30 September 2016

The In-Between Season

Whispers of a good dream....

The breeze catches on the limbs of trees. Passing above, the air that settles through the leaves are a few degrees cooler, which means my heart swells with gladness when a softer feel in the air is finally present. 

I recall when I was little, going to school in this, the in-between season when it wasn't quite autumn yet, but all the decorations and autumn foods arrived. I wondered whether or not I could wear a sweater, and I longed to, but a sweater wasn't always needed. When playing outside, I would notice the subtle shift in the air; a coolness would linger from overnight and into the morning, and begin again as the sun would sink down the vibrant blue sky. If the morning had even a slight chill, I would want to pull out a sweater because it was something different from the last six months. Something I missed from my favourite time of year.

A hopeful feeling emerged inside, that the season was about to turn. Just be patient, I would tell myself, and a few weeks from now it will feel like autumn and the morning air will be chilled. This deep longing had been waiting so patiently for many months for the change we come to expect each year around this time. And when it would come, as it always does, my soul smiles.

What God created was good, and there are many glimpses of the original goodness un-corrupted that we get to see as seasons change. Nature is at work, in its knowing way, pointing towards our Creator.

Rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.
- Joel 2.23

28 September 2016

A Disney Day

When you live 45 minutes away from Disney World, you are going to end up going every now and then. It just happens, somehow. Even when you don't try to go. And when you have a kind brother and sister-in-law who get two free park-hopper tickets and want to invite you and your mum, you go. Even when it is still 90 degrees outside.

I was really thankful to go over the weekend, and we all had a great time. Since I was going with a few Disney experts, they knew all the tricks and ways to get us cups of free ice water and get all the fast passes for any ride we went on. I just cannot fathom waiting in long queues for rides that I have been on at least ten times over the years. It is much more fun to just walk onto a ride. 

We started the day at the Magic Kingdom, riding several rides and eating lunch before taking the monorail over to Epcot, where we spent most of the time around the Food & Wine Festival in the countries around the world. My favourite was the giant pretzel in Germany, and the strawberry oolong tea slush in China, which are just regular items and not even part of the Food & Wine! Don't worry, I tried many other food selections from several countries.

Disney was decorated for autumn, but it certainly didn't feel autumnal yet. We were determined to enjoy the day, anyway, and ducked inside at the hottest parts of the day, so we could recharge a little bit to head out again. Oh, Florida, aren't you ready to bring autumn in yet?

26 September 2016

Between the Raindrops

Location: Florida Southern College on a rainy early autumn evening

My old college grounds. Of course, I live only a few blocks from my old college campus (the largest site in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings), but every time I step foot on campus, memories swirl around me, and fond feelings of years past sweep back to me. I was such a knowledge-hungry, naive girl back in college, and I feel like when I come back here, I stand upon the bones of those past years. Of wisdom gained and base of knowledge established. Roots takes years to grow deeper to be firmly planted, and in those years wisdom is gained through windy and stormy times.

It is a place mingled with old tradition and new thought, progress, and buildings. Restoring the old to maintain its original beauty while progressing into the future. I love to see my old college as it was and see it continue to grow and thrive.

Walking underneath the low ceilings of the covered esplanades on a rainy evening, the clouds moved in with heavy rain, thunder rumbled overhead, and I was thankful for views of the grounds in a different light. One that most don't photograph. Rainy, stormy nights are frequent around here, and the shelter of these historical buildings (from the 1940s- 1950s) reminded me of how we should value our past and the traditions that hold our present. 

We build new traditions in the midst of the old ones, and I think that is part of moving forward, as we honour that which was before us, as we continue onward. That should be ever-evident in our lives.

23 September 2016

Like Yesterday

Sometimes memories waft in with the breeze,
Resting on me as the wind settles.

Sinking into my skin, the story unfolds in me again.

I am sitting with my back straight against the wooden pew,
As my thoughts suddenly drift to the Bible I gave you,
An image in my head is all it takes.
When the pastor reads the holy words, I fondly remember
Your love of learning was insatiable.

When I take long walks outside, amongst trees of old,
There you are in spirit because it was your realm.
I breathe in deeply the fresh air of nature - pine and oak.
You are there, shuffling feet in the leaf-strewn paths, 
Sweet scents of wood woken up by the sun's rays.

It all feels like yesterday.

(Remembering my dad today with a few lines of poetry, as it has been seven years without him on September 25. Loss is something that doesn't ever fully go away. Thinking, remembering, and sharing is good, though, for the life he lived created deep roots that keep growing, through me and the rest of my family. Words are my offering. I forever think of my dad as a deeply rooted tree, strong and sturdy, so much so that we fondly nicknamed him Treebeard long ago...)

21 September 2016

The Abolition of Man

In what sense is Man the possessor of increasing power over Nature?
-C.S. Lewis

C.S Lewis asks this and many questions about the way our world is heading in his book The Abolition of Man. This is essential reading for everyone, I do believe. In less than 100 pages, Lewis addresses some critical points of the direction our society, world, and thoughts are heading, and his critique of that. This book came about after he read a new version of a school book for children and how language was being used to instill morals that did not grow well-broadened minds. In his wise foresight, he saw what the future would look like under this modified realm. There were three lectures that he gave on this subject in Oxford, which became the three chapters of the book. The sword was his pen in this case, and it has spoken for many decades. It is eerie how prophetic the book is. Will we stand up for what is right in these modern days?

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head. (Chapter 1- "Men Without Chests")

Lewis calls us to maintain a devotion to truth and sensibility, Through education, the concern regarding the school book stems on phrases that make the words "appear to be saying something very important, when in reality we are only saying something about our own feelings." That word, only, weighs heavily indeed, a message subliminal. It is seemingly such a tiny matter, and yet it has the potential to grow into something much bigger. This will set in the school boy's mind an assumption that will later come into play when he doesn't even realize how his mind has been shaped. Lewis goes into that more deeply through the chapter.

He goes on in the next chapter to talk through the advancements that occur and how they should only be done from within the system of natural law (he calls the Tao), rather from the outside. As Christians, our beliefs will influence how we seek to advance the world. Someone who is not a Christian will already have altered views, as their system of belief is not the same.

This is why Aristotle said that only those who have been well brought up can usefully study ethics: to the corrupted man, the man who stands outside the Tao, the very starting point of this science is invisible. He may be hostile, but he cannot be critical: he does not know what is being discussed.  (Chapter 2 - "The Way")

In his final chapter, Lewis dives into humanity's hunger for power over nature. This is where he was headed from the beginning of the book, but he was building up his case. Whether it be industrial or pre-natal, he finds serious fault and issues with the way the world is leaning (ex. trying to create exactly what we want at every whim), and these concerns have (sadly) come to fruition in our modern day. Keep in mind Lewis published this book in 1944. So much of what he has to say is reflected in his amazing book That Hideous Strength (the final book of his space trilogy).

Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man. Every victory we seemed to win has led us, step by step, to this conclusion. All Nature's apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals. We thought we were beating her back when she was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever. (Chapter 3 - "The Abolition of Man")

It is a frightening thing, indeed. I am imagining scenes from That Hideous Strength of that prediction actually coming true, and it is forever imprinted in my mind as absolutely horrifying. Lewis has issues with those who just explain away to support their own cause without thinking through the heavy cost of it. These are matters that haunt our world and Lewis is one who saw it and actually did something to address it. Now it is our turn.

20 September 2016

Propagating Imaginative Views - 4 of 4

mooreeffoc - a semordnilap word, seen from the other side of a glass door upon entering the "coffee room". (It is coffee room spelled backwards) Dickens noticed it on a dark day in London. Chesterton then used this word to describe how strangely the dull and ordinary can be seen at a different angle.

I look at the world with thoughts always walking around. If something catches on a thought, I can grab onto it, but they keep on walking. Imaginatively, I try to capture a scene in my mind, and on my camera, to remind me of the musing I collected in thought or on paper. I behold images as ways to inspire writings and further musings. I think I am inspired in two ways. I can read all day, and feel inspired by the author's words. Or, I can see a photo or be in the presence of a scene that engages me, and suddenly, a whole idea bursts from that scene and the words flow out into pages in my journal.

The beauty of life is how we all see things and read books a little bit differently because we are uniquely attuned to certain things. We can look at the same morning with different perspectives, but we can be moving toward the same goodness.  

Pooh and Piglet walked home thoughtfully together in the golden evening, and for a long time they were silent.
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting to-day?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.
- A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

19 September 2016

Propagating Imaginative Views - 3 of 4

The air is quiet and still. The atmosphere is grey-scale covered in clouds, and time seems distant. Has the sun set, or is it about to rise? Dreamy landscape scenes dot each step around the lake, and docks tucked down at the water's edge reach out into the silvery water, almost as if extending the story for you to follow outward. 

Elvish scenes normally dwell in lovely places of nature mixed in with life, as they live among the trees and the water harmoniously. They sing melancholy songs of old, as they remember it all and have lived for centuries to witness the tales of history. There is a beauty in their remembering, as it is not a pining for what was past to come back, for they are wise and know that time cannot reverse, but it is a remembrance to honour those stories worth preserving and telling. 

As Beren looked into her eyes

Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O'er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

16 September 2016

Propagating Imaginative Views - 2 of 4

I descend my stairs on a bright, sunny morning and step into the grass to get to my car, passing a large, white mushroom that appeared after heavy rains from the night before. "Hallo, Alice," I say. It is not the norm for me to speak to a mushroom, so do let me explain.

For, a month or so ago, Alice the Mushroom appeared in this same spot after a good evening rain. Alice wasn't named purposefully, you understand, but as whimsy would have it, I referred to "Alice" when pointing out the mushroom, to my brother and sister-in-law, thinking of  Alice in Wonderland and how she took pieces of a large mushroom (one piece from either side, of course). Biting one piece made her grow larger, and biting the other piece made her grow smaller. My brother and sister-in-law thought I was calling the mushroom Alice, and it has stuck ever since.

So, now you know how Alice has brought elements of wonderland into my yard.

I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

15 September 2016

Propagating Imaginative Views - 1 of 4

My viewpoint for a lovely, rainy evening is from my kitchen window. The rain falls so heavily it sounds like waterfalls are nearby and my home has been transplanted to the edge of such a majestic cliff. These are the cosy moments when the weather outside is frightful, the interior atmosphere is delightful. I soak it up by watching and listening to the rain from my kitchen table vantage point, and making a mug of tea. 

Looking down the alley the rain transforms the one-track road into a little river, water rushing downhill away from me. I keep watch, for at any moment Reepicheep the mouse could come riding down the river in a tiny coracle. I can imagine the noble little mouse, fearless and humble, riding on into the east, into Aslan's country.

My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

14 September 2016

Layers Deep

Layers deep we go
Into the inner cellars of hopes and dreams.

How can we possibly know
All the interlocking nooks, for schemes
Play a role in our mind's plan.
Down here, only lit by globes of light,
Its opaqueness, and the thoughts of man
Obscure like the shadows, dimming the sight.

Implications of dreams, hinting around corners,

Edges soften by our well-worn hands, always grasping
At the desires longed for - achings of the soul.
Dry pools scatter and offer no reprieve, except
The depth of the pool was never seen.
A hidden lake in the deepest inner parts
Has been waiting there, ready to refresh our hearts.

13 September 2016

Deeds and Words

Who is wise and understanding among you?
By his good conduct, let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, un-spiritual, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

- James 3.13-18

Do people count on your words?
If you are able to read this, then yes, the answer is yes.
So, then, do your words amount to anything important, and are they being used for good? 
How about the words in the world? The words you come into contact with each day?

The instant gratification nature of our society has implemented and required in-time reactions to everything. That means, thoughtful responses are rare. Everyone has to know right now what you are thinking and feeling, and before you have the chance to select your words carefully and give a more thoughtful reply, we are encouraged to react immediately, and let the world know. The internet has aided this, and social media has mastered the display of everyone spouting off whatever comes to mind at that instant. Is this a healthy thing for our society? 

Where intelligence, character, morals, and virtue were once admired, now only competence is required. Shaking things up, offering up remarks not fully comprehended, and baiting others to get a reaction is what draws the attention. This is why I spend so little time on social media sites. And when I am on there, I am very selective in what I pay attention to or read.

I am the advocate for words selected with care. In today's society, sadly, we have to dodge so much of it, you probably don't even realize how inundated your life is with such poor use of our language. Is it producing any good? Mostly it is used to grab your attention, persuade you to buy its product or watch the television show, or to make you think that everyone is doing the same so you should too. 

As Christians, we are called to go against the grain of the world, and I am speaking to myself here as well. How many hours have I spent watching a Gilmore Girls or Lost marathon? They are fun, entertaining, and good stories. It's not all bad, but so many times the questionable worldliness is mixed into our own beliefs if we are not careful, because we cannot escape the worldly influences. This is why reading Scripture every day is so important. We need to keep God's Word in our minds all the time, so it sinks into our hearts deeply that when we come across something questionable, we have the discernment in which to see what it is really saying.

Lord, how do we honour you as we go through the uncharted waters? You will show us the way; please be our guide. As we look into the lives of others before us, the past apostles and saints who lived out the example of Your love, help us live this out in our present day, and see beyond the instant gratification to know Your truth above all, and share that through our words.

12 September 2016

Re-enchant the Ordinary

Common things can help bring us together, to fulfill the deep longing for feeling connected. We have elements of home that we share with one another as we invite others into our place of comfort and rest. We have food set out on a table, that brings together open conversation that dives into hopes and dreams. Our ordinary sights on the way to and from work too often can become dull or mundane, when they could be something magical everyday if we look upon each new day with fresh eyes and thankfulness.

Imaginative stories of C.S. Lewis and J. R.R. Tolkien help show us, and even push us into something more, and in a richer sense we see nature as enchanted, as we see with new eyes that which God created. What it means to be human - to commune with the transcendent God. This is something we can do all the time, and yet, we are always looking to the greener space over there, somewhere in the distance. Never content with what we have before us, or missing it completely.

Here is a story of our lives. Reaching a place in our own wisdom, learning, and growth that rests in feeling content. The people we get to see each day, the comfort of home we get to wake up to, the beautiful trees we live next to, the conversations we get to take part in are all things that many others strive for. Our daily routine is blessed in so many ways, and it holds a myriad of reasons to look upon it with an admiration of the ordinary. 

May God bless our most common things, for that is what we see and use the most. Our ordinary time at the office, our regular drive, all the meetings, or errands after work is filled with potential. Do we see the beauty of what we have with clear eyes, or are they all muddled with the muddiness of our own moods? When we read The Lord of the Rings, we come out looking at trees differently - with great appreciation. They are not just objects that we can cut down for planks. We look at them knowing they fulfill their purpose by being very important trees, and we imagine them talking to one another in their slow, deep voices. Unbeknownst to me, my whole neighborhood of trees converse every night while I am asleep. 

Our job is to see these common things with eyes that re-enchant the ordinary, and to let those things remind us of God's great gifts we already have in our lives.

08 September 2016

English is a Beautiful Muddle

Historically, the English language is a muddle; actually, it is a beautiful, personal, and highly sensitive creature.
- Owen Barfield

I feel like I need to dwell in every passage I read of Owen Barfield's for a good two days. There is so much there and I have been musing upon the words lately. I keep underlining sentences in the book, the lines so rich with truth, and words that shape a thoughtful angle that makes me want to sit and ponder over them for a while. 

A whole shift of insight (making room in my brain for such knowledge) is like moving a boulder. A tiny inch at a time. These small lines are so heavy with meaning and importance that I need time to reflect, digest, and really enjoy the experience of reading such words that move me so much. I am stirred by words about words, all wrapped around the importance of imagination. 

Words are only themselves by being themselves. Perhaps the same thing is true of human beings.

I love language, and my admiration barely compares to Barfield's love of it, at all levels of depth into diction, intention, meaning, history, and imagery. The beauty of language is something not missed and not overlooked by Barfield, but neither is the history and origin of the word, and how that brings meaning to what you say. No matter how mundane it may seem, words we use have a root in our ancient civilizations. Not many people think about that. The mystery of that reaches us today, and it causes me to lift up glory to God for such a beautiful thing we have in language, and connecting to our past. But it is also a reminder of our responsibility to maintain it and use it properly. English is such a beautiful muddle, to paraphrase Barfield. I wholeheartedly agree.

It is only when we have risen from beholding the creature into beholding creation that our mortality catches for a moment the music of the turning spheres.

06 September 2016

Looking with Imagination

Imagination is living, perspective only "life like".
 - Owen Barfield

I got home after a walk around the lake, showered, made a cup of tea, and started reading (in The Barfield Reader) about the differences between a harp and a camera. I wondered where he was going with all of that, but then it all came together. Barfield's thoughts are so above my own, that I can only grasp at his full meanings, but I hope that I pick up on some main points each time I read his writings. He provokes so much thinking in me, stretching me beyond my comfort zone regarding words, meaning, history of words, consciousness, thought, etc..I love that.

In other words, if you set out to say one thing and mean another, you must really mean another, and that other must be worth meaning. (OB)

In the section I read that evening, regarding imagination, Barfield delves into how we first get the image of something in our minds. We could be simply shown an image that we can look at, with a shallow disposition, not seeking to look into the core, but stay at the surface. This is likened to a camera and the image it produces. Or we could be listening to the music that sweeps us into a story or experience, which causes us to create our own image in our mind that dives deeply into an important core of imagination. This is likened to a harp and the musical influence of storytelling.

We tend to look at, not into what we see. We look at a person but do not see what they might be feeling or thinking. Imagination is left wanting if it is all camera. Just a flat image of a scene - a snapshot. A perspective given is life-like, but one cannot experience the real thing through perspective. A camera cannot look into what it sees.

A harp lets in light and air and with the music played it opens up a window (wind-eye) of the imagination, looking into story, the beginning of poetry. A tale harmonized in different ways. The aperture of a camera can be a tiny window, but the harp opens up the whole wall that may box you in.

What is produced in all these examples is the image, and how we get there, either by way of the camera (the little dark black box) or the harp (the opening up of a realm). But what happens when you close your eyes? The image can be seen in your imagination, and our eyes can pick up images so well, as to imprint them so you can still see them in your mind. These are the beginnings of how to look with imagination, and what consists of how we put that together without even thinking about it.

Is it fanciful, I wonder, to think of a sort of mini-harp stretched across the window of the eye....as perhaps not a bad image for the joy of looking with imagination? (OB)

01 September 2016

Hello, September

Hello, September.

I am really glad you are here. August just seemed to linger on and on, don't you think?
But a lot happened in August that helped me grow, and I don't want to let that slip by. Challenges were set before me and I worked through them. I think I am more aware of my own faults, which will help me show more grace to others when their fault lines show. The wisdom of a month dwells in me.

I am remembering more and more that our lives all have cracks in them - that's how the light gets in.

It has been hot lately. I am hoping you will bring some cooler temperatures, September. Even just a brush of coolness that isn't necessarily tied to a tropical storm. That would be lovely. We are starting off the month in the middle of a tropical storm, Days filled with steady rain and batches of really heavy rain have been our norm. Not being on the coast has kept us from the worst of the weather. It all just creates, in me, the strong desire to stay at home all day reading and drinking tea. I am reading some really good books right now, and would really love the extra time to read.

I am thankful for September. The chance of the change of air. The coming seasons that fill me with excitement. The warm and cosy atmospheres and the autumn scents that linger with spices. It has already started off pretty cosy with the rain falling nonstop, candles burning, and my books sitting next to me that I am about to pick up right now....