Little Dorrit, my neighbor, who is the Holder of the Church Key, and wrangles the Flower Ladies with a light touch and a warm smile, encourages me to swot up for the Village Quiz. "For example, on what day were women given the vote" she says this morning, as she thrusts the keys into my hand. Yikes. I'm terrible on dates.
I'm not looking forward to doing the church flowers -- it feels too cold out -- but I cut down some hazel twigs, full of catkins, some yew that has little yellow flowers on it, and find some irises, white narcissus, forsythia and white hyacinths at the flower shop in Tring. They're very kind and give me a discount when I tell them it's for the church. With my shears, some string, a filled watering can, and the dogs, we drive to the church, boot laden with plant life. The church is cold, and doesn't smell wonderful. It's a beautiful church, with hand-embroidered kneelers, and a very good window or two, but I can't help but feel that it needs to be draped with Tibetan prayer flags and candles and offerings and little Mexican Madonnas with rosary beads. I want to play music and turn on the heat, and warm it up. I want to wash the floors and make the pews sparkle. It's so very English, the mustiness of it. I do say a prayer, at the end, and I even the praying gives me a lump in my throat, but I think it's the nostalgia more than anything. I don't feel in church like I feel while chanting and meditating. I hope that isn't a terrible thing to say. I don't feel the emotion of the On High.
Just as fragrance is in the flower, and reflection is in the mirror, in just the same way, God is within you.
The sikhs call the cleaning and the flower arranging, the chores that you do to serve God seva. Pray, Work, Give. As I lifted out the huge, dusty doormat just inside the church (I don't think it had been lifted up for a few years) I realized I was enjoying myself. The dogs weren't particularly helpful. Two jersey cows were lying down in their hay in the field behind the church, and Thistle was transfixed. I think the power of the Holy Spirit prevented her from chasing them, but she couldn't take her eyes off them. When she'd given up, she sat outside the little anti-room where the flowers are prepared (and, no doubt, the communion wine), while Bean kept guard at the front door.
It's lovely being inside a church, albeit a cold and slightly dusty one. It is so very, very peaceful. And very, very still. And there is something rather nice about bringing the outside in.
I read something yesterday which I'll link to here about grabbing the moments when inspiration hits, and writing it down. Because once you're out of the shower, or you've finished your walk, you'll forget the little kernel that came to you. They are just kernels, but those are the very things that grow into huge oaks.
The sudden flashes of insight we have in states of meditative distraction—showering, pulling weeds in the garden, driving home from work—often elude our conscious mind precisely because they require its disengagement. When we’re too actively engaged in conscious thought—exercising our intelligence, so to speak—our creativity and inspiration suffer. “The great Tao fades away.”
Doing flowers in a cold, quiet church produced just that state of meditative distraction. Perhaps that's why you find people sitting in churches in London at lunchtime, just to think. I walked into the great St Martin in the Fields the other day and wanted to stay for a long time, with the other two people who were hugging the ends of their pews, snuggled up in their warm coats. Of course, they could be praying too. But what, really, is the difference?
It hasn't been an easy week. The moment I have to start thinking about taking enough exercise, and taking my meds on time, and getting enough sleep, and meditating, and eating well, and drinking enough water, and doing the cod liver oil dosing, the minute my friend Sue starts giving me advice on sad lights, I know that something is awry. It will pass. I know it will. It's like the weather. But this isn't all I want to do. This can't be it. There needs to be an epiphany and another chapter. I can't bear the thought of this being everything. I like my job. I'm good at my job. But for some reason, my destiny feels bigger. That doesn't sound egotistical, I hope. I mean, I believe that God has other plans for me, and I intend to live up to that expectation.
I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on -- Joni Mitchell, River
On Wednesday night, after, quite frankly, a pretty shitty day, I forced myself to walk outside in the early evening to look at the moon. It was the Super Blue Blood Moon (the funniest name I've ever heard, many jokes about Belgian handmade loafer and Scully & Scully). I'd been at my desk all day, bound to it, and stuck in the house, irritated by the cold, the blockage in my brain, but I force myself outside. I grabbed my brand new LL Bean jacket that keeps you warm in -20 temperatures (what can I say? I'm a wuss.) and the dogs, and we walked towards the moon, which was diagonally across from us, across the road, the cricket pitch, the wood, up the field where the fake sheep live, closer and closer and closer, until I realized that I'd never reach it. How ever far I walked, I'd never reach the moon. I took pictures of it all the way and marveled at it, this glowing orb floating above us. I dreamed of a white garden, like the one at Sissinghurt (surely only women appreciate the white garden, the glow of the flowers in the moonlight). There was so much light. So much light. We were all illuminated.
Sending you love from the Chilterns. xo