In The Deep Night, An Extinguishing Flame

Our local church, on the night of Maundy Thursday, turns its chapel into the Garden Of Gethsemane, decking it out in many candles, surrounding a cross placed upon the chapel floor in front of the altar.

There is much emphasis on a night of waiting. Of watching.

I enjoy the meditative, reflective time spent in the softly illuminated darkness. I was there last night, thinking of family and friends who have passed before me.

There was another cross standing at the end of the candle-lit channel. For my previous generations, my most closest ancestors, the cross was the symbol of hope and strength as their inevitable end drew near.  They would have approached the great unknown holding on to that image. I pictured those once dear to me drawing near to it, reaching out to grasp its arms, before passing on beyond the marker. Imaginatively speaking.

A time of waiting. A time of preparing.

There were some family members whose passing was sudden and unheralded, but for the majority they knew that their time was approaching.

How do you prepare for that moment ?  How do you reach the point where the only control you have left is to let go?

I thought of my father. After his heart attack, he informed me that the doctor had told him he could have another one “like that” with a click of his fingers. How did he cope with the thought of that time bomb ticking away inside of him? He died from the detonation a few days later.

Some of my family have approached that cross with a calmness and strength that I can only hope to emulate when my time comes. There was one person who particurlarly came to mind, though.

His passing was quite recent. He returned home to die, his life ebbing away due to the cancer that ravaged him. As the moment inched closer, while his awareness of it remained, he muttered: “I’m frightened.”

His wife, Alice, said to him gently “You’ve no reason to be frightened. Say hello to your father and to Stephen” (his brother) “for me.”  With that he succumbed, sent over by those strong words of faith.

In the deep of the night, gazing silently upon those flickering flames, I thought to myself that, when the time comes, we could all do with an Alice standing alongside us, whispering into our ear.

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The Grave Of Kazantzakis

This photograph was taken at the grave of the writer Nikos Kazantzakis, in Heraklion, Crete.

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The epitaph, taken from one of his books, reads “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

I have read most of his books. Although his style may be a little dated now, I enjoy in them their universal themes of existential and spiritual struggle, and the creative tension this creates. His most famous works, with help from the media of film, are Zorba The Greek, (remember the Anthony Quinn dance?), and The Last Temptation. That last one was made into the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation Of Christ, which was condemned by the Church Of Greece. His reply was:

“You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I.”

I posted this today as I thought it an appropriate photograph to share.

Happy Easter to you all. Go easy on the chocolate.

Jesus in the Electric Chair

A timely reblog for an early post.

City Jackdaw

Being Easter weekend, my news feed on Facebook has been clogged up with images and artwork portraying the crucifixion of Christ. Some respectful, some irreverent. But by far the image that most caught the eye, and the imagination, was the image of the sculpture by British artist Paul Fryer.

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Made of wax, wood, and human hair, the work was entitled ‘Pietà.’

Pietà means pity. A pietà is a painting or sculpture of Mary holding and grieving over the dead body of  Christ. There have been many of these paintings and sculptures done. The most famous is the sculpture by Michelangelo in St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This is the only work that the sculptor ever signed. The story has it that the artist was proudly watching a throng of people looking at his creation, when he overheard some admirers attribute it to other artists. Overcome by anger, he signed the statue, later regretting…

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Sparrow Enclave

Well April has arrived. Don’t you just love this time of year? Easter, spring, daffodils, butterflies, honeybees, birdsong, snowmen.

Alright, where I am there is no longer snow on the ground, but it is just as cold. I think we are the April fools, expecting our seasons to adhere to the old custom of things when our world now seems turned on its head. This time last year we had temperatures up in the 70’s. Expectations of a Summer heatwave rose with the mercury, only to be washed away in the wettest Summer since records began, the second wettest year on record, and now the coldest Easter on record. All after fears of a drought.

I’m dreaming, of a white Easter.

I took the dog just around the block yesterday morning-it was freezing after all. He is no husky and I am no Scott. With a cold wind sweeping down from the Pennines, and chasing us westward,  I tracked the usual route through Sparrow Enclave. Forget visions of a wooded conservation area or sweeping valley. Sparrow Enclave is how I think of two short rows of houses, facing each other, named Hesketh Walk.  With the help of a long garden turned wild (I think possibly by design by either a sympathetic wildlife lover or reluctant gardener) this area appears to be a last bastion for the humble sparrow in our community. Every morning when my four legged friend and I , goosebumps and all, arrive here on our somnambulistic   saunter, they can be heard singing from the guttering of the houses in whose cavities they nest. I usually see several of them flitting among the trees and hedgerows that line the path we take.

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Joining in this morning’s avian love fest was a dumpy Wren-the Druid’s bird. Another day, last week , I was nearly hit by a low flying female Sparrowhawk- obviously learned by word of beak that there is a great new takeaway in town. Why do the Winterwatch team set up camp annually in the Highlands when all the action they crave can be found on this small concrete walk? Just putting your wheelie bin out is like going on a Bill Oddie odyssey. Catchy.

It’s the sparrows that catch the eye, just because of their presence.

I don’t feed the birds all year around, just in the Winter when it is life-or-death time. At that time of year the birds are better fed than the kids, with marginally worse toilet habits. I get blackbirds, magpies, robins, but the two species that used to be the most prevalent to my garden are now conspicuous by their absence. The RSPB say the number of sparrows in the UK have dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008. Starlings have fared little better. And have further decreased in the years since.

But for whatever reason,  Hesketh Walk is the place where the sparrow is, if not flourishing, hanging on. The Portuguese Neanderthals of the bird world. Having located in my dog-lead meanderings Sparrow Enclave, hopefully somewhere around these parts I will stumble across Starling Alamo.

I will keep an eye out tomorrow. In the meantime I will place my long johns next to my sunglasses next to my waterproofs next to my distress flare. It won’t be until I open the blinds that I will know what season we are in for for that day. Or at least for the morning.

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