Category Archives: writing

Vaporous lists form and drift…

That idea I grabbed onto last month, to make lists when I’m incapable of the kind of prose that would be more satisfying to writer and reader, has not worked well for me.

Maybe it boils down to priorities… life is too short to dash off an easy type of list when one might instead use the precious moments to 1) Think on how to make just one list item more beautiful,  or 2) Forget trying to preserve in writing anything in particular from the experience or contemplation, and just BE. Play one more game with the children, sit on the deck in the dry and sunny air — or sleep!

But now, near the end of my stay in Colorado, out of desperation I’ve condensed a few thoughts into words, at the extreme boring level, the list of lists to write:

LIST of LISTS to MAKE

  • Big and little ways Soldier and Joy are kind and generous to me.
  • Additional friends and family I’ve been able to see while I’m here.
  • Books the children and I have read together.
  • Names of the children’s dolls and stuffies.
  • Plants that the Seek app hasn’t been able to identify.
  • Delicious meals that Joy has made.
  • Darling things the children have said.
  • Topics of helpful and informative conversations I’ve had with Soldier and Joy.
  • Internet links and articles to follow up on.
  • Walks we have taken.
  • Species of willow trees.

Maybe I won’t get around to writing even one of these lists — think of that!

Glory to God for all things!

I write what (little) I know.

One afternoon when I was sitting on the sunny deck (still in Colorado for another few days) to read my book club book, Laddie came out and stood close by, searching my eyes and smiling his shy smile. He commented on how I wasn’t making much progress in Frankenstein. I teased him, “That’s because every time I sit down to read you come and talk to me.”

“You could go in your room and shut the door,” he said.

“But I like to talk to you, Laddie. It doesn’t matter if I finish this book. I can read it on the plane when I leave here.” Then we chatted for awhile, and more children came and went and climbed up on my lap and down again. Quickly and often the innocent and sweet conversation erupts into loud squabbling, but eventually equilibrium is restored and we go on.

The flowers and creatures that I typically focus on here are complex and fascinating, but they are nothing so glorious as the human soul. When that inner person is glimpsed in the clear eyes and honest, unselfconscious tenderness of a child, I so wish that my powers of attention and description were better, that I could convey to you something of this child, this unique personality.

If I put up a photo of a flower that I encounter, along with not much more than its name, it doesn’t grieve me that I have failed to “capture” and convey its complexity and deep beauty. But when it comes to people, everything I might say seems like an unworthy reduction and distortion.

When I was the parent bringing up my own children, my thoughts were naturally more on training and teaching, and forming the character of the children. Now that is not my job, and I am at more leisure to observe and enjoy each grandchild as he is, at whatever moment I am present with him. Since none of them lives near me, more and more the most important thing I can do to affect their future is to pray.

With my limited writing skills, I will continue to tell you about the birds and the flowers.

(Photos from previous years and younger grandchildren.)

Lists, letters, and taking leave.

During a 20-minute phone call with a friend last week, I mentioned all of the books pictured above, only one of which I have read, long ago. After he asked me about a couple of them, “Did you finish ____ ?” I blurted, “I don’t read books, I only buy them!”

It’s partly true; three of the books pictured I am in the middle of reading. I think I will take The Cross of Loneliness with me on my travels this week, because it is little and is likely to be encouraging to my spirit, without demanding too much of my analytical abilities. It sets down the correspondence of Saint Sophrony and Archpriest George Florovsky from 1954 to 1963. These illustrations from the book of their kind faces make me eager to peek in on their friendship.

I’ll be flying to Colorado to visit my son Soldier’s family, and from there to Idaho to see friends Jacob and Rosemary, before heading back to California. Both of these families are in new towns since I last visited them! The excitement of navigating airports, riding in airplanes, being in strange places and beds; playing with grandchildren and chatting  with everyone will keep my mind plenty busy. It’s already buzzing with the challenges of getting myself ready for the big day, and incrementally taking leave, in my heart, of my home, and my garden with all the plants I have been nursing along; like the first golden zucchinis that will ripen while I am far away. I will say farewell to my stack of To-Read books, which if it actually were just one stack would be higher than my house.

But I know that I will like to read on the plane, and read in my room before going to sleep at night, so I must choose what to take along. This book that I discovered in my Kindle, Make a List, looks appealing for a few summery reasons.

(List of) Reasons why it’s a good book for this summer:

1 – Only a couple hundred pages.

2 – Not demanding content:

2a – No long list of fictional characters to keep straight.

2b – No complex-thinking philosophers to follow.

3 – It will help me keep engaged with my philosophical self and my life back home by simply jotting down a list here and there.

4 – It will prompt me to keep writing without my always having to make quality whole sentences, which are a lot of work. I might even compose travelogues entirely of short lists!

It occurs to me that my attempt at Bullet Journaling was kind of list-y. Unfortunately I always felt the need to elaborate and my bullet points swelled into paragraphs. It will be necessary to keep these lists in a different category from journaling altogether. I haven’t written one thing in my journal for a month or two, which feels scary. Maybe I’ve already made the break?

My college roommate Ann has been an inspiring list-maker all her life. She makes lists of the lists she needs to make. You might say that is the idea that Marilyn Chandler McEntyre has elaborated on; you can hear her talking for three minutes on the subject here.

Now I need to get back to the lists I have recently been working from, like:

1 – To-Do Before I Depart, and
2 – Carry With Me On the Plane.

Once I add “Kindle Reader” and “Notebook for Writing Lists” to that second list, I’ll be good to go! …. or will I…? One more very important list must be completed, before I shut the door on my tottering stacks:

Books I Really Want to Read Soon But Must Sadly Leave at Home.

But I’ll come back, Dear Friends!

No bread pudding was involved.

Peter Hitchens, in a recent interview about why he is still a “traditional Anglican” Christian,
on the Prayer Book:

“The Prayer Book is written in a language which repeatedly acknowledges the existence of the eternal, as not just a rival to the temporal, but as a superior and more important thing. I’d go further. Music, as we know, expresses what is inexpressible through words alone. Poetry, which much of the Prayer Book aims at, allows words to say more than prose does. By poetry here I don’t mean rhyming and scanning verse, but language consciously crafted to be as beautiful an expression of its meaning as possible.

“Our forebears were simply better at this than we are, because of the age they lived in. This has much to do with the fact that it was written to be spoken aloud and I do not doubt that its authors did speak it aloud many times as they perfected it. This is something few writers of modern prose do, which is why the result so often looks and sounds as if it has been created by using the blunt end of a bread pudding.”

Above: Book of Common Prayer open to the selection for
“The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”