'A gauntlet with a gift in 't.'


‘God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers, 
And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face, 
A gauntlet with a gift in 't.’ 

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

I think we’d all agree that we are in challenging times. I remembered this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning the other day and it seems to me that there is a gift in this gauntlet. God has often answered my prayers in a challenging way, but there is always a gift hidden in the challenge. 'God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.'
I’ve heard it said that ‘this virus writes its own rules,’ and it remains to be seen how long our ‘quarantine’ continues and whether it becomes more rigid. That’s out of our control but regardless of the outcome, each situation we find ourselves in will have its own challenge, and in some measure, its own gift.
A couple of nights ago we had our ‘Mum Culture’ evening via Zoom instead of our usual get together at my home. The topic had already been picked some time ago: Habits. But as I thought about the topic, I realised that we have an ideal time to work on some of those habits we’ve let slide or those that we need to put in place. When we have full days with lots of outside commitments good habits are easy to break and harder to form. Habit is a good servant but a bad master. Like fire in some aspects. When we’re home for large portions of time it becomes obvious when we’ve let things slip. We get to see the gaps more clearly. So this is an ideal opportunity to work on the important little things that we otherwise may overlook. I’ve been trying to find the gifts in this challenge I've had thrust upon me; to look with fresh eyes at our everyday lives.
  • Moozle usually swims three or four times a week so instead of dropping her off at the pool we’ve been having a good walk together or she’s ridden her bike while I walk/jogged. She had her cello lesson via Skype with her teacher the other day and we have FaceTime with her niece and nephew so they don’t forget us!
  • We’ve set up the sewing machine in the garage because my husband has taken over the kitchen/dining room for work and we’ve started a quilt for her older brother.
  • I had to order some fabric online, which I’d never done before. It wasn’t quite the same as it looked online but it’s fine.
  • I’ve been in phone contact with a whole lot of friends I haven’t talked to in a while and we’ve checked in via Skype with my relatives in Scotland a few times.
  • I’ve almost finished ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ which I’m reading in tandem with my daughter-in-law & checking in with each other on our progress. There is something about this book that is restorative and calming. Frodo faces extreme danger throughout but is always rescued, gets up and goes on, even in the face of his great fear and the unknown of what is ahead.
When life gets back to normal, or non-lockdown, we hope to watch the movies together. I’ve purposelessly not viewed them as I wanted to read the books first. Looks like I’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that!
Having said that, I don’t feel like I’ve got any more time now than I did before everything shut down. I just have different opportunities. I don't want to look back on this time and feel that I've wasted any of them.


Opportunity

This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:—
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes. 

A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel—
That blue blade that the king's son bears,— but this
Blunt thing—!" He snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field. 

Then came the king's son, wounded sore bested,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

Edward Roland Sill (1841-1887)


Rainbow Lorikeets on the Birdfeeder


Kookaburra Interrupting our Lesson on the Verandah


Something we've had the opportunity to concentrated more time on is writing poems. Moozle wrote this after spending some time listening and watching outside in the garden:

My Home

Nestled in the side of a valley,
Tucked up a long driveway,
It met the eye as you walked up the ascent
Shadows lying in their vague way
Across the pebbles,
An avenue of trees and bushes
Leading to the house.
Weather beaten, brown brick
Piled on top of brown brick,
Trees arching their backs to the
Miracle of light above.
A wilderness of beauty
Wrought with a divine hand,
Surrounding man’s creation.
Imperfect, yet perfect,
It lay there placidly.
Beauty was in the eye of the beholder –
But I considered it beautiful.
The furthest city light
Not far for the seeking,
But still it was peaceful,
Untouched, a piece of paradise
In the suburban world.
It was said of the house
That it was unfinished,
Wrong, the hand of the designer
 Had slipped in his work.
The verandah was massive,
A table, turned grey
By the wind and the rain,
Crowning the centre.
 It was a thing of rough beauty,
I thought, with the
Flashes of colour made by
The flowers in the middle,
The pots staining the shadows
With white and orange clay.
Truly we take our possessions for granted.
Visitors marvel at
The beauty of the surroundings,
The dwellers say,
‘The gardens are untenanted,’
Left except for an occasional sprinkle of care.
But that is the beauty of it,
An unfinished work of art.
 The first brush of orange,
As the sun slips down the sky,
Skidding out of sight,
Only held in place by
An invisible string, controlled
By some unseen hand.
Night wings over,
Blackness settling down
Gently upon the earth,
Shrouding the home in darkness.
A myriad of lights,
Bright shining in the dark,
And a round circle
Where the moon beams down
Kindly upon the humans
That inhabit the earth.
The moon like a pock-marked diamond,
Rough-hewn from stone.
From the rising of the dawn,
To the putting out of the sun,
From maze of stars,
To spume of suns,
An unfathomable mine
Of never-failing skill.
The clouds straddling the sky,
Like cloths of heaven,
Left out to dry.
A swashbuckling bee
With stripes of terracotta,
Zooming in among the flowers,
Gathering its life-giving dust.
Surrounded by countless trees
And miracles of colour,
A work of art
Encircling a house.
No, it was not a house,
It is my home.

I often think of my online friends in your different parts of the world and it always brightens my day when I hear from any of my readers.




Comments

Brian Joseph said…
This is truly a time when everything is turned in its head. Hopefully this situation will pass within a couple of months.

I agree that the entire Lord of the Rings story can be restorative. When I think about it I guess I have felt that way from the first time that I read it in my late teens.

Stay safe and healthy.
Oooooh! I like Moozle's poem.

And your comments about habits are valid. I'm so grateful for our good habits because we've been at peace and thriving through all of the changes. I've been pondering other habits to work on while we're home and don't have our usual interruptions.

I wish you all well!
mudpuddle said…
i've wondered what a kookaburra looked like... tx!
Lark said…
Those parakeets are gorgeous. And that kookaburra! I'd love to see one of those someday. And I love that idea that there's a gift in every challenge. Thanks for this post! :)
Sharon Wilfong said…
Well, I see visiting your blog answered my question that I asked you on my blog. It's OK for your daughter to still be swimming?

Those photographs! The Kookaburra and Lorikeets. Sooooo beautiufl.

Finally, your daughter really wrote that poem? She needs to be published.
Ruthiella said…
Your Moozle is wonderfully talented. Please let her know how impressed I am!

I recognized the Kookaburra right away though I've never been to Australia. We used to sing a song about it (Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree) when I was a child.

It is wonderful to hear how you are making the most of the situation at hand and seeing the silver lining. I wish you and yours health and happiness during these strange days.
Carol said…
You too, Brian.
Carol said…
Thanks Anne. Take care. X
Carol said…
Hi Mudpuddle, they're ubiquitous here. I think you have kingfishers?? Kookaburras are in that class.
Carol said…
We have beautiful birds here, Lark, but they usually sound atrocious!
Carol said…
Hi Sharon, I couldn't find where you'd asked me that question on your blog. The pools were shut down at the beginning of the last week of March. She's found her niche with poetry - the rhyming form eluded her but she loves the free form type & is enjoying herself with it.
Carol said…
Thanks, Ruthiella, that will encourage her. We used to sing that song at school. I'm surprised that it's known on the other side of the world. Thanks for your kind words & all the best to you as well.
Laura Jeanne said…
Warm greetings from Canada. :)

Yes, I find the Lord of the Rings calming and encouraging too, because in the end Good triumphs over Evil and all is as it should be.

I think it's good that you are reading the books first, because although I do enjoy the movies and watch them from time to time with my children, they cannot hold a candle to the books in my opinion. The movies are well done and very nice visually--the musical score is also beautiful--but what I really love about Tolkien is the richness of his language, especially in his descriptive passages, and that obviously does not translate well to the medium of cinema.
Carol said…
Thank you, Laura Jeanne! I hope everything is going well for you & your family in your part of the world. Tolkien’s language is wonderful. I think the musical scores to the movies represent the books well. 🙂
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