Monday, January 27, 2014

Signs of Hope

Yesterday, while I was doing some pruning between showers, I found the first snowdrop. It was a  heart-stopping moment, and made me vow to plant more. I wasn't aware that there were any in the garden, so to come upon this one was a revelation.

It's been a warmish winter so far, but the wind is due to back around to the east and temperatures to drop, so I hope and pray that the shrubs that are budding enthusiastically won't be blasted by frost: last year I lost a clematis that way.

It seems to be a strange time in the world: peace talks that aren't peace talks; black holes that are no longer black holes; vaunted 'progress' that isn't; floods that won't recede. It is grimly amusing to listen to people talk about improving flood defences, when global warming will eventually overwhelm any feasible projects.

On Friday I went to hear Rowan Williams lecture and have a conversation with broadcaster Jon Snow. He spoke on themes familiar to readers of this blog. He talked about beholding in terms of 'gaze': '...we turn away our gaze to domesticate and compartmentalise God.' My favourite line was '...the being of God drawing us to echo its own liberty.' He drew a big laugh in the conversation with Jon Snow when he said, '...when I grow up I'm going to be a Quaker.' Very much my feelings of late as the liturgy gets drearier and drearier and there seems to be an impasse among the clergy as to where to go with it. Jon Snow was puzzled by the account of silence; he kept asking where the activism was. It's difficult to explain to someone who hasn't tried it, as difficult for Rowan as anyone else: both that the attentive receptivity and perseverance require a good deal of effort (though of a different sort), that it's not pure passivity, and that what is normally thought of as 'activity' arises—or should arise, if it is not to be destructive—from stillness.

These lectures—there are two more next week—are sponsored jointly by Oxford and Cambridge and were filmed. I highly recommend them. They will be posted on the Humanitas website:

Tomorrow I'm going off to Devon/Cornwall for a badly needed break as I haven't been out of Oxford for six months. I hope to throw my restlessness into the restless sea, and return with a fresh perspective.

Happy Candlemas, everyone!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We could all use some hope!

8:51 am, January 28, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assuming you know this, Maggie, but in case you or others don't, snowdrops are sometimes referred to as "Mary's tapers" in relation to them usually coming out at Candlemas.

11:20 am, January 29, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew said...

The lectures by Rowan Williams are now available at:

Unfortunately the conversation with Jon Snow does not seem to be available at this address yet.

2:46 pm, February 05, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew said...

The conversation with Jon Snow is now available at:

8:31 pm, February 05, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


We hope you are surviving what must be a very wet Devon!


8:44 pm, February 08, 2014  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thanks, Theo. Devon was indeed wet, and the sea wild when we went to Cornwall.Oxford will probably be cut off again. No end in sight!

10:13 pm, February 08, 2014  

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