I’ve always so loved this song (see below) - though it always makes me cry - and it, above all, with some others, has accompanied me in the last few weeks. The tender, lyrical and even elegiac, tone fits my mood as I prepare to leave England, maybe never to return, or certainly never with so many of the deep intimate connections of parents, home,and particular place which have so shaped me. Laura Marling wrote this at 18 and says she always feels about 8 years old when she sings it - I know the feeling just in listening .
It’s about childhood memories (one in particular) and the ones who created them and about the particularity of place in this extraordinary land which I, like Laura, love so very very much, and from all of which separation is so very poignant. There hasn’t been any literal snow on my winter’s journey but enough in other ways - yet the warmth of love persists, like a beautiful garment in the cold…
“You were so smart then
In your jacket and coat.
My softest red scarf was warming your throat.
Winter was on us,
At the end of my nose,
But I never love England more than when covered in snow.”
Poignant rediscoveries at this time - including with my mother’s recent soft toy collection - as my siblings and I began tidying up the family home after our parents’ last days last week. I’m told the rainbow lion was one particular favourite in her long bed-bound years, and I like to think she gave a kindly thought towards the rainbow child in the family when she held it.
It is moving too to see my parents’ prayer book shelf, with communion box and accoutrements - a great treasure. For, until very recently, one of the ways they kept love and life alive and renewed was to keep a regular morning and/or evening prayer (in one of a number of forms) and to share a simple eucharist together, often with one or more visitors - a particularly intimate and tender affair. Together with carers’ visits a number of times a day, and meals scheduled around them, it helped form an almost monastic pattern of life keeping them going together in straitened circumstances - love, faith and grace in the deepest winter as well as the greater joys and glories of their lives.
I've been reflecting recently on transitions (including the 20th anniversary of our emigration from England in early March), as we traverse our current 'denominational' one - which feels in some ways both like a second emigration and also a deep coming home (on all kinds of levels), as well as other things. As so often, I'm drawn again to one of my great muses, Ursula Le Guin, who so brilliantly explored and celebrated what I might call a 'trans-ing' spirituality - in which binaries are not fixed but intertwine, and in which change and return may be one. These two passages state it so typically passionately and poetically (the first on the lips of Shevek, the central character in 'The Dispossessed' - and the other the blessing, in 'Always Coming Home', given to those who leave their home in the Valley to share with others elsewhere).
Mind you, when I showed this meme to Penny, she also immediately thought the black and white - with the Going Home theme (Mark Knopfler's great Geordie anthem) - was about Newcastle United! That'll work for me too lol...
Asked for a prayer, poem or other contribution to greeting Penny at her commissioning service, I could do no better than turn to John O'Donohue's wonderful book of blessings To Bless the Space Between Us. It was a blessing for the space that is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, and not only for Penny, and I, but also for those who have long found their spiritual home elsewhere. Especially at this time, as we come this week to the pain and promise of the fateful date of 26 January, it is also a blessing for all human beings and their ancestors who have come to Australia. It is a reminder of the 'big history' and mystery beyond us all.
May it be a blessing to all:
Before a human voice was ever heard here,
This place has known the respect of stone,
The friendship of the wind, always returning
With news of elsewhere, whispered in seed and
The thin symphonies of birdsong softening the silence,
The litanies of rain rearranging the air,
Cascades of sunlight opening and closing days,
And the glow of the moon gazing through
May all that elemental enrichment
Bless the foundation and standing of your home.
Before you came here, this place has nown
The wonder of children's eyes,
The hope of mornings in troubled hearts,
The tranquillity of twilight easing the night,
The drama of dreams under sleeping eyelids,
The generous disturbance of birth,
The anxieties of old age unclenching into grace
And the final elegance of calmly embraced death.
May the life of your new home enter
Into this inheritance of spirit.
May the rain fall kindly,
May daylight illuminate your hearts,
May the darkness never burden,
May those who dwell here in the unseen
Watch over your coming and going.
May your lives of love and promise
Refine and deepen the spirit of this land.
(also posted on the Milton Anglican blog)
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.