Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Sometimes it's exasperating, but sometimes it's also precious and funny -- and more often than not, I'm in awe of her insatiable curiosity.
She comes up with some good ones too.
The other evening we had our atlas out, looking up countries from our prayer calendar. We've done this for a couple of years and the child loves maps. This time around we happened to be looking at Europe, and down at the very bottom of the map, not far under Greece, you could just see the beginning of Turkey. We were naming all the countries and when we got to Turkey she looked very thoughtful and then asked with a giggle "Are there any turkeys in turkey?" A very good question, especially considering we'd just seen wild turkeys at the zoo! This question got such a chuckle out of both D. and me that she's been asking it with increasing giggles in the days since -- she's figured out it's funny.
Then there was the other night at dinner. We were eating peas and corn and all she wanted to talk about was how they grew. Corn grows on cobs and peas in pods. We talked about this for quite a while, and then she wanted to know why we didn't eat the peas in their pods. "Sometimes we do," I said. "Remember snow peas?" She paused, then asked in her planitive little voice, "What color are snow peas?" With some surprise (because I thought she remembered them) I said "They're green, sweetie. Just like regular peas." Another pause. Then: "Why aren't snow peas white like snow?"
Yet another good question!
She's also been on a kick lately about height. She's been wondering if people grow and grow their whole lives, and we've been trying to explain that people only grow to be so tall and then stop (usually somewhere between 15 and 20). We've explained that people keep growing in other ways, but they don't just keep getting taller. (If I didn't know she couldn't read yet, I'd be worried that she'd been reading science fiction by Orson Scott Card...) But this is still a tough concept for her grasp. The other day she kept worrying at it like a dog with a bone. "What if we got to be 100?" she asked doggedly, and I said, "well, some people do live to be 100. They're very old." -- "But would they be really, really tall?" she persisted. I do think she's starting to get it though. This morning, sitting in her room in her little Sleeping Beauty nightgown (her new haircut making her look oh so grown up) she suddenly glanced over at D. and said "is Daddy as tall as he's gonna get?" :-)
Of course, it's not all curious questions. Sometimes it's just interesting observations. I love some of these most of all, especially for their totally "out of the blue" quality. Like this morning at breakfast, as she sat there spooning her cereal, and suddenly announced: "Lions don't roar really well when they have hiccups."
You know, that's probably true. And thanks to my sweet girl, I think I have the genesis of a new story!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
|You Are a Blue Flower|
A blue flower tends to represent peace, openness, and balance.
At times, you are very delicate like a cornflower.
And at other times, you are wise like an iris.
And more than you wish, you're a little cold, like a blue hydrangea.
I took this quiz the other day and decided then not to post the results because I wasn't sure how I felt about being a blue flower. It sounded so...melancholy.
Then today I had an email from my oldest sis, who's getting married in just a couple of weeks. She was asking my advice on flowers to go with her light blue dress. I got to thinking about flowers...including all the bluish flowers I love (especially delphiniums and irises) and then I spent a while online looking up more blue flowers, and you know what? There are some lovely ones. Cornflowers, for instance. And phlox, and bluish (well, lavender at any rate) roses. Put any of these together with some creamy whites or blush pinks, and you've got a beautiful bouquet...
I even like hydrangeas. Yes, I do! I don't think they're cold at all, although they do bloom in "snowball" kinds of clumps.
Turns out I don't mind being a little blue after all. Are you blue too?
"A thing may be too sad to be believed or too wicked to be believed or too good to be believed; but it cannot be too absurd to be believed in this planet of frogs and elephants, of crocodiles and cuttle-fish."~~ G.K. Chesterton
Amen to that! We spent much of yesterday at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium downtown. We've had no vacation time at all this summer, and I think every one of us in the family is feeling that loss. So D. and I decided we should at least try to get in one or two short "family outings" of the day trip variety before fall fully arrives. The sweet girl has been longing for the zoo (as well as the beach, and a yard, and her grandparents, and a tricycle...but hey, we can't do much about the rest of those right now, so off to the zoo we went!).
Every time I visit the zoo -- and I think this was the third time in four years -- I come away more amazed than ever by the creativity and sheer diversity of creation. To know that we're looking at just a tiny sliver of what's out there, and to see such a plethora of interesting, odd, funny, beautiful and sometimes downright absurd looking animals and fish (not to mention plants) is breathtaking. I love the Chesterton quote above, and it's particularly apt for yesterday as we spent time gawking at both crocodiles and elephants.
The crocodiles were four of the "dwarf" variety. At first I thought they were babies, but the sign next to their enclosure read "dwarf crocodiles" so I guess they were full size. They were just a few feet long, but oh so menacing. Two of them sunned lazily in the water, their bodies mostly submerged and their heads and eyes protruding just above the surface. The other two lay on the banks; one was asleep but the other had his jaws wide open and his listless hooded eyes never blinked. They were both so still you couldn't see them breathe. They looked like bronze statues. People beside me were wondering if they were real at first, and after a while I think most of us felt a combination of eerie admiration and thankfulness that there was a concrete wall between us and the water. I got the distinct impression that the jaws and eyes wide open crocodile was trying to bluff us all so he could find a way to lure us in. Kind of bizarre.
The elephants were something else again. There were a few outside we got to watch, but then we got to see two of them close up in an enclosure. We watched them eat their dinner (well, my daughter insisted it was still afternoon so they were having lunch) and those long, sweeping trunks, so leathery and wrinkled and yet so elegant and almost delicate in their sniffing, shuffling and lifting, were a wonder to behold. The biggest elephant was really hungry; we watched him sniff out and sweep up a large pile of "salad" on the floor of the pen, mostly apples, carrots and lettuce. His nose would sniffle along, oh so delicately, find what it wanted, and then curl around it and swirl it up to his mouth (often a whole head of lettuce at a time!) just as elegantly and fastidiously as an experienced diner might swirl spaghetti on the tines of a fork.
A lovely day. Even though my back is still aching from all the walking we did!
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
We were playing with refrigerator magnets, and it started out as a quick phonics lesson in the middle of dinner-time preparations. "T" followed by "E" -- "what word does that make?" my daughter asked. I explained that it didn't make a word exactly, but that we could still sound it out and see what sounds the letters made together. So we did. Then I added an "a" to make the word "tea" (she loves to drink tea) and an "r" to show her how to make the word "tear." And the next thing I knew she was pulling letters at random, adding them to the end, and asking "what does it sound like now?" Before you could blink, we'd built a long, skinny bridge of letters more than half-way across the refrigerator and we both had the giggles.
And we ended up with a humdinger: "tearipifymome." I'm pronouncing it thus: "tear-ih-PIF-ee--mohme."
My dear husband got a big kick out of this when he got home. We told him we'd made up a word, and sweet girl kept repeating it with great gusto (and more giggles!). But I confessed we'd not yet decided what our new word should mean. D. decided it sounded like a poetic device. As in: "if you can use tearipifymome, you can write good poetry." Hmmm. Maybe so.
I sure hope I'm not mixing up sweet girl too much before we get to official reading lessons. :-) Which, I might add, I'm hoping to start trying soon. I've just about decided on using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I've been trying to establish a light-moderate homemade homeschooling curriculum to use in conjunction with her two days of preschool per week this fall. I know my time will be extremely limited, given the fact that I'm still having to work mornings and I'm also teaching online again for the seminary. But I'm still getting excited about schooling possibilities and want to do what I can (without making any of us too crazy).
Monday, August 14, 2006
This seemed like particularly hard timing because I'm actually submitting -- ironically enough, TODAY -- another story to this same magazine. Their fiction contest is closing out tomorrow so I have to get the story postmarked this afternoon. It's ready to go; as soon as sweet girl gets up from her nap we shall head over to the post office. But now I'm feeling kind of hesitant about sending the story. I had been thinking I should definitey submit again to the contest this year, since I got such positive feedback from the editor last year (in addition to holding on to it for possible publication, they told me it finished in the top ten among 400 entries). I know I should "strike while the iron is hot" so to speak, and keep my work out there, in front of people -- especially people who tell me they like it. I never intended to wait this long and cut the deadline so close, but between busyness and computer woes, and then a yukky case of writer's block with the first attempt (a story that I finally gave up on, after deciding it was probably more of a picture book than a short story for a magazine) I'm really glad I managed to get anything done for it at all. So I should probably go on and send.
But I'm not sure it's as good as last year's. At least my heart doesn't feel like it is. Maybe I'm just tired.
Anyway, all I can do is keep trying, keep writing in the cracks and crevices of a life that sometimes feels so full that writing could easily get squeezed out completely if I didn't keep on pushing. So push on I will. I have the rough notes of an essay ready to work up for a submission soon, and I'm working on a set of poems for another submission. I got a lovely note back from someone at Eerdmans in reply to my oh so confident inquiry and they're actually going to send me a free review copy of one of their new kids' books so I can review it on Epinions! It feels like it takes chutzpah for me to sell myself as a reviewer, but I love review work and think I've gotten much better at it in the past two years. Wish I could get a journal or newspaper to agree...
Enough whining. :-) My class starts soon, and I really need to rewrite my opening lecture. I know once I'm teaching again, I will likely find even less time to give to any other kinds of writing until the semester is over. So I'll keep on while I can. I'm grateful, I really am, for every inch of writing life I can enjoy. And I'm going to keep on trying. On to the post office!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
If you knew Rich Mullins' name early on in his career (in the 80s) you probably knew it in the small type of the liner notes on Amy Grant's albums. I think I first noticed his name as the writer of "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" on her 1983 album "Age to Age." He also penned other songs she sang, including one of my very favorite songs from the album "Straight Ahead," a ballad entitled "Doubly Good to You." But Rich really came into his own as a singer and songwriter in the late 80s, early 90s. He wrote a couple of songs that became standards in Protestant evangelical worship, including "Awesome God" (which has a very catchy chorus but otherwise is not, I don't think, a very good example of his usually excellent songwriting skills...though perhaps his skills deepened as he aged) and "Step by Step."
I love so much of his work, but the albums that have spoken the most to me over the years are "Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth" (1988, and the first of his albums I ever owned); "A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band (1993, and a CD I fear that I will actually wear out one of these days); and finally, "The Jesus Record" (a posthumous recording of the last songs he ever wrote -- one CD contains the homemade demos of the songs as he performed them, and the other CD contains the songs arranged and produced by his bandmembers and performed by many people who loved him, missed him and wanted to pay him tribute). One day I would like to spend some time writing more about the songs on "The Jesus Record" because so many of them have worked like contemporary Psalms in my life, speaking my ragged heart in times of struggle and difficulty.
But today I just wanted to note how lovely it is to be reading some of Mullins' written reflections, captured in this little book The World As I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin. It's primarily a compilation of some columns he wrote for a magazine in the early 90s. The book itself, published by Multnomah, is beautifully designed...small and easy to hold, with sepia toned pages that almost look as though they've been dipped in steeping tea, and full of gorgeous sepia toned photographs by Ben Pearson, a close friend of Rich Mullins. Many of the photos are of Mullins himself, and while I wonder how he'd feel about that, since he was not one to crave the limelight, the photos are such a creative and beautiful study of one man's varying expressions through seasons of life that it's hard not to enjoy them.
Rich was a simple soul, and yet "rich" as his name indicated, rich in the things that mattered most, especially love of God and life in Christ. Just a couple of years before he died at the age of 41 (in a 1997 car accident) he'd moved to a Navajo reservation in Arizona to teach music to children. Although he was an amazing artist -- a good musician and most of all, a fine poet -- clearly the center of his life was not art but God. He practiced art not for the sake of art, but art as an expression of his love for God and his love for the life God had given him.
All of his reflections here are thoughtful and worth chewing on, and I will continue to meditate on them as I go. Some seem especially poignant in light of the fact the he died just a few years after writing the words. Lines like:
"Someday I will rise up like the sun in the morning -- someday I will shine like the saints who watch from cathedral windows. I know this, not because of any evidence I have produced of myself, but because of the witness of His Scriptures, because of the evidence of His grace, and because of the testimony of this sky that washes over me at dusk."
And here's another favorite quote thus far:
"Faith is not a denial of facts -- it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound."
Sunday, August 06, 2006
"The all-important thing about this glorious feast is that it marks the point in time when three of the disciples, for a millioneth of a second, saw Jesus as he really was."
-- Canon Edward Nason West
As he really was. All the time. Remember how Moses had to veil his face after he'd been in the Presence? Because people couldn't bear the shining. How much more did Jesus have to "tone down" the glory, and only let it shine forth in flashes, fragments, glimpses here and there, when He walked the earth? He knew what his followers were ready for. He knew how much they could bear to see revealed. What a joy it must have been for Jesus, for just one brief moment on that earthly mountain, to hold nothing back, to shine forth in the fullness of his eternal glory! Even though it left the disciples dumbstruck, except for stammering Peter who gasped out the first words that came into his head...
And John. I think John must've remembered this moment, its incredible shining beautiful clarity, when he looked upon Jesus on the cross. I think perhaps John might have realized that he was seeing it again, the fullness of the glory, revealed this time not in light but in suffering.
Friday, August 04, 2006
You'll note if you look back at my last posting that I put several question marks after Dumbledore's name and also said "stay tuned." That's because I knew it must have seemed strange for me to discuss the potential "meeting" of Harry and Dumbledore in book 7 when Dumbledore had died at the end of book 6.
And I have always believed that Dumbledore was really dead. It didn't take JK Rowling announcing it at a major public event to bring the reality home. Do I believe that there was more going on than immediately met the eye in that final tower scene? Yes. Do I believe there is still much to be revealed regarding the manner and method of Dumbledore's death and the circumstances surrounding it? You bet. But in part because so much of the Harry Potter stories have centered on the reality of death and loss, and on the proper way to grieve such losses in our lives, I did not think that Rowling was attempting to fool us here with a fake death, especially not of such a major and beloved character. Besides which, Dumbledore's death, difficult as it was (and I cried all the way through it) made both symbolic and narrative (plot) sense.
My feelings that Harry will yet "meet" Dumbledore in some form stem from the fact that Rowling's rich, imaginative setting provides at least two provocative ways in which that could happen. One is through the portrait now in the headmaster's office (you'll remember that Dumbledore's portrait joined the ranks of the other late headmasters and headmistresses at the end of HBP) which, while not fully Dumbledore, at least will be some form of Dumbledore's personality able to communicate, help and perhaps counsel. I don't think it's clear that the portraits can do that fully for anyone but the current headmaster or headmistress, which could lead us to believe that only Minerva McGonagall may have full access to its advice, but Harry's certainly been present plenty of times when the other portraits have spoken and acted.
The second more fascinating idea is that Harry may yet meet Dumbledore through memories in the pensieve, either his own memories or (and this is what I hope) memories Dumbledore has left behind him on purpose, in order that Harry might access them. Can memories be stored for a long time? Or do they die (fade?) with the one who holds them? I'm not sure we know, but I hope we find out.
(Note: we do know that Tom Riddle managed to preserve a rather powerful memory for a very long time, but that he did it through a horcrux, which Dumbledore, though smart enough to figure out, would never have done. We know Dumbledore held a lot of powerful skills in check because he was "too noble" as McGonagall once put it, to do otherwise. What I'm thinking of specifically here is how pensieve memories work. We know that they can be placed in a container and can exist without their owner being in close proximity -- witness Snape leaving some of his memories in the classroom, which Harry found and entered without permission -- but what I don't think we know for certain is whether or not pensieve memories can exist after the person who held the original memory is dead, or whether or not they can be willed to someone.)
Beyond those kinds of potential "meetings," I think there are other ways in which Dumbledore may have left Harry help. First, there's the deep reality of all the loving, protecting, mentoring and teaching Dumbledore has provided Harry for sixteen years. There are the many wise words, and words of advice (including some we and Harry may not have realized were important) that will surely come back to Harry when he most needs them. Harry already feels he's "Dumbledore's man" and I think we'll see him grow into that more and more as book 7 progresses. And finally, there are the potential helpers and protectors Dumbledore has perhaps left Harry, most notably Hagrid, Fawkes...and Severus Snape. Yep, I'm sticking by that! I still think Dumbledore and Snape have managed, between them, to place Snape right where he needs to be to be the most help to Harry. More on this in the Harry meets Snape posting I still plan to do.
I would like to muse for a couple more minutes on what Rowling just recently said about Dumbledore. As I've mentioned before, her interviews and appearances are so rare that it's especially noteworthy when she goes on record. In this case, she was doing a reading for charity at Radio City Music Hall, along with Stephen King and John Irving (now there's an interesting trio!) and fielded questions from the audience. I'll excerpt a bit from Publisher's Weekly round-up of the event:
A few of her answers yielded new information. In reply to a question from surprise guest Salman Rushdie and his nine-year-old son that involved an elaborate theory about how Professor Dumbledore comes back to life in Book 7, Rowling said, "I feel I have to be explicit. Dumbledore is definitely dead. You shouldn't expect Dumbledore to pull a Gandalf." A cry immediately erupted from the crowd, to which she commented, "All of you definitely need to move through the five stages of grief and get past his death." She added that she'd heard about a Web site, dumbledoreisnotdead.com, which is devoted to conjecture similar to Rushdie's theory, and said, "I imagine they aren't happy right now."
Let's note three interesting things.
1- She was really explicit. By confirming the obvious, she cut off fruitless speculation in certain directions but opened up, I think, avenues for speculation in even more intriguing directions.
Because I do empathize with those readers who have been going round and round trying to read the "clues" of Dumbledore's death scene to figure out why it doesn't seem to "play straight." They've picked up on something very important about JK Rowling's writing style, that she will subtly lead you in one direction while appearing to lead you in another. I don't think the gut instinct to probe the surface of that heart-wrenching scene is crazy. And with JKR's insistence that Dumbledore is truly dead, readers should now be free to probe in different directions. If it's not the reality of Dumbledore's death that should be called into question, what else should be? How about the manner of his death? Snape's role in it? The words surrounding it? The reason for it? All of those things, it seems to me, are far more interesting roads to pursue.
2- Rowling suggested, perhaps somewhat gently and jokingly (I haven't heard the comment on audio, so am guessing as to tone) that her readers need to grieve Dumbledore's death. I don't think this is an accident, or a mean way for her to say "get over it already." I think she's serious here. She's never made a secret that the HP stories are about death and how we grieve death. She's never shied away from its reality, in real life or in the stories. She's never promised she won't kill off Harry, our hero. She's never pulled any punches and suggested that magic can fix everything, make everyone happy, or bring characters back to life. It doesn't work that way in Rowling's fictional universe.
These stories she's written have helped many people, young and old, face the realities of grief and loss, in part because we've lived through such deep losses with characters we've come to love and care about. The fact that so many of her readers are in steadfast denial about Dumbledore's death may trouble her, I think. Although her stories are not primarily didactic, they do teach, and some of the things she's been trying to teach is that death is not the worst thing that can happen to someone, and that we can grieve fully and go on living and loving even in the wake of terrible heart-wrenching loss. Her reminder to grieve the death of Dumbledore may be a reminder to go back to the stories themselves and read them again to see what she's been saying all along.
3 - "You shouldn't expect Dumbledore to pull a Gandalf." My heart leapt here. I love the fact that she can reference Tolkien so casually and expect people to know exactly what she means. I know some of this is due in part to the LOTR films, but I also know plenty of people who might not have known Tolkien's books otherwise and discovered them through the movies. JKR is not Tolkien -- that's one of the things she seems to be saying -- but she knows people are comparing them, and she knows she walks in his giant footsteps. Dumbledore won't pull a Gandalf, but the two of them are literary brothers and she's had to shape his character and her plot in the shadow of Tolkien. Though she's not an Inkling (perhaps a post-Inkling?) she's plowing much of the same ground as she writes stories that echo the Great Story, as so many of us were originally helped to see by John Granger's fine work on HP.
I love that at the beginning of the 21st century our narrative starved culture is embracing Rowling, and re-embracing Tolkien and Lewis with such ardor. It gives me hope!!
And of course, now I want to know...will Wormtail pull a Gollum?
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The little town of Why is pretty centrally located in this land. It's in a green valley surrounded by misty hills. Hang a left at the stone of "how come?" and push past the forest of "what would happen if..." and you're there. You'll recognize the place by the incessant buzzing-whining sound of "why why why why?" It seems that questions, like bees, can pollinate and make things grow and bloom.
My dear husband has had a lot of evening meetings lately, which means that Sweet Girl and I have had a lot of dinners with just the two of us...well, three, counting her worn bear Trumpkin. Trumpkin was the lovely brown bear I took with me to college (a gift from my Dad). I had no idea he would come out of retirement so many years later and become my daughter's bear. He's about 20 now, and definitely looking a bit thin these days, especially since he's been pulled, prodded, smushed and slept on for the last two years, and dressed and re-dressed in numerous baby clothes for the last two months. He often sits on a little stool right next to my daughter's chair at the kitchen table, looking on at the proceedings with his shiny brown eyes. I have a feeling he's muffling laughter when he hears exchanges like this evening's:
Sweet Girl: Why are we having corn?
Mommy: Because we like it.
Sweet Girl: Why do we like it?
Mommy: (slurping butter off the cob) Because it tastes yummy.
Sweet Girl: (scandalized by slurping) Why am I getting corn all over my face?
Mommy: Sometimes that happens when you eat corn.
Sweet Girl: Why does it taste yummy?
Mommy: Because that's how God made it.
Sweet Girl: What would happen if we ate the cob?
Who knew I'd turn out to be strawberry??!
|You Are Strawberry Ice Cream|
You are most compatible with chocolate chip ice cream.
"Weakness is not the kind of weakness which we show by sinning and forgetting God, but the kind of weakness which means being completely supple, completely transparent, completely abandoned in the hands of God. We usually try to be strong and we prevent God from manifesting his power.
You remember how you were taught to write when you were small. Your mother put a pencil in your hand, took your hand in hers and began to move it. Since you did not know at all what she meant to do, you left your hand completely free in hers. This is what I mean by the power of God being manifest in weakness. You could think of that also in the terms of a sail. A sail can catch the wind and be used to manoeuvre a boat only because it is so frail. If instead of a sail you put a solid board, it would not work; it is the weakness of the sail that makes it sensitive to the wind."May I be a child learning to write. May I be a pliable sail.