Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Choosing a Path


Choosing a Path

I recently heard someone say that whenever he sees an adult wearing braces, he smiles. 
Because of the optimism.  
This made me chuckle, and then it made me think.  
Optimism is a tricky thing these days, even for one as preternaturally prone to the characteristic as I.  So many sharp-clawed enemies of optimism are lurking in the bushes, just waiting to pounce on us as we go whistling along our little cosmic pathways, it’s no wonder some of us have taken to wearing the impenetrable armor of Cynicism.  If malignity and mendacity are thriving at every bend in the road it’s best to be prepared when they jump out in front of you on an otherwise beautiful day.  Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, and the cynic is rarely defeated.

Cynicism is a hard armor to pierce.  It comes complete with the weapons of apathy and indifference - reliable opponents of feeling - which, used properly or long enough, can easily render one utterly immune to the worrisome vicissitudes of the day.  Before too long, events that would otherwise push you to your knees barely even merit a cursory glance.  You welcome those who urge you to keep your opinions to yourself, those who tell you one person is useless against the tidal wave of history so don't bother, those who dangle shiny objects in front of your face, luring you to distraction and superficiality.   You soon begin to feel quite comfortable in spite of the restrictions such armor can impose.

For it can be difficult to breathe locked tight inside cynicism. You can’t feel the wind in your hair or the sun on your face.  The armor is frankly so heavy you’ll soon find you can’t even run down a beach or bend over to pick up a child.  You can’t lend a hand to a neighbour and of course you can’t even think about kneeling to pray.   But you’re safe, and isn’t that the point?  You can’t be hurt, or worried.  Nothing keeps you up at night.  Nothing alters your plans.  Nothing is your responsibility or concern.  God is in control and requires absolutely nothing from you.  Everything else is a joke, right? Something for someone else to worry about.  Life is good. 

My mind is a busy place, often full of quips and one-liners that zip through at lightning speed.  Some escape from my mouth before I can grab them back; it’s been a lifelong struggle to fence them in.  If indulged too often, these wry observations can gather as one and push me towards the wide path to cynicism when I’d much rather be heading towards mercy and grace.   The ones on the journey to those better angels are not allowed armor, however.   They must walk that narrow road with open eyes and open, often broken, hearts.  They’re required to look directly at the ones in pain and sorrow, they must stop and help the ones in need.  The weather buffets them;  sometimes the wind blows so strong it’s a struggle to stand.  They must hold the hands of faith and mystery, welcoming both as equals. 
It’s the path I’d rather take.

In the continuation of that journey I went to hear the author, Anne Lamott, speak last week. 
 Her new book, Hallelujah Anyway, is one I highly recommend just now. 
And I love this quote by her:

“It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do'. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

painting above by Anna Teasdale


Saturday, April 15, 2017

For Spring: A Book, A Movie, A Sale and A Poem


For Spring:
A Book, A Movie, A Sale and A Poem

Spring has slowly wafted down upon The House of Edward like a feather from the bluebird now sitting in my hemlock tree.  The dawn chorus is symphonic and Edward is constantly distracted on his afternoon walks by the myriad of captivating smells rising up from the wakening ground.  There are more shades of green in the forest that in any artist’s palette.  It is a season of newness - new life, new beauty, new hope - and in the spirit of that newness, I’m tickled to share with you some new discoveries. 
 I hope you enjoy them. 


A Book
Readers have a lot in common with one another.  For instance, we all recognize the thrill that’s felt whenever we close our latest book, because this means we get to choose another.  There’s always a flutter of excitement when we find ourselves in this situation, for whenever we explore a new bookshelf we are actually on an expedition of sorts, every colorful spine we see is a ticket for mental travel.  Do we want a journey to other lands, where everything from the climate to the language is exotic and enthralling?  Perhaps we long to be wooed by a stranger, someone we meet on a train to work, someone with secrets too dark to imagine.  Or maybe we want to follow an amateur detective as she attempts, against all good sense and the advice of her friends, to solve a murder most grotesque.  Occasionally we may long to read through an exceptionally adventurous cookbook, planning dinner parties and Sunday lunches to last us all summer long.  That is the joy, and the delicious responsibility, of selecting a new book; it will take us out of ourselves, anywhere we wish to go.
  
In my experience it is a rare thing to open a book and be whisked away to someplace entirely unique, high up on the magic carpet of an author’s wild imagination that rises and falls over a story like nothing I’ve ever read before.  This was the experience I had recently reading the new book, Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.    Outlandish, funny, heartbreaking, frightening, challenging, unsettling - the adjectives I could use to describe this book would most likely be longer than the book itself.  Suffice it to say, I was surprised and awestruck by what I found and it’s stayed with me for weeks. 
You might want to give it a try when you close the one you’re reading now.
Find it HERE 
***


A Movie
It’s almost one year to the day that I was wandering the moors outside Haworth in West Yorkshire.  I’d come for a Brontë pilgrimage, something I had longed to do since I read Jane Eyre at thirteen years old.  (I wrote about this journey in the autumn issue of Faerie Magazine.  You can now download that issue for free HERE. )  Experiencing this land the Brontë sisters knew so intimately was awe-inspiring.  Just standing in their front garden, listening to the rooks in the trees that stand like sentinels over the cemetery and feeling the strong push of the wind roaring down from the moors was akin to stepping inside the pages of their atmospheric novels.  I’ll never forget it.

Feeling so close to the story of the Brontë sisters, I was naturally a bit suspicious when I heard a new version of their lives was being filmed.  They haven’t faired well in the past when this has been attempted.  Having silently wandered the rooms of the Brontë parsonage and walked the moors in their footsteps certainly did not lighten my doubtful concern over this new production.  But how delighted I was when I saw it.  To Walk Invisible is magnificent.  The Songwriter and I watched it in near reverence, so wonderful was the portrayal of the family. 

I was especially fond of the way Emily’s life was illuminated here.  Not much is known about Emily Brontë other than her brilliant writing and because of this a great deal has been invented about her.    It’s true that she took care of the majority of the domestic duties in the household and she did refuse to accompany her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, when they journeyed to London to visit their publishers.  But from these scant facts, Emily has been doomed to be thought of as almost painfully timid, a scared little rabbit content to stay home.  But this has never squared with her masterful writing in Wuthering Heights, a book so dark and dramatic it stunned and shocked the critics.  In this new production, however, Emily is a force to be reckoned with, someone with more than enough soul and grit to fill the pages of that book.  To Walk Invisible is a masterpiece, and you should see it if you haven’t.  
Find it HERE.
***


A Sale
I am currently making room in my office for some new things to feature in my Etsy Shop.  So, all the beautiful pillows currently there are half off until the end of the month.
Find them HERE
Just use the code EDWARDSPRING
***


A Poem
April is National Poetry Month here in the states, something that I feel inclined to celebrate with gusto.  To that end, I am attempting to share some of my favorite poems, one each night of April, on my Instagram page.   Truth and wisdom can hide in the lines and verses of poems and I frequently turn to them whenever I find myself in need of comfort.  I’ve been reading them a lot this year.  
Here’s one I recently shared, and one that I love with all my heart.
I hope you find something within it to stick in your pocket.
  
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

*** A note of apology for my recent lack of postings.  I'm currently in the process of writing some new things and find I only have enough brain cells to concentrate on one thing at a time before I go squirrelly.  I'll try to do better.  You can always catch up on Edward and me, as well as all the poems for April, (and come along on my upcoming trip to London!)  at our Instagram page... HERE.***