Photos by Candia Dixon-Stuart
acacia, Adonai, auto-combustion, boscage, Brexit, burning bush, Church Green, Cotswolds, Crateagus, David Cameron Witney, Desolation, Dieric Bouts, hawthorn, Highgrove, I Am Who I Am, Israelites, kohl, Michael Portillo, Midian, Milton, Mindfulness, Moses, pastures new, pillar of fire, Prince Charles, Renaissance Man, SamCam, sestina, Shekinah, Sir Philip Sidney, smoking flax, St Catherine's Monastery, St George and Dragon Dragon Hill, U A Fanthorpe, UKIP, Waitrose
Hope you are not inundated in the South. Read about all the flooding,
power cuts and trees coming down.
Yes, I like being in The Cotswolds. Might bump into David
Cameron in Waitrose at Witney. Recognised Church Green the other
day as his backdrop, when he was telling the world that he was giving
up as an MP.
Remembered the shock (some years ago) of seeing a photo in The
Financial Times of Michael Portillo, posing on the bridge at the end of
my garden in Suttonford. I think he must have been visiting his
associate, George, who lived nearby.
Well, I needn’t fret: I am evidently still at the centre of global events.
Mind you, sometimes taking early retirement and leaving your old pals
for pastures new (ghastly euphemism pinched and abused from Milton,
who employed it freshly) can be a bit daunting. That’s why it was
wonderful to come across a veritable burning bush of hawthorn berries
above Dragon Hill – you know, where St George allegedly slew the dragon.
I kept thinking of U. A. Fanthorpe and her witty, GCSE anthology-
endorsed poem on that subject.
I was compelled to approach this crimson phenomenon as it was so
vibrant and it reminded me of Moses and his encounter with verbal,
auto-combustible branches of boscage.
I wondered what it might say to me and checked on the original tale.
So, Moses was over 40 years old and no longer a bigwig. Instead he was
caring for his father-in-law’s sheep, which did not exactly utilise his
expensive Midian education. (I suppose he might have been having a
crisis, like David Cameron after loss of power. But I don’t think SamCam
would like Dave taking to pastoral studies unless she got a discount on
wool for her new fashion line.)
I wonder if Moses’ wife still wore her kohl in the backside of the desert?
Or had she already been yummy-mummified by then?
However, the encouraging thing is that, in a moment of paying
attention – I’m not going to say ‘mindfulness‘ – Moses was called to
a new commission, namely to be leader of the Israelites, as they were
to be delivered from slavery.
So, Brassie, what do you think I did?
No, I didn’t apply for leadership of UKIP, or any other party,
hoping to take my people through the wasteland of Brexit…
No, I wrote another sestina on the epiphanal moment when I
realised that I am not past it. I mean, I knew it, but I had not felt it
in recent days.
My friends who were staying with me had just been to Highgrove,
where it has been suggested Prince Charles talks to plants, so people
may accept, that, in a way, a bush spoke to me yesterday. and said
something like, Fool, look in thy heart and write!
(Okay, so I know I am appropriating Philip Sidney, but it was a poetic
moment and who better to prompt you to get on and do something with
your life than the original Renaissance Man?)
It was in the news yesterday that trees communicate with one another
and, in Fanthorpe’s poem, the dragon speaks, so, suspend your disbelief,
Here’s the poem inspired by a communicative Crataegus, namely the
humble hawthorn, except that it was an acacia in the case of Moses
and they have the original (they allege) at St Catherine’s Monastery:
The Burning Bush Speaks
So, how was I to get his attention?
Ah yes, an acacia bush on fire-
though plenty self-ignite and are destroyed,
he’ll notice that I actually sustain
and it is not consumed. Thus I will speak:
that ought to alert him to my presence.
He feels that he no longer has presence.
The world has ceased to pay him attention
as he minds in-laws’ sheep, over a fire
on Desolation Mountain, so to speak.
It’s not an activity to sustain
a man’s confidence, which has been destroyed.
A Midian education, doubt-destroyed;
his eyes blinded to Shekinah presence-
he has to be convinced that I sustain.
He is not paying me due attention;
the smoking flax is no longer on fire.
Moses! Can he believe a bush will speak?
He cautiously approaches tongues of fire.
Confidence that had been all but destroyed
re-ignites, as I re-assure him, speak
my name: I Am Who I Am (The Presence)
and creator of all hope. I sustain
the universe. The Egyptians I sustain.
The Israelites I will refine with fire
and, in order to gain his attention,
I’ll speak to him from something not destroyed
by elemental powers. My presence
is going to give him confidence to speak.
I have a message; words for him to speak
and laws which I will give him to sustain
my people. He will convey my presence;
cause them to follow my pillar of fire;
ensure that other gods are all destroyed.
Now, Moses, I need your full attention:
Speak! For the Egyptians will be destroyed.
Sustain your attention. Heed my presence.
The fire of Adonai will burn in you.
(Image: Dieric Bouts)