I went reluctantly for a walk this evening. The chill was pervasive and I dreaded the keening of the mountain wind. The snow has crept back to our dusky hills and I shrink from the cold that holds the greening spring days captive. But I went for the evening stroll because something in me hungered for the wind; felt that it was necessary to foray back out into the freshness of the air, however chill. And it was true.
We walked hard, breathless at the cold and the exertion of up and downhill. But it set the blood to stirring so that my mind was fresh, elated, clear. And in its clarity, I saw how deeply I need the sting of wind and whish of winter leaves, my spirit longs to touch the reality of my Creator through the tang of fog that makes these dusky mountains blue. I stood out after we had gotten home, perched on the edge of the deck and loved the goodness that still pervades God’s creation. Loved his presence, potent in every vein of this broken, yet relentlessly beautiful earth.
Monthly Archives: March 2007
Glory be to God for dappled things-
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckle (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Well, reading is essential. And this is essential reading on the subject of reading. Got it?
It’s highly enlightening (and convicting and frightening) to read the current research on the declining literacy of our culture. It’s probably good for me, added impetus for the writing of my book. However, it seems a pity not to be able to use the full articles I am finding, so I’ll at least post them here. Perhaps you’ll find them as fascinating as I.
Reading at Risk. This was one of the largest studies every conducted into literacy in America. It was headed by Dana Gioia, the director of the National Endowment of the Arts and a man I truly respect for the work he is doing to revive a value for literature and beauty in America.
Endangered Minds. As I searched the web, a name that came up over and over again was that of Jane Healey, a professor and writer who has done extensive research into the impact of reading on the mind and life of a child. This is a sample chapter from her book.
The Dramatic Effect of Shakespeare on the Brain. Last, but not least, a slightly more enjoyable piece on the dramatic effect that the reading of Shakespeare has on the brain. I knew there must be a reason I feel smarter when reading Hamlet!
I’ve been dreaming today, and it has been bad for my productivity. But good for my heart. An old dream, coddled since girlhood keeps knocking at the door of my thought and I can’t seem to turn it away. Maybe its insistence has something to do with the research I am doing for my current book. I have been up to my elbows in reports on the effects of technological media on a child’s brain and imagination. The findings are stunning. And heartbreaking. Seems we’re going to have a generation entirely void of meaningful thought if something doesn’t change. But as I read, I am accosted by a desire to somehow create a holding place for all the beauty being so quickly tossed out the door. I can’t change an entire culture, but I wish that somehow I could be a keeper of the old ways, the old grace, so that those who still desire it could find it. And that desire dovetails with my insistent dream: I want a home. A small kingdom of my own. I want it to be a keeping place for all the art, literature, morality, grace, being so heedlessly abandoned in our time.
When I look at culture, look even, at me, and my peers and friends, I have an almost immobilizing sense at times of how unspeakably wrong we are in the way we live. Without thought we are selling our souls because we are spending them heedlessly on media and technology, on lives spent in cars on freeways and in houses entirely insulated from the living earth. We work, we are entertained, but we no longer taste or see the goodness of God in his creation. We struggle after meaningful relationships but are constantly lonely because we have forgotten how to be deep and how to share not just chit-chat, but souls. We can’t read because we are too distracted. We can’t be quiet because there is no escape from the clamor of modernity. I have been guilty of it too. I have been guilty of an exhausted immersion in TV, in wasted hours on the internet, on a mindless pursuit of pop culture and acceptance. But that’s what makes me rear so violently away from it. If I, the romantic idealist of idealists can so easily compromise, who will hold up the old ways and point the way back to life; real, free, and abundant?
And so this dream for a home, is really a dream to craft an alter reality. Not a hermit’s escape, or a fearful retreat, but a purposeful building of a small, tangible world where the old ways still exist, where what is precious and what is ancient isn’t forgotten. It must have art, books, music, and God’s green earth free around it. And it must be available to those who hunger for the beauty and meaning so increasingly absent in our culture. In its essence, it is a shelter, a fortress, a keep, for the goodness of God made touchably present to people hungry to know him. Who knows when I’ll manage to find my little kingdom. Who knows where it will be.
No matter. It is a strong dream. A living dream. And I am determined to hold it close because somehow, I know it is wondrously right.
It is a singular pleasure to read really old books; they seem to have a special quality of endurance to have survived the fitful seasons of changing taste and opinion. There is an indefinable comfort in encountering the thoughts of people who loved God nearly half a century before me. After all, to have survived so long their thoughts must contain some pretty hearty truth about walking with God through his good earth. That is how it is with St. Teresa.
I was sitting in Border’s one day, and reached up to glance at the cover of a brightly colored book titled The Interior Castle. Next instant my hand faltered, my coffee jostled, and there were two dark stains on the crisp whiteness of the twenty dollar book. What was there to do but buy it?
Turns out God knew how dear a friend good St. Teresa would be to my soul as I journeyed along a path of prayer. The Interior Castle is St. Teresa’s vision of the mysterious castle of the soul and the journey of prayer we each make into it’s deepest rooms where the Beloved of our souls is waiting.
St. Teresa was a delightfully fiery bit of a woman who, upon having her supplies for a long journey lost in a swollen river, sat down on the bank, cocked her head to heaven and said, “if this is how God treats his friends, it’s no wonder he has so few”. And yet, it was she who spoke of God as the beloved of her soul, “His Majesty”, the great king, urging those around her to humility and gentleness as they sought him. Her humble, personal voice as she speaks of the mystical reality of prayer has been a close companion to me as I have sought God. Simply written, calling all Christians to journey deeper into the interior castle, this book has challenged me to examine my heart, and to seek God more purely. But it has also comforted me; for St. Teresa is quite convinced of the general frailty of humans in general and even more confident in the mercy of the Beloved who seeks to be known by them.
The Interior Castle is a classic that deserves the enduring respect it has retained through the years, and St. Teresa is a friend worth keeping. If you are looking for a quiet voice to companion you in prayer, St. Teresa will share your journey toward the Beloved. She has certainly shared mine. Turns out those stray drops of coffee were the beginning of a precious friendship, the first steps of a journey with a companion who has led me deep into the castle of my own soul.
because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your posessions; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor’s except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends…and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit. These are the little guideposts on the footpath to peace.
-Henry Van Dyke
The sky is blue. It is warm enough for a long walk. And I can actually hear birds singing. I think I may have to run outside rejoicing. After the incessant storms of this Colorado winter and the endless march of bone-chilling days, we have had a string of sun dappled days as precious to me as a string of pearls. My window is open as I type, the fresh air seeping into every corner of my room. Lord be praised! Winter is over and gone, at least for the moment.
Just in case you’re interested on this lovely day:
I’m guest posting a Lenten reflection over at Alastair.Adversaria; a blog I have enjoyed lurking about lately.
The C.S. Lewis Foundation has just announced their newest conferences. I’m determined to make at least one.
And finally, in case you are looking for some good springtime reading, I am greatly enjoying a book of nature drawings and reflections that I got for Christmas and am just now getting around to reading: Letters From Eden. I’ll probably write about it at some point because it has that quality of thought about simplicity and nature that I so long to pursue in my own life.
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!