Only a few weeks ago I went out for a late winter walk and was inspired to write about that afternoon which can be read on this blog here. This week with the sun shining, I decided that rather than go to the gym for an hour on the treadmill I would walk along the River Trent around the Washlands of Burton.
Leaving the shoppers behind and crossing into the water meadows that divide Burton from the suburbs of Stapenhill and Winshill, I was immediately almost entirely alone, with the songs of blackbird and thrush and the occasional clattering voice of a jackdaw; high above the sound of small plane headed who knows where.
I arrived, after a few minutes, at one of the many side streams that flow through the meadows, all of them leaving then rejoining the Trent as it weaves leisurely past the town, which these days is almost oblivious of its presence. I stopped at a narrow footbridge to gaze down into the waters and was captured at once by the sight of submerged reeds and grasses that lay in the current, swaying and dancing in the stream, glinting and sparkling in the afternoon sun.
A coppice of willows stood close by, branches reaching down towards the water, and my thoughts immediately went to the many biblical references of riverbanks and spiritual refreshment, not least Psalm 23. But then my gaze came back to the water itself and the reeds streaming out like locks of hair, just beneath the surface.
This too spoke to me, but in a way that connected to a conversation that took place at our Life Group some weeks ago. We were discussing the phrase in Philippians Chapter 1 “To live is Christ” and how we might understand it. During that discussion my namesake Martin* paraphrased the founder of “Taize”, Brother Roger, who when speaking about the celebration of communion said “We should not think of having communion WITH Christ but rather that communion IS Christ”
The reeds were not simply beside the river, they were as one with it, not drowning but thriving, their very essence dependent on their continued union with the slow-flowing, life-giving water.
I continued my walk for another 3 miles or so, with this thought turning over in my mind, and this week’s poem seeks to capture that “stream” of reflection.
Reeds and River
Deep calls to deep
As reeds in river sway
With every curl and eddy
In water’s flowing;
Like green ribbons
In blondest hair,
Or high clouds passing
On a summer’s afternoon,
Carried on the lofty breath
That sweeps across the world
In never ended singing.
Reed and river
Each within the other
As Christ indwells,
And we His fractured image bearers
Each in turn disclose,
The Maker of eternity.
As rivers flow to gather all as one,
So too do we,
In deepest final harmony.
(c) Martin Wild 2018
*with thanks to Martin Trivasse