Lower than a snake’s belly in a tractor groove.

It was one of those days for quotations. I was at the local shop and the woman behind the counter asked me how I was. On telling her I was fine she told me she’d been ‘lower than a snake’s belly in a tractor groove.’ Graphic. Raw. Visceral. It is a Belfast beautiful phrase from one of those wonderful Belfast people who tend to tell you how it is. I can say that. I’m not from Belfast. She went on to tell me what had made a difference to her when she was feeling low – the friends who sat with her and didn’t tell her there were those worse off than her. Street wisdom of the soundest kind.

I’ve been thinking on one of the lines from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:

There’s a crack in everything

That’s where the light gets in.

There’s a crack in everything – our lives, our communities, our cities, our town-lands. You name it and there’s a crack in it. When I was a child I used to try to miss stepping on the cracks in the pavement. There was something abominable about them. Cohen has more enlightenment. Without the cracks in our lives we close down and close in on ourselves. We pretend all is well when, in fact, we still need the light to get in.

And finally, Flannery O’Connor:

There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. 


I had the privilege of being MC at the launch of the 4corners festival in Belfast. The theme is storytelling. It’s a big theme in Northern Ireland. We all want to tell our stories. We all want someone significant to listen. The Historical Abuse Inquiry has opened and there those who suffered will get the chance to speak, to tell their story, to someone in authority in the hope that it will make all the difference.

O’Connor reminds us that we are all looking for redemption, healing, hope, a new beginning. As we tell our stories and as we are privileged to listen to the stories of others there is the persistent demand for the redemptive act, a persistent striving that what has fallen will at least be given the chance to be restored. That is hope, hope so ingrained that it gives everything that falls a chance to be restored. That is the redemptive act in the relationship between speaking and listening, storytelling and story hearing. Just another place where the light gets in.

See the whole 4 corners festival programme for places where the light will be getting in – http://www.4cornersfestival.com


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