Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Good Dose of Hope

While the snow was falling tonight, I was busy feeding and watering the sheep as Hank was goofing off outside with his ball. When I came out, I couldn't find him. Finally I saw a round bump in the snow and recognized Hank's soccer ball. Ha! Hank is never far from his ball. Sure enough he was the other lump in the snow, a little further off. It reminded me of a snowstorm many years ago when we lived in Newfoundland. It snowed heavy and harsh Atlantic winds blew all day and evening, during which time, about 10 dogs of similar shapes and sizes were camped out in our neighbour's yard. We called them "crackies". There was one at every house along the street and they all looked the same. Apparently word had gotten out on the street that the princess who lived there was in heat. And so they persevered throughout the day and evening. Come dark, we turned away from the window and thought they would do the same. With the coming of morning the storm had moved out to sea leaving a deep blanket of snow on everything. As I looked out the window towards our neighbours, not a dog was in sight. Sensible I thought...no wait! What was that lump in the snow drift. Very slowly, the lump emerged into a tail wagging faithful suitor.I marvelled at his stamina and decided he deserved the prize because he never lost hope.What happened to the other nine?

We would all do well with a good dose of that hope because really... sometimes that's all there is.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Golda's Vigil

Christmas has come and gone, my daughters have returned to school and the house is left quiet except for my new spinning wheel which seems determined to complain no matter how many times I adjust it. I think I shall have to take each bobbin and sand them until smooth so the string glides effortlessly over them. So while my wheel groans and adjusts, I work each evening spinning and plying my sheep's wool as the animals watch.

Golda, my cat, also has a new purpose. With the coming of winter, there are always a few mice that wander into the house from the fields, through some tiny hole...many tiny holes. Each night Golda refuses to go to bed but remains in the kitchen- sitting, alert, alone, waiting in the dark. I am happy to say, I have not seen her actually catch her prey but woe to the little mouse that sets foot in our kitchen as Golda sits and waits.

Before the printing of books in early and medieval times, monks in monasteries scattered throughout Britain, would sit for hours each day, transcribing religious texts and detailed records of life in early Anglo-Saxon Britain. It was King Alfred that believed "words as well as fortresses would hold the newly created English nation together." Scripture texts and prayer books with richly coloured illustrations, with borders of flowing foliage and gilded pages were slowly crafted over months and years by the hands of monks. It was their life's work. When the monasteries were raided and ransacked by the Vikings and Danes, followed by the supporters of Henry the VIII and finally Cromwell's troops, these sacred texts were spirited away by the terrified monks as they were treasures of history and the church.

One such Irish Celtic monk, perhaps one cold lonely winter's night, scribbled the following poem into the margins of a manuscript.

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
"Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
"Tis to sit with book in pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Often times a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Often times my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Anonymous, translated from Irish by Robin Flower

We who fret about the flow of time and missing life's experiences, should ponder that it was a noble life, compelled to sit alone, day after day, scribing religious texts, seeking and preserving wisdom. So you too Golda, leaving your kitty days behind, are noble as you find your place, alone and in the dark... compelled by some inner voice.

The Book of Kells, St. John's Gospel