Category Archives: UK 2011

August 15, 2011

The goodbyes at Nether Springs were hard. It really felt like I needed another week. In fact, Pete suggested as much. I was feeling like I was just finding my feet and then it was time to go.

Oh well, everything belongs.

The connections that were made in Northumbria, with the people, with the NC and even with the land will be lasting ones, no doubt.

We dropped off the hire car at the station and boarded a southbound train for Bristol. This train trip would easily cover 2/3 of England in about 5 hours. We got to see the Midlands, including the amazing sight of a canal flowing across a road…25 feet above it! (Look it up).

Mile upon mile of farmland. I was once again impressed with how agricultural England is.

We stopped in Birmingham, only to find out that riots broke out later that day right behind us. (we were later to become suspicious that our presence was somehow CAUSING the violence…and maybe even Amy Winehouse’s death! One more bit of bad news while we were there and we planned to slink out of the country early to prevent even more widespread catastrophe).

We stopped  in Leeds and I stuck my head out the carriage door for a moment…yes, I could still hear echoes “My Generation” reverberating off the walls all the way back to February 1970.

We arrived in Bristol and were met by our friend Emma once again, who piled us all into her van, and whisked us down the road to her cottage in the shore town of Swanage. We had a couple of hours of windshield time to fill in the gaps in each other’s stories, and we had great conversation all the way to the sea. Emma was a great tour guide, showing us the sights as we travelled. We got settled into the 400 year old cottage, ordered take-away Tandori from right next door, and had a grand time sitting around the table with Emma and packing away the curry.

The next few days were quiet, consisting of a lot of walking, and spectacular views of the Isle of Wight and Swanage Bay. Swanage is a classic English shore town, including stripped deck chairs, amusement pier, Punch and Judy shows and unpredictable weather. We took a steam train from the village several miles up the tracks to Corfe Castle, a spectacular ruin.

I was beginning to really tucker out. I could absorb no more. I was getting lost between the sense of adventure and a need to be in my home. It had been nearly a month on the road, and it turned out to be (for all four of us, I think) long enough. I had stopped processing experiences and was simply stuffing them away like I was at an all-you-can-eat buffet: making sure I got my money’s worth, not tasting the food anymore, just swallowing it.

It was at this stage that I realized some kind of change had occurred. A pleasant weariness and disconnection from “place” that usually only takes a week of solo wilderness travel to produce. It begins with EMERSSION into “place”, near obsession with “place”, focus and intensity regarding “place”. Then the idea of “place” burns up altogether because of that intense focus. Like looking at a piece of dry paper with a magnifying glass for too long, it suddenly bursts into flame and disappears.

Pilgrimage. Becoming a Pilgrim.

It’s no longer the destination. It hasn’t been the longing for home for a while now. It’s the third place in between the two ends. It’s all about where you are at the moment. Not what tomorrow brings. Not who is looking at you. Not how you appear anymore. It’s just about the next step. And it has a peacefulness all it’s own.

August 11-13, 2011

 . . .that was Thursday last week. It’s 7 days later. . . Sitting in the train station in Oxford, having just received a nearly personalized tour of C.S. Lewis’ home, “The Kilns” conducted by Dr. Debbie Higgins, the Resident Director of the Lewis Foundation.

. . . . Yeah. it’s been a good day. More on that later. 

Back to NetherSprings.

It might be best to condense Friday, Saturday and Sunday last into a single entry. 

We were at Nether Springs for what’s called a Community Weekend;  a two and half day introduction to the inner workings of the community as a means for people to decide how they want ( if they want) to relate to the community. Officially, there are a handfull sessions where particiapnts get the goods, Q&A, and of course daily offices. But just as important are the meals and the informal conversations.

We had a chance to chat with people from all over the U.K. and a couple from Germany as well. 

I think I’ve mentioned the idea of “connections” numerous times. Well, while I was drying dishes and chatting with Catherine Askew, one of the full time community leaders and Anglican Priest, she mentioned that since her father had grown up in Seatlle, her parents recently moved back to Western Washington . . . to a little island called Camano.

. . . If you didn’t already know . . .that’s where I grew up.

Oh,  Our Romantic God.

I had a great talk with Pete Askew (Catherine’s husband and Anglican Priest as well) about larger kinds of connections. How would the ethos of the NC express itself in a place like Marysville, Washington? Should it? We didn’t come up with a set of conclusions, but a list of better questions.

The take-away from my time with Pete was: Look for metaphors in our context that carry the same values. 

That’s thrilling work for someone like me.

Saturday night saw the arrival of scores of other friends and companions to enjoy a CD release party for Anna Raine’s new record.

Anna performed for all of us ( several songs that connected us even more, like “Stone by Stone” from the movie “Brother Son Sister Moon” and others.) It was BYOB affair, and between sets there was an array of goodies and time to chat with other friends. 

Before the end of Anna’s last set, the crowd seamlessly followed along joined and joined with Anna and Andy in Compline . . . It was a great example of how the daily offices don’t stand OUT in the midst of the day, but instead tie it all together.

Afterward, Andy sought me out, and we had a very intentional conversation that mirrored my earlier chat with Pete . . .just as significant, but it was about ME this time. Andy has that quality, that gift or charism that tends to draw things out of a person they would not otherwise share. 

It was good. Challenging. A bit intimidating. Packed with potential. I’ll need some time alone with God to process it.

Since it was late night . . .there wasn’t a full clean up before the house went to sleep . . . (hence the empty wine bottles on Sunday morning I mentioned earlier)

I got a chance to see the Raine family off, and then off to bed myself. But not for long. 3:45AM brought the jarring sound of the fire alarm. I had abscent mindedly looked at the fire instructions in our room the day we arrived, so as I popped out of bed and got some trousers on, I told Brenda to  head for the car park (the rally point in the event of fire) and I would go get the girls.

Groggy, with a sudden shot of adrenaline, and in deep darkness . . . It was not easy to find the door, but I finally did. I scooted across the Cloister just in time to see Kellie emerging from the girls room with Robyn firmly in her protective grip, calmly looking around to determine their next step. I was very proud of her.

By this time, I was convinced that if there actually was a fire, it was not an immediate threat to us, so I guided the girls back through their door to quickly put on some shoes, then the three of us joined the other’s on our way to the parking lot. As each moment ticked by, it became clearer that it was a false alarm. Ann and Adam did a great job shepherding us, and sorting the situation through, and Sarah, who was also a guest at the time, was charged with roll call. All present and accpunted for. At the time of publishing, it is still not known what set the alarm off. but it was a good drill, and the House Team did well!

Summarizing the entire weekend experience at Nether Springs is hard to do. To say that my personal resonance with the NC has increased is an understatement. The girls are still processing their own experiences, but I think it safe to say that Brenda has a new affection for the people of the NC after having the chance to spend time with them, and the girls each have their own increased appreciation of the monastic experience.

Not surprisingly, I find that I am very drawn to the a Rule of Life: Being Available and Vulnerable to God and my community. I will be asking to enter the novitiate process later this week.