Monday, February 07, 2005

Nuthurst, or, Paradise: A Precursor

I find myself lacking the words to adequately describe the amazing experience that was this past weekend at the Micklepage Farmhouse in the tiny countryside village of Nuthurst. And lacking words is a situation I do not often find myself in. Of course, I'm sure there will be words aplenty in this post whatever I say. But they shall not do the experience justice, that I know already.

Basically, seventeen pilgrims spent the weekend living in simplicity, peace, and fellowship in an old(e) country farmhouse, separating ourselves from the responsibilities and hecticness of life to live in communal bliss we'd each end up wishing, by the end, we never had to abandon. The weekend was led by Gavin, the University chaplain, who also brought his darling 6 1/2 year old daughter, Emily. Meals were provided by Gudrun, the other chaperone-type, and were absolutely and universally delicious, from the salad (iceburg lettuce dressed with olive oil, garlic, and salt) to the pudding (their word for dessert, and including such delicacies as fruit pie and treacle tart). Speaking of food consumption and introduction to British delicacies, I also consumed my first crumpets for breakfast on Saturday morning. Quite tasty little sponge-bread things. Mmm...

Friday evening after dinner we all sat around reading one another our favorite poems (I read "Sea of Faith" and "The Midnight Tennis Match"). We then had some prayer, and then people busted out keyboards, guitars, and even a flute and we sang the night away. The next morning after breakfast we read each other the prayer that most spoke to us from a packet of them we had been given the night before. The prayer I chose:

"For giving me desire,
An eager thirst, a burning ardent fire,
A virgin infant flame,
A love with which into the world I came,
An inward hidden heavenly love,
Which in my soul did work and move,
And ever ever me inflame
With restless longing heavenly avarice
That did incessantly a Paradise
Unknown suggest, and something undescribed
Discern, and bear me to it; be
Thy name forever praised by me."
(Thomas Traherne)

My other choice had already been taken by the time my turn arrived, but I'll share it here, too, because you, dear reader, are central to its meaning for me:

"I thank you for anything which happened to me which made me feel that life is really and truly worth living.
I thank you for all the laughter which was in today.
I thank you, too, for any moment in which I saw the seriousness and meaning of life.
I thank you very specially for those I love, and for those who love me,
And for all the difference it has made to me to know them, and for all the happiness it brings to me to be with them.
Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen."
(William Barclay)

You can't get much more apt than that, for my blessed life.

After reading our prayers, we headed down the road to the local pub, where I was introduced to the wonderful world of actually playing chess with strategy, rather than reckless abandon. In other words, I was introduced to the wonderful world of losing miserably. But it was fun, and quite enlightening. A conversation about the philosophy of quantum physics which began on the walk back continued into lunch and touched on the timelessness of God, dimensions of infinity, and tetrachromatism and ultrared perception as a metaphor for sensing the presence of God.

After lunch a rather intense but fascinating conversation regarding judgement versus acceptance on the part of Christians developed, and eventually had to be forestalled by a walk through the countryside before the darkness descended. When we returned, dinner was nearly ready, which was followed by further conversation, and then Four Weddings And A Funeral was played in one room while a poker game started up in the kitchen. Once again, the fun and fellowship continued until late into the night for those who chose to remain.

The next morning Gavin and Emily baked a giant batch of communion bread, with plenty left over for breakfast, after which Emily and I played a card game and a few rounds of hide and go seek. We had a quiet church service in the barn nearby, with Taize chants, rereadings of our selected prayers, and sharing of our experiences of God, which we had written down earlier so we could read one another's aloud. Then we had some time to frolick and play outside, swinging on the swing and chopping wood. I sat and reflected for a bit in my journal, and then we had our lunch on the picnic table outside, cleaned up, and headed back to the University.

In case you haven't been keeping precise score: time to relax and reflect + good food + a little girl to play with + being surrounded by people who think and question + poetry readings + singing + prayer + amazing conversations + exploring the countryside + sitting by the fire + plenty of dishes to wash + a weekend of simple but devoted focus on God + lots of laughter + getting to know people one on one + incredible insights shared + playing in the outdoors + freedom of schedule and activity + a group of amazing, kind, loving people living together in harmony = just about the most ideal situation I can imagine. So when I say I could have spent a year there, at least, you can believe I'm not exagerrating in the slightest.

Hope that all gives you at least an idea of what the weekend was like. For a more visual representation, you can click over to My Photos for some pictorial documentation.

I wish each of you the opportunity to experience the conjunction of so many of your own personal sources of profound joy sometime in the near future. Thank you for being the loved ones for whom I thank God every day.

1 Comments:

Blogger Knightley said...

What else do I need to know other than it is called Nuthurst! Nuthurst!! Good poetry selection. Throw in some wood-splitting and an invitation for me to come--which apparently was overlooked--and I'd agree that it sounds like the perfect weekend/life. Now I'll go view the pix. -c

12:05 AM  

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