For me one of the most inspiring and encouraging speakers at the Greenbelt Festival this year was Barbara Brown Taylor. In her beautifully written book “An Altar in the World” she describes how heaven and earth can meet in the ordinary, not just in bread and wine, but even in washing dishes and standing in the supermarket queue. I am enjoying reading it, just as I loved hearing her speak.
And today there were two special moments when I was aware of such “thin places” as Barbara calls them. Places where, like Jacob awaking from his dream of a ladder from heaven, I could say “surely God is in this place”
The first was when sharing a simple lunch of (yes, you’ve guessed it) jacket potatoes at a local garden centre with a good friend. Despite our coming from very different spiritual backgrounds and traditions we often find ourselves connecting at a deep level which sometimes takes us by surprise. Today was no exception.
The second moment was when I stopped at the local blueberry farm on my way home. Picking the dark blue velvety fruits hanging in sweet clusters, connected me to harvests of previous years, the cycle of growth through the seasons, and the earth by which I am faithfully fed.
I am truly thankful for such everyday holiness.
A wet, windy Saturday gave way to gentle sunshine this morning and a chance to check the gardens. Water butts have filled a little, crops are swelling after the rain and furry peaches are flushing rosily as they ripen on the fence.
We pick golden orange and bright red tomatoes, with pink raspberries, as well as speckled courgettes, purple and green beans and rusty onions.
And enjoy the wonderful displays of colour at the local pub.
Last weekend we travelled a few hours to the south west to visit the Tamar valley on the border of Devon and Cornwall. Gresham Studios is the home of Counterparts, Peter Ursem and Helen Porter. Helen was until recently musical director of Steamheat, the group my husband sings with. She is also part of the Misbehavin‘ jazz quartet.
We had a lovely day in the sun, in the company of many singers and artists, who were demonstrating the creativity and joy of making music together. I found myself (as the accompanying spouse) repeatedly being asked “and do you sing too?”
My usual reply was a dismissive “no” – and that is true. I don’t belong to a group, or perform as my husband and both my children do.
But it was a strange coincidence that on my return home I received a photo from an old school friend (thanks Jo) reminding me of when we were in the school choir together and frequently won competitions!
Yes I am there in the picture, and yes I could sing, and can sing, although rarely do sing now.
It has really made me think about the passing of time, who I was then, and who I am now. The same and not the same. And how easy it is to disconnect with parts of ourselves at different times in our lives. What often stops us doing things is when we think we can’t perform as well as others, and we lose confidence. I have been reminded this weekend that it is not about competitions and winning, it is more about expressing our true selves and harmonising with others. I think I need to allow myself to say “I do sing, but not often with other people at the moment”, and perhaps I could even try singing along to the car radio sometimes…
I wonder how many of you out there sing, with others or on your own?