Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still thinking about Christmas

Faith would be that God is self-limited utterly by his creation- a contraction of the scope of his will; that he bound himself to time and its hazards and haps as a man would lash himself to a tree for love. That God's works are as good as we make them. That God is helpless, our baby to bear, self-abandoned on the doorstep of time, wondered at by cattle and oxen. . . . Faith would be, in short, that God has any willful connection with time whatsoever, and with us. For I know it as given that whatever he touches has meaning, if only in his mysterious terms, the which I readily grant. Then question is, then, whether God touches anything. Is anything firm, or is time on the loose?

Annie Dillard, Holy The Firm

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Light and Longing

"The sky had here and there a star;/The earth had a single light afar,/
A flickering, human pathetic light,/That was maintained against the night”
– Robert Frost, "On the Heart's Beginning to Cloud the Mind"

Over Thanksgiving, I found myself sitting where I'd sat a thousand times before. I was at the kitchen table of my childhood home, looking out the window to the small, rolling hills just a little over two miles away. As a kid I'd sit there and look at the lights in the distance and imagine the homes from which they came. I was too far away to see any specifics, but I'd fill in the details: families sitting down together for dinner, siblings playing the piano, children doing homework, loved ones conversing. I’d imagine all these activities taking place within that warm, welcoming glow, an element of their evening in which I was allowed to be a part. Maybe these were just street lights or porch lights, but to me these were lights that lit up human activity – appealing, warm human activity. You'd think that my imaginings would imply that those activities weren't occurring in my own home, but they were. In fact, if someone up on one of those hills were imagining the light from my house illuminating these things they'd be correct. I don't know why I was so fascinated by these lights or what I was longing to see, but they would continue to entrance me for years. I can’t explain it. There’s a German word, “Sehnsucht,” that means "a longing for who knows what." Sehnsucht is the closest I’ve been able to come to placing a term to this unreachable imagining.

This year we're settling into a different house, an unknown town, and an unfamiliar state. It's been nice. We arrived in Mount Vernon, Ohio in June. Brett, having completed his Ph.D., started his new job at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in August. Olivia quickly adjusted and dove right into her new adventures including preschool and dance class. And sweet Mae joined our family at the end of October. I'm not working for the first time in a long time and have enjoyed soaking everything in. At night, if someone were to drive by, they'd notice a glow coming from our house, lighting up our pastimes: talking, cooking, eating, feeding, playing (lots of playing), a little reading, very little sitting, and even less sleeping.

On the first Christmas, some shepherds noticed the glow of a faraway light, also illuminating some new human activity. They followed the glow and found Christ. From an even greater distance we now imagine that scene, and it's usually lit up. I'm guessing the stable was probably a lot darker than we think and not very warm or cozy. I don't think the little Lord Jesus exuded some super human glow or warmth. His lower lip probably quivered when he cried, he probably drew up his legs into the fetal position with the feet folding one on top of each other, longing for the warmth and peace of the womb. Without an angel's proclamation, anyone passing by that dark stable on that night would never have imagined the significance of the perfect light within. Whether from a distance of yards or years, things often are not as they appear. O Holy Night.

This Christmas if you find yourself in a warm-lit place, a recipient of a welcoming glow, may you recognize Christ bearing light to the moment. And if you find yourself grasping for that warm-lit scenario, looking for hints of it in the distance, longing for who knows what, remember where there is no apparent light, where very little warmth can be detected, Christ is born. And where He appears, the soul feels its worth.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Readings

I don't know this guy Charlie. He's a friend of a friend of my family's....
But he's put together an advent poetry blog.
Quite good for a little daily reflection.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

She gets it.

(A post originally intended for the Halloween season, but giving birth has postponed it until now...more to come soon.)
For almost a year now, Olivia, my 3-year-old has had an unwelcomed obsession with monsters. I think we first noticed it one night when she came into our bedroom and said, "Jesus is bringing me monsters." Her exposure to said creatures has been limited. The most reoccurring ones appear to be ogres, giants, and wolves.
Olivia brought this monster home from preschool a couple of weeks ago. Based on the other monster pictures I saw coming out of the classroom, the mouth was probably supposed to be a smile, but she gets it. Monsters are unhappy. They show up in her nightmares. For any number of reasons, they are a rejected species. Shows like the Muppets or Sesame Street, even the movie Monsters Inc. are trying to redefine monsters for us, take away the scariness, but it doesn't really work. What you end up with aren't monsters at all. Monsters are never really happy, just ask Olivia.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Novel

"...I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.”

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, French novelist, won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature yesterday

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Better than Oxygen

I intentionally try to vary my mediums of influence, but music wins out time and time again. And again, it's Willy Mason's lyrics that are having an extended visit in this household. These days Brett and I play his songs as we're getting ready for the day or for a meal. Olivia sings her versions as she plays with her cars under our dining room table.
Maybe he's a seasonal association for us. We thrived during the autumns on Martha's Vineyard. But it's also this talk of "crisis," the election, the mood, the "heavy" that's bringing me back to his words. Now it's his song, Oxygen, perhaps best heard outside, under the trees next to Seth's Pond where Tom and Warren rig a killer sound system. But I'm sure something significant can still be conveyed if you just listen to it on your laptop. I've added a visual this time, which I'm quite certain was shot entirely on Martha's Vineyard.

"Oxygen" by Willy Mason

I wanna be better than oxygen
So you can breathe when you're drowning and weak in the knees
I wanna speak louder than Ritalin
For all the children who think that they've got a disease
I wanna be cooler than t.v.
For all the kids that are wondering what they are going to be
We can be stronger than bombs
If you're singing along and you know that you really believe
We can be richer than industry
As long as we know that there's things that we don't really need
We can speak louder than ignorance
Cause we speak in silence every time our eyes meet.

On and on, and on it goes
The world it just keeps spinning
Until i'm dizzy, time to breathe
So close my eyes and start again anew.

I wanna see through all the lies of society
To the reality, happiness is at stake
I wanna hold up my head with dignity
Proud of a life where to give means more than to take
I wan't to live beyond the modern mentality
Where paper is all that you're really taught to create
Do you remember the forgotten America?
Justice, equality, freedom to every race?
Just need to get past all the lies and hypocrisy
Make up and hair to the truth behind every face
That look around to all the people you see,
How many of them are happy and free?
I know it sounds like a dream
But it's the only thing that can get me to sleep at night
I know it's hard to believe
But it's easy to see that something here isn't right
I know the future looks dark
But it's there that the kids of today must carry the light.

If i'm afraid to catch a dream
I weave your baskets and i'll float them down the river stream
Each one i weave with words i speak to carry love to your relief.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's a Hard Hand to Hold...

One of the joys of living on Martha's Vineyard for two years was being exposed to the music of local artist, Willy Mason. He's 24 going on 60. I'm really not sure how he can write with such truth and insight, but it's there and I'd love for everyone I know to be in a room together for a Willy Mason listening party (preferably back at Tom and Julie Willett's house).
I'm sure I'll cite him again one day, but the discourse and feel of things around our country as of late has me coming back to some of his lyrics. The first time I heard "Hard Hand to Hold", I was riding in a car with Lindsey Czechowicz and Kay Zittrer. It was just over a year ago. We were on our way to Oak Bluffs. The windows were down, and they insisted on turning it up and playing it over and over again. Thanks girls, it's haunted me ever since.
So here it is, in full. Thanks for reading.

"Hard Hand to Hold" by Willy Mason

Look him in the eyes
There's no need to be scared
He's as powerless as you and me,
Though his face is well worn
And his clothes a bit torn
That don't mean that you shouldn't believe,
When he asks you your name
Says 'brother we're all here in the same game'
But you shrink back like he's a disease,
Yeah you shake and you moan
You say 'oh please take me home'
And the homeless all sing the reprise.

It's a hard hand to hold
That is looking for control
It is tempting to fight
When you know that you're right,
It's hard to lie down
When you don't trust the ground
It's hard to hold on,
It's hard to hold on.

Walking home again
There comes a battle with the wind
As it teases your provisions against shame,
Like all that wax in your hair
It becomes painfully clear
That as long as it's a fight, you'll never win,
And when you get to the door
You're still so busy fighting wars
That you can't look upon your lady as a friend,
You're trying so hard to be right
You miss the love in that first sight
And your lover feels alone once again.

It's a hard hand to hold
That is looking for control
It is tempting to fight
When you know that you're right,
It's hard to lie down
When you don't trust the ground
It's hard to hold on,
It's hard to hold on.

Entering the liquor store
You try your hardest to ignore
That street sleeper on your left there all alone,
And the young man on your right
With unchained souls and love of night
You look so scared they laugh and wonder if your stoned,
But somewhere deep inside
They feel the pain they've learned to hide
Because that same fear has brought much trouble on their homes,
And they know you won't feel safe
Until that cop car wins its race
And another life is driven off its road.

It's a hard hand to hold
That is looking for control
It is tempting to fight
When you know that you're right,
It's hard to lie down
When you don't trust the ground
It's hard to hold on,
It's hard to hold on.

It's a hard hand to hold
That is looking for control
It is tempting to fight
When you know that you're right,
It's hard to lie down
When you don't trust the ground
It's hard to hold on,
It's hard to hold on

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From Bono

"I am not qualified to comment on what has happened in the last week where this city has changed shape, certainly psychologically, and in terms of some people's wallets. And I'm not qualified to comment on the interventions that have been put forth. I presume these people know what they're doing. But it is extraordinary to me that you can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion to save 25,000 children who die every day of preventable, treatable disease and hunger."


Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Book Loft

If you ever find yourself with an afternoon in Columbus, OH, get a map and make your way down to the Book Loft in the German Village area. I've only been to a handful of bookstores that so successfully capture the pleasure of browsing. We spent Saturday afternoon here, and we'd just purchased a new camera, so I had a good time.

The 32 cluttered rooms, packed from floor to ceiling, are arranged by topic with the music in each room catering to the authors housed there. Occasionally, two rooms will be so small and close to each other that the music clashes. While this was annoying at first, we eventually commented on the feeling that the books themselves were speaking, almost trying to be heard over one another. So the Poozies might get an audience with someone camped in the sci-fi room while John Williams might gain a fan perusing the Celtic nook. And if you stand in the juxtaposition long enough, you have to consider that perhaps there's a connection between the Irish experience and outer space travel.

Some rooms are more organized than others, but in the extensive maze that makes this independent bookstore so charming and such a tourist attraction, I can only imagine it's staffed primarily by a handful of part-timers. For them to stay on top of shelving would be a full time job for at least 4 people. And I found some satisfaction in doing my part sorting out and organizing the works of my own favorite authors. If I lived closer, I think I'd probably volunteer a Saturday out of every month just to walk through and correct the shelves.

We will come here again. If you ever visit us and are a lover of books, we'll be sure to bring you here as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Speaking of Faith...

"To summon the kingdom of heaven as Jesus described it is not to call down perfection on an imperfect world, but to bring recurring, overriding virtues of the Gospel- love, mercy, and redemption- to moments that will probably not make the headlines."

Krista Tippett
Speaking of Faith

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pajama Reading

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Olivia and I found this treasure at the library. I don't know which I like better- the words or the illustrations, but together they take my mind off of busy days, politics, conflicts, general issues of a temporary nature, and lift my gaze to the big, the pure, the good....and not in a "forget the rest" kind of way, but rather with a calmy whispered "remember this."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Can't you just hear the thinking?

The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France, from Diane Asséo Griliche's book, Library: The Drama Within

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jump, Jump

I don't think I ever played hopscotch as a kid. I'm not even sure what a hopscotch game is supposed to look like, but Olivia loves to jump and we needed something to entertain while we did some yard work this afternoon. So I drew this on the sidewalk in front of our house and proceeded to pull the weeds. After awhile we abandoned the yard and the game to go in for a break.
We live just a few blocks from downtown, and our sidewalk sees a lot of pedestrian traffic through the course of a day. And to my unexpected delight, more than not, most passersby felt inclined to take advantage of our hopscotch diagram-mostly teens, but a number of seniors as well. In fact, I only saw one lone woman resist the temptation to jump.
Enough for now, I must get back to my post by the window.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Good things to come from Marilynne Robinson

I'm pulling this quote directly from Alan Jacobs blog. This is the first I've heard of a new book from Marilynne Robinson, and I'm still handing out suggestions for folks to read her last one, Gilead. Apparently, this new one is its companion and will be out next month. Here's a taste of why it's sure to be worth our time to pick it up:

"There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa used to say. You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding. Her father had said this more than once, in sermons, with appropriate texts, but the real text was Jack, and those to whom he spoke were himself and the row of Boughtons in the front pew, which usually did not include Jack, and then, of course, the congregation. If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace."

—Marilynne Robinson, from Home (to be published next month)

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Clustering of the Like-Minded

The small town dynamic continues to perplex me. And these days I'm still better at collecting others' thoughts than expressing my own. Maybe soon I'll have the luxury to sift through it all and pound out some coherent ideas, but currently that's not an accurate reflection of my mental map. There's not even a table of contents up there right now.
We don't get NPR in our town. It's on an AM station out of Columbus that I can sometimes pick up if I'm driving, but usually Olivia is with me, and the constant buzzing is too much to ask of her. So tonight, Brett fixed me up with a speaker loud enough for me to listen to the NPR Program Stream off my computer while working around the house. Thank you Brett, you've changed my life again. Within minutes, Talk of the Nation was coming through clear as a bell.
Tonight, Guy Raz was talking with Bill Bishop, the author of a new book called The Big Sort: How the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. The big idea is that we tend to live, work, and play with people who think just like us. Bishop suggests that this practice is doing us, and our society at large, a great disservice. It's keeping us from engaging in legitimate discussion on all important issues. It's perpetuating ignorance. Before we recognize what's happening to us, we get entangled in group think and only see the opposition as absurd.
Here's the link to the interview which also includes an excerpt from the book. Joel, you'll be getting this in the mail soon- happy birthday, and welcome back. I'm checking it out at our library tomorrow (or I should say, I'll be requesting it through interlibrary loan).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Now Live On Memory Lane

I've lived in a big city, a couple of college towns, and on an island. Now I'm trying to wrap my mind around establishing roots in Smalltown, U.S.A. It's always been an attractive notion to me- walking my kids to school, supporting local businesses, knowing my neighbors, using already existing structures- but there are ramifications I hadn't considered. I'm still a fan, but it is a huge adjustment. I think the permanence is hard to conceive.
Because of all this, there have been lots of thoughts and ideas running around in my head, about place, identity, opportunity, exposure. To make these thoughts productive, I'm going outside of myself- always a good idea, something we should all do more often.
These topics are creeping into conversation and leading to all sorts of other discussions, all very interesting. And without intention, they are also guiding my eyes as I read. Just recently, my husband pointed me to this blog posting by Alan Jacobs from the American Scene. My eyes have been resting here ever since. It, as well as the links he highlights, is a large part of what I'm processing right now.
It's no longer just a topic in one of my sociology classes, it's the reality in which I now live. More to come on this, I'm sure.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stuck In A Moment

It's 4:20 AM and I can't sleep. So I'm taking the quiet of the morning as a chance to post something I've been smiling about for weeks. We've been "in transition" for about a month now- leaving the Vineyard, buying a house, defending (and passing!) a dissertation, preparing for 2nd baby- I'm sure I'm forgetting something. We joke that we like to cram all of life's big changes into a short span of time. Lots of big moments in the past few weeks, but by far one of my favorites occured one morning when we were babysitting David and Sarah's kids. We'd gotten them dressed and fed for school and were just cleaning up when an impromptu concert started up in the den. It started with Sam and Peter lounging on the couch strumming guitars- some slow lazy version of a Killers song. Then Olivia joined in, the broom and mop came out, and Dorothy provided the backup IPod. Before we could really process what was happening they were singing U2 at the top of their lungs. "Elevation", followed by "Stuck In A Moment", and the boys knew every word- they were singing with such conviction. Olivia just strummed and sang "elevation" over and over again, for both songs. The energy in the room was like no other. Sheer happiness. What a cool crew.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Running the Numbers with Chris Jordan

Once in conversation a few years ago, a friend of mine stated that recycling wasn't economically beneficial. Whether or not that's true, I think he's missing the point.
I've never been as environmentally conscious as I'd like to be. I recycle, I read folks like Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver, I've taught units on environmental issues, I've seen Inconvenient Truth. But my accumulated knowledge still doesn't affect my day to day decisions as much as I'd like. I've hardly ever acknowledged, much less remembered Earth Day.
I think it was about a year ago that someone introduced me to the works of Chris Jordan. So in honor of Earth Day this year, I introduce him to you. He was once a corporate attorney, and now he's a photographic artist whose subject has become American consumerism. Through his work he tries to make unfathomable statistics tangible, and I think the effect is astounding.

Here he is depicting two million plastic bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes:
Here we zoom in a bit:

and a bit more:

And here he recreates Seurat's painting, "Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte" with 106,000 aluminum cans, the amount used in the US every 30 seconds:
zoom again:

Unbelievable, right? Check out more pictures and explanations on Chris Jordan's website.
And Happy Earth Day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

If you didn't catch it, here it is...

Whether you vote for him or not, I think most people can agree that Barack Obama is a powerful speaker. I wasn't able to watch Obama's response to his former pastor's controversial statements, but I just read the transcript. I think its a very important, even historic, piece of writing. And if the race conversation can continue in this vein, I believe good things will come. It's a bit long, but it needs to be. If you haven't seen/read it, and if you have some time, here it is. From the New York Times:
Transcript of Obama's Speech on Race

Monday, March 3, 2008

Unacknowledged Friendships

My Friends by Taro Gomi
Olivia's cousin Sam gave this book to her for Christmas. It's a creative and simple narrative about what our various "friends" can teach us. Olivia has memorized the entire book. I love to hear her say, "I learned to read from my friends the books."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Penguin In the Barnyard

Who would have thought it possible? Who would have thought that a penguin could survive, thrive even, in a barnyard? Common sense would tell us that the climate and environment of the average barnyard would not sustain such polar creatures. They need ice. They are sustained by sea life. Don’t they live half of their lives in the water? And aren’t they more of a herd animal, living in communities with other penguins? So how is it possible that I am now watching one waddle around with the pig and the horse and the cow and the rooster in our barnyard?
Leave it to Olivia, my two-year-old daughter to figure it out. She just pulled it out of her toy box, wound it up, and let it loose. At first it knocked over the horse and then banged repeatedly into the side of the barn, but in the long run, I think this arrangement will work out. Olivia has even made a bed for the penguin in the Silo conveniently attached to the barn. The rest of the animals were made by Fisher Price, but they seem to be accepting of this toy with no identity other than a tiny oval sticker on its bottom that reads, “Made In China.” The other animals are made of plastic, and it has fur. It hops around and they have to wait to be moved, but everyone seems to be getting along okay.
Toy mixing of this kind comes natural to Olivia, but it drives her father and me crazy- we want the big doll with snap on accessories to stay in her corner of the room while the little dollhouse family carries on in their own home. But she won’t hear of it. The afternoon is much more exciting for everyone when the oversized doll with snap on accessories comes over and crowds the entire dollhouse den. Don’t ask snap on doll to have a seat. For one thing, she’d never fit into any of the furniture, but she also doesn’t bend, so its not likely she can stay for dinner. However, I guess she could participate in the dollhouse family’s favorite after dinner activity-- sliding off the roof.
I guess at some point I’ll have to explain to my daughter that penguins have special needs which probably can’t be met in our barnyard. And if she ever brings home a giant friend, logistically we’ll have to have a picnic, but at least for now she is teaching me to unlearn some ideas I’ve bought into over the years. I need her to remind me that where you came from and what size you are doesn’t determine who you get to play with. And perhaps I should make it a practice to be more comfortable and intrigued by these unlikely marriages and be quicker to ask, “why not?” There’s something more to be learned here. I want her clearheadedness. I long for her unfettered imagination.
For the sake of convenience, my tendency is to categorize, compartmentalize, label. Not just toys, but people, roles, tasks, ideas, all of it. It is as if I believe that by placing something within a group, I’ll be able to master it, fully comprehend it, control it. I assign a definition to make it definite. But on a daily basis, and in the most creative ways, my daughter is teaching me that in doing this, I’m making each of these things less of what it could potentially be. In my desire to control, I limit. I take away possibilities when I choose these shortcuts to comprehension.
Where else can this apply? Am I missing entire portions of the life before me? What am I not letting in? Madeleine L’Engle once made the observation that the words healed, whole, and holy have the same root word. This rings true to me. To the extent that I am thinking, working, living within my determined “sections,” I am not witnessing or experiencing the whole. And where I am not whole, there I am broken, not well, unhealthy. And perhaps the holiest of moments are those in which I capture a glimpse of something beyond the range of my trained eyes. What is a holy moment if it is not a vision of something bigger than the comfortably familiar? Is it not a further understanding of what it could be like to live within the larger picture rather than just functioning within a few random puzzle pieces?
A few weeks ago in church, during the Litany of Healing, we spoke in chorus of abundant life, soundness of mind, serenity of spirit. We read together, “Lord, grant your healing grace to all who are sick, injured, or disabled, that they may be made whole.....Restore to wholeness whatever is broken by human sin, in our lives, in our nation, and in the world. ... O Lord of Life: Heal us, and make us whole.”
What I must acknowledge and confess is that more than not, I am functioning as a bunch of broken pieces, with a broken perspective on a broken world in which a bunch of other broken pieces are walking around. (Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece, anyone?) We all desire wholeness but then try to attain it through broken means. We want to “organize” our lives, we want to be “balanced,” we need to get “control” of things. And again we’re back to using the dirty devices that got us into so much trouble in the first place. No human should be summed up by their occupation, salary, familial title, or their blog. Everyone is so much more. We have curiosities, interests, ponderings, dreams, visions, conversations, pasts, and all of these little, immeasurable pieces work together to make us who we are. We, each of us, are magnificently complicated. On the few occasions that I do operate outside of my presupposed categories, new things happen.
So how do I pursue wholeness? How do I begin to mend? How do I escape these fragmented perceptions? Where do I start? I don’t know. No doubt it will be a life long pursuit. And I think it begins with this awareness, this commitment to take captive another thought, another circumstance that arises, and question my labels, my categories, my definitions. Invite the penguin into the barnyard and savor the beauty of unlikely marriages. Look for these holy moments in unlikely places. See the mundane as magical. Practice alchemy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Alma Mater

A friend sent this to me, and I had to share. As you watch, you might enjoy noting:
-It was in front of Krannert Center where Brett and I decided to give dating a try.
-Many nights were spent with friends up at Frost Chapel playing games and talking and singing.
-Some of us shadow danced in front of Hermann Hall and tried to figure out how to break in without causing too much trouble.
-The Ford Buildings. Ahhh, the Ford Buildings. They might be the main reason I chose Berry. Just look at them. I lived there all four years, worked there three of those years, and know their "off-limits" underground catacombs pretty extensively.
-The College Chapel is where Brett and I were married.
-Swan Lake is where I'd like to say I sat on a blanket and read the classics, but usually I just fell asleep.
-The House of Dreams (on top of the mountain) was a hiking/biking destination: Easter sunrise services, picnics, excellent views
-See that tower in the middle of the Reservoir? There's a tunnel that leads up to that and I climbed/shimmied up it with some friends one night- perhaps one of the scariest things I've ever done. Fortunately we didn't climb back down- we just jumped out when we got to the top and swam to land.
-And see those deer? Yes, they are everywhere. More deer than people. Once a girl was hit by a deer. He was trying to jump over her. Another time a girl hit a deer with her car. She then carried it up to the third floor hall bathroom in one of the Ford buildings and skinned it .
-Hacky Sack 101 is a required PE class for all freshmen.....not really, but I did get to take a mountain biking class. How many colleges will offer that?
Thanks for letting me reminisce.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Problem with Epiphanies...

"And the experience of the Present- the "saying"- recedes instantly into the Past (the "said") precisely in that moment when one's mind realizes an epiphany is occurring and tries to seize the mystery by closing one's hand over it. The problem for the artist, but equally for any human seeker, is to allow that moment of suspension to remain open so that it may do its work."

From Wayne L. Roosa's essay, "A Meditation on the Joint and Its Holy Ornaments"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Keeping Warm...

Winter Is the Warmest Season
by Lauren Stringer
Here's another find. I wasn't really into it at first, but Olivia kept asking for it. We've checked it out from the library multiple times. She calls it the Hot Chocolate book which is a pretty good summary. It plays off the warm imagery from this cold season-- fluffy coats, grilled cheese sandwiches, dancing fires. In a word, this book is cozy.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Breakfast with Otters

I’m going to miss these types of mornings after we leave this place. Brett, Olivia, and I stood at our sliding door this morning and watched otters slip in and out of the holes in the ice on the pond in our backyard. The ice is not yet thick enough to lure the community out with their skates and hockey sticks, so right now the rink belongs exclusively to the otters, some ducks, and what locals are telling me is a Great Blue Herron.
Brett and I both grew up in ranch house subdivisions just outside of big cities in the south. My daily outdoor fascinations amounted to the small hills about three miles away (i called them mountains), a creek that ran through land set aside for a row of large electric powerline towers, and an old tree line cutting through our neighborhood blocks. All were great, legitimate interactions with nature, but nothing like this.
Here, the only other house we can see is our next door neighbors'. Now that all the leaves have fallen, we can see parts of houses across the lake, but as everyone's homes are the same color as bark we're all still tucked away behind the camouflage. And when the ice does get thick enough, when families do come out with their ice skates, it's just magic. We'll be the family out there with stupid grins on our faces. I guess what I’m getting at is that we're probably more excited than Olivia to observe a family of otters over breakfast.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's All Clay, Every Bit of It

This past summer my mother and I went to Sylvia Hyman's exhibit, Fictional Clay, at The Frist in Nashville. Sylvia’s sculptures are of a genre called “trompe l’oeil” (fool the eye). You think you are looking at common objects like baskets, sheets of paper, envelopes, packages, but you are actually looking at clay imitation. It’s all made of clay, even her corrugated cardboard.
It’s quite remarkable (these photos don’t adequately demonstrate her mastery of detail). But to what end? Why would a woman spend days to create something that, in the end, would just look like, but not be, a piece of paper?
A number of people have questioned if her work constitutes art. They suggest it is only craft and lacking of concept or deeper meaning. It simply is what it is- a clever replica of something else. Art or not, it fascinated me. I’ve always been drawn to paper. Its potential is overwhelming. As much as it is used as a tool to convey meaning or message, it could interact with every possible human emotion. It represents infinite possibilities. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, but I know it to be significant.
This past week I read a quote from Martin Buber’s "Distance and Relation,"and something in it carried me back to the Fictional Clay exhibit:
"Man has a great desire to enter into personal relation with things and to imprint on them his relation to them. To use them, even to possess them, is not enough; they must become his in another way...."
Do you know the feeling? I don't think he's talking about an unhealthy obsession here. This seems to go beyond our materialistic urge to collect, shop, stockpile. It's not about status or power, it's about confessing that the essence of the "thing" is beyond your grasp. I think this has to do with recognizing the worth of something, and in the case of Sylvia Hyman's pieces, it's often paper.
I believe I am correct that all of Hyman's paper objects are to appear used. Every piece has been handled by someone with a purpose. The sealed envelopes have messages, the wrapped packages hold surprises, the rolled up staff paper contains a composition.
But now I'm talking like this is real paper. It's not. It's clay, just like us. But by using clay, she blends the author with the content. Our words, our creations, our messages are part of who we are. And to the extent that a piece of paper contains the inner workings of a human mind, it alone could constitute a work of art. Like Hyman's work, its not just a piece of paper.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Orange: A Communal Fruit

An Orange In January
by Dianna Hutts Aston
Olivia and I found this book at the library last week, and it has quickly become a new favorite. Its just the story of an orange-- from its blossom on the tree to its segments shared on a swing set. I can't read it without craving at least one slice, so after a reading, Olivia and I usually end up splitting an orange at the kitchen table. It's such a good, healthy fruit, created to be shared. Parents, if you are looking for a good read with your kids, here's one.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do You Know This Man?

Way back when my brothers were in the high school marching band, I was a preteen with no social outlets. During this time of boredom and not much identity, I met the 5th version of this man. Joel and David had band practices on the nights that Dr. Who would air on our local public broadcasting station, and as we didn't really trust the timer on our VCR, I was instructed to turn to channel 8 at 8PM and push the record button. For the following hour I could be found alone in our den, leaning my elbows on our avocado green ottoman, taking in more classic sci-fi than most people my age. It would usually leave me confused and probably a bit scared, which would require that I watch each episode again with my brothers in order to benefit from their commentary and their ability to find the humor in the strange creatures that had so terrified me in my first viewing.
Eventually, I became well acquainted with this man in all of his many versions, and I think I can honestly say that aside from my family and Jesus, Dr. Who probably has more to do with my character, worldview, moral compass than anyone else. He informs my response to absurdities. I appeal to his judgement in situational analysis. When I'm about to write someone off, I'm reminded that he finds each individual to be of infinite worth.
When I brought my now-husband home to visit my family for the first time, I made him sit through some Dr. Who tapes. It was the best way to really explain myself to him, and if he was still interested after viewing, then I figured he was a keeper.
The show disappeared for awhile but came back a couple of years ago. And now, through some gracious miracle we've found enough interested and patient friends to start up a regular Dr. Who viewing party. I'm a bit overwhelmed as to how to introduce this complex character to my friends responsibly, but I'm confident that while I'll have to fight the urge to apologize for cheesy lines, scary saltshakers, and the absurd handiness of the sonic screwdriver, they will eventually understand that the underlying message of the show is about the significance of people-- that just like his spaceship/police box, we're all bigger on the inside than the outside.