Because their other grandmother lives in America and their godparents are scattered across Europe (these children are the internet generation), and because they are adorable and their mother has a camera, there exists a colossal archive of photographs of my grandchildren. In moments when I feel down or am merely idle, I like nothing better than to look at the latest uploads in Buzzfloyd’s Facebook albums.
But this picture – of my grandson successfully escaping from a maze (I expect his mother left him at the centre and hurried away*) stopped me in my tracks.
Every now and then, happily snapping family scenes, one inadvertently captures a metaphor for life, full of meaning, saying in one image what would take a thousand words (you have already read the first 122). This is exactly such an image.
He is, as you can see, quite a wild child. Sensitive, but confident and free. His hair blowing in the wind like John the Baptist. Triumphantly emerging from the complicated puzzle of paths into clear space.
The picture affects me so much because this, in my way, is what I’ve also tried to do. The dense hedges of my maze are grown of different types of foliage: relationships, obligations, religion, money (or the want of it), habit, personal disposition, all rooted alongside each other at every length, every turn. Close-growing and prickly. Lacking the will, the perception and the strategic intelligence to solve the maze, I have wandered about in here a long time, walking ineffectually in straight lines, making poor decisions. But Light shines from above, and I know I’m close to the edge now because I can hear the sounds of the sea, and people laughing.
It’s also been like solving other kinds of puzzle – a jigsaw maybe, where much time and patience gradually reveal just what the pieces are and how they relate to one another. In piecing together a life of reverence that expresses ardent adoration of Father God and keeps faith with Mother Earth, I’ve concluded that the pieces of my puzzle divide into these categories, like the bits of a jigsaw we sort into sky … windows … flowerbed … dogs … garden wall - or whatever it may be:
- SIMPLICITY ~ living plainly and frugally, possessing very little. All kinds of freedom are maximized by this.
- SILENCE ~ So many things I wish I had not said, conversations and outbursts and inadvisable observations; I wish I’d had more restraint. Numerous treasures are found in silence; not least among them, peace, and certain jewels of love and trust. Silence is to the soul as cool, clear, fresh water is to the body.
- SOLITUDE ~ Thinking, dreaming, creating; these are best done alone. And in every prophetic life the desert is vital; cave life, the barren mountain wilderness, the night of stars and the overshadowing of God. Solitude is where one encounters wild beasts and angels, the presence of God and the identity of inner demons. All forms of power, good and bad, divine and profane, rely on solitude in their increase.
- SHARING ~ In keeping faith with the Earth, in living responsibly and sustainably, in turning adversity into opportunity, in laying the foundation for all effective and beneficent politics, sharing is key. Essential. Learning to share holds the secret of human happiness.
- NATURE ~ Here is health. The ocean, the woods, the hills restore the spirit. Wild creatures in their comedy, grace and wisdom, heal the heart. Natural, fresh, unprocessed food (and water) restores the body. Living in harmony with the Earth of whose substance we are made is the sole route to wellbeing. It is time to understand that trees are guardian angels, older and wiser than we. The bones of the Earth are not to be fractured for their gases, nor are the seas meant as depositories of toxic waste, plastic and excrement. Life and prosperity are linked inextricably to respect for the ways of Nature. Transgression against Nature is a capital offence – even though it may be our children, our grandchildren, their children, who pay the price for the trade we made.
These are the categories; this much I have established, these are the parts of the puzzle I was handed at birth. Slowly, with much difficulty and many mistakes, I have been piecing them together. I have a picture that makes sense to me, even though it is not complete.
Here, by the way, is his sister.
* NB: In case you do not share my sense of humour ~ "I expect his mother left him at the centre and hurried away" ~ that was a joke. She would have done no such thing. At least, I don't think she would ...