Monthly Archives: September 2011

and all angels

Even I sometimes admire angels more conventional than my beloved scaly angry dragon Michael. Here is Nathaniel Westlake’s take on the Angel of Evening. Oh the wings, the feathers!

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How Michael Became – a fairy story for grown-ups.


You think angels have it easy, don’t you (yes, I can indeed see right through you). Humans all over, they always think they have it hard, and somebody else has it easy. You think because we are not born, we have nothing to do except obey God and enjoy being who we are – no struggles. It is not that simple. We don’t grow up, but then we don’t have others devoted to our care, helping us grow. No, instead we have to become. Become. Yes, it is a process of finding out our direction and becoming more like ourselves. For some it is relatively easy (the Thrones took to it like a sphinx to the desert) but for others it is terribly hard. It was for me.
And you are also thinking I don’t look much like an angel. You would like me to look all white and shiny with feather wings. It puts you off that I am scaly and my wings are leather, and you have totally missed the lovely colour I have painted my toe-nails. I don’t blame you. I too struggled with how I looked at first. I tried changing you know, but each time I took my mind off it, my shape drifted back to this.
I was lying on a sunny bank, warming up nicely (like all in reptile form I am very fond of the sun) when another angel came up, and he looked just like the picture you have in your head of an angel. Light-bearer- and now he looked it. He was carrying a spear, and looking – well just amazing. I groaned, and turned over and shut my eyes. ‘Hi, Michael’ he said, ‘Like it? I’ve taken the look from God’s latest little project, out in Time. He is all over them. Human people. Kind of – well, pretty but a bit feeble, I think. But definitely the in thing. Um, I’m saying no more but there are changes afoot, and I’m keeping up with it – in with the in crowd.’
I groaned again. ‘You want to change yourself,’ said Light-bearer, ‘You want to get on with Becoming and Become something more appealing. Look, join me, go a light pink or something. I mean, don’t want two of us white.’ I strained a bit, and got my wings to go a kind of pinky-red. It was easier to go along with him anyhow. ‘Pathetic,’ he said, ’but it is a start. Let’s get ourselves down to Earth and have some fun. We will go looking like a kind of souped-up human, and … Start off praising God, and then get it kind-of twisted. Lead them quietly but gently astray. Not too far, not too far, oh stop looking so worried. Nothing really bad. Just kind of show up the flaws – have a bit of fun, look good in comparison, that kind of thing, you know.’
‘You don’t think it is a bit, well, I dunno,’ I said, lamely. I could hear my reply was lacking all conviction. I thought sadly that I simply could not learn to argue my case.
‘Och, no. Nothing really bad. Just get them kind of… Look – look down at them.’
I did. I peered out into the sphere of Time, and looked down. There were these kind of browny little things, all long arms and legs waving around. They looked so vulnerable. I saw them working away, making up a fire. The children looked more like little bundles of dry grass than beings full of the Spirit and beloved by God. Even they were running around doing useful things. I felt a great sense of compassion for them. I wanted to help. As I watched, one of them got too close to the fire, and her little hand caught in it, and she cried out. Her mother came running, swept up the child, and they wept together. Then another older one came, the grandmother I think, and she found cool water and the poorly hand was put in it. I was so totally caught up in the drama I had blanked out Light-bearer. I resurfaced in Eternity to hear him saying: ‘That fire thing – really that is the kind of thing it would be good to have fun with. Teach them that putting a hand in it is the kind of thing God would like. Get them all burning a little, I think. Teach them to enjoy getting children to burn themselves. Maybe move on from there, get them believing they would be better getting others to …’
I felt sick. I felt something I had never felt before. Something hot came into my stomach. It was terrifying. I looked at Light-bearer and I felt, I felt … I looked at him and I said: ‘How could you, how could you? Those little people. The kindness in them, the care. How could you take that and twist it? How could you think of taking their love of God and using it to hurt them?’
‘Oh, don’t be such a prig,’ said Light-bearer, ‘You really are no fun. You look like a twisted-up idea of a monster, and you are getting –you are angry aren’t you?’ He was standing beside me, and he was poking me with his stick to emphasise the point. Prod. Prod. Each prod landed in my stomach, and it added to the peculiar feeling in it. He went on: ‘You are getting angry, which I am sure is something God disapproves of. And all over a bit of fun. It would be good to see them burn each other. It would only hurt them for a bit. And I could teach them other things, too, they are so so gullible, I could make them believe that God only wanted the males to…’
Suddenly I knew that the feeling in my stomach was fire. ‘I’m off to get on with it,’ said Lucifer, Light-bearer, ‘Coming?’ The feeling inside me was terrifying and it was good at the same time. I drew myself up to my full size. My wings glowed red, and I turned to him, and I cried out in a loud voice: ‘You pathetic evil worm. How dare you? How could you? There is no place here for people who would take God’s little Earth and make it a place full of fear and misery and misunderstanding and deceit. Everything is hard enough anyhow for humans. Let them at least keep honesty, and let them too learn how to become what they really are.’
‘Oh, you stuck-up, self-regarding …’ started Lucifer, and then I turned and roared and out of my mouth came a stream of fire, and Lucifer, in terror, turned and flashed out of Heaven, tumbling down.
And I stood horror-struck, until a quiet voice came: ‘Who is like God? In your love and anger, you are like God. Well done, Michael. You have Become. Let human people keep love and honesty, and let them Become who they are.’
And if you look in some churches you can see pictures of me and Lucifer. But they will make them pictures of Lucifer prodding me, the moment before I Became, and I am not always sure that the humans quite understand.

A tale of two farms

The other night I dined like a monarch on a chanterelle omelette, something I thought never to eat again when I moved here. Chanterelles are among the finest of wild mushrooms, and the come up during the first wet weather of autumn. They do not grown on what used to be the land of this farm, but on the quite different land, a quarter of a mile away, which used to belong to the neighbouring farm. There the edges of the fields still bear rich traces of the biodiversity which it used to enjoy before it was overwhelmed with sheep. There are still double field boundaries, too, where the two farms were divided.

On the other farm, there are still orchids in summer, and violets in spring, and vast swathes of marsh marigolds. Now in the autumn, there are wonderful fungus, so many that despite a fine book on them, I simply do not have the spare time to identify all of them. There are a few field mushrooms, and some boletus of staggering size, closer to a serving dish than a dinner plate. There are the striking and unmistakable fly agaric.

On my land, where I would so welcome something striking, the only interesting thing is mace reed. The thing which amazes me is that the boundary is very sharp. There is a ruined gateway between the two farms, and a fence. Below there is great richness – above almost total sterility. Three good paces and one is in a different world.