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)

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!

What Happened at the Symphony

I was moved to tears by the experience of attending the symphony yesterday. As I have little musical training beyond being challenged by the Tonette in third grade, I’m not the one to give a knowledgeable critic’s review. Other than one music appreciation course in college, most of my music listening has been with three-quarters of my brain elsewhere.

Our son’s Japanese violin teacher assured us that even if we dozed during concerts we all would benefit by hearing the music played well, so I have comforted myself with the image of beautiful sounds soaking irresistibly into the consciousness. After my marriage, our house was often full of live music, what with five children and a husband playing guitars, flute, violin and piano. But I was normally in another room stirring the soup or folding laundry.

And concerts were typically not in the budget, though I have to admit that many of the children’s recitals filled me with joy at the expertise of the students, especially toward the end of the lineup when those most advanced at their instruments showed us their stuff. The boys were also able to play in beginning or amateur orchestras. It makes me very happy these days even to hear over the radio one of those pieces from the Suzuki violin repertoire, or a Nocturne that a daughter played. I can’t seem to enjoy classical music the first time I hear a piece, but after it has become familiar I love it dearly.

That’s why I cared so much about going to the symphony last weekend, to hear Brahms; in college when I owned only a few LP’s, a thrift-store album of Brahms symphonies was one of them. We’ve never acquired an updated recording, but I was eager to hear a live rendition of his music.

I also wanted to sit there in the concert hall and listen to whatever was on the program, familiar or not, for the greater chance for participation that it affords. Even when the compositions being performed are not to my liking, the visual component helps to keep me on the edge of my seat. Because I’m not much of an auditory learner, if the sensory input is limited to hearing, as in a recording, it’s really hard for me to assess or even pay close attention to the music, and the fact that I’ve never learned to play an instrument is another hole in my readiness.

Elina Vähälä

But with the orchestra arrayed before me I’m greatly helped to appreciate the amazing work that’s being done. It’s all to the glory of God at the very outset, Who formed each individual in the womb with incredible gifts of intelligence and physical coordination. From there every artist has a unique story about how he struggled to bring his fingers and/or lips into submission to the requirements of the instrument and to the demands of  the musical score.

Speaking of fingers, the conductor had the longest fingers I’ve ever seen. His whole body was long and thin and so flexibly energetic, he threatened to bounce into the floodlights or melt into the sound waves. The timpanist looked like my high school chemistry teacher — well, who knows, perhaps he is a high school teacher. One balding cellist with a bushy ponytail stood out because he jerked his head so emphatically with his bowing, and the flutist who played a solo part exquisitely — thank God for her!

The two Brahms pieces were the 4th Symphony, and the Violin Concerto Opus 77. Though she is famous in the classical music world, Mr. Glad and I hadn’t heard of the violin soloist Elina Vähälä, so we read a little about her online beforehand and even listened to a clip of her playing. Of course, the live performance was thrilling. Certainly I’ve never heard anything more sublime than the sounds from that “Antonio Stradivari violin, built in 1678 and generously loaned by the Finnish Cultural Foundation,” which she played lovingly. She’s a beautiful woman and we were privileged to be there with her in her radiance.

After her performance, Ms. Vähälä came up into the balcony not far from where we sat, to join the audience in enjoyment of the 4th Symphony. I so admire all those regular members of the orchestra and the way they submit their art and skill to the group, and to the composer. They gather in ranks and in humble monochrome to work their magic, making the music emerge and shine in all its brightness, lifting our spirits. Even Brahms and his talent, the story of his life and how God worked in it to bless the world, are in the background.

It all makes me think of lying dreamily in a meadow in springtime. Your mind is filled with contentment and excitement all at once, for the multitude of pleasant sounds and feelings all mixed up and coming in. Gradually and intermittently, you notice individual players, like a particular bird’s song or the scent of the grasses. The sky is blue overhead; clouds with interesting shapes pass by. And yes, you might even sleep. But in the end, you are a richer person for having been there. And you don’t even know how it happened.