25 July 2017

Word and Time Wonderings

C.S. Lewis's desk in the study at The Kilns (his home outside Oxford)

Sometimes I wonder what it be like if we were alive in a different time. Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong century?  What century would you want to live in? Do you think you would be doing the same thing or something different with your life if you lived at that time?

Or what if someone from history were alive today, instead of in their time? What if J.R.R. Tolkien was alive today, for example (he died in 1973)? He would have been raised differently due to technology and the machine advancements of our time (which he detested in his own time). He would not have served in WWI and would not have had certain ideas stemming from that experience to write about (such as the sudden image of a Hobbit living in a hole in the ground). Would The Lord of the Rings and all the sub-created world of Middle-earth ever been written?

If C.S. Lewis were alive today, writing at his desk at The Kilns, would his views of the this modern day change the story of Narnia? In his many essays, he wrote with valid concern about the direction our world was going (from his point of view in the 1950- early 1960s). He joked about how he was the last of the dinosaurs, but he also wrote about space travel. What would he write about today looking ahead from our modern perspective?

Isn't it interesting to think about how we are alive at a certain time for a purpose? It is not a mistake that you are here right now. It might feel like sometimes you belong in a different decade, but you were made to be alive today, and to bring your talents forth for good.

Shakespeare, for instance. If he were alive today instead of during 1560-1600s, would the English language evolve as we know it today? Not at all. Shakespeare penned so many of our words used today, which did not exist until he wrote them down in his plays! Words like baseless, bedazzled, belongings, dishearten, dwindle, multitudinous, sanctimonious, watchdog. Or phrases like "wear one's heart on one's sleeve", "a laughing stock", and "all that glitters isn't gold" come from Shakespeare's writings. These words and phrases simply did not exist until his creativity was put to good use in his plays that we read today. His influence on our language is immensely palpable.

All this wondering reminds me that we are here to do our part and it is of utmost importance for us to get moving with what we were made to do. I focus on words, language, and writing of course, but that is not the only essential talent we need in this world. Your talent has purpose in this time you are in right now. Thank goodness you are here in 2017, as your talents are needed for good. You don't know how far-reaching that good is.

21 July 2017

At Last Breaking Through

There is something about the morning light;
A waking freshness of delight 
shines through my window.
The journey overnight was arduous, 
but at last breaking through
the darkest of night,
emerging as the hopeful, 
glowing morning light.

There is something magical about morning light. The way it begins as a soft glow, just barely visible over the horizon, but penetrating the darkest of night. The soft glow breaks through. It brings hope and restoration as the new day awakens. It offers that our own small light can break through something dark.

Sometimes we need some light to break in, as a dark day emerges. For whatever reason. Memories of sadness, trials of hardship, displacement of good. My Dad would have been turning 70 coming up this weekend. It is strange how a loss can raise its head at certain times. We all have days and times in which we try to grasp for that light, and yet it is there. Every day. The love of God is all the light we need. It is through that Light that we have anything good.

As the sun's softest rays break through the deepest midnight, let the love of God shine within you. Nothing can break it up or cover it up. Not even the darkest cloud. Take heart. Let the glowing morning light shine on your morning, and may that remind you to trust in the love of God for everything you need.

19 July 2017

Strange and Wonder-filled

A stranger here
strange things doth meet, strange glory see,
strange treasures lodg'd in this fair world appear,
strange all and new to me;
But that they mine should be who nothing was,
That strangest is of all; yet brought to pass.

- Thomas Traherne 

The heat begins to rise early in these midsummer months. I can feel it as I wake up and get ready. It is a strange thing because it feels so familiar. Our summer is so long. There is this notion in me that longs for the months of cooler weather that seem so far away.

But look at the sunset from the dusk preceding. A clear (or clearing sky) can produce a majestic sunset. Why is it summer sunsets tend to be so inspiring? Is it the intensity in the atmosphere that paints the sky with such other-worldly colours? 

The sights and sounds of summer are all the more intense. Thunderstorms can rattle your house. Cicadas can make a deafening chorus during the heat of the day. Sunsets are vibrant and colourful. Thunderstorm clouds heading your way are huge and menacing.

Nothing is very subtle in the summer months. A juxtaposed mixture of contrasts dwell in our days. Indoors, it tends to be chilly. Outside it is sweltering. A blue sky can be quickly covered by the darkest storm clouds. Vibrant blooms dance in the afternoon breezes, somehow flourishing in the blazing sun.

May the wonderment of my soul keep growing somehow, even if I feel less than inspired within these months of intensity and heat. Sometimes one has to look deeper than one might expect. A shallow muse may not present it. Often, one must be daring to go deeper.

14 July 2017

A Rainbow that goes to Outer Space

I received a thank you note in the mail from my four year old niece with her dictated message to me written by her 'mommy'. It made my day when I opened the mail and read her thoughts exactly as she said them. She wrote her name and drew a picture of a rainbow. But her dictation describing the rainbow is my favourite part. 

"This is a rainbow that goes to outer space."

 I could not stop smiling as I read that. In her imagination, the rainbow goes to outer space. Why not? A rainbow can go to outer space in her story. I love to see her imaginative processes at work. It warms my heart and fills me with joy. Because all of it matters - her beautiful ideas, stories, and make-believe places where rainbows can stretch into outer space, and she will develop that as she grows.

It brought to mind some sweet memories of my childhood. When I was my niece's age, I loved to create imaginative stories, but before I could write, I would dictate to my 'mommy', and she would write down my stories for me. 

The first book I ever wrote (when I was 4, I think) was called "The Girl who Lost her Pumpkin", written around Halloween of course. It was dictated to my mom, with colour illustrations by me. It was a complex, mysterious tale about a girl (me) who had a lovely pumpkin ready for Halloween, but somehow she lost it! A lot of searching takes place, high, low, and all around. At last her mom notices that the pumpkin is sitting there on the counter. The last place she thought to look. Aren't our lives like that sometimes? Something important that we were looking for is right in front of us. 

True, the story needed a bit of substance, but it paved the way for me to love to write and use my imagination. And that has never gone away.

12 July 2017

Summer Reads

I suspect the hot/humid weather causes me to read more books, since I spend more time indoors.

My reading life has been very busy, and somehow I have read 34 books this year already (thanks to goodreads for keeping track)!

Here a some of the books I've been reading lately:

The Book of Iona: An Anthology
The Book of Iona: An Anthology
edited by Robert Crawford
I am a bit fascinated by Iona, a tiny island off the northwest coast of Scotland, and the location of the monastery begun by Saint Columba, who left Ireland in exile, landed on Iona, and began his Christian ministry around 563 AD. The place is wind-swept, secluded, and mysterious, and yet it was the heart of Christianity for Scotland and the surrounding areas for centuries. This book is a mix of stories, poems, and journal entries relating to Iona.

Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
by John Lewis-Stempel
‘To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious.’ 
Every time I go to England, I end up buying a modern book written about the English countryside, and this past Spring was no exception. This time I read about an English field through each season of a year. The flora and fauna observed by the poetical man who lives there on the edge of said meadow. I admire those who hold onto those traditional aspects of country life; embracing the land and the life and death that is essential to every season.

Murder in the Cathedral
Murder in the Cathedral
by T.S. Eliot
This short book is a play dramatizing the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral (in 1170 AD) by four knights who arrive at the cathedral to do what they feel they need to do for the king. Before the knights arrive, Thomas is approached by tempters (offering him ways out), which he rejects, and then he is warned by many others that he is in danger. Sensing his impending martyrdom, he accepts his fate, and even gives a sermon about being joyful in such a fate. Whether good or bad, he says we should celebrate. The knights arrive, and murder him there in the cathedral, and then turn to all the onlookers and justify their actions in some gaudy speeches.

The End of the Third Age: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The History of Middle-earth, #9a)
The End of the Third Age: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four
by J.R.R. Tolkien
To read Tolkien is to read glimpses into his sub-created world. This is a supplemental book containing drafts and incomplete alternates for many sections of The Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien wrote his drafts, some of the details didn't make it into the final draft, or, it was greatly modified. Tolkien was well known to be a perfectionist with his writing, so it's not surprising that there are many alternatives and drafts for all his stories. It was very interesting to read the alternative version of Frodo and Sam's return to the Shire, and the tumultuous time of "The Scouring of the Shire" chapter from The Return of the King. There is also an entire ending of the book that shows you life with Samwise, his children, and the sweet domesticity. It seems that Tolkien wanted that ending to be in the final published version, but didn't get it.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
by Reza Aslan
Basically, it is a biography of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, or the historical Jesus. The book recounts the first century state of affairs within the Jewish world, and all the conflicts that arose. Roman rule enslaved the Jews, messiahs declared themselves left and right, and an apocalyptic mind-set filled religious views. Our modern world is very different, and it is helpful and fascinating to learn about what the people of first century Palestine actually did and believed, and how Jesus became well known across the land (it started with John the Baptist, who was the well-known figure. Jesus was not known at that time). Obviously, he writes this book from a distinctly historical perspective, so many things contradict the theology we know to this day, but some of his historical perspectives actually help me understand passages in Scripture, by knowing more about the reason things were done, and why the conflicts arose (such as between Paul and James).

10 July 2017


Mornings like these.
It is the weekend and I am sitting at my small round, white table that makes me think I am in a cosy cafe sipping coffee. Well, I am sipping coffee, made by this in-house barista. These morning hours are when I am most reflective, and I try to indulge as much as possible. It is the weekend, so I let my thoughts wander. I let words meld out of these delicate, quiet hours of a summer morning.
I love how the landscape wakes up, with misty or dewy beginnings. A refreshment after sun-drenched days. A cycle of strain and restoring. 

Glistening morning sun
reflecting off dew-filled windows,
arguments of space
persist in the trees, like willows,
arching outward to claim the air.

The sunscape casts shadows
in these still, early hours,
details of which melt away by noon,
this isn't early June,
but the depths of summer heatwaves.

07 July 2017

Pretty City Lakeland

In these heat-drenched summer months, I spend less time outside. The air is so thick with humidity. When I take short excursions to venture outside, I am always astonished how plants and flowers can flourish in this most intense time of year. The beating heat of the sun is unrelenting. How are they not burnt and drooping from such heaviness?

They are, instead, flourishing and vibrantly alive. I like to head outside, but it is so hard to enjoy it for long. I wasn't made for this weather, but some things were.

I collect images of such beauty that somehow grows under such circumstances because I want to remember that each season has its purpose, and while it might not be ideal to some, it is nourishment to others. 

05 July 2017

July Notes and Time

Deeper and deeper we go. A new month of summer is upon us. We are halfway through the year. It is a little bit strange to think of how we got halfway through already, but I suppose time is moving the same speed as it always has. It appears to move quicker as you get older. I think because as children, we get so caught up in moments that time seems to freeze. Children have a great way of being in the moment. We adults tend to think ahead to some other moment to be, or a past moment we wish to re-live. We have a difficulty in being immersed in the right now. 

Of course, the way to enjoy and remember moments is to be fully present in the present. This is how your memory stores the feelings, sensory notes, and impressions. That is likely why we have certain memories from very early childhood that stick out so vividly. Memory is certainly an interesting study, as we are purveyors of information, knowledge, and wisdom, but does that impact our memories? We are on a never ending quest for more information so we can sell information. But why is it that many people these days do not use their memory very much? Instead, we rely on computers to remember everything - from dates, appointments, birthdays, calculations, spelling, directions, etc. It is interesting to think about how progression of our memories has been over history. Before the written word, all stories and songs were memorized, and passed down from generation to generation. The tales (that would fill entire books) would be totally committed to memory and recited to each other. That was the norm of human existence. How many of us memorize entire books today?

Once the written word came along and paper was used to make books, the need for someone to memorize waned, as it could be written down instead. This is wonderful for keeping stories and passing them down through time, but our mental capacity lessened and wasn't used as it could be.

Now, with computers, we use and/or challenge our memories less and less. Is that good or bad? What effect will that have on future generations? We tend to have trouble enough remembering all the little normal things in our busy lives. Is that a result of our modern time? 
Just a few thoughts that came to mind as I thought about time flying.