Category Archives: history

Everything depends upon that moment.

Today is the beginning of our salvation;
the revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

I had wanted to continue my ruminations on The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air by further considering The Moment that Søren Kierkegaard refers to when, after waiting in silence, “…the silent lily understands that now is the moment, and makes use of it.”

I don’t know what that moment consists of for you, for me, for us as a world community, or in our cities or church communities or families. No doubt there are overlapping times and seasons containing infinite instants, and only by quiet listening can we make any sense of them. But this passage in particular I wanted to pass on, in which the writer discusses what is missed when we fail to make the proper, standing-before-God kind of preparation:

“Even though it is pregnant with rich significance, the moment does not send forth any herald in advance to announce its arrival; it comes too swiftly for that; indeed, there is not a moment’s time beforehand…. But of course everything depends upon “the moment.” And this is surely the misfortune in the lives of many, of far the greater part of humanity: that they never perceived ‘the moment,’ that in their lives the eternal and the temporal were exclusively separated.”

So many thoughts swirl in my own noisy mind and heart that I could not imagine how I might find a way to share even these few gleanings with you. Then, in God’s providence and the church calendar, appeared someone who is the supreme example for us of being ready for the moment, that time in history and that time in her life, in a particular moment of a day, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. Today we remember that event, when Mary listened, and responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The Word became flesh and came to live with us, taking on all our human experience, its weakness and suffering and  death. He defeated death, and opened the gates of Paradise. The Incarnation, the beginning of our salvation, is The Moment of history; our own “Yes” to God, echoing Mary’s willingness, can be the essence of our every prayer as well, as we wait on Him.

Kierkegaard exhorts us, in words that seem especially fitting for this time of uncertainty and change: “Would that in the silence you might forget yourself, forget what you yourself are called, your own name, the famous name, the lowly name, the insignificant name, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Hallowed be your name!’ Would that in silence you might forget yourself, your plans, the great, all-encompassing plans, or the limited plans concerning your life and its future, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your kingdom come!’ Would that you might in silence forget your will, your willfulness, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your will be done.'”

We know that God’s will for us is good, now as ever. Our inability to see or understand that is due to our weakness or sin, or His hiding of His works. May He give us grace to wait and to pray, and eventually we will see the full salvation of the LORD.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11

See the colors till the end.

It’s been a big week for me so far, because I took down and put away all of my Christmas decorations all by myself, including the faux tree. I feel incredibly lightened up by having that task out of the way. For several weeks the tree and its lights burning all day and night cheered me up as I was recovering from sickness and deep winter, but one day the top third was not lit anymore. I unplugged it, and after that, it became a chore needing to be done, which is possibly the opposite of cheery, until one gets into it, at which point it might become energizing and satisfying.

When the family was together at Christmas, evidently someone added a most natural ornament without asking me, because I was surprised to find among the branches a dried pansy, and it was a welcome late gift, bringing as it did memories of that rich couple of weeks.

I paid a man to level my fountain and clean it, and I watched as he lifted off the top and emptied the pipes of so much green stuff! I realize now that every time over the last four years that I have let the algae get away from me, by not putting the drops in every week, all the cleaning out I have done trying to remedy the situation has been woefully superficial, even if it did take a long time. I must become more diligent. When he finished he asked me how fast I wanted the flow to be. I said “low” and he set it so, but it seems fuller and faster than ever.

This year when I renew my driver’s license I have to take the written test. I started on that too late to get an appointment at the DMV, so I need to pick a day and wait in line. I’ve decided this will be the week for that as well. I got the handbook and have been taking practice tests online, and I’ll be ready. But I’m very annoyed by all the questions about the penalties for breaking laws. It doesn’t say anything about my driving skills if I can’t remember how many months or years I might be jailed for evading the police or for drunk driving, first or second offense, etc.

A few days ago when I was musing about my lack of yellow clothing, I did remember a scarf that I inherited that has some yellow in it. Have you ever seen anything like this?

It shows a hundred years of American soldiers and sub-groups of armies, starting with George Washington at top left. I can’t think of a proper occasion to which I might wear it, even if I were a militaristic woman.

 

 

 

Maybe Glad ancestors were among the American fighting men in that century, I don’t know. But I do know that one branch of my late husband’s people came from Ryegate, Vermont, and are mentioned in this book, first published in 1913. This morning my eldest, Pearl, asked me if I had a copy, and what do you know, I had two on a high shelf. I packed them up and sent them to Wisconsin so she can explore further what are her people, too.

This is turning out to be a gathering of historic tidbits; here is an article about the word till. Did you think maybe it should be ’til? Not at all. ’til is a modern invention. I was oddly happy to know this fact. You can learn about the history of till here at Daily Writing Tips.

THE COLOR BLUE has always been my favorite, so when Leila shared this link about its history on her blog Like Mother, Like Daughter I went straight there and drank in all the blues – and I feel so rich, not being colorblind. How could there be new blues being invented? Of course, there are infinite blues, but whether we can find a dye or an ink that paints them must be the question. Here is just one recent blue, from the article, named International Klein Blue:As much as I love blue, I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my otherwise tinted Iceland poppies in the front garden. They have been waving to the neighbors who walk past, and to me when I come home from my errands. And most of them are the color that I love in my garden especially: orange.

Oh, but thinking about the garden reminds me that I have learned enough Spanish that I was able to text to my gardener this week: “Puede trabajar aquí este fin de semana?” (Can you work here this weekend?) And he came even sooner. 🙂

 

Dashing off downhill.

“There was an actress who wore a white dress with a circle cut in it just above her navel so that her skin could be seen, which looked very pink. Against the white, it was as if she had dropped a slice of ham on her lap; but it showed good feeling and willingness to think out new ways of pleasing.”

The actress appears at a party in New York, in the last pages of Cousin Rosamund by Rebecca West. At the end of the third novel in the Aubrey Trilogy, Rose is talking about her visit with her sister Mary to the United States during the Great Depression; West herself did visit many times, not as a musician but as a journalist and author. What she does in these books I think of as the best kind of historical fiction, the autobiographical kind; when I do my time travel I like to go about with a friend who knows the places and people well, who is observant, analytical, and attentive to every detail.

“Since the crash in America Mary and I were not offered nearly such good tours… but we could not keep away, and we felt a longing… to be with our friends again. They were so friendly and they were so violently engaged in life; being with them was like getting on a toboggan behind somebody one liked, putting one’s arms round them, and dashing off downhill over the spurting snow.”

“On the boat the American passengers told us stories of ruin, but with an upward, hopeful inflection that made them hard to consider: it was as if we were trying to look into the eyes of someone who wore brightly polished spectacles.”

“…these people spoke always of general ruin, which had not touched them yet but must, of this paralysis, spread further. They spoke too of prescriptions to end it, and showed themselves naked and newborn in their innocence, as unaware that blood ran in their bodies as they were of bandages and tourniquets.

“’They are like us when Papa went away,’ said Mary, as we drove home. ‘Do you remember how we talked about going into factories, we did not know which, and making enough to keep the house going?’

“’They are like us in other ways,’ I said. ‘They speak of the stock market as something that has an independent existence and sometimes gave them lots of money. It was their father, they are like us, they are gambled children.’”

Warned by their music.

By the end of the second novel in Rebecca West’s Aubrey Trilogy, This Real Night, the children are grown up, and our narrator Rose is often discussing with herself the meaning of world events and human behavior. The narrator’s inner dialogue is just one of the ways that I think the author expresses her own wonderings and certainties; the reader also learns from discussions between the characters, often in emphatic statements that one or another makes out loud or privately in silence, on any number of topics, from fashion to politics and philosophy, from the motives of others to the failings of herself.

The constant revelation of what goes on in her highly analytical mind, her wanting to understand the meaning of things, and her sureness that there is something numinous behind the visible world, all draw me to the stories. (She makes me love just being with the characters — I never want to leave them — which is probably a greater reason, but it deserves its own post.)

I don’t know how to describe the elements of her prose style that makes every other sentence seem worth reading a second or third time — so I keep posting samples. I can say that each page is rich in metaphors that somehow are more than metaphorical: they convey an understanding that there is something more than meets the eye; much of the truth of things is underneath, and beyond.

She is quoted as having said, “Writing has nothing to do with communication between person and person, only with communication between different parts of a person’s mind.” She didn’t complete This Real Night until almost 30 years after The Fountain Overflows, and it was published in 1984, the year after her death. Here are a couple of passages from the last chapters:

“We were not surprised when the war came, for we had heard our father prophesying it all through our childhood… We had also been warned by our music. Great music is in a sense serene; it is certain of the values it asserts. But it is also in terror, because those values are threatened, and it is not certain whether they will triumph in this world, and of course music is a missionary effort to colonise earth for imperialistic heaven. So we were not so sorely stricken by August, 1914, as many other people. Indeed we had our consolations. It was proved to us that music was not making a fuss about nothing, and that the faces of our parents had been distorted out of common placidity not by madness but by the genuine spirit of prophecy.”

Soon, however, their only brother Richard Quin enlists, and after a few months of training in England, during which his family sees him often, he ships off to the Continent, and they accompany him to Victoria Station in London.

“The space around the station had become one of those areas which, like cemeteries and the corridors of hospitals, are swinging on a turntable between the worlds… myriads of men in uniform, deformed by the weight of the kitbags on their backs, of women and children scurrying by their sides, those also deformed, by the weight of grief and stoicism… Above, a great dimly lit illuminated clock said that this was the hour. The occasion was the annulment of life, for what is life but being able to move according to the will?

“But the people who got out of the taxis and cars, all the men bent under their kitbags, were doing what their will would never want them to do, which it could never let them do, were it not in the custody of something outside them not certified to be wise or loyal. The clock said that there was not time to start that argument….”