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Reform Magazine | May 23, 2017

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On the Pilgrim Way: Fresh growth

maxeySheila Maxey wonders at fresh growth

I have had time this spring to watch and wonder at all kinds of fresh growth – in nature and in children. A large magnolia is in my sightline as I sit at my computer, and since November I have taken its fat buds as my sign that spring must come. But now they are getting fatter by the day, and showing colour, and will shortly burst into beauty.

Yesterday, we walked in woodland filled with swathes of snowdrops incongruously mixed with daffodils – wonderful but strange, like this year’s weather. We came to a small pond and there was a water vole dashing out of her hole in the bank to collect some autumn leaf for her nest.

I helped my sweet 11-year-old granddaughter, spotty from early puberty, to begin embroid==ering a bookmark of fine cross stitch in a complicated Celtic design. Twice she had to take out stitches in the wrong place, but after an hour or two the design was emerging beautifully. She then expertly and patiently taught me how to begin to use my new tablet. Our old piano, not played for many, many months, was brought to life as she played a Bach prelude her mother (and even I) used to play.

Her older sister is a full-blown teenager, dreamy and unfocussed and needing lots of sleep and plenty of time for texting friends. But when she came to help me as I nervously attempted to make pizza, she approached the yeast dough with amazing, almost adult confidence. She pulled it, punched it, slapped it into submission and then tactfully suggested in which order I should add the various toppings. The result was absolutely delicious.

Recently I was at the Othona Community in Bradwell, on the fringe of a group of parents and children, so free to watch and wonder. It was bitterly cold and grey, yet I saw a group of excited ten-year-old girls behaving like gambolling lambs or mad March hares. With no coats on, they were chasing each other up on to the sea wall, with shrieks of laughter, and then holding out their arms to rest on the wind. Later, in the failing light, we gathered in the ancient chapel and I watched as the children eagerly came forward to light candles of thanksgiving. I was delighted, though unsurprised, that one gave thanks for being at Othona. I smiled as another one gave thanks for Nutella (her favourite spread). But I was amazed and moved by the child who said: “Thank you, God, for making me.”

Mary Oliver, in her poem “Mysteries, Yes”, speaks for me this spring:

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the April 2016 edition of  Reform.

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