Day 20: Saturday September 30
Senses. That’s the word I’m pondering today. When someone has lost the power of speech – for whatever reason – does that mean they have lost the power of perception, or comprehension? That they’ve lost their “senses”? This is merely one daughter’s experience, not a scientific or even spiritual conclusion. After yesterday’s first visit with my father since his strokes, (fill in the emotional blank here…), there needed to be a rapid re-learning of how to “be” with him. Long conversations are no longer possible, so what does one do? Two things my father and I have in common is a love nature and a love of books. I found one of those gems of rural Britain, an antiquarian bookstore, and bought a book filled with photos of British flora and fauna, and we spent a companionable hour leading through all the pages, using them to provoke memories of easier times. I did the talking, but his one hand spoke too, stroking the images while I spoke. I like to think that we were both remembering the day we both saw a fox and her kits, or the time he sat on a black slug, the tense face- off with a ten -point red stag protecting his herd, the hunt for and discovery of the elusive rose orchid, and the birds…the many birds. For a while, in our memory we were out again on those moors and dales that are now beyond reach with touch or sound, but lodged still, tangible in the sense of memory, the sense of soul, the sense of love.
There is a hymn tune written by a 16th century musician from Strasbourg, who lived, and died through the turbulent decades of war and Reformation, and the visit of the plague which decimated his family, a century later, English Hymnwriter Isaac Watts wrote the English version, which tradition says we’re the last words on John Wesleys lips before he died.
I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.
Day 19: Friday September 29
Well, there were some driving adventures today! Think narrow switchback moorland roads, a few roadworks, and pouring rain, and you get the picture.
Being back in the Peak District provokes some deep stirring of groundedness. This is my soil, my earth, my ground, my horizons, my scents, my liquid light, my accents.
This is where my self and soul were shaped a a child of earth. What is paradoxical is that I am a sojourner in my native land, and that will be grist for mulling and milling for the next few days.
Day 17, 18: Wednesday and Thursday September 27 and28
Arrival in UK, thick fog and strong tea… how English can you get? Picked up a standard shift car, and tackled the M25 and the M1. Makes me feel quite the intrepid solo sojourner! Wonderful to drop in to see Will, Helene, Abbie, Lyra and Ethan Smith….. members at CPU until their return to England 4 years ago. BTW! that’s how you get a pastoral visit from a minister on sabbatical- live an ocean away!
Arrived in Macclesfield in nighttime pouring rain, so yes, home sweet, wet, home! Visiting with my mother on Thursday, catching up, listening, grieving the passing of more of her contemporaries. There is a poignant wisdom to the ninth decade, and I choose to be schooled by that wisdom so many of you have, as does she, and I am grateful.
Day 16: Tuesday September 26
I become a Sabbatical Sojourner today. I begin my travel portion of this sabbatical, heading to UK, to visit with my parents, to reconnect with the soil of my childhood. After the family visiting, I head to Provence, a tiny town off the beaten track, (but with the necessary wi-fi), to write. ( Expect no journal entry until about Friday, as there’s no wifi at my Mother’s!)
Day 15: Monday September 25
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – there’s a poignancy to the end of summer. Leaves compete colourwise with the last flowers and ripening fruits, the morning grass is dew-covered, and spiders are feverishly spinning webs everywhere (especially around the front door!). While all this flamboyance would seem to suggest vibrancy, it is, in fact, a harbinger of approaching death. As I -also feverishly- harvested the last tomatoes, the bushel of celery, cucumbers the side of baseball bats, I pondered human life – have you noticed those people who in their ‘autumnal season’ start to wear bright colours, create art, poetry, music, write books, pass on wisdom to grandchildren? They (or is that now “we”?) like the plants know that the time is precious, short, and worthy of abundance to be passed on, forward, and beyond? I hope so. The delight in my garden harvest was multiplied this year by our “Grow a Row” project. The abundance my family cannot possibly consume is being ‘passed forward and beyond’ to Seniors at Morning Connections later this week, and frozen in bags for a downtown shelter lunch programme, and for our own Caring Community Comfort Food Freezer. Let these photos tell the tale of nature’s last hurrah! Let these photos tell the tale.
Day 14: Sunday September 24
It seems I am all at sixes and sevens when not fulfilling this wholehearted call to lead worship on a Sunday morning! An unforeseen learning curve for the sabbatical; there is much journal reflection to be done on this rhythm of life and worship, community gathering and sending… for another time.
The gift of the heat-wave (yes there are gifts, even in such frighteningly odd weather patterns) has been to work (as in write thesis outlines) sitting at my patio table, accompanied by the resident chipmunk who has been harvesting my “Tiny Tom” cherry tomatoes with no guilt whatsoever, and the piercing sound of… cicadas? sawflies? whatever they, are they are loud!