The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207 – 1273) was a Sufi mystic and Persian poet. His mystical poetry has a universal appeal, which has made him one of the most celebrated poets of the modern age.
Andre is a man in his early 30’s who lives on the streets in Woodstock. I have come to know him over the years as a good hearted young man. He has been quite enterprising in the way he has managed and looked after himself. He seems to do a number of jobs for people and they trust him.
He seems too to find things in the street and in the work places of Woodstock to sell and to pass on to people that may need these things. He was sleeping in a wood yard somewhere in the suburb and the owners allowed him to sell the off-cuts for fire-wood. We bought a number of bags of wood from him during the winter. He seemed to have an endless supply of wood and could become quite irritating in his request for us to buy more wood.
However, in November of last year he arrived in the street, just as I was leaving the car for the house and asked if I wanted a bag of jigsaw puzzles. There were three boxes in the bag.
“Puzzles, I thought, hmm”. One of the boxes appeared to be in reasonable condition with all the pieces in an unopened plastic bag. Two of them were young children’s puzzles, but the boxes looked too worn.
I thought my wife, would be amused at the thought of a puzzle for Christmas. Her mom had enjoyed puzzles. I bought the three boxes from him, but when I got beyond the gate, I recycled two of the boxes and kept the other in a secret place for Christmas.
My wife and I love buying each other a good book for Christmas. I got Shackleton’s biography by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and I bought her Siya Kolisi’s book ‘Rise Up’, the biography of the captain of the South African rugby team.
When Christmas came I forgot about the puzzle.
It was only around New Year that I found it again and remembered that had I planned to give it to her. She was highly amused, and game to try it.
We emptied the pieces on the table. The pictures on the box were unclear, and not even a rectangular picture. It was an oval picture of sky and mountains in the background of a field of hundreds of Namaqualand daisies. There were a thousand pieces.
We set about finding the outside pieces to build the frame of the scene. We would soon come to realise that this was a puzzle from hell.
In the side column are some pictures of the puzzle which it took us two months to complete.
Some of the frustrations:-
The pieces for the sky and the mountain looked much the same.
We kept thinking that an end piece on the right hand side of the frame was missing.
Dee doubted that we had all the pieces.
The sky and the mountain so frustrated us. One piece looked like another.
Would we ever get the sky done. Then Dee’s brother-in-law came to visit. He completed the mountain and found the one frame piece we thought had been lost forever.
A month passed. Dee was giving up. But I loved the fact that a stranger had given us the puzzle. I was in to the end.
There were pieces in major areas in which we had worked we thought we would never find. Then one day quite simply a piece fitted. I can’t imagine how many times I must have tried that piece there.
There were a good number of surprise fits. Some days I would quite intuitively find a piece that fitted. One or two pieces I picked up from the floor, and bingo, a fit.
Each day I seemed to make little break-throughs before more frustration.
I often hoped that Dee would come and find a way forward. She did, often. However, frustratingly she would take some of my pieces out, with This doesn’t go here? I was rather attached to the false pieces, they at least gave me some hope.
There were times when large pieces of the puzzle fitted together so easily and we were on our way.
At the beginning of March I had to go to McGregor to conduct a wedding. I was hoping that Dee would finish the puzzle. After the wedding I had a day in McGregor and went to the morning Meditation at Temenos. Russia was attacking and bombing Ukraine.
The leader of the Meditation had put out the Ukrainian Icon, Our Lady of Kyiv the protector of Ukraine, and to guide us in the silence he drew on the image of a tapestry which from the wrong side looks very messy and chaotic. But seen as a whole, under the hand of the designer makes meaningful sense and reveals beauty and delight.
Often in times of chaos we see little meaning in what is happening around us, but later we see something emerge that gives us a glimpse of the tapestry of life, of what God is doing behind the scenes and in people and groups to bring healing and a new wholeness, and an awareness that what has happened in Ukraine must never again happen anywhere in the world.