Skip to content

Time sanctified

April 11, 2013

What is the essence of any blog, if not observation and writing? I have just finished Katherine Swift’s wonderful book ‘The Morville Hours’, a treasury of history, geology, horticulture, memoir and other gems. Of her many thought-provoking observations, two in particular stand out for me as I struggle to make something of my life Dancing Beastie. Firstly, on writing:

‘It’s a quiet sort of heroism, the making and keeping of books. You don’t get medals for sitting in the library each day, scratching away, writing it all down. Still less for dusting the shelves. But it is what civilisation is made of: the collective memory, passed on, passed down.’

And secondly, on nature – specifically, her garden – and the importance of really looking.

‘The concept of time being sanctified by use is fundamental to the [monastic] Hours: to waste it is to waste our most precious asset, time upon this earth. This does not mean we should everlastingly be working in our gardens. Simply sitting and enjoying the garden is not doing nothing: it is the attentiveness of which the Hours speak. To watch time passing, noting the changes month by month, day by day, hour by hour – to live, as Thoreau said, deliberately – is a sort of sanctification in itself. It is Indifference which is the real sin.’



You might enjoy ‘They say that life’s the thing…but I prefer books’.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2013 12:24 am

    “It’s a quiet sort of heroism, the making and keeping of books.”
    “what civilisation is made of: the collective memory, passed on, passed down.’
    I think I must read this book. These lines are so true.
    And those lines about hours being “our most precious asset” – sounds like my grandmother.
    Sometimes it is a struggle to sort things out. Books can be a lifeline as well as a guide.
    Thanks for spotting this one

    • April 14, 2013 12:12 am

      A good book can be a good friend; a guide and a lifeline, as you say. I think you would appreciate this one.

  2. April 11, 2013 8:09 am

    I would have to re-read it to be sure that it was justified, but when I read The Morville Hours a couple of years ago the overwhelming impression I had was of an emptiness in the author’s life. It was very strange – there were the surface level ‘beautiful sayings’, as you’ve quoted, but then underneath I kept coming up against sadness, or a void of some sort. I will let you know what my re-reading turns up!

    • April 14, 2013 12:14 am

      Yes, I sensed that too. Well, there are worse things to do with a void than to try to fill it up with beauty.

  3. April 11, 2013 3:14 pm

    Beautiful simplicity. I want to read this book! Writing and nature and spiritual mindfulness – my three favorite topics! Which, I suppose, is why I love your blog.

    • April 14, 2013 12:15 am

      Aw, thank you, Melanie. You would certainly get something from this book, I think.

  4. April 12, 2013 12:52 pm

    So very true! That is a lesson we all should learn.

  5. April 12, 2013 7:17 pm

    I so agree. It’s what the books on spiritual life call being recollected – living with awareness, even if not doing anything exciting or special. The ‘sacrament of the present moment’ as De Caussade put it.

    • April 14, 2013 12:19 am

      What lovely ways of expressing this thought. It’s something that I have always instinctively felt is terribly important, but have not been able to articulate nearly so well.

  6. April 13, 2013 8:55 pm

    A thought provoking post…. I try to live “with awareness” or at least “in the moment” – but sometimes I get caught up in busyness and miss the joy that is the essence of that one unique moment in time…

    • April 14, 2013 12:23 am

      Oh, I think we all do: do try, and do sometimes get caught up and miss it, that is. Another author put it in a way I’ve always enjoyed: ‘What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? No time to stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep and cows…’ (W.H.Davies) It’s a simple poem, but perhaps all the better for that.

      • April 14, 2013 12:48 pm

        Ohhh I remember that poem. My late father used to recite it often! Thank you for the re-emergence of that memory 🙂

  7. April 14, 2013 2:06 am

    Another lovely post! Your struggles with blogging eventuate in our joy. Thank you for taking time to stop and observe and appreciate . By reading your observations I add those thoughts to part of my day. The blog is always a joy to read and so different from my life.


  1. Creating a mental bookshelf: an exercise for the aspiring writer. | Dancing Beastie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: