Category Archives: people

140th birthday of a star

g-k-chesterton at desk

Today is the birthday of our dear friend G.K. Chesterton. He was born in 1874, which makes it 140 years since God gave him to the world. I’ve begun reading Chesterton’s autobiography two times, and it seems the least interesting of all his writings I’ve tried, because it doesn’t come naturally to the author to talk about himself. Much of what I read in the first chapters was about other people, perhaps well-known in his day but not to me.

Chesterton liked people, as this clip from The Daily Herald in 1913 attests: “Quite a swamping majority of the men and women I have met in my life I have liked very much indeed. I have never met that Ordinary Man who seems to bore some people so much. All the men I have met have been the most extraordinary.”

It’s a good thing that the man’s own personality and character shine through his writings, so that we may know how extraordinary he was and is. He is for me a stellar example of the sort of writer with whom a reader can have a rich relationship. You might think from looking at my blog today that he is my literary Significant Other, being the author of my one current Bedside Book and my theme quote, and the subject of this post. He isn’t even my favorite author, but I happen to have put his birthday on my calendar.

A few years ago, for the July/August 2011 issue of Gilbert Magazine, the editors asked some Chesterton experts, “What is the most Chestertonian book you’ve ever read that was not by G.K. Chesterton?” A couple of them thought there was nothing else that could compare.

But James Woodruff named The Wind in the Willows, which happened to be published the same year as Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, because it is “a celebration of the primal things Chesterton loved — Home and Friendship and Adventure — all suffused with a sense of wonder and lived out by characters who write poetry and go forth to battle and wwind in the willows boatho eat and drink with right good will…”

Nathan Allen named The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, “…because he deals with a lot of the issues that Chesterton cared about: education, the loss of a sense of a common culture, and so forth.” Other titles suggested were That Hideous Strength, also by Lewis; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; The Restoration of Property by Hilaire Belloc; The Restoration of Christian Culture by John Senior; and Pinocchio!

I wish I had a tidy way to take a few thoughts from and about this hero of mine and craft them into a fitting birthday tribute, but my skill and understanding don’t come near the level of my appreciation. [To demonstrate that fact: when I wrote that sentence I wasn’t yet aware that I had somehow moved his birthday forward 20 years. Ack! I think it’s fixed now.] Maybe after some more years — for his 150th? — I will do better than this mishmash. For today I will stop and let Chesterton’s own words from What is Right With the World convey the kind of attitude that has made him a favorite of mine and of ever-increasing numbers of readers:

“We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by chesterton hair flyingwhat flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Mr. Chesterton!

(May 29, 1874-June 14, 1936)

Hans Christian Andersen on Greek Easter

Hans Christian Andersen’s travel memoirs from the 1840’s, when he witnessed both Roman and Greek Easter festivities. He did love the Greek way:

Day and night the church was filled with people. The King, the Queen, and the whole court were there on the midnight before Easter Day: the priests stood praying and mourning around the flower-filled coffin; the whole congregation prayed in silence. The clock struck twelve, and at the same moment the Bishop stepped forth, and said: “Christ is risen!”

“Christ is risen!” burst from every tongue. Kettle-drums and trumpets sent forth their strains; the music played the liveliest dances! The whole people fell on each other’s necks, kissed, and joyously cried, “Christ is risen !” Shot after shot was heard outside; rockets darted into the air, torches were lighted, men and young lads, each with a candle in his hand, danced in a long row through the city. The women kindled fires, slaughtered lambs, and roasted them in the streets. Little children, who had all got new fez and new red shoes, danced in their shirts around the fires, kissed each other, and exclaimed like their parents, “Christ is risen!” O, I could have pressed each of these children to my heart and exulted with them. “Christ is risen!” It was touching, elevating, and beautiful. 

Read the whole thing here.

(In California, as the clock struck twelve.)

Blossoming Windows

A while back when I visited my favorite market the window painter was in the very act of painting new scenes. I was thrilled to meet the man and catch him in the process.

He was painting daffodils again – they were the images I had first photographed and shared here. Since then his designs have varied with the seasons, but they are always refreshingly non-commercial and cheerful.

Last fall I was able to capture some geese that seemingly dropped down from the skies to grace the windows.

And this month the daffodils are gone to make room for flowering trees.

 

I didn’t notice until I greatly enlarged the yellow tree how its curving trunk and bright flowers mirror the real ones in the parking lot, reflected in the window.

Perhaps a little bit of every window he’s painted remains on the artist’s sweatshirt!

Flowers and Love for This Mother

My Favorite Rockrose

I have loving gifts and greetings from my dear children all around me today, though I didn’t have any of them present in the flesh. My husband’s taking me out to dinner soon to celebrate — and this morning it was wonderful to be in church, and hear a homily about the Samaritan woman, whose heart was open to Christ and who became a missionary of the gospel.

Cerinthe grows like a weed.

After the Agape Meal that we always have after the service, we heard a guest speaker, a priest who helped translate a recent book about Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos, who reposed in the Lord in the 1990’s.

One thing Father Peter said that impressed me was about the different perspective that an Orthodox ethos gives a person. He said that in Greece, for example, where people are raised with this background, even if they are not currently living out a Christian faith, they may unselfconsciously have Christian ideas about some things.

Bearded Iris

Modesty, for example. Here in the United States, the concept of modesty carries for many people connotations of old-fashioned or conservative, but when someone raised in a culture infused by the church thinks of modesty, he thinks immediately of Christ’s mother, the Theotokos — a person, and not a concept. What a blessing God gave me in this word on Mother’s Day!

Before church, and afterward, I couldn’t help but stop to take pictures of the flowers that I no longer have the job of caring for. Pearl sent me a vase of flowers for Mother’s Day, which I have on the table nearby, and God gave me these as well, just a few examples for today of the beautiful gifts he has given me my whole life through, including that of the experience of motherhood, the gifts of five children, and soon-to-be eleven grandchildren. What can I say about this except that it is astounding?

A (probably belated) blessed Mother’s Day to all of you!