Last week found me driving through Wharfedale towards Ketllewell and Scargill House Retreat Centre on a three-day residential course with fellow clerics from the Diocese. The setting was outstanding – waking every morning to the most spectacular view of the dale and the ‘morning mist of mellow fruitfulness’.
I know that many people dread this time of year. Gone are the summer days of golden warmth and azure skies and the balmy evenings where twilight falls well after 9.00pm. In a few weeks the clocks will go back and the dark of night will fall by tea time and daybreak will struggle to seep through the clouds before 7.30am. People will be hunkering down, curtains shut and central heating on. Hibernation of a human kind.
But let’s not have a glass half empty – even though the course did ‘knock my duck off’ a bit as my Gran would say. I took to watching the sun rise and the wonderful colours of daybreak dawning. I stood in the ‘mizzley’ rain and low cloud with my coffee and my coat bundled round me watching the family of pheasants jostle for position with goldfinch and chaffinches on the biggest bird feeder you’ve ever seen. I stood on the driveway and listened to the birds singing and sheep bleating the new day in.
I wondered at the varied shades of gold, russet and blood-red leaves that adorned the lanes, the pasture, and the estate that the house sits in. I stood opened mouthed at the sight of a barn owl and a deer that came to say hello. I said good morning to my new friend, a robin, who accompanied me down to the village.
After having time over these last 24 hours to reflect on what were a difficult few days, I wrote down a list of all the positive things that I have just shared with you and also recalled the utmost kindness and hospitality I received from the Scargill Community themselves. These in turn brought to mind the wise words of Henri Nouwen, spiritual writer and priest:
‘Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.’
Every blessing as you receive your surprises,