Boudica and St Helen ~ two women who hoped to change the world.

Boudica and St Helen ~ two women who hoped to change the world.

Separated by about three hundred years, there is little that connects these two women beyond the town of Colchester, or the fact that they were both women fighting to achieve something in what was mostly a man’s world.

Boudica (or Boudicca or even Boudicea; the spelling varies) was the Iceni queen who took on the might of the Roman empire in the Iceni revolt of AD60. Outraged (and rightly so) by the Roman’s welching on the deal her late husband made with them to allow her to retain half his lands after his death, and by their punishing of her presumption by publicly flogging her and having her two daughters raped, the warrior queen swept across southern Britain burning and slaughtering all in her path. Britons were not spared; if they had not joined her army, they were considered collaborators and their deaths were horrific. In Colchester, then the capital of Roman Britain, hundreds of scared people huddled into the newly built temple to Claudius, hoping they would be spared. She had the temple barred and set fire to it, burning it to the ground with every soul inside. St Alban’s and London met the same fate before she was finally bested in battle, and she is thought to have taken poison to avoid capture. The clash of cultures that was the meeting of Roman and Celtic worlds had only one end, the destruction of the Celtic. Boudica was a liberated woman by Roman standards, as her society allowed much greater freedoms to women than the Romans did. With her died the spirit of resistance and until the Romans got as far as Northumberland they met with little concerted resistance.  

I stood outside Colchester castle a few days ago, built on the foundations of the temple, and using many Roman materials recycled and I felt a wash of sadness for that vibrant, independent woman  and for the thousands of innocent people she had killed. Given the might of the Roman war machine, the outcome was inevitable but she tried to hold it back, hold back the darkness a little longer and save her people’s ways.

Less than a hundred yards away stands a small blocky building built also from recycled tiles and dressed stone salvaged from Roman ruins. The precise date is obscure but certainly a building stood here from the late 4th century. The plain chapel is probably Saxon, standing on the site of an earlier church. This is the chapel of St Helen, mother of the emperor Constantine the Great and finder of the cross of Christ according to legend. I walked in expecting nothing, and found myself in a place that seemed to be scented with peace. Icons lined the walls and a fragrance of incense persisted. One single hand-dipped taper flickered in the quiet. The few high small windows admitted little light and it felt like a cave belonging to a hermit. St Helen is the patron saint of Colchester, traditionally thought to be the daughter of King Coel, ruler of Colchester in the 4th century, and her statue tops the town hall, holding a cross. Below her other dignitaries portrayed in typical Victorian style stare blindly down; Boudica clutches a spear, poised to hurl it.

Like Boudica, Helen was a woman in a man’s world. She’d be remembered more as the wife of one emperor and the mother of another had it not been her determination to make a difference. Her discovery of the cross of Christ enabled her to build churches all over the world.

It’s hard after almost two millennia to really know who these women were, really. Warrior queen and cross-finding Empress they couldn’t be more different, yet I think they have much in common. They were both subject to the rule of men and yet they tried to achieve massive change. Boudica did so by taking up weapons and going to war. Helen took up the challenge of finding a symbol that would unite all the different factions of the new faith.

No one knows where Boudica http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boudica is buried or if she has a resting place. I’d visit and shed a few tears for her and for her lost dreams at the hands of the Romans.

Buried in Rome, St Helen  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_(Empress is considered the patron saint of new discoveries (something I am keen to espouse, considering myself an explorer). A relic of her is housed somewhere in that small chapel.

Two women who tried to change the world. They both succeeded to some degree, though it is debatable how much difference either of them made. Yet to know that in history, strong women have existed and have fought the status quo in their own fashion must have given heart to secretly rebellious girls and women of all ages, nurturing their hopes of finding a better way for all.

Meet the Mirror ~ Tip the Time-line

Meet the mirror, tip the time-line

I don’t like mirrors; they show me a stranger who I don’t like or sometimes don’t even recognise. I don’t look the way I think I do, inside, and often the  fact that there is no correspondence between my inner image and what I see in the mirror means I seldom linger at a mirror. I wash my face, put on make up, do my hair and my teeth and hardly look,  because it leaves me so despondent. I’ve never been pretty, but like Maude Gonne (who was a famed beauty in her time and inspired poet WB Yeats to write some very great poetry) I do have my “moments of glad grace” that might pass for beauty for someone like me.

Today I have felt a touch on my left hand a number of times, like a feather brushing my skin, but there is nothing there. At first I thought a hair was tickling me or a fly, but there was nothing. I got a dim impression of someone trying to attract my attention.

Then this evening, I passed the mirror in the bathroom and I saw something else looking back at me, rather than the usual rather tired blonde with a face like an earnest horse that is desperate to show everyone how clever it actually is and I stopped dead for a moment.

Gazing back at me, somehow, was the little girl I used to be and the old woman I will become. They were not phantoms but they were there in my own familiar half-hated workaday face, as definite as my own bones. I saw in my wiry hair the softness of childhood and the spider-silk of old age, all in the same silver gilt my hair is now, poised in its turning to grey. In my eyes, which are the colour of the north sea in winter, changeable and deep, I saw the pure blue innocence of the child I once was and the deep grey green wisdom of an old woman I may yet become.

I paused, struck by something odder yet that the appearance of these two. It was that as I saw them, I could see they were beautiful and yet, seeing my own face, I could not see it in me. And yet, they are me. How can this be, that I cannot see my beauty in this time but in other times, I can?

I’m probably halfway through my life, and yet, what have I done, and what have I yet to do? Both these questions are what my other selves might ask of me and they did not. If anything they just showed me their loveliness that I am unable to accept in myself.

I am not sure what this encounter means but I’d like to share with you a song by someone who expresses it better than I can, this sense of time tipping and the need to mark the passing of time. Carolyn Hillyer writes very beautiful music that sadly I cannot find on
You-Tube but if you visit www.seventhwavemusic.co.uk
you can find samples to listen to and perhaps to buy.  

Meet the mirror, melt and merge there

Tilt the mirror, tip the time-line

Mind the mirror, mind you mark time

Mid-line, it’s your turn to turn time

(Meet the Mirror, from Old Silverhead, songs and initiations of Woman-hood
by Carolyn Hillyer)

I’m feeling very unsettled by this experience and the sense that I am
perhaps running out of time. It seems only a few years ago that I was that child with bright blue eyes, that have long since turned to that sea colour; can it be that it is an even shorter time before I become that old woman?

A Short Sermon for Low Sunday

 Another guest post from my husband…

Acts 2:14a,36-41: 14 ¶ But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd,…………….. 22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

John 20.19-end: 19 ¶ When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 ¶ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

Sermon

 

While I was seeking inspiration for this sermon the news was full of only one thing; the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The wedding was on every channel and dominated every newspaper.

 

It was like the world cup in reverse. All the women were glued to the tv. Admiring the dress, the finery and soaking up the romance. And the men were wondering around looking lost and aimless.

 

There were men fishing on the beach, with a few cans, that didn’t look as though they had gone fishing for quite some time. It can’t have been the weather – the sea breeze was cold despite the sun.

 

But the humour aside. I may not get excited about a wedding dress but I do wish the royal couple a long and happy marriage. What is important, isn’t so much the beautiful day but the days and months and years that follow.

 

I have prepared so many couples for marriage and sadly, for some it is all about the big day. And I mean ALL about the BIG DAY!

 

I have had one couple that split up at the reception and another on their honeymoon! Thankfully, those are extremes.

 

And I know of plenty of others that are strong to this day. It is wonderful when you marry a couple then baptise their children. Then, later, see those children at the local school. I have not had the privilege of preparing any of these children for marriage but I hope and pray that these couples will remain a stable foundation for their families to the end of their lives – just as they promised on their wedding day.

 

This is what I prayed for on Friday. That the joy of the day will be distilled into a lifelong commitment, through good and bad. Then I went to see if I could find my fishing rod! Well, in my case my bike keys!

 

A lifelong commitment through good and bad is what we are called to in Christ. Those first disciples had gone through so much and they would have to endure more in the years to come. They were faithful to Jesus, their friend and king.

 

But that doesn’t mean that it was easy for them. Thomas doubted from the beginning. Peter had already denied Jesus and the others had run away.

 

So when I doubt, when you doubt, that doesn’t mean that all is lost. It just means that we are human. It also means that the faith we have may be real and not a fantasy. Real faith is questioned and tested.

 

 

Now for us the dust of Easter has settled and we now learn again to live the Easter life. We continue our life as part of Christ’s bride the Church. Amid all the finery and pageant of Easter we made or reaffirmed our baptism promises. Our marriage vows to Christ.

 

You will be different from the time when you first made your baptism vows. You and I change and grow every day of our lives. Life’s experiences change us and we grow.

 

Christ continues to love us as we change, no matter what that change is.

 

Our task is to trust that love and try and learn to love Christ back whatever the world does to us. Whatever our doubts and failings. Christ does not turn away, even if you or I abandon him.

 

I may fail to keep my promises to Christ, so might you. We may be unfaithful but Christ is not. Christ, through the Spirit living in us, faithfully seeks to work in us – to make us good, and holy, and content: To make us whole and complete in Him.

 

Jesus says to you, “Peace be with you”. Jesus breathes on you saying “Receive the Holy spirit”.

 

Like the royal wedding, the pageant of Easter is over and now the hard work and the real joy begins.

 

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

 

A guest post for the birthday of Shakespeare ~ Ophelia dejected and wretched

For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I generously offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. Her book “Anomaly” was the first e-book I bought for my Kindle and I hope to review it here soon. My blog will be back to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy and follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak

I asked her to write something with a Shakespearean theme of some sort as today is both Shakespeare’s birthday and his death day and this is what she came up with. Enjoy!

Ophelia Deject and Wretched

By Thea Atkinson

http://theaatkinson.wordpress.com

I’m only mad North Northwest; it’s just that I haven’t felt the wind change direction for a while.

Been alone out here six years now. Gert stayed with me for a while, kept me company, but that didn’t work out so well. Got myself a sweet little spot close to the docks, a jumble of gargantuan granite stones that touch each other in all the right places, forming a cozy Ophelia-sized hollow to keep me out of the elements and my stuff dry.

I keep my Motel Granite good and secret, even from Gert and the other gals under the bridge. I feel bad about that, but really, it can’t be helped. Last time I let someone in, she stole everything but the wind-chapped roses on my cheeks: everything I owned in this sour world, my picture of Hamish-long-gone. Even my one hand-crocheted slipper got purloined, so you never can trust a soul out here. You know what’s best for you, you settle on a wide step at the Post Office like I am now, and make with the rolling eyes. Herds of people enter and exit, so it’s as good a place as any to ply my trade.

Sometimes pity sits in someone’s palm in the form of a quarter; more often than not it wants more of a show before it deigns to make an appearance. I’m alright with that. Theater was my favorite subject in college — it was my major, after all. Shakespeare, my specialty.

I add a glassy stare to the rolling eyes bit, pretend to pass out flowers to would-be clientele.

“Rosemary for remembrance,” I say to a bulldog wearing a business suit. With his tight-assed walk, I can tell he needs something to help him remember he has a human soul.

“Just a quarter, sir.” I tug at his gabardine trouser leg and he flicks a Yoric-eyed glance over my modest skirt and trash-bin jacket. He finally throws a quarter into my jug.

“Thank you, kind sir,” I sneak a dejected look into my jar: only three coins and two bills — one of them a Monopoly denomination.

These last few years have been tough, believe me. After I fed Gert from my own stash of dumpster doughnuts and let her wear my slipper over the one foot of hers with a black toe from frostbite, she still stole from me. I thought I’d lose my mind to rage. Didn’t though. Found some reserve deep within and scouted out a new place. My little granite motel has walls of stone, a floor of earth, and a minute skylight that shows me the twinkling of apartment lights if I lay the right way. I can’t let anyone in any more, no matter how lonely I am.

Thinking about my granite motel and its potential for impregnable warmth, I feel sorry for the gals under the bridge. Doesn’t matter how sheltered that spot is, Jack Frost has a way of slipping his poison into that fluid amber they drink down there to keep him at bay. Soon they slip into another state. Soon after that they’re rotting in that state and the only one who sheds a tear over them is the coroner, and his eyes only seep from the stink of their unwashed bodies.

“What a noble mind is here overthrown,” I shout at everyone. They’ve got a nerve pretending but for the grace of God they’d not be sitting here. A right fine nerve. “But for the grace of God,” I whisper to the next woman as she hurries past, and she drops a bill in as if to assuage her guilt.

Ah, the grace of God. Would that we all show a little kindness down here so we may reap the same when we’ve gone. A gal never knows when she’ll be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

I take a look at the bustling crowds, the taxis weaving in and out, jockeying for quicker routes to their destinations, and for some reason I think of Gert. I know she doesn’t have a sweet little spot like the granite motel, or a lucrative place of business. She has no trade to ply. All she has is a black toe covered by a hand-crocheted slipper, and a picture of my man loved and gone.

I imagine she’s making her way to the bridge right now, hoping to find a sheltered crevice to keep her out of the elements for the night. I worry she might decide to swoon under Jack Frost’s embrace.

Methinks the wind may be changing.

-30-

April 22 Leah Petersen

http://www.leahpetersen.com/

April 23 Vivienne Tuffnell

https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/

April 24–Tania Tirraoro http://notasadvertised.blogspot.com/

Regards from,

Thea Atkinson
visit the rate me some tab for a great taste test
 
Check out any of my ebooks on amazon 
 

Maundy Thursday ~ calm before the storm and a sense of foreboding

 

Maundy Thursday ~ calm before the storm and a sense of foreboding

 

Some years ago now, I wrote a poem that still haunts my own memory, if that doesn’t sound too self-obsessed. I was walking home late at night after attending a Maundy Thursday vigil and as I walked through our quiet village, I smelled lamb cooking at the Indian takeaway and it set a train of thought running that resulted in me coming in and scribbling down the following prose poem.

Gethsemane Girl

It’s a still night, the warm air filled

With the hot greasy scent of a thousand meals.

Glad I didn’t have to cook tonight;

I know lamb is traditional but it seems so unfair:

That little life cut short just for us.

I shouldn’t be here; they said no.

He didn’t, of course; he never does.

But I’m here anyway.

Maybe he knows; they don’t.

Look at them, sleeping like babies!

He wasn’t himself tonight, seemed sad.

Someone said he’s paranoid,

Expecting betrayal at any moment.

Won’t be me”, that’s what Peter said.

He can’t help boasting but it’s sad.

He’s like a big hairy dog pretending to be brave-

One sniff of a wolf and he’d be off!

Anyway, I’m worried.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned,

It’s this: men can’t be trusted.

I shouldn’t be here: but someone should,

And since they’ve all dozed off

There’s only me, wide-awake in the bushes.

Nothing I can do but wait;

This mood of his will pass,

It always does.

But he does look so sad

And I wish-

But that’s not to be.

I’m so tired too.

I don’t know why I’m here;

I don’t understand half of what he says

But while he says it, it sounds so right.

Pity not everyone agrees.

If I close my eyes, just rest them, mind,

Just for a moment or two.

It’s been such a long day.

I won’t sleep, not like the others.

Not sleeping, just resting my eyes,

Just-

I’d been thinking about the other ‘actors’ in that drama so many centuries ago, wondering how they’d seen it all, living it moment by moment without knowing the eventual outcome. I identified with those shadowy figures that we hear mentioned and who played a pivotal role in the Easter story and yet whose own voices have never been heard. As I smelled the hot curry smell, I thought about the women who cooked and cared for Jesus and the disciples and started wondering what they had truly been thinking, that night before the Passover, so many centuries ago. We don’t know who they all were, Mary Magdalene is often suggested as one of the inner circle; she has always struck me as girl with resources and I began to wonder whether she would have sneaked after the disciples who were invited to pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

So into that darkened garden I crept, my hands still slightly greasy with lamb fat and olive oil from the shared meal and my eyes heavy with tiredness. I knew things were changing, sensing the storm coming like a weather sense, and yet, hoping and hoping that nothing bad was going to happen.

While I wrote the poem some years ago, at the time, I could also sense changes coming, unable to pinpoint them. It took longer for the storm to hit, and my life to be altered beyond anything I imagined, but like Mary in that garden, I knew something was coming.

Now, six or seven years later, I approach Maundy Thursday with the renewed sense of something coming. It’s still far off, I think, but I can feel it, like a summer storm you can feel even when the sun is brilliant and there’s not a cloud to be seen except that dim dark line at the far horizon. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad coming, but change in any way is unsettling and shakes you up.

I’m trying to remember my Gethsemane Girl, hiding in the bushes and not knowing the end of the story, and trying to tell her, Be strong, it changes everything beyond what you ever imagined possible.

 

Literary Post-Partum Blues ~ when the book is done, what then?

  The Flow Form pool, at the Chalice well gardens, in Glastonbury. I thought it looked womb-like.

Literary Post-Partum Blues ~ when the book is done, what then?

 

 I finally completed a novel yesterday. You’d imagine that’d make me deliriously happy, wouldn’t you? However, I think most experienced writers make few assumptions about how it might feel, because it varies so much. With some books you feel like having a party; others you feel like getting hammered quietly somewhere alone, curled up in a corner with a bottle of Scotch. And yet others you sit there and think, OK, what now.

I don’t mean the obvious side of things, like editing or proofreading, or if you are intending to submit to a publisher, query letters or the rest of that side of things. Nor do I mean leaving it alone for a month or two and then ripping it up and starting again.

It’s the emptiness.

I’ve said goodbye to people who have been intimately close to me for however long it’s taken. People, not characters. I’ve said goodbye to friends who mean a lot to me and I need to let them go. I mustn’t obsessively spy on them as they make their way.

And the emptiness feels a lot like a condition that affects a surprising number of women each year: Empty Womb Syndrome. You’ve carried this baby for nine months, under your heart and now it’s out. But the baby inside is gone forever. That tiny being with only potential to protect it no longer exists: the sleeping bundle in the crib cannot be the passenger who kicked and squirmed inside you for so long. I felt the same when I had my only child, and for a few days, the solution was obvious.

The solution for this ache is obvious and yet, just as it is for Empty Womb syndrome, so wrong.

I can’t just start another novel immediately. Just as my body needed time to recover from birthing a child, so my psyche needs time to recover from birthing a book.

So you see, the question What now, is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Last night I made a decision that whatever comes later, I would go through the process of marking this event with a small celebration. So we had a Thai takeaway, a bottle of fizzy wine (I’m not a big fan of champagne, but bubbles of some sort are obligatory celebration aides) and I also had a large Scotch. (Highland Park single malt, if anyone’s interested. I really like good whisky and I have a collection of them.)

Today, I am waking up to face the emptiness and to sit at the side of that void and wait.

At least I don’t have to face nappies as well.

Masquerade ~ who am I?

 

Masquerade.

 

When I was young I could not see

That there was any way to be

The real person I am inside.

It wouldn’t do; I’d have to hide.

Now I see it is my task:

Imagine life without the mask,

To be each day as best I can

That real person I know I am.

This means in truth that I would be

Daily naked for all to see.

Like hermit crabs inside their shells

We each of us protect ourselves

The core inside remains the same

Hidden safe and free from shame.

Only lovers can bear to be

Exposed to each other, in honesty.

When Do We Get To Do The Hazelnuts? A Review of Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich.

 

When Do We Get To Do The Hazelnuts? A review of Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich  

The above photo was taken no more than thirty paces from one of the most remarkable sites of pilgrimage in the whole of the British Isles. The Julian Shrine, the site of the cell where Dame Julian of Norwich lived out her life as an anchoress, and wrote Revelations of Divine Love, is situated in an area of Norwich that was formerly known as the red-light district. Due to the advent of mobile phones, the girls no longer wander up and down, but there are plenty of unsavoury characters around, as well as a good deal of graffiti.

And yet, the small church of St Julian and the reconstructed shrine attached to it shine with a light that is not visible to the naked untrained eye. The retreat house where I spent a few days last month is a haven of peace and home-like tranquillity. The church was bombed more or less flat during the last war and the cell itself was destroyed during the Reformation, so that if you want to be pedantic about it, nothing is as it was. But what is? The essence and the atmosphere have remained.

We know little about Julian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_of_Norwich) herself, not even her original name, other than that she was born around 1342 and died some time between 1416 and 1430, and at the age of thirty and a half years suffered a life threatening illness. Indeed, her family thought her to be dying and she received the last rites. But during this serious illness, she was shown visions that changed her utterly, and her miraculous recovery led her to chose a life of contemplation and devotion to prayer. She wrote two versions of her visionary experience: the short form, written in the immediate aftermath and a longer, more complete version some twenty years later, having spent those years in prayer and meditation to try and understand what she had been shown.

The resulting books have been considered spiritual classics ever since, studied and loved and returned to by generation after generation of seekers. She was the first woman(that we know of) to write a book in English and since the advent of the printing press her works have never been out of print. The chances are that she never knew in her life time how successful her works would become; she may never have even seen her book except as her own handwritten version. There is some uncertainty to whether she did in fact perform the act of writing it or whether like Margery Kemp(a mystic contemporary to Mother Julian, and whom she met to give counsel to) she dictated to a scribe since Julian claimed to be illiterate. However, scholars believe that by this she means she did not read and write fluently in Latin. The vernacular was not considered worthy of any great works.

The time that Julian lived in were troubled, though I can think of few times in English history that have not been so, and life was hard for most people. Wars raged, and a great deal of uncertainty about the future meant that many worried constantly about how life would be. Not so very different from today, in fact. I could draw parallels with events of the moment but I will not. Suffice it to say that while Julian lived, the world was not so very different from how it is now, technology notwithstanding.

Her words have brought great comfort to many souls who are troubled by life and their place in it:

Because of our good Lord’s tender love to all those who shall be saved, he quickly comforts them, saying, ‘The cause of all this pain is sin. But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ These words were said so kindly and without a hint of blame to me or to any who shall be saved. So how unjust it would be for me to blame God for allowing my sin when he does not blame me for falling into it. In these words I saw the deep, high mystery of God which he will show to us in heaven. Then we shall understand why he allowed sin to be. And in knowing this we shall have endless joy in God.The saints in heaven turn their will away from everything except what God would have them know… And this should be our will, too

 

I can hear you ask, what about the hazelnuts?

Well, I wish to end with one of the strangest examples of synchronicity I have seen in a long time. On my first morning of retreat, I headed out to find some lunch, and took a short cut down St Julian’s Alley, to come out at the Dragon Hall, a vestige of medieval Norwich that the bombs failed to flatten but before I got more than thirty paces from the church, I saw the graffiti and was so struck by it that I had to take a picture. You see, part of Julian’s vision involved a small thing like a hazelnut:

“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it
was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and
thought “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is
made.” I marvelled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have
sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my
understanding: “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.”
— Julian of Norwich

 

For me, this last piece of coincidence brings great comfort. To find idly scribbled words that unconsciously reflect one of the most treasured books of Christian literature on a half ruined building not many yards away from the source of those original words is to me a sign that we cannot know where our words will go and what they will do. Dame Julian can never have known in her lifetime the power her words would have and how long they would endure: endure beyond her own flesh, the established church of her time, beyond the stones of the cell and those of the church she worshipped at.

This brings me hope that truth and beauty and goodness have the power to endure beyond the troubles of their times and continue to affect people long after their creators have passed away and their names and true identities are lost in the mists of time.

 

The Texture of Silence

 

The texture of silence

 

Silence has texture.

You don’t realise how different those textures are until you stop to listen.

There’s the broken glass, bleeding edge texture of the awkward silence that falls in the ringing aftermath of a fight. You can feel the sharp fractured edges as the shattered peace falls to the ground like glass bird-scarers in an old fashioned kitchen garden.

Then there’s the hungry salivating silence of expectation, that bated breath hush, like the dying tones of the dinner gong where only vibrations and eagerness remain.

And finally there’s the silence you find in holy places, where worlds meet and touch and even overlap. You walk in and are struck by the depth of the quiet, self conscious suddenly of the creak of a door or arthritic knees, yet any sound you make rapidly vanishes, absorbed into the deep silence as a stone dropped into an underground lake. The ripples spread out to infinity and are lost, and the silence returns. It has the texture of the finest velvet, rich and soft as forest moss. When you let yourself be still, you can hear the silence over the roar of traffic or the bustle of a busy kitchen, like a kind of celestial white noise.

When you find a place where this sort of silence prevails, cherish it. Hold it in your heart, explore that texture in your mind till you understand that beyond all the sounds of the world, from the discordant roar of aircraft, the inanity of human chatter to the melody of springtime birds and the wind in the wheat, this silence is the song of the spirit that plays on whether we choose to hear it or not.

Homecoming #smallstone 2

 

Homecoming #small stone 2

Everything the same, yet joyfully unfamiliar. A few days away makes the place and the people more precious. The comforting scent of incense and freshly brewed coffee meet me as I walk in, my body tired and my mind frazzled from the last few days. Harsh memories slide away, the images of blood stains and of uniform blue bedspreads fade, and only the kindness of the nurses and the fellowship of other patients remain. I’m home.