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Wednesday 29 April 2009

The Bluebell Wood At Temple Newsam

Alas! Dear Anne Bronte, like her sister Emily, was of a melancholy nature. Having grown up amid the freedom of the Moors, they found it so stifling to be torn from that childhood world and plunged into work that stifled their spirits. Anne's lovely poem, "The Bluebell" begins with such wonder but, sadly, as always, she slips into her sadness again.
Today I walked among bluebells (on the photo - at Temple Newsam) and had such a sense of being without the past, without the future, without anything but the glory of the woods. I think that the Brontes' yearning for freedom was so chained to that lost world of Angria and the Great Glass Town that they created as children - a fantasy world that was a reality to them. If only they had thought that perhaps it was possible to create and live their beautiful dream in this world, they might not have always been so melancholy and sad. It's a beautiful poem:

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
'Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil --
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood's hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others' weal
With anxious toil and strife.

'Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!'
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Alice Had a Little Lamb

A very lovely story about Princess Alice, who was born on April 25th 1843, is recounted in a letter from Lady Lyttleton and reproduced in the forward to the collection of Alice's letters, written by her sister, Lenchen. The letter describes Alice's fourth birthday:

"One present I think we all wish to live farther off: a live lamb, all over pink ribbons and bells. He is already the greatest pet, as one may suppose.
Princess Alice's pet lamb is the cause of many tears. He will not take to his mistress but runs away lustily, and will soon butt at her, though she is most coaxy, and said to him in her sweetest tones, after kissing his nose often: "Milly, dear Milly! Do you like me?"

Thursday 23 April 2009

Unless A Seed Falls Into the Ground and Dies

When Ella - Grand Duchess Elizabeth - went to the prison to forgive her husband's killer, he told her that on a previous occasion he could have killed her, too, but spared her life. Ella replied that in killing her husband, Serge, he had killed her, too.
Considering it was only three days since she had gathered Serge's bloody remains in her own hands, the shock and horror of what she had witnessed must have been so traumatic as to render her almost incapable of thinking straight but there was something in those words to which subsequent events bear testimony.
The Ella whom people had known as the 'most beautiful princess in Europe', the Ella who had stunned every man in every ballroom, who had disappeared partway through an evening to reappear in a completely different set of jewels and attire, who won the hearts of the same people who despised her husband, suddenly was no more.
Instead there was the real Ella: the person who had been raised in an atmosphere of beauty and service to the poor; the Ella who had 'longed since childhood to help those who suffer, especially those in moral suffering' - the Ella to whom beauty meant something more than superficial appearances.
It seems very much a visible example of 'unless a seed falls into the ground and dies...'
Ella's whole life changed through horror and tragedy but it wasn't destroyed - on the contrary, after twenty years as a stifled and passive wife, it returned her to herself.
Perhaps, had she not been raised in an atmosphere of tragedy and suffering, she might have learned that lesson in happier circumstances. It seems to me that when we believe suffering is necessary, we find it and it can change us for the better, if we so choose, but the greater lesson is to know that suffering isn't necessary and was never part of the Divine Plan. The only thing we die to is the false notion of the need to be anything other than our true selves. If we learn that lesson through suffering, good comes of it. If we learn that lesson through joy, so much the better!

Tuesday 21 April 2009

"Here's A Health Unto Her Majesty"

Happy Birthday, Ma'am!

It was wonderful to see the 41-gun salutes to so devoted a Queen and I hope these were seen by those who would happily merge these little islands into Soviet-like state of nonentities!

God Bless the Queen on her 83rd birthday, with many thanks for the example she has always set of being true to herself, to her beliefs and to her country!

Friday 17 April 2009

"New Ways To Dream"

The endless fascination with the Romanovs and the glittering world prior to WWI, I think goes beyond the immediate draw of the tragic and beautiful family to something deep within us that harks back to another era - a Golden Age. Of course, that Golden Age never really was. In the late 19th Century, they dreamed of Camelot; and who knows what they dreamed in the Dark Ages, but undoubtedly, it was of a better time before that. Perhaps that longing is really a seeking for our true selves - that part of us, buried within us, which seems to come from a past, and that is at the very core of our being: the belief that the world can be kind, good, noble and all that is finest in us. We're so used to projecting our views of everything onto the world, that maybe we dream of an ideal past that is really a dream of a return to our own true nature.

That having been said, it seems often that the lure of the past is of an age of respect and chivalry and good manners; the age of people taking time over projects and producing beautiful results - not the rushed, busy-business, not the rat race, not the throw-away society that the Industrial Revolution spawned.

It seems to me that the most fascinating things are happening right now. Groaning from almost 2 centuries of industrialisation and people becoming little more than cogs in the wheel, there is a huge desire to return to Nature, to real values, to be free of the packaged fruits and perfect EU-acceptable bananas and the gloss and sham of music, literature and art of the past few decades. Without wishing to jump on the bandwagon of the hugely deserved success of Susan Boyle, who performed so genuinely and incredibly, hasn't she arrived at just the right time? Sick of the surfeit of counterfeit nonsense and hype and plastic and sham, people have been longing for reality again. Out steps a true talent - someone singing from the heart; no hype, no fake-tan, no million dollar dress or a host of sexy dancers - just a true talent, and it was as though everyone in that audience, and everyone watching at home gasped a great collective whoop of joy! At last, we are free of the superficiality. The fact that her performance coincides with loss of faith in hypocritical governments or greedy banks, is significant. People can only be conned so far before there is a backlash because we are all so much more wonderful than we are led to believe most of the time. We don't have to fit the bill, look a particular way, be controlled, be made-to-measure, be told how to live in order to succeed.

The Golden Age, is the age of people being true to themselves and therefore true to one another. I think Susan Boyle has succeeded in doing what that wonderful line from 'Sunset Boulevard' expresses, she has quite unintentionally 'taught the world new ways to dream.'

Sunday 12 April 2009


Wishing every blessing of Easter to everyone who visits this site!

May all that is finest and most joyful and lovely in you, bring you every happiness!

Thank you for stopping by!

Saturday 11 April 2009

What Good Friday Means To Me

(photograph courtesy of www.andrehilliard.com

"Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green."

This lovely old hymn is so very beautiful, isn't it?

For the first four decades of my life, from as far back as I can remember, Good Friday moved me intensely. Growing through adolescence and early adulthood, it always seemed that the more deeply I felt the grief of that day, the more 'holy' I was, somehow. Weeping through "The Passion of the Christ" or the earlier (lovelier!) "Jesus of Nazareth" seemed the right thing to do. And it moved me intensely and on some level it felt 'good' to be so moved. Now I wonder...

Now, when we see everyone jumping on the bandwagon of other people's grief - a child is killed, a person is run over in the road, and flowers or teddy bears appear tied to railings, left there by well-meaning strangers; a 'celebrity' dies and there is a huge outpouring of tears as though somehow the world is less for their passing; and it seems sometimes that the words that Jesus spoke on the road to Golgotha, "Weep not for me but for yourselves and your children," were not, as I once thought, some kind of prophecy, but rather a statement of what was happening right there. Were they weeping for him, or for their own projected grief? For all the inner concealed crucifixions of the Christ within us all...If we are children of God, or children of Life, why do we crucify our dignity by having faith in sin, in evil, in sickness, in the belief that somehow we are at the mercy of fate? If we are Children of Life, then surely we the Kingdom of Heaven within us can shine forth and, without the need of projecting our grief, we face up to our own demons and walk on into our own Easter.

A constantly recurring question was always, "He died for my sins, so I am sorry and am born in debt to him, but what sin did I commit that deserved such a terrible end?" or, "Who demanded something so horrible? Could (the God of) Life demand death in recompense for some failure in His children? Or worse, could Life/Love demand the death of an innocent for the guilty?" No, it doesn't make sense at all. Nor does it fit with anything that this beautiful man actually said. His life and message was surely more important than his death, and yet we have filled churches and holy places with crucifixes - we have honoured the cross, when surely the whole meaning of his life is, "To have life more abundantly." If we believe we are created in the 'image and likeness' of God, and yet create a God who demands the death of an innocent, it is small wonder that religions have, over centuries, caused wars, murdered and massacred those who don't agree with our view of the world. If we believe in a God who is Life, who causes to sun to rise on the unjust as well as the just, who has no favourites and simply expresses Him (Her) Self in all that is - all people, all creatures, all creation - then there is no need for ideologies, theologies, 'isms' or any control or power-seeking.

No, none of the self-satisfied grieving, the sense of 'I've done my duty by honouring this death and feeling mauled by it...' No. The point of it all is surely to recognize where we crucify our own expression of Life. To grieve for a man who died horrifically 2000 years ago, is without purpose and self-indulgent. We're not here to mourn the past but to live as true expression of that Life, as, I believe, Jesus of Nazareth did.

It is spring. Love is really the foundation, source and life in everything and that is what Good Friday means to me.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Then thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.