After my brief break to honour Anzac Day, I am returning to my blogcation story.
Two nights and three short days have passed. Now it is time for my friend to embark on the next stage of her journey. It is time, it is the hour, for us to say goodbye, just as we have done before. We know the words well. They are words that are integral to an island childhood of many farewells, and, sometimes, few returnings.
Words, as integral as the liturgies, the creeds, the hymns and Bible stories my friend and I absorbed, filtered through layers of cultural and religious and missionary ambiguities and diversities. The miracle is that we absorbed and retained any of the Anglican faith at all, surrounded as we were by every religion, and interpretation of it, that one could imagine. For example, Diwali was almost as much fun as Christmas; the sounds of the Call to Prayer were more part of our day than the ringing of church bells; fasting could mean Ramadan or Lent, missionaries could mean Methodist or Mormon, and so on; but, as children, we simply accepted all the differences of faith with equanimity, as part of what made our community specifically ours.
As a parting gift, and in memory of those early shared bonds of faith, my friend gave me an extraordinarily beautiful book “The Scrolls Illuminated”, illustrated by Australian artist Fiona Pfennigwerth.
Fiona takes 5 ancient texts from the Bible and uses her understanding of Australian nature, and the Bible, to bring the texts ” across time, culture and geography to those of us in the 21st century “at the ends of the earth” – and anywhere between.” She enriches old stories of faith by adding a unique Australian filter; much as we children grew our faith through a particular Pacific lens. The book was the project for Fiona’s Honours and PhD studies in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
And the result of her talent and study is Joy; pure Joy.
Yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day. “Now is the Hour”/ “Po Atarau” has been sung as a farewell to our troops as far back as the First World War. It was also sung when passenger ships left Fiji. “Now is the Hour” became a huge international hit in the late 1940s, thanks to Gracie Fields and Bing Crosby.
Fiona’s work is breathtaking. I was even more taken by her next project, “The Gospel of John Illuminated.” Of all the books of the Bible, the Gospel of John is my favorite, and the Prologue, with its wonderful explication of the Word, is where many of my convictions about language are grounded. And it’s such a shame that natural images of light, leaven and salt are in danger of being sucked dry of their vibrancy and truth.
Now, here’s a strange coincidence. One of her reviewers is Gerard Moore, of Uniting Theological College, North Parramatta. I used to live on Parramatta in North Houston. I always wondered about that street name, but no one seemed no know from whence it came.
I’m old enough to remember “Now is the Hour” from childhood. And I still remember my last day in Liberia, sitting with a friend in the California Bar in Monrovia, listening to this with the absolute certainty that I’d never again see the country I’d come to love. As things happened, I was back only eight years later – in quite different circumstances for both me and the country. Truly, we never know.
“When will I see you again?”…now that brings back memories. So good to be reminded of it.
I am puzzling over the connection between Parramatta and Houston. And searching and finding nothing! Perhaps the developer had a lovely holiday there once. Place names and the reasons for them are fascinating. Whilst skimming for information on the internet I found, to my delight, that Houston has a Christ Church Cathedral http://www.christchurchcathedral.org/history/
There seems to be a universal call to the sacred which erases the barriers of time and location, which is defined in our existence. A lovely celebration.
It’s an intriguing call, isn’t it? 🙂
Indeed it is!!! I am learning to listen. It is a lifetime project….
What a beautiful and thoughtful post dear Gallivanta! ❤️ I really enjoyed to read it❤️
Thank you, Violet.
What a lovely, thoughtful post.
And that looks like a special book.
Thank you Cynthia. The book is indeed special.
What an inspiring post you’ve given us: a beautiful book, an interesting degree course to look into and the final song, that always makes me cry. Loved it!
Thank you Mary. I was thinking of your interest in botanical artists when I wrote the post. And, yes, Now is the Hour, always brings a tear to the eye.
What a beautiful song Po Atarau is! I don’t think I’d heard it before. And the book looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing!
It is a lovely song, and what I didn’t realise until I wrote this post is that it was such a hit internationally in the late forties.
We are too young to know those things 🙂 unless we research them , and you are a very skilled researcher!
Oh that’s a happy thought! Of course, we are too young!
I suspect few people over here in the United States have heard of Fiona Pfennigwerth (as I hadn’t), so thanks for the introduction. Her Australianization of the Bible strikes me as a novel idea; are you aware of any forerunners, or is she the first to do that? Let’s hope that the pervasiveness of the Internet leads to her becoming known in more parts of the world.
I had a quick search via the internet and can’t find anything similar either in New Zealand or Australia. However, with a little stretch of the imagination these Ethiopian illuminations of the Biblical texts could be considered similar https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/tag/ageing/
So much beauty – you always have something special to share, merci.
Thank you Heather, as do you. 🙂
Your childhood sounds like it was a wonderful adventure with many opportunities to experience different cultures.. . . What fun to be able to celebrate both Christmas and Diwali!
It was fun, but I hasten to add we didn’t get gifts on both occasions! The gifts only came at Christmas . 🙂
What a thoughtful and touching post Gallivanta!
Thank you :). I know from your recent post you understand, only too well, about farewells.
I think it’s so nice that you shared these stories and images of your visit with your friend. It’s refreshing and hopeful to read about relationships that survive time and distance and difference. And I’ll say it, too–the book is spectacular!
I keep picking up the book and looking through it and thinking , “Is this beautiful object really mine?” I love illuminated texts and to own a copy of one is such a thrill.
What a beautiful and thoughtful gift your friend gave you on parting. 😉
I was really delighted, especially as I wasn’t expecting anything at all. Seeing my friend after so many years was such a gift in itself.
What a beautiful book and such a thoughtful idea! Where is your friend off to next?
She went on to do some mission work with a church in our city and then went back home to Australia.
I can’t hardly wait to hear the review of the book that looks so beautiful. It is really a perfect gift you must be proud of. Did you provide her with special bread you made on her journey? – Yes?
Just some special cake!
Ahh, sounds great ! 🙂
Your friend is very artistic and imaginative. She has created a unique and beautiful book.
Ooops GP, I think I have led you astray. My friend gave me the book but she didn’t create it. The artist was Fiona Pfennigwerth. My friend and I would, however, love to be that creative and artistic. I did take drawing lessons once long ago but they didn’t come to anything. 😦
Sorry about the misunderstanding, but it was a thoughtful gift nevertheless. And I’m sure your drawing is is just fine!!
It was thoughtful. 🙂 But my drawing, like my handwriting, has seen better days!
Very glad you love the book! It is indeed extraordinarily beautiful.
I would like to see the original manuscript one day. 🙂
What a beautiful gift that book is – so artistically done, and what a treat it must have been to receive from your friend, with whom you have shared so many spiritual threads. And it was nice nostalgic moment to play Po Atarau. Thank you.
I wish I could show you the book in more detail, Juliet. Po Atarau always makes my heart swell; such a great deal of nostalgia attached to it. It’s interesting that, in these days of relatively easy travelling, we don’t mark the departures and arrivals as we once used to.
PS- My I key is broken. I think God is telling me something……..
This is just pefectly lovely! I love the connection between liturgy and nature and the artwork is stunning AND there is a HUMMINGBIRD!!!! Beautiful!
I wish I could give you a closer look at some of the artwork, Cindy, but I think I would be violating copyright.
The book looks really lovely, Ann, and I did enjoy Po Atarau. Such a colourful upbringing you seem to have had 🙂
The book is absolutely beautiful. My upbringing was colourful but I think very many children do have fascinating childhoods, don’t you?
I guess so. I prefer to forget mine.
Oh dear. Perhaps my comment was a little careless. There would have been children amongst my school friends who were not having very good lives. And there were certainly miserable adults. I can never forget the day our ‘nanny’ turned up for work beaten black and blue; by her ‘uncle’ she said. 😦 I think I was about seven when I witnessed that cruelty.
It’s ok. After I left the comment I thought it was a little abrupt and probably unnecessary, Ann, so I apologise. My parents divorced when I was 5 and prior to that there was much screaming and shouting. We can’t all have happy childhoods, but nice for those who do 🙂 🙂
No need to apologise at all. I appreciate knowing your point of view and your experience of life. 🙂
A beautiful book. It is such a special gift! I assumed this is quite a unique situation for your friend to come to visit. I hope you see her again.
Me too 🙂
I bet that book is great , with 5 great books of the bible. Enjoy it!
I will. And I am pleased to see that Fiona Pfennigworth is working on another Biblical text.
Oh, that book looks STUNNING! I used to want to study botanical illustration… it still appeals to me, actually. I hope you and your friend had the loveliest time together. It sounds like you have both led amazing lives and it’s wonderful that, through it all, you have been able to stay in touch.
Perhaps, one day, you will renew your interest in botanical illustration. I think Fiona Pfennigwerth may have done her degree as a mature student, although I am not entirely sure about that. I think we all have amazing lives. :)
What a beautiful book
It really is. I wonder if something similar has been done in New Zealand. Can you imagine how beautiful it would be?