IMG_1170Late afternoon Good Friday.

Not a breath of air. A bird chirrups. A plane drones somewhere.

Out the window are grey clouds and the tin roof of next door’s house.

The sounds, and that view, feel remote from me.



Inside my study, I’m struggling. My childhood as a Catholic taught me that Good Friday is a day to commemorate a death – a solitary and agonising death, one that must have felt endless, given the way that pain can stretch time.

If I sit up straight, I catch sight of the top of an elm. Its branches form a skeleton against that grey sky. Autumn will finally have its way, it seems. Summer has been holding it at bay, but the season of the dying fall will be victorious. All week summer tried, pushing temperatures and tempers over the top, but the southerly buster came, and the rain with it. Woollens were snatched from cupboards and night closed in earlier. Leaves swirled from the trees and huddled against fences. Puddles formed in ditches and canals. Summer dusted off her skirts and took her leave, giving autumn centre stage.

And now, the world hangs in suspension. All is cool and still. In limbo. And my thoughts are of endings and deaths.

IMG_2529Three years ago I was in Rome for Good Friday, traipsing the streets of the eternal city with my friend Susan, trying to see if we could find an easter vigil to attend. There, Good Friday is a day of commerce and busyness, as you’d know if you have read Sinning. It was a shock to me to see all the activity and the spruiking. But now, I see that it makes sense for them. The focus in the northern hemisphere is on Easter Sunday. Resurrection. Why ever not? It is spring, and flowers are thick on the ground, their scent wafting from grasses and gardens. Blossom bursts from branches and wisteria droops. All is renewal and birth, in line with pagan celebrations of the season. Persephone returns, bringing new life and possibility. Spring gets sprung.

IMG_3007But here, easter falls in autumn, when the world hunkers for winter. Maybe that’s why my easter focus has so often been on Good Friday – and why my mind dwells on death.

It’s not an unfamiliar place. I go there often, and don’t find it frightening. But it is sombre. The contemplation of endings is serious business, and for me, must be undertaken in stillness and silence. I tried to play music just now, but to no avail. Not appropriate, even Arvo Part.

A crow caws. Again. He is insistent.

He seems appropriate.

Mortality. Death. Ending. Closure.

One day I will die. It’s good to have at least one certainty. I know of no other.

But I do hope to be given time to make over more days in beauty. I hope to be given hours to walk. I hope to be given days to work. I hope to be given months to live more consciously and with more compassion. I hope to be given years to continue to explore what it is to live “the good life”. To do better.

Maybe that is the goodness to take from today. The awareness that this will end makes me commit to love each minute to the full – even if the minutes are melancholy. I will give myself over to that autumnal emotion, and not judge it as less worthy than the summery smiling days. I will sit with it and honour it, knowing that it too holds promise.

And if I’m honest, I think the leaves of autumn are more beautiful than the summer greens. Maybe later I will go and collect some, and put them in a bowl on my desk, to remind me of the lessons of endings.

But for now, I will still my legs, and my mind, and be with autumn.

This is Friday, and it is Good.


12 thoughts on “Friday Goodness

  1. Easter in Japan – no real sense of it as Easter – no Easter eggs or other symbols of fertility and the Easter Bunny for children leaving searches through gardens in their wake – but then in Madrid/Toledo/Aranjuez two years ago in April in the week of La Semana Santa – and processions and the weeping Virgin and the gaunt Christ crucified – definitely a dark time in the lead up to the Resurrection – even if in Spring – though the rains which fell seemed entirely appropriate to the religious observance. But your reflections on autumn and the colour of foliage match exactly my memories of autumn in Japan – my favourite season – as the heat of summer gave way to cool and the brilliants crimsons and bronzes and golden hues of the deciduous trees lit up dark temple precincts and splashed brilliance across the mountain ranges – nevertheless giving permission to the soul to indulge in melancholy and nostalgic reflection of brighter former times – as the weather and the days drew one into physical and mental interiors! I hope the E. bunny leaves you some (chocolate) eggs in the garden outside that grey window!

  2. Thanks Jim. I suspect that that kindly bunny may just leave a little dark something for me in a corner somewhere! Life is good. Kind. And as you remind me, cycles are good. Physical and mental interiors are vital.
    Happy happy easter days. May the road lead you back to your much-loved Japan before too long.

  3. Hello again Ailsa, Long time no write – interrupted by holidays and work issues. Loved your thoughts on Good Friday.
    I, too, had a catholic upbringing and my memories of Easter are of long hot church sessions attending Stations of the Cross, vigils, and a sorrowful air in which we were not supposed to be having too much “fun”, although we were on school break. My family were not as devout as some and I have friends who say Easter depresees them, because of their recollections of being in and out of church for three days, where all the statues and adornments were covered in purple.
    Some impressions have stayed with me, over years of camping holidays at Easter, when it seemed a bit too heathen-like to have a meaty bbq on Good Friday, we ate fish or salmon stews instead and always corralled the kids into clean clothes and combed hair for Easter Mass, albeit in a church crammed to the gunwales, including resentful locals who cast disapproving glances at the tourist influx who shattered their peace and equilibrium and squashed their reverence into packed pews.
    I have gone through long stretches of “unobservance ” of the occasion at all, but nevertheless was shocked to find in Miami, Florida on Good Friday 1981 that the K Mart and all stores were trading briskly.
    Now I just contemplate the occasion from the peace of the garden, try to phone most of my family to send them love, gather the children ( if available) for at least one Easter clan meal and experiment with one spartan meat-free dish.
    I am still catholic enough to be saddened when my son shrugs about going to a football match on Good Friday night, as “just another day”, but then he said to me “Mum, every day is holy , when you think about it.” True enough.
    And , yes, I always buy the ubiquitous hot cross buns and chocolate eggs.

  4. Hello Julie,
    So lovely to see you here. And a peaceful gardener’s easter to you.
    It’s funny, isn’t it? This year I’m aware of a lot of reflections from people trying to make personal meaning out of the easter days. Maybe we are all wanting the sense of connectedness and meaning, and the pause for reflection, but without some of the trappings and superstitions that were a part of our past. Perhaps if we celebrated more faith-days from all cultures, we would build a personal narrative that sits more easily. I don’t know. But meaning…well, it is located on a path, in a garden or beside a river just as easily as in a church, for me. I respect the wish to gather, but I think I am increasingly a solitary bird.
    This easter, anyway!
    Thank you for reminding me that I have clan as well. And that we are all engaged in a gentle pursuit of that elusive WHY?
    Happiness and peace at easter.
    A xx

  5. Dear Ailsa, Thank you for the wonderful post and your photography again.
    Glad to report that we have just finished all the travail of vintage and, although it was great to see all the family out here helping (plus others ) I must confess to be rather happy to just sit. Watched for the very first time the Good Friday Appeal broadcast as Eliz. was appearing. It awakened in me the feelings of utter sadness when I saw so many dear children suffering all sorts of life-threatening problems with the most amazing fortitude, but it was also mostly a time of thanksgiving as they were so superbly nursed through their various diseases and were home with their family. I felt rather humbled by their stories and of their parents who had so much worry at that time. Unfortunately my busy husband mistook her telling of the time she was appearing and I sat down to watch and watch and watch, did some ironing (oh dear and Good Friday too, probably shouldn’t have been doing that) and still no daughter. Texted her and discovered that it was 9pm or thereabouts she would probably be appearing. Fortunately saw it and it was good fun. Yes, Rome is a very busy City on Good Friday, and I wonder if travellers have the same problem there on Easter Sunday as those who come here when, on Good Friday there are hardly any restaurants or coffee bars open in Melbourne Love autumn for its colours and cooler nights. Some of the posts reminded me of the glorious photos (pre digital) I took in Japan of the incredibly beautiful foliage in the mountains and the clear cold air. Also the wonderful tale of Persephone which reminded me of our trip to Sicily and our visits to those somewhat sombre places I loved to read about years ago. You talk about the crows, we also have them but my great love is the carolling of the superb magpies that seem to be around in great profusion at the moment. Thankfully they don’t eat our figs which are ripening and the trees have had to be netted as the crows and other birds would eat them all. Our dogs feel they have done their job for months shooing away birds from the grapes and now they just lie down and watch the birds swooping and trying to get through the nets!
    I, too, can remember the first time I had meat on Good Friday when I was staying with some friends and too nervous and embarrassed to say that one didn’t eat meat on that day. Have never forgotten that day so many years ago. Have to confess that now our whole family are pagan in that respect and do not observe that little rule. Await your next wonderful post, and send our love to you and Peter.

    1. Happy easter, dear Bertina! And congratulations on the vintage. What a job that must be. I was only commenting today when we saw some netted vines that I thought they must be late picking.
      And figs…
      Oh figs! My very favourite. I love them for breakfast. I confess to stealing any that hang over fences when I’m walking. I pay far too much fo them at fruiterers when they first appear. Give me a fig over an easter egg or a hot cross bun any day. Hope the birds don’t succeed.
      Thanks for your vivid portrait of your easter doings and feelings…inspiration, humility, gratitude, a soupcon of guilt, pride in Liz…
      Life. In all its colours, autumnal and otherwise.
      Thank you.
      Love to you and to Reg. Gratitude as always. A x

  6. Hi Ailsa
    What a much travelled audience you have. Here is a Catholic girl entrenched in her church liturgies, fully participating and loving all of it. Believe me when I tell your correspondents we have moved on from dark and dreariness, because the emphasis now is to see the three days [Triduum] as one long celebration of Christ’s victory over death. I enjoyed your seasonal approach to Easter [ I think you are deliberately using lower case for easter and I’m guessing because the fullness of the season hasn’t yet arrived?]
    I also wrote my poem [publishedin our church paper] on the Northern/Southern Hemispheres’ response to Easter.. bear with me as I send you the last few lines…

    A new window opens even as leaves let go and fall.
    We too let go to that which we cling, prepare to cross a threshold, prepare to change colour, to shrivel and die, to give back to the earth,hence embrace the mystery that carries us home into surprising joy. Blessings,

    1. Beautiful Trish. Thanks so much for your words. As you know, a little verse always lights my day, and I loved the reminder of things shrivelling and dying to give back to the earth.
      And of going home.
      Hope that your Easter Sunday is a celebration and yes, full of clear and present joy.
      The fullness of the season.
      May it fill you.
      Ailsa x

  7. Hi Ailsa,
    a lovely post which took me back to childhood memories of Easter.
    Good Friday in our Methodist / C of E household was very sombre. We were encouraged to be quiet for the rest of the day after morning church service.
    No friends were allowed to come and play, nor were we allowed out of the gate.
    It was a day of quiet endeavours and reflection and in stark contrast to the rest of the weekend which was filled with activity involving family and friends.
    And this Good Friday ?
    The ingrained pattern remains after all these years – quietly and reflectively working in the garden with my hands in the soil.

  8. Dear Brian,
    I am so filled by all these reflections on the season and our rituals. And so heartened by the fact that there are two gardeners, and another who sees us returning goodness and selves to the earth…
    Somehow the connection others have to the natural world, which is where I go always, is a real salve for me to hear. I love ritual and the way it shapes the world, but I crave the connection with this world too. The feeling that I can access the divine through work and dirt as well as through the more formalised rites.
    Both are beautiful. Both valuable.
    We find our ways. Hopefully.
    And when we do, it is good. So good.
    Happy happy Easter to you, dear Brian. And thanks as ever for your words.
    Ailsa x

  9. I spent Good Friday and Easter Sunday at Bluesfest at Byron Bay.
    You can check out my photos of the Friday visit here –
    My highlight was seeing Rodríguez play.
    If you haven’t seen “Searching For Sugarman” rent it,you’ll love it,whether you like his music or not.
    No wonder this doco won the Academy Award for docos this year.
    I saw it last Christmas at the cinema and when I heard that he was playing Bluesfest this year I just had to be there…and I’m glad that I was.
    I hope you and your readers are having/had a Happy Easter.

    1. Hi Darren,
      How wonderful to be back at beautiful Byron. Lucky you. And yes, seeing Rodriguez must have been great. A friend went in Sydney and loved it, although was not so taken with the Garrett-less Oils.
      My easter was pretty fine thank you. Friday you know from the blog was a bit challenging, but I walked on the other days, and that always restores.
      Peace to you.

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