Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Three Month Retreat

Gentle Readers,

In a day or two I leave for Scotland for another three-month retreat. I will be completely incommunicado, without access to the internet.

May you all have a blessed winter and early spring; I will return after Easter.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Velvet Shoes

Velvet Shoes

Let us walk in the white snow 
          In a soundless space; 
With footsteps quiet and slow, 
          At a tranquil pace, 
          Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk, 
          And you in wool, 
White as white cow's milk, 
          More beautiful 
          Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town 
          In a windless peace; 
We shall step upon white down, 
          Upon silver fleece, 
          Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes: 
          Wherever we go 
Silence will fall like dews 
          On white silence below. 
          We shall walk in the snow. 

Elinor Wylie

May every blessing and joy be yours this Christmas

and throughout the New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Don't Get Taken In by MacKeeper

If you get a popup alert (and you may get it even if you have a block on popups) from MacKeeper about a virus called Tapsnake, don't get taken in. I just wasted two-and-a-half hours with them and it's just a nightmare. Even for someone as suspicious as I am the pitch is very clever. First you can't get rid of the damn thing; then they keep upping the ante and wanting more money. Fortunately I was able to face them down and I'm getting a refund but I also called my credit card company and put a stop payment on. I probably shouldn't say more than this for legal reasons, but don't get taken in. Restart your computer if you can't get rid of the popups.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

St Lucy's Day

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's, 
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks; 
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks 
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays; 
                The world's whole sap is sunk; 
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk, 
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk, 
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh, 
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph. 

Study me then, you who shall lovers be 
At the next world, that is, at the next spring; 
         For I am every dead thing, 
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy. 
                For his art did express 
A quintessence even from nothingness, 
From dull privations, and lean emptiness; 
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot 
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not. 

All others, from all things, draw all that's good, 
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have; 
         I, by Love's limbec, am the grave 
         Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood 
                Have we two wept, and so 
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow 
To be two chaoses, when we did show 
Care to aught else; and often absences 
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses. 

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her) 
Of the first nothing the elixir grown; 
         Were I a man, that I were one 
         I needs must know; I should prefer, 
                If I were any beast, 
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest, 
And love; all, all some properties invest; 
If I an ordinary nothing were, 
As shadow, a light and body must be here. 

But I am none; nor will my sun renew. 
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun 
         At this time to the Goat is run 
         To fetch new lust, and give it you, 
                Enjoy your summer all; 
Since she enjoys her long night's festival, 
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call 
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this 
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.

[Note: in John Donne's  Day, the 13th of December fell on the Winter Solstice.]
[from the sublime to the ridiculous, see David Mitchell's article on Donald Trump in today's Guardian.]

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent Sunday

And so we begin again, end again, collapse time and space into a single point that lasts for the four weeks of Advent.

Nothing could be further from the orgiastic celebrations of consumerism and overindulgence that lead up to Christmas these days. One promising note this year is that so-called Black Friday was a complete flop as far as the high street shops were concerned—the chaotic and horrifying scenes from last year were not repeated in the UK. Even if the shopping went ahead online, there is something positive in people’s rejection of the sort of degrading behaviour that went on last year.

This morning I went to the Eucharist at St Benet’s. It wasn’t just the foul weather that made me reluctant to walk all the way to Christ Church. Rather, it was a longing for the inherent silence that is the heart of the energy that animates Benedictine liturgy, and that, it is devoutly to be wished, should animate every Eucharist, no matter how joyous and celebratory.

Advent is the night office within the night office, as it were. There is the long liturgical arc that begins with All Saints day on November 1, and ends with Purification on February 2 that lights us through the darkness of winter. But within that arc is another: the four eschatological weeks that end with the coming of the light after the solstice. The solstice used to fall on St Lucy’s day, but with the change in calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian, beginning in the 16th century, St Lucy arrives ten or eleven days earlier than the solstice, and Christmas comes hard on its heels.

In Scandinavia—in addition to its famous celebrations of St Lucy—there is a lovely custom of having lighted candles attached to windows during the darkest days of the year. To walk down the street of a strange city far to the north where the nights begin to draw in as early as mid-afternoon is to experience a quiet sense of welcome from those  one will never otherwise meet.

Light and silence: may these be ours this Advent and Christmastide.

*          *          *

Some words of Rowan Williams (thank you, Matthew):

Our problem in prayer is 99 times out of 100 it is not the absence of God but the absence of me. I am anywhere and everywhere but here. God, as it were, sits patiently in my here while I’m there.
George Herbert – ‘God is more there than thou’
St Augustine – ‘We have a home that does not fall down when we are away.’

Contemplation is less an activity we get better at – we never get better at prayer – it’s a place we are invited to which is always there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wisdom from Eagle Rock

Spirit of Eagle Rock: A Native American Cultural and Geologic Interpretation of Eagle Rock by Coyote Short (Professional Geologist of the Paiute and Modoc Tribes); No  Copyright info. Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology, Eagle Rock/Boise Idaho

p. 16 “Having no written language, the Boise Valley tribes used and extensive and highly developed language of stone t store and communicate the information necessary to support a sophisticated culture for many thousands of years.

“In their versatility, stones can represent any type of knowledge: a memory, an event, a duty, a metaphor, a picture, a purpose, or a prayer. A language based on stone is economical while profoundly articulate as it allows knowledge to remain larger than words, keeping the idea and the object as one.

“Native Americans possess the drive to clarify ideas and keep them pure, direct, and consistent. A language of stone supports this by accommodating the storage of concentrated knowledge—knowledge undiluted by words and interpretation. And, by involving the individual directly, through tactile feedback to retrieve the stored information, high fidelity of the original idea is contained.

“A language of stone perfectly addresses the responsibility and obligation felt my Native Americans to be free to speak to The Creator and the unknown, and to acknowledge, trust, and know that all is not contained in human power.”

p. 28 “A raven is a coyote with wings. Since they can fly, the raven can see the big picture. Making a stone in the shape of a raven is a request for insigiht and powers of seeing beyond visual sense.”

p. 30 “To Native Americans, ceremony is kinaesthetic prayer—prayer in motion. It is well understood by Native Americans that the body can absorb an event and remember better than can the mind, which explains the active, physical nature of ceremony."

p. 31 “Ceremony is a way to resonate with The Creator—to connect with spiritual ideals and make them real in our lives. it is a way to take time to process events, to remember, to see principles in real time, to recapture the subtle essence of existence in a pure state.

"Ceremonies mark time and significant events in the lives of the people and acknowledge that our identity is linked to the land we live on.”

Monday, November 16, 2015


Apologies for my silence. I was away and I forgot to take my new password with me! I will post tomorrow.