Lent is a tree without blossom, without leaf,
Better than blackthorn in its winter sleep,
All unadorned. Unlike Christmas which decrees
The setting-up, the dressing-up of trees.
Lent is a taking down, a stripping bare,
A starkness after all has been withdrawn
Of surplus and superfluous,
Leaving no hiding place, only emptiness
Between black branches, a most precious space
Before the leaf, before the time of flowers;
Lest we should see only the leaf, the flower,
Lest we should miss the stars.
Sightseers into Pilgrims
I used to think –
loving life so greatly –
that to die would be
like leaving a party
before the end.
Now I know that the party
is really happening
that the light and the music –
escaping in snatches
to make the pulse beat
and the tempo quicken –
come from a long way away.
And I know too
that when I get there
the music will never end.
Walter Langley – Never morning wore to evening but some heart did break 1894
Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness.
Know how to give without hesitation,
how to lose without regret,
how to acquire without meanness.
Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair,
but manifestations of strength and resolution.
The thought manifests the word;
The word manifests the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let them spring forth from love
Born out of compassion for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body,
as we think, so we become.
Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling
what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin.
It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any
peace and joy for me until there is
peace and joy finally for you too.
There is nothing so rewarding as to make people realize
that they are worthwhile in this world.
Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things,
man will not himself find peace.
Jean Baptiste Oudry – Ducks Resting in Sunshine, 1753
When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns
He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones;
Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) He made them, and then
He made the comical ones in case the minds of men
Should stiffen and become
Dull, humourless and glum,
And so forgetful of their Maker be
As to take even themselves – quite seriously.
Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:
All God’s jokes are good – even the practical ones!
And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit
Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it.
And He’s probably laughing still at the sound
that came out of its bill!
Van Gogh – Landscape with House and Ploughman 1889
As autumn flames across park and field
as smoke curls from ditch and garden,
as birds sing their farewell song,
as frost begins to touch the ground
and our hearts are warmed
by the scent, sound and touch of it;
now is the time to throw away
the heavy stones of anger, regret and fear,
which harden our hearts.
Now is the time to gather stones of praise
to build a cairn
of thankfulness to our God
for all the blessings of our autumn life.
…and thinking how the first scent of autumn
is like coming across a lost album
of childhood photographs.
Gauguin – Landscape with Dog 1903
You ever feel
dat 6 o’clock feeling
6 o’clock shadow falling
wrapping you up
mekkin you stop
bout all dese tings
6 o’clock bee calling
all dem tree
tekking strange, strange shape
and stan up
sharp! sharp! gainst dat sky
you know dem 6 o’clock colour
pink an orange an blue an purple an black
dat 6 o’clock feeling
mekkin you feel like touchin
mekkin you feel so small
you could cry
or fall down pun your knee
and thank God
you could still
see de 6 o’clock sky
If I can put one touch of rosy sunset
into the life of any man or woman,
I shall feel that I have worked with God.
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done,
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
The most beautiful thing we can experience
is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder
and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
If a child is to keep alive
his inborn sense of wonder,
he needs the companionship of at least
one adult who can share it,
rediscovering with him the joy,
excitement and mystery
of the world we live in.