It was on the front page of the folded paper in my hand on a recent morning. The WSJ before me told in an apt brevity of comment that the last Indian telegraph office had just closed and tapped its final communique'. In a related scene, J. Morris paints with majesty the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Virctoria in the second volume of his Pax Brittania. The year was 1897 at the height of the British Empire and The celebrations reflected the great breadth and reach of the kingdom as all variety of her people were being represented on the streets of London. To mark the occasion the monarch sent her proclamation with something nearing magic around the world to all kinds of nooks and crannies of the empire by this same telegraph as on the front of the paper. This same message "From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them." would have taken months by ship, hoof, and foot at any other point in history. At that momentous occasion the queen and her people sensed their space and were reveling in it. Thus, the adventurers went on venturing, the emigrants went on emigrating, and the colonists went on colonizing.
It was noted by a close acquaintance around a recent dinner table, as he shed an entirely new light on the disposition of the humble apple tree. I had never considered, to my great loss, what decorum, what tact, what sensitivity the beloved apple tree holds within its branches and fruit! This aquaintance said the apple tree will produce fruit while not outgrowing an enclosed area, and, for this reason, it makes a wonderful houseplant. Rather than going about growing too large for the place, throwing its arms against the windows, and crashing into the ceiling, it senses its space with grace and reserve in establishing a correct proportionality. Like the servant with two talents, it gets to work within the confines (or blessings) into which it finds itself and bears fruit without overbearing the room!
It is in the exclamations of "Janet! Donkeys!" which Master Copperfield's aunt shouts with such spasticity:
"Janet had gone away to get the bath ready, when my aunt, to my great alarm, became in one moment rigid with indignation, and had hardly voice to cry out, 'Janet! Donkeys!'
Upon which, Janet came running up the stairs as if the house were in flames, darted out on a little piece of green in front, and warned off two saddle-donkeys, lady-ridden, that had presumed to set hoof upon it; while my aunt, rushing out of the house, seized the bridle of a third animal laden with a bestriding child, turned him, led him forth from those sacred precincts, and boxed the ears of the unlucky urchin in attendance who had dared to profane that hallowed ground.
To this hour I don't know whether my aunt had any lawful right of way over that patch of green; but she had settled it in her own mind that she had, and it was all the same to her. The one great outrage of her life, demanding to be constantly avenged, was the passage of a donkey over that immaculate spot. In whatever occupation she was engaged, however interesting to her the conversation in which she was taking part, a donkey turned the current of her ideas in a moment, and she was upon him straight. Jugs of water, and watering-pots, were kept in secret places ready to be“discharged on the offending boys; sticks were laid in ambush behind the door; sallies were made at all hours; and incessant war prevailed. Perhaps this was an agreeable excitement to the donkey-boys; or perhaps the more sagacious of the donkeys, understanding how the case stood, delighted with constitutional obstinacy in coming that way. I only know that there were three alarms before the bath was ready; and that on the occasion of the last and most desperate of all, I saw my aunt engage, single-handed, with a sandy-headed lad of fifteen, and bump his sandy head against her own gate, before he seemed to comprehend what was the matter. These interruptions were of the more ridiculous to me, because she was giving me broth out of a table-spoon at the time (having firmly persuaded herself that I was actually starving, and must receive nourishment at first in very small quantities), and, while my mouth was yet open to receive the spoon, she would put it back into the basin, cry 'Janet! Donkeys!' and go out to the assault.”
It is found here, as Dickens writes, in another aspect of the most common of spaces, in the necessity of borders and property lines. Borders have been noted more than once on this site (here and here), but they seem to keep cropping up. For, more than keeping one as in a prison yard, it is as with the precious small green patch in front of the cottage, an understanding of outside threats and a guarding with vigilence. For, our space may be small, but when we find it small we should remember the wolves just beyond the clearing (or donkeys as the case may be).
What is this "it"? Although stated variously above let me restate it directly as the sense of space. It is the understanding of our place. It is the understanding of the breadth of our kingdom (heavenly or earthly). It is the guarding of the entrustment we have been given (talents anywhere from one to five).
What then, one may ask, are the tools necessary to evaluate our space aright? My answer would not be the employment of either a telescope or even a microscope. No, I am firmly with F.W. Boreham in proposing a stethescope. The specific stethescope that, rather then listening to the health of the heart's muscle, magnifies the heart's hope of life that will go on when that beating stops. This, I would propose is where the boundary of your space lies. Venture, grow, and guard accordingly.
In a grocery store and a lecture hall
Roeland Park, KS