As I have mentioned before it is my birthday next week, I am 60, I sometimes wonder how that has happened, and how on earth I haven’t acquired some of the depths of wisdom that I feel I should have acquired by now! Then I remember a wise friend who used to say that the more he knew, the more he realised that he didn’t know, so maybe I am okay! Maybe. I have decided for my 60th to ask for donations to be made to MIND, the mental health charity, who deal specifically with mental health at work. In a recent blog post, a gift of gratitude, the hard work put in by health workers, teachers and other frontline workers is mentioned, with the encouragement to show gratitude to those people, They also acknowledge how difficult this time has been for everyone, maybe it is when we are under pressure that we are less likely to be grateful, I really don’t know, but I do know that the blog is worth reading.
As I drove across the city here today I was reminded that I am a frontline worker once again, clergy don’t often make the lists of those acknowledged, and we are rarely thanked and often criticised! Today I was going to lead a funeral, When I arrived at the Crematorium I noticed the signs on the door, stating that while masks are no longer mandatory , that people were encouraged to wear them for the sake of one another. I wore my mask to enter the building, I was the only one, obviously I took it off to lead the service once I was at a good distance from the congregation, but it still felt uncomfortable. It took me back to the beginning of the Pandemic, where at a socially distance funeral in a Church Building people obeyed the guidelines until the end, but then wanted to gather to chat. I have never asked people to leave a church before, but that day I did, much grumbling ensued.
As I look back over the two years, the strangeness of them has made an impact on us all, they have divided us into several categories, I know several people who are still self-isolating because of the seriousness of their health conditions, and I know others who still maintain that the whole thing is a hoax. As I look back I see how abruptly we went from gathering in groups socially and for work, to spending long periods separated, and meeting via online platforms like Zoom. I already said how this has affected me personally, and probably more in my working life than I had thought, I have learned new skills and I value them but I have also struggled with the lack of contact and isolation of it all. I have said and done some unhelpful things, and I have a tendency to keep on digging over those. It is not always helpful! That said I know that there has been much good, and our on-line Facebook Group Together on a Journey is looking forward to celebrating its second anniversary in May this year, and we do intend to celebrate, what started small has grown into a mutually supporting online community where real connections are made, there is nothing virtual about it!
So there are things to lament, and things to celebrate, things to nurture and things to let go of, probably most specifically to stop digging over and over the same old ground. The wonderful Maggi Dawn posted this on Facebook yesterday:
Harrowing. by Parker J. Palmer
The plow has savaged this sweet field
Misshapen clods of earth kicked up
Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view
Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.
I have plowed my life this way
Turned over a whole history
Looking for the roots of what went wrong
Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.
Enough. The job is done.
Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be
Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.
I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons—
The farmer plows to plant a greening season.
The farmer ploughs to plant a greening season, Yes the field needed ploughing, but if we are fixated on looking for what went wrong perhaps we miss the point, Maggi also says:
Parker Palmer’s poem ‘Harrowing’ inverts an image of destruction and death into a waiting room for new life. I particularly like the way he allows the up rootedness just to lie there. Emotional upset doesn’t always have to be tidied away and put neatly back in place. However ragged it looks, lying there unearthed and destroyed in January, it still represents the promise of summer, and green fields, and new life.
There is a promised future, no matter how things look right now! This really resonated with me because I feel very much like that ravaged field, rocks and twisted roots all exposed to view, misshaped clods of earth kicked up, but maybe just maybe that was necessary, or if not necessary inevitable because of all of the circumstances that led me to where I now am. So I now face the task of simply letting it be, that doesn’t mean denying the discomfort of it, not the pain that has been experienced, and that does mean that I won’t try to cover it up in any way, but I am trying to let it be, to allow the new seeds to fall on this harrowed ground and to look forward to new growth. However we are, wherever we find ourselves, whether we need rest, or healing, or simply some time and space we can give ourselves the gift of not continually picking over the past and blaming ourselves, or allowing past memories to haunt us. We can allow things to be, and slowly, slowly turn towards the light and warmth to come. This too will pass, all will be well.