Dry leaves and twigs crunched under his boots as he stomped his way through the bright reds and yellows of Autumn. The path had petered out and he was struggling to find a new one.
He stopped, took a breath and listened for some familiar sound. What if he couldn’t find his way out of these woods? His mobile was in the car and nobody knew where he was. His stomach tightened.
Suddenly, the silence was broken by a cawing crow. He saw the bird a little way from him hopping on a gnarled branch of an old Oak. He saw the sparkle in its eye as it jerkingly scanned the ground. The behaviour was strange, but a welcomed distraction from his rising panic.
He stepped carefully, not so much as to not scare the crow, but rather to cautiously examine what it found so unsettling on the ground. Nothing caught his eye. What he did find, though, to his great relief, was a path – a new path that finally led him out of the woods.
We spent today at Chartwell, the country home of Winston Churchill. What a day it was. We took a tour through the house and then through its gardens. It was such an enriching experience. To visit the little places he loved, where he did much of his thinking, provided us with some touching moments.
What struck me about the great man, was that as he dealt with the lofty and hugely difficult affairs of State, he never lost touch with the simple things in life. The photo above is of one of the ponds in the gardens. The chair (the original chair) you see on the left, is his chair in which he loved to sit and feed his fish. He was passionate about his fish and even bred butterflies in the midst of all sorts of other little earthy activities he gave his time to. I came away deeply inspired and energised.
The Universe is huge. Perhaps huge is an understatement. It is endless, incomprehensible and infinite in distance and span. Pondering on this certainly evokes wonder and mystery, but also a profound sense of insignificance, smallness and even threat at times.
I find that this kind of thinking or meditating reinforces in me my need for belonging, for place and for closeness. It’s then that my thoughts go to my home, my garden, my community, my village, this tiny piece of earth where people know me by name, and I am overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude. This is where my boat is moored in this vast expanse we call the Universe.
Have you ever sat quietly and looked at someone you love and realised that in spite of your closeness to them, there’s also in them a distance you cannot span? It seems to me that the distance we experience in relationship is the very thing that invokes our longing to be close and intimate. Managing these two relational dimensions has much to do with relational health.
I remember watching the movie “Out of Africa” the theme of which was this struggle and interplay between closeness and distance in the relationship between Karen Blixen (Merryl Streep) and Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). What struck me at the end of the movie, were the words Karen spoke at his graveside, after losing him in an air accident – “…We loved him well. He was not ours. He was not mine.”
I’d like to follow this theme in a few more posts.