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The hummingbirds are darting through the backyard garden of my friend's casita. I'm sitting in the shade of a palm with my computer, the towering San Jacinto mountain ranges providing a breathtaking backdrop beyond the desert brush. Flying down from Seattle yesterday, my window seat allowed me to get a bird's eye view of much of California's contours as we made our way to the Coachella Valley. My dependable sense of direction was challenged, however, once my friend and I left Palm Springs and headed into the night, navigating around detours, and some low-lying hills to our final destination of 29 Palms. Why was the mountain still there? I wondered. Shouldn't it be over in that direction? I couldn't wait to get on googlemaps in the morning to place myself in the larger context of my new environment.

Today's post is a bit of an orientation to Julian of Norwich. My personal introduction to this well-revered Christian mysitc and writer began several years ago with the discovery of the oft-quoted phrase: "all shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." Like a brochure to a restful oasis, it has invited me to experience more of what Julian saw and wrote. And as things are often more understood when placed in a context, here are some facts as we begin to explore the terrain that Julian inhabited.
 
Born in 1343 and dying at some point after 1416, Julian lived in England during a time that saw the Black Death decimate much of the countryside. We know little about her early live, but it's possible that her name was taken from the church that she spent her later life attached to: St Julian's of Conisford, Norwich (pictured above.) Having spent time in fervent prayer that she would receive an intense vision of the passion, an illness approaching death, and the three gifts of contrition, compassion and an earnest desire for God, at the age of 30 Julian did indeed experience a disease that was so severe, a priest was called to administer last rites. As he placed an image of the crucifix in front of her, she received the first of several visions of Christ and instead of death, she was miraculously healed. 

The record of these  "shewings" and her further reflections upon them resulted in a manuscript that is the first known theological text written in English (as opposed to Latin) and the first written by an English woman. After her visions, she lived as a "solitary" in a cell attached to St. Julian's where she wrote, prayed and acted as spiritual guide to those who would come to visit her.



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