Sunday, 18 September 2016

Works in progress

Two of the people in our household – Hebe and Alice – work as freelance artists.

They do all sorts of things. There’s a wonderful bed-and-breakfast establishment in our town called St Benedict, belonging to two Orthodox friends. The inside of the house is very richly decorated, and various parts of it have been painted by Alice and Hebe. Like the panels of these folding doors,

and this mirror - painted from the back (so fiendishly hard to do; they had to layer the flowers from foreground to background, counter-intuitive. Then gild over the whole back with white gold):

That house has a tiny jewel of a chapel nestled into a corner of the garden. To made it into a thoroughgoing Orthodox chapel, it recently had a dome added to it that came to Alice and Hebe to be painted. But before that, a canopy where a lantern will hang. This is how it arrived, with just Alice's (or Hebe's) first pencil sketch on it.  

Then half finished.

Here it is looking suitably atmospheric by candle light once finished.

Just now, Alice and Hebe have Pope John Paul II and St Vincent Palotti in their studio. This work is for St Mary Star of the Sea in Hastings Old Town. I think they must have a special devotion to St Vincent there, because a commission from a while back was also of him. The statues arrive at our house looking ghostly – here’s St Vincent Palotti when he got here:

Here he is now, with Pope John Paul in the background, waiting patiently for his turn.

Hebe says when she is painting saints they draw near to help her. She says Our Lady is the best – she joins in to make the statue really pretty, every time. Here's a Mary they did:

But Hebe says the worst one is Jesus. He looks at what she’s doing and says with cheerful approval, “That’s fine!” And she asks him – “Should I make the colour a bit warmer – more detail round the eyes?” And he just says, “No, it’s fine!”

It’s a wholesome occupation. Reverent and focused, requiring a quiet eye and a steady hand, imagination switched on and powers of observation firing on all cylinders.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


Here’s an odd thing. I’m a lucid dreamer, so my dreams and my astral body activities and my observing presence do tangle up with each other fairly comprehensively.

The other night, in my dreams, someone looked at me, very closely, very intently – looked deeply into my eyes for a little while. I forgot about it, as one does, then the memory of it came back to me very strongly the next day when I was awake. That person was so close I could see their eyes and not the rest of their face.


Over the next day or two the memory kept returning. Eventually I realised – wait a minute – those are my eyes! Except the ones in my dream were very clear, less muddy, more sparkly and less toxic.

How very curious.

Monday, 12 September 2016

My 2017 quiet days at Penhurst

I thought it might be good to let you know in advance the quiet days I’m leading at Penhurst in 2017, to give you time to make arrangements if you’d like to be there.

I wholeheartedly recommend you stay the night before or after (or both) because it’s as hospitable as it is beautiful. As soon as you arrive it feels like coming home.

It’s been just such a delight to meet people who have become friends through the blog here – the connection and sense of kindred is real and profound.

So, next year this is what I’m doing:

All mine are quiet days, running from 10.00am – 4.00pm ~ click on the headings for links to the relevant web page  I couldn't make the links come up in red as I usually do; Google Blogger sulking.

Wednesday 3rd May 2017
Jesus said, "You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own." A quiet day exploring minimalism, voluntary poverty and the discipline of simplicity.
We will look at the challenge to a life of radical simplicity offered by Jesus; 
the spiritual power of living with minimal possessions; 
the social and ecological impact of living simply; 
and the exciting possibilities of grace (or gift) economy, reviewing our relationship with money. 

This day is for people already convinced of the need to commit to a path of simplicity and at least seriously considering voluntary poverty. 

We will be sharing our experiences of what it means to take this path, and exploring how to deepen our faithfulness in this area of discipleship.

Wednesday 19th July 2017
For people living with with hyper-sensitivity, low energy, or issues of a-typical neurology.

Thinking about sources of energy and finding a balance that works for us. Exploring the value of silence, solitude and simplicity as sources of calm, and sharing what we have found useful in helping us live fully and effectively.

This isn’t any kind of clinical information event – it’s a chance for those of us who struggle daily with such issues to put our heads together and share what helps and strengthens us, as well as considering how these matters have contributed towards shaping our spirituality.

Wednesday 18th October 2017
Exploring the spirituality of relinquishment.

Loss and bereavement, loneliness, depression and grief, can be experienced as being plunged into darkness. We will work with the text in Isaiah 45.3 "I will give you treasures of darkness and riches hidden in mystery", to consider the experience of darkness as a place of nurture and growth of new life; the child in the womb, the seed in the earth, the restfulness of the house at night lit only by the moon. 

We'll consider what it might mean to "turn out the lights" as renunciation or withdrawal - from the glare of footlights, city lights, searchlights, into the quietness of twilight and starlight. 

"Turning out the lights" as we age, accepting increasing limitations and retirement. 

"Turning out the lights" as we live with the dismay of broken promises or broken relationships, learning to find our night vision as we make the journey of faith without even a torch in our hands. 

There are lots of other retreats and quiet days too – if you don’t fancy one of mine, there’s a big selection to choose from, and a long run of dates right through from now to the end of 2017. The programme is here.

 Photo at the top by Philippa Linton, taken at our "Coming Home" quiet day this last week.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Domestic assistance

This is my grill pan / roasting dish / baking tray.

It came with a chicken in it a long time ago. I feel uneasy about the quantities of packaging we churn out, so I try to re-use and recycle at least some of it. This has been a good one.

But recently we grilled some bacon in it. Then the rest of the packet of bacon the next day, then some beefburgers.

We used the fat that came off the meat to fry the onions, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers we were eating with the meat, but there was a lot of stuff left burnt on to the pan.

I thought it would be too difficult to wash off because, though it’s robust enough to cook in, basically it’s only aluminium takeaway-ware, and a good scrub would probably bend it out of shape or go right through it.

So I put the fox’s kibble and meat out in it at dusk.

The next morning, the food had gone but there was still quite a bit of burnt on brownish-blackness left.

Oh dear, I thought, I’ll probably have to put it out for recycling. Even the fox can’t clean it.

But I brought it in again last night and used it once more for the fox’s supper.

Also last night, one of us had a fish-and-chips take-away, which she didn’t finish up. So she left the cardboard container on the deck of Komorebi for the night animals to find.

This morning, sure enough, the last remnants of fish and chips had all gone, the box still in place but with some greasy little pawprints beside it on the deck.

My grill pan was upside down on the grass, so I picked it up – and lo! It had been cleaned to perfection. Nothing to wash off but a faint whiff of fox.

They are so helpful, the night animals. So tidy and clean. Nothing ever goes to waste, nothing unappreciated. What the fox and badger and crow won’t eat the seagull is usually game to tackle. What no animal will eat can go in the compost. And the fish and chip takeaway box makes excellent kindling for the fire.