From chapter 5

(yes, I got my paper done - this is for dessert)

I've checked out one of Julia Cameron's books from the library, and although I hadn't yet found her books to contain things I could use for hand or toe holds, this one seems to. There are some particularly delicious quotes (can a toe hold be delicious?) in the side margins of chapter five.

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. Charles Dickens

We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. The Talmud

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung

The Cloying Nature of Bad Habits ... and the irritating Bright Light of New Circumstances


Just exactly HOW old am I now? Eight? Still in the third grade? Well, no, actually. Forty years have passed since then. And yet, here I am, facing ALL of the following:

1. In school, love school, not quite healthy enough to be in school.

2. Fighting a lingering illness that makes me both worn out and paranoid about never getting well again.

3. Making up for lost time by way of Writing(ing)(ing) Underrrrr Pressure(ure)(ure). If you are still young enough to believe you work "better under pressure," you might not believe me, but this is no way to work well. Illness makes this kind of writing necessary (now that I can focus my eyes and brain again) -- experience makes me painfully aware of how bad writing can be when it is done like this.

When I was young, I often crashed out - physically, I just completely fooped down to zero energy sometimes. Or, my knees would be too painful to use for walking. Or, I'd cough like an ancient emphysema patient ... but not slow down until I had pneumonia. These reactions are not physical responses to physical stimulus - this was never a matter of getting a broken arm due to walking off the roof of a building. This was pure manifestation of emotional and psychological exhaustion and/or a sense of overwhelm. It's obvious.

So what the HECK is my problem NOW??? Why is it so danged difficult to concentrate, work, plan, execute the plan, proceed as if I know what I'm doing, and just do it? Why have I gotten this ill again? What am I looking for? What do I want?

Whatever it is, I've got a paper to write. All I have to do today is write a nice, easy, 4-5 page essay so I can pass my "LLE1 Writing Outcome" so that I will not have to take freshman English again. I am Luke Skywalker, flying over the Death Star, waiting for the perfect moment to sent in my explosive load down that little tiny shaft ... stay on target ... stay on target ...but for some reason that I think I really must figure out soon, it seems that I must also shrink or morph or let go of the extra size or baggage or something else (what IS this?!) in order to be able to hit the target.

Sheesh! People go back to school all the time, and they do NOT have this bizarre physical/emotional/psychological firestorm. They just go to school, get their degrees, and get on with their lives. (Don't they?) I really do think this needs to be the last "oh just get it done" project. Once I get this short essay written, I need to spend some focused time with this reaction and make friends with it so it won't keep roaring at me.

St. Jerome in his study. Saint Jerome making friends with the lion. Don Quixote lying sick in bed. What he says.
The great thing in the life of St. Jerome is that he finally does “stumble again upon what he has renounced”: after being made so miserable by the “uncouth style” of the Greek and Hebrew prophets, by comparison to the elegant Latin of Plautus and Cicero, he hits upon a solution: he will simply devote the whole rest of his life translating the Bible into Latin, producing the Vulgate for which he is still famous. He stopped reading his favorite books, learned to ignore his “preferences,” and created the new literature of his time. A thousand years after the death of St. Jerome, a similar kind of renunciation led to the birth of the novel, in Cervantes’s Don Quijote. Don Quijote, like St. Jerome, has to have his favorite books literally beaten out of him. (It is while Quijote is sick in bed, recovering from his first knightly adventure, that the barber and priest destroy his library of chivalric romances.)


Magic Jock

I think the old guy looks like magic in the rising sun today, don't you? His name is Jock, I've been told. He's out here in our field with a brown girl horse and a black girl horse, and they drive him batty. Apparently pesky girls are not solely a human problem. The brown horse is especially pleased with herself, and judging by the way she flings her tail around (looking for all the world like an air-headed teenager with one of those ridiculously pretty pony-tails ... which is etymologically suitable, eh? (I love that word - etymology ...)) The brown and black horses often bother old white Jock, and chase him from one end of the field to the other, looking as if they just wanna tell him something ... c'mon, Jock ... talk to us ...

But today he's all alone, glowing in the frosty sunshine. Maybe he got rid of the girls by using his magic powers this morning.


R.I.P., chronicler of the middles

“I like middles. It is in middles that extremes clash,
where ambiguity restlessly rules.”

John Hoyer Updike
(March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)

Restaurant workers tell boss: It's on the house

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Some workers at a Michigan pancake restaurant found a sweet way to help out their boss and the workplace they love.

With customer traffic down a bit at Mr. B's Pancake House lately, lead server Mary VanDam asked co-workers if they might be willing to work a shift without wages to help out owner Dave Barham. The 17 servers, cooks, busboys, dishwashers, cashiers and hostesses who worked the day shift on Jan. 18 received only tips for compensation.

"This is a wonderful business. We want to see it succeed," VanDam, 51, told The Muskegon Chronicle for a story published Tuesday.

When customers heard about the workers' effort, they tipped a little more. The shift's workers divided the gratuities equally and each took home $51.

"Isn't that something?" Barham asked.

He said he doesn't want people to get the impression his business is doing poorly, but "it's tight for everyone all over." VanDam said Barham met his payroll more than once by dipping into his own pockets. All 31 of the restaurant's workers had volunteered, but they agreed the no-wage effort would be for one shift.

"We wish we could have saved him $5,000," VanDam said. "We wanted to give back to him, lighten the load a little."


Here, at Mellow House ...

The watching dog does all her watching lying down most of the time ... nothin's gettin' by her, as you can see. Why, opening a window to take a picture just startles her near to death, I tell ya whut.

And the cat is utterly useless. (Do all cats do this? Mound o' cat. Cat Hill. Blub Magnifico. Fur-bearin' Feline of Foof.)

But here, not even the horses can be bothered to stand up more than they need to. (I didn't quite get the camera in time - a few minutes ago, they were laying down completely and they looked quite expired.) These horses roll and lollop about more than any horses I have ever seen.

Back when I was first becoming familiar with this little town, I laughed to discover dogs that couldn't be bothered to stand up (or even sit up) to bark when people came to the house. But now that I've seen lazy horses, I've seen everything.


The piece that fell on the floor

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? I love them. I think they have always given me the sense that randomness is only an appearance of things and that order is underlying ... and that persistent effort can help me find the underlying order. The picture I'm putting together has to be worth it ... and I do want to know ahead of time what it will look like when I'm done. I like to do them with company - or alone - in passing - or (much more likely) in long, intensely focused, "what time is it?" sessions.

Going back to school has had a lot in common with doing a jigsaw puzzle. The picture at the end - somehow I simply assumed this - hm .. that's a thought for another day --- the picture at the end was meant to be a better, more complete Me. I decided to go back to school, now in my midlife, when I could easily have filled my life with versions of what I already happily have, so that I could find and connect the border pieces of my life. It felt like a lot had been filled in, but that I did not know the shape of it and I wanted to.

So I enrolled.

Q. Is there a way to get credit for what I've already done?
A. Yes, and no.

Q. What do you want to do? (Translation: What is it for? What will it produce?)
A1. Art Therapy.
A2. Human Studies.
A3. Human Studies, emphasizing Writing.
A4. Human Studies, tacking my little boat into Narrative Therapy's wind.

Narrative is transformative. Jesus told parables instead of giving didactic lists. There were no multiple-choice workbooks passed out to the listeners at the Sermon on the Mount on their way into the venue. The prophet Nathan told King David a story about a man who ate his neighbor's pet lamb ... and David knew what his dalliance with Bathsheba really meant. Aesop said the monkey got his hand stuck, and Plato talked about men watching shadow puppets. When we tell our stories, "the things that have rattled around in us like a pebble in a can," as our instructor said last weekend, when we finally dump the pebble out onto the table, the blasted thing finally stops injuring us. There is magic in the very act of getting it out of the hollow metallic shell and onto the table, where our breath and life can touch it. Tell your story, and your kryptonite becomes a vitamin.

Ever lose that last piece to your puzzle? Ever find it near a chair leg or under the bookselves? Me too. Last weekend in class.

Conflict Management 101

"Conflicts are created, conducted, and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings."

George Mitchell, speaking about his experience in Ireland as he accepts his new responsibilities as Envoy to the Middle East


Trust, but not in princes

I had a very interesting conversation yesterday, full of hope and amazement and inspiration on my side, and doom and gloom and predictions of disaster on the other side. I had all night to think about this conversation. (As I do with most conversations ... Apparently, I'm like soup. I add interesting ingredients into the mix, but I need lots of broth to float things in or else the solids get stuck to the bottom of my pot. Metaphor occurring currently due to the pot with the stuck-on solids soaking in my kitchen sink.)

Anyway, there is a verse in Holy Writ that admonishes us not to put our trust in princes. It isn't mortal men who ultimately hold our fates, in other words. Princes come and go. Good times and bad times, plenty and dearth, opportunists and the resounding crash that happens when someone knocks into their subprime house of cards and it all falls down. Stuff happens. Life is not all good or all bad or all anything. It's just life.

So ... in this conversation there were two positions. There was the other one -- summed up something like this: "This will turn out badly -- we're headed into communism." (Communism? Really? Does a sunrise make you think of people scorched to death in the heat and does the tide make you think of lethal undertows?)

And there was my position -- in short, "This is good news. These are good times. The market needed a serious jerk on its chain so that it would come to heel, and the country is young and sometimes gets ahead of itself, but we're fine. This is a time for hope and optimism, and even the tragedy wrought on women and their families through abortion's common use can be addressed in a climate like this."

I do not think this is glass-half-full optimistic Pollyanna Glad Game-playing. I think this is realism. Reality. I take the position that Reality Is Good.

Right now, reality is a jar of native flowers on the table. They aren't going to last forever, but they're pretty right now. I have observed that reality is good, and that is not altered by the fact that eventually flowers fade and if you don't deal with reality at that point, water stagnates and rots. So? Does the eventuality of a future mean this is not good? The flowers aren't pretty because they fade? And ... couldn't ya just replace them with other flowers when that happens? Does the fading of one beauty mean no other beauty will ever happen again? (Sheesh!)

The horrible, insidious, hateful national guilt of racism overcome in such a hopeful and peaceful and open way. That's just good news, dammit. It is. There were people riding the metro to the inauguration, singing Amazing Grace together, for cryin' out loud! Strangers on the metro in D.C., singing hymns. Exuberant America, watching history being made and aware of the fact -- and so happy about it they couldn't hold back the song. Wow. Only a fool looks at that and says it is not good.

Today, I am overbrimming with gratitude for the amazing time and place into which I was born. The highest Oath of Office in this great land was taken by a black man, whilst his stunningly stylish wife held the Bible on which he swore. There is a lot of promise in a faithful husband (wearing that ring), who's been a faithful dad, taking an oath he means to keep. (And he did a do-over just to get it right.)

I'm not looking for perfect. This man does not usher in the Millenium because he is not the Messiah. But where else could this happen? Like this. As this was. Where else do that many people gather for that sort of reason but here, now, for this? In what land in what time in history has such a thing been possible? In this moment, America decided to take on the future by discarding the burdens of the past and embracing what she is best at. Hope. The pure inventiveness and ingenuity born of hope. "Not whether it is large or small, but whether or not it works."

There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the Lovells are in their back yard looking up at the moon. Jim Lovell tells his wife, "It wasn't a miracle, Marilyn. We just decided to go." God bless America. We've decided to go.


Honorable Rudolph

I'm really ill with bronchitis. Haven't had it for ages. Although I used to get it every year at least once, and several times it turned into pneumonia, I stopped this annual habit the year I met my husband. He saw me packing potent antibiotics to take to college with me and asked me what they were for. I told him, "Oh, I get bronchitis every year." He looked alarmed, and sounded decisive, and said, "Stop doing that." So I stopped.

It's been a long time since I felt like this. I think it puts me into a near-trance sort of mental state, and it is difficult to find time for trance type jaunts when children are dependent. The Great Husband (hm... just tried that out ... I think I like it. There are the young giants, and The Great Husband.) -- oh. Where was I? Ah. The Great Husband. He's bringing herbs and homeopathy home tonight, and this will pass quickly enough, but I'm not going to waste energy pushing it away. I'll just see what visions come this time.

For instance. The instructor told us the tale of the Prisoner of Zenda as a metaphor for the human psyche and development, and the class talked about how much we owe to our Honorable Rudolphs for keeping track of Ruritania while our Crown Prince is locked in the tower. But she said that the dude who wants to consume the kingdom in a huge pillage of self-indulgence and burn it all up in an orgy of possession "has no redeeming features." I got to thinking about this in my semi-visionary state. It's nagging at me.

See, I have a working theory that if we cannot love, we cannot understand. Or, to put it another way, to see any human behavior as utterly "other" and to have no relationship to it at all is to choose blindness. You cannot see what you cannot love. Not really.

Now don't misunderstand me. I do not mean that evil behavior is loveable. When our Black Michael wants to steal the crown and kingdom and lay waste to all our gifts and bounty of soul and personality, we do not love Black Michael by allowing him to do so. I do not mean that we ought to open up to everything as if all things are the same thing. I mean that we ought to see what we're looking at instead of seeing what we're looking for. We have to figure out the part of what we're looking at that is truly human.

Without suggesting that all ills can be cured through supplying needed elements (they cannot, because regardless of supply, humans still must choose to accept, own, receive, and have), I do suggest one thing. It is not evil to want to have a place in the kingdom.

We wrote short essays on who our Crown Princes were (your gifted self), and who our Honorable Rudolphs were (your self that does the day to day operations while your gifted self is in exile). It was pretty simple for me to do my essay. My Crown Prince knows and tells the truth with terrifying and careless accuracy - my Honorable Rudolph takes care of everyone. When my Crown Prince has had enough time all holed up in the tower of imprisonment - enough time to have a good long think about how he has squandered his inheritance like a careless child - and then comes back to take his rightful place, he knows enough to be grateful to Rudolph. And he knows enough not to trample everyone else by butting into their business or telling what he thinks is the "truth" all the time.

After class, though, I think I cannot so easily dismiss Black Michael. He's not allowed to run rampant ... but what he wants? It's not all bad. (Thanks, Mr. Conroy.)


Mary, if you read this blog

Dear Mary Medievalist Who Sat Next to Me in Class,

If you read this blog, would you send me an email? There's something I would like to thank you for.

Blissed-out Stephanie

The reason I own slippers

and flip-flops. As a rule, little miss barefeet does not walk around her own house in bare feet because there is likely to be something like this on the floor, and if there is, there is a high likelihood of becoming aware of its presence by treading upon it. I would rather not do that in bare feet. And why do they like my house lately? I never used to see them, and now I can't get rid of them. It's a stink bug, by the way. It probably has a Latin name, but it's still a stink bug.

Books I must now own and/or read

Because of the class I just took, I will purchase these books:

And I will read and perhaps own:


The people with sand on their shoes

They came this week. The people with sand on their shoes. They came to stomp around and line dance and slide on my throat and lob blobs of wet sand into my sinuses and the spaces directly behind my eyebrows. They scraped their sandy rubber footwear on a spot under my sternum and then they laughed at me. I know they were laughing. I could hear them.

Today I am supposed to have a full day of buzzing around, packing, driving, going to the store for a few necessities, doing parish work, meeting with my advisor at school, getting settled into the bed&breakfast for the weekend ... but there is too much sand in my esophagus. No buzzing. Must pack. Loathe the store. Canceled the meeting. And determined to go to this class, dammit. Worried about my friends in Israel. Pleased as Punch for the crop of homeschooling mommas who've had new babies lately. Watchful over parish goings on I cannot attend. Relieved and happy that the son got settled in his new apartment last weekend. Wish I'd been able to get off the couch for long enough to iron my husband's shirts this week, though. Poor man. I didn't even have the umph to make soup for him for the weekend. Ugh. (He gets some of the "worse" that goes with the "better" in married life. I better check for enough clean socks.)
I think the little people with the sand on their shoes have run back out to play elsewhere, and if I have to take my notebooks and pens to class whilst brushing the sand from them, then that is how I will do it. Back here next week. After three days of Transformational Narrative. And then there will be a mere four weeks before a good long vacation. We need one.


Fair Warning

If you grow up, and get married, and raise kids, and go to work, and have a life ...

and then you decide to turn everything on its ear and go back to school ...

I have something to tell you.

Your life will not stop and wait for you.

The date was set for the annual all-parish meeting before I registered, and this will be a fairly important year to be there, and I don't like to miss them in any case, but I decided to register anyway. This is what I have to do this year. So I registered for class.

Then my extended family planned a reunion for Saturday. sigh ... oh well. Sometimes you don't get to go to parties.

But today I got a call to work on Friday at the library too!

So if I weren't going to school, this week I'd be at work on Friday, at a party on Saturday, and at church and a meeting following on Sunday. And I cleared out my life so I could do the school thing! That is a cleared out schedule with enough room in it for school! If you decide to add school into your adult life, I hereby give you fair warning. Your life will not stop and wait for you. You have to want school anyway. You have to "give what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose," and you have to defer gratification, and you have to focus on the goal, and all that stuff.

You've been warned.

This week!

My weekend class is at the end of this week!

Monday, get the house and food ready (for both of us).

Tuesday, an eight-hour shift at the library.

Wednesday, get the clothes ready (for both of us) and finish course work for the week for the online course.

Thursday, appointment with academic advisor and as many hours as possible in volunteer work at the church because there is suddenly a lot to do but I will be in class all weekend. Then, plop my bags and notebooks in the bed&breakfast I found, and go to bed there.

Friday, class from 9-5. Time in the library as late as I want to. Psychology of Transformational Narrative, here I come.

Saturday, ditto.

Sunday, ditto, and class over by 5 that day.

By this time next week, my world will have shifted significantly. I feel like a bungee jumper.

And PLA is not forgotten. For those who don't know, Prior Learning Assessment from Marylhurst University works like this: whereas the conventional college experience is to learn theory and then go out into the world to practice it, PLA is a way for those with the practical experience to demonstrate in writing that they gained the theory along the way and can articulate this learning in collegiate language. When students do this, they can earn college credits for life learning. It is possible to earn as many as 45 credits this way - which translates to about a year's worth of college credits. Nice!

I did not register for the next PLA instruction courses this term because I could not afford to right now. But I can still write for more credits because of the wonder of the internet. Online, because I completed the initial course for this kind of writing, I can now have access to all the aids and helps I might need for continuing to write, so once I'm done with the weekend course, I can start in again writing for credits.

Then there are some standardized tests to take as I can afford to do so. And the rest of my degree plan to work out. And scholarship money to apply for. Thus flows the life of the "adult learner" in pursuit of an accredited degree.



He who will not reason is a bigot;
he who cannot is a fool;
and he who dares not is a slave.
Sir William Drummond

Flying colors

Don't know what came over me, but I've just all at once wondered, Where did the expression "with flying colors" come from? Well? Do you know? Apparently, it's about ships. All colors flying. Colors flying from the masts. Sailing victorious into port.
I would suppose that in the age of masted ships, sailing into port at all would be a bit of a victory after a battle at sea.

Robert Louis Stevenson knew what flying colors meant. This is from St. Ives, Chapter 28, "The Lawyer's Party." (Did you know Stevenson wrote anything but poetry, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? He wrote a huge list of things. See what happens if you start to research phrase origins?)
'Now, sir,' I continued, 'I expect to have to pay for my unhappy frolic, but I would like very well if it could be managed without my personal appearance or even the mention of my real name. I had so much wisdom as to sail under false colours in this foolish jaunt of mine; my family would be extremely concerned if they had wind of it; but at the same time, if the case of this Faa has terminated fatally, and there are proceedings against Todd and Candlish, I am not going to stand by and see them vexed, far less punished; and I authorise you to give me up for trial if you think that best--or, if you think it unnecessary, in the meanwhile to make preparations for their defence. I hope, sir, that I am as little anxious to be Quixotic, as I am determined to be just.'
And now, can you define or explain: "wind of it," "vexed," or "Quixotic?" And do you feel as thoroughly illiterate and yet simultaneously charmed as I do upon reading this sort of prose? That bit of the paragraph is three sentences. I'm tempted to offer a prize to the person who can successfully diagram that second sentence - the one beginning with "I had so much wisdom," and ending with "preparations for their defence."
And how's this for Art? "In the early '90s, Lefens, a painter, goes to the Metheny School for students with cerebral palsy and other disabilities to show slides of his work. As this intensely moving memoir shows, he becomes obsessed with finding ways to help students, who are in wheelchairs and have no use of their arms or hands, learning to express themselves, devising methods that allow them the freedom to paint." "Lefens writes simply and clearly throughout, remaining focused on the students and the task at hand. 'The idea,' he tells them, 'is not to struggle to do things the way that able-bodied people do. The idea is to make art.'" (Publisher's Weekly)


Just rude

I found a wonderful paragraph in a wonderful interview in an article printed in the January 2009 issue of The Writer magazine. Jamie Pietras is interviewing Debby Applegate, the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Henry Ward Beecher, which she titled The Most Famous Man in America. (I wish I could figure out how to put that link in without leaving a giant gap in my post!)

Applegate is from an academic background, but for this biography, she read books about writing thrillers, mysteries, and even porn! She asked herself, "What is is I wanted to do? I wanted to make ink and paper move somebody - whether it was to tears, or to laughter, or at the very minimum, turning a page." Yes, ma'am! Me too!

Near the conclusion of the interview, the question is: "What's the most important piece of advice you can offer aspiring biographers?" She says something so brilliant, and so applicable to Art in general in my opinion, or perhaps even all interactions between humans, that I wanted to post it for you. Her answer:
Here's what I tell aspiring writers, and it always causes an initial ripple of shock and dismay: Writing is not about self-expression. If that's your goal, then keep a diary, write secret poems, sing songs in your bedroom. But if you have the audacity to ask people to stop what they are doing and pay attention to your words, then the goal must now be to retain the interest of your audience and to reward them for their attention in some way. (That can be with anything you please: knowledge, inspiration, flattery, pleasure, awareness, heightened emotion, catharsis, etc.) To do anything else is just rude, not to mention unsuccessful.


Let's Play Proust


I know I am, okay? You don't have to tell me.

I am evidently obsessed with the Bernard Pivot Questionnaire used by James Lipton at Inside the Actors Studio. The questionnaire came from a Proust questionnaire - and I've just stumbled again onto Proust's questions, and I love them. So here there are. Ask them to yourself. Ask them to your loved ones. Go ahead! I shouldn't be the only one driving people crazy with this stuff.

Answer as many as you want in the Reply box! I'd love to hear what you have to say. It is a very interesting exercise to think about one's own answers - and what they are telling you when you find the answers for yourself - especially once you get to heroes and heroines.

1. Your favorite virtue (the principle aspect of your personality)
(Proust answered it as "The need to be loved; more precisely, the need to be caressed and spoiled much more than the need to be admired" -- obviously he did not mean moral virtue in our more modern legalistic or religious sense. He meant the attractive thing your personality is inclined to love the best.)

Mine would be much the same, but it is more the need to be spoiled by someone who takes me seriously. I don't like being petted by someone who cannot truly see me.

2. Your favorite qualities in a man

Proust: Feminine charms

Me: Self-containment/self-mastery

3. Your favorite qualities in a woman

Proust: Manly virtues, and frankness in friendship

Me: Frankness in friendship and the ability to delight in being unique

4. Your chief characteristic

Proust didn't answer this one (Maybe he didn't know his own chief characteristic?)

Me: Keenness of mind

5. What you appreciate the most in your friends

Proust: To have tenderness for me, if their personage is exquisite enough to render quite high the price of their tenderness

Me: (yikes! I would not have liked to be Proust's friend!) The kind of honesty that starts with a willingness to let go of self-protection

6. Your main fault

Proust: Not knowing - not being able to "want"

Me: Fear

7. Your favorite occupation

Proust: loving

Me: thinking

8. Your idea of happiness

Proust: I am afraid it be not great enough, I dare not speak it, I am afraid of destroying it by speaking it.

Me: The perfect cup of coffee and the perfect croissant shared with my husband for a late breakfast on a perfect morning free of all outside demands

9. Your idea of misery (or, What would be my greatest misfortune?)

Proust: Not to have known my mother or my grandmother

Me: Not to have born children

10. If not yourself, who would you be? (or, What I should like to be)

Proust: Myself, as the people whom I admire would like me to be.

Me: (oooo! Good answer, Marcel!) A university professor, a la Dorothy Sayers

11. Where would you like to live? (or, The country where I should like to live)

Proust: A country where certain things that I should like would come true as though by magic, and where tenderness would always be reciprocated

Me: Here, now, but in a house that is finished the way it is in my imagination, with a good commuter train between here and Portland so that I wouldn't have to drive to get to Marylhurst or the Opera and Ballet

12. Your favorite color and flower

Proust: The beauty is not in the colours, but in their harmony.

Me: (oh, c'mon, Marcel!) The beauty is found in context, and neon colors are never beautiful. ("Harmony!" - what is that supposed to mean? No, no. Don't tell me. That's your answer. We'll move on.)

13. Your favorite prose authors

Proust: Currently, Anatole France and Pierre Loti. (by "currently," he meant the 1880's, when he was writing)

Me: Elizabeth Goudge, for greatness of love; Pat Conroy, for portrayal of the dignity of mankind; L.M. Montgomery, for understanding of youth; Madeleine L'Engle, for love of artistic expressions; C. S. Lewis, for making the invisible visible.

14. Your favorite poets

Proust: Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny

Me: John Donne, and many whose names I do not yet know. This is an area of study I am anticipating entirely too much to explain.

15. Your favorite heroes in fiction

Proust: Hamlet

Me: Frodo Baggins, Jack McCall

16. Your favorite heroines in fiction

Proust: Bérénice (from the 17th century play)

Me: Elizabeth Bennett, Francesca Johnson, Emily Starr

17. Your favorite painters and composers

Proust: Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann; Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt

Me: (definitely not Proust's favorite composers for me!) I do not think of music by way of composers, and I probably should. I think of it by way of my own reaction to it. I like medieval folk music, early American folk music, symphonic music that sounds like it tells a story, Welsh hymnody, French organ music, English choirboy music, and the soundtrack to Across the Universe. I like to listen to modern symphonic composers only when I can listen in person and watch the musician at the same time, and ballet compositions only when I can watch the dancers.
For painters, give me anyone who knows what to do with the light, from the Dutch masters down to the Expressionists to today's realists.

18. Your heroes in real life

Proust: Mr. Darlu, Mr. Boutroux

Me: Saint John the Divine, Saint John Bosco, brave children everywhere

19. Your favorite heroines in real life

Proust didn't answer this one

Me: Saint Teresa of Avila, Charlotte Mason

20. What characters in history do you most dislike?

Proust did not answer this one either, which seems funny since this is his questionnaire

Me: Anyone treacherous, anyone who used power for domination

21. Your heroines in world history

Proust: Cleopatra

Me: Queen Esther, early suffragettes (the anti-abortion ones who hated what abortions did to women, not the militant tea-totallers who were the forerunners of today's pleasure police), Queen Elizabeth II

22. Your favorite food and drink

Proust -- again with the not answering questions in his own list!

Me: the crab bisque at Salty's and champagne - preferably simultaneously

23. Your favorite names

Proust: I have only one at a time

Me: French names for women, Nordic names for men

24. What I hate the most

Proust: What is bad about me

Me: lies, deceit of others, deceit of self, malice, any kind of abuse of power

25. World history characters I hate the most (or, World history characters I most despise)

Proust: I am not educated enough

Me: sentimental artists; opportunistic authors masquerading as self-help or religious gurus; all torturers and those who observe torture passively

26. The military event I admire the most

Proust: My military service!

Me: The quiet Norwegian sabotage of Nazi efforts in Norway

27. The natural talent I'd like to be gifted with (or, The gift of nature that I would like to have)

Proust: Will-power, and seductiveness

Me: the ability to paint and sculpt

28. How I wish to die

Proust: Improved and loved

Me: Ready for the life to come

29. What is your present state of mind?

Proust: Boredom from having thought about myself to answer all these questions

Me: (hahahaha! Good one, Marcel!) Expectant, eager, slightly on edge

30. For what fault have you most toleration? (or, Faults for which I have the most indulgence)

Proust: Those that I understand

Me: Impatience

31. Your favorite motto

Proust: I should be too afraid that it bring me misfortune.

Me: "Love, and do what you will." (Augustine)


Once upon a time ...

My cousin posted this - a few others have as well, I now see - but I couldn't resist. This child is Childhood. "Amelie, Jr." someone has called her. If school re-teaches me how to think like this, all my time and effort will have paid off in sparklers and bells.

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.
Never tell anyone that you're writing a book, going on a diet, exercising, taking a course, or quitting smoking.

They'll encourage you to death.

Lynn Johnston, cartoonist


Douglas does it again

This faerie tale picture is of a real place. That's not a set for a movie, or made up. It's the Rose Gardens at Washington Park in Portland, Oregon, in the crazy Christmastime snow we've just had. Douglas Bienert got the most amazing photos of the city during the first wave of snow. Lots of memories of that park are part of me - of my psyche - my husband proposed to me up there, for one thing - and my very bones know how the park smells and feels and what the light looks like in all seasons and all hours of the day and night, but I have never seen her look like this. Thanks, Doug! (Douglas has started to sell collections of his photography as books. See his blog for details.)

The long winter (continued)

Today is Monday.

At 11:00 in the morning today we got home from church. Yeah. Church. We left for church on Sunday morning at a little before 9:00am, and we got home Monday at 11:00am. It does not usually take us 26 hours to go to church and come home again.

Apparently, the long winter is here to stay and it means to keep us guessing. So, from here on out, until spring is here for real and there's no denying it, these are the rules:

1. Take clothing and shoes suitable for putting chains on the tires in the snow. Leaving the house in church clothes only and taking no others is just plain idiotic.

2. Take the chains.

I'm just sayin.


Epiphany gifts

Three wise men - magi from the east - whoever they were, they brought presents. Valuable stuff. Gold for kingship, frankincense for priesthood, myrrh for burial.

The Feast of the Epiphany is here again this Tuesday. After twelve days of Christmas comes Epiphanytide, which lasts until Lent. Gold for Christmas, Frankincense for Epiphany, Myrrh for Lent.

Tomorrow I send one son back to school on the train, and wander about to look at various apartments, studio apartments, "efficiency" apartments, and whatever else we can figure out with the other son. Everyone headed back to school, and everyone needs his life back. Train travel son beginning to chafe with his computer and "all his stuff" in his room at school. Apartment-hunting son currently living out of boxes at a friend's house, unable to relax or sleep properly, and desperate for more private arrangements so that he can concentrate on school. Nothing settled down for either of them. And until they are settled, I cannot be. I need the Magi to bring one more box this year. I need the Magi to bring a bit of calm. None of us wants out of our work - we only ask for things to clear up so that we can get on with it. Starlight for the path, wisdom for following it, warnings about the Herodian plotters we might meet along the way, and a safe journey home. That's what I want for Epiphany.


Chapel schedule

When you were in school, did you have different schedules according to what was happening that day? We had things like Assembly Schedule, and Chapel Schedule ... um ... half day? I think we had half days too. My son had Early Release on Wednesdays - twice a month, I think. Well, today's a Transition Schedule day for me. The husband has gone in to work, but not as early as usual, and although one son is back in his regular life (and doing some apartment hunting today), the other one is still here and doesn't go back to school until Sunday afternoon. So today's a Transition Schedule day.

And my blog has a new thing.

Did you see them?

Links to Amazon. I'm going to start putting up Amazon links for the books I personally own and recommend, and that have to do with the topic of learning/personality/human development, or the topic of writing and writers. Nothing will be linked from here unless I own it, and have found it useful. I also decided to limit it to just the books, and just the books about those particular topics. "People, and How They Work," and "Words, Glorious Words." Those are the "Interests" things on my profile page.

I'm going to stay away from "Anglican Tradition" except as it defines my life from time to time. I love it deeply, but it's so personal and so vastly misunderstood that I'll leave it to others to blog about. (At this moment in history, many people are making a cacophonous and horrendous racket on the topic, and I prefer not to be part of their noise.) And as to "Art of All Kinds," I might find something I esteem myself qualified to link to ... but I am such a novice that it's too ... uh ... well, let's just say that in Art of All Kinds, I do the appreciating part. (We had friends where we used to live. She did the Christmas decorating, and she asked him what part he wanted to do. He told her he wanted to do the appreciating part.)

The weather continues wintery ... the dog continues recovering ... the schedule continues wonky ... and next week, classes start again. I am watching the clouds move across the tops of the mountains on the other side of the Gorge. If my new camera would get here, I'd show it to you. There is sky behind the clouds - blue sky. I'd nearly forgotten sky was supposed to be blue. Today I can understand the Norse who wanted Thor to battle the giants in Utgard and bring the fire back into the sky again.


She's back!

My goofy dog has been under the barn. She's back on the porch now -- walking around like usual - just kind of spooked.

Now, if my husband can avoid accidentally stepping on her, maybe she'll calm down. I think I need a new pet. One like this, maybe. I could dust it off once in awhile ... it would never try to herd a motorized vehicle ...


You know what's great about Calvin and Hobbes? They're both me. (They're probably both you too.) I'm the protesting, indignant one, and I'm the one with the blank look. Both of 'em. But this year, while I think about laying out my path into the woods, over hill and dale, up to new vistas and into new thickets, I know something I've been learning. I am perfect the way I am. And so are you. And I do resolve to move on from here. Come with me?

This, I think, is life - in all its blessed, messy, baffling imperfection. Life isn't about picking a spot in the road where we can stake our claim to ownership. Life is about being changed from glory into glory til in Heav'n we see his face. Life is not to be despised as a necessary evil, but embraced. Loved. Served. This - here - is good. Not air-brushed into sterility, but good. Organic. Juicy. Raw. Bitter with pith and regrets, sweet with moments of bliss, and salty with tears -- because salty sweetens bitter and salty complements sweet.

Did you know that if you stop adding sugar to your food that your brain will learn to find "sweet" in foods that already contain sweetness? Life is like that. Strip away all the stuff we sprinkle on top, and life can finally be tasted. Taste it enough, and you find the sweetness. That's where I'm headed this year. To train - refine - educate - use! - my tastebuds and my brain. This year, less scattered and more recollected. Less sugar, and more sweet.