And their words unto the end of the world. (Handel's Messiah)
In 1997 Radio New Zealand invited writers to send short stories based on the text of G.F. Handel's Messiah. Both Bart and I had often sung the choruses as members of Dunedin's Schola Cantorum (now City Choir Dunedin) and I submitted a story with the title of 'Their sound is gone out into all lands and their words unto the end of the world.' This was aired on Boxing Day 1997, and beautifully read by Kate Harcourt.
The story is about a Dutch woman (Juulke) who decides to visit her dying mother in Holland, and the extended stay waiting for the quiet ending of life. Flying back to New Zealand Juulke thinks about her mother's life, about the village where she was born with its legends, its history and the lonely graveside she has left behind. She remembers her own experiences as a young immigrant.
The story is probably too long to put out as a blog but I have thought a lot about the above words of the chorus and about the words we use when we face new challenges. Sometimes we are fortunate to share our fears with friends, sometimes we have to dig deep to rely on our own strength so that we can cope again, to find meaningful living at our own end of the world. Here is an excerpt from this story:
"She thinks back to a Christmas story her mother told her years ago. She thinks about the legend and its tale of love. Her stay in the area of her birth has made this story alive again.
Think back child, her mother had said when she sat on Juulke’s bed on a cold Christmas Eve, telling her the story from the past about a girl named Stella. Think back to the days when there was no electricity, no running water, only wild morasses and forests around the small huts in which people lived. There were the landlords but they were a law unto their own, they had servants to do the work.
But there was one family who were set as an example for the other villagers. The father and mother went to church, the children attended school and did their tasks in the house. Then one day the mother died and however hard the father tried to keep his family together, he found himself wanting. There was the washing, the scrubbing and the cleaning, how could he do it all and work so hard on the land as well? He found a woman to marry him who turned out to be a bad stepmother for the children.
On Christmas Eve one of the daughters escaped from her stepmother after she finished her duties in the house. Stella had polished the furniture, washed the floors and peeled the potatoes for the evening meal. She wandered over the fields, far, far away, all the time dreaming about her real mother, talking to her in the cool frosty air, her breath showing from her mouth.
As she approached a mound in the clearing of the forest, she heard the sound of Christmas bells ringing beneath the piece of elevated soil covered with small bushes and trees. Stella could hear her heart beating, when she heard a voice saying:
“Move on Stella, do not be afraid, we bring peace.”
Slowly she moved forward until she stood in front of the mound.
Oh, but then, she saw something she could not have imagined in her dreams. Through the wide open door she saw a long table, decked with a white damask cloth on which stood tall silver candelabras, their candles flickering softly, gently in the quiet winter air. Around the tables women danced, floating in white robes, a pure and heavenly radiance around them.
With their hands they invited her to enter and together they sat at the table with its pure white tablecloth and ate the most beautiful meal she had ever tasted. There was tender white roasted pork, its crackling glistening in the candlelight, there were the freshest of green vegetables on gold dishes, the juiciest of bright orange carrots, roasted chestnuts. They laughed together, the air was cold outside but inside the mound it was warm, cheerful and merry.
When it was time to go, the women gave her a silver candelabra with three candles to light her on the way home. Stella walked carefully, clutching the precious silver in her hands and hardly dared to breathe for fear the flame would be extinguished. As she walked she remembered the words of the women in white : you will find peace.
As the plane moves through the still night, close to the silver stars, close to the white moon, Juulke remembers her mother’s voice, all those years ago when she was a child listening to the words of the Christmas story. Even now her mother’s words are with her, unto another end of the world.
She thinks of the warm summer Christmas she will have. There will be enough food on the table, the wonderful spring lamb with its mint sauce, a decadent dessert. The Dutch Christmas cake with its golden pastry and rich filling of ground almonds. She thinks of the story she will tell her grandchildren at Christmas, a story from the other end of the world about a girl finding silver and gold beneath a plain looking mound and taking the treasure home.
Their sound is gone out into all lands and their words unto the ends of the world.
She thinks about the riches her mother gave her, the wealth of silver and gold stored within her which she will take to her new home to treasure and nourish. This will be a wealth created from inner richness found in the darkness of death and loss, in the shadows and in the light of Christmas."
|Rowan berries, Autumn 2011|
Warm wishes to you all for a blessed New Year.