Have you every wondered why ducks (and waders) can walk on mud? It seems it is not just about web feet spreading the weight, but what ducks can or can’t feel to be able to stand in mud all day? Yesterday we went to an open day and food festival at an agricultural college in Cornwall. The photo is of the ducks and there was an accompanying information board. I am a very amateur bird watcher, and didn’t know anything of the science that keeps their feet cool so they can safely stand on ice (see http://askanaturalist.com/why-don%E2%80%99t-ducks%E2%80%99-feet-freeze/ if you are interested in this. My ministerial and theological reflection is how did ducks and birds develop web feet so they could flourish, live and feed on mud flats and what can we learn from this for our resilience when we find ourselves standing in mud?
I am not sure that we want to advocate becoming immune and not feeling things so we can get on. This does not feel very healthy or empathetic. But we do want to be able to flourish when the going is not solid underfoot. We need to be to adapt to our pastoral contexts, others maybe up to their necks in it, but that does not mean we can not look after ourselves. We can learn to build up our physical and mental resources and approaches to spend the with people without getting emotional or spiritual pneumonia.
Not like a duck to water, but like a duck to mud.
We picked up a book yesterday called Soulfulness by Brian Draper. It introduced me to a new word – the Danish, hygge:
The soulful way, however, is not to escape, but to confront our reality, and to lovingly reconnect with it, which helps transform it. Something good can emerge from within even the darkest or most difficult circumstances when we resist the urge to flee and instead we reach to embrace. With that in mind, I love the principle of hygge (pronounced hyerga) which is the Danish way of tackling some of the coldest and darkest winters you can experience in the northern hemisphere. Hygge is not a form of escape, but a way of living within the difficult conditions, which in turn transforms them into something beautiful – while providing great inspiration for us all, wherever we find ourselves. The Danes, lest we forget, are officially some of the happiest people on the planet…and hygge is part of the reason why. Hygge then is a concept,, an idea, a way of being – hard to define precisely, and even harder to translate, but it relates to a sate of cosy yet profound simplicity. It is about the lovely, simple pleasures of life – such as drawing the curtains against the dark and the cold, lighting candles, kindling a fire, putting on our warm socks, making a hot drink and settling in with a group of friends or relatives. p162-3
It reminded me of the phrase don’t pray for an easy life, pray to be a strong person. Most of the time I have the energy to do this. Sometimes I just wish life was not as
difficult as it sometimes is. This term offers something slightly different, it is more like‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing!’ Many folks do not enjoy
the darker nights, autumn, bringing in winter. The insight seems to be, when it is cold, find something to enjoy doing in the cold.
Reference Brian Draper Soulfulness London Hodder and Stoughton 2016.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
One of the ways in which I volunteer is to create spiritual care postcards for Paul’s work at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This quotation is on one of those cards. It speaks of resilience, offers a metaphor to draw on when times are difficult, the capacity to visualize and image such as this which brings inspiration and hope. It is not always easy to have the energy to push right back when times are darkest but this quotation gives hope. Paul works with many different people in hospital, some will have faith, others not, having images and quotations that are accessible for those of religious faith or not facilitates the offering of spiritual care to all.