Fab-u-lous!

I’ve only arrived at the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom in time for the Final this year, but alongside my mother’s lovely Christmas Tree, and in her enthusiastic company, I find myself with decidedly moist eyes and speechless with admiration. What a spellbinding connection between John and Johannes! And pure, shining magic between this year’s winners, Rose and Giovanni. Late in the day I may be, but – worldwide gloomy news notwithstanding – I can still join the huge chorus of gratitude for absolutely show-stopping and joyous inspiration.

The authority of the clock

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[1348 AD] … word had reached them yesterday, spreading fast through the countryside, that a machine to count the hours had come to Shaftesbury to be put in the church and anyone could go to see it …

… It took them half the morning to get there and for the last quarter of the journey they could hear a bell, growing steadily stronger, ringing first once, then after they had gone perhaps another mile twice more, then three times as they approached. It was set up on a wooden frame outside the Abbey, on display, waiting to be lifted up to the platform now being built inside the tower …

‘It is ten hours in the morning,’ shouted the man, ‘by the precise authority of the clock,’ and a burst of cheering went up. Ferney suddenly turned away. ‘Let’s leave,’ he said, ‘I’m thirsty.’ He sounded unhappy …

James Long
Ferney (extracts)

Further to my musings yesterday about time and timelessness, I return, as so often before, to one of the most moving reflections I’ve ever read about ‘the precise authority of the clock.’ James Long’s glorious ‘Ferney’ is a novel about love, and about time, on many levels and through generations. Here (around 1348, so far as Ferney can recall), crowds walked miles to see the new ‘machine to count the hours’ that was about to be installed in the tower at Shaftesbury Abbey. Deeply fascinating a sight on one level, yet Ferney and his companion Gally soon enter into deep and concerned conversation about the very reshaping of our humanity that the clock would chime into existence. Ferney was not happy – not at all taken with the idea of a machine’s having ‘precise authority,’ and – with the prophetic perception of the seer – detailed for Gally why. For this little (and I think, very worthwhile) contemplation alone, I cannot recommend Long’s 1998 novel highly enough. And there’s more in it. Much, much more.

The dew looks up

Photo by Vayun Sharma on Unsplash

Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age

W S Merwin
Dew Light
The Moon Before Morning

The blessed days of more and less: the happy and absorbed red squirrel is certainly more! As is the woodpecker who is not in the slightest troubled by my daily stopping close to listen at the portal of his own persistent more and less-ness. The quietness up here, and the wide space, is less and also more, so simultaneously both.

It’s all like one of those lovely old retro clocks that stops frequently, because in our modern day we forget to wind their battery-less clockworks. More and less, less and more. Absence of mechanical time. So yes: blessed.

Though it requires a bit of effort on our part, to place ourselves often enough, and quiet enough, into the spaces of timelessness, it’s worth it: for in the encounter there we hear the Ancient Echo, and the dew atop the wooden gate holds our own reflection.

ancient telling and art in today’s morning sky

At all times

Oh, speak, poet, what do you do?

– I praise.

But the monstrosities and the murderous days,
how do you endure them, how do you take them?

– I praise.

But the anonymous, the nameless grays,
how, poet, do you still invoke them?

– I praise.

What right have you, in all displays,
in every mask, to be genuine?

– I praise.

And that the stillness and the turbulent sprays
know you like star and storm?

– because I praise.

December 1921

Rainer Maria Rilke
The Poet Speaks of Praising

Still, whatever the weather, or the degree of turbulence visited upon our lives by daily news – personal or corporate; still, no matter the headache, or the slight creaking we notice in our bones, or the cold, or the heat; still, at all times, there remain the invigorating vistas of the grand scale, of the micro-view, of the scents of baking, and of good post-walk coffee; still we may take confidence in the memory of the myriad perspectives we’ve encountered before, and will again; still, in every moment, awake or asleep, we may find cause to praise – and thereby know ourselves fully alive.

Aware

Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Evolution is divinity at work
We are nature made aware of itself
Science is the most spiritual pursuit
To learn the patchwork of existence
Is to understand ourselves

Brianna Wiest
Salt Water, p.71

With that thought I set off on my morning walk, in company with millions of others around the world who, in their daily lives, watch their awareness – reaching out into the unknown, glad to know, somewhere deep and primal within, that they are not, and never will be, alone …

I greet you, in awareness, and in love …