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  • Mike

It's been raining since Christmas....

Updated: May 1

On our recent trip to Hereford, we came across a beautiful side chapel in the Cathedral with two pairs of fabulous modern stained glass windows by the stained glass artist and painter Thomas Denny. They commemorate the 17th century Herefordshire poet and cleric Thomas Traherne who made a life work of seeking ‘Felicity’.

He wrote these words:

“You never Enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your Veins. Till you are clothed with the Heavens, and Crowned with the Stars”.

“Love…whispers in every Gale of Wind, and speaks aloud in Thunder…It…drops down upon us in Every Shower”.

I wish I had remembered the second quotation this week when I was moaning during a zoom call to a friend in the USA: ‘It’s been raining since Christmas’. But it is not true. On this damp, grey April day it just seemed like that but as I write the sun is shining and there are large patches of blue sky. On our recent week away, we saw quite a lot of the sun and it really did not rain much at all though the clouds did often race across the skies. In February I was actually able to sit outside reading in a sunny sheltered spot on several days. Most days we have been able to go for our daily walks without getting caught in a shower.

Of course, those of us who are retired do have the luxury of picking our moments while those who are limited by work hours or family obligations do not. And it is also true that we have had exceptionally high levels of rainfall so far this year so that some areas of the country have suffered severe flooding. But why did I say such a thing?

The countryside looks wonderfully full of life just now. From my window I can see at least a dozen different shades of green. In the garden the plants have taken advantage of such a full supply of moisture and are full of promise for the coming months. So why did I take refuge in this gloomy generalisation? I suppose very often we pick our generalisations to fit our moods. And often we generalise in defiance of the evidence.

So what might I learn from this convenient and lazy lie to myself?

Something that the process of ageing and the ups and downs of life teach you every day you are alive. And that is to live in the moment. ‘Carpe diem’. Seize the day. Savour the moment, see the shape of the day, find the peculiar texture of the day…and it may be a rough texture sometimes. It is very easy to get caught up in nostalgia - a wistful yearning for a time which was never quite as good as it seems in our memories. It is just as easy to get caught up in the future, in planning – and often worrying about – a future which so often turns out differently from what we envisage. It can waste so much emotional energy.

It sounds easy enough but is remarkably difficult to live. It has something to do with paying attention. Attention to this truly breathtaking natural world in which we live and take for granted. Attention to shapes and shades and textures and sounds and scents. For so many years I rushed past these on some errand which seemed important then.

Attention also to people in all their infinite variety. Their gifts, their needs, their eccentricities. It is very easy to create a caricature – which is in the same family as generalisations – and rush past their unique self. It is worth wondering whether beneath these facades there is a gift on offer to us, if only we have eyes to identify it.

Traherne was right when he said: “Maturity consists in not losing the past while fully living in the present with a prudent awareness of the possibilities of the future.”

So now I am going for a walk…in the sunshine!

The quotations are from Centuries of Meditations and The Kingdom of God

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