Thursday, 21 May 2020

"The Tapestry of Life"

It could be considered to be “by chance” that the church service last week (10th May) inspired me to centre my reflections upon the expressive impact of hymns as an integral part of our Worship.  However, having followed those thoughts I was stumped when considering a response to the Rev. John’s online service this week in which his thoughtful sermon turned our minds to poetry in the Bible reading from Acts 17; 22-31.  We know that many of the hymns we love were written as poems before being put to music and becoming hymns, so here I am sitting at my computer, wondering where will my mind go from here?

Just one interesting thought to share here is the comparative ease for most people to learn and remember the words of a song or a hymn, paralleled with the difficulty for many in retaining in their brain the words of a poem ready for instant recall.  When I was young I was extremely lucky to be able to easily learn and recite the poems that I loved - yet often by the time I had listened to my brother repeating the poems he had to learn for homework, I would despair about his lack of progress.  

The difference here was that my brother did not feel the poetry like I did and his heart did not motivate the poetry “centre” of his mind to remember and love the words of the poem.  So for him, learning poetry by rote, with no effort to demonstrate or teach the relevance of the imagery of poetry was like saying dismissively to him that he should ‘Find a bridge and get over it!’  However, my brother John could discover what made anything work and he enjoyed working in the mechanical and engineering fields his whole life.  His memory for details about the cars and trains he kept working perfectly and the achievements and statistics of his competitive bicycle racing was excellent.  I soon learned that my brother, like many others, had no wish or need to be able to recite the endless verses of “The Highwayman” or “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”.

I have looked for ways to express why some of us turn to poetry when we need to express deep or important thoughts and feelings.  I certainly do not consider myself as a poet, yet sometimes I feel compelled to disregard my lack of understanding of the rules and approved techniques for writing genuine poems, to present my special thoughts or feelings to a friend or someone who needs encouragement or consolation in this very personal way.  

In trying to answer this question of why poetry touches my heart, I discovered there are many very satisfying definitions of what poetry is; however, I find that I can’t go past the definition given by William Wordsworth who wrote; "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity".  Just think daffodils here!

Thirty years ago a talented friend wanted to share her love of stitching Tapestries with people who had not had the opportunity to learn this craft, so she wrote and published a small book called “Tapestry made Easy”, which was richly illustrated with photos of beautiful finished and framed Tapestries that had been worked by herself, her mother, her father and even her husband.  Her family had a small supper party to “launch” the book and several families from Marsden Road Church and other special friends attended the celebration. 

I had been seeing and admiring these beautifully executed tapestry works hanging in our friend’s home for many years; so I was inspired to write a poem to celebrate her achievement in writing the book.  Although I am sure the poem that I wrote breaks many “rules”, the imagery of one’s life as a finished tapestry pleased me and was appreciated by my friend.  Her father who was a perfect gentleman asked me if I would agree to the poem being printed in his church’s magazine and of course I agreed.  It was later printed in a copy of the “Marsden Missive”, so my apologies if you have already seen the poem.  This has become the inspiration for my personal “Tapestry Tales”, a collection of stories and anecdotes of my life and my family, which have been written over a period of 20 years. 

Tapestries worked by Glenys Gillard
Photos by Dayen Grujovic

The Tapestry of Life

Life is a tapestry worked over the years;
It’s a blending of threads stitched with laughter and tears.

By our Lord the pattern was printed and trammed -
Much richer and fuller than man could have planned.

The technique and tension are for us to decide
and the standard of work is our personal pride.

While enjoying support from our family and friends -
On our stitching and texture the canvas depends.

The rows that we work with painstaking care
may be less than perfect - we see here and there.

With a little more Faith, more Hope and more Love,
while asking for help from our dear Lord above

We’ll be shown the best way to choose the right threads;
Sometimes with our hearts; and at times with our heads.

We’ll learn new techniques to embellish our work;
and we’ll stitch through the rows where anxieties lurk,

If we create a true Masterpiece - a real work of art
It will prove that we’ve lived - of this life been a part.

When our tapestry is finished and we reach the hour of death,
We will meet the Master Planner as we draw our last short breath,

Then for uneven or imperfect work, we surely won’t be blamed,
As in the memory of our loved ones - our tapestry is framed.

This Sunday morning (17th May) the Rev. John made reference to the way “St. Paul gives us a good example of the productive process of building bridges because Christians are all, or should all be, disciples.”  He reminded us that, “Bearing witness and spreading the Word is the business of every Christian and finding bridges between the teaching of scripture and the outside culture is necessary to aid that process.”  So, perhaps as expressed in the Rev John’s words “In an age in which the Bible is under fire, poetry might serve as a good place to build a helpful bridge from the Bible to the surrounding culture of today.”

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