Tag Archives: Whitby

Life in Ruins

When cracks appear,  walls fall down and a roof collapses, a ruin begins to appear.   Buildings once complete, relationships once whole may crumble and fall into a state of disrepair. Lack of maintenance, deliberate acts of destruction, natural disasters, erosion, weather all add to the disappearance of what was built in love, with patience and usually quite a bit of planning.

So how is that a life in ruins might actually be a wonderful testament to endurance and survival?

I witness ruins and I wonder what secrets and dreams do the ruins host? The ruins reveal the essence of the foundations, and what parts were the strongest, boldest and most steadfast.  A life in ruins may be a fiat of life well lived and a legacy to inspire others.

When visiting Hilda of Whitby‘s ancient cathedral I was charmed by what had endured and how the remains were fiercely holding out to the wild winds. I felt the freezing cold late afternoon wind on my face that poured into my bones.  I could hear the ancient chorus breathing into the spaces the buildings had made; a giant flute echoing to earliest Gregorian chants of an ancient and devout community betrothed to one another, Hilda and Whitby.

Several years later I found myself at your re-built Abbey Hildegard in Rudesheim  non-architectural ruins were visible to me. Fragments of ritual and language being held together in a familiar landscape of prayer and song.   I did not visit the ruins where many of your compositions and your letters, Hildegard were probably made. Perhaps one day I will!

This year I had the honour of being on David Whyte‘s tour in Western Ireland. We were held in the comfort of BallyvaughanCounty Clare  and travelled one day to the ruins of Coromroe Abbey.  My body and soul in ruins.  At this sacred place, myself and fellow pilgrims blessed newly married sojourners and were honoured to be blessed in turn by their love and masterful generosity. You can read their story in their own words.  What I learnt that day that will remain with me forever is that a life in ruins is indeed a blessed life in blessed ruins.  The echo of the kyrie sung by Eoin and Moley O Suilleabhain keeps arriving and nourishing me from my audio memory.

Inspired by a  life in ruins, Coromroe Abbey and the blessings of this holy occasion and the honeymoon I found myself witness to, these words came to me.

We blessed them in the ruins.
Not the ruins of their past lives,
But the ruins of their life ahead.

The fragments worn and lost,
Have gone to where they needed to go;
Into the earth,
Or onto the wind.

The ruins that remain are the resilient bits.
The bits that can take the elements,
That can stand the tests of time,
That stubbornly refuse to collapse under the pressures of trials and treasons.

Ruins, strong and embedded into the landscape;
Worn well throughout the ages;
Holding and grounded in a deep wisdom.

Ruins that know weathering is a sign of endurance.
No decay or debris to be found here.
No death or destruction.
No disappearance.

All ruins: fully present and accounted for;
Holding fast;
Holding firm,
Holy ground.
Inspired by the love of days;
that will count for years.

The blessing made
The marriage confirmed.

Never before had I been a guest at a honeymoon!

So when I feel like my life might be in ruins, I return to Whitby, to Rudesheim and especially to Coromroe Abbey. I go to a deeper place where I receive my life in ruins with gratitude. I grow in my desire for the elements to support my disappearance and gracefully shape the remains. I look forward to the birds of the air, the pollen and air borne spores finding a home and bond with me in a timeless, ever changing way.

Coromroe Abbey, Clare, Ireland

Coromroe Abbey, Clare, Ireland

Cloud of Witnesses

Photo taken at Whitby off the coast of Northern England – site of ruins of the monastery and church founded by Hilda of Whitby (c. 614–680)

I have been reflecting this past week on the idea of the cloud of witnesses and the cloud of the internet and the relationship between the two.  Last night I was flying home from a meeting, an exit interview from my job of the past four and a half years as the flight took its path into the setting sun the clouds parted and the sun’s rays were emblazoned on the clouds and refracted from the horizon – it was a glorious sight.  I reflected on the cloud of witnesses who had been supporting me of late in a time of transitions. The cloud of living and dead, known and unknown to me. The poets  -David Whyte and Mary Oliver; and the musicians Paul Kelly (Words and Music, especially Little Kings), the Cologne Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra (who played at St Joseph’s Willunga this week) who have been before my eyes and in my ears, I pay homage!  You too are on the honour roll in my cloud of witnesses.

The people who have sent me a text wishing me well, the friend who posted a photo of her child with me and a big smile to remind me of the love and bonds of a new generation, the brother who face booked me with greetings, the friend who sent me via a recruitment site a potential job and the list goes on of Facebook messages, tweets, LinkedIn recommendations, emails and text messages, telephone calls and skype messages, the music link, the You tube video to the trailer of a new film, the gift voucher to Amazon … all in the cloud.

I have sojourners in the flesh as well and nothing beats face to face and the physical contact of a hug and a hearty audible laugh uninterrupted in real time.  I love the serendipity that this photo has now brought several years after it was taken bringing the past and the present together due to the digital platform on which it was saved, now retrieving it for this post to reflect the theme of this blog.  The person who witnessed my exit from my job, was with me the day I took this photo. I love how this all works, or in the words of Desiderata, “the universe is unfolding as it should.”

I do pay tribute though to all the care and support that I have received via the cloud and I am impressed by the cloud of witnesses that accompany me on line and together give collective witness to me and my journey.  I think there is so much more to unfold and the mystery of the  clouds suspended outside the window of my plane and the mystery of cloud computing I benefit from in my online communities is truly awesome!

More than 400 years after Hilda of Whitby played host to the first synod, fostered peace-making and education, was sought after for her wise counsel – another Hilda – Hildegard of Bingen found herself doing similar works.  Hildegard is in my cloud of witnesses as is Hilda of Whitby – two remarkable women who didn’t need the cloud to communicate with their constituencies or their God.  I live in the clouds. I  am finding it a good place to be. In the clouds I  trust that the plane doesn’t fall out of the sky. In the clouds I read the Facebook messages. My story will be witnessed and I too can bear witness to the lives of others with a simple click of the like button on Facebook – new cloud of witnesses and an enriched understanding of what that means for me in my time.

“… we are surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that weighs us down …” Hebrews 12:1