Conversation with a Hedgehog


Originally uploaded by tristrambrelstaff

Conversation with a Hedgehog

Last night after midnight, as every night, I went outside to look at the sky. I like to gaze at the vastness of space and to see the stars and the moon before I sleep. It always brings a feeling of expansion that is very welcome after sitting and writing for so many hours at the laptop. When I lived in Andalucia every night was clear and there was little light pollution except for a faint glow above Granada in the distance, behind the Sierra Nevada. If there were clouds then they would often have extraordinary shapes, or be large and dramatic, but usually they left enough free patches of sky to see the stars shining brightly between them. English weather is very different. Blessed with plenty of rain that keeps this island green, flourishing, and very damp, the sky is often completely overcast with total cloud coverage. Although it is now mid-July the weather is more autumnal than summery and last night and when I looked into the sky last night there was nothing to be seen but cloud glowing faintly red from the city lights. So I looked down instead. At the grass beneath my feet, soft and covered in clover. I wandered to the middle of the garden and suddenly heard a noise over by the hedge. As quietly as possible I tiptoed over to its source. It was very dark but I could just about discern the shape of a hedgehog under the deep shadows of the apple tree. It was snorting and sniffling and appeared to be quite content. It had just finished a good meal put out for it every night by the owner of the house where I am lodging while doing my MA. I didn’t take a photo as the flash would probably frighten the hedgehog but I stood quietly reflecting on the spikiness of hedgehogs and what there is to learn from Allah swt, in this little creature who, like all of creation, is one of His signs. When I was back in my room and in front of my laptop I decided to do a Google search using the keywords SUFI * SYMBOL * ANIMALS. I found nothing about hedgehogs but some very interesting things did come up. The most interesting was a paper entitled, “The Sufi Trobar Clus and Spanish Mysticism: A Shared Symbolism” by Luce López-Baralt. This is all about the influence of Sufi symbolism on St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila through the continuing influence of Islamic mysticism in Al-Andalus (Spain). It is an excellent essay and well worth reading. The incredible thing was, Alhamdulillah, that this is exactly the research I need when I begin my doctoral thesis in September! I then had a moment of sudden realization concerning the hedgehog who had set me off on this search that brought such good and unexpected results, its prickles are potent pointers that led me to exactly the articles I need to read and Allah, swt, guides us in so many ways if we learn to listen.


Reading the Signs of God

Ship on the Mediterranean by I. Chatterjee

I live high in the Alpujarran mountains of Andalucia in Spain and the views across the mountains to the Mediterranean are stunning and give a great deal to reflect upon. The entire universe, including ourselves, is a great book filled with the signs of God waiting to be read. At this time of year, after the intense heat of summer, the weather is beginning to change. A pleasant drop in temperature, cooler breezes, a subtle change in the quality of the light are all harbingers of the coming Autumn and as I walk above the village and look out to sea I am reminded of the importance of rhythm in our lives and its connection with time.

From the beating of our hearts and the breathing of our lungs rhythm is an essential partner in the passing of time and the two link arms and appear throughout the natural and biological world and also manifest in cultural, religious, and social scenarios. If rhythm is honoured then the result can be a creative unfolding of divine surprises and moments of grace that reveal the true humanity of an individual. It is these divine surprises and blessings that suggest to me the melodies, keys, and chords for which rhythm builds the framework.
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