Monday, 7 May 2018

Green pastures and still waters

The times we live in leave me struggling. 

The two aspects that most deeply disturb me are war and lies. Both of these spit in the face of God — and as George Herbert posted out, "Who spitteth against Heaven, it falls in his face." There is no just war. There are no justified lies. I see both war and lies proliferating, and I see the proliferation of war justified by a proliferation of lies, and it grieves not only me but the Spirit who dwells in me. I see the reach of Mammon growing exponentially, and I feel deep foreboding about it.

There is so little I can do. Only uproot the seeds of war from my own garden, and turn away from dishonesty, embrace authenticity, speak the truth. Though — heheh — sometimes speaking the truth can start a war, can it not!

Recently — in the last year — I've had a feeling of lagging further and further behind. It is as though the world no longer has a place for me. I've felt a kind of pervasive, spreading despair. Where can I be? Where do I belong? Where is peace?

When will you ever, Peace, wild wood dove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I'll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

We went out to Alfriston just before the hot weather came, at the end of the wild days of wind and rain, on a cold and breezy spring day of clear sunshine, to visit the clergy house by the village church. They have lots of photos of it here.

I hadn't been there for forty years or more, but it was vivid in my memory.

I loved it, and looked at it all over, then went out to sit in the garden. 

It is built just by the river, full from the spring rains so that the branches dip down to the water.

The last person who lived there was Harriet in the nineteenth century, and the vegetable garden is laid out as a traditional cottage vegetable patch would be. 

The formal garden nearer the house itself is created from clipped hedges and trees of box and yew, with beds of old English herbs — pinks and lavender and rosemary and so many more. Herbs that I have known from gardens I have loved my whole life long.

Do you know the song King Jesus hath a garden? The words of it are here, and here is the choir of Kings College Cambridge singing it. The garden at the Clergy House at Alfriston reminded me of that song.

What struck me particularly as I sat in that garden was its restraint — the green simplicity of it. The orderly vegetable beds and formal hedges, the herbs and old English plants.

It was full of peace. A retreat from the urgency and clamour of the modern world. A place where the spirit could thrive and be restored. It had such a strong feeling of happiness, as though it was a person as well as a place. If there is such a thing as happy ghosts, they were there. Somebody had dearly loved that place, and been happy there.

It showed me how to live, made a way in.

I am so glad it is there.


greta said...

you are not alone, pen. many of us of 'a certain age' are feeling just as you do. the world seems to be rushing madly to the brink of unimaginable horrors. here in the states we feel as though the brink has already been plunged into and the horrors are before our eyes. i'm in my last year of being in my 60's and never have i felt such discouragement. do you think this partly our age? we've seen too much of how quickly things and people that we love can slip away. i'm so glad that you were able to find a bit of peace in that lovely garden. the ordinary simple daily round, small pleasures, delight in nature - all help us to maintain some equilibrium. no easy answers, just putting one foot in front of another, praying for grace and strength.

Pen Wilcock said...

In a world sold out to image and appearances, everything real and simple and honest is treasure indeed.

Ganeida said...

I have always found the world difficult. One reason we live where we do. The spirit is soothed & the still small voice offering comfort & the Lord's peace is much easier to hear.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah, yes. I always take an interest in the weather over Queensland way, and wonder how you are when there are floods and such. I send you a little thought ping and remind the Lord to look after his children.

Anonymous said...

Perfect. Heaven on Earth? Another example of how simplicity reaches further than anything else. Simplicity, integrity, peace - all words I hang on to.
I’m reminded of T.S Eliot who speaks of ‘the still point’ where everything and nothing co-exist. He found bliss in a garden too I seem to remember.
Thankyou for this: I do love your blog!

Pen Wilcock said...

I think you would love it there, Deb. The whole village is a delight. I walked through it thinking, "Why don't I live here?!"

Julie B. said...

I relate to what Greta shared. I look to God's creation more and more to keep me heartened and hopeful. I have a bird feeder stuck to my dining room window and spent quite a lot of time yesterday watching the common sparrows and the chickadees feed there. The sparrows took their time and chose their seeds carefully, eating them almost casually in the tray of the feeder before flying off. The chickadees watch from afar and seem to wait for just the right moment to light, then they nervously (or so they looked) pick a seed and flutter off quickly. All were a delight. All reminded me that God's eyes and love are upon us all, and that even a government gone mad doesn't thwart His ultimate plans. He has reserved peace for His children and I cling to that. If I look even for a moment these days at our news, I feel untethered and even angry. I wish I could stroll through the places you write about here...your photos are so lovely, Ember. xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

One day, Julie. x

rebecca said...

I'm with you! Now the challenge is to make a place in the heart for this garden...a portable peace, so to speak.

Pen Wilcock said...

What a lovely thought. George Fox said something similar. "Carry around some quiet inside thee," or something like that. x

Rapunzel said...

“Carry some quiet around inside thee,” the well-known Quaker, George Fox, used to say. “Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit, from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord from whence cometh life; whereby thou mayest receive the strength and power to allay all storms and tempests.”

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes — God bless the memory of George Fox, eh? "Be still and cool in thine own mind and spirit" — so beautiful. xx

Rapunzel said...

Good advice it is, because there are always storms and tempests somewhere, but we needn't hold them inside of us.

Typically the Lord says, "Be Still, and know that I am God"
and we respond with "Yeah, but......" and we refuse to be still, and refuse to know, and won't be satisfied until the Lord of the Universe does things the way we want Him to.

Which, I suspect, will be never.
Mercy, we're a handful.

Pen Wilcock said...