Today was a beautiful radiant day. I slowly packed my belongings and then in excited anticipation headed off A12 ~ M25 ~ M23 ~ happily lost in the depths of my music, secured by the sat-navs chamomile voice guiding me along the way. My destination was a friends home ~ an elder lady friend from the Ignatian Course (one of only 2 other Catholics) she lives a stones throw from Worth Abbey, I had never been to her home before.
I was so blessed ~ she lived in a little double cabin ~ nestled in a dense secluded secret garden, within a woodland residential park ~ All the homes were set on little hilly curling lanes, each with its own parking space. It was so beautiful ~ enchanting and quite magical. Inside the property it was just as I would have wanted. All antique and vintage and arty with a little writing desk, and big windows, as if it were nothing more than an annex of nature but with walls.
Mary describes herself as an alcoholic ~ she hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol in 18 years, but that is the description she lives her life by. Her two brothers were prominent journalist for the Independent and Times (I think) Newspapers, and very well-respected ~ one of them is now deceased. Mary came from a very well to do background ~ her brothers went to Ampleforth School ~ they were friends with the likes of Fr Christopher Jamison. Mary however spoke about the unfairness of being treated with a lesser respect afforded her than that of her 2 brothers, throughout most of her life, having been a female.
It was both sad, remarkable and inspiring her honesty, integrity and passion, even in her winding down years ~ almost talking defeated ~ and yet still inspiring other women with her discoveries through women’s literature. She gave me a book by Joan D Chittister ~ called Heart of Flesh ~ a book of spirituality for men and women in Church based on interdependent Love and not the pyramid system. Worth is Mary’s Church ~ she tells me she goes simply to receive the Eucharist.
She despaired of the Catholic Church a long time ago, so she said, hating the patriarchal God-fearing system that she was indoctrinated with as a child, where she was taught to be scared of God. And often not respected or treated in the same way as her two brothers. She is quite a remarkable character and I love something dearly about her ~ maybe t’is her very Englishness ~ maybe it is her mildest independent eccentricity, or maybe the gently rebellious most wise light shining (if a little sadly) through her eyes. But quietly I love her.
She had homemade afternoon scones and Bon Mama strawberry jam with clotted cream. We drank tea :O) and as we were chatting away, sharing our joys and sorrows the most amazing thing happened. A beautiful bird flew down and landed right on the bird feeder on the other side of the glass window, but just a few feet away from me, if that. The bird was so beautiful black and white with a flash of brightest pillbox red paint right across its head and dipped beneath its tailend. Such beautiful clarity ~ and a first for me. I never knew what it was until she told me ~ I had never ever before had the privilege of witnessing a woodpecker up so close ~ what a blessing ~ they are perfect. So beautiful. So striking.
After my enchanting time in Mary’s home I headed off again to Micklepage for my 6 day silent retreat. I am so blessed. When I pulled into the drive I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The conference barn and farm-house was all situated around a beautiful pond.
Just as I pulled up in my car, the priest came over to welcome me. He took me to the farmhouse and led me through the ancient dwelling.
First we entered the amazing lowest beamed kitchen I have ever seen ~ and guess what it even had a Mary Blue AGA :O).
The kitchen immediately made me feel at home with its long wooden table and 14th century wonder and farmhouse warmth.
Fr Tom asked me if I would like to choose my own room. He offered me one of three ~ all the door were open. I went into each room and felt the spirit of each. I told him I would choose the one with the most sunlight as my room at home faces north and is dark.
I chose the one with the brightest outlook~ she looked out over the pond and from inside the room you could hear the running living water. Such a blessing.
The roses rambled up the wall outside ~ and the lantern and the roses took me straight back to St Mary Magdalene church in Thorington.
This room was made for me. Her windows were flung wide open and the daylight flooded in.
A little tin Love heart hung from the latch. It was just perfect. It was beautiful.
The bedspread was pale pink. I made my bed up with my shaker style patchwork throw from home, and draped the pink blanket over the foot of the bed.
The room was dressed with a little posy of freshly picked flowers. So pretty.
I went back to my car to fetch the rest of my belongings and when I returned as I wandered down the hallway past the other rooms, I noticed each room was identifiable by a beautiful little hand painted wild bird plaque secured upon the door.
When I left my room I must have let the door close behind me, as upon my return I suddenly noticed the bird plaque ~ The plaque upon my door was the Woodpecker that I had just seen at Mary’s enchanting home just 1/2 hour before. The first thing I did when I got home was to email Mary with the perfect welcome miracle.
God met me right there ~ with such staggering visible presence ~ it momentarily took my breath away ~ and made me smile smile smile like water melon. Oh my God I am so blessed. On the retreat Fr Tom said that someone (I can’t remember who) once said ‘there are coincidences ~ unless you are a Catholic ~ and then there’s the Holy Spirit.’
Thank you God ~ I Love You so much for meeting me so intimately and so miraculously and so visibly ~ especially when I am least expecting to be met.