This last fortnight has seen such fierce and glorious sunshine that the paint of my new front door has split, so much sunshine that when I took a book outside to sit on the pavement, perched on my wall, I was blinded by the glare off the white page, and had to retreat indoors, peeved and defeated. No grass, no shade, no view, no breeze. Proper peeved for days on end. Grump. I moved to this house with the promise of a garden but the promise evaporated and now I am stuck. Proper stuck.
‘Rejoice in all things’. Yeah, OK, Paul, but when the sun is shining and I can see only a patch of sky…. give it a rest, eh?
Lockdown is a little less restrictive now but with no outside space I can’t invite anyone to my house, for a catch up and a coffee, so you know what’s happened? After ten weeks I have begun to withdraw, to decide again that people are not my thing, that chatting is not my strength, that the world is agin me, and I hate it anyway… that I must sever all ties and be glad to do so….. and I start to dream a Yeats dream;
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Hah! Bonkers! I couldn’t grow a row of beans to save my life and as for building a cabin – I can’t even put up a tent. All nonsense.
But here’s the good news: Today it’s cold. The weatherman warned about a cold front moving in, but he didn’t say it would be bloody arctic. The beach this morning was a howling wilderness, the sky silver, and my feet are freezing. It’s four hours since I came off the sands and I am double socked, the fire is on, the underfloor heating is on, and my feet are still numb. And it’s fabulous. A cosy winter day and just what the doctor ordered, snug as a bug in a rug. It feels a little more normal to be alone, it feels OK, it feels… wait for it…. good.
You know what’s kept me on the no-strait-jacket-required-just-yet side of sanity? My mornings. An hour or so each morning on the beach where I can walk with a friend, the poet and me, standing together in silence or in nonsense or ambling along calling on God, exploring cabbages and kings and Covid regulations, his latest poem, my embryonic second book, his Mum, my husband, and always, always the dogs, Percy and Pip, Arthur and August (my dogs have names of music hall entertainers, his could be romantic heroes and ancient scholars) Those walks, given to me by my good God, have kept me sort of safe. My lovely Christian agnostic pagan poetic gay and pastoral friend.
And here’s what’s giving me such an overwhelming surge of happiness on a cold grey day – I have been lent a commentary on the epistle of James, and it’s absolutely magnificent. After being sand-blasted and turned inside out by the wind, I took my cold feet to the fireside, I sat on the stool as near to the roasty flames as I could be, the dogs at my side and I read and read. Just wonderful. You know, when I think of the Gospels, of the red letter words, of Isaiah and of James… what need have I of sunshine? Or, come to that, fireside, or society, or church, or anything? Aren’t these enough? These are enough.
The red letter words, the words spoken by Jesus Christ; I know they’re not the sounds he made, I know he spoke another language, that every translation bows to the language of the country and the day, but these are his teaching, his truths. Wherever they are read, however they are served, they bring God to us. That arrests me, stops me in my tracks. His words. Jesus teaching me. I mean, me!
And James – I learned today that this is probably the first writing in the New Testament, written just a few years after the crucifixion, maybe only two years after Christ died and rose again. I learnt that they were written by James, the half-brother of Jesus, James who didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah until he saw him, resurrected. This epistle is raw and fresh and practical. It isn’t packed full of theology and doctrine, it’s just bursting with a new fresh way to live. Luther despised it – cheeky sod – because it’s not ladened down with the teachings of the developing Christian doctrines. It is, like the preaching at my church, profoundly simple, unwaveringly true, compelling, demanding obedience, offering love.
James who didn’t follow Jesus in his lifetime, but who met with the resurrected Jesus, and became an apostle, and was stoned to death for preaching the gospel. James, here, at my fireside, with grumpy old me.
How can I want for anything, anything at all, when I have this?
Oh, and I’ve started writing book number two and that’s just a delight.
Sunshine? You can keep it.
Today is just perfect, and tomorrow is Sunday. It just gets better.