Postcards Home

This afternoon I got a postcard … from myself.

About seven weeks ago, I was embarking on the four days of heady alternative reality that was Greenbelt 2011. The good folk of the Feig community based at Gloucester Cathedral held a Communion service in the midst of a lavish feast for what looked like about 200 of the contributors on the Thursday night prior to the start of the festival.

It was special… for me, there was a strange circularity about being in Gloucester Cathedral for the second time in my life. The first time I was there was nearly 20 years ago as part of a primary school residential trip, many miles away from my home in the Thames Valley – probably the first time I had been away from my parentals for more than a couple of nights. I saw the shadow of my thirteen year-old self admiring the cloisters, innocently unaware that life would bring me back there two decades later as a very much more grown person who was wondering (as I often do) what happened to the little boy in me.

These were the things turning over in my mind as I broke bread with many others I had never met before, that night. As part of the service, we were encouraged to choose one from the hundreds of postcards scattered about the interior of the Cathedral where the hard pews had been stripped away to restore it to its original medieval awe-spaciousness. We then wrote on the cards and addressed them to ourselves and “posted” them. I was delighted to come across a fragment of a favourite artist: Breughel.

Wedding Feast (detail) from P. Breughel the Younger (1564-1638)

Of course, for me, it is a picture of heaven/home – a place that has very much been on my mind as since a recent post from This | Liminality stirred my thoughts again on the matter and meaning of “Home”. But here is what I wrote to myself:

Hey, Seymour, I just want to say two things. Firstly, take some time to really look at this picture and notice the detail. Those guys are using a door to carry food! And check out the dog! I think you’ll like this – you should be the guy with the spoon in his hat – he’s giving it away but he’s ready to enjoy some of it himself, too. Secondly, that openess and laughter you had inside you this morning … I just want to remind you that where that came from was real. Don’t lose that :-)

Yes, my eye was drawn to the chap with a spoon in his hat. He reminded me of a couple of lines from Mevlana:

“The people here want to put me in charge. They want me to be judge, magistrate, and interpreter of all the texts. The knowing I have doesn’t want that.  It wants to enjoy itself. I am a plantation of sugarcane, and at the same time I’m eating the sweetness.” (Tr. Coleman Barks)

Scientists demonstrate that when a string of certain length is sounded in the vicinity of other strings of differing lengths, all those strings that are the same length or other specific mathematical variations in length will begin to vibrate in harmony. This is a picture that plays a very full chord for me as I look at it afresh today. The people who, in my experience, give the most life to others are those who really know how to enjoy its sweetness themselves.

From the nobleman on the right to the cardinal on the left, the dog under the table, the cook, the bride, everyone is welcome. Let’s tear the doors off, bake bread and stir lentils until we are truly home!

To anyone at Feig who reads this: “thank you”, from the bottom of my heart.

To myself: send yourself a postcard every once in a while …

To everyone else: Which of these revellers are you?

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2 Responses

  1. Tear the doors off, bake bread, and stir lentils…the way home. Love that. There’s the ordinariness of a meal, but lived with deep tones of celebration, living life to its fullest. It reminds me of a song lyric (from Jason Gray): “I want to live like there’s no tomorrow, love like I’m on borrowed time. It’s good to be alive.”

    The woman sitting just left of center…she captures my eye. She’s there, but not fully engaged…at least not the way others might be. Then there’s the man at the far left who has thrown himself quite fully into the festivities. I find them both in myself…though I’d like to live somewhere between the two…

    • She seems to present some sense of serenity in the midst of everything. I think she might, in fact, be the bride. The other fellow you notice is thought by some to be the groom – two sides of the same person, indeed … perhaps.

      According to this article, which I only just discovered,
      http://suzannehill.suite101.com/meaning_in_peasant_wedding_feast-a163883 the spoon in the hat denotes “poverty” and identifies the wearer as somebody who travels a lot to find work as he has no land of his own. Hmmm … yeah …

      This picture must be a copy done by the younger Breughel of one of his father’s most famous paintings and there are some subtle yet quite significant differences in his version.

      I think the original by the elder is this one here: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/bruegel/wedding.jpg

      The more I look into the symbolism here the more it fascinates me.

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