Thursday 28 May 2020

An Afternoon Outdoors

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit an extensive walled garden very near our home. As we have passed it many times during the lockdown, I have often longed to go in. We first visited it together eleven years ago, so I feel very nostalgic about it. It's a good place to walk about and remember what I am doing in Scotland and why.

It is usually empty when we visit, and this time was no exception, except for the gardeners.  One suggested I look for the kingfisher down by the pond. I didn't find a kingfisher, but a large white heron rose into the air at my approach and flew from tree to tree in the near distance, shouting "Grak! Grak!" A more tolerant jackdaw stood on the opposite side of the pond, eating tadpoles. 

The greenhouses, full of impatiens, geraniums and pelargoniums, were positively toasty. 

Afterwards we walked to the high street by way of a local park. I have never been in this park before, so I was amazed to see an aviary. I didn't think public collections of birds still existed, but there they were: finches, cockatoos, and other bright creatures. They clung to the wire netting or to perches in their giant boxes. They looked healthy; I don't know about birds to guess if they are happy or not.  They are certainly in no danger of being eaten by birds of prey. 

Our next port of call was our very nearest farm shop, and we had an adventure getting there, as we missed the appropriate now-only-one-an-hour bus. We took another bus and walked through country trails and roads to get to it before it closed. The sun poured down, and the green fields smiled, and we agreed that our county is beautiful, beautiful. 

In the end I broke into a run to get to the farm shop before it closed, which probably would have looked funny had there been anyone but B.A. around to see it. We enriched the local business by £10, and then we sat on a wooden pallet to rest and eat organic chocolate. The farm--really a market garden with some sheep and chickens--was pleasant to look at, and I was delighted to see an "Eglu" in real life, not just online. 

We walked to a stop pertaining to the now-once-an-hour-bus, meandering through the trails on an ancient estate, admiring all the woodland ferns and flowers, and the work horses, riding horses and shaggy ponies in adjoining paddocks. One of the clear advantages to life in east coast Scotland over life in Toronto is that the countryside is so near by the cities. The cities here don't just go on and on and on, covering farmland with concrete, box stores and ticky tacky houses. 

That said, there are some horrid-looking new settlements crouched here and there among the grain and vegetable fields; we do our best to avoid looking at them on our walks. 

It was my monthly professional development day, so I was meant to be thinking, praying or reading about work. Were it not for the lockdown, I would have gone to Mass and then confession and/or spiritual direction, perhaps written to nuns or children about my work, or read something philosophical about work. 

My work has many challenges, which include trying to convince people who don't want their names associated with my organisation to trust me enough to give me statements. It also involves constantly bathing my brain in social, theological or philosophical horrors, presented by other news agencies in attention-gripping ways. It involves sorting out fact from opinion, real injustice from conspiracy theories, and striving to give the people I'm asked to write about a fair hearing. It also involves writing a story broken by another agency on Monday in a fresh, new way for Tuesday, without either committing plagiarism or writing "According to" seven times. 

I was appalled when I  discovered that one of my writing pupils thought that correct newspaper writing involved a flippant, slapdash tone, using short forms when ever possible, substituting "Bro" for "Brother," for example. However, newspapers are no longer a given in family homes, and it is possible he got this impression from novels.  It might be a good idea to buy a number of newspapers and cut out their articles on a given topic, so my pupils can see how each newspaper approaches the story in their own way. This will take some thinking: obviously my students' young minds must not be poisoned by contemplating the irregular love lives of epidemiologists. 

Another difficulty is spiritual. It is harrowing, as a Catholic, to second-guess bishops all the time. I sometimes doubt if certain bishops believe in Catholicism, but I do. One aspect of Catholicism is respect for the office of the bishop and, except in extreme circumstances, respect for the person of the bishop himself. Integralism points out that authority comes from above, and that St. Paul counselled Christians to be obedient to even their pagan masters. ("Obedience" and "pagans" should be in the Index, by the way.) How much harder, then, should we pray before reporting on bishops even as outrageous as the ones I am thinking of at this moment.  

I once knew a very good, very loving priest who used to get a laugh from his adoring congregation by poking fun at his bishop. I knew instinctively he was wrong, but I wasn't sure why until I started taking theology classes. He was wrong because he was the extension of our bishop. The chair he sat in was not his but his bishop's chair. 

Yes, we are in a terrible time, and yes, the mainstream media has woken us up from our long, complicit sleep. But when between them the heritage Catholic press and the alt Catholic press has destroyed Catholics' faith in every bishop, what then? 

And these are the kind of thoughts I had on my professional development day.

Gardening update: I thinned out the radishes a little yesterday evening, and we ate the thinnings at dinner. They were delicious.

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