THE UPSIDE (well – of course there’s an upside!) to Cumbria’s being under grey cloud is that one can feel more than usually justified just sitting next to the log stove with a tottering pile of books and a steaming cup of coffee. Life’s not all bad, eh?
BANK HOLIDAY weekend affords a happy extension to “left brain time.” There are always more books I want to read, more paintings I want to paint, more photographs I want to make, more writing to be done, more poems to unfold, more prayer to be celebrated, more people to share some time and stories with, more songs to be sung, more colours to be marvelled at, more silence to be revelled in – than time ordinarily allows. And that very fact is cause for thanksgiving! Life is indeed a rich tapestry. The signs of the reign, the joy of God, are all around me. And I’m immensely thankful for the connections that blogging makes possible with people all around the world.
Today’s artwork is inspired, in Eastertide, by Mary Magdalene, beloved apostle of Jesus, first witness to new life in the Resurrection, loyal provider of intimate and loving support and sustenance, someone generous, open-hearted and giving, someone who just “knew” instinctively, what Jesus’ mission on earth was about, someone released, by God’s goodness, from the kind of prison every one of us finds ourselves in from time to time.
All human persons are “bedevilled” by “Legion” the perpetually underlying and taunting belief that somehow we’re failing to make the grade, we’re unlovable, bigger and better “failures” than anyone else, destined to be “alone”, faithless, heartbroken, misunderstood, wretched. All human persons yearn for the kind of release that Jesus’ love and acceptance brought about in Mary’s life; for the kind of release that she brought about in his.
Mary Magdalene: someone cruelly maligned and abused by religious patriarchy and misogyny across the centuries, but all the while someone I’ve admired and looked to as an icon of life’s richness and fullness, of life’s goodness and generosity, of life’s being – under the vivifying reign of God – a beautifully, colourfully, gorgeously dressed dance with our Creator.
Sydney Carter described Jesus as The Lord of the Dance. In my heart I think of Mary of Magdala as Jesus’ dance-partner and she is clothed, dressed, like the environment all around and about her, in colour and glory. And theirs is a partnership, theirs is a dance that, far from being exclusive and excluding, invites you and I to join. “Shall we dance?”, Mary asks. “And shall we sing?”, asks the Lord of the Dance. And sometimes the colours blur a little in the swirling. And sometimes they’re blended by our tears …
Have you seen the wonder of it? Have you seen Mary’s dress?
TODAY IS ONE OF THOSE looked-forward-to-days when, after a brief amble round Penrith – to be able to make some pretence at having taking in some fresh air (decidedly chilly fresh air compared to that of the last few days) – one feels able to take root in an armchair at the fireside with a pile of books and a cup of coffee at the side-table. This is what winter days are for. Last evening I heard tell of one Bear Grylls who is probably even now chancing his arm in some dangerous wilderness experience. All good fortune to him. But me? – I’m going to chance my arm at staying awake until the end of my next chapter and am grateful that I’m not a betting man
BLOGGING IS ABOUT CONNECTIONS. Conjoined experience. Remembering yesterday, living today, dreaming of tomorrow, in times alone, and in times together. Books and journalling, music-making and blogging, novels and poetry, all art and playing, our silences, our working, and our praying, afford us the “conversations” that wouldn’t otherwise be available in day to day parochial commerce. So much of what makes us who we are has come to us from connections far beyond our own immediate environment. But we come to recognise ourselves and the things we care about in these connections … they give us a language with which to speak of them … paraphrasing something a friend said to me about the poet Sally Purcell over lunch the other day.
Remembering yesterday. Living today. Dreaming of tomorrow – Antonio Machado makes the connections between them:
You can know yourself, if you bring up
those cloudy canvases from your dreams,
today, this day, when you walk
Memory is valuable for one thing,
astonishing: it brings dreams back.
- Antonio Machado from Times Alone