And now, Thought for the day..

If you’ve ever listened to this early morning segment on Radio 4, you’ll be familiar with the utterly useless, irrelevant, unfounded dross some people can come out with. Here’s my attempt.

Strolling through the woodland this morning, shafts of light piercing the vivid green of the fresh new canopy, casting stage-lights on wilting bluebells now, beginning to stoop like classical actors taking that one last deep bow before the curtain. I was suddenly reminded of the quote made famous by TS Eliot in his “Little Gidding” (Sept 1942). “and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well”.

Little Gidding was the tiny hamlet to which Charles 1st ran, seeking sanctuary, after Naseby. I looked up the poem when I got home and was surprised at the coincidence of Eliot’s choosing May and not June, the month of the battle.

“If you came this way, taking the route you would be likely to take from the place you would be likely to come from, if you came this way in May time, you would find the hedges white again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness. it would be the same at the end of the journey, if you came at night like a broken king, if you came by day not knowing what you came for, it would be the same, when you leave the rough road and turn behind the pig-sty to the dull façade and the tombstone. And what you thought you came for is only a shell, a husk of meaning from which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled if at all. Either you had no purpose or the purpose is beyond the end you figured and is altered in fulfilment. There are other places which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws, or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city-- but this is the nearest, in place and time, now and in England”.

“Not known, because not looked for but heard, half-heard, in the stillness between two waves of the sea. quick now, here, now, always-- a condition of complete simplicity and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well when the tongues of flames are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire and the fire and the rose are one”.

( [2022 Columbia University])

Of the original author, Mother (Dame)Julian, of the “All manner of things shall be well” declaration, Bill Gervais highlights her “radical optimism”. But delving deeper into her history we find she was also a raving nutter. (Remaining Optimistic in a Pandemic [May 03, 2021]). Yet when we find out that she had witnessed the horror and ravages of the Black Death as a very young girl and subsequent localised cases of bubonic plague we might forgive her later ranting and strange behaviour.

And in the same light, I hope you will forgive me my ravings as I try to tie together these threads and relate St. Julian of Norwich’s experience and TS Eliot to the nature of Nature and the importance of Holly Hayes as a refuge from the day’s strife.

We too have survived a pandemic, experienced and witnessed tragic loss and heartbreak. Many of us are struggling with the rapid rise in the cost of our modern existence. Now, it seems we must live with the virus just as those emerging from the fourteenth century and its persistent epidemic had to.

I suggest that Holly Hayes is our own Little Gidding, that tiny, religious community to which Charles 1st fled toward the end of the civil war, a constant sanctuary, the same – winter or spring, now or then, past or present. Whilst the world around the woodland has changed, Little Gidding (Holly Hayes) has remained much the same.

I press my point again as we know this to be true, and that far from being as Eliot put it, “our worlds end”, the woodland has existed for thousands of years and through our collective power, will go on existing long into the future.

How many of our forebears have stood under its mosaic canopy on a warm spring morning, drawing in the heady scent of bluebells and gained strength to step back into life’s trials? Like a huge natural battery, a sanctuary for contemplation or a source for divination of life’s path.

So, it is with “Radical Optimism” in Nature’s endurance that I leave the last words to Mother Julian.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

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