I have just been for a walk with Betty and oh my goodness how beautiful everything is! The limey green of the trees, the verges dripping with new grass and burgeoning cow parsley. The singing of the skylarks way up beyond sight, the fresh new crops just beginning to whisper in the breeze. And holding all this fecundity, the chalk downs, ancient, majestic, beyond time. Old as the sea they go way back to a time when the earth was formed, and they will still be here centuries after we are gone; just thinking about this makes me feel very small and makes the things I worry about seem very trivial. As is often the case when confronted by such awe-inspiring beauty I turn to poetry to voice what I cannot, like Gerard Manley Hopkins who sees the natural world as shot through with the divine: ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil/Crushed.’
Whether you subscribe to the notion of God or not I think at some point or another all of us experience that sense of smallness, of being part of something much bigger than ourselves; an old French prayer sees it this way: O Lord, your ocean is so great and my boat is so small. Reflecting on the 15th century Indian mystic and poet Kabir’s work Roger Housden writes: ‘This making love with the divine, this plunging into truth, requires what human love does – a falling away of your defences, a recognition of your vulnerability, a willingness to acknowledge that you are on the wave of an ocean far bigger than you are. Yet in the same moment that you cry ‘yes!’ to the immensity of life, you share its power and beauty. You are both everything and nothing. This is the great ocean that Kabir is urging you to experience, the ocean of Life that bore you into existence in the first place.’ What a profound description of transcendence, of a sense of the ‘other’ that often takes our breath away; to Hopkins once again:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Next time I write the crops will be taller, nothing stays the same, such is the nature of life. The earth will turn, the seasons come and go, as we go about our daily lives; let’s hope now and again we take time to reflect on our place in it all.
Love and prayers,
Rev Pauline Reid.