Sunday, 3 January 2016

Simplicity

We attended the meeting house this afternoon for the first time in ages; we didn't make it during November or December despite good intentions. After a year or so meeting in a local church, we returned to the the little Unitarian chapel. It dates back to the 17th century and I much prefer it as a venue because it makes me feel a connection to the past and I just generally love its atmosphere.  Over the last few years, Christmas has had the effect of making me yearn more than ever for simplicity, I really am tired of all the emphasis on things. My resolution (one I've had for a while as I don't make resolutions at New Year) it is to downsize as much as I can this year in preparation for hopefully downsizing permanently in the future.
Possibly my favourite Christmas present was an original (1934) edition of Watkins' Last Expedition by Spencer Chapman. I've got a real thing about old books, one of my most treasured gifts from a class is a small 1903 copy of Measure for Measure which they all signed. My younger son this year bought me the above book and also an early Penguin edition of Jane Eyre.
I know Jane Eyre pretty well so thought I would give Watkins' Last Expedition a go and it is a truly fascinating read giving an account of a 1932 expedition in their boat, the Stella, to Angmagssalik  on the east coast of Greenland. Watkins had some funding from the Royal Geographical Society to do meteorological work. He was accompanied by ornithologist and photographer Freddie Spencer Chapman and two other men. Tragically, Watkins died in a kayaking accident fairly early in the expedition (hence Watkins' last expedition) and the book was written presumably both as an account of the trip and a tribute to him. It is full of details of journeys. sledging with dogs, hunting seals, the Eskimo way of life and some beautiful descriptions of the breathtaking scenery and power of the natural world. It reminds me a little of watching Frozen Planet and I didn't expect it to be quite so interesting.
A paragraph in the preface sums up the appeal, urging the reader to imagine a trip that would allow them to:
" know something of the life of that fantastic land, of its ascetic nakedness, of its strong weather, of its laughing people...To know more, throw away your job, your friends, your cares, beg a quarter of the money you will need and an eighth of the food you will eat, learn the language and go there not as a great white man to teach , but as an inferior to learn from these people something of their way of life,; how to get a living from their barren country, how  to share as they share, how to endure as they endure, to live for the day caring nothing for the morrow."

 There is something of the gospel and the zeal of a disciple in the approach taken here and I am sure you noticed some deliberate echoes of  Jesus's words, in particular in   the reference to caring nothing for the morrow.
Anyhow, whether you are embarking on momentous life changing events, or likely to follow the same old routine this year, I wish you well with all  your plans,hopes or priorities for 2016 and hope they bring you blessings and joy!

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