Tuesday 12th May 2020
Thank you for another inspiring letter. As I read the end of the first paragraph, I could not help thinking that you had written it with a fun filled smile which was reciprocated here! Last week I heard on the radio, a bishop saying that he had been asked what he most looked forward to in Heaven. His reply had been, hearing God laughing. It is not the first time that there has been a reference to whether God has a sense of humour - I hope so - but I had never heard it expressed in quite that way before. Moving swiftly to the end of your letter where you commented on some of your reflections: I must say that I, too, have noticed that our communications, as well as some of my thoughts prior to seeing some of your writings, have dovetailed well. I deliberately use this cabinet makers' term, a skill undoubtedly known to the Carpenter from Nazareth. You know, the one who seeks joiners, according to that car window sticker you had on one of your past vehicles.
With reference to the applause each week, I suppose it started as a way of expressing gratitude, praise and encouragement to specific workers. As time has gone on and the list grows of categories worthy of mention, I start to ask whether there are just as many hidden gems who are not publicly acknowledged. For instance, a person who cares for a loved one at home, doing 24 hour shifts for weeks, for months, even years, with barely a moment for self and who rarely has even a thought of complaint. All the individual parts contribute to the functioning of the whole. I wonder then if a private, heartfelt thank you from someone who has been helped, might be equally valuable and appreciated by the person who was serving.
You may have expected that I would search for the Frostiana collection of songs, based on poems, and I was drawn to the one entitled 'Come In.' Amazingly, it's about a thrush; the writer was not drawn into the woods by its song at dusk because, as he put it, "I was out for stars." So am I, often. Inevitably, I then read, 'Choose Something like a Star.' This is more complex and I need to study it further, but again I like the ending: "So when at times the mob is swayed to carry praise or blame too far, we may choose something like a star to stay our minds on and be staid."
Turning for a moment to the other Frost poems, we obviously both appreciate them. I like the 'You come too' in The Pasture, but you ask me what I would write. Now look, Mark, I am not a poet and we both know it! However, I can write that your third verse brilliantly captures a scene of the lambs you had in mind and yes, I want to come too! If you wanted, you could tweak the verse a little, for rhythm and rhyme when read out loud, but why bother when more important matters await? I am sure that you knew before the lockdown who, especially, and what are most important to you, but the longings are now experienced differently.
The Road Not Taken poem has had much the same effect on us both, I think. As well as the choices made, there is the inherent recognition that we shall reflect on them at some stage. I suppose it's a bit like the idea expressed in "We live life forwards and understand it backwards." When considering the various twists and turns in my own life, I find one feature every time, namely that they are all populated by various significant others. I think to myself, without taking that 'road', I should never have known such and such a person and what a blessing that has been. Of course, the other roads would have had other consequences which we cannot know, but what fortune to have known a way principally paved by love. Most importantly, you and I can both say that wonderful line, "And that has made all the difference."
I have read your online message for this past Sunday with particular reference to John 14. When reading your chosen hymn, the reference to trust and 'shifting as sand' called to mind those folk who have followed a trusted guide across the perilous sands of Morecambe Bay. I have always had a preference for solid ground which is perhaps why I like the hymn, "In Christ alone...........This Cornerstone, this solid ground." Your message for Palm Sunday also reminded me of that hymn, when I came to one heading, 'Finding our anchor, the solid ground' - I thought, there's a mix of sea and land here. I love the sight, sound, smell and feel of the sea, but am also somewhat afraid of it. As a direct result of our communications in recent weeks, certain words now pop out from the hymn in a different way, but I think that is true of most reading, on account of how we are at the time. Unlike the hymn with the catchy tune, this one has a firm dignity and there is time to really think about the words. It's a bit like saying The Lord's Prayer collectively - I prefer not to have to go through it like a helter-skelter, but that it is paced so that we can really mean each word. One sung version seems like that to me.
Because of VE Day on Friday, I was already on John 15: 12-13, the commandment to love one another and the recognition that there is no greater love than to lay down our life for our friends. As an all year round example of this, and of the people whom I admire, I would cite the volunteers who head out to sea, even in raging storms, with the aim of rescuing others. So often they succeed, yet this is not always possible and even worse, all lives may be lost. Many people know of the lifeboat Solomon Browne, even after the passage of decades. In fairly recent times we saw a documentary about that terrible night, my most acute memory being of the final contact with the coxswain whose name was distinctively Cornish: It ended abruptly, in silence. I was left with eyes overflowing, but who would not be moved?
Returning to the various broadcasts on Friday, these affected me emotionally, just as the annual Remembrance services in November always do. It is because of the human cost and I sense that whenever people from these older generations are persuaded to speak of their experiences, they tend to spare us the dreadful details. Every year when I hear the words, "For your tomorrow we gave our today," I personalise it again, thinking, 'But surely they gave their tomorrow as well, so that we could have freedom today, and most probably, our tomorrow as a bonus.' They were so young as they departed from home, probably most of them, naive - but not on return, if they returned - while this past week's testimonies reveal their parents' reactions, understandably seeming fearful and worried to the core. One woman's testimony stated that there are many different kinds of love; how true. Another, remembering the celebrations of May 1945, said that they were mad with excitement. I hope that the freedoms gained will not be easily and unthinkingly relinquished in the long term, by means of clever arguments. The freedom to express our deeply help beliefs and opinions is another form of freedom that can easily be eroded in a series of stages.
Before I go, I must update you on a few of my observations. By the way, I hope that the Himalayan Birch has some advantages. There is a wood not too far away which is a sea of blue at present. As with all bluebell woods, there must be thousands of blooms, but although there are several well trodden paths, passing at this time of year would almost inevitably crush some of the stems. We can admire the beauty from the edge of the woods and walk on. The horse-chestnut nearby has its candles - somebody whose birthday is in May once described the flowers in this way and ever since, that is how I see them. I reckon that in the middle of next week, they will be extinguished. We must celebrate when we can.
Wishing continued health and happiness to you and your special loves,