We had an early tea last night. Five o’clock, children around the table with a plate of cold foods from the fridge and the usual clamour of chatter.
We had planned to go over to Liverpool but at the last moment I decided to stay at home with two of the children. It was a good decision; by saying no to something really good in favour of something that turned out better, an otherwise frantic evening, was transformed into a slow open space without any plans.
Lucy watched The Secret Garden and I watched most of it with her. I got started on the second sock (knitters amongst you know all about the second sock!). We got to talking about the film settings, the house, the furniture, the garden and the wild open moors. I recognised some of the places, lovely places where I have been, Fountains Abbey and the hotel stairway at the St Pancreas Renaissance hotel, where I once attended a rather swish Apple Education conference (that seems like a million years ago!). Lucy went up to bed when the film finished and I planned to do the same; cup of tea, early night and a book.
I pottered in the kitchen, tidying the clutter of the day, sorting laundry, putting things in order for the morning. Dusk fell, shadows and grainy gloom hanging around the kitchen like unwelcome guests, but with the patio doors still flung wide against the closing day I stood a while and watched the pale colours of the sky sink into the surprising peace of my own back yard. Tendrils of overgrown jasmine hung over the door lintel just where I stood, the tip of each turned upwards to face the last of the sun. I pulled a chair up and sat down to watch. There was very little movement, very little sound, an insect passing, a quiet bird call somewhere distant.
Some flowers give more scent as night falls. It was the honeysuckle that I could smell sitting there watching the evening filling up the yard. I wrote the words on my note pad, “Peace smells like honeysuckle and contentment looks like a bee, in the pocket of a foxglove flower”. I’m sitting on my own back step waiting for bats to take flight.
Outside it was still light but in the kitchen it was too dark to see. I sat on the door step in the in-between light and I remembered that my grandmother, my dad’s mum, would sit in the dark as the night fell. That she never got up to switch on the light and how we thought her excessively frugal or excessively sad, rather than content and restful alone with her thoughts and watching the close of the day. Sometimes she would knit, there in the dark, feeling the stitches on the needle with her thumbs, her sight failing from thick milky cataracts that covered her eyes. I wonder what it would be like to live without the power of the electric light? To rise when the sun rises and sleep when it sets? To do our work through the long days of summer and to stay home through winter keeping warm, telling stories and planning for the spring? To live without the false notion we are somehow in control of the very light of day or could order the comings and goings of weeks and years?
I have been busy, anxious and troubled by many things for more years of my life than I care to count. But sitting watching the night fall I wonder what there is to be afraid of. Time has slowed and I’m catching up. Tonight I could slip through the thinning places of the day and find myself on the other side of reality, like losing my cares to the inside of a prayer.
But the Lord answered her … you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing …
There is a time for us to rouse our souls and make them sing a song they don’t really feel like singing. There is a time for gratitude lists and inspiring quotes, for disciplines of prayer and an unrelenting pursuit of the never-give-up life.
But there is also a time (and it is a better time) when the soul, by its own devices rises up to meet God with an un-stoppable cry of thanks. A slow time, at the end of the day, as the sun slips away and a cool hush falls on the busy-ness of all the well spent hours.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits …Psalm 103.1,2