February 5, 2018

Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God (Psalm 83.1), (A personal, silent meditation before Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Aberystwyth, February 4, 2018):

To start, the silence
at the edge –
that dark valley which
arcs towards the sound.

And, then, the silence 
in the gap
between the tracks –

– pause before resumption.

At last, the silence
of the tail –
that spits and spirals
to the end

before the arm lifts off.*

8.30 am: A communion. 9.00 am: A full and contrasting week: teaching, conferencing, and surgery. Onto the inbox and into the outbox. I’m crawling today … in a deep trough. My mind worked hard to fix its focus. A poor night’s sleep had left me listless to begin. 10.15 am: Tutorials and interviews arranged, rearranged, and restored, I returned to the conference paper, cup of PG Tips to hand and music in the background. (Getting my act together, finally.)

There’s the prospect of snow tomorrow. When I was young, my family told me stories about the ‘Great Snow’ of 1947. Pop (my maternal grandfather) would pipe up, with a mixture of wonder and dismay: ‘Aye! The drifts were up to the bloody rooftops, in May still.’:

Unknown person in an unknown place (May 1947)

For a lad who’d rarely experienced snowfall that reached above the top of his wellies in February, these testimonies evoked a mythic time ‘when there were giants in the earth’. 50 years ago:

Known person, Abertillery (February 1968)

12.30 pm: A brief visit in the bracing cold to the School to retrieve papers for scanning. 1.30 pm: After lunch, a scan fest (In the background: John McLaughlin’s Devotion (1970).) 2.00 pm: Back to the paper, and the concluding section. (I’ve yet to test the length of the paper, and the visual and sound illustrations, against the clock.). Mid afternoon. The light no longer fails so fast:

7.30 pm: I pushed hard against inclination. My aim was to complete the conclusion to the paper by the close of the day; I held myself to that determination. One must behave honourably, even with oneself. 9.40 pm: Achieved!

Some principles and observations derived from today’s reflections:

  • Something that began as the consequence of a bad decision may yet lead to a good outcome. Something that began as the consequence of a good decision may yet lead to a bad outcome. Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish between the two.
  • There are times when, it seems, all past griefs, losses, and surrenders fall once more, but together, as a single, amorphous, and suffocating blanket of sorrow.
  • ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead’ (James Joyce, ‘The Dead’ from Dubliners (1914)).
  • Someone once said to me that my reflections were ‘like the confessions of a dying man’.
  • The past has always been more important than the future to me. The future is all conjecture: without either temporal fixity, or resolution, or substance, or deeper feeling.
  • The second silence fell far harder, like another, deeper snow upon the first. The thaw (if it should come at all) would be needs be slow.
  • Sometimes it’s a choice between which of several unhappinesses would you find most bearable.


*For Amy Seed

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