The first tale weaver task of this new year: “This week consider the expression All Things Bright and Beautiful. What does it mean to you?”
All things bright and beautiful
Her mother-made crinolines itched, creating stiff rustling noises if she squirmed. Such sounds drew a sharp elbow in her ribs from her grandmother, seated next to her. Signal to keep still. The old wooden pews hurt her slightly curved back. Polished shoes that never quite fit right hung just above the warping floor boards. The air was always hot, stale, musty, mingling of “manly” after-shaves and flowery perfumes Causing headaches and swallowed yawns.
All creatures great and small
The woven raffia hat always slid to one side or the other over her pixie-cut hair, no matter how still she sat. Hands,encased in constricting white cotton gloves, were to remain clasped in her lap, unless holding up her share of the heavy hymnal. Under grandmotherly orders, she only mouthed the words: “Holy, holy, holy, Christ the Lord Almighty. Early in the morning, the sun shall rise for thee. Holy, holy, holy, Christ the Lord Almighty . . .”.
She was told she couldn’t “carry a tune” (why, she wondered, would she want to tote those words out into the Sunday air?). Anything above a whispered “holy, holy, holy” meant another elbow. She distracted herself by “reading” the stained glass windows, and squinting at the memorial plaques to fallen soldiers below the prismatic stories. Her great-uncle’s plaque, he was “lost” at Passchendaele in 1917, joined the ranks of the honoured dead. She wondered if he would find his way home from France some day.
All things wise and wonderful
The minister, a favourite of her grandmother, droned on and one. Boredom punctuated by standing to “sing,” or deposit her offering envelope when the collection plate was passed. Her life was always held up to her grandmother’s “dears and darlings,” the perfect children who didn’t fidget, spoke properly (a continuous grammatical lecture: would like, not want; dislike not hate; bring versus take); ate politely (elbows off the table) and never got dirt on their clothes. Like the minister’s children or the children living down the “old road.” She figured there must be a lot of angels who weren’t in heaven, but went to grade school. And taunted and teased her mercilessly.
The Lord God made them all
Finally set free from the prison-like layers of “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes,” she squirreled under the protective branches of a huge weeping willow at the top of the driveway. Inside, during the summer was a green palace ball room. In spring, a rain-lapped arbor situated on a promontory overlooking a benevolent sea. Fall meant crunching and scrunching in an ancient forest that shed leaves like tears at summer’s passing. Winter’s retreat was a shallow room at the back of the dilapidated garage. Grungy windows with cracked panes afforded her a view of the bare branches of her exiled home.
Years later, a part of her died inside when she climbed the sharp incline of the driveway, and saw a stump where her palace once stood.
mlmm Tale Weaver 204: all things bright and beautiful
My remembories of those words sent me back to a tiny rural church, sitting next to my grandmother in the polished by time wooden pew. She played the church piano, taught Sunday school, festooned the church with the “fruits of her labours” in her flower and prized rose gardens. Added crocheted hems and embroidered embellishments to plain white cotton table cloths and napkins for the church fair. Knitted endless socks and mittens for the, in her words, “poor starving children in China” of whom I was to contemplate and to clean my plate of an always inedible Sunday roast dinner.
I am always frozen in time – no more than eight. I can see myself, the scene spooling out like an avant-garde surrealist film. To this day, I hate wearing gloves, even in the coldest heart of winter.
In researching the hymn, “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” I discovered there are several versions used by multiple denominations.
You might also recognize the second line as the title of a BBC television series based on the books by a rural veterinarian, James Herriot, the pseudonym of Alf Wight. Two actors from that show might seem familiar: Robert Hardy goes on to play Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films; Peter Davison becomes the fifth incarnation of the title character of the original Dr. Who series.
Are you familiar with this hymn?
All Things Bright and Beautiful
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colours,
God made their tiny wings.
The purple-headed mountain,
the river running by,
the sunset, and the morning
that brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter,
the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden,
God made them every one.
The rocky mountain splendour,
the lone wolf’s haunting call,
the great lakes and the prairies,
the forest in the fall.
God gave us eyes to see them,
and lips that we might tell,
how great is God our maker,
who has made all things well.
crinolines and white gloves slide show