29 December 2017

Greeting Hidden Realms

I greet the evening like I greet the dawn -
Sleepy eyes awakening to hidden realms.
Creativity brewing in a mug, too steamy
To take a sip, until thoughts rise and come.

Welcoming the quiet like stacks of books - 
The more the merrier, in moments or pages.
Getting lost in the lines, moments lose time,
Into a perilous realm, where it isn't as it looks.

The imaginings unfold, cracking open a door - 
Leaks of light delight, and take us places.
To bring us out of ourselves, words are power.
They sink deep into our souls, to show us more.

27 December 2017

Meeting In A Tea Cup

Strangely enough humanity has so far met in the tea-cup.
- Kakuzō Okakura

I finished reading The Book of Tea by Kakuzō Okakura, written in 1906. He comes to the pages with views of his own Japanese culture and has many comparisons of our western world. To me, this was fascinating. Reading it excites me to learn more about tea and the Japanese lifestyle, as he details the way they decorate, how they focus on simplicity, and how they are very intentional about not being symmetrical in decor. The tea room, specifically, has meanings behind every aspect. Each detail is well thought out, and nothing is overlooked, from the shape of the vase placed on a table, the short doorway of the traditional tea room (which causes every person to duck low, a sign of humility), the dress of the patrons, the dishes, the cleanliness, etc.

Thus prepared the guest will silently approach the sanctuary, and, if a samurai, will leave his sword on the rack beneath the eaves, the tea-room being pre-eminently the house of peace.

The book is a compilation of topics -  tea, tea-houses, religion, art, culture, decor, and the western world. His words written more than a hundred years ago still speak truths to the differences in our cultures. He points out the propensity of the western world to collect more and more, and to display their wealth with grand houses and displays like a museum inside them. While, the Japanese aim to display simplicity and neutral tones. Clutter in a house clutters the mind, but the westerners always seek more. It was interesting to read from this perspective (myself being a westerner), and finding many pieces of truth all the same.

I like the focus on thoughtfulness, mindfulness, and simplicity. The desire to remove distractions appeals to me as I seek to be intentional in my life in all aspects. We have much to learn from one another, in our different cultures. There are pieces of truth in all of them.

In the tea-room it is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total effect in relation to himself.

25 December 2017

Ancient Inn

Merry Christmas!

May the joy and light of Christmas fill your heart, wherever you are. 

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
- Luke 2.14-16

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth,
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

"A Child of the Snows" by G.K. Chesterton

20 December 2017

Myth of Tolkien

In Britain ways are wild and long,

and woods are dark with danger strong;
and sound of seas is in the leaves,
and wonder walks the forest-eaves.

- J.R.R. Tolkien

Something as of late has captured my imagination in the form of myths and legends. There is the mystery in the stories passed down, the characters, the decisions they make and how that shapes their future. Tales that teach and inspire more stories.

Tolkien gathers most of the attention for the well-known tales of Middle-earth, but this poem rests in the tradition of old Celtic myths, written during a short time period in his life where he was focused on studying the Celtic traditions. This is well before he wrote any lines of Middle-earth's stories.

It reads almost like a fairy tale of a decision made and the consequences of that one decision. Lord Aotrou and Lady Itroun desire to have children, but are unable to. Aotrou makes the choice to go on a journey to see the Corrigan, a 'Celtic fairy', living in a cave. The Cotrrigan tradition is that they are known to be crafty. She gives him a vile of liquid that will help, and won't receive any payment. She taunts him that she will collect payment if he sees results, and she won't say what she will require. 

Aotrou goes back home, and mixes the elixir into his wife's drink. With a glad heart, he seems to feel that good is on the horizon. Itroun ends up having twins, and they appear to be doubly blessed. They wish to celebrate such a good tiding. Aotrou goes out to hunt to bring back a prize to help celebrate, and is drawn to a white doe that lures him. It turns out to be the Corrigan, who then says her payment is due. Aotrou is to leave his wife, and be with her. Aotrou refuses immediately and tells her he'll be going home. The Corrigan says he will die in three days...a kind of spell is on him that he cannot escape...

It is a complex mix of choice and consequence. The poem is quite short, and there are a few different drafts included in the book, which is not at all surprising, knowing how many times Tolkien would write and re-write his stories. He was a perfectionist, and a story never seemed to be finished. There were always some details to clarify.

As I read this, I could see hints of tales of Middle-earth that haven't yet fully brewed in Tolkien's mind (elves like Galadriel, and their mysterious abilities). He liked to write tales that told of some tragedy but that have a deep sense of moral at the core (especially with marriage, such as this story), and it causes us to think about lessons to be learned in the choices we make. 

15 December 2017

Winter To Do's

When the season comes around (at last!) that we call Winter, I rejoice and jump into action. I know it is a short-lived, sporadic season, and therefore, one must take it all in. Soak it up. Bottled it in one's heart.

One thing that is always more enjoyable is walking around downtown. The city puts up all these lights and Christmas figure lights in Munn Park. A lot of people take photos as they walk through the small square. Downtown has many charms, and when the weather is chilly, it tempts me more to explore or appreciate some local architecture, and perhaps grab some lunch at a favourite downtown spot.

When the cold comes, one must wear all the sweaters, jackets, scarves, and boots one can. Finally, those lovely sweaters can be worn. Many people who live up north chuckle that we might pull out our jackets when it's not that cold, but until you have lived here in the deep, tropical south, you may not understand that we long for the day when we can wear that jacket, so if we are blessed with a cool day (even coolish), we jump on it. That chance may not coming around again for a long while!

Orchestra concerts are abundant in the Winter, I have learned. Many are free, and almost all are in my neighborhood or just beyond (at churches, or my old college, for example). I love orchestra concerts, and I almost always choose a balcony seat if possible. The sound is better, and I can actually see. I tend to sit behind someone tall every time.  I enjoy watching talented musicians play their instruments and letting the music fill me as it dances about the room. 

What are some of your favourite Winter To Do's?

13 December 2017

We Need the Cold

The soul should stand in awe - 

- Emily Dickinson

The coldest day since last winter passed through our land. I rejoiced and froze a bit. I have been without heat, and my home is an icebox. I made cups of tea and snuggled under my soft blanket. I reflected on light and darkness. Cold and warmth.

We need the cold season. We need to experience the darker days. If we do not experience the cold and dark, how will we appreciate the light and warmth when it comes?

In a conversion with my closest friend recently, we were talking about how so much of our culture does jump into all the carols, songs, shopping, and decor of Christmas at the beginning of November, which results in a lack of any experience of the Advent season. There is never a journey of waiting.

She mentioned that it is ironic (but actually very intentional of Satan) that during this season of Advent, in which we are supposed to be focused and quiet, patient and waiting, December is actually our busiest month of the year. It becomes jammed packed, exactly as Satan would hope (isn't his hope our demise?). Anything to distract us from being centered in the true meaning of these days before Christmas is a success to him. As long as we are distracted with shopping, events, gathering, wrapping, and driving all over the place, we are potentially keeping ourselves at a safe distance from God. These events of the season are not bad in themselves, of course, but when they fill all our days, and continue to distract us again and again, we lose our centre, and therein lies the danger.

I really respect those people who hold onto the tradition of waiting to sing carols about Jesus and decorate for Christmas until Christmas actually happens, as if it were the first Christmas. They celebrate and sing Jesus's name only when He is born. Then the celebration happens. Isn't it strange that so much of our culture is worn out with Christmas before it arrives? And many times, people are keen to take it all down quickly because it has been up since early November?

There is a meaning in these beautiful reminders at Christmas. Satan will try to distract us from them, and he is even distracting us with good things. It is so easy to do this time of year when goodness is more abundant. In these few weeks before Christmas, as the calendar looks even more full (with good things), I pray that we can be more intentional about staying focused on what matters, and letting distractions glide by when they should.

07 December 2017

Wintry Pages

I wake up to the comfortable chill of the dew's morning air. I dream about a chill much deeper; mornings when I tuck my blankets up closer to my chin before emerging from the warm cocoon. To be patient in the unknown is the theme of this whole month of Advent. With a resolute air, I am quietly determined to soak in every short-lived wintry day that graces our land, when it does indeed come. To me, the brush of the cold is a gift I can barely behold. I hang onto it tightly, and let the words linger from my pen to page, growing dim as the warmth returns. 

Eager to capture it all, I know I cannot, so sometimes I simply sit back and let my senses take it in without the urge to write it all down. Sometimes I don't feel that I can capture it well enough, for how do you write about a joy except to do as I am doing now, letting the words escape as they come to heart. Over the threshold they spill, unaltered in thankfulness.

Can it be subdued? Hopefully not, as these wintry pages are glimpses into my favourite days of weather. As one who is steady and constant, I find myself opposing that inclination by preferring a variety in weather. Perpetual summer and sun does not quench my need for interesting weather. Nothing seems to spark when the sun is always shining. Wintry weather brings interest in the form of soulful meaning tucked in each glittering moment different from the one preceding it.

May these pages continue on; filling up with all the textures and tones of these days teeming on the cusp of a wintry season.

05 December 2017

When All the Lights are Out

Notes from the first Sunday of Advent.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,"I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 
- John 8:12

I entered church, and I immediately saw that all the lights were out. The usher who greeted me said there was a power issue. What a strange, and I thought enlightening, way to begin the first Sunday of Advent in a quiet, dark sanctuary. Like an Advent tiding to pay attention to, and dwell in. Light came into the space by way of the stained glass windows, and it was hauntingly beautiful. Other than having some trouble hearing the speaker at some moments in that large space, I didn't mind the darkness. It encouraged a universal quiet that everyone took part in, and a stillness settled in over the pews. We all had to pay closer attention and listen attentively to let the sounds travel into our hearts. Nobody left the service or shifted in frustration. We were there to meditate and focus on God's word, with or without the modern convenience of electricity.

Sitting there in the grand space, it all looked a bit different. Shadows lingered in recesses and the front alter was darker than the congregation pews. I imagined what it must have been like in the enormous cathedrals before electricity; before microphones were amplifying the sound. They must have been so hushed in order to hear all the nuances of the music and the words reverberating through the open space. It must have felt like today, with light only present through candles lit, and stained glass windows filtering it. Soft lighting, in my mind, causes us to become more introspective and reflective.

In the modern age of today, we fully take for granted the fact that our lights and power always work (or should, 99.9% of the time). It is expected that we have all the light we need, but in church on Sunday, we were transported back a hundred years. And in fact, even that morning we had all the light we needed, in Jesus. May we not miss such moments of grace and His ever present light, so that in the darkest times, we can know that we are taken care of, we are loved, and God is with us.

It is more difficult to see the light when we are always present in bright light. Sometimes we need to sit in some darkness, as in the very timely dark service of the morning this Sunday, and imagine ourselves in the time just before the Incarnation and ponder it in our hearts as Mary and Joseph would have pondered. Did they feel like they were in darkness for while? Did they have any idea what their legacy would be? Could they even imagine what God's plans would include for Jesus? A myth becoming fact before their eyes, entering history, and restoring to us the greatest of all, hope.

01 December 2017

Advent Tidings

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
(O Antiphon from 8th century)

As we are now upon the beginning of Advent, we deck our halls with beautiful greenery and lights. The scent of evergreen trees rises in our homes. We dream about it all being calm and bright, but it usually is more hectic than calm. Most of the time it is too bright all the time, meaning we don't take the time to ponder the darkness of the season and the coming of the Light.

If this season becomes overwhelming and busy, then we would do well to pay attention that we are not slowing down to experience the darkness and thoughtfulness of Advent. If we place ourselves in history, we would find ourselves in a patient state, in hopeful expectation of what is possible to come.

There is this overarching problem we all face this month. Here is what it looks like. Our days quickly become a constant barrage of hectic scheduling (work, parties, gatherings, travel) mixed with the commercial materialistic factor that began two months ago (do you notice how it starts earlier each year?), but on the flip side it also likely contains some quality time with family and friends, and thoughtful gift giving with those we care about. Those things hold a special place in my heart (and probably yours, too).

The nature of being busy leaves us lacking actual substance on which to nourish our souls. We know deep inside that this season is supposed to reach us in soulful ways. We should be learning something everyday about what it was like in the days and weeks before the incarnation. It was a dark time, indeed, riddled with uncertainty, and yet unbeknownst to them, they inched closer to the glory of God in the incarnation.

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, 
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death 
light has dawned. (Matthew 4.16)

If you are looking for some thought-provoking words to nourish your soul this Advent season, here are a few suggestions that I will be picking up again starting today.

Each of these books is structured with a poem (ranging from ancient to modern) and then the author details the core of the poem, what it means, and extracts deeper thoughts we can take from the poem. Each poem and the subsequent summary takes up a few pages, so it is easy to read one each day, if you set aside ten minutes. These are wonderful books, with deeply nourishing words to help us focus on the true meanings of this season.

Waiting on the Word, by Malcolm Guite
Waiting on the Word

Haphazard by Starlight, by Janet Morely
Haphazard by Starlight: A Poem a Day from Advent to Epiphany

30 November 2017

A Little Tweet

Sending a little tweet your way, just in case you needed a charming chirp of a moment. 

If you are looking for some ideas on how to bundle up best for the winter, take direction from these smart birdies. These little birdies so graciously agreed to model the latest trends for keeping warm this season. 

For those long walks in the park, a checkered cap is perfectly paired with a wool scarf and suede jacket. You will enjoy every minute amongst the fallen leaves.

Surely, you'll need to head to the library frequently, and the perfect attire is a tweed jacket, bow-tie, and corduroy deerstalker cap. Don't forget your glasses, so you can read all those stacks of books that are on your list.

When you are lounging, choose the onesie (and cap!) that makes you look like a candy cane (or Where's Waldo?). You will surely be the most cosy for sitting by the fire with a good book.

If you must head outside to the frozen tundra, grab your puffer coat, resplendent with wooden toggle buttons, and complete with fur lining to keep your face feathers warm.

It's only getting colder out there, so, grab your scarf, tweed jacket, striped pajamas, and fur lined coat.

28 November 2017

Locked Doors and Imagination

They open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories"

I've been reading Tolkien's excellent essay "On Fairy-Stories", which covers the depth of story, meaning, purpose, and hope. I have read this essay a few times before, but this time, my eye was keener and my heart took time to dwell in these ponderable ideas that provoke me to celebrate and embrace the written words of imagination and good story-telling.

Fairy stories take us into a new realm, a secondary world created by a thoughtful sub-creator with an imaginative mind. When we open a book into a good story, we exit the primary world and enter one where we are open to strange and different things. Here, elves are living in the woods. The woods may feel familiar, but there is magic amongst the trees. Elements of nature become more real to us as if seeing for the first time, and there is a hidden mystery that we explore along the laws and rules of the realm.

The Locked Door stand as an eternal Temptation.

We come to a place that blocks us, and we can go no further. How much do we desire, then, to get through? Our curiosity should imagine what is on the other side. Why would we not imagine that? I wonder about those who would have no curiosity. How dull it must be to them all the time to come across something imaginative.

Tolkien believed to be a true fairy-story, there should be a happy ending, which likely takes place after the sudden good catastrophe (he coins a new word here, eucatastrophe) when everything seems most dark. It comes out of nowhere, with no sense that it could ever happen again. This is where the hope in the story shapes our own imaginations to look for that hope in other stories, including our own. 

Bringing it all the way home, Tolkien explains that the story has entered History. The eucatastrophe of man's history is the birth of Christ, he writes. Then, the eucatastophe of the incarnation is the resurrection. Fairy-stories are not just those little tales you learned as a child. The Gospel is a telling and entering into history of the true fairy-story. 

20 November 2017

Week of Thankfulness

Every week is a week of thankfulness. I fill many pages of my journal with stories and things I am thankful for, including prayers that keep me centered in the thankfulness. But this week in particular should be more keenly focused. The week of Thanksgiving can be hectic and rushed, with travel and frustrations along the way. May we be more mindful of all our reactions to any snags we hit. If there is traffic delaying us, listen to some favourite music. If you cannot seem to get everything done, acknowledge that everything will still be grand if you don't finish it all. If things feel too hectic, take fifteen minutes, step away, sit in quiet solitude to re-center and pray for refreshment.

Let us be thankful for the depth of all we have, and the freshness of each new day.

Like the glory of mornings
and the cheerful birdsong outside.
The wonder and beauty of the everyday.
Nature is never spent.

Soft lighting with candles.
Long conversations with friends and family.
Safety and comfort from another
like warmth gathered with a blanket.
Closeness and familiarity.

A mug of hot coffee or tea.
Thoughts swirling in gratitude
and words spilling out on paper.
Bound in pages and cover.
Words of truth and beauty.

What fills your heart with thankfulness?

16 November 2017

A FLW Tour at FSC

Space is the breath of art.
- Frank Lloyd Wright

A Frank Lloyd Wright tour at Florida Southern College.
I love to be a tour guide of my old college, Florida Southern, to anyone who is interested. This weekend, my aunt and uncle came to visit (from Tennessee) and I jumped at the opportunity to show them the largest site of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and my old Alma Mater. My brother and sister-in-law also share in the enjoyment of this campus, as they graduated a few years before me. Many thanks to my aunt for taking several of these photos, and sharing them!

Every time I step back on campus, it feels the same, in all the essentials. Sure, some flowers are planted by the chapel now, there are new buildings on the outskirts, and the rose garden did not exist when I was a student, but the main buildings, the landscape, and the feelings of the college are ever present in the same way. The students look super young, but somehow I feel like it was just a few years ago that I graduated.

Included in the delights I love to show on campus - Danforth Chapel, a tiny chapel that many probably don't notice. It has the original pews, vibrant stained glass, concrete details, and geometric elements scattered everywhere.

Always on my list of favourite spots is the Hollis Room, which was the original library. This room is not usually open, but we had providence on our side that day. Uniquely, it is a round room (so as to let sunlight into the library at any time of day) now used for seminars, speakers, and meetings. It is the perfect setting for that. They also had some original Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture on display. I always thought those little geometric chairs looked fun, but probably not comfortable for long. FLW was an original designer of the mid-century modern. I wonder where those chairs were used, and if people thought they were comfortable.

I always hope that when I give tours people find it all as interesting as I do. I think the buildings and the campus is filled with interesting viewpoints, angles, and structures. There is no other campus like it!

14 November 2017

On the Heart Again

This forming of heart-stuff in moulds of brain
Is helpful to the soul by which 'tis wrought,
The shape reacting on the heart again.

- George MacDonald

I emerge at last, to dive in deeply. The sun's rays hide behind dark grey clouds all day, and misty rain falls almost continuously. My kind of day. I smile, as the temperature stays down because of the welcomed clouds. It's a southern Autumn day. The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg permeates my home as coconut granola bakes in the oven.

I yield to the feeling of Sunday. The slowing down and being more intentional. But it is hard to slow down, to think, to be explorers of the heart. I recognize it is not a lane we all like to travel. But here is where I feel the pause pulling me to its gravitational field. I resist many times with lists of things to do, and all the chores staring me down when I am at home. So many times we know of the goodness that awaits us, but we hesitate to enter the realm:

I always had a feeling it led somewhere wonderful, but I was afraid to go and see, in case it didn't.
(Elizabeth Goudge)

I am one who likes a lot of time to reflect. I know this about me, and most people who know me well also know this. If there is a busy day, filled with good things, or travel, or talks, or events, I prefer to take the next few days to ponder and reflect by way of writing in my journal to record all the thoughts and stories that were and that could be. I suppose that I need to let my thoughts take a walk for a bit. As my thoughts stretch their legs, my musings become more meaningful. Immediately rising in me is thankfulness and praise to the Lord for all the good. Then, I anticipate when I can be introspective.

It doesn't always come so easily. This is a busy, fast-paced, distracting world. I believe we all need time to be reflective, so that we can be intentional in our actions and thoughtful in our intents. Fruitfulness expands as we dwell in the quiet presence of our place, wherever that may be. 

This lovely month, November, should be a month of thankfulness. Too often it becomes a rush of events and calendars that are crammed full. This heart-stuff is helpful to the soul, but it requires some work on our part - to let it sink into the heart and dwell in the shape that it is.

Lord, whether we gather papers or gather friends, let us dwell deeply in thankfulness.

10 November 2017

Poem for Thought

Now that night is creeping
O'er our travail'd senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th'eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

All the soul we render

Back to Thee completely,
Trusting Thou wilt tend her
Through the deathlike hours,
And all night remake her
To thy likeness sweetly,
Then with dawn awake her
And give back her powers.

Slumber's less uncertain

Brother soon will bind us
- Darker falls the curtain,
Stifling-close 'tis drawn:
But amidst the prison
Still Thy voice can find us,
And as Thou hast risen,
Raise us in Thy dawn.

-C.S. Lewis

Most people do not know that C.S. Lewis wrote many poems, and more than anything when he was younger (pre-conversion) he wanted to be a poet. While his poetry is not well-known and not usually seen as his strength, I am always captivated and drawn into his poems. Sometimes he is over my head, deep in myth and meaning, but often I find myself pleasantly awoken to something that I admire in the best of poetry - something to muse upon, translate in my mind, and words that sink into my heart. Words that prompt reflection.

I also find it interesting how often Lewis uses feminine images or personifications in his poetry, as he is usually seen as a pipe smoking, bachelor don who didn't understand women. Since he lived in the same house with women and had guests quite often stay at the Kilns (his house outside Oxford), I suspect that he knew more about women than any of the stereotypes portray, and I think that comes out in his writings, especially his poetry.

Reading almost like a bedtime prayer through some creeping darkness, his words embrace us as we close our eyes to the tension of the day meeting night. The darkness envelopes us. Particularly in this darker time of year, when the sun sets so early. We need the reminder that we are not lost to the darkness. We are found, and once again rise in the morning to a new dawn full of graces.

07 November 2017

Love's Well-Ordered Dance

When Love had shaped this world...

A poem called "Orchestra", by Sir John Davies has been my study for a few days. I brought it to Concord Coffee to accompany my weekend ritual of some time at a coffee shop to write and read. The words sing into my soul with meaning in each stanza. Ponder upon each section, and you are rewarded with glimpses of God's goodness, creation, and centered love that pulls everything to it.

In one section, the speaker of the poem asks if atoms are so compacted, how were they built? Did they form by chance? Keep in mind this poem was written in 1594. Even then, culture was grappling with the question of divine creator or complete chance that we exist. Davies answers, no it is not by chance, love brought the atoms together, in a well-ordered dance.

The concept of dance is the theme of the poem, as a suitor tries to convince Penelope to dance. She protests that it is a new-fangled thing, and she can only do ancient things. But, the suitor points out that dancing is as old as the cosmos because that is how creation came into being. In beautiful imagery, he provokes imaginings that the spheres and even the tiny motes (atoms) were created by dancing, as love drawing them all into their place of belonging.

The language dances; through the verses you can hear the steps and imagine the dance of beauty and light.

Both back and forth and sideways passing light,
His gallant grace doth so the gods amaze
That all stand and at his beauty gaze.

Just as the cosmos dances into His love and centers around love, so should we all do in our relationships with one another. In different ways, of course - family, friends, spouses. Each has its own beauty and sense of delight as each person brings their important, unique part of the dance, and you all circle the same Creator, in love. Each person has their own space as the movements are continuous, and the beauty of the dance is there is not cramping each other's space. You move backward, forward and around, and so do the others close to you in unison. In goodness, in gratitude, and in awareness. As we are aware of one another, we share in helping one another grow if we need some instruction. We watch with regarding eyes. To love and gently correct leads us till around the centre in love.

Hence is it that these Graces painted are
With hand in hand, dancing an endless round,
And with regarding eyes, that still beware
That there be no disgrace amongst them found.

I love the use of the word 'concord' (it seems rather appropriate that I was reading this at Concord Coffee) and how it is a heavenly treasure for us all to have different parts to play, but at the same time to have a unity with one another, all compounding in one, and with one consent all being able to agree. There is so much beautiful imagery here, it is a delight to unpack it all in thoughts and musings.

Concord's true picture shineth in this art,
Where diverse men and women ranked be,
And every one doth dance a several part,
Yet all as one in measure do agree,
Observing perfect uniformity:
All turn together, all together trace,
And all together honour and embrace.

03 November 2017

Mood of the Evening

The mood of the evening.
Dark and candle-lit, cosy.
Book-strewn table. A good story
in process - The Herb of Grace.
The temperature dropping,
my heart lightening.
A contrast I welcome.
Getting lost in a good story. Hearing words
in my head, inspiring and thought-provoking.
Language to create and foster goodness, 
can do the opposite if we don't think.
A quiet and peaceful home
growing chilled as the hours wane.
But hours pass like minutes within the pages.
Can such little moments produce good?
Will words change things?
Oh yes, indeed. Such little things can do 

a swirling world of good.
Other small things can, too: a smile, eye contact,
a gentle touch, an encouraging word.
These are large and thankful graces, 
ever I am blessed to encounter or give.
Fall, leaves, fall in due season.
Now is the time to bundle into
such graces.

01 November 2017

Poetic Points of View

The depth of sea and the height of air
Present contrasting points of view
In a Coleridgeian sense a place does not spare
Its landscapes, a beauty to pursue.

Often our space for view, observation,

Notes on shape, tone, hue, and curve,
Raises in us questions and speculation
In all things, love, is it present, does it serve?

I went to a poetry reading at the library the other afternoon. It was an author reading her own works (and she had 8-10 published books for sale - really remarkable!). She read many of her poems, during which, I sat watching her read, listening to her word selection and associations that she would use that were contrasting and interesting. I appreciated her alliterative descriptive phrasings. Her use of repetition was effective, especially as she talked about leaves in autumn and the abundance of them where she lived in Minnesota. Her images were abundant, and eventually led somewhere. That is the nature of poems. 

In between reading poems she would share a quick bit of wisdom about poetry. I scribbled in my journal. I love to hear other's insights into their creative process and their discoveries from their years as a writer. 

Her poems were meant to be read out load to people. Most poems are meant for that. Like good music, good poetry has a communal appreciation when you are among other poetry lovers. A young woman a little older than me sat next to me and we started chatting before the event started. She, like me, was a lover of words and writing. She had her notebook to write in, as well. I was glad I wasn't the only one who jots notes during presentations and lectures. She had just started a blog so that she can practice her writing and stay motivated. I told her that I have written on a blog for years, in order to practice and challenge myself to keep on writing.

It's small encounters like this that help remind me to keep writing, keep practicing, keep doing what I love. When we really care deeply about something, it is usually going to come out and shine to anyone who encounters you. As I left the library, I stopped to smell the gorgeous autumn roses just outside the building.

30 October 2017

Awakening Autumn

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
- Psalm 37.2

Every time I go to the grocery store these days, I think of the fruits of the season; the harvest of goods that usher in a new time of year that promotes warmth and cosiness. The cold air brings these things, and even before any cold air arrives, all the stores remind us it is coming. Each time I was able to grab a jacket a few days this last week, I smiled with a thankful heart. It is a gift to be able to dwell in this season. With the first chill of the season, my senses wake up from the drollness of six months of summer - to the excitement of a new season that had long been forgotten. Summer dulls the memory of chilly weather to come.

Or, as Coleridge wrote:
To awaken the mind's attention...

Indeed, autumn awakens my mind's attention to an earth open to me again. The summer heat has subsided, and I may now go out to play. Here begins the days I am eager to be outside. I wake to the bounty and beauty of God's creation, and I sense the spiritual meaning of the season - the quiet of the land as it slows down, the fluttering leaves falling to the ground, seeds remind us that to die is to live, the protecting we do (from the cold with jackets and scarves) and the protecting the leaves to (to the roots), the melancholy of darker days, the fruits of the season (squash, apples, etc).

They are all essential, beautiful pieces of this season, and we are meant to experience it, and learn what it all has to teach us. We are not meant to live in one perpetual state of being (or one season). How would we appreciate the gifts produced if there never was any change? We would grow dull and bored with the same thing day in, day out. We are changeable, and many times we need nature to change in order that we pay attention to some deeper things.

26 October 2017

An Autumn Memory

I was blowing out my candles and getting ready for bed when this memory suddenly came to me as the temperature dropped outside to feel like Autumn. I grabbed my journal and sat down to write some scribbly memories on the pages. 

I was eight again, and at my grandma's place in North Carolina, when she lived in the mobile home at the top of a big hill. The mobile home complex was up the hill, and at the bottom (and across the highway) was Walmart and Piggly Wiggly. I am pretty sure they are both still there.

When I was little, it was all magical to me. We would go up to the mountains to visit my grandma every Autumn. I remember going to Walmart and buying Franklin leaf looker sweatshirts (My mum and I are showcasing ours in this photo. Of course, mine is a sweatshirt dress. I guess they didn't make children's sizes). I am quite certain I wore that sweatshirt every day. I carried that camera around, because I wanted to take photos of the Autumn scenes that were so fascinating to me (birth of my love of taking photos?).

We would play outside on the sloping grassy lawns that enveloped grandma's quiet, spacious neighborhood. The leaves were our toys. I don't think we needed much else. Crunching them underfoot, we ran through piles of collected leaves by getting a running start down a little hill. Collecting leaves was always an activity, which we would bring back to grandma's and sit on the porch making some framed art with coloured leaves.

Autumn in the mountains was a world away from Florida. It held a sense of magic that only could be found in the mountains. It must have infused itself so deeply in me that I long for it every year without fail, and I am almost tempted to don a leaf looker sweatshirt in order to do so. Thankfully, those sweatshirts no longer exist.

24 October 2017

Contrasts in the Woods

What is set before us is contrasts in the woods. In one scene, we have a quiet, peaceful house in the woods, on the edge of a lake. Adorned with porches and nooks to enjoy nature, set on a sloping hill leading down to the lake. Even with little toddler nephew, you can find peace and quiet, because nature surrounds you. It's just as I like it. I want to be in the trees. I want to hear the bird calls echo from one end of the property to some other place in the woods. Leaves falling from the tops of these tall trees flutter down like a beautiful slow-motion cascade to the ground or the porch.

This is where, as often as I could, I would tuck myself away on the lower screened-in porch in to get a few pages of journaling and poetry in, listening to the sounds of the woods that is so calming to me. Every so often a cracking noise of acorns falling on the roof or porch would seem so loud against the quiet of leaves rustling in the frequent breezes. Soon later, little nephew would come down with his daddy. He was good at grabbing the attention - charming, smirking, and being interested in my books in that toddler fashion.

In another scene, on the other end of the spectrum, you have a race track in the woods. Here we have rolling hills and trees galore, but it is not what you would classify as quiet and peaceful. It is quite the opposite. Crowds, cars, and announcers. Here was the world of Le Mans racing with all the spectators enjoying every moment of several days of events as they stay in campers, RVs, and tents scattered all around the track. This is where the loud engines and the scent of race gasoline hover above the curves of the track almost continuously.

While you are in the woods, this is where you go down a hill to garages (behind the pits) of each racing team and see all the drivers autograph photos and posters the day before the race. Down in the garages, we bump into an old BMW club pal, who we have known from various events for probably 15 years, so we chat with him. We walk up the hill in the heat and sunshine. I use an umbrella to shade me pretty much all day. Here is where I am out of my comfortable place, and yet, it is almost a comfort to be a part of what my family loves and enjoys so much. My dad had enjoyed these events immensely. In a strange way, it all seems so normal to me to be there. Both of these scenes, in fact, represent contrasts in the woods that apply to me so naturally. Aren't we all made up of such interesting contrasts?