And it seemed that the wind stilled and that stars above our heads prepared themselves for the night lighter’s quiet encouragement to twinkle. A single lamp behind a window animated a framed oil painting in much the same way that toys leap and dance around a nursery in the moments before nanny tidies them into the stillness of the night hours. And the painting, and the toys, and the sunset watchers alike breathe softly, profoundly aware of the gift of a great, deep, silence – a silence that is itself an abiding friendship; for all of our many busynesses, words and music are steadied and reassured when they find their treasured place between sunrise and sunset, sunset and sunrise, stillness and silence – glad companions …
Have you noticed forgetting even the most piercing, wind-driven cold when faced by astonishing beauty? Friends have been sending me glorious photos of sunrise and sunsets in Edinburgh. Two drove South for a happy day in Lakeland today, and as we watched the sun go down, albeit that we had to watch our footing on ice, I don’t think any of us felt the cold!
There are so many colours in the things of the heart. And so much warmth and light. One much loved corner of Edinburgh tonight celebrated a gathering of close-knit souls, some present in person, some physically absent but no less present, in the circle that this colour, warmth and light creates – uniquely – on every such occasion. And in that circle I continually rediscover the meaning of the word ‘awe’ – with profound thankfulness.
Many are the magical sights to be seen in Edinburgh. Here, above a Holyrood structure aptly named Dynamic Earth, is a view of Salisbury Crags, formed over forty million years ago by the effects of Arthur’s Seat, the volcano now quietly presiding over them. And above and beyond still further, around 226,000 miles above and beyond to be a bit more precise, is tonight’s Full Moon. Oh, and there’s Jupiter! At their closest points Earth and Jupiter are 365 million miles away from each other. That I can even begin to perceive all of this at this time and in this place gives me a direct encounter with something beyond the reach of adequate explanation: awe.
To get close-up to Springtime unfolding in nature is to encounter experience of awe and wonder. Every tiny hair and stem and vibrating atom invites me to deep contemplation: why such beauty? Why such variety? Why me, and this capacity that I have, and you have, to experience our environment in such deeply affecting ways? And my sense of gratitude, my awareness and observation, my being here, reaching out and reaching in – is something akin to love …
… and I wonder whether you can ‘see’ what I saw this morning? Visual imagery within the context of space – indoors or outdoors – is among the gifts to my life I most prize. The more I learn about the imagery my eyes and brain work together to produce, the more I find myself in awe of what it is to be a human person. Gifts – like this rainbow, and all the thoughts of ‘promise’ that our stories about rainbows represent to us – just keep arriving in our lives, unannounced and unexpected. Again and again the spiritual teachers of humankind encourage their fellows to ‘look within,’ and eventually we come to recognise that doing so is an absolute prerequisite for our appreciation of ‘looking without.’
The songs of small birds fade away
into the bushes after sundown,
the air dry, sweet with goldenrod.
Beside the path, suddenly, bright asters
flare in the dusk. The aged voices
of a few crickets thread the silence.
It is a quiet I love, though my life
too often drives me through it deaf.
Busy with costs and losses, I waste
the time I have to be here—a time
blessed beyond my deserts, as I know,
if only I would keep aware. The leaves
rest in the air, perfectly still.
I would like them to rest in my mind
as still, as simply spaced. As I approach,
the sorrel filly looks up from her grazing,
poised there, light on the slope
as a young apple tree. A week ago
I took her away to sell, and failed
to get my price, and brought her home
again. Now in the quiet I stand
and look at her a long time, glad
to have recovered what is lost
in the exchange of something for money.
What is to be done after a reading of Wendell Berry? A walk outdoors as soon as possible. And if the poem has been feasted upon in early evening then a sunset walk will probably be necessary – with a camera close to expectant hearts.
And so it was … and tonight we did ‘stand / … glad to have recovered what is lost.’ And though these images are written well enough upon the aforementioned hearts, still the photographs, the written record, will remind us, over time, to stand … glad, again and again and again. Awed.