As I was trying to paint the outside of the house in the howling wind today, my mind wandered back, as it does when the body is involved in mind numbing activities, to the trials of camping in the wind.
One particular event that came to mind was an evening in the delightful hamlet of Waratah in the Northwest of Tasmania. We arrived and the air was still. I pitched the tent but being lazy and seeing that the wind was absent I thought I would dispense with the extra guy ropes. We slept well for most of that night until a Bass Strait gale decided to descend at about 5:30 a.m. We were shocked into alertness when the staves of the tent started bending inwards at an alarming angle and the tent thought it was a plane on a runway preparing for take off.
Camping on a quieter occasion
Scrambling out of our sleeping bags, my wife and I tried to get dressed but we had to do so with our posteriors pushed against the bucking and bending staves to stop them from snapping. After having made ourselves presentable for the outside world under extreme circumstances, we packed our gear and started dismantling the tent. But I was too eager in my removal of the pegs with the consequence that the tent then decided it wanted to fly to Antarctica. In desperation I picked up the nearest weighty object at hand and threw it on the flailing tent – this happened to be the love of my life. While she was spread-eagled on the angry tent I tried to roll it up underneath her.
Surprisingly, I accomplished this, and kept the marriage intact – which was good, as we still had many hours together in the car to manage that day.
Moral: In the future prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
It is term break and I have a bung knee so it has been a good opportunity to look more closely at all the emails and comments I have received relating to readers’ experience of church as a child. To sum up my reaction: it has been moving and challenging! In all it has given me further impetus to find time to carry on this project. The way we see our children in the life of the church is critical.
Thank you again!
If readers have views on the topic of “Children and Church” please don’t hesitate to contact me.
It is early on a Sunday morning and I am listening to a cd of old hymns.
There are many Christians who wouldn’t know a classic old hymn if they fell over it. The churches they attend only play the current contemporary songs – some which are wonderful but many are formulaic, and the worst are the “Jesus is my Boyfriend” type which only requires a slight tweak to become a contemporary secular song.
What do we lose by not singing historical hymns?
1. We lose the history of the church. We relegate the great movements in the church to the dust pile. The medieval hymn “O sacred head now wounded”, possibly written by Bernard of Clairvaux, is an insight into the heart and soul of our medieval brothers and sisters as they contemplated and reflected on the death of their/our saviour. In the Geneva of the Reformation a passion for the Psalms was renewed under the glow of the Reformation. And how else could we understand the heart of a regenerated slaver if it wasn’t for “Amazing Grace”.
2. We lose our connection with the saints of the past – their stories and journeys in the Kingdom. In other words we lose perspective. “It is well with my soul” also known as “When peace like a river” is the response of Horatio Spafford after first losing everything in the Chicago fire of 1871 and then losing his four daughters when their ship sank travelling to Europe. It is a testament to faith and trust under enormous personal hardship. If we don’t sing that hymn we are the losers.
3. I believe the worst aspect of failing to recognise the great hymns of the past is that we, in our C21st arrogance, make ourselves the centre of history and the universe rather than just seeing ourselves as a group of fellow pilgrims journeying over the centuries as we prepare for the return of the King.
long unencumbered summers,
endless warm winded days at the beach,
surfing, swimming, sun-baking and surfing again,
furtively playing cards to the small hours,
walking home and the street lights turning off at midnight.
scrambling along the river,
through mangroves and reeds,
finding signs of past boats fading in the mud,
sailing my own sabot – not too successfully!
treks into the bush,
sneaking out early with a friend,
exploring in the early dawn
and yabbying with string and morsels of meat.
I remember …
cycling far afield
to other towns and places,
with lunch and possibilities
firmly tied on.
when worries were small
and life was big,
when dreams were limitless
and “no” un-thought of.
but as they say,
‘that was another country’
… it still whispers to me.
The Frauenkirche fronted by a statue of Martin Luther
I remember wandering around Dresden ten years ago. The Frauenkirche was still being reconstructed. On the side of a Soviet era building was a mural that would have done Stalin proud. However the local burgers in the new post unification Dresden had covered it with a thick shade cloth screen.
Surprisingly a number of public buildings were still in ruins and many continued to show evidence of the terrible bombing and firestorm of February 1945 – nearly 60 years after the event. However it was obvious that Dresden had been a city of culture and that it was recapturing that sense again.
The Fürstenzug, a 100 metre C19th mural celebrating its medieval nobleman only received minor damage and was still a spectacular cavalcade.
Recently my wife returned to Dresden and discovered that in the last 10 years the Frauenkirche has been completed and a lot of building and restoration has taken place. Dresden has come a long way to recapture past glories. Also the shade-cloth had been removed from the building with the mural – Dresden is coming to be at peace with its own history.
Two days ago I posted a poem my wife wrote about the death of her father 50 years ago when she was only seven. Her two sisters were nine and two years of age.
Last Sunday was the anniversary of her last “Fathers’ Day” with her dad and today is the anniversary of his death.
My wife (right), her sisters and their Papa … and the puss.
Fifty years later the events of this day are still firmly embedded in her mind. The events, the emotions and the memories have remained clear all these years.
Dad’s are such a critical presence in a child’s life. Even an absent dad.
The girls grew up with a mythology of what having a dad would have been like. Our first argument after we were married was about who would take the rubbish bin out. In my wife’s mind this was the job her father would have done for his wife if he had been alive. I lost the argument – and most others since.
In many ways my wife’s memories of seven years are just as powerful as my memories of my father over 44 years. Her memories of family walks, dad coming home after work, meal times, stories and the like are etched so clearly and deeply – reinforced by years of remembered loss.
Not all the memories, we have discovered over time, were accurate. Because there was a tool box in the house didn’t mean that he was a brilliant handyman. That is what my wife thought and that is the image that she compared me with. She found out many years after we were married that this was far from the truth. This took some of the burden off me!
Warm memories are like treasures which we nurture and protect. We can take them out of the box every now and then to admire and to reminisce. They give perspective and depth to our lives and take us out of our present and anchor us in our past.
In two days time it is the 50th anniversary of the death of my wife’s father – two days after Father’s Day. My wife was seven years of age at the time. She and her older sister had been modelling their mother’s newly made children’s dresses at a department store competition that day.
Three days, Fifty years
Did we sit around him as he unwrapped his present
Did we help pull off the wrapping?
A wall lamp for his bed.
Did all five of us have an afternoon snooze
On the double bed, before a stroll around Norlane?
Did we throw our skinny little arms around him
That Fathers Day?
Monday, school holidays
Did we help him
Hand him the tools from the wooden box
As he mounted the lamp on the wall?
Did we dance around him in the backyard
Chewing on a carrot from the garden?
Did we snuggle close as he had a cigarette
on the porch
Did we watch Mama together
As she put the finishing touches on our dresses?
Did we squeal with excitement on our return
With our prizes?
While he cuddled Christine into the fold of his arm
Did we say goodbye?
He is gone.
1-3 September, 2013
Categories: Family, Poem, poetry