19 October 2017

Musings from a Pumpkin Patch

Musings from a pumpkin patch.

Spotted lawn of sprouted autumnal harvest.
Glories of a season slow to arrive,
but quick to awaken our senses.
A milieu we are keen to welcome.
Sage colours emerge in beautiful arrangements;
Earth-toned and wonder-flitted.

Is there a whisper of autumn in the breeze? Today, it almost felt like the air was attempting to let go of the heat, as the overcast skies kept the temperatures down and the moody grey layers above rustled the leaves below welcoming an approaching season. Patience, dear ones. In time all the best things are worth waiting for.

When I see from across the lake, the pumpkins pop of colour sunbathing on the sloping lawn of my church, my imagination immediately rushes to a windy golden afternoon with a chill in the air and a jacket on my shoulders. Taking walks with fallen leaves shuffling under my feet and a cool breeze rustling my hair. Sitting outside with a book with my imagination wandering.

This is what a little bit of musing from a pumpkin patch does to me. 

16 October 2017

C.S. Lewis and Sixteenth Century Literature

One has to chuckle at the title of this massive book - Oxford History of English Literature: English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, excluding drama. Not the most catchy title. It's not that drama isn't of interest (hello, Shakespeare), but if drama was included, the book would weigh about two tons, and be 1200 pages long. I am glad the book focused solely on prose and verse. 

Poets are not so like putty as is sometimes implied. (pg.352)

This substantial book was a huge achievement of C.S. Lewis's literary/academic career, published in 1954 after he spent more than 10 years working on it. Since he refused to give his opinion on a book unless he read it, he spent countless hours over those years at the Bodleian Library in Oxford reading all the 16th century works. Just think about that for a moment - he read all the books/writings of the 16th century that he discussed in this book, sitting in the wonderfully medieval Duke Humphrey's Library of the Bodleian to read them all. If I could be half as good of a reader and have half a beautiful old library in which to read them....

He divides the 16th century into three main literary descriptors - Late Medieval, "Drab", and "Golden". He then discusses the writers of those categories, and what they brought to the table (or didn't bring). To add some context,  Lewis, with some of his classic witty style, would drop in bits and pieces of history, which I really enjoyed, as it helped me place this time period in my mind's timeline properly.

While I did learn about many obscure authors I had never heard of, along that journey through the 16th century, I learned about what was going on that influenced the writers, which was interesting to me. Why did English literature go through a drab phase during this century, in which the language was dull, straightforward, and missing a sense of wonderment? If the world had ended at the end of the 16th century, it would have ended with a seeming assumption that English literature was in a grave decay, never to be revived. Thankfully, the 17th century revealed the genius that had been hidden.

Somehow or other during the latter part of the sixteenth century Englishmen learned to write. (pg.418)

Many of the great writers we know and read today were born in the 16th century, but didn't publish until the turn of the century, so they were not covered in Lewis's grand analysis of the century. That would include John Donne, John Milton, and George Herbert. But you do get insights on some others who did publish in the 16th century like Thomas More, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and John Davies. These were the shining lights in the midst of a century in great need of some good writers. 

I don't know anyone who has read this book. At 558 pages (plus another 127 pages of notes and references), it doesn't appeal to the masses. It isn't deeply academic, though, and it does capture Lewis's amiable writing style, but I don't think it is at the top of anyone's list of books to read, except for me, it has been on my list of books to read. I made it a goal to read the whole book, to challenge myself with something that would take me out of my comfort zone a bit. I am so glad I did, for that elusive 16th century phase of English literature actually makes sense to me now, placed the context of history, and I appreciate the authors of that century in a newfound way.

13 October 2017

Of Mountain Views and Waterfalls

A quick, busy trip up to north Georgia provided a few days to explore the region. It was fun to experience an area that I have not been to before, including a drive up into the mountains - the southernmost of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail goes through the park we visited.

I did not expect that I would get to see mountains or waterfalls on this trip, so I was delighted to be able to view the landscapes that inspire me so much. There is something in me that loves the woods (I'm pretty sure it was my Dad's unceasing love of the woods that got into me). I've never been a beach girl, but give me woods and waterfalls all day, and I am quite content.

We drove deep into the woods to Amicalola Falls State Park, and breathed deeply the fresh air as we took to the path that lead to the waterfall. It was a stunning scene, with the sound of falling water and the cool mist that arose from it. The air was crisp and delightful, only getting as warm as 70-75 degrees. It was the perfect day to be outside. I wished that I could bottle that weather up and bring it back to Florida.

 A lodge at the top of the mountain had commanding views of the mountain range, and we had a late lunch there. That would be a lovely place to stay, there at the top. We were thankful to stumble upon the lodge as we were so hungry and still far from the small town of Dahlonega, which is a tiny mountain town known for its past gold mining days. We went into town later and walked around some antique shops and a general store that sat along the square that was the center of town.

11 October 2017

Centre of the Woods

I am in the centre of the woods:
Here the elder trees surround me.
Light scatters down through canopies
of vibrant leaves, waning green.
Gatherers of acorns scamper and shuffle,
I can hear them on the leaf-strewn ground,
while high above the thin trunks so limber, 
sway with the breezes, lulling in sound.
Somehow, this tiny space I occupy holds
a lake, hills, and hundreds of trees
as well as the scattered leaves at my feet.
God's whisper of creation present even in the breeze.

Here, at Lake Lanier I took a deep breath of fresh air. I woke up that first morning to my first taste of autumn temperatures. What is it about the woods of the north (the north to me) that delights me so much? The scent of trees in the air, the rustle of the branches, the fluttering leaves falling gently, the bird calls across the woods, the windy paths that lead to lakes and waterfalls, the shady spaces with sunlight streaming through the layers of leaves, the echo of your footsteps, the hints of stories dwelling deep, the sense of a magical realm apart from our usual daily view. Just being here in the woods slows me down and excites me to be outside to enjoy a piece of beautiful creation.

03 October 2017

Read Deeply

Reading notes for the soul (tidbits I've collected in my journal over time):

- The books we read, read us.

- Feel free to wonder and wander. Don't lose the sense of letting the imagination follow along new and different paths. 

- Diversify your reading. It is always good to gain other perspectives. Yes, even if you don't agree with them.

- Create and offer descriptions that swim with imaginative thoughts when you write. When you read such sections that greatly inspire, stop and read that passage again.

- The words we read, write, and speak teach us to pay attention and think about certain things in different ways. The quality of the words can dictate what you think as a result. 

- Draw on the promises of God by reading books that offer imaginative stories and different places that stretch our minds in a way that leads us to deeper thinking about deeper meanings..

- Our job is to keep the narrative of hope alive as the world grows dark.

- We read Scripture to build our interior selves in wisdom. We have to be able to have confidence in our lives and beliefs when struggles come along, rather than wavering to and fro like a wave.

29 September 2017

Lost Words

Logos, the word made flesh. By the Word, the heavens were made. The Word dwelt among us and has begun the new age of our history. These words we might know from history and Scripture, but what about words that aren't being spoken?
The unspoken word is unheard. 

The less we use certain words, the more lost they become. Tucked away only in old books. Trailing away into the depths of history to make way for new words. Throughout all history, this has been happening. What would make us think it would slow down now?

Authors complained in the sixteenth century how words weren't being used properly. Some writers detested the new words and the direction language was going, except, did they know they were part of a drab age of language, and a golden age what about to come? They didn't know there were better thing to come. It was a very good thing that change came to the language and its usage.

This world is spinning and remains unstill, and our language follows the whirling. 

We are given the gift of old books and words of the past to study and learn from those who lived before us. As we try to be new, modern, and better than ever, do we lose sight that some very wise things that might be tucked away in the old books? This is the danger, I think. It's not that the language continues to grow and change, for that will always happen.

The essentials remain the same, as always from the beginning of the cosmos. Just as our Creator is the same. We are each of us part of the book being written. Our pages are being filled each day. 

We have one Author, and we are part of one main volume. Each of our stories is placed in chapters of the book, but they are never lost. God's hand is in every page, and in His love, He gathers all the scattered leaves that are our lives to place them in the book (John Donne wrote about this in his Meditation XVII). May we review and contemplate those pages in early chapters, and glean wisdom and insight so that our pages shine forth the goodness and grace of God.

27 September 2017

Fairy Light

Is there glittery fair dust coming in from the window?
Or is it my imagination?

I'm going to require you to stretch your imagination. Sometimes we can grow so lazy and complacent with the artificial noise and entertainment that our world offers, that we lose all those innate desires to create, wonder, grow, and learn. I believe we were made to create, and given a variety of talents in order to explore those possibilities. It might not be writing, but it could be drawing, playing an instrument, telling spell-binding stories, brainstorming ideas and projects, coming up with ways to help others through processes or systems, or gardening.

We all need to use our imaginations more. Me included.

If you could read a story of your choosing about anything, what would it be about?
Would it be a meaningful journey?
Would you be learning a lot of things to unpack?
Would it be a mystery or puzzle to solve?

Would it be centered around family and relationships?
Would there be some deep, meaningful contemplative scenes?

I tend to want all of that, which is probably why I am so eager to read so much, and I have several books bookmarked at the same time. You cannot just narrow your reading to one thing when there is so much good to discover.

If you could transform one room of your house into anything with a bit of magic, what would it be?
Would it be a forest to explore?

Would it be a lakefront spot with mountains in the distance?
Would it be a beach with soothing waves?
Would it be a nature reserve home to a lot of animals?
Would it be a certain trail to a cliff in Scotland?

It would be tough to narrow it down, for the forest, cliff, and lake with mountains would entice me to enter that room. Maybe I can include it all by saying it would be a library, because all of these things exist within books and your imagination. I will admit, my whole home is something of a library, with books on shelves everywhere, and stacks in a few places, but there could be (maybe one day) an actual room dedicated to the books.

Until then, I will just have to let the fairy light filter into my living room.

25 September 2017

Where We Belong

A swift darkness covers your heart
Clouds coalesce and cascade around you
Lifting you out of what was a part
Of a normal day, normal work; true
It is hard to know that feeling is come
As if you could prepare your heart to know
When that sweeping landscape occupies some
Of every fibre, then the memory does grow.
Filling your mind of that mournful day
That depth of sadness never known before.
It pricks with a sting unnatural to God's way,
An eternal life we wholeheartedly pray for.
Holding his hand in final time, it was not to be
Forever final, for in God's grace we go not alone.
I just transferred my hand to God's, you see,
My grip falls away; God holds where we belong.
There can be peace in sadness, for eternity
Is still elusive, as if waking from a dream.

When you lose someone so dear, in my case my dad, you remember that day, year after year. You do not try to, it is just there along with the darkness of that day. As I look back now eights years, I find hope. I see hope. I embrace hope. Hope adds colour to the landscape, reminiscent of those years of visiting the North Carolina mountains as a family each autumn. 

Through words of poetry, given in reflection and quiet, they formulate thoughts better than I feel I could. They speak as if I was just grabbing them from the air around me when I feel inadequate. Pen poised in the air for but a moment, and then words spill out in minutes. 

As is my way, I had turned to books as I tried to grasp the difficulty of death. The author who helped me the most here is George MacDonald (1824-1905). A consistent theme in most of his writings/stories is this recurring notion of sleeping (dying) to wake up. A dreamlike wakefulness that sets one free. Of letting go and losing oneself in order to find one's true self, and reach the space of eternal life. This is particularly potent in my favourite novel of his, Lilith.

Strange dim memories, which will not abide identification, often, through misty windows of the past, look out upon me in the broad daylight, but I never dream now. It may be, notwithstanding, that, when most awake, I am only dreaming the more! But when I wake at last into that life which as a mother her child, carries life in its bosom, I shall know that I wake, and shall doubt no more. I wait; asleep or awake, I wait.
- George MacDonald, Lilith

20 September 2017

Autumnal Wishful Thinking

This afternoon light is glorious, and it is fading a bit sooner each evening. The way it casts a glow into my kitchen invokes feelings of autumn (or in my case, wishful wonderings, ponderings, and dreamings of autumn). If I adorn my table with chrysanthemums, will that usher in autumn? This is my wishful thinking.

When we arrive at this time of year, when I start to see the northern places showcasing their first pumpkins, squash, apples, and sweaters, I long for autumn sometimes with the sudden desire to jump on a plane to the north. Of course, that doesn't happen, but in my head I do this. Is it a jealousy of northern areas? You bet. Am I done with this southern heat and humidity? Absolutely. 

In church this week, we sang one of my favourite hymns - For the Beauty of the Earth. It was certainly appropriate in the midst of our hurricane recovery. It is a hymn I can play on my piano, and for some reason the tune and the words are so lovely to me. Perhaps it is because I try to find beauty in all things - whether it be view-able beauty of the earth or subtle moments of beauty in relationships. I feel like the refrain has been my anthem - 

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

To listen to my favourite piano arrangement of the hymn, click HERE.

When autumn rolls around, I begin to see the shift in seasons (albeit slowly) from the longest summer of heat, to a cooling season of transition to winter. Paradoxically, the falling leaves of autumn bring life to me as one who needs seasons and chilly weather. The leaves fall that I might be lifted up. God's wondrous beauty of creation has many paradoxes.

May the autumnal glow warm our hearts, and may the feeling of autumn get here very soon.

18 September 2017

Hurricanes are not good for writing

Hurricanes are not good for writing.
They steal my time and my focus.
They break trees, normalcy, and my electricity,
forcing me to leave my home.
Missing my home to quietly reflect,
leaves me off track.
I am ready, now, to get back.

This very elementary poem kind of sums up my past week and a half. When a hurricane is heading your way, especially when it's the biggest and most powerful hurricane (let's not forget it had 185 mph winds for several days), it consumes your life. Pre-storm you try to prepare. You fight the crowds to get water, food, gas, and batteries. You try to figure out what to do around your house. You might have to figure out where you are going to go. 

And hanging above it all is the big question mark of where that storm is actually going to go. Because nobody knows. Not really.

When it comes over your town in the middle of the night and destroys hundreds of 100 year old trees and takes away all sense of civilized living in the heat of summer - no a/c, spotty phone service, no internet, debris all over the streets. You begin to look at life a bit differently. When you have to rely on family to feed you and let you stay with them, you feel grateful at the same time as feeling like a nomad. When your tires have 4 holes from the debris (yes, that's 4 holes and 4 visits to tire store) you feel like nothing seems to be able to go back to normal.

And yet...

It could have been worse, and we will get through it. We are slowly getting through it. My electricity was restored, and I was able to sleep in my own home for the first time in 5 days. But there are still others who do not have electricity yet and my heart aches for them. I know their pain. 

I spent some time this morning in reflection, in a much needed time to write. I will keep on writing to clear my head and see what comes out. This storm has weathered me (I think it has weathered all of us), but if I am flexible, I will be better to have bent in the wind rather than stay rigid and break from the wind. 

After time in reflection, the matter of the storm diminished from the mountain it was, to a molehill. I am able to see over it now. It looks surmountable. I will not be stuck here, but will move forward with a heart more thankful and more open because of getting through the storm, letting it teach me to be flexible, to be okay with needing others, and to know it is short-lived. 

I feel sad about the circumstances we have had to endure, but I am still blessed and not lacking in good. Emotions go up and down with the events of the hurricane and its aftermath, but God is steady. He is my centre.