Autumn Thanks

Two songs keep digging into my consciousness like ear-worms, reminding me that despite the pandemic, climate change and the uncertain future, Autumn comes around with comforting regularity. The signs of Autumn may be delayed by Indian summers, and in the long term the seasons may merge, but nature is awesome in its ability to adapt and amaze us.

This is a reworking of an Autumn term Primary School favourite, sung in assemblies and now sung only in my head. There is always a reason to be thankful for small everyday things.

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled
and the silk inside a chestnut shell,
Lacy spiderwebs sparkling with dew,
All these things I love so well.

Another favourite tune that keeps playing in my head, especially when out running or walking, come rain or shine, is…

Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, 
Consider all the worlds thy hand has made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
They power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!

And for me ….

When the clouds appear and the rain drops fall as tears,
I doubt he's there, and wonder if it's true.
Then my soul, aches for affirmation
And I turn to him, my God, my faith renewed. 
Then sings my soul ...

one in a billion

A billion or more galaxies in the Universe.
The Milky Way is just one.

A hundred billion stars in the Milky Way.
Our sun is just one.

Nine planets orbit our sun.
Earth is just one.
196 million square miles
of sea and land, lakes and ice.
A blue planet spinning,
orbiting a sun 1.5 million miles away
and yet
providing warmth, light and life.
195 countries
the UK is just one.
93 thousand square miles
of mountains, villages, fen and marsh
cities, towns and villages.
Four countries, united yet divided.
England is just one.
50,000 square miles
of beauty and desolation,
patchwork fields, heathland and moor,
motorways, roads and lanes.
4,400 island,
Isle of Wight is just one.
150 square miles
of slower living, beaches and cliffs.
6 towns, umpteen villages.
Godshill is just one.
A model village
1/10  life size,
where you can be a giant,
towering and controlling,
or look up in awe, 
to be just one among billions.

Godshill.

On a visit to Godshill Model Village on the Isle of Wight, I became aware of why adults and children like small world play, whether it be Isla with the doll’s house or Pete with his train set.

Godshill, an apt name for the place, illuminated our relationship to our world and God to his world. We are not God’s small world play with his hand moving the pieces into place, building and knocking down his creation. Just as an Earthly parent cannot control all that happens to his world, his children, so God is not in control of his world, his children. The image of an all powerful God presiding in the heavens was dispelled when we saw for the first time from the moon, the Earth rise. Later the Hubble telescope showed us the vastness of space and our small place in it.

Thinking of our smallness gives me vertigo! And a heavenly hand playing with or controlling us, as both laughable and terrifying.

In my vision of our place in the Universe that I saw at Godshill, I understood again that God is present and with us – loving, comforting, guiding, reprimanding – throughout our life on this tiny planet, and “letting go and letting God” is not defeatist or fatalistic, but rather a recognition that we are not in control. So when you let go of the uncontrollables, peace of mind, a peace that passes all understanding, fills the gap.

Islander

Written while on holiday on the Isle of Wight, 2020. In the news was the Corona pandemic, refugees arriving by dingy on the coast of Kent, and the Brexit deal.

Bird’s eye view of Ise of Wight. Ventnor.
Perhaps it's because we're an island race
That each year we're called to the sea;
Packing up bags and longing to taste
The salty air, relax and just be. 

This group of isles off Europe's coast
Settled by Romans, then the Saxon's home,
Conquered by Normans, (the Nazis almost);
Come together in the British genome.

Is it because we're an island race
And the sea defines our borders,
That some are conscious of limited space 
 So call for tighter immigration orders.

Maybe it's because we're an island race
That some fear being over run.
While others are willing to reach and embrace
Seeing all humans as one.

No one is an island, the poet wrote
So naming our inter-dependency 
And yet the channel has become our moat.
Pull up the drawbridge, Brexit's our legacy.
Carisbrooke Castle. Newport. Isle of Wight.
View from the barricades. Carisbrooke.

Foundations remain firm as the ground shifts.

The ground has shifted and what I thought was firm and solid has turned to sand. Trust in the news, the government and in the experts has been washed away and what is left is uncertainty and fear.

When the ground shifted, I was jolted and the confidence in who I am, was picked off, leaving me feeling exposed and lost. What I thought was important and defining, I now consider a burden that drags me down. It is too heavy, huge, overwhelming so my only thoughts are how and when can I let go and find peace and purpose again.

The ground shifted when “zoom” replaced face to face encounters. How can I sit and see myself, exposed and vulnerable, scrabbling around for words and seeing all along that I have been an imposter. Face to face, pen to paper, speaking and listening were lost as the ground shifted.

Is it any wonder then that I have returned to solid ground, the assurance of being accepted by my family who expect nothing but love. The comfort of knowing I am loved for who I am, not for what I do, is the firm ground under the shifting sands of this year.

And that brings me to the matter of my faith which for a year has been battered and bruised by bereavement, exhaustion, fear, pandemic and mistrust. Under it all is the firm solid ground laid down in my infancy. The familiar words of hymns and prayers, the comforting sacrament of forgiveness and the mystery of communion with God through bread and wine.

I am standing on the solid ground of faith and of being loved and it would be easy to stay on this island I have rediscovered; stay and retreat from the world of shifting certainties and believeable lies.

But God, who is my firm foundation calls me to love him and others, as I have learnt to love myself. He never said life with him would be easy, but rather take up a cross and follow him.

So I stand on His piece of solid ground, looking into an uncertain future, poised and ready to step where ever he calls.

Maisie

She waits, alert and patient,
Waiting for she knows not what.
But when it comes, she's up...
Eager for food, a walk, recognition.
Her head low, her body long,
She rests and waits until...
Ears twitch, head lifts and 
She peers under long eyebrows.
She waits.
Does she ruminate on yesterday?
Is she considering tomorrow?
She is waiting; waiting for the day.
I reach across and stroke her silky fur.
I nuzzle her neck and caress her ears.
She pleads me with her eyes,
Then lowers her head and waits.

Psalm 121 – a reflection

Another day and my eyes are drawn to the mountains, rugged, Alpine peaks, rock exposed and permanent. I search among the forest of evergreens and then to the mountain again where the path disappears into mist.

I lay still, shallow breaths and stare at the painting hung on the wall…a window on another place and probably another time when everything was perfect and I was managing.

Why are my eyes drawn to the mountains? Is my help found there? If I search among the rocks and crevices will I get the answer to the puzzle that has become my life? When my eyes follow the pathway that disappears into the trees, will I get back to how I was?

No! Laying inert and searching among the hills will not help. My help comes from getting up and putting back the curtain to reveal a beautiful, if somewhat unruly garden where I feel, inhale and see again the divine, the explainable wonder of creation, growth and abundance. It is where I look forward to the changing seasons, the die-back and decay of leaves and my favourite, the perennials, that appear each year, fresh and hopeful.

So when I sit at my desk and find my eyes drawn to the view outside the window and sit with pen poised and ready, my thoughts invariably turn to God who has been my rock, my permanence, my sure foundation.

Why look to the hills when he is with me all the time? He listens and when he speaks it is always what I need to hear, whether it be words of comfort or reproach. When did I stop looking to him and stare into the hills instead?

My resilience comes from the Lord
Who made heaven and earth. 
He will not make me stumble or fall
Instead he will lift me and carry me
Through the valleys and climb with me
To the mountain top.
I can live freely with Him who lays no burden 
That is too heavy to carry.

For His grace is unforced; given not earned.
He calls, we respond, 
And when the load is too much,
He whispers, "Come to me."

The Longest Day

Early on the longest day, we run past
Waist high green wheat and yellow barley,
While lambs to slaughter, gone, and 
Wild grasses, mowed and baled.
A skylark's song and sparrowhawk's cry
The only sounds in the early morning heat.
Peacock, Red Admiral and Gate-keeper,
Iridescent mayfly and black winged dragonfly
Arise and dance ahead of us,
And all the while the river
Meanders on.


It's seen it all;
Farms, meadows, mill races and lakes,
Solar panels flashing in the sunlight,
An abandoned prison with razor wire fence
And over it all, the immense blue sky
And around it all, the seasons change.