Category Archives: spirituality

Beech tree revisited

A feature of Facebook I quite like is the “on this day” memory prompt. Today I was reminded of what I posted to this journal five years ago… I have revisited that word sketch, and my subsequent post, before today. When studying metaphors and imagery in poetry on my MA course I looked through the window at that same tree, and thought about life, and the seasons of the soul.

Today the tree is still here, and so am I. Both older. Since then I know more of my ancestral grounds, and more of the sadness of loss and letting go. But I also hold on to the hope and promise of that life which is ongoing, and which cannot be quenched. It will stir again in spring.

Here is the three part poem I eventually wrote from my first word sketch five years ago. The voice of the poem shifts from being in the tree, then addressing the tree, and finally describing the tree from a longer time perspective. I find this is a process which often helps me cope with the changes and seasons of life. I hope you enjoy it.

Beech Tree Revisited

I stand tall, frame strong, robust

black arms, branching into finger twigs,

dressed respectably in leaves

of supple bronze, green sap holds firm.

Days disrobe me. Clothes fade

to shabby rags, brown stains of death.

Threadbare cloak pulls from my back.

I am stripped,

naked.

************

Here are your reaching fingers,

clutching brittle dying debris.

Here are your silvered arms,

rain sluiced, wind tossed.

Skeletal shoulders

bear the winter of your soul.

Here is your straight scarred trunk.

Here is the moss wrapped body.

Here an inner downward thrust,

to roots deep underground

where something unknown

wants to live.

************

Chattering excitement spills

from nestlings, sheltered

in wooden box pinned to her heart,

Circling crows above her head,

like v-shaped birds drawn

on the sky by children’s hands.

She stretches fingers to the blue,

touches shimmering rain clouds

with swelling tips of pink

which burst to lime,

and hurrying, lace gloves

pulled on, she waves

in welcome to the spring. Then turns,

still rooted in ancestral ground,

to dance along new paths, where

from beneath the litter of past years,

spouting bluebells fountain

into pools around her feet.

Cilla Sparks

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Entwined threads

No posts recently from me because I have been feeling very tired and not 100% well. A virus? Or related to a long term condition I have had for many years I’m not sure, but some blood tests soon will hopefully give some clues.

I find it hard not to feel miserable when I feel ill, and the wider news – local, national and international is not encouraging either.  Physical and mental are so closely connected for me, entwined even. This morning I was reading Deborah Alma’s “The Emergency Poet” ( a great poetry anthology for “down” moments) and happened upon this little extract from William Blake.

“Man was made for joy and woe;

And when this we rightly know,

Through the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the soul divine,

Under every grief and pine

Runs a joy with silken twine.”       From Auguries of Innocence

Weaving, cloth, thread and fabric are metaphors I can understand and relate to strongly, as the name I chose for my blog indicates. And then I found myself reading from Beverly Gordon “Textiles the Whole Story”, (a wonderful book about the meaning and significance of textiles in our lives). She describes so many rich metaphors about threads, but what stood out for me today was her description of how entwining and weaving provides beauty, strength and durability to the cords and cloths which hold us.

So perhaps I can gain courage today that the paradox of joy and woe entwined is ultimately a source of strength. And, just like the surprising toughness of natural silk, we can be reassured of joy, even when it’s hidden, running along the twisted threads of our lives.

Just as I was thinking this the postman delivered some Kaffe Fassett fabric remnants I’d bought from EBay. Not silk, but the colours are certainly joyous! Enjoy…

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Being a witness

One of the pieces of evidence of my ancestors I now have in my possession is a marriage certificate from a Quaker wedding in 1875 at which my great great grandparents, William and Elizabeth Jackson, were present. Their signatures appear on the wedding certificate as witnesses of the couple’s promises that they will be faithful marriage partners with God’s help.

George Fox, early Quaker, said “the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests’ or magistrates’; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s”. He continued “we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.” (http://qfp.quaker.org.uk/chapter/16/)

Today I experienced for the first time something my great great grandparents did- that of being a witness at a Quaker wedding. Even in the 21st century the pattern is much the same; in the setting of a largely silent Meeting for Worship the couple declared their love and commitment to each other in words almost identical to those on the 1875 marriage certificate. In the quietness it was deeply moving as the witnesses spoke (or sang) to the couple with personal messages, prayers and blessings as they felt moved by the spirit.

And just like my great great grandparents I showed my presence and my witness of the couple’s declaration by signing the wedding certificate. Today, in the 21st century, I witnessed two women declaring their love for each other and seeking Divine assistance in their marriage. It was a wonderful honour to be involved. IMG_6080

 

The living among the dead

Our three nights in Northern Ireland were spent at the Belmont hotel in Banbridge. I booked it because the house was originally designed by my 3x great grandfather Thomas Jackson, architect of many prestigious Belfast buildings. He also designed many country houses for the wealthy Linen manufacturers of this area. The Bann valley is dotted with fine Georgian houses, several designed by Thomas Jackson, and the remains of the linen mills are still in evidence too. Belmont House is now a hotel, and is being refurbished very tastefully. I think my long dead ancestor would be pleased to see his creation being cared for into the 21st century.

My great grandfather T Jackson Greeves (named after his architect grandfather) lived not far from Banbridge in Portadown where he owned a Linen Weaving factory. His house, Fairacre, was visited by my own father when he was a child. I found it on my last visit to Ireland, and it was nice to drive past it again. I wanted to find the grave of my great grandparents T. Jackson and Gilbertina Greeves and after a bit of a search I did find it, but also felt the strong sense that they were not there.

On the Sunday of our stay we visited Moyallon Quaker Meeting House, where Gilbertina’s parents William Ridgway Jackson and Lizzie Uprichard were married and Gilbertina herself would likely have attended sometimes as a child. We joined the current company of Friends (as Quakers are known) for their largely silent Meeting for Worship. Strangely, as I sat in the beautiful old meeting room I was not conscious of the presence of my ancestors, although I knew they had been there. More a connection with the living. Some of those present shared common ancestors with me, and they all welcomed us warmly as they shared lunch afterwards.

Back at the Belmont Hotel we met up with two other Quakers, one of whom I had been in e-mail contact with, as he helped me search for Quaker documents from the1860s when I was researching my family history. Ross and Robina shared a meal with us, and also their knowledge of the history of Quaker families from the area. But more than that, we discovered a present shared spiritual connection, and it was a lovely afternoon of friendship and fellowship.

It makes me wonder if perhaps we discover the true life of our ancestors in their legacy in those who are living.

 

February 2nd – a clover seed

I read these words by American poet Wendell Berry this morning, before I realised the significance of the date. 

On the second day of February forty-nine years ago, he too was feeling the chill and bleakness of the world. And yet, and yet, in the midst of news of war, violence and death, he walked the unpromising land and sowed seeds for the spring. 

A lovely metaphor of hope for this grey, dismal winter morning. 

February 2, 1968
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,

war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,

I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

-Wendell Berry

Happy birthday, William! – small stone 29

My little grandson is two years old today. Sadly he is many miles away, so I attempted to sketch him from a photo. Of course in real life he would not be sitting like this for long!! 

My first attempt at painting a real person makes me appreciate all the more that indefinable unique quality that makes each human being who they are. Impossible to capture and only really experienced in their presence. 

Wish you were here, William! 

Mediterranean promise – small stone 26

At this time of year I feel sun starved. We have had some sunshine this month, but the chill factor has not encouraged much outdoor activity. Today the recent blanket of fog has lifted, but the clouds are casting a greyness over everything.

So it is amazing to me how the fruit on the lemon tree in our (unheated) conservatory is slowly and quietly ripening. Inspire of the apparent lack of sun, the small green lemons are gradually swelling and changing colour. Even if I feel stuck in a hibernating stupor, the lemon tree is drawing strength from some unseen source and moving on.

My sketch, of necessity, had to be quick. But despite the physical chill to my body,  I feel warmed by the promise of sunnier times and places.

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