From dust

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It was warm and we were ambling. Glorious cloud formations floated in the blue dome above us and I suppose I must have been waxing lyrical a bit! ‘Where does your imagination come from?’ my friend asked. ‘From dust,’ I replied immediately. ‘Or, to be more precise, from dust flecks in my eyes.’

Everyone’s experienced them. Perhaps lying in sunshine, on a freshly mown lawn in August. I didn’t know then, as a very small boy, about the Hebrew vision of Creation formed out of dust. But, in company with summer daydreamers all over the world, I could see – behind closed eyelids – little floating flecks of dust (or whatever it is that floats there) and thus began the habit of a lifetime: ‘watching’ a Creator’s playtimes. The beginnings of meditation, one might say. Knowing with a faith-full certainty that there are colours and causes, glories and great wonders, lights and shades of darkness, silences and sounds, warmth and coolness, profound music and mysteries, that are already ‘accessible’ to us long before we complicate our lives by straining (or training!) to see, or hear, or smell, or touch, or taste.

And in that garden ‘knowing’ I learned that faith is about something deeper and greater than humankind could possibly draw ultimate boundaries around. So, for me, our philosophical, political and religious convulsions, and our loves and hates – important though they be – are situated in a space much larger and freer than we usually inhabit.

And here, and there, in the poetry of eternal creativity, I anticipate, I imagine, and whether my eyes are closed or open, for me and for all of us, I hope. Today’s flecks of dust – ourselves and all created things – will be reshaped for the joy of creation.

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Horizons

Computers, fountain pens and paintbrushes, garden, library, notebooks, table, watercolour painting papers – seat of the visions of the beginning, the is now, and the shall be; seat of the aspirations, contemplations, creations, learning, loving, meditations, prayers, reflective reminiscences, rest, recreation and thanksgivings.

Six coloured sable-washed swishes carefreely left to right on a journal page over which words might be drawn later. In this case about six months after the paint dried – for the connection with it, or you; for the joy of it, the peace of it; for the friendship in it …

Fence posts to lean on
first pale green then
darker and beyond
browner above which are
yellow hues and
golds and oranges and
above and overarching
these a deep cerulean blue

I wonder as I think of you
at your fence posts
what’s in front of this
horizon and inward
and imagine you could
tell me clear where and
what this view is today
or in memory’s light –
to and for you

SRM

Transformed

The English Lakeland Fells are always a glorious sight, but driving South today the whole of the southern range had been transformed – snow white, standing brilliantly outlined and proud for miles against the dome of a deep blue sky – and our hearts soared.

The truth is that startlingly beautiful transformations are taking place before and behind our eyes, indoors and outdoors, and in both our outer and inner lives, every moment of every day. Faced with today’s especially mountainous majesty – which couldn’t be missed if one tried – I realise though that I do miss so many miracles around me simply because I don’t pay attention. A sort of adult-dullard-by-accident! 

So I’m going to make a conscious effort to look out for life’s multiple transformations, and to take note of them. It’s something beyond all telling that entire mountain ranges can be “painted” by zillions of tiny flakes of ice, themselves works of breathtakingly beautiful art, design, order and symmetry. Gifts to be on the lookout for, moment by moment, and so many of them incalculably good for our souls.

Art in silence

TV’s The Great Pottery Throw Down has caught my enthusiastic attention in more ways than one. Usually turning up late to TV series, it wasn’t until the inspirational sixth series of The Great British Bake Off that I learned of its existence – and became hooked.

Potters and bakers alike have shown themselves to be marvellous and extraordinary people. Creators. I’d be delighted to meet any one of them, and each has taught me more, much more than they would ever have known or intended.

One of the potters tonight spoke of his deep preference, need even, for silence when throwing pots, resonating with my own deep need for silence in a host of ordinary daily activities. 

And I’ve been asking myself since, just how much great art and culture and peace and security is born and brought forth in the depths of a sought after silence? What might humankind learn from that?

Many waters

The quality of Venice that accomplishes what religion so often cannot is that Venice has made peace with the waters. It is not merely pleasant that the sea flows through, grasping the city like tendrils of vine, and, depending upon the light, making alleys and avenues of emerald and sapphire, it is a brave acceptance of dissolution and an unflinching settlement with death. Though in Venice you may sit in courtyards of stone, and your heels may click up marble stairs, you cannot move without riding upon or crossing the waters that someday will carry you in dissolution to the sea.

Mark Helprin
Il colore ritrovato
The Pacific and Other Stories

Vibrant colours, hot sun overhead, people, surely from just about every nation on earth, boats large and small plying the Grand Canal with surety and speed. Art and architecture that takes the breath away. Hot and intensely busy … until the gondola enters into the water streets behind the immediate gilded attractions. Only moments away from cacophony there is very beautiful water-lapping sanctuary, shade and a near-eerie stillness. Certainly time to dwell for a moment on the extraordinary and colourful sight of a funeral bier we’d seen half an hour ago, precariously wheeling a coffin through cheerful cosmopolitan chaos. The cortege was heading for a funeral barge. We could see the church and the huge churchyard across the waters. It all appeared to be so utterly natural, the tinge of regret, upon the passing of a fellow human being, coloured by the strongest sense, in the midst of all this thronging life, that his or her death could not possibly be their ultimate end.

Venice is so very, very much. Marco Polo was reluctant to say its name, whilst in speaking of any other city on earth he was really describing Venice. For now it’s the “making alleys and avenues of emerald and sapphire” whilst crossing the many waters of life that is in the forefront of my mind. I won’t forget Venice. I know we will meet again.