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“This was a whisper of guidance” Andy Jukes

These two images are both from an artist’s book I made based on Psalm 19; a poem which describes the way in which our world is talking to us. It is a celebration of the beauty and glory of nature and what it tells us about the spiritual dimension of the cosmos. When you look at the pictures, what do you see?

I have intentionally placed the text alongside brush drawings based on images of global climate change. Each picture show a different scenario: forest fires, plastic islands, landfill sites, desertification, flooding. The point being that our world is still talking to us, asking us to consider the consequences of our often selfish actions.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed the peace at the start of lockdown. Instead, nature’s song was heard; literally – the birds in crescendo. “The birds are so loud, they woke me up” one shop assistant told me. Perhaps we need to be woken up, need to notice what our natural world has been trying to say to us for a while. The huge reduction in air and road traffic did appear to be making a difference. The air was so much clearer, more luminescent.

On my now customary early morning walks I delighted in the sounds and sights of nature. And yet, I also noticed, perhaps because its more obvious, the inroads we still make as humans on the quiet. Someone taking loudly on their mobile phone, a farmer who came to feed his cows and left the radio in his pickup blaring, the distant sound of the A1. I saw our trace in plastic bags, beer bottles, discarded barbecues.

During the appalling slave trade, slaves created their own way of worshipping together away from the watch of their white owners. At night they would steal away to pray and sing with exuberance and a melding together of African indigenous religion and Christianity. These were also the places where their fight for justice and freedom grew and took shape. Their ‘churches’ hidden in the woods were called Hush Harbors. Maybe we need to find our own arbors: places of hush and also of exuberance; a celebration of the natural world that we so often take for granted, but also a place where our fight for climate and community justice can grow and take shape.

I have hope that as a result of the lockdown we notice, really notice our need to listen, to pay attention. But I fear that we will continue to ignore the signs, to cut ourselves off from the “sound of silence” like a jogger with earphones I often see. I suffer with permanent tinnitus, often annoyingly amplified in places and times of silence and stillness, and I wonder if humanity also has filled its ears for so long with its own noise that it is difficult for us to hear anything else.

Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:

What is the world saying to you?

What has lockdown made you aware of?

What have you noticed? What have you heard?

Meditative action:

You will need paper, drawing or writing ink or paint, or food dye would do, paintbrush.

- Find somewhere to sit that you like, outside if you have it

- Lay out your materials ready to use

- Shut your eyes and listen for 5 minutes. Set an alarm on your phone if it helps so that you don’t keep checking it!

- Let your noisy thoughts seep away and focus on being still and quiet

- What can you hear? What can’t you hear?

- At the end of 5 minutes or longer if you prefer, open your eyes and use the ink/paint to draw onto your paper as a response to the quiet. Enjoy the sensation of drawing with a brush, don’t worry about outcome or making something recognisable. This is just a meditative response.

This meditation is part of a series that have been commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission

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