Category Archives: challenges

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ in silence delight

Angel of the Morning

Let your life come amongst them like a flame of light, my
child, unflickering and pure, and delight them into silence.’

from The Child-Angel , Rabindranath Tagore

Angels, as I know them, come in many  guises. This little one, who has endured significant travails, was a gift from one of the many angels who supported and loved us at the White Plains Presbyterian Church, Westchester, New York.  In silence, I delight in  angels.

 

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Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ silent, velvet footed

There had to be cats, there always are

In silence, I contemplate the presence of cats at the Nativity.  There had to be cats, still small voices of calm.

And, quite possibly,  there were fleas, too. 🙂

THE CAT’S CAROL
(Sister Letitia)
Tune: Once In Royal David’s City

Come you cats of every colour
Kittens, too, of every size
See, the Lord who made the tiger
Lowly in a manger lies.
Praise him all his little tigers
Let your joyful purring rise.

Siamese and stately Persian
Homely black and Tabby gay,
Leave your cushions, leave your roof tops
Call a truce with mice today.
Swift and silent, velvet footed
Hasten now down Bethlehem way.

See, he smiles to see you coming
Mary welcomes you within.
Joseph with a friendly finger
Gently strokes your furry chin.
Ox and ass are there beside you
Sheep and camel peering in.
All creation sings his praises
Voices, music, sharps and flats
Join the chorus, cats and kittens
Praise him, just by being cats.

 

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~breaking the silence

Absorbed, in its world, one frog

 

Breaking the silence
Of an ancient pond,
A frog jumped into water —
A deep resonance.

Matsuo Bashô: Frog Haiku translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa 

I fear I may be drowning us all in silence, so I will take a break until Monday.  Until then

 “Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.”

Silence ~an Advent Quest ~merry and bright

Said one silly chook to the other,” Well, I did warn you that your bed of roses ideas would sink us.”

laughter in silence, silence in laughter

THEN
Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone’s face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
‘Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He’s crawling out of the duckweed.’
Click!

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,

Daddy Fell Into the Pond by Alfred Noyes

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ let it be

Late afternoon, lily of the Incas, heavenly bamboo, Nana’s jardinière, memories

facing west, twilight on its way

‘The night is for stillness.
…….

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.’

Evening Prayer 

from © A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa 1989 p.185

Silence ~an Advent Quest

Silence is topical in my ecosystem*. I am reading about silence, thinking about it, seeking it, observing it,  and, sometimes, dwelling in it.

Silence, as I know it, or as I desire it,  is neither complete nor profound. It is simply stillness, calm,  and quiet, dappled with distant  bird song, the gentle ticking of a kitchen clock, and  little sighs of pleasure from a resting dog.  When I can rest fully in this silence, I am content.  But those resting periods are rare and often elusive.

With Christmas hurtling towards me  (or is it the other way round? :D), I feel a deep need  to capture more silence ; to hold it tighter as a buffer against the maelstrom of noise and nonsense which swirls in with the silly season. Yet to capture the small, transitory  silences dotted around me is hard. 

What can I do to gather in the silence?  Create a silence-catcher akin to a dream-catcher?

I read “Praying” by Mary Oliver.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Her words fill me with hope. There is a doorway into a wondrous silence.  There is no need to catch or harvest or grasp silence. I need only open the door, slowly and gently.

This Advent I will do just that. Silence, plentiful and peaceful,  will be my Advent quest.

Will you join me?  Each day, as part of my quest,  I  hope to post a daily image  from my place of silence. Please note the word “hope”.  🙂

December ~what does it hold for me?

As well as my images, you may also enjoy the blog posts linked below. They inspire me to think about silence.

The World According to Dina

Leaping Tracks

 

 Postscript: ecosystem*  I am amused by the current/catchword  overuse of this word. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play with it.

I like to recycle calendars.  My friend and photographer, David Dobbs, made the featured calendar in 2017. I have added a fresh December page to the December image. I keep this calendar in my bedroom. I will eventually make a few entries on it but mostly I will leave it bare to remind me that each day is a blank canvas  to fill, or not, as I choose.    I have David’s 2018 calendar in the  kitchen.  That calendar is cluttered with appointments and reminders!

 

 

 

 

Take a look, it’s in a book……somewhere

This is a self-indulgent post in which  I record my reading list ( read, reading, and to be read);  consider how far I have travelled without leaving home; and  note very briefly what knowledge, useful or otherwise,   I have learned on my literary tour.

It is a post which is the equivalent of an entry I would have made in my version of a commonplace book, more than a decade ago, before the computer stole my soul.

READ (Where I have been; quite far it seems)

What I’ve learned:

Danger Music by Eddie Ayres

Music will out even in the most dreadful of circumstances, hence the establishment of the amazing Afghanistan National Institute of Music

 

 

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam

There is a rich tradition of poetry in Ethiopia, which is not well-known outside of Ethiopia. One particular  type of scholarly poetry is called q’ene and plays with the double meanings of words. It often introduces words from Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language from which Amharic derives, now only used in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. So a q’ene will have a surface (wax) interpretation but also a deeper and richer (gold) meaning, giving it the title semenna worq (wax and gold).

 

Classical Music by Joy Cowley

Some books choose you. After all what are the chances of reading your life, as it is unfolding,  in the first sentence of the first chapter of a book which you selected randomly from a pile of donated books ~”My father is dead and it is raining.” Thus it was on both counts.

The Thunderbolt Pony by Stacy Gregg

Reading about recent earthquakes on my home turf still makes my heart race.

The Kettle on the Fuchsia by Barbara Harper

I am a  wimp. I would have been a useless pioneer. And it was interesting to realise that a  lack of aeroplanes and fossil fuels was  never a barrier to travel.

Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal Spitz

This book is available to us thanks to translation by Jean Anderson, founder of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation.  To understand each other we need to read each other.

A Notable Woman edited by Simon Garfield

Data collection is nothing new. We have just changed the way we collect it. Before Google and Facebook,  there was the Mass Observation project.  Mass Observation was founded 75 years ago in 1937 by the South African poet, communist and journalist Charles Madge and two English eccentrics: the filmmaker and polymath Humphrey Jennings and the anthropologist and self-publicist Tom Harrisson. Formed in the aftermath of the  abdication crisis, Mass Observation sought to bridge the gap between how the media represented public opinion and what ordinary people actually felt and thought. The Mass Observation Archives are at the University of Sussex.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

Cows love to live in family groups and have a rich emotional life, not unlike humans.

Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale

Was this the wisest choice of reading material for a Trans-Tasman flight? The book begins “Chapter 1 Dangerous Situation.  Right now: imagine dying.”   Turns out I can do that in mid-air though it did feel slightly uncomfortable.

Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller

I may never understand how  different people/groups/races  in a country can love their country more deeply and fiercely than they do their fellow man.  It’s a strange love that tears a country apart. And Scribbling the Cat is not a good thing to do.

READING (Where I am; in China and New Zealand)

Rewi Alley An Autobiography

Rewi Alley’s interest in China was piqued by his encounters with the Chinese Labour Corps  who worked tirelessly for the Allies during World War One.

To Read Maybe, One Day, Sometime…….. (Where I may go; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the library)

Changing Lives  by Janice Marriott and Virginia Pawsey

The Curious Curiosity by Glenda Barnett who lives in North Devon and is better known to me as blogger Celia Ladygarden

Granite and Rainbow: Essays by Virginia Woolf

Wherein  I hope to read more excellent essays like ‘ Hours in a Library’  which is the source of this lovely quote about reading lists and notebooks.

 If we wish to refresh our memories, let us take down one of those old notebooks which we have all, at one time or another, had a passion for beginning. Most of the pages are blank, it is true; but at the beginning we shall find a certain number very beautifully covered with a strikingly legible handwriting. Here we have written down the names of great writers in their order of merit; here we have copied out fine passages from the classics; here are lists of books to be read; and here, most interesting of all, lists of books that have actually been read, as the reader testifies with some youthful vanity by a dash of red ink. We will quote a list of the books that someone read in a past January at the age of twenty, most of them probably for the first time. 

In conclusion: I want to  thank my sister-in-law and her sister who keep my bookshelves stocked with a wonderful, eclectic collection of excellent reading material. Without them I wouldn’t have read or travelled very far this year.