I heard the first cuckoo today (well, the first for me this year) away over the marshes towards Iken church (we are in our beloved Suffolk). That beautiful English-countryside sound, so rare now... The river very low, footprints of wading birds visible on its bed; its salty, muddy, weedy smell blending with the heady, musty scent of Queen Anne's Lace... Sky cloudless and milky towards the horizon, like tracing paper... Sun hot, hot, hot - with the Barbara Hepworth sculptures almost too hot to touch. Yes, we were at Snape Maltings today! Where we are staying there are house martins, pied wagtails, a pair of goldfinches flirting and a wren busying to and fro from her nest in the crumbling brickwork of a barn. And a fox who ate our hosts' chickens the night before we arrived. Life.
Well, I didn't know how to start writing again after such a long gap - the whole of Eastertide, just about - so I've plunged straight in. I'm not sure why I've resisted whatever the electronic equivalent is of putting pen to paper, though I've been "writing" a lot in my head (heart?). I missed telling you about Beltane, when I walked on the lawn for the first time in bare feet as I try to do each year, though this time the grass was wet and cold, and the day had been wet, grey and chilly. But despite the dawdling of spring the swifts arrived - only one or two, but here to greet the first if May, as they do every year. How do they know? And I saw Venus, bright and beautiful while the sky was still light blue, and the blackbird sang...
Pentecost yesterday. I climbed the Aldeburgh Town Steps to the church of Our Lady and St Peter for Mass - such a wonderful view of the sea from its door. We sang the hymn attributed to Stephen Langton (13th century Archbishop of Canterbury):
Come, Thou holy Paraclete,
And from Thy celestial seat
Send Thy light and brilliancy:
Father of the poor, draw near;
Giver of all gifts, be here;
Come, the soul’s true radiancy.
...Thou in labour rest most sweet,
Thou art shadow from the heat,
Comfort in adversity.
The evenings here, with cool breezes, do bring "shadow from the heat", along with bats fluttering outside the windows. (And just in case you're interested in more of my Pentecost and air/wind themed musings, do have a click on the page marked "Chrism" above...)
Isn't it lovely how we humans can minister the touch of the Spirit to each other? When I heard yesterday's Gospel I heard it in my mind's ear in the voice of a priest who conducted a retreat I attended over twenty years ago: "I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now." (John 16:12). It was a two-day preached retreat but based very much on Ignatian spirituality, and I realise now what a seed it planted in my heart. That priest emphasised with great passion and enthusiasm how God longs to tell us so much, such beautiful things, and will go on doing so as long as we grow. There is much I know now, by God's grace, that I could not have borne or understood then. What more is there in store for me as I grow and change? Do I want to cling to the familiar, or is there at least a spark of desire in me for the new and the more?
Fill Thy faithful, who confide
In Thy power to guard and guide,
With Thy sevenfold mystery.
Here Thy grace and virtue send:
Grant salvation to the end,
And in Heav’n felicity.