PROLOGUE TO NOVEMBER
30th October 2016
The last week has been unusually busy.
Friends who come for annual visits increased in number.
Two came for some quiet time - one departed early as planned.
The matriarch was then joined by the next generation,
including their children and friends ... a considerable number.
A special tea party was held in our refectory mid-week,
well organised by our guest-mistress.
Then clock was changed and now we are officially in winter-time.
The autumn colours are beautiful
and the leaves are falling and curling-up on the ground.
Our gardener Dave came earlier in the week accompanied
by his kindly father-in-law who mowed the lawns
as Dave was not able to do so due to an acute pain in his back.
This may be the last mowing of the current year.
The areas Dave had previously cleared are a delight to see.
Before that Sister Christopher had helped me to clear away the stalks
of the very tall flowers that I had cut down on previous days.
This was followed by my week in the kitchen.
It is a relief that a semblance of normality has now returned !
Goldie is now curled-up on my bed, Joseph came in for some biscuits,
and Brunie is on sentinel duty by the door
leading to the blue-carpeted stairs.
I dont like the change of the official time:
it is just as dark today as it has been for several weeks.....
Perhaps the sun will shine later !
This month began rather badly,
with news of another serious earthquake in Italy.
I remembered my time in Florence,
when we periodically experienced earth tremors
and furniture swayed back and forth.
But the tremors did not cause any visible damage.
And then there was the time when the Arno flooded the city
and much art work and many famous buildings were damaged.
The Suore Montalve went to visit the worst affected areas,
bringing fresh water to those who had none.
I went with them - a mere postulant - and was impressed
by the courage of the afflicted, and by the fact
that the Blessed Sacrament was the first
to be rescued from flooded churches.
When I went into Chester on 1st November
for another dental appointment
I was joined in the waiting-room by a lady from Wales.
She asked me where I came from and I told her
Curzon Park, where we had moved from Gronant in 1989.
I told her that our community had lived at Talacre Abbey for many years.
Her face lit up and she told me that some of her friends
had bought the Abbey and tried to renovate it.
It proved too much for them and they then moved
into a vacant presbytery in St Asaph ...
It was a very pleasant encounter.
It is now Sunday 6th November.
The days have turned very cold, with periodic rain and high wind
and the cats, through their own choice, come in early.
Welcome visitors have come either to visit a friend
or for some quiet time in our guest-house.
The heating of the House and Chapel is now
on for longer periods and winter habits appear -
that is, warmer clothing !
Whilst we were washing up recently in the kitchen
hail stones fell while the sun was shining.
Now the wind is blowing strongly and some trees dance
in its waves, scattering their leaves.
AUTUMN IN THE ABBEY by Dubravka
Autumn is here in this haven of mine,
linden leaves adorn the Abbey
shedding light on the ground,
honey-gold horse-chestnut leaves,
warming my heart, scatter around.
The plane-trees shed their huge leaves
left wavering in the breeze.
No birds singing their little hearts out,
squirrels no longer dart around,
just golden, honey coloured and crimson leaves
randomly carpet the ground
and brilliant cool sunshine brightens my path.
I move slowly, remembering last Spring,
I walk into the chapel at peace.
The constancy reigns in the Abbey,
nothing has changed in my long absence,
as the Benedictine nuns silently enter
exuding peace and Gods presence
in their black devotional habits.
Ive arrived home after my journey
to inhale the Peace awaiting me here.
The mousing season has begun.
Joseph went out in the late yesterday afternoon: it was raining.
He returned when sun had set: the outside lights were on
and I was warned that he had caught a mouse.
He relinquished it, unharmed, outside our dormitory.
I managed to catch it in my left hand.
The poor little things heart was beating rapidly,
and - probably thinking I was another predator -
he sunk his front teeth into the base of my index finger.
We continued down the stairs
and I released him close to a cluster of plants.
Dave came yesterday, concerned about the fallen leaves,
and worked steadily for a couple of hours.
Many leaves have fallen since then !
As they used to say "You cant win" ....
Clouds are hiding the Welsh hills,
providing a calm background for the diversity of trees.
Ladybirds and Harlequin
The leaves continue to fall. Their colours are wonderful.
We have had days of rain and sunshine.
Yesterday was frosty and dry, with touched by light.
Dave had attended to the lower pond . He did this very well,
and the small water-fall is rippling down again.
Some time after the above episode of the mouse
I heard crunching noises at night.
One evening I found a small mouse among the cat biscuits
on the floor of my cell, close to the window.
It did not attempt to escape as I approached
and I was able to carry it outside with some biscuits.
I put it down near a flower-bed.
Close by, on the path, was a water-bowl for the cats
from which it would have been able to drink.
There was no sign of the biscuit remnants the next day.
I hope the mouse got away safely.
It is both appropriate and strange that this is the month
dedicated to the special remembrance of those who have died.
In Europe it is the month when leaves fall to the ground,
shedding their autumn glory before decaying and
engendering a hidden new life.
The weather seems to describe both these moments of light
and love, and rain - like the tears of heaven - then falls.
In many places in Europe it is the time when families
visit the family grave-site, placing flowers there
for the beloved generations buried there,
and praying both for them and, perhaps, speaking to them.
The sun has just come out and the remaining leaves
from the deciduous trees glow where the sun touches them.
Our memories are often like that - sometimes full of light,
and then clouded over with regret for the past.
The mousing season is still with us.
Another mouse was brought in at night-fall and rescued.
It was very small, and clung to my sleeve for safety.
A suitable safe place was shown me,
and I took the little creaure there.
It disappeared among the shelter of the plants.
Mouse by Tom Adams
Earlier this month we were given some lovely
golden roses as a token of remembrance.
They lasted for more than two weeks in the cloister.
Another friend gave us a small bouquet of mixed flowers
which is still by a statue of S.Benedict.
At one stage it looked as though the flowers were dying
but it was for lack of water .... I gave them water,
and they are still radiant ... we all need living water.
PRELUDE TO ADVENT
In my childhood we had Advent wreaths with four candles.
On the first Advent Sunday the first candle was lit
in the darkness of evening. We gathered round it
and sang and prayed, awaiting the Light of the World.
According to Rev.William Saunders
"The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing
Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain.
There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic people
using wreaths with lit candles during the cold and dark
December days as a sign of hope
in the future warm and extended sunlight days of Spring.
By the Middle Ages the Christians adapted this tradition
and used Advent wreaths as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas."
No one knows when Christ was actually born
but to commemorate his birth in the darkness
of winter - that is, winter in Europe and Scandinavia -
is symbolic of the possible enlightenment of many people:
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light..." Isaiah 9:2
The wreaths on the Continent were originally made from small branches
cut from fir-trees, which have a wonderful scent.