Sunday, September 17, 2006

We Come to the Table

It is funny how things collide. I used to think it must be God when you read something at random, written by someone you never met, expressing your own thoughts, sometimes in the same way you had thought them. Maybe that is 'god' in some ways. I think it is definitely why people bother to read in any case. I think it also why people bother with other people. And why other people sometimes bother us quite so much.

So a friend sent me this poem this morning and it goes somewhere in the Venn diagram where my self and everyone else's selves intersect. This is how god is for me at the minute. And having written a lot for myself lately regarding the eucharist I am starting to imagine a way of writing it down for those other selves. Probably on this blog at some point.

The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside Our Church: The Eucharist
by Mary Oliver

Something has happened
to the bread
and the wine.

They have been blessed.
What now?
The body leans forward

to receive the gift
from the priest's hand,
then the chalice.

They are something else now
from what they were
before this began.

I want
to see Jesus
maybe in the clouds

or on the shore,
just walking,
beautiful man

and clearly
someone else

On the hard days
I ask myself
if I ever will.

Also there are times
my body whispers to me
that I have.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

love the human form divine

Ok I nicked the title from Sarah and Dave's blog (see title link) and apologies for that, but I had this real Blakean moment this morning and it was the line I kept thinking of over and over.

It was a parcel of clothes for Ana from Rozi, Orla, Trevor and Connell. To the fab four; you don't know how gratefully that was received. Thank you very Very much. The shoes were especially appreciated. And we three are very happy this morning because of you!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In My Blakean Year

I wrote this some time ago but felt the need to revisit it again today. Thought I'd post it so I could get access to it more often and in different places. It would be great if anyone had anything else to add. (And do check out the title link. I love her.)

‘He who bends to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise’
(William Blake)

To enjoy something beautiful we must let it be beautiful. To ‘bend it to oneself’ will alter our vision, as if seeing a beautiful painting and, wanting to possess it, pressing our faces up against the canvas; we are in one sense closer to it but ironically, we have lost it because we cannot see it as it was meant to be. To take a step back and let it be becomes a risk of enormous proportion. Other people can see it. Perhaps someone else will steal it. Perhaps we will see that it exists pretty well without us.

To capture the bird deprives it of its meaning. It is born to fly, and doing so it may escape us. It might happen that we experience its wonder only once before it moves on.

But what gives the painting and the bird their brilliance is the sense that they are fulfilling their purpose. That is the joy. That they are. Completely. So the risk is the joy. And pain which may come will be both its shadow and its meaning.

And the truth is we can live without the risk but we cannot avoid pain. With our faces up against the canvas it is true, no one else can see the picture and no one else can steal it. But it is also true that we cannot see it either. And we cannot see anything else while it is there. And we are burdened by the constant effort to carry around something that can never be us.

With the bird in the cage it is true, it will not escape us. But it is also true that we will never see it fly. And we too are captured by the weight of concern that accompanies possessiveness. We must keep watching the cage in case the lock breaks, in case someone else lets the bird escape. Our security in the knowledge that we have captured the bird is no security at all because in our souls we know that life cannot really be contained. The bird could (and will someday) die and we are powerless to prevent it. It is this soul knowledge which keeps us glued to the cage. The knowledge of our frailty then makes us more and more frail. What is the point, we might ask, of life when it is merely a struggle to avoid death, unavoidable death?

We have missed the point until we open the cage door:

The bird flies and for a moment we realise our fears- it may escape us forevermore. But at the same time we realise the point- the fear is accompanied by freedom. And this is the point. That beauty exists. We have been part of it. And the experience is known as joy. It may only be short lived, that is true. And when it finishes the pain will equal the joy in its enormity and its intensity. But the freedom will remain in the soul knowledge that we birthed the joy. Something else will have led to its demise. But it was our willingness to watch and experience and love without interfering with the other’s freedom that has let them be free. They live because we chose life for them and for ourselves. The pain may be greater this way. But anything else will kill our spirit and the spirit of others.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Talking to a friend about poetry and catharsis this morning reminded me of this. When I was in hospital awaiting Ana's arrival the other waiting mothers and I were treated to a hideous symphony from above; a woman in the upstairs ward going through labour. It scared us all to death. It was everyone's first time and though we all feared the worst, none of us had ever heard it before.

There was this midwife who I didn't like much. She was bossy and rude and extremely insensitive. And she came round that morning and told us the most profound thing I had ever heard concerning childbirth. She said the noise a woman makes when she is giving birth is not related to the pain the way you might expect; it is not the pain that forces a woman to cry out. Rather it is the cry that keeps one going through the pain. It is a tool. And sometimes it might sound even louder than the pain. And that is partly the point.

A few hours later I would find out what she meant. The pain of birthing is not the pain of an accident. It is the pain of finishing. And the pain of becoming. Beholding. Everything new. Ouch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


It is my birthday tomorrow. So in honour of myself I googled-imaged 'Shirley'.

I found, amongst other things;
  • a very scary looking Shirley Temple doll,
  • a school in New Zealand called 'Shirley High School for Boys',
  • a photograph of someone's gravestone (Shirley's),
  • a painting of a man with a beard called 'Portrait of Shirley',
  • a 9200lb elephant called Shirley (and you can buy a t-shirt with her picture on. How glad am I that this knowledge was not available when I was a teenager?),
  • a picture of Shirley McClaine in a green outfit
  • and the knowledge that there are several places called 'Shirley' and a number of flowers.

    Lilies are my favourite sort of flower ( not this sort, although I like them very much) . But oddly, the 'Shirley' lily is the sort that my mother-in-law buys me every-so-often. I didn't know until today that that's what they were called. The power of google.