A woman reading – 22 November 2021
A young woman lies on a bench in the corner of a garden, under the shade of a tree. She is accompanied by two pets, a cat and a dog, who have settled themselves with her. The young woman holds a paper, her attention fixed on what she is reading. She is in two places then, physically on the bench, but in her mind elsewhere.
The woman has been made comfortable on the bench, with a thin mattress beneath her, and a blanket tucked around her. She has not done this herself, but has had help. She may well be sick or convalescing. Behind her head is a colourful cushion, which enhances the visual focus around her face.
The picture is ‘Woman lying on a bench’, by Carl Larsson (1913).
I chose this picture in memory of our daughter Millie, who died this past week. She was chronically sick with Lyme disease for twenty years, spending many hours lying down reading. She too had pets, a dog that would lie at her side in the garden, and a cat that would sleep at her bedroom door. Her world seemed limit, but this was far from the case. Millie was a person of imagination and prayer, so never limited in what she could engage with because she was a reader. Millie was a huge fan of ‘Picturing Prayer’, often in my mind when I selected pictures, poems and prayers.
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right,
and that in faithfulness you have humbled me.
Let your steadfast love become my comfort
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
Let the arrogant be put to shame,
because they have subverted me with guile;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
Let those who fear you turn to me,
so that they may know your decrees.
May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
so that I may not be put to shame.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Millie Rose Dyer
16 October 1991 – 15 November 2021