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A Journal from St Michael’s Green, Beaconsfield

A Magical Place

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The house next to the Parish Church      photo 20th September 2003, 6.15pm

5th October 2002

Magic is always available, to everyone. It is made manifest through repetition. First you have to be able to perceive something, a glimmer of something special, in something—whether an object, a place, an event or a person. Then you have to come back and find it again. It’s a process of tuning and focusing. Each time, the magic gets stronger. You can’t fake any of the steps. You can’t pretend. To write this, I am using my magical pen in my magical book. I am sitting on a magical bench in a magical place.

If repetition makes magic stronger, as repeated rubbing of iron or amber makes it magnetic, then the truest miracle resides in my life-breath, a life-long repetition. Being alive is therefore magical.

But on the other hand, this is not our experience. The pattern of our life belies such a simplicity. We are driven in crude or subtle fashion by our cravings for more than we already have. Unlike even the highest animals, with whom we share up to 96.5% of our DNA (e.g. with the orang-utans) we don’t rest content when we have our basic needs satisfied. There is no limit to the complexity of our hunger, our dissatisfaction, our desire. This is built in to the fabric of our economics, our philosophy, our laws and our religions.

This place is utterly beautiful. I could describe the jewelled remnants of dew that sparkle in the sun as they cling to the leaves of grass around my feet. The pale blue of the sky with its watery white clouds evoke the cloak of holy mother Mary, though I don’t know why that comes into my head and I am not a Christian. The whine of hedge-trimmers is heard. The chestnut trees are dropping their fruit and their first withered leaves. Their uniform deep green of summer has split into a rich palette of tawny, gold and yellow. But what makes all this so miraculous? And what is this restlessness that prevents me from sitting here the entire day, drinking in the scene, musing these thoughts?

I know that after an hour here, on this October day, with its mild breeze, I will be content to move on. I am addicted to the new, the different, the rhythms of daily life, change, “personal development”, without end.

What is this “without end”? We are all destined to take a long walk along a short plank hanging off the familiar pirate ship of this world. We peer over an unknown abyss. Do we believe we are eternal beings? I think most of us never make up our minds. We waver between both ideas: that we will simply cease, or that some part of us will survive.

Nobody has to tell me that the magic is in the beholder’s eye. That’s apparent, an open secret, which remains a secret to many. The greatest secrets are like this. The poet speaks, but not everyone hears.

How do we discover magic? We need a yearning, which draws into our experience an encounter, then we need repetition of that encounter. Through an encounter with an unlikely master, long ago, I was helped to discover something simple within me. Now, I love to see beauty “out there” in this mild October sunshine, where the chestnut trees turn in hue and where these dedicated volunteers behind me trim the hedge of St Michael’s Parish Church here on St Michael’s Green in Beaconsfield, England. They’re doing it for love of God; and their experience is their reward.

A sobbing three-year-old has just fallen off her scooter. She’s dressed in a fashion which surely delights her parents—pink cardigan and kilt—but she will surely rebel against their taste, their idea of her, as she gets older.

To be a resident adjacent to this green, it would seem, you need to have a tall hedge and keep it immaculately trimmed. Neighbourly pride demands nothing less. These Christian amateurs aren’t able to maintain that exacting standard, but on the other hand they are working in a joyous team. One is taking time out with a cut finger; another announces that tea and biscuits will be arriving soon.

My hour—waiting whilst my daughter attends her tennis coaching—is nearly over. A blonde woman in tight jeans passes by, an elderly lady in an electric buggy goes the other way. It has been a blessed hour.

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St Mary and all Saints, Old Beaconsfield 20th September 2003 6pm

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