I SPEND SOME time in the country, circumstances permitting.
In the past I have seldom been alone there for long, having a large circle of friends and aquaintances and (for these days) a huge family. But recently I was there alone for six weeks. A strange sensation kept creeping over me which I found hard to recognise, let alone describe. "Can this be peace?" I asked myself. Could it possibly be happiness? I do believe it was.
Now I must explain that we have been going through hard times. Nothing that I feel I can complain about unduly in this tragic world, but no fun. Loss and sorrow compounded by legal complexities can wear you down until you accept a constant unhappiness and anxiety as the norm. All too frequently they can be, but they are not inevitable.
Once you could go into any Catholic church and kneel down in front of 'The Blessed Sacrament in the extraordinary peace that used to prevail before the dreaded re-ordering, but now you have to go a long way to find such a church.
If the modern church is not locked it's either reminiscent of a bit of airport lounge, or there are people usually women bustling about, doing things, and there is not a hint of holiness or consolation in the ambience. You can neither pray nor weep quietly in such an atmospere, and if you are unlucky, some busy body may offer to counsel you. You can be lonely but you can't be alone.
I am not one for seeing angels in trees any more than water sprites in ditches or goddesses in coppices, but there is a presence in the valley: S trangers remark on it. Sometimes it becomes clear that there are peope who fear it, and there are few things more disconcerting than being asked by a local how you dare be there alone in the night time. What you enquire are you trying to tell me? They grow evasive and say merely that nothing would persuade them to be in my shoes.
Just as alarming, if not more so, are those who say, with an appearance of great courage, that they are not frightened, and have often come up to the house, even in the dark, to check out the water and see to the electric ity. You do not like to dispar age their bravery but you wonder what they have it mind. It seems insensitive an rather a put-down t announce that, as far as you'r concerned, you couldn't fet safer in the Cathedral a Chartres.
Dreadful deeds were don in the valley in the distan past, but the bones of saint lie near the bones of sinner and their goodness ha triumphed over evil; over jeal ousy and greed and bloo. lust. The stillness in the valle is implicit with sanctity an there is no lurking sense c horror in the silence. Man centuries ago paganism wa overcome by sanctity and n matter what nastinesses wer perpetrated by those ancient who relied on human sacr: flee to make things tick owl they have long been ovei come, redeemed. The anima still behave in their animi ways, but that's animals fc you. They don't know an better.
The vicar's wife, or raths widow, for her dear hush an was the next to go after min into the graveyard, is soms times plagued by feminist and circle dancers who war to play out their curiou fantasies around the ol church, but she sees them o with a flea in their ear.
She is the keeper of th shrine and a far more ortht dox Catholic (if she'll forgis me saying so) than many wh lay claim to the term, and wh I will not name because they' sue me. t