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Fluff! was my initial reaction to the opening chapters of Helen Simonson’s comedy of manners, The Summer Before the War (2016). It is 1914, set in the coastal village of Rye, East Sussex, England.

Slowly unfolds a view of waning Edwardian society, with its opulent mores defining attitudes and behaviors of its residents. Comic touches abound, exposing their eccentricities and gossip and prejudices. Detailed descriptions of feathered hats and gowns, the annual Hops Festival, the Fete Parade, the society funeral for the only son of the Earl North, trench warfare, the grimy feel of railway stations, and so much more, afford texture of place. Like other comedies of errors, dialogue is precise, stilted, disguised, but at times compelling.

Only when the voices of matron Agatha Kent and the village’s new Latin teacher, Beatrice Nash, lay bare the gamey shenanigans around them was I compelled to read on; and of the later voices of the servant Abigail and the gypsies, as well. And I’m glad I did. Also affording context to this novel is the suffragette movement, the changing role of women in society, and homosexuality. I grew to care for Agatha and Beatrice, both venturing into vital experiences that deepen their sense of woman and quicken the worlds of others.

What follows is the rude interruption of the village’s predictable world with the onset of the Great War—Their summer of balmy channel breezes was not supposed to be like this.

I pray that this is not the summer before the war. Given rains that freshen greening leaves and lawns, I hope such waterings will l dampen fires of global discord and enhance critical changes confronting us—with God’s help. No one needs another war…

 

 

Salt sprinkles upon summer’s vegetables, steamed just right, pleasure my taste buds and prompts taking more forkfuls until satisfied. Without salt, blandness settles upon my tongue like crud, shrinks hunger, and diminishes satiety. Indeed, salt seems to enhance foods like symphony conductors, their musicians—The end result satisfies, deeply.

Toward this fulfillment many yearn today, given the multi-faceted impoverishment that cripples psyches, that discounts the spiritual, however expressed. Such evil mirrors the mythological Hydra, a gigantic water-snake-like monster with nine heads, one of which was immortal. In ancient Greece as well as today, such monsters spew unbridled terror resulting in cookie-cutter posturing in boardrooms, courts of law, churches, and universities. Change is suspect and frowned upon.

In view of this deplorable situation, how retain salty spirits? How access humor still lodged in our depths? How inhale winds of harmony, of shimmering colors, of nature’s imprints? I ask myself these questions, daily.
Of necessity, I watch Jesus in the Gospels salt his followers with counter-cultural behaviors: There is blessedness in being poor in spirit, in being meek, mournful, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, open to suffering, and hungering for what is right—all reversals of wayward instincts on rampage for power, prestige, and sexual aberrations.

Jesus says further, Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.

Thus a fresh discipline emerges from within that lightens our steps, no longer trudging to the tin-horn band tooting nonsense. Boldly, we step out of line for a different path that works and follow it with the like-minded. It works.

 

This morning’s meditation on Step Eleven enlivened my spirit.

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the God of our understanding, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

 Seated in my prayer chair, my eyes closed, my legs elevated upon a hassock, I gave thanks for last night’s encouraging dream of quaternity/balance, its silence enveloping my spirit with tranquility. Slowly, I mulled over each word of Step Eleven, then listened for new insights—They always came.

Like fire galling dry branches, the verb Sought set me ablaze for this exercise. With the eye of my spirit entrained upon the next moment, I sat up straight and began deep breathing. All the more critical was my desire to improve my conscious contact with the God of my understanding, given my spend-saver sands cresting at the base of the hourglass. That I will come to know Creator God, rather believe in Him, that I will spend eternity in with Him can lead to soiling my pants.

praying only for knowledge of God’s will jettisoned my myopic sense of self and opened me to the mystery of on-going creation in multiple universes. As co-creator, I’m mandated to produce something unique for the inspiration of others; and closer to home, to accept the daily diminishments occurring in my old body—a new experience, not without its moments.

That’s where the power to carry that out came into awareness. The rough spells of breathing, the eruption of knife-pains that eventually pass, the need to take more breaks from meaningful activities, the rigors of deep breathing and stretching exercises—all find succor in this power. And another day spoons into another, with more spiritual growth that graces my immortal spirit.

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