Monday, 22 July 2013
Confessions of a Churchyard
"Constantly think of the Universe as one living creature, embracing one being and one soul; how all is absorbed into the one consciousness of this living creature; how it compasses all things with a single purpose, and how all things work together to cause all that comes to pass, and their wonderful web and texture."
Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180, Rome)
I realised last week that place is the most important trigger for me in writing a story, if I can delve deep enough, even though the actual setting may itself be small. There can still be a myriad of characters and potential happenings waiting for the magic of words.
Writers seek out atmospheric places and my latest is St Mary's churchyard in Warwick. I discovered it whilst handing out leaflets in the town centre to advertise Tom's gym.
I could imagine it straightaway at Halloween, a ghostly mist shrouding the graves and those buried there, even though I was looking through the eyes of a hot summer day.
I had read that people planted lime trees in churchyards, and they did here. Their trunks are gnarled like ancient fingers holding dead hands in the graves beneath.
I found the wrought iron railings to begin with, surrounding the churchyard, with Thomas Bryan's grave on the edge. He died in 1824 after his wife Elizabeth in 1819, she lies nearby. As I stood quietly two white doves flew overhead in the clear midday sky, marking the beginning of a poem.
And the Church still stands strong in the background, to remind us of God the protector and the Holy Spirit who walks on the grassy banks between the fallen stones. I thought again of Thomas and Elizabeth lying entwined there and dreaming of what, maybe nothing at all now their day has gone?
But the setting was right for their story wherever it ends - regency railings, 1830's houses opposite and inside the Church those who were considered more important in an earlier time.
Another Elizabeth's favourite, namely Robert, Lord Dudley and Earl of Warwick. His bones are there with his wife, Lettis, and their son, the Little Imp. I know their story from reading the history books but I couldn't help but think what if it had been different, and Dudley had been King? No doubt he would be resting now in Westminster Abbey with a very different story told.
St Mary's Church has a wealth of material waiting to be written, but then doesn't any place we visit if we delve deep enough and ask questions of our imagination? People centuries ago often didn't travel far in a lifetime, and yet they all had a story to tell whether historically or from their own years.