Monday, 2 April 2012

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

 Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

It is not often that I would choose Philip Larkin to begin Holy Week, but here he shows that he does do hope. And, well, because he is someone I often associate with having 'grumpy old man' syndrome, it is twice as beautiful to read his lines of renewal than it would be to read anyone else's. I love that line: 'The trees are coming into leaf, like something almost being said...' Too often we leave unsaid those things that give us life: love and religion are 'private' occupations, not talked about in company, whispered of behind closed doors. On the lips of those we love we often see the something that is almost being said, and respond to it: a joy, a sorrow, a worry, a grief, a hesitation, an excitement, a delight - that, often, is the nature of love. I like also: Their yearly trick of looking new is written down in rings of grain. A reminder that Easter's call to resurrection is a call not to begin again as if returning to the innocence of childhood, the past forgotten, but a renewal in grace to walk uprightly in adulthood, formed by our experiences, not entangled within them.
Today I am off on my bike to Shipton Under Wychwood - a gentle undulating cycle up into the Cotswolds from Oxford, where I live, to the home of my parents. It is about 25 miles and takes just over an hour and a half. I love it, but it has been a while since I last got out, so I am hoping it will not cause me too much pain! I am quite sure I will see many beautiful things on the way, maybe some new born lambs if I am lucky. On my way I will remember those pilgrims currently walking the Student Cross Pilgrimage to Walsingham. I only ever walked it once, Essex Leg, and I am not known to many that walk now, but I loved it very much......

I went, and remembered my friends out in the countryside. It was wonderful to be out of doors. I also had the excitement of seeing three lambs born. I was passing the field as the sheep were in lamb, and stopped to watch the miracle of nature. One ewe was clearly in trouble. She gave birth to one new born baby black lamb, who rose to his shaky wet feet and nudged her for food. However, another new born was on its way, and struggling to arrive in the world. I was worried. But, the farmer arrived in his truck, and as he crossed the field I pointed to the ewe. He pulled up, jumped from his cab, and pulled the sheep to the ground, soon the newborn was released, and he rubbed it to life. It took a while, and I thought the young one might not make it. Then it jumped, and struggled to it's feet, falling almost immediately, but being brought up again my its Ma. Once the farmer was sure the little one would be okay he went back to his cab and drove across the field. He opened his window to shout: 'Well spotted', to me across the field, and then went to help another new mother with her delivery. I was honoured to have played a small part in such a miraculous everyday event. Well worth being out of doors, and a wonderful physical reminder of the nature of renewal: sometimes, we need a helping hand.

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