It’s only just over a fortnight since school broke up for the summer, but it already feels like a lifetime ago. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks with our families, travelling around England and making the most of the glorious sunshine. We ventured up to Stanage Edge in the Peak District, surrounded by purple heather and peacock butterflies, and we’ve just returned from a week in the Lake District, staying in Near Sawry, home of Beatrix Potter. More on our bird sightings at the end of this post! We feel like we’ve had a proper holiday, and we’re chomping at the bit to get on the plane to the US. (If you’re not familiar with our plans, watch this video!)
Uprooting and staying rooted
This whole process of uprooting myself from London has taught me that saying goodbye is exhausting! Trying to see as many friends as possible, and attempting to express to them how I feel, has been incredibly draining. You find yourself answering the same questions over and over again – ‘Where are you going? When do you fly out?’ – but you can’t get annoyed (except perhaps with the people who’ve obviously paid no attention to anything you’ve said over the last few months). On my final day at work, it got to a point where I just had to get out of the building. I had no energy left for any more goodbyes. Afterwards I was kicking myself for forgetting to speak to at least two great colleagues, but there comes a point when you just have to walk out the door and hope people know what you would have said.
This time with our families has been a great opportunity to reconnect, especially with my sister who I don’t get to see very often. Although our parents’ hospitality has been, as always, wonderfully generous (my folks have let us store all our stuff in their loft with barely a second thought), their home is not our home. Adrian and I are currently of no fixed abode, and that feels weird! Exciting, but weird. It has struck me this week that finding ways to stay rooted whilst rootless is going to be very important in the coming year. We’ll be staying in a succession of communities as sojourners, passing through in order to learn and serve. How are we going to maintain continuity amidst all the change?
Adrian and I are already making a practice of giving thanks for the week on Saturday nights, and welcoming the week on Sunday mornings. We use a liturgy composed of bits and pieces we’ve picked up from the different communities we’ve visited this last year, particularly the Mount of Oaks daily liturgy. I want to add to this a daily period of silent worship, probably first thing in the morning which is the time that works best for me, and a weekly rhythm of exercise. Over the last 5 years I’ve worked hard to lose weight, get fit and overcome the legacy of a childhood fueled by Coco Pops. This has made such a difference to my mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing, and I don’t want to lose it now. We’ll be spending 8 months at the Othona Bradwell community, and they have pudding *every day*! So I need to make a habit of going running at least three times a week, which in rural communities like QIVC and Othona should be great. Not so sure how pleasant it’ll be in inner-city Birmingham!
Dancing into community
For those new to this blog, although it is in part a travel diary and a way to keep friends and family updated on our progress, it’s also a place where I often write about my religious thinking, specifically concerning Christianity/Quakerism. So, to quote Olivia Newton John, ‘let’s get theological’:
I’m currently reading ‘The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus’ by David Janzen (2012). Early on, the term perichoresis is introduced. This is a Greek word used to describe how the three figures of the Trinity relate to one another. The Creator, Servant and Companion are imagined as engaging in a circle dance of loving intimacy. The author uses perichoresis as a metaphor for intentional community. In community, we can’t keep on dancing our own routine. We have to learn how to dance with each other. It takes skill, but it results in joyful togetherness. My previous experiences of circle dancing have been rather sedate and left me feeling a bit daft, so I imagine perichoresis as being more like a céilidh at Cecil Sharp House in London, often loud and very sweaty with regular rest and beer breaks.
If our purposeful adventure where to have a theme tune, it would be the Shaker hymn ‘Simple gifts’, also know through the setting by Quaker Sydney Carter as ‘Lord of the dance’, a favourite when I was at primary school. The tune has a special significance for Adrian and I. We had part of Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ (which quotes the ‘Simple gifts’ melody) played during our civil partnership ceremony, and we sang ‘Simple gifts’ as part of our celebration of marriage, with the words:
Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
T’will be in the valley of love and delight
To the same melody, Sydney Carter has Jesus singing:
Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said he
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.
Both sets of lyrics feel very appropriate for us at the moment. We’ve simplified, got rid of a lot of our stuff. When we moved out of our flat, it was very gratifying to know we can fit all of our collective worldly goods into a Transit van. Today we finish packing our backpacks to take to the US. We want to travel as light as possible. No room for slippers! With this simplifying comes a sense of freedom, a freedom to follow the Lord of the Dance, leading us into the vibrant hora of intentional community.
For fellow lovers of birds and other creatures, I’ll be including this regular update of our most interesting sightings. So far, we’ve been delighted to see:
- A yellowhammer on the verge of the M1 whilst stuck in traffic on one of the hottest days of the year;
- Red grouse amongst the heather in the Peak District;
- Lots of butterflies, particularly small copper and peacock, and some very hairy caterpillars;
- An osprey over lake Esthwaite;
- A dipper (one of my favourites) near Elterwater;
- And a crossbill in the pines of Grizedale Forest.