Is this a dream

 Posted by at 12:58 pm  OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Apr 072009

To wake from one sort of dream into another; a sense of everything that had been solid was now demonstrating how easy it is to become fluid waves of energy. At three thirty this morning (Monday 6 April) the effects from an earthquake 70 miles north of Rome made themselves felt. For those few seconds – was it half a minute? – there was terror and a radical ignorance/indecisiveness. I could hear doors opening and closing, voices in the corridor but I stayed where I was, in bed, in the dark, waiting. At what point would I have made a late dash for the world outside? But if the building were to collapse, I was thinking, where would the best place to be? Was it safe anywhere? Though I wished for an immediate transfer to Totnes I also had to accept that it was an unlikely outcome. The weird movements of the building diminished, subsided and were no more. It was probably an hour or two before I returned to sleep. When I woke with the alarm I had such a struggle to persuade myself to get up that I forgot all about 'the dream' until a little later in the sacristy when somebody asked me, ' did you . . . ?' and then the news was being passed around, mostly in whispers because we're still in silent retreat mode, of an earthquake somewhere north of Rome and there were dead . . . Shock, gratitude, what can I do to help . . .

Letter From Rome

 Posted by at 3:39 pm  ON the STREET  Comments Off
Apr 032009




The essay that’s due tomorrow is
finished except for a final brief read through before printing it out. I keep
telling myself that a better plan would be to finish the first draft a week
before the deadline so at least there’s a week for reflection and changes, but
no, there are always other things to distract me sufficiently before getting
down to it.

I’m sitting in the Giardino degli
Aranci – a very appropriate name as the garden is full of orange trees – on the
Aventine hill next to Santa Sabina church. Timothy Radcliffe, the Dominican,
mentions Santa Sabina, in his recent book, Why go to Church? as his favourite church. He writes, ‘It was being
built when St Augustine died, after the sack of Rome by the Vandals, and was
finished in 432.’

Oranges like gleaming jewels
amongst the dark foliage, oranges lying in the grass and beneath the trees
there’s a group of eight or ten senior citizens from the US of A about to
depart the garden on their (What are they called? They must have a name?)
battery-driven modes of transport with two parallel wheels and a platform
between the wheels on which the passenger/driver stands. There’s a vertical
“broomstick” topped with a handlebar by which they steer, stop and start. The
seniors all have identical blue crash helmets and are led by two young and
rather glamorous Italians who walk fast to keep up with their speeding-off

Looking out over the city I
notice that I can almost take in (without moving head or eyes) the distance
from the dome of St Peter’s to Il Vittoriano, the massive slab of white marble,
topped with chariots and galloping horses. According to the Lonely Planet
guide, it’s known locally as ‘the typewriter’ and if you picture one of those
massive typewriters from the first half of the twentieth century then it’s a
very accurate image. They are two massive edifices representing two sorts of
power; the secular power of the new Italian nation facing the ancient holy
power of the Vatican. It was to be sixty years of facing each other before an
understanding was thrashed out between the Vatican and the fascist government.

I’m also watching the clouds
building up and wondering when and how heavy the rain will be, and the answer
turns out to be half an hour by which time I’ve walked on and into the maze of
Trastevere where I duck into the Almost Corner Bookshop.  It’s a tiny, old-fashioned sort of
bookshop from before the time of Waterstones; an English bookshop that’s been
serving the needs of the English-reading population of Rome for the last
seventeen years.

This letter started on Sunday and
finished on Thursday! Now we have a break from classes; a week of retreat and
then into Easter; one of those shifts in the heavens. There’s a Happy Easter to
say, though it doesn’t quite get to the power of the event; the lightness in
the phrase that rather suggests mixing up Easter bunnies and the Passion.