Tag Archives: Bird

In this new era, quotes with gnomes.

gnome gnotebook 1st page 2015

It was only a few weeks ago that I told you about my late friend Bird’s Gnome Gnotebook, the contents of which I was so glad to receive in the form of a fat photocopied packet. One of you alerted me to the fact that one can buy empty versions of these notebooks online, and I quickly sent off for one, as a remembrance of my beloved friend.

P1120297

And to keep quotes in, of course! Anastasia recently shared this fun Ogden Nash verse (above) and I copied it at the bottom of the first page, where the gnome sits with his nose in a book. These contemplative gnomes will keep company with whatever I write here, on every page.

I must have a thousand quotes in computer documents, and another few hundred on papers bursting out of a manila folder. For years I used some very efficient software to help me in sad face outlinemy collecting, called Smart Quote Organizer. But it eventually proved too hard for someone with my lack of computer savvy to maintain; every time we got a new computer or made major changes, I almost lost that data. Finally I did lose it, I lost all those hundreds of good quotes and was fairly deflated — for a few minutes. I realize that even the most excellent examples of pithy sentences are just representatives of truth and wit and wisdom. The substance remains with humankind. But I decided to return to more primitive methods of storage, while not abandoning my simple Windows document folders.

At left is a page in quotes money qbmy first quotes notebook, which I arranged alphabetically in subject categories. Some pages are full and some are still completely blank, so I probably shouldn’t give up on it yet.

Of course I wouldn’t think of giving up reading it. Just now the words on this page with the heading Money have made me muse on whether I have violated any of my principles by spending on my new (technically “used,” though not written in) Gnome Gnotebook. I don’t think so.

Bird didn’t have her jottings in any particular order and I don’t plan to worry about that with my new book, either.

P1120375 old quotes crp

Above is the old notebook with the quotes all hidden inside, waiting to be pored over and contemplated. And here is another page from that book. Clearly I gave more attention to good handwriting in that previous era a decade ago, which is about when I started using this book that was gift from son Pathfinder’s family.

quotes life & limitations qb

Many of these quotes on Life and Limitations immediately apply themselves to what could be called my hobby of collecting quotes – especially the reality of limitations. The Bible says that “of the making of books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and I don’t think I will run out of (quality – they must be quality) quotable excerpts from those books, or other writings or speeches or folksy proverbs.

I, however, am very limited in my time, my life span, and yes, my mental abilities. I am limited in how many quotes I can publish on my blog and still maintain good standing in the eyes of my readers. So that’s all for now, folks. Have fun with these!

My necessary Bird has flown.

This season of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember my friend who was known on this blog as “Bird.” She fell asleep in the Lord last year, but at the time I couldn’t find the words to write about her passing. She had been very dear to me, affectionately motherly and sisterly at the same time. Even past her 100th birthday she was thoroughly engaged in the present and was a good counselor and truth-teller. Not in platitudes or the kind of universally applicable advice that fails to touch the individual in a warm way, but in the manner of a Christian, a “little Christ” who comes alongside and shares the joy or pain. Bird took me Bird +K 97into her heart and gave me of her self: her motherhood of thirteen children, her married womanliness shaped by devotion to a passionate and visionary man, her thankfulness to a loving Father.

I didn’t meet Bird until she was already in her 80’s and had been a widow for some time, so I am not qualified to speak about her life as a whole. But certainly if someone can be supremely happy and content from the ages of 85 to 102, that is a huge accomplishment, not to speak of the many good people having descended from her. Even if she hadn’t been so good a friend to me, just the example of her life would have been encouraging. There was nothing flashy about Bird, no career or teaching ministry or fame; her habit of self-giving was gentle and quiet.

Recently her son kindly sent me a copy of the special journal thP1110738at she liked to write in, her Gnome Gnotebook, repository of decades of treasures she had collected in the form of poems, quotes and proverbs. I had enjoyed exploring the original book whose pages had long ago been filled up; when she ran out of room Bird simply wrote any new notes and poems on scraps of paper and kept them tucked between the pages, the whole bundle getting fatter and fatter, held together with a rubber band and always kept within arm’s reach.

As I began to browse the contents this month, a couple of entries jumped right out at me as completely expressive of truths that she had learned deeply and lived out every day. They happen to be written conveniently  right next to each other on one of the bound pages of the Gnotebook, and if any maxims might have been formative for the woman I knew, these would be likely ones.

P1110740 Bird's book

When I tried a year ago to write this tribute, the words “Bird has flown” were in my mind, and when recently the following autumn poem by John Updike came to my attention it seemed to complement my feelings. The world is a bleaker place without her – there is no replacement. And yet, there is that “certain loveliness” still present, spread abroad and noticed by those giving thanks in the spirit of my Bird.

NOVEMBER

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Nevertheless,
Displays a certain
Loveliness —

The beauty of
the bone. Tall God
must see our souls
this way, and nod.

Give thanks, we do,
each in his place
Around the table
during Grace.

–John Updike

 

If you didn’t get a chance to read what I’ve written about my friend before, this post on Bird’s Open Heart features a photo of her as a young woman, and A New Apron for Bird tells a story about our friendship.

A few more helpful gleanings.

With my youngest daughter Kate getting married in just a few days, you’d think I’d have precious little time for writing here. And that is so true, which is why I’m mostly passing on some more gleanings from my recent readings. If you ever pray for bloggers you don’t know, add me to the list this week!

1) Leila writes about some of my favorite things in her post Housewifely. I specialize in ironing and wearing an apron, but the other G & S 6-85things are also high on my list. She writes, “When you put on an apron, you do not merely protect the garments. You also announce your commitment to the task at hand, your willingness to suffer the slings and sputterings of the pots and pans, your resolve to see the work out to the end.”

I wish I had written this post. Sometimes I think I could write a whole book about aprons alone, and how practically and symbolically they are so significant to my own homemaking. I don’t only wear a apron in the kitchen, but to clean house and dig in the garden.

Aprons were one love that I shared with my now-departed friend Bird which is why I made her a new apron at a time when she had no obvious need for one. Bird and I knew that she did in reality use one, as a way to keep herself on the continuum of the woman she had always been.

2) Daphne writes common sense and wisdom about dating and marriage.

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My cousins 70 years ago

“Start dating after you are ready to get married, and date people you can actually see yourself marrying, as doing otherwise is typically a colossal waste of time. ”

“A good marriage is intentional and dating should be too.”

“And none of them live in magical fairy tales; no matter how it’s arranged a relationship always involves confusion, mistakes, and heartache. Crossed wires are built into every human interaction. ”

3) This article on acedia I found to be revealing of all the many ways self-love manifests itself. Fr. Aidan Kimel quotes a 4th-century desert monastic on the eight fundamental passions or thoughts; acedia is central.

“Frustration and aggressiveness combine in a new way and produce this ‘complex’ (that is, interwoven) phenomenon of acedia.”

“’A despondent person hates precisely what is available,’ Evagrius writes, ‘and desires what is not available.'”

4) The last thing I offer you, which was most helpful to me at this time, is Father Stephen writing about Comforting One Another, which is also about comforting ourselves — or rather, not comforting ourselves. You see, we try to comfort ourselves by running away from the heartbreak or pain and suffering, running to pleasures that we think will ease our hurt. They often bring us further pain. We have to make ourselves not run away, but turn to Christ and let Him truly comfort us by His being and presence.

“For it is when our hearts are broken and do not run away or hide that we can call on God to comfort us. And He does….That comfort is the gift of His own life within us, a sharing of His own joy and love.”

Bird’s Open Heart

I am taking a tutorial from Bird on aging gracefully; she is graceful and gracious both. The two of us were talking about how we both are forgetful hostesses, never remembering to offer our guests so much as a glass of water, much less tea and cookies. But my friend never locks her door, and usually doesn’t even shut it all the way, because she wants visitors to come in without knocking; she doesn’t always hear a knock or the doorbell.

She is always so glad for company, and rarely talks about herself, preferring to ask about her younger friends and their families, and to hear other people’s stories. Her own stories are only told when they pertain to some matter that concerns her guest, or after emphatic prompting. Bird is almost 95 years old; is she ever going to become what I find to be the more typical elderly person, living in the past, and impatient with recent people and their doings?

When I had her for tea last week she was the guest of honor. I picked her up and drove her to my house, and on the way here in the car I showed her a list of topics we wouldn’t mind her talking about. She started laughing — I don’t know at which question — and said teasingly, “I am not going to come to any more of your tea parties!” But when the guests had all arrived she was willing to share of her past and her tales with them, and entertain us all with her humor.

There is the story about her novel, written in high school, about the Spanish dancer Juanita. It was a love story, but Bird knew nothing about “the kind of love you have when you are married.” At the end of the romance, when Juanita and her suitor have progressed in their relationship to the point where the ardor is intense, the novel closes with the line, “Juanita leaned.”

The photo here was taken when her 11th child was a toddler and Bird was about 35 years old. She looks happy enough to burst—serene at the same time. I think she must have been the best wife for her husband; she was apparently not contrary, but neither was she wimpy. She had to be strong and steady when he was depressed and couldn’t work for — was it three years? The kind of person who would keep doing her own job of running the household, waiting and praying for things to change.

She told us over tea that decades ago, when some of us used to see the couple walking “together,” Bird ten yards behind, that Mr. Bird had needed long walks to help with his “emotional problems.” He would be in shirtsleeves, and she was wearing a sweater, and he told her he was embarrassed by her wearing the sweater, and asked her not to. She replied that she needed the sweater because she was cold, and suggested that he walk by himself if he was embarrassed. And he said, “But I need you to talk to!” This was funny because he was way too far ahead for them to be able to carry on a conversation. When one of their adult children later died, the priest told her husband, “Now today, you walk beside your wife.”

Bird seems to have walked as close to her husband as he allowed, as long as he lived. She has been a dear and encouraging companion to me, as we both try to walk with God. My prayer is that He would give me a measure of her spirit.

(I wrote the piece above several years ago; more recent posts in which Bird appears are here and here. Now she has reached 100 years, and is as young as ever. She still keeps her door unlocked and her smile bright.)