I began reading a book on poetry as medicine last week. One of the poems struck me and I was reminded of it today as we spoke about play as part of a lecture:
My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those mountains,
farther than the oceans,
way up near the stars,
to ask Christ the Lord
to give back to me
the soul I had as a child,
matured by fairy tales,
with its hat of feathers
and its wooden sword.
(Federico Garcia Lorca)
I long for the child like wonder to return – there are glimpses of it at times, particularly in nature but I long sometimes for the freedom of that joy filled child who didn’t yet understand the expectations of others and the things which constrain.
Mum joined us for a few days on holiday and one of the things we did together was to visit Polperro in Cornwall. Polperro is a name I have known since I was very young as that was what Mum’s Godmother and husband had called their house. They have been dead so many years now and there are no relatives left who might know the story. But we wandered down the lanes wondering where they might have stayed.
I have written more than once recently about visiting aspects of my childhood. At Polperro we played amongst the rhodedendrons, watched the fish in the pond, saw adults playing on a full sized snooker table, collected eggs from the hens and met lots of family members we seldom saw as different branches of the family came together. One of my favourite childhood memories comes from a photo where several of us were sitting in a hammock. I am enjoying revisiting some of these memories while Mum can fill me in about all sorts of things which are only fragments.
I spent most of yesterday preparing a session on children’s spirituality for a module on multidisciplinary spiritual care later this month. I got to revisit books I had read long ago and was again inspired by how wonderful it is to spend time with children. The quotation that I am using which struck me most is this:
If the spiritual dimension of children’s lives is not listened to, and nurtured it can become suppressed and damaged by socially and historically constructed processes. This can lead children, as they grow older, to repress, neglect and even discard the spirituality first experienced in a significant way during their childhood. (Hyde 2008:59-60)
It is with sadness that I recognize the truth of this, the loss of wonder, excitement, the jadedness which can come at a comparatively early age. I most often use nature to get me back in touch with this wondering, monday morning it was a baby bird hopping around the garden from branch to branch, I was sorry I had not got round to replenishing the food!
Hyde. B. (2008). Children and Spirituality. London: Jessica Kingsley.
We walked into a building labelled “Mushroom House” – dark and damp – using my phone as a torch while my eyes adjusted to the lack of light I saw not mushrooms but pears! Although the pears looked lovely and I did have to resist the temptation to take a bit out of them I was a little disappointed not to find what it was I was expecting. I seem to be in a connecting with childhood mode at the moment and remember with great fondness a giant toadstool that sat in the middle of the long gone hut we used to meet in.
I sometimes get torn between feeling cheated that something wasn’t what it said it was and excited because it was something unexpected. This was perhaps a bit of both!
One of the fun parts of the summer has been wandering round the city seeing all the different owls that are part of the big hoot – an arts and fundraising project for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. They disappear from their perches on Sunday and I am disappointed that there has not been an opportunity to see them all but I have loved coming across them in all sorts of random places as I have gone about the city, even when I handed my thesis in!
On Friday I was part of a fascinating conversation about what shapes our interests and desires and I have in my overnight bag a copy of the Owl Service by Alan Garner, a childhood favourite book. The first painting I ever chose for myself was as a student in Brighton and features a barn owl. I am also drawn to explore the idea of wisdom and the saying as wise as an owl is one that sticks with me along with the enormous fun of brownies as a child – led by “owls”. I love tracing back parts of who I am and what I enjoy and being aware of who and what fashioned who I am today sometimes in the same careful way as the artists approached painting their owls.
God as an anchor sometimes feels like it is from the same era of my (Sally’s) life as joy is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart! Perhaps that thought was prompted by seeing this anchor outside of Bude Castle but some how the image of a rusty anchor resonates at this stage of my life. It makes me think of some of those anchors that I have discarded perhaps prematurely, perhaps inadvertently as I have made one choice not another. There are people, places, practices that I have allowed to rust that I need to revisit or reconnect with – or at least remember. At the moment quite a bit of that seems to relate to my childhood and now seems to be the time to clean off the rust and connect that anchor back to the boat that is me…
One of my favourite childhood memories is walking down country lanes looking at wildflowers with my Grandma. The hedgerows that we used to walk along are long gone as is my Grandma but she shared her knowledge and passion with me and a bit of her now lives on in me. I live less than a mile away from Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham so hedgerows are not part of my regular walks from home but this week I have been staying in a village for a study week. Late in the afternoon we have been going for a walk and again I have been struck by the beauty of hedgerows. But hedgerows are not neat and orderly, they are not well manicured, they are messy but they have an amazing beauty. This week hedgerows containing primroses, bluebells and violets with a few dead leaves, twigs, and bits of grass boundaried the footpath.
A lot of time I live with such messiness. When I look at my life there are lots of almost competing elements, some bits struggling to grow, things that have died and need to be cleared up, things that are growing, in blossom or just waiting to flower not to mention the ever lurking ivy with its potential to choke the growth of other plants. When I looked at the hedgerow and took this picture I almost missed the fragile little violet. I need to regularly reflect on my life and take notice of what the violets might be, what I might be missing unless I look closely. Sometimes it might be a person, other times a task, a post on a social networking site I need to respond to, or it could even be that I just need to spend some time just looking. I love playing with metaphors and they help me to reflect on and understand what God is doing in my life and today messy beauty is an image I want to dwell on.