A seasonal search for the sacred Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Thursday, 04 December 2008 01:45
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“What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realised it sooner.”

So said French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette towards the end of her life. Now that is precisely what I want to say about this year. And it’s only now that I’m looking back (not in anger, John Osborne fans) that I see the wonder of it all. One of the unexpected blessings of writing this column is that it forces me to re-visit ordinary moments of my life, “mining them for meaning” as Sarah Ban Breathnach puts it.

Even if you have a theme to muse upon, you start with a blank page and most of the time you only find out what you’re writing about after you’re well into it. It starts you on a search for the sacred in the ordinary. And this, says Sarah, is how she found out that she’s had a wonderful life.“We do not write in order to be understood, we write in order to understand,” English poet Cecil Day-Lewis says.

So, what is it that I understand about this year, looking back from the Christmas side of it? Which treasured moments will I wrap in Christmas paper for myself? They are all small things, fleeting moments. The way the pebbled path to my faded garden gate glistened in the rain when I woke up one morning. The smiling dolphin faces my dogs make when they greet me at this selfsame gate.

The morning my cactus plant opened up a fragile pink flower that lasted no more than a day. The muted half-meow sound that a ginger cat makes as he winds his tail around my lower leg. The swoop of the swallows I watch from the balcony as they play in the late-afternoon sky.

Oh, the deep orange full moon as she rises over the Bronberg in the early evening. The weird light just before a thunderstorm; the unnatural greens and blues as birds struggle against the wind to find shelter.

The sweet smell of the early August jasmine’s promise of spring. The day we came around a corner on the cement path and saw a rabbit with a huge tuft of grass still in his mouth, the green stretching beyond his whiskers. The clouds, oh the white mountains chasing each other across the blue expanse; the dusty pink of them behind the sun’s bald head; the crocodiles and lambs and witches’ faces they pull at me.

The sound of horses’ hooves, the way they jerk up their heads when they recognise our whistling and come thundering through the field with flowing tails. The screaming green of the first new leaves that shout so loudly to an eye accustomed to winter drabness.

The way the golden winter grass move in the wind, like a synchronised team of Olympic gymnasts. The soft paws of a purring cat on a warm winter duvet. The thick ripples on a dam so blue it feels as if you’re touching a piece of sky when you dip your fingers into the water.

The way the mousebirds looked over their shoulders when we surprised them at their dust bath. Standing under a tall tree, looking up at the dappled blue of the sky which peeps through branches dripping with a thick green. The smoothness of a pebble in the palm of your hand; the way its silky cheek picks up your body heat.

Enough already. I’ve just realised that my Christmas gifts, these moments, are endless. Everywhere I look. All I have to do is notice them. Searching for the sacred in ordinary things, one realises that, just like jasmine or the clouds or a pebble, we were not created always to do, but sometimes simply to be.

Believe that you are important enough just to be. Whoever you are. Whatever that is.

Blessings on your courage. Merry Christmas!


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