Friday, 16 July 2010

Piccadilly Gardens and Christ the Windhover

While I'm going on about urban retreats I thought I'd share this with you.  The week before our little experiment I was chatting with my daughter about the idea of seeking the presence of God in the City.  She got a bit excited.  She reached into her bag and pulled out her sketch book to show me the picture that accompanies this post.

It's a quick sketch she'd done a few weeks earlier while she was in Piccadilly Gardens in the heart of Manchester when everything went "quiet".  A police helicopter was hovering right over the gardens.  Everything stopped.  Everyone looked up.  Including her.  She noticed that the helicopter was kind of cruciform, so, as she is wont to do, she scribbled down a quick sketch to catch the image.

What my daughter didn't know was that there's a Christian tradition of seeing the Kestrel as an image of Christ.  Another cruciform hoverer on high.  To accompany the sketch here's Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem The Windhover.

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

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