27th June 2014.
The day dawns in a minor key, rain patters at my window, seagulls wheel over the tiled roof domes, pricks of moving brightness in the sun shafts that pierce the charcoal and leaden skies. This morning I can lie in bed until breakfast, I am weary, achievement is so fatiguing...
This attic floor of pilgrims is a distant world of its own, far removed from the ‘real’ life below. I feel I’m in Gormenghast without the white cats for company. Gone are the days of waking in the clothes of after-shower-yesterday, pinning the damp spare pair of socks to the mochila, collecting staff and hat, anointing and swaddling feet to paddle to the boot rack, all in silence, walking out into another new morning, the first yellow arrow a ray of welcome, and off I go.
I amuse myself by reading some of my Camino diaries, now two of them; laugh again at some of the many moments of humour, flip to the photos I have glued in the back of each of them before leaving for the Camino, reflect on the people: Father Bede with HH Darling Lama, a photo taken in Australia during the time Fr Bede was my house guest in 1992.
Mrs Tweedie in London; me in India, in sannyasi robes, a pilgrim; Thérèse in Townsville leading the Gyuto monks to the sea to dissolve the sand from their sand mandala.
Caroline on her visit to Townsville to find the Black Australia of her childhood dream, there she is standing under the grand waterfall of harlequin bougainvillea tumbling from Thérèse’s cliff top garden to the road below.
St Francis, the Cimabue image; St Mary Our Lady of Glastonbury, in her red skirt and gold mantle and pale veil, standing and crowned like the Queen of Heaven she is.
In the front I glued tiny copies of my Hare and Hoopoe, and how apt they proved to be at my Epiphany. There is a tiny photo of me, unidentifiable in the distance as anything more than a woman, a woman clothed in the sun; it is archetypal, as it should be. I am alone, walking through the courtyard of the great Monastery of St John of Patmos; responsible for the Twinning in Perpetuity between Glastonbury, the Ancient Sacred Isle of Avalon, and Patmos, the Holy Isle.
The two saints, Joseph of Arimathea and St John the Beloved would have known each other, something I was made scintillatingly aware of as I sat in the Cave of the Apocalypse in 2007. A presence in the Cave impressed upon me, as I sat there alone, that linking these two holy places is a task I am beholden to do. I dismiss it of course; I don’t do ‘public’. The presence and its insistence persisted for three days; I was compelled to approach the Abbot of Patmos. I walked to the Monastery. A large monk, speaking nine languages, wearing a long grey beard and a black chimney pot, a rogue of a man with a chequered and fascinating past including, incredibly, a stint as something professional in the huge and now defunct asylum in Wells; he knew Glastonbury well. He led me to the Abbot, acted as translator. The Abbot and I were in accord, he embraced the link, knew and appreciated the legend of St Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn, urged me to speak to the Mayor of Glastonbury on my return.
And so it came to pass, a grand five day event for the visiting Patmos delegates, tours and the Tor, Chalice Well and lunch, a gala dinner with all manner of dignitaries present. One of the high-ranking clergy present congratulated me on having brought together at the same table for the first time in 500 years representatives of the three major Christian faiths since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, seriously misnamed the Reformation. Glastonbury shone with sun and warmth that September of 2009. I had spoken with the Government official responsible for setting up Twinning protocol, unsure how to name our link. She said it had to be a Twinning in Perpetuity, applauded me for creating the first such Twinning in Great Britain; for what else could a link between saints of 2000 years ago be but perpetual? John Michel told me in March he felt that his prophetic book The Dimensions of Paradise published forty years earlier had now been redeemed. He would feel privileged, he said, to speak at the Gala Dinner. Three weeks after our conversation John died. His presence remains.
This tiny archetypal photograph mirrors chapter twelve of St John: a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun. In the photo, taken from a great distance and without my knowing, I am clothed with the sun, walking in the sunlight between the shadows of the arches. It is not me I see walking through the shadowed centuries of cloistered patriarchy here, but all women, women walking in their own Light.
I see my life is a mosaic, nothing appears to link one thing with the next; no rise and rise in a career path; no continuation to even the most remote success; my life’s single theme is my Obedience to the Other, a theme invisible to the onlooker. It is a lonely path but sometimes I am blessed to look into the eyes of a fellow pilgrim of the inner way and we recognise each other through the eyes, know each other. These are my friends.
Since 2011 a small number of people have begun an ordinary twinning association between the two places, based on cultural and social ephemera. It has no causal link with saints, nor anything perpetual, twinning association longevity being limited to the committees that uphold them. They are different, these social twinnings, friendships more or less of good will between nations.
A Twinning in Perpetuity is a singular event. A woman from the Midlands, having a Jewish connection, but none with Glastonbury or Patmos until after their being twinned in Perpetuity, encouraged the new social twinning. It seemed to me and to a few Patmians that her interest served to promote a personal platform; but that’s the Way of the World and we render unto Caesar that which is inevitable: Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ. When I return I must address an insult, a public insult and personal to me and the Twinning in Perpetuity. It threw me off balance at the time, but time has passed, my mind has cleared and I can respond to this woman, this oversized cuckoo who can feather her own nest without sullying mine, thank you very much! Lying in bed blissfully horizontal waiting to go down for breakfast has brought up this unfinished business.
I am, naturally, riven with faults and failings, they abound, but I’ve spoken with each over the years, spoken of them to myself, my Higher Self, to Holy Mary, to a good Jungian analyst, and am reconciled to my frailties and humanness. I will give no quarter to guilt when I return home and clear the air; I smile, will add relish to my response to the cuckoo’s silly ego. My temporary head-trip fades as I think delicious thoughts of re-arranging an ego ... hers, and in great good humour I shower and dress and skip down four floors and eight flights of stairs to breakfast.
Today I am doing churches and museums, leisurely.
Only a day or so, The End is Nigh ...