four way signpost nearby on which most of the text appeared obliterated.) We resisted the temptation to locate ourselves with GPS, and instead relished the moment of mystery, grateful for each other’s company.
I love this quote which I saw today:
“…If a forest is a sacred grove, not timber…” May I always see forests like this. And my “brother sun, sister moon” (as St Francis is said to have put it). I believe we are all creatures of the same Creator. May I always enter the woods with awe, asking of my kin “In the name of your Creator and mine, am I welcome here?” And may I always listen keenly, without assumption, for the trees’ response.
Well, so much for posting every day this month!! Scuppered when I’d barely begun. Various practicalities got in the way, as they do. Then I read something about being speechless. It was a comment about social media and a question to ask oneself; “Am I saying something because I think I have to say something or because I have something to say…?” (Paraphrasing Gideon Heugh in his little new book of advent reflections, Darkling.)
How come the dying vestiges of autumn look so much like joy? A paean of praise all dressed in yellow. The forest floor littered with a million drifting and dropped forms of gold. Treasure that cannot be earnt, bought, bartered or won but comes each year as gift.
A friend shared a vision they had from God, which reminded me of this today. A lovely invitation to deep rest. I listened to the music below and reread the ancient poem below that and dwelt with that image of the weaned child. Wonderful.
This is my favourite recording of Spiegel im Spiegel (« Mirror in the Mirror ») by Arvo Pärt, performed with such brave vulnerability by Daniel Hope. Most violinists would add vibrato to make it sound professional. But he captures the simplicity and vulnerability of this music-prayer beautifully: https://youtu.be/QqmZxtrUVK8
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore.
I love the paradox of stillness and movement in this video and in life in general.
And for some reason I find it fascinating how the waves never come up exactly the same distance onto the shore. There is a sense of endless variety and unpredictability about it, even when it’s quite a calm day.
Constant movement and stillness. Everybody’s going somewhere all the time. (This was taken near the station in the city.) Rushing like the water onto the next thing. I’m currently in Covid isolation though, which is making me appreciate the stillness the stepping aside from any rush at all.
I recently re-read a poem about prayer that I have come to really love, and a new line struck me; « this isn’t / a contest but the doorway / into thanks » Suddenly I felt a weight lifted as I read that. I realised that so much of the time, conversations, meetings, even prayers feel like a contest to see who will get in first with the wisest comment or prayer. But prayer is not a contest. What’s the point in competing when God knows every hair on all of our heads, and knows what we will say and what is real for us before we even begin to know it ourselves?
…And if prayer is not a contest, most other things needn’t be either, I think. What if every encounter we have became a doorway into thanks for us…? And into a world of possibility and love…? What if we could carry with us, wherever we go, a silence in which another voice might speak…?
Julian of Norwich famously wrote « All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. » Here’s a beautiful musical tribute to that, referring to the force of love I mentioned in my previous post. It’s good to watch the sea and let these words wash over me: