Coming of age

"The Love of Souls" -- 1900, by Jean Delville
“The Love of Souls” — 1900, by Jean Delville

I have had my fair share of love letters in my time.  Possibly more than my fair share, not that I would complain. There is something timeless and special about the written word. The first, very first, was a scribbled note on the back of a photo from a young man named Neil. I still have it. He was away on a long holiday with his parents… we were children, no more than that. The first real love letter I ever received was way back too. His name was Malcolm. He was blonde and gorgeous, looking rather like a very young Michael York. Malcolm was a couple of years older than me, very intelligent and we had met and fallen head over heels the way young things do.

It was the first time I had met a boy who looked beyond the surface to the mind. Back then, a time of legs, gypsy blouses and hot pants, few looked beyond, shall we say, the salient points of anatomy. To be able to actually talk with a young man about literature, go to art galleries together, the theatre… it was, for me, a joyous awakening. I could allow myself to be me.

It was also, for a teenager, a hugely romantic affair as we were apart much of the time while he was away at boarding school. Hence the letter. We had spent the summer together, but when September came he was riven from my arms. Yes, I know, I’m sorry… it felt that melodramatic at the time. We were very young. Star crossed lovers….

It wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I lived in Leeds, a city with a brilliant transport network. His school was in the little village of Drax, near Selby… so half an hour into town, twenty minutes by train, ten minutes by bus… then two and a half miles on foot, generally in very high heels… and we could meet. It wasn’t allowed… which, looking back, made it far more exciting. I was smuggled into the stately house on more than one occasion by Malcolm and his friends. Or we met in the village and wandered the woods hand in hand. Terribly romantic.

That couldn’t happen every week and in between there were letters. Almost daily. I will never forget the first. It had come through the door as I left for school, I had been itching to read it, but there were other girls with me until break time and I wanted to curl up ‘with’ him alone. In a corner of the form room, when everyone had left for break I opened the envelope and began to read.

No-one had ever sent me Shakespeare before! Imagine trembling fingers and maidenly heart all aflutter! I can feel the echo of it now…. even now…after all these years.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…

It didn’t last, of course, in spite of a first ring offered, in true romantic fashion, on one knee. We grew up. But it had left me with many things learned from our time together, including a love of Shakespeare and huge tracts of his work to ponder that I can still quote by heart. Everything leaves its legacy with us and it is up to us to ensure that what remains are not scars but gifts. Malcolm allowed a young girl to see beyond her own unconfident and fragile exterior and begin to explore the possibilities of mind and of simply becoming herself. It was a wake-up call.

They come in many forms, these moments of realisation. Some are relatively minor and mundane, others hold a deeper meaning, eliciting a choice made with heart, mind and soul. Some we respond to, others we choose to ignore. We always have a choice. To be… or not to be perhaps.

Over coffee and with several thousand miles between us, a friend and I were discussing this a while ago. She has a rare gift for finding the words to encapsulate wisdom. We were speaking of those wake up calls that come from the most profound levels of being; hers came forty years ago and she has served the Light with every atom of her being ever since, wearing a radiant mantle of joy born from that service that, I think, none can fail to see.

When that call comes there is still a choice. We can choose to accept, and in doing so be ready to release everything we have thought we are, the things by which we attempt to define ourselves… or we can turn away, retaining the security of our self-image.

“Well,” she wrote, “it will be according to the will of the human spirit. Until that human will has made the choice to join in fullness with the Will, the Divine extends the blessing and the curse of freedom.”

That expresses for me such beauty, that we have the gift of choice, the freedom to choose. Though when that call comes to a heart ready to hear, there may seem no other choice but to follow where it leads, no cost to consider, no question but to answer wordlessly. It is a moment of surrender to Love and in that moment, Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.

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