my birthday month tends to be a time of remembrance and gratefulness for the friends in my life, close, far, cherished or neglected, people that taught me to be a friend to myself, people I bonded with through heart-sparks that left indelible marks. My friends are soul companions that became part of my journey, they form a flowing web of connections I’m held in.
So far it’s been a social month. Having reconnected with two primary school friends from Germany a few years ago during a reunion, they sprang a surprise visit (their first to England.) We had a lovely meal in an excellent pub, with my son joining us. I toured the girls through the woods of a nearby sculpture park, through my town, and, of course, through London. We started with a riverboat journey (my first) under London’s time-honoured bridges, got lost in Covent Garden, which eventuated finding a café that served Black Forrest cake, which delighted Lieselotte, and surfaced at Trafalgar Square.
From there we wove our way through St James Park and ended up at Buckingham Palace.
The girls had a great time, and good laughs, especially when, embarrassingly, I fell into talking German with Londoners, attracting the occasional blank stare of incomprehension.
What struck me was how ‘in essence’ we had not changed since we were children. Intrinsic qualities stay with us throughout life, shine through our energy field, temperament, movement, voice, characteristics and life-interest. The qualities my friends nourished in me as a child, I still value today, the unconditional kind heart of Gaby, and Lieselotte’s ability to assess situations quickly and get things done. I saw that they also nourish these qualities in each other. Sadly they had to return home and miss my party last weekend.
The Party… lovely sunshine, guest coming and going. An unknown sponsor even ordered a birthday balloon to sail above my garden 🙂 My good-weather-wish came true. Some of us kept a circle outside until midnight among sparkling lights. The occasional apple dropped.
My favourite deckchair folded under more weight than my own. Glasses clinked. There was silliness, acknowledgements, revelations.
Seen through the eyes of our friends’ imagination, do the lissome fleeting shadows flitting through our personal frames influence us, each other? I wonder, but guess they do.
As the years crawl along, heart-spark moments never dwindle. Stories are transformed and woven into a new context. Life stations glide by and return as in a spiralling carrousel.
Even friends not present were with us in spirit, remembered, since, like Kahlil Gibran put it … for that which you love most in (a friend) may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
From The Prophet …
And the youth said, Speak to us of Friendship, and he answered, saying:
Your friend is your need answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and fireside. You come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the ‘nay’ in your own mind, nor do you withhold the ‘aye.’ And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; for without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
… the wonderful visit …
I loathe most talk of angels since they became best-selling brands, but the synchronicity of Annie Lennox wearing wings and singing to an angel at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the discovery of a rare book among my shelves, brought angels up close.
H G Wells (1866-1946) has been referred to as the Father of Science Fiction. A neglected story, The Wonderful Visit, published shortly after The Time Machine, was regarded as a mocking reflection on attitudes, beliefs and the social structure of a typical English village in Victorian times. I read the social commentary as ornamentation, the comical human attempt to stay the same, round a more essential theme, the conflict that can accompany awakening.
The edition below is from 1922 and has an illustration by Conrad Heighton Leigh. The line under it is from chapter 5 – ‘He fired out of pure surprise and habit.’
A strange bird was sighted.
Ornithology being a passion of the Vicar of Siddermorton, Rev. K. Hilyer, he was going to outdo his rivals and hunt the strange bird. So it came to be that on the 4th of August 1895 he shot down an angel.
… He saw what it was, his heart was in his mouth, and he fired out of pure surprise and habit. There was a scream of superhuman agony, the wings beat the air twice, and the victim came slanting swiftly downward and struck the ground – a struggling heap of writhing body, broken wing and flying blood-stained plumes … the Vicar stood aghast, with his smoking gun in his hand. It was no bird at all, but a youth with an extremely beautiful face, clad in a robe of saffron and with iridescent wings … never had the Vicar seen such gorgeous floods of colour …
‘A man,’ said the Angel, clasping his forehead … ‘then I was not deceived, I am indeed in the Land of Dreams.’ The vicar tells him that men are real and angels are myth … ‘It almost makes one think that in some odd way there must be two worlds as it were …’
‘At least two,’ said the Vicar, and goes on pondering … he loved geometrical speculations, ‘there may be any number of three dimensional universes packed side by side, and all dimly aware of each other.’
They met half way, where reality is loosely defined, and truth has no hold. And they shared the nature of their worlds. Eat, pain, and die were among the new terms the strange visitor had to come to grips with.
‘Pain is the warp and the waft of this life,’ said the Vicar. Riddled with remorse over having maimed the Angel’s wing he decides to looks after him. But to adjust to the Vicar’s world, the Angel must eat and accept pain, and learn all manner of things very fast indeed … Starting to read, during a phase of now legendary sunshine, I settled in my garden with a glass of red, and consequently spilled the wine on my wild strawberry blossoms due to sudden bursts of laughter.
‘What a strange life!’ said the Angel.
‘Yes,’ said the Vicar. ‘What a strange life! But the thing that makes it strange to me is new. I had taken it as a matter of course until you came into my life.’
Mr Angel is nothing like the pure and white angel of popular belief, more like the angel of Italian art, polychromatic, a musical genius with the violin. Listening … the Vicar lost all sense of duration, all sense of necessity … The reactions of the villagers oscillate across a hair-thin-divide between comedy and tragedy, while the bone of the story is psychological, and spiritual. Indirectly, the Vicar encounters his anima (his inner female) through the Angel’s love for Delia, the maid servant of the house. There is no escape. Things get intense. The Angel, over the span of a short week, is tainted by the wickedness of the world, and it crushes him. And the Vicar’s awakening from his narrow prison brings him into tragic conflict with his community.
* * *
Not much has changed. The world is crowded with wounded angels seeking compassion, and since our daily vocabulary offers little more than clichés for other realities, awakening rarely convinces, unless it is embodied and conveyed through atmosphere. Look out for the artist… the musician, painter, writer, animator, filmmaker … and the children.
‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
The painting heading this post is by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg.
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