Some time ago, we held our Area Meeting Gathering at Glenthorne, the Quaker Guest House in Grasmere in the Lake District, a lovely spot, next to a stream surrounded by hills and mountains.We were going on an Appleseed workshop, based on the story of Johnny Appleseed, who walked across America, planting seeds and growing orchards for free. It offers many different ways of exploring spiritual matters using creative arts. I’d been on a taster before but this was my first proper experience of a longer workshop. I was nervous and curious, recalling my art teacher’s advice at school not to persue the subject any further. I was eleven.
On the first evening, we gathered round a large table, filled with objects, like toy cars, combs, sticks, leaves, pebbles. The tutor had asked us to pick two – one which represented God and the other yourself. I walked slowly round and saw two I thought might fit. But I went round again just to make sure. These were the ones. I chose a small, white shell for God (God will listen to me and I’ll be able to hear God, I told myself). And I picked up a green, spongy mouse, that would sit on your palm. It had whiskers, seqinned eyes and a tail. Still has, as we were allowed to keep them and they sit on my kitchen window ledge now.
I was feeling like a mouse, can still do but, at that time, I often felt invisible in a room full of people. I would say something and nobody noticed me. I felt I had no voice.
Overnight, a great snow fell. Opening the curtains early on Saturday morning, hills, trees, fields and roads, everything were under deep snow, maybe, 18 inches deep. I had to go out in it and quickly dressed and put on my walking boots. Strangely, it didn’t feel cold outside.
And I wasn’t the first up and out. There was a trail of footsteps on the path already and tracks of fox and raven across the fields but not many. Not a soul in sight. So quiet.
I started along the path by the brook and started a conversation with God, in my imagination. ‘You know God’, I said, ‘I go into a room and no-one knows I’m there. I feel useless, like a little mouse…’ and I took a couple of steps, starting to think of the last time this had happened to me, when I heard God’s voice saying very quietly, ‘Yeah, me too.’
‘Yeah, me too…what do you mean!?! You’re God with the big booming voice. You’re all powerful. You can do anything you like. You can’t tell me you feel like a mouse too..?’
God didn’t reply. He didn’t have to (and it was a ‘he’ this time) And as I walked on, I began laughing – I don’t know why – more and more till tears rolled down my face.