Monday, February 27, 2017

All That Sunshine

All That Sunshine.

My car was pointed towards Scotland
 but I had a stop to make first….

The sky was grey the day I visited Brampton, with a watery light that diluted all colour and threatened to suck the magic from the sight I’d come to see.  Walking down the little lane, I pulled my collar up against the damp wind that whistled round the corners of St. Martin’s Church, pausing briefly to look up at my destination and steady my breath.  I could hardly wait to step inside.  

Every one of us has a favourite artist, even if we are not aware of it yet.  You may think art isn’t something that speaks to your soul, Rembrants and Picassos fly past you on posters and in textbooks with nary a flicker of meaning.  But then one day you happen upon a painting - in a book perhaps or, if you’re very fortunate, in a gallery - and you are transfixed, you feel yourself almost physically drawn inside, each brush stroke paints brand-new colours onto your soul and you are a little bit changed, a little bit wiser in ways you cannot articulate and you suddenly want, no, you need, to know everything about this artist, to see everything this genius has done.  For myself, I have many artists about whom I feel this way.  Two near the top of my list are Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris and on this drab, dreary day in the village of Brampton, they were waiting for me inside St. Martin’s Church.  

St. Martin’s was built in 1878 by the noted Pre-Raphaelite architect, Philip Webb.  Edward Burne-Jones was commissioned to design its stained glass windows and these windows were fashioned by William Morris.  I reached for the handle of the old wooden door to the church and turned it, almost giddy with anticipation.  

But the door remained shut.  I tried again, and again.  But it was obviously locked.  How could this be?  Looking around I spied a little church bazaar off to the right and headed there at a clip.  Inside I found a coterie of church ladies busily at work.
“I’ve come to see the windows”, I said, in what I hoped was not a voice of impatience.  

“It’s locked?”, came the reply from one of the more elderly ladies.  She was frowning.

“It is, sorry.”

The little clutch of ladies, whose faces had been softly friendly a moment before, now resembled a semi-circle of dried fruit - lips pursed, eyes narrowed.  “Well, you’ll have to go to the vicar and get the key.  He’s across the street in his house, getting packed, I suppose.”   


Answers came in a torrent of mutters and sighs with even an eye roll or two.  They leaned toward me in conspiratorial stance.  “Oh yes!”  “All packed.”  “He’s leaving us, you see.”  “With not a replacement in sight.”  “Got a new post.”  “Down in sunny Cornwall.”  “Good for him, isn’t it?”

They were still clucking and ruffling as I tip-toed out and headed cross the street to the vicar’s stone cottage.  Rapping on the door I stepped back as it was suddenly thrown open.   “Hullo!! Who are you, now?”   I stared up into a round face as bright and open as a sunbeam.   

As the soon-to-be wayward vicar bustled around his cottage, all topsy turvy with cases and boxes,  I found myself grinning.  Rarely have I seen a happier man.  “You’re off to Cornwall, I gather.”  

“Yes!  I cannot wait.  Just imagine all that sunshine.  I tell you, I have never looked forward to anything more.  Yes, I know I’m rather unpopular here for taking the post and leaving.  Oh, you heard, did you?  But it can’t be helped.  I need to leave, I really do.  So I’m off first thing in the morning.  Here’s the keys.  Enjoy the windows.  They really are spectacular.”   I wished him well and with keys in hand I made my way back to the church. 

He was right, the windows were spectacular.  But as I wandered around in the glorious gaze of their ecclesiastical light and artistry, my heart singing with joy, I could not get the vicar off my mind.  No matter his obvious delight in a decision well made, I knew it could not have been an easy one to make.  It’s never easy to choose the health of your own soul over the protestations of those you’ve once held close or respected.  It’s often a matter of following the Truth against a crashing sea of disapproval from those utterly certain of their holy correctness.  It’s hard and if you’re not very careful, it can be soul-crushing. 

Seasons have passed and still that vicar’s face floats up before me in troubled times.   I recall the peace of his sunny countenance and it gives me courage to stand up for what I know is right even in the midst of stern, often hateful, disapproval.  I watch, horrified, as those whom I once respected head towards the cliffside of hatred and bigotry, blinkered and afraid, and I cannot stem the flow of tears. My soul quivers.  But there is a light that shines on my path and I cannot help but follow.  I breathe deeply and recall the words of the former vicar of St. Martin’s Church in Brampton….. 
“Just imagine all that sunshine.” 

Just a reminder:
See more of my travels, more of Edward, of books, of gardens
of bits and bobs of various and sundry...


  1. I loved this post, Pamela. Thank you for sharing~

  2. Pamela, I love you. Your way with words echos in my heart and leaks out my eyes.

    With such gratefulness,

  3. Loved this - so true today and sad. Thank you.

  4. Loved this - so true today and sad. Thank you.

  5. What a beautiful post!
    "following the Truth against a crashing sea of disapproval from those utterly certain of their holy correctness" - this alone is so powerful, so eloquent.
    Thank you so much for this story - it points that there is happiness in choosing truth, there is this eternal peace in choosing truth, that we often forget.

  6. The windows are glorious. How lovely that you saw them in person.
    The vicar's story is well-told and always timely, but even more so today.
    And what came to mind was Proverbs 4:18 - But the path of the just is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day.

  7. Another beautiful story; thank you. I would say that William Morris is my favourite artist but I did find a new favourite in the Musee d'Orsay - Arthur Sisley. I had not heard of him before I went to Paris but was immediately drawn to his work. When I see one his paintings now it is like a ray of sunshine for me.
    I would love to have seen more of Morris' work while in England but sadly did not have time.

  8. You have, dear soul, touched me once again at just the moment I needed kind words and beauty. The windows are wondrous and I can imagine one's breath catching upon turning the keys, opening the door, and feeling "all that sunshine".

  9. What a wonderful post, which resonates on so many levels with me. First - art. I am an oil painter and am always discovering artists whose work awes me. Some of my favorites: Daubigny, Corot, Inness, Degas, Homer, Sargent... And I absolutely love William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones! Last time iI was in London I visited Red House and it was wonderful. Now you've given me a new must-visit destination. And finally I love the way you've tied your story to what we're going through today. My friends and I have been noticing that we sometimes feel like angry obsessive harpies, while those of our acquaintance who support this administration are blithely going about their lives, posting pictures of their pets and vacations on social media. They certainly seem happier at the moment, but maybe we are the ones trying to let in the light and get to a place where everyone can "feel all that sunshine ".

  10. This one caught the sob in my heart and gave me a little bit more courage. Thank you.

  11. Thank you. I agree, of course. It's just that sunlight is so appreciated these days, as there is too much darkness and fear. Just too much.

  12. Lovely post!! We can all create sunshine on a dreary day if we smile at someone who is frowning.

  13. Bravo for having the courage too use your blog to convey a message...a message so BRIGHT AND BLINDING IN ITS TRUTH, as those early Rays of Light each morning which bring too LIFE those masterful windows by Sir Edward Burne Jones and Morris...I am so lucky to have a rare Salviati mosaic by Burne Jones of the Archangel Gabriel, which shimmers as beautifully, and in so...spreads Love & Light as yours words have today for all!

  14. What a lovely story! Yes, Burne-Jones is a wonderful artist.
    Have you ever visited Exeter College Chapel in Oxford? Truly wonderful murals by him.

  15. Thank you for the lovely photos. Oh, all those rich colors!!
    Yes, sunshine and light make us all healthier.

  16. "Just imagine that sunshine". My favorite artists are the Pre-Raphaelites, who first spoke to my heart when I saw their paintings in the Tate Gallery. Each painting a jewel.


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