I had this surprising dream.
Heheh – even writing that makes me smile, because there’s this wonderful poem Buzzfloyd wrote:
Rondeau redoublé – An Anecdote Unwanted
Please don’t tell us your dream.
As you bend my poor ear,
I’m trying not to scream.
Nobody wants to hear!
I wonder why I’m here,
Watching you fondly beam.
We could be stuck here all year –
Please don’t tell us your dream.
As you warm to your theme,
You then shift down a gear,
Detailing every scheme
As you bend my poor ear.
Please let the end be near!
I see how your eyes gleam
While mine threaten a tear;
I’m trying not to scream.
Did this, at some point, seem
Relevant – the point clear?
This is a mutant meme
Nobody wants to hear.
Please don’t tell.
Hahaha! Always makes me laugh!
Anyway – tough – I’m going to tell you about my dream.
I think what triggered it was my beautiful mama telling me yesterday that Songs of Praise on the telly came from Ampleforth last week – the Benedictine monastery in Yorkshire that’s more or less in the place where St Alcuins is in my Hawk & Dove novels. In my misspent youth I studied at York University and was part of an interdenominational lay community there. Father Fabian Cowper (an Ampleforth monk) was our chaplain, and he was the university’s Roman Catholic chaplain. Fabian was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and I saw the Christlight shine through him (I mean that literally). We visited at Ampleforth sometimes, and it has a special place in my heart. So when I discovered I’d missed watching Songs of Praise from there it triggered a certain electrical twitch of some kind in my brain which probably accounts for the dream.
Because I dreamed I went to Ampleforth. It had been Christmas – which is (I hope you know this) not, as some people mistakenly think, the feast of Christ’s birthday, but the feast of the Incarnation. Those two things are understandably easily confused but not in fact the same. So, in my dream it had been Christmas, and I’d been sent Christmas cards and gifts from two or three Ampleforth monks. This is not a thing that in real life ever would happen. I have been in brief correspondence with their abbot, and he and some of the Ampleforth monks have read my books, and the abbot spoke graciously of them – but there is none of them would think of me even as an acquaintance let alone a friend.
But in my dream, I’d had letters/cards at Christmas, thanking me for my books and saying they liked them. One was from the Infirmarian – and I think I knew his name in my dream, but it eludes my memory now.
This Christmas correspondence included a special gift from Dom Anu. I have never called a monk “Dom”, though it is a title the Benedictines use. In our lay community we had some breviaries from deceased monks, with their names in, and they would all be “Dom Gregory Brown” and “Dom Hugh Moore” (made up names) and so on.
We would say “Father” in English – “Father Gregory Brown”. “Dom” is short for Dominus, which is Latin for “Lord”.
And in my dream, I had this gift from Dom Anu. It was a small stained glass panel. Apparently Dom Anu was (in my dream, I mean) a stained glass artist, and he chose something he made, to send me.
The panel was leaded, and made of roughly rectangular pieces of brownish glass – a central piece surrounded by smaller pieces, of which one had a short poem/poetic extract painted (and presumably fired) on, in italic script. I don’t remember reading it in the dream, and don’t now know what it said, but I know it related to the central section of the panel – a cleverly chosen piece of glass representing the starry sky, the universe. It looked like one of those pictures you get from the Hubble telescope – something like this (described here). And I know that’s what the poem was about too, but don’t know what it said.
I was delighted with this gift. It was beautiful and unusual and wonderfully crafted. And Dom Anu had sent it with a message to say that he loved my books, and thank you for them. But apparently Dom Anu didn’t speak English, so one of the other monks had written the letter for him.
Then in my dream I visited Ampleforth, and I wanted particularly to meet the Infirmarian, and Dom Anu, because they had written to me. I wasn’t so interested in the monk who’d written the actual letter for Dom Anu, because he was only representing Dom Anu really.
I think I did meet the Infirmarian briefly, but I can’t properly remember that now. But then in the refectory (in the guest house I think, because the table was crowded with lots of people who were not monks) I was introduced to someone I took to be Dom Anu (one has to wonder why, since I’d never met him). I reached out to shake his hand and thank him for his lovely letter and gift. And he said he was not Dom Anu, but he was the monk who had written me the letter on Dom Anu’s behalf, and his name was Christopher.
He was a Benedictine monk, but I think he didn’t say “Father Christopher” (and certainly not “Dom”) just “Christopher”.
Some more details and conversation followed, but this could go on forever so I won't tell you all about that – briefly, the conversation was evaluating the differences and similarities between marriage and monastic community, and took place with me, a couple of monks, and my parents-in-law from my first marriage who were sitting with me in a large bed. I suggested that the primary requisite for both marriage and monastic community was kindness.
And then I woke up.
Filled with curiosity about the name Dom Anu, I wondered if Anu is, in fact a name or word in any language. I looked up Anu and got nothing useful. I typed “Anu” into Google translate and got . . . “Anu”.
Then I searched on Anu + name. Well, it does exist. Anu, it turns out, is the God of Heaven, a sky-god, lord of the constellations, inhabiter of the highest heavenly realms. This is in Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, none of which I have ever read, studied or come across in any way, shape or form whatsoever.
And Christopher means, of course, “bearer of Christ” or “He who holds Christ in his heart”, from the Greek Christophoros. The “phoros” part of that word means “to bear” – not in the sense of “to carry”, which you might think from the legend of St Christopher carrying the Christchild over the river, but in the sense of “to bear fruit”, to be fruitful. So, it means more like Christ-revealer than Christ-carrier, though I didn't know that until I looked it up this morning.
Having looked all this up, I sat in bed thinking. Gosh. Whoever was it I met last night? I’m jolly glad they liked my books. Well – Dom Anu anyway. Christopher was only speaking on his behalf (which I think was always the case).