We have decided to keep the tree up until Candlemas, I think we did the same last year! I'm just not ready to let go of its comforting presence and it is so cheery to look at too:
This is not any map you know,
Do not think of distance or of plotting the most direct route,
Astrolabe, sextant, compass
these will not help here.
This is the map that begins with a star,
This is the chart that starts with a fire,
with ancient light
that has outlasted
cultures and wars.
Look starward once
and then look away,
Close your eyes and see how the map begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.
You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral
cannot perceive how the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
But you step out
and you will know
what the wise who travelled this path before you knew,
the treasure in this map
is buried not at journey's end
but at its beginning.
Jan Richardson, 'Circle of Grace, A Book of Blessings for Each Season.'
I love that the treasure is found at the beginning of the journey and not at the end, that gives me a sense of hope and very much ties in with a Benedictine philosophy that, 'each day we begin again' and listen with the ear of our heart to your words O Lord.
I will not lie, I'm struggling with awful inflammation in my low spine and at one point it became too painful to even sit. I have some pretty strong anti- inflammatory medication that has begun to take down the swelling and the gentle walking is helping to try and shift everything into place. I also have an Osteopath appointment next week, Praise God! However, if I'm not careful pain can really start to drag me down, so having these challenges such as an outdoor hour keep me focused and distracted. Seeing the little shapes being coloured in on the nature mandala wheel is also a real encouragement to keep going.
Since the 2nd of January I have so far clocked up a total of seven hours outside, which is no mean feat for someone with a chronic health condition. It has not all been plain sailing and there have been times when I have wanted to stay huddled next to the fire, but every time I have ignored that inclination my spirits have lifted for being in nature. This morning I took a very slow walk to the nearby river and I sat on the bench to soak up the sounds, finish my prayers and just be in God's presence:
In addition to the challenges we also have a joy jar on the table with squares of paper and a pencil and it is openly available for folk to add something that brought them joy that day. I'm hoping by the end of the year it will be full of such moments that we can share and reflect upon.
Whilst I was on my walk Pip was busy turning this masterpiece into thank you cards for family and friends: