Meandering memories of glory
I went to Denmark. on retreat and holiday recently.
I rediscovered biking. The house I stayed in had some old bone shakers which I rode for a couple of days till I realised how injurious they were. So I went to a bicycle shop and had one made just the way I wanted it: not for speed, but to dawdle on, comfortable and easy to stop, so I could mar-vel at the frog crossing my path, or the cobwebs in the trees, the deer hiding in the bushes, the birds overhead. Light, able to manage the sandy beach and fun to ride. It gave me a lot of joy and pleasure, and I was able to unwind from the stresses that had built up before I could go.
I found a music station in the evenings that filled the room with soothing sound. Never before would I have thought of Shostakovich as soothing, but he was that too. And much of my reading was from the book of Job, which I have generally avoided since my days as a theological student, when I was terribly ill and depressed. Several of my fellow students told me to read Job.
The Bible had just been published in a new Danish translation, which I bought and looked forward to reading. The first time I opened it, it was the book of Job. I was riveted. I could not believe how many relevant questions Job was asking for our time.
For example, Job 7:1 “Human life is a struggle, isn’t it? […] What are mortals anyway, that you bother with them, that you even give them the time of day?”
And 12:7-10 “[…] ask the animals what they think - let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth - learn the basics.
Listen the Fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand -
Every living soul, yes
every breathing creature?”
I am back home now, and Autumn has arrived in the meantime in all its majesty, beauty and grace-ful decay. Mushrooms appear overnight, and the leaves are turning and dropping, As the fields around us are harvested, we see our dogs hunting for mice and voles in the stubble, their tails swishing their excitement.
A few days ago lots of sheep got out of their field and flooded the surrounding gardens and paths. This caused great merriment among the team at the Southton Smallholding where they were busy harvesting for the box scheme. Breaking away to herd the sheep back into the field came as a de-lightful interruption and was engaged in with enthusiasm, and the tales spun in the aftermath over a cup of tea rivalled Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. Rarely had one person herded more sheep singlehandedly or more adeptly.
As I led Evening Prayers outside in the Autumn light, I brought our wee group over to the Irish Yews in order to show them something. As we drew nearer, the perfume of the toffee apple tree hung in the air. The tree itself was far away, and the fragrance of it quite localised: only within a circle of about 6 feet could we sense it.
It brought me back to my cycling in Denmark as we all stopped and marveled.
Robin A-P, November 2020