Birds in the wilderness

Two years ago I was packing up to move house. I have to admit I found it grim. My one really happy memory of all that time was the farewell communion and party in my old house. One reading I chose takes the people of Israel out of Egypt. The reading which had often fallen to me on Maundy Thursday when I was Rector’s Warden, and other times when the priest would respond to my unspoken: ‘Pick me! Oh, pick me!’ I so love that reading.

‘This is how you will eat the feast – hurriedly, dressed for the journey.’

And we ate, with me ready to leave, with the packing cases around us.

I had thought of that Pass Over as taking me to the Promised Land,

More immediately, I thought it was taking me to a house I had no liking for, in a locality with which I had fallen in love, with space enough for all the livestock. It turned out the space was not there – instead of buying the ten acres I had been offered, there were less than four. Not enough. So I came here, to East Ayrshire instead.

And of course, the Pass Over did not take me to the Promised Land – it took me to the wilderness. Because that is where passovers take one. It took a series of comments on essays by a most insightful colleague to teach me that – I doubt he knows how much I owe him.

So here I have been sitting (like a bird in the wilderness, in the old song) trying to do wilderness as well as I possibly can. Beyond doubt it has made great changes in me. I am not sure I am yet able to articulate all of those in a public environment. And I no longer preach, so am not driven to dig the exegesis therapeutically, and pelican-like, from my own breast. (One of the sadder aspects of my particular wilderness, that.)

But one happy change I can note.

Once again I am packing and moving boxes, for the ground floor of the new home is about to start on its big adventure of renovation. Packing some boxes, and barrowing far, far more (ones I prudently left packed) into the old milking parlour, is tiring and boring. But this time I occasionally find old treasures, buried, as I peek in boxes. And I am looking forward, really joyfully, to having a clean warm dry decent home for the first time in two years.


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