Tag Archives: Winter

Longing

2017 has, in a lot of ways, been a tough year for a lot of people. I’ve been blessed, but even so it’s been hard on my heart seeing the storms around me and the grief of others, and the pain and strife that seems to be everywhere, ever-increasing.

I know I live in a broken world. I know I serve a Good and Loving God who brings me, and the world, Hope and Joy. For a lot of people, that sounds stupid in one way or another. Believe me, if you can come up with an argument against my belief, or a smart-ass remark concerning it, I’ve already explored it, already heard it, or already come up with it myself.

For other people, right now, it just sounds cruel. Even the words “love” and “hope” and “joy” are painful right now. If that’s you, I pray for you to be comforted, for comfort does exist. I also pray that your holidays will be free of people trying to force you to be cheery, or who are inconsiderate of your pain.

All of this has had me musing, for several days, on the light in the darkness that is my Lord. This season, to me, is all about that light, just a distant starlight at first, then a candle flame… but something that is alive and grows. I’ve been struck to the heart with the kind of agony that is also joy, by the contrast of that light in a world that is capable of producing so much darkness.

So here are song lyrics and a poem that have been resting on my heart as I think about these things, and with them, my love to you all.

 

“Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace. Hail the Sun of Righteousness. Light and life to all, He brings. Risen with healing in His wings. Mild, He lays His glory by, born that Man no more may die. Born to save the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth!” -Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

“Glorious now behold Him arise! King, and God, and Sacrifice. Alleluia, Alleluia, Earth to heaven replies.” – We Three Kings

“Long lay the world in sin an error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of Hope. The weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” -Oh Holy Night

“Come, ye weary, heavy-laden, Lost and ruined by the fall. If you tarry ’til you’re better, You will never come at all.” -Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight” -O Come, O Come Emmanuel

“Arrows in the night, justice all in flight. What shall a just man do? Run like a deer, to the Lord, my soul! Fly like a bird to His mountain!” -Run Like a Deer

And finally, I give you a three poems.

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful?
Ah, my dear, I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?” “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat. -by George Herbert

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware. -Thomas Hardy

A Child of the Snows

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.

-by G. K. Chesterton

Blessings to All in this painful, ugly, glorious and beautiful world.

Mythopoeia

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though “breathed through silver”

Philomythus to Misomythus
(myth-lover to myth-hater)
by J. R. R. Tolkien, to C. S. Lewis

You look at trees and label them just so,

(For trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);

You walk the earth and tread with solemn pace

One of the many minor globes of Space:

A star’s a star, some matter in a ball

Compelled to courses mathematical

Amid the regimented, cold, inane,

Where destined atoms are each moment slain.

 

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend

(And must), but only dimly apprehend,

Great processes march on, as Time unrolls

From dark beginnings to uncertain goals;

And as on page o’erwritten without clue,

With script and limning packed of various hue,

An endless multitude of forms appear,

Some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,

Each alien, except as kin from one

Remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.

God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,

Tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these

homuncular men, who walk upon the ground

With nerves that tingle, touched by light and sound.

The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,

Green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,

Thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,

Slime crawling up from mud to live and die,

These each are duly registered and print

The brain’s contortions with a separate dint.

 

Yet trees and not ‘trees’, until so named and seen –

And never were so named, till those had been

Who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,

Faint echo and dim picture of the world,

But neither record nor a photograph,

Being divination, judgement, and a laugh,

Response of those that felt astir within

By deep monition movements that were kin

To life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:

Free captives undermining shadowy bars,

Digging the foreknown from experience

And panning the vein of spirit out of sense.

Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves,

And looking backward they beheld the Elves

That wrought on cunning forges in the mind,

And light and dark on secret looms entwined.

 

He sees no stars who does not see them first

Of living silver made that sudden burst

To flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,

Whose very echo after-music long

Has since pursued. There is no firmament,

Only a void, unless a jeweled tent

Myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,

Unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

 

The heart of man is not compound of lies,

But draws some wisdom from the only Wise,

And still recalls him. Though now long estranged,

Man is not wholly lost, nor wholly changed.

Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,

And keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,

His world-dominion by creative act:

Not his to worship the great Artefact,

Man, sub-creator, the refracted light

Through whom is splintered from a single White

To many hues, and endlessly combined

In living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Though all the crannies of the world we filled

With elves and goblins, though we dared to build

Gods and their houses out of dark and light,

And sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right

(Used or misused). The right has not decayed.

We make still by the law in which we’re made.

 

Yes! ‘Wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat

Our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!

Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,

Or some things fair and others ugly deem?

All wishes are not idle, not in vain

Fulfilment we devise – for pain is pain,

Not for itself to be desired, but ill;

Or else to strive or to subdue the will

Alike were graceless; and of Evil this

Alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

 

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,

That quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;

That seek no parley, and in guarded room,

Though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom

Weave tissues gilded by the far-off day

Hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

 

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build

Their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,

And steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,

A rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

 

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme

Of things not found within record time.

It is not they that have forgot the Night,

Or bid us flee to organized delight,

In lotus-isles of economic bliss

Forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss

(And counterfeit at that, machine-produced,

Bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).

 

Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,

And those that hear them yet may yet beware.

They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,

And yet they would not in despair retreat,

But oft to victory have turned the lyre

And kindled hearts with legendary fire,

Illuminating Now and dark Hath-been

With light of suns as yet by no man seen.

 

I would that I might with the minstrels sing

And stir the unseen with a throbbing string.

I would be with the mariners of the deep

That cut their slender planks on mountains steep

And voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,

For some have passed beyond the fabled West.

I would with the beleaguered fools be told,

That keep an inner fastness where their gold,

Impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring

To mint in image blurred of distant king,

Or in fantastic banners weave the sheen

Heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

 

I will not walk with your progressive apes,

Erect and sapient. Before them gapes

The dark abyss to which their progress tends –

If by God’s mercy progress ever ends,

And does not ceaselessly revolve the same

Unfruitful course with changing of a name.

I will not treat your dusty path and flat,

Denoting this and that by this and that,

Your world immutable, wherein no part

The little maker has with maker’s art.

I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,

Nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

 

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray

From gazing upon everlasting Day

To see the day-illumined, and renew

From mirrored truth the likeness of the True.

Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see

That all is as it is, and yet made free:

Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,

Garden not gardener, children not their toys.

Evil it will not see, for evil lies

Not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,

Not in the source, but in malicious choice,

Not in sound, but in the tuneless voice.

In Paradise they look no more awry;

And though they make anew, they make no lie.

Be sure they still will make, not been dead,

And poets shall have flames upon their head,

And harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:

There each shall choose for ever from the All.

My reading

morning dew, by Jubilare, taken on a morning in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

Morning Dew, by Jubilare, taken in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

 


And the heart of the Earth a star

Merry Christmas to all my readers who, by virtue of my utter strangeness, are also wonderfully strange (otherwise you’d just shake your head and move on). I love you! ^_^

A Child of the Snows

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.

-by G. K. Chesterton

And here is my reading of it.


Christmas Carols and Mental Illness

How is that for a clickbate title?

No, I am not suggesting a correlation. It’s more like I am combining things.

Today I happened upon this: No, I’m Fine

It won’t take long to read it, so go read it! If it doesn’t ring a bell with you, it may still help you understand what some other people face.

I’ve overloaded before. I can’t say if my overloads are like his because I’m not in Mr. Tayler’s head, but what he says is hauntingly familiar. When the stress ratchets up to a level that flips a particular switch in my brain, a kind of pressure-valve, I change. It’s usually caused either by sensory overload (there is a reason I avoid noisy concerts and large masses of people…) or from having too much to do. Being single means that, apart from the kindness of family and occasionally friends, I have to do All The Things myself. And there are a Lot of Things. I tremble when I try to imagine what it’s like for single parents!

This is different from my depression, but not unrelated. The stress can either tip me into overload (more violent, but shorter lived), or depression. That is, the machine either executes an emergency release of pressure, or it simply shuts down. As a friend and I recently said over e-mail, depression sucks. She, dear heart, is grieving. That is a monster of a trigger.

Side Note: if you’re wondering why I refer to my brain as if it’s made of gears and pipes and switches, it’s because it helps me give context to the things that happen in it over which I have no control. And if you don’t buy the idea that I have no control over some processes in that particular fleshy mass, then you really need to educate yourself on how mental illness works. If you can “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” or “cheer yourself up,” then you are dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of normal human emotion. Real depression, or anxiety, or other mental afflictions are not in that range. They are what happens when something goes wrong with the machinery. If you haven’t experienced what that’s like, then the best thing you can do is listen to those who have and believe them.

For my friend who is grieving, this is a hard time. It’s a hard time for a lot of people. I know of a family who recently and unexpectedly lost a child around the same age as my nephew. My heart broke when I heard about it, and it’s been breaking off and on ever since. I can’t imagine what that must be like. How hollow the season of comfort and joy must feel for them right now. How they might want it to go away, to leave them alone. Please remember them in your prayers.

Cheery stuff for around Christmas, I know. As it turns out, I’m stressed right now, but otherwise pretty even-keeled. I’ve had a few small overloads, but no depression. I am extremely blessed to be able to say that, and I am on-my-knees grateful.

Still, this does not look like it will be a lighthearted season for me this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I do like to have a lighthearted Christmas, when I can). Sure, this is a time for rejoicing that Our Lord came and took human form for our sakes, but isn’t part of that rejoicing a recognition of why He came? Why we needed Him so very badly, and why His coming was not only Good News, but the only possible Good News a world like ours can receive? That the Perfect Creator would take up weakness, vulnerability, grief, pain, and not only death, but seeming-abandonment by God Himself. For if ever we feel so abandoned or forgotten, we can still look to Him and realize that He, too, cried out “why have You forsaken Me?”

And then He overcame. He rose even from that darkness and death. God had not truly abandoned God, as He has not truly abandoned us. And He is still bringing us up along with Him. He came down to our level in order to lift us up from that mire. I think that is very Good News. And seeing the mire around me only highlights just how Good.

Hope is born in human flesh, in a cave filled with animals, and that is our comfort and our joy.

And now, yet again, my Carol Countdown from 2013.

December 1: O Magnum Mysterium – Nothing says Christmas like 16th Century Latin

December 3: Away in a Manger – probably not the version you know…

December 6: Hearth and Fire – more winter than Christmas, but lovely

December 8: Balulalow – A joyful song from Scotland

December 10: Don Oiche ud ImBethil – Softer, more meditative fare. It gives me chills.

December 13: Cantique de Noel – You may know this as “O Holy Night” but I dare say that it is far more beautiful in French, especially with Joan Baez’s voice

December 15: Beautiful Star of Bethlehem – Twangy country Christmas music, and a fine example

December 17: Brugundian Carol – a softer, more mellow folk carol

December 20: Third Carol for Christmas Day – hauntingly beautiful song from the 1700’s

December 22: Veni, Veni Emmanuel – I love “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in any language, but there is something of crystal-beauty to the words in Latin.

December 24: Go, Tell it on the Mountain – The incomparable Odetta, what more can I say?

December 25: Christmas in the Trenches – And finally, the Christmas offering. It’s pretty self-explanatory

Love and blessings to you all! And Peace, and Joy, and every good thing.


George MacDonald, Endings

From the end of The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

“Then you’re leaving the story unfinished, Mr. Editor!”

“Not more unfinished than a story ought to be, I hope, If you ever knew a story finished, all I can say is, I never did. Somehow stories won’t finish. I think I know why, but I won’t say that either, now.”


Fallen Writer

~*GASP!*~

What is this? An original post? It can’t be!

Well… to some extent, it isn’t. The first part of this post was written a year and a half ago. The quoted text is not how I currently feel, so no prayers or sympathies are needed for depression as I am not presently in a depression (prayers and sympathy for stress, however, will be much appreciated!). The insights I apparently had during that grim time, though, are still relevant to my mind, and as I did not post it back when, I have decided to post it now and tie it in with my present thoughts.

And, uh, Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday-of-your-persuasion! It doesn’t look like I will be doing much Christmas-posting, but I will, again, re-post my carol countdown for any who are interested. :)

I am going through some stuff right now. Nothing is “wrong,” but then my brain chemistry doesn’t really care. It never has.

It’s moods like this that make me want to burn down the world. Luckily for me, and everyone else, global immolation is not in my power. Besides, I would probably remember who and what I love in time to stop me, even if it was.

Depression will pass. It always does. I have learned the hard way that the dimness of the world I see right now is no more real than if I were staring at it through rose glass.

If only knowing were feeling.

Different established aspects of the characters I write become more or less real to me depending on my mood, at least in the abstract.

I have found that I do not need to understand a character for them to reveal themselves in my writing, but the insights I get when I am not writing can help me see the “big picture,” what the characters themselves do not see. You know how we, as people, are often too “close” to our own lives to see ourselves objectively? It seems characters are usually like that, too.

Anyway, I’ve known for a long while that I am dealing with two protagonists who have a (mostly unconscious) deathwish. They have forgotten how to love themselves in the way that allows a person to really love their neighbors. In contrast, I have a protagonist who “loves his life” (John 12:25) so much that he is willing to do nearly anything to survive. Right now I can clearly see the irony of the fact that all three are, despite their differences, self-destructive.

If they change, it will be painful, but then processes that create lasting change are ALWAYS painful. Break the twisted bone so that it can heal straight. Even my dull-dark mood is not enough to hide from me the beauty and joy inherent in redemption.

Cheery stuff, no? Though I do touch on eucatastrophe at the end. It relates, in an acute-angle kind of way to what I will say next.

My stories, all of them, are rife with questions of redemption: what it is, what it means, how it works, if it works, what happens when it doesn’t come into play, etc. Being part of a Fallen race, the question is of deep importance to me.

What I’ve been pondering lately, in a more balanced frame of mind, is how to deal with the concept of Fallen Humanity in-story.

Stories are funny things, aren’t they? So many varieties, and yet so many common notes.

My genre is, I guess, Fantasy Fiction (or speculative fiction, if you want a bigger umbrella). Not particularly High or Low, Heroic or Dark. In fact, running down the list of sub-genres, I’m not sure where it falls. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, by the way. Some of the best (and worst) fantasy fiction out there plays to type.

The reason is that each type has its aim and the formulas work. If you want a peanut-butter milkshake, you use ice-cream, milk, peanut-butter, and maybe some chocolate syrup. You don’t add chicken soup, or gravel.

So, I am not writing dark, cynical fantasy because my aim isn’t deconstruction. But most of the alternatives have heroes that, while flawed, are still… well… heroic. And their villains are villainous. And I look at them and wonder: how much difference is there, really?

In one sense, of course, there is a vast difference. I am not attempting to diminish the importance of choice and freewill. But the Fall cuts through everyone. In a sense, it brings us all close together, even if we’re together in bondage. I may cheat, or lie, and another person may commit mass murder, but without salvation, we’ve both walked through the gates: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.”* If we both find salvation, we both find salvation, regardless of what we’ve done. In this sense, at least, there are no levels.

We’re all sinners. But the world, as a whole, rarely seems to agree. There’s a persistent feeling (one that I have to fight in myself) that some things just aren’t forgivable. That some marks, once made, are indelible.

So what does this mean for my writing? I guess it means that I’m walking a fine line. On one hand, I want my reader to like and sympathize with the “good guys,” to be horrified by the destruction wrought by their antagonists, and for the two sides to be quite clear (well, most of the time, anyway). But without ever being able to forget that the degree of separation is not as wide as it seems. I’m not necessarily talking about anti-heroes or anti-villains. I’m not exactly dealing in gray and gray morality.

I guess, maybe, I’m asking how we approach the Fall. How, if we believe in true Good and Evil (as I do,) and know that we’re Not Good (yeah, that too), do we view those whose Not-Goodness horrifies us?

I know that, for a lot of people who share my faith, this may sound stupidly obvious, but I’ve always believed that the obvious needs saying sometimes: I feel like this is Important. Not just on an intellectual level, but on an emotional one.

How do we love our enemies? How do we face mass murder, exploitation, corruption, and cruelty? We must condemn these things because we know them to be evil. To excuse or ignore them in a story, as in real life, would be a sin. But in real life we’re forbidden to judge the perpetrators. Part of that may be because of our human limitations. We can’t really understand our fellows. But maybe it’s also because, when we come right down to it, “we” are not as far from “them” as we would like to think.

To an ant the size of a pin-head, an ant the size of  a bean seems huge. To a human they’re both very small, nearly the same size, even.

The Fall makes us all ants.

And so, dear possible-future-reader, if you ever think it strange that I touch on a monster with sympathy, or deal harshly with a protagonist for a comparatively “small” fault, remember that it isn’t because I’m a relativist.

It’s because I’m not.

 


 

*Dante’s Inferno – “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”


 


Why I am Not Anti-Muslim

I know, I have been sharing a lot lately. Why no original posts? Well, partly because my brain is oatmeal and all creative energies are needed elsewhere.

Also because bloggers I read keep posting fantastic stuff that I can’t help but want to post. So… Brenton, thank you for this one.

It seems, to me, to be completely inconsistent with Christianity to turn our backs on people because we fear that they might hurt us, or hate us, or kill us. I reject that fear in the name of the One who gave Himself up to a species (that’s us, folks,) that unjustly tortured and murdered Him in order to save and redeem them/us.

God, Lord Jesus, forgive us, for we know not what we do.

 

 

 

Source: Why I am Not Anti-Muslim


Spring Interim

March. Despite what the calendar says, Spring usually starts where I live earlier than the “first day of Spring.” My crocus and snowdrops have already shown their faces, and the daffodils are not far behind. Still, we are just getting over an ice storm that hit two weeks ago!

Ice storms, for any who are unfamiliar with them, are what happens when the temperature plummets while it is raining. It is absolutely gorgeous, and very dangerous. On the gorgeous side of things, everything, and I do mean everything, gets coated with a thick layer of perfectly clear ice. The pictures below may give you some idea, but they are nothing to the whole. Imagine the world is coated in glass and you will have some idea.

On the dangerous side of things, traction on packed and re-frozen snow is hard enough. On a solid sheet of ice, one needs cleats on one’s shoes, and the cars, here, simply aren’t equipped to deal with this kind of thing. We need tanks with spikes on the treads. I took a tumble and was lucky, I caught myself on my elbows. Painful, but it could have been worse.

Another problem is that ice is very heavy. Not all trees can handle it, nor all branches. Snow can weigh down a tree to breaking, but it can also fall off the tree a lot easier than a thick coat of ice. Power-lines come down. It’s all very exciting and worrying.

I might get tired of the danger if this sort of thing happens more often, but so far my primary reaction was “wow, this is gorgeous!” We may be in for another one this week (though hopefully not as long-lasting as this one, the last of the ice just melted last weekend), but still, Spring is hot on its heels and won’t be held back. There will be a few more frosts, no doubt, but there’s no stopping the momentum.

And that brings me to my scarcity. Spring planning, house-work, writing, and, unfortunately, tax season, are upon me. I have a long list of upcoming blog posts, and a desire to catch up on the blogs I read, but it must wait!

I have the follow up posts for Unlikely Treasure in the wings.

I still owe you all pictures of my newest masks.

I have long overdue Hobbit movie reviews.

And Stephen Winter has nominated me for a Dragon’s Loyalty Award for Excellence!  So, look for that forthcoming.

Until then, enjoy the pictures. Some look a little odd because I had trouble with my camera and had to do some adjustment after the fact.

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

DSC_5678

My porch-dragon looks pitiful, Image by Jubilare

Mannicoat1

So cold my dog willingly wore a coat… Image by Jubilare

Magnoliaice

Magnolia leaves complete coated, Image by Jubilare

icysedge1

Broomsedge, too, Image by Jubilare

iceygrass

Cloud 9 Panicum turned into an icefountain, Image by Jubilare

icegrass adjusted 4

Cherokee Sedge is still green… Image by Jubilare

icegrass adjusted 2

More icy grass, Image by Jubilare

DSC_5702

My Gray Owl Juniper looked like a frosted Christmas tree and pieces broke off when they were touched, Image by Jubilare

DSC_5701

My poor Wax Myrtle was bowed to the ground, Image by Jubilare

DSC_5680

Porch Dragon sporting an ice-beard, Image by Jubilare

DSC_5667

Junipers weighed down, Image by Jubilare

coneflower1 adjusted

Prairie Coneflower casting shadows on the snow, Image by Jubilare


Unlikely Treasure

As a child, I had little stashes of treasure. Translucent plastic beads, water-snail and mussel shells found in the Harpeth River, glass marbles, a ring with a little blue-glass jewel my brother gave me, a goat skull found on my godmother’s farm, a teardrop-shaped prism that filled rooms with tiny shards of rainbow, dried reindeer lichen, cheap pot-metal ornaments painted gold and set with faceted rainbow-glass, a lop-eared rabbit-puppet named Hazel (cookie points to anyone who gets the reference), an army (I’m not kidding, if they were alive and feeling militant, they could overwhelm you) of plastic horses.

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=25338&picture=green-glass-marbles

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan
www.publicdomainpictures.net

All things that are nearly, or completely, worthless in a monetary sense. But I think most people will easily understand that they are anything but worthless to me, even today.

Along with these objects, I kept, and still keep, deeper and even more precious hoards. Memories, words, emotions, pictures of places, sounds, smells, anything and everything that has struck a certain note in me. It is a very specific note. I can feel it vibrate, and it is always the same, though the things that cause it are so utterly disparate that even I cannot see the connection. I only feel that there is a connection.

I hunt for something, constantly. The very fact that, having these treasure-troves already, I am still hunting, tells me that these things, while they touch what I am looking for, are not the thing itself. Smoke on the wind, pine sap, limestone boulders… almost, almost! But the moment passes as soon as I know it has come. I’ve tracked my quarry and won a glimpse, but it has disappeared, again, amidst the trees and all I have left are tracks.

I worry, sometimes, that these hoards are of the world, and perhaps, in a sense, they are. They, themselves, that is. But the chord they strike, that is of such power and purity that I cannot imagine it having its source anywhere but in God. Perhaps I, and all my fellow creatures, are in danger of mistaking the source of the want, for misunderstanding what we are hunting. I could spend my whole life believing that I am seeking the things that reflect the light, and find once I have them, the light is gone. But at the same time, if it were not for the reflections these things give me, what would I know of the light?

Maybe I am wrong. But it seems that if so, at least I am not alone in my error.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook copy of The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis. Something he says near the end, in Chapter 10, made me think of my strange dragon-hoard.

I’m not sure, yet, how this is going to work, but I feel the need to explore the passage and my reaction to it. I think it will take at least one more post. It may take several. We shall see.  In the mean time, here is the passage itself. I’ve whittled it down a little for brevity’s sake, but I recommend picking up a copy of the book and reading the whole chapter (or, for that matter, the whole book, it is very interesting).

Warning, Lewis speaks about Pantheism, below. From what I know of him from his writing, I think his words are not intended to insult, but simply reflect his view. After all, he introduces this chapter as nothing more than his personal speculation. Still, it is possible to take it as an attack on pantheistic religions. I am not a pantheist, I believe that Lewis’s words are probably correct, but I mean no insult to anyone in posting this. If your beliefs differ from mine, feel free to express them (politely, please) in the comments below.

You may think that there is another reason for our silence about heaven, namely that we do not, really, desire it. But that may be an illusion. What I am now going to say is an opinion of my own…

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words. But most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you’ve stood before some landscape which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life, and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw, but at the first words a gulf yawns between you and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him…

Are not all life-long friendships born at the moment when, at last, you meet another human being who has some inkling, but faint and uncertain even in the best, of that something which you were born desiring and which… year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for…?

You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it… echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest, if there ever came an echo that did not die away, but swelled into the sound itself, you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt, you would say “here, at last, is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want… While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him, and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.

The mold in which a key is made would be a strange thing if you had never seen a key, and the key, itself, a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is… a key to unlock one of the doors in the House with many mansions. For it is not “Humanity” in the abstract that is to be saved, but you… God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you, and you alone, because you were made for it…

It is from this point of view that we can understand Hell in its aspect of privation. All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else that it was within your reach, and you have lost it forever. This may seem a perilously private and subjective notion of the “Pearl of Great Price,” but it is not. The thing I am speaking of is not an experience. You have experienced only the want of it. The thing, itself, has never actually been embodied in any thought, or image, or emotion. Always it has summoned you out of yourself, and if you will not go out of yourself to follow it, if you sit down to brood on the desire and attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you.

The door into life generally opens behind us, and the only wisdom for one haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work. The Secret Fire goes out when you use the bellows. Bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, turn your back on it and attend to your duties, and then it will blaze…

Such is my opinion, and it may be erroneous. Perhaps this secret desire, also, is part of the old man, and must be crucified before the end, but this opinion has a curious trick of evading denial. The desire, much more the satisfaction, has always refused to be fully present in any experience. Whatever you try to identify with it turns out to be, not it, but something else, so that hardly any degree of crucifixion or transformation could go beyond what the desire, itself, leads us to anticipate. Again, if this opinion is not true, something better is. But “something better,” not “this” or “that” experience, but something beyond it, is almost the definition of the thing I am trying to describe.

The thing you long for summons you away from the self. Even the desire for the thing lives only if you abandon it. This is the ultimate law. The seed dies to live, the bread must be cast upon the waters, he that loses his soul will save it. But the life of the seed, the finding of the bread, the recovery of the soul are as real as the preliminary sacrifice. Hence it is truly said of heaven: “in heaven there is no ownership.” If any, there, took it upon him to call anything his own, he would, straight-way, be thrust out into Hell and become an evil spirit. But it is also said: “to him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone, a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that recieveth it.”

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which, even in eternity, remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.

Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another: the communion of the saints.

If all experienced God in the same way, and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church Triumphant would have no symphony. It would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note… Heaven is a “city” and a “body” because the blessed remain eternally different, a “society” because each has something to tell all the others: fresh and ever-fresh news of the “My God” whom each finds in Him whom all praise as “Our God.” For, doubtless, the continually successful, yet never complete, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others, and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations, is also among the ends for which the individual was created.

For union exists only between distincts, and perhaps from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things. Pantheism is is a creed not so so much false, as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created, He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him and achieve union instead of sameness. Thus He, also, cast his bread upon the waters. Even within the creation, we might say that inanimate matter, which has no will, is one with God in a sense in which men are not. But it is not God’s purpose that we should go back into that old identity… but that we should go on to the maximum distinctness, there to be reunited with Him in a higher fashion.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Note: this is a transcription from audio. I cannot vouch for the punctuation, spelling, or even the exact wording, but I have done the best I can under the circumstances.


Double Mind

Sometimes I wonder if the only difference between an author’s mind and someone with multiple personalities is awareness.

Of course, this won’t apply to all authors. There seem to be as many ways of writing as there are people who write, but I know at least a few others who have the same sort of relationship to characters as I do.

Yeah, I said “relationship,” and that really is the best description I can find, for my characters seem to occupy a niche in my mind, something that separates them from me and allows me to mentally engage with them.

For instance, I can enjoy a piece of music, and I am the one who is enjoying it. But sometimes I will sense a reaction to the music that I associate, not with myself, but with one of my characters. They stir, sometimes they even “claim” something, and forever after I will associate that thing with that character.

One example is that I cannot read or watch any form of vampire-related story without the running commentary of one of my particularly reactive characters. He finds Anne Rice humorous, he snarkily calls the Twilight brood “My-Little-Vampires” …which is, I think, rather unfair to the My-Little-Ponies of this world, he says True Blood makes him want to beat his head against a wall for the next fifty years, and he’s rather intrigued by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though he rolls his eyes at certain excessively Victorian passages. On the whole, he insists that vampires are monsters and is not a fan of humanizing them. Considering what vampires are like in his universe, and the fact that he, himself, is one, I can definitely see his point of view.

And yet, it isn’t really my point of view. I agree with him about some things, and disagree about others. That wouldn’t be so disconcerting if it were objective. If I were able to step back and think “this character would react to this thing in this way.” That would be character-building in the way most non-writers I know think it works (and that may be how it works for some lucky people).  But no. It’s a feeling, a sense that comes unbidden. I don’t think about it, I feel it, and the only thing that separates it from my own feeling is a conviction that it belongs to one of my characters.

No, please! Don’t call the men in white coats. I only do what the voices tell me to do on paper. Er, you know what I mean. I hope.

I think this process makes me a better writer. It certainly makes my life interesting.

Today, one of my character’s “discovered” a poem I’ve known since childhood. I like the poem. It means things to me, has a certain texture and light. But now I see it also through another set of eyes, and evermore I will associate it with her, and her feelings, as well.

She has a different relationship to roads than I do. She is always looking for the road home, a road into the past. Sadly, for her, all roads only lead into the future, and she knows it. But knowing something is impossible does not take the longing for it away.

In other words, to her, this poem carries with it a deeper poignancy, a kind of sadness I, as myself, would never quite find in it. Isn’t that one reason people read? To share experiences that they, as themselves, will never have? Perhaps, too, some of us write in order to walk, for a little while, in another’s boots and see the world through other eyes.

.

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
 .
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
 .
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 .
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 .
I’m always interested to hear how other writers relate (or don’t relate) to this kind of interaction. So, please! Comment! And if anyone has questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.
 .
Apart from being generally talkative, sometimes my characters seem a bit authorcidal. More thoughts on influence and inspiration can be found here.
If you’re interested in fiction tidbits, or more thoughts on writing theory, prod the tabs up top. “Fiction” under “Words and Faces” is my stuff. “Writing” and “Writing Theory” have my musings about the craft itself.
 .
I know I’ve said, before, that I plan on adding new mask-pics to this blog. I promise that I still plan on doing so soon!
 .

%d bloggers like this: