Merry Christmas this special morning, full of promise and hope from One so small and vulnerable.
Bright morning star.
The biggest visitor recently is the snow. We in England take very badly to it as everything seems to stop; goodness knows how we would cope in other countries. My walks through the woods towards Saltburn have been wonderful.
The sun coming through the viaduct promising a little warmth (but not for a while yet).
This jolly character looked pleased to be resting but was not in the mood for conversation.
The visitor who was interesting to spend time with was George, known as The Pebbleman or Dr Geebers. George is passing through our seaside town and leaving his mark in both the pebble sculptures he builds and those he speaks to. He welcomed me into his temporary home (under the road) beside his stone creation. Follow the link above for further info on this homeless young man, the photo below is George at Saltburn.
The sun was shinning, but trust me it was cold and since then we have had temperatures below minus10.
Note to evening office:
I saw a stranger yestereen,
I put food in the eating place
Drink in the drinking place
Music in the listening place
And in the sacred name of the Triune
He blessed myself and my house
My cattle and my dear ones
As the lark said in her song ‘Often, often, often
Goes Christ in the stranger’s guise.’
The more I gazed at the sky, the bigger it seemed; the word canopy, did not fit with my feelings. I was quickly being transported from earthly things; I had a sense that the higher I went, the thinner the curtain would become. There appeared to be a real possibility of passing right through the curtain without even realising it.
Note to morning office:
I lift my eyes unto the Lord.
He is my rock and my salvation.
Almost everyone had left after evening prayer and I took the opportunity to to capture some of the atmosphere through my lens. A wonderful weekend conference in Derbyshire with amazing people from Trinidad & Tobago, America and all parts of the British Isles.
A week later and I have just returned from a lovely walk, and I have brought back with me three reflections; I was joined by a good friend as I listened to her on my teaching CD as I walked. Somewhere on the CD’s she makes reference to walking and always to doing a circuit, i.e. not to come back the same was as you go; well I am quite content to enjoy the view ahead of me and it is so much different on the way back! Also I can calibrate my time and distance better. This time I purposely left my watch, mobile and most of all my camera at home – no distractions.
Part of my journey took me past allotments these are random plots of land given over to gardening and here, also to some pips and hens. I am fascinated at to ingenuity of people that lay their hands on anything to build shelter, fences, containers to collect water and plastic bottles to blow in the wind and scare away the birds. Lastly I noticed the heavy laden branches of berries, red and black; one particular holly tree seemed more red than green, some would say it is the sign of a hard winter.
Further news on the old binoculars, they have moved to Redcar under the supervision of the little boys father. I on the other hand have been fortunate to borrow a relatively large telescope and at last can see the markings of Jupiter and it’s moons, I can see this being a marvellous distraction these clear winter nights.
Note to evening office:
Without the wind, we cannot hear the trees.
I took time to explain never to look into the sun through these binoculars and how to adjust the focus. Would he understand the words focus, blurred, sharp or clear?
The old binoculars live on the landing windowsill and are set for my eye correction, they would need some adjustment before anyone else could use them. By handing these glasses to someone else does not guarantee them to see the same as I do.
The little boys bright red binoculars probably came free with a comic and have only clear plastic lenses; ideal for his world at the moment. For now, he understands that things in the distance can become clearer and he can come and take these glasses when he is ready.
Note to evening office: When curiosity finds a method; change often follows.
Its easy to be caught up in the daily doings, what ever they may be. Consumed by our work, home and all the other stuff that just keeps happening; you know what I mean. Just give me 5-minutes, I’ll do it later, I need to get away, I can manage!
I enjoy photography but I think that is just an excuse to go for a walk, a time to be on my own and to empty my head, or to process some of my concerns. The other morning after delivering an envelope I headed into the valley gardens and soon found myself by the river side, (fairy glen). I sat with my back against an old tree closed my eyes and just listened to the water. I was fascinated by the different sounds as the river rushed on by; I widened my listening and drew in the sounds of birds, trees in the wind and squirrels rustling in the leaves. It was as if I had stepped into another world and during this stay, my energy levels were being increased, the day at work seamed to go better, I was more at ease with myself and others.
Spirituality is not just about going to church; its about discovery; we can’t always find it in the busyness of the day. Jesus often went off on his own into the wilderness; I think he means for us to do the same. Someday in the future we may have booths we can step into and have light images and sound around us creating in us a better mood? For me, I’ll stick to my walks in the woods and on the beach listening to the wildness of the sea.
On my 12th birthday my parents gave me a Ukulele banjo; I was so excited. Within the day I could play “Little brown jug”, I loved the banjo but school friends were not impressed, guitars were more the fashion; the banjo laid idle in the wardrobe. Years later I sold it to a guy who could really play and it seemed better in his hands than mine; this was after my father had died.
Many more years later I regretted the sale and contacted the guy who was then retired; I explained the sentimental value of the banjo and he agreed to sell it back to me. I was more surprised by the price for he insisted on the same £15 that I sold it to him. I was so pleased to have it back and once again it went into the wardrobe. The old banjo came out from time to time and again I would play “Little brown jug”.
Recently, again talking about the old banjo, I heard of a banjo workshop at the local pub and turned up with my banjo under my arm. I was told that my old banjo is actually a banjolin and should have steel strings to get the best sound; now after 45 years I have the chance to really play the old banjo.
Note to morning office: Its all about using the things you have and not leaving them to gather dust; you might as well not have them. Letting go of things not used is an ongoing challenge – first identify them.
Harvesting has already begun, probably due to the lack of rain; this photo was taken on an early morning walk just a few weeks ago.
I try not to get caught up in discussion about Mary, Theotokos (Mother of God) but I feel uplifted by the words of the Magnificat, used by Teams of Our Lady.
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
I feel as if I want to shout - WOW! right after that part……
The feast of the Transfiguration and today's Eucharist seemed extra special, experiencing that thin place between heaven and earth – complexity and simplicity.
This is not something that can be prescribed, manufactured or reserved. Something that happens without announcement and finds us holding our breath and wondering just what is happening.
Walking along the river Tees at Preston Park last week, I captured the delicate shades of this flower against the flowing river and above, the spiral staircase; more simplicity – complexity.
Note to evening office: Remember I am not just earthly bound.
During this last month there have been many re-connections with folk from long ago. Cousins, friends and just this week an old school chum who I have not seen in 41-years (when we left school). Some have been off the radar for only a couple of years but some for over twenty; it has been quite weird how this has all happened in just a few weeks.
The photos I am including today were copied from glass slides and were taken (or at least once owned) by Leo Atkinson, Scout leader of 3rd South Bank St Peters. Also you can see by the football that the team were St Brendan’s Middlesbrough 1903; I am amazed at the quality of some of these old slides.
We see today as a result of our yesterdays and step forward with excitement for the future; for it will be what we make it.
Its nice to be back; Hastings, Bexhill and Battle. A lovely break meeting friends old and new. This was a part working holiday with a retreat at Ashburnham Place. Time away is often an opportunity to take stock and look forward, a time away from the routine and busyness; the distractions that prevent forward thinking.
The challenge now of course
is to follow it through.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Monday the 14th and an early walk to meet the sun.
Holy Holy Holy, Lord God almighty, early in the morning our song shall rise to thee….
All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Saltburn by the Sea.
Note to morning office: May I rise to the newness of each day.
Change comes as a reaction to a situation, others, emotion, nature or an internal thought.
Most of the time we talk about our reaction to change but the opposite is true; change comes from reaction.
I sometimes think, that putting it this way round, helps me deal better with change.
There is a certain quiet that envelopes us when we stand and become aware of the things that don’t move. I am thinking now of the mountains, trees, dry-stone walls, valleys and rivers.
It instils a sense of security and knowledge that we journey only a short distance.
We look for stability in our lives and remembrance is an important process: anchoring to places, scenery, structure – things that do not move. I recognise the feeling while I stand and gaze; and begin to see what it is I am looking at.
Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee;
all things are passing, God never changeth!
Patient endurance attaineth to all things;
who God possesseth in nothing is wanting;
alone God sufficeth.
Most times I avoid difficult situations, confrontations; especially in the people/ emotional areas. It is more often a case of – wait till the dust settles, keep your head down or – wait till someone else does something, then it will sort itself out.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, its just the getting there (in the darkness) that is the struggle. But perhaps if I learn through my struggles, then there won’t be so many tunnels? Just gritting your teeth to get through the darkness is a good way of coping but in the long run; looking at the process may be better.
378-yard tunnel on the Kendal canal [Hincaster tunnel].
Last week saw me over at Kendal with some friends. The weather was fantastic and I managed a couple of walks. We stayed at a converted barn (very grand) with a disused canal at the bottom of the field. The canal is mostly dried up now so the greenery is really taking over; cowslips and bluebells amongst the bright new green.
Our life is full of questions, it is difficult to start a conversation without a question: how are you? What have you been doing recently? Did you know? Have you heard? Our need to satisfy our questions are now met by the Internet; any question may be asked and an answer will be given. We can ask questions that we would never ask in company of others, not wishing to appear stupid. We can check information and impress our knowledge to those around us. Conversations are vehicles of information exchange and what we know about the world, its issues and people becomes extremely important.
Conversations with God are, in the main somewhat different; based on requests rather than questions. I guess it may have something to do with the fact we don’t expect an answer. We make requests and wait for a result; this is ok of course, we are God’s children.
The Moody Blues – “I’m looking for someone to change my life”.
“Its the more the way you really mean it when you tell me what will be.”
Note to morning office: Try to ask God three questions today; and expect answers.
There is nothing in the Inbox, no letters through the door and the phones are silent;
I am poised, waiting for something to happen. Something has to happen, otherwise what will I do?
The importance of being ready does not outweigh the act of being found waiting.
It is in the act of creativity for oneself, that grows who we are and to become more complete.
I have a large piece of clean paper, pens, colours and glue; materiel and many ways of joining them together. I have words, thoughts, ideas; visions and dreams. I have things so exciting, they scare me and feelings that take my breath away.
The more we let out, that which is within; the less we rely on outward things, to drive who we are.
My thoughts and dreams are no different to yours – Dare to be different…..
It is noticeable recently how things are beginning to green up.
Each one takes its turn; buds and leaves bursting into life.
An orchestra of greenery, conducted by nature itself.
Probably my most favourite book as a child was The Faraway Tree with all its characters and adventures; the tree in itself was a whole community, from the Saucepan man to Dame Washalot and of course old Moonface who provided a safe exit from danger, down the slippery-slip.
Reaching the top of the tree was only the beginning, for there, reaching up beyond the clouds was along ladder. Each day at the top of the ladder a new land was to be found; a land of Dreams, a land of Spells and a land of Tempers. I have been thinking recently about Merry-go-rounds and beginning to wonder if I have been carried away by the Land of Merry-go-rounds; you see, if you do not make it back to the ladder in time, you could indeed be carried away.
The merry-go-round seems to travel so fast, yet once on the merry-go-round, everything outside this space seems be be going twice/ ten times as fast. Time seems slow to those who are in the spin and once off the merry-go-round I seem to have missed so much. There is much more to this story as there are so many merry-go-rounds. Come on old Moonface, what is the secret? how do we jump from one to another and not miss what is happening in between?
The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Illustrations by Dorothy M Wheeler.
Looking out of my window, I notice the view never changes; ok, so the trees have grown over the years and we have a few more houses, but essentially it hasn’t changed.
Each morning I look out with expectant eyes and frequently I am not disappointed, for the changes are immense.
Light itself changes colour, mood, depth and clarity, the sense of distance and my perception of environment changes; how I feel inside is a response to this outward view.
Note to morning office: You are the light of the world, may I change in response to You.
The big church in Saltburn are having another art exhibition, the theme is “into the light”. One of the ladies of the parish asked if would submit a photo, I did some last time on creation.
I had many thoughts and most of them based on the fact that it was too difficult for us to look directly at the light; reflected by water, through glass, trees etc - sounded the best route. I went in search of tall buildings, Banks, Churches and found myself in the back streets and alleyways.
We see light from our darkness, from the shadows, I tried to capture the effect of light and how it eats into the vertical darkness and tears into the shadows; the added presence of light on the garbage cans was a bonus.
Note to evening office: Illuminate my shadows.
A long promised walk was finally found; I thought about two hours would be good, but due to ice and a slight detour it lasted more than four. The path was so frozen that I had real difficulty getting up the hill and into the woods, I am glad no-one could see me as I took one step up and slid my whole length back; it was like an old silent movie. Probably due to the weather there were no other brave walkers, just the sound of the swelling river as it hurried over the great sandstone boulders. Movement caught my eye as two small dear darted through the trees, I was amazed that something running so fast made hardly a sound.
It was more than just a walk, I was on a quest, weeks ago I decided on this walk, to find the wishing stone and a part of the woods that I remembered when I was young; this was to form a central part of my book (which is very slow work in progress).
I felt I was well prepared, with camera, binoculars, mobile phone, waterproof jacket and boots; an ice pick and crampons would have been better, I soon found a stout stick that helped to keep me vertical. I think I was more worried about my camera!
The scars and sandstone outcrops are evidence of mining, Glaisdale was abundant in iron ore and in 1865 three blast furnaces were built in this small Esk Valley town. The path is made up of large sandstone blocks leading on, higher and away from the river, the sound of the water becoming deeper in the distance, slowly being taken over by the quiet of the trees.
It was easier to walk on the verges as the stones were like trying to walk on ice cubes; I decided to head up away from the path as I felt the wishing stone was much higher as I recalled. I did find one stone that resembled it but decided this was much smaller than I remembered. Further on still I caught my breath as I saw and remembered the wishing stone; there it was, as big as ever and with that big crack running through the middle, I wanted to run to it.
I stood and looked at it for such a long time, photographing different angles; I felt I could still hear the shout of us as children jumping and climbing over it; it is a magical stone and of course I couldn’t resist but to walk through the stone and make a wish.
My quest to find the second special place was not to be, try as I might it remained hidden. Further on still I left the path again and headed towards the the edge of the steep cliff with the river below and trees forming as it were a safety wall that I might not fall off the edge. I had found a different place that was indeed special, a sense of security and peace; I am sure I could have stayed there all day.
Note to morning office: Not all magic is about wizards and spells, its good to have a dream; MAKE A WISH!
Looking forward to a short break – two nights in a Bothy near Edinburgh; then on to Hetton Hall to visit friends at Northumbria Community. Sounds like heaven to me…..
Inside the Chapel at Hetton Hall, Northumbria.