In my mind, the bright field of this poem is not necessarily remote, wild, or even unpopulated. This is perhaps because for me – as, I suspect, for some other Advent Book Club folk – my approach to this poem is now forever coloured by it being used at Greenbelt a few years ago, when ‘The Bright Field’ was the theme of the festival. That bright field, full of people and noise and life, is for me every bit as precious and treasured as any more serene pastoral landscape. This year, as my Greenbelt friends and I have missed each other, and that glorious temporary community, we have said to one another again and again “one day, in a bright field…”, a mantra of longing, of promise and of hope.
Perhaps what the bright field of Greenbelt and the bright field of R.S. Thomas’ experience and imagination have in common is their transience. The glory glimpsed does not linger. The moment may all too easily pass unacknowledged. Here the transitory and the eternal merge, the specific, located, embodied ‘here and now’ is also the timeless, unbounded ‘world without end’. This is the meaning of the incarnation – eternal God embodied in time and space and human flesh.
All the individual moments we see or fail to see, all the bright fields we do or do not traverse, all the burning bushes we either notice and take off our shoes, or do not and go on picking blackberries – all of these, specific and located in times, in space, in flesh (our flesh) are glimpses of the one, same, eternal glory of God. We, like Peter on the mountain at the transfiguration, may be tempted to linger, to try to pin down this glory. Surely, if only we could build the right kind of tabernacle we could hold on to it? But, like a darting bird or insect, the glory is in the movement, in the very transience of the moment. And our treasure lies both in the noticing and the letting go.
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’.