Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent in my Church–a point I make because a teller in the bank told me earlier this week that her branch of Christianity has a different schedule. My parish church, St. Alban’s, has special services today at 7.30am, noon, and 7.30pm. I hope to attend at noon and receive my ashes: my little one fell at school yesterday and has a bandaged wrist, and also had a bad night and is staying home today. However, she’s been the inspiration for some Lenten reflections, which I will try for the next 40-46 days.
Yesterday afternoon, on our drive home, she suggested that my reflections should be about “40 things you really like…and me, of course”. I liked the idea, and at first it seemed simple. But, during the evening, my mind kept on moving toward the task ahead. For a while, now, I have preferred to ‘take things on’ rather than ‘give things up’ for Lent. So, I will take on the daily challenge of thinking and writing about things I really like or really liked.
One of the points that struck me during the night–and the thoughts were running through my head when I woke–was that I really like a lot of things (using ‘like’ to include things that I no longer do, or have, perhaps–there’s lots of good to be had or learnt from nice memories). I had already decided quickly that I would not work from a list of ’40 things’: I felt that would limit my thinking too much. Instead, I wanted to see what happened if I just let my mind drift and worked with the things that surfaced. So, what did that produce so far?
- Eating fish and chips with my hands, walking along the street, holding them in their paper wrapping: the chips, liberally doused in vinegar, not too soggy; the fish (haddock or cod), covered in crisp batter; both lightly salted; the damp paper package getting slighter lighter with each mouthful…
- Walking a ‘Labradog’ (that’s as it’s written) up a Welsh mountain. When I first started working, I took a job in North Wales. Not long after starting work, my wife and I got a dog–her family had had Labradors for ages, so that’s what we sought. We picked out a lovely looking yellow puppy from a litter of ‘pure’ Labradors. We named her ‘Bella’. She grew, looking very much like a Labrador. Then her nose lengthened. Then her tailed curled. Then her legs stayed quite thin. This was no pure Labrador, we realised. But, she was a personality. She loved to dig…all the way from her garden, under the fence, into the neighbours’ garden: they had two young children, who loved having the puppy come to visit, and were very good about bringing her back home. As a young puppy, Bella was often seen just by the flurry of dirt flying out of a hole, then a nose covered in soil. That image of her changed little as she grew into an adult dog. She loved to jump fences, often into the same neighbours’ garden, but later, into adjoining gardens, over higher fences (sometimes, embarrassingly, being unable to jump back home :-)), when she lived in London. She always loved to be walked, and her Labrador genes told her that carrying things was something she needed to do–sticks, stones, buckets, boxes, moles…. During some evenings or weekends, it was possible to drive a short distance to part of Snowdonia National Park, to a mountain called Cadair Idris. It was a challenge for the humans to try to take one of the paths to the peak and try to do that before the sun started to set; the dog was always there first, tail wagging, tongue hanging out of her mouth, a stick by her feet (having found a branch, or bigger, on the route, and carried it much of the way).
These are seemingly random thoughts, which surfaced. I’ve chosen these two for reasons I cannot explain, and will not try to analyse. Each put a huge smile on my face as I thought of the occasions when they happened. Fish and chips have been eaten that way in many places, at many times, with many different people, and those occasions alone could be a book. The Labradog has many special reasons to be remembered, which have nothing to do with walking up mountains, digging holes or jumping fences. But, they include her ability to care for others–her sleeping with my first-born, or her tackling a burglar, whom we’ve yet to find, but whose blood we found on the dog’s muzzle and coat and on a door handle, after returning home late one night.
I’m sure that if I sat at my key board for the rest of the day many more thoughts would surface. But, let me stay with a process: it’s taken me about 30 minutes to compose this piece and that seems like a nice amount of ‘reflective time’ before I have had breakfast. I know that in coming days I cannot repeat the timing, but I will see what the ’30 minute rule’ allows me to write. Will the seemingly random thoughts develop into a theme? I have to go through a selection process and it’s not clear, yet, how that will work. Now, that the first step has been taken, where will the next step go?
Now, I have to say something about ‘and me, of course’. I’ve already mentioned that she’s going to spend the day at home, after being sick during the night. She mentioned last week that she also wanted to write a blog, and I have seen a piece that is one sentence long. But, she liked her own inspiration and said that she’s also going to try to write about her own 40 likeable things. Let’s see if she takes this unexpected day off to begin writing about her own reflections.