God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made sing his being simply by being the thing it is: stone and tree and sky, man who sees and sings and wonders why
God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made, means a storm of peace. Think of the atoms inside the stone. Think of the man who sits alone trying to will himself into a stillness where
God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made there is given one shade shaped exactly to the thing itself: under the tree a darker tree; under the man the only man to see
God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made the things that bring him near, made the mind that makes him go. A part of what man knows, apart from what man knows,
God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.
Yesterday evening I was rear-ended a few blocks from my house, while my car and I were waiting for a light to turn. I was startled and confused and heard myself cry out — all that probably took a few seconds. My car lost a little paint, and complaints emanated from my spine, but when I got home I took a short walk to loosen up, and talked to insurance companies, and seemed to have a fairly normal evening. This morning I talked to a doctor who warned me that in addition to slight soft-tissue damage I probably have “emotional bruising” and should be mindful of that. I do feel a bit shaky, which surprises me.
I am grateful for the advice, and am trying to rest, and to seek God’s comfort. I thought I would read poetry, and I found this poem that gives me light and focus. God goes… and He comes to the atoms of my traumatized body and associated emotions. Thank You, Lord!
With winter coming on, it’s time I gave a report about a book I read on my Kindle, under my wool blankets last winter: The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell. Why did I choose this book in the first place? It had something to do with the erratic and perplexing workings of my mind in that first year of widowhood, combined with the popularity of the concept of hygge and the instantaneous nature of Kindle shopping.
Once I began, an unhealthy curiosity took hold and overcame my better impulses; I wanted to find out if the author decided to stay a second year. I also hoped she might reveal moral principles in herself, or a change of attitude, or anything to show that she was more than an unemployed journalist using the Danish experience to make a buck.
Russell’s husband had been offered a job with LEGO, and after some deliberating about leaving her job and mother behind in Britain, they decided to try it for a year. Why not, when it’s known to be the happiest country in the world! During the year that they live there, she writes about various aspects of Danish life, and gives the reader tons of statistics (which I didn’t check) from various research studies not specifically about Denmark, to show that maybe the Danes are on to something. She does not hide statistics about the sky-high divorce rate, the highest anti-depressant use in Europe, high suicide rate, how people change jobs frequently (certainly not because they are unhappy at work), but the many people she asks personally always say that their happiness level is either 9 or 10.
What bothered me was how the author didn’t appear to like the Danish people, her new neighbors and friends. She uses them as humorous subject matter for her book, but if she likes living in Denmark, it doesn’t appear to be out of appreciation for the natives. Also, I kept waiting for her to show that she held to principles against which to assess the culture, but by example, she quickly got over an initial concern over the way Danes casually expose children to pornography, and seems to easily absorb whatever socialist values are expedient, in trade for living in a welfare state with free everything.
It may be that Russell is only trying to maintain an objective stance as a journalist; when she lacks her own ideas, she finds some statistics to throw out there. We are told about the Danes, “They cherish their freedom to indulge every whim,” and they “really enjoy themselves, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be looked after if (or rather, when) anything goes wrong.” This is important, because “women here have the highest rates of lung cancer in the world, and Denmark also tops the overall worldwide cancer charts for all types of cancer in both sexes.” Related statements are about how they are “among the highest drinkers in Europe,” and “smoke with zeal.” She also lets us know, using language I find oddly travelogue-ish, that Denmark is the “top spot for STI’s [a.k.a. STD’s] in Europe.”
She’s less non-committal about the many more wholesome customs she learns about. When a neighbor tells her about the importance of church confirmations, saying, “It’s tradition!” she calls the concept “That old chestnut.” One belief I’m sure was inculcated before she ever left the U.K. is “…sometimes the practice of religion goes against human rights, for instance in the case of abortion.” That she doesn’t say whose human rights she is thinking of, we must chalk up to her not being in the habit of thinking outside the box that the typical journalist these days is ensconced in, and not even being aware of her bias. She states in several places her assessment that religion doesn’t really mean much to most Danes, but if it is “going against” something in the popular culture, I am encouraged.
As to hygge, Russell does try to learn to slow down, to burn candles and eat pastries in the winter as she’s told to do, and she credits this more relaxed life with ending her infertility. Though it means that the grandmother will be across the sea, the couple do decide to stay another year.
I can’t help wondering if her new friends read her book, and how they felt about it. Maybe they don’t like to be the targets for her sarcasm… but probably she is a good neighbor in real life and they forgive her for not treating them as more than superficial-sounding book characters. I don’t like to think about the possibility that the author and her subjects truly have been reduced to mere contented, or sated, consumers; but when I factor in all those alarming statistics, the image I get of what people are doing on those long winter nights is not inspiring.
This winter, I will be glad not to live in a frigid place like Jutland. I will work on my own style of being cozy at home, and it will no doubt include the reading of many books. But reading this one hasn’t made me want to pursue anything Danish, and it has done nothing at all for my hygge.
I shared the poem below several years ago when my angle on grief was different. But I think of the metaphor often these days, because the grief I know is a thing in itself, a changeable being that has to be reckoned with.
Last week I saw its resemblance to an illness of the body, which in fact it is in part. A malaise or pain that comes and goes, and when it goes you forget that the underlying problem still exists. Then you get ambushed. Here the metaphor of the poem doesn’t sync with my own; maybe if I become more hospitable to my grief it will become the sort of companion the poet is hoping for, not a thing waiting in ambush, but a faithful-friend kind of creature that can even “warn off intruders.”
I think this is happening. I see that not only am I on the path to acceptance, of the loss of my husband and of my new life, but that one stage of the journey is the acceptance of the grief process itself, and of its demands. A canine in the corner aptly describes something I would not naturally welcome.
Yesterday was rich and full of encouragement — several times because of my pangs of grief — including this meaningful note from Mrs. Bread after Little Goldfinch revived and flew away: “We all need quiet to regain our senses.” She knew I was having that healing kind of day. My dog (see poem) seemed to rest relatively content in his corner. As I wrote in the original posting:
May all our hurts bring us to Him, and may we experience the comfort St. Paul writes about in II Corinthians:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
TALKING TO GRIEF
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
my house as your own
and me your person
my own dog.
When we broke up and filled in the swimming pool last summer, the surrounding planting beds were also excavated and new dirt was brought in for the new plants to grow in. In one corner where calla lilies had grown for a decade, we put in native California currant bushes.
Then the callas sprouted again, up through the little blooming ribes. I’ve had to go out every few days and yank out perfectly healthy lilies when they start to encroach too closely around the young plants that I am trying to encourage.
One morning last week when my daughters and I were packing up to visit the cemetery and have a picnic afterward, we discussed going to the store to buy some flowers to lay on their father’s grave, because I said I didn’t have any flowers in the yard to take.
I suppose I was thinking about how the snowball bush didn’t yet have any flowers ready to pick. Last year at this time it was loaded with flowers, and one reason I did not take out the old thing was that I anticipated having its beautiful blooms to put on my husband’s grave every March.
Well, I had forgotten the calla lilies! Brave and hardy plants that keep coming…. We picked plenty to take to the cemetery, and since then have had more in vases in which they seem to fall naturally into elegant arrangements.
As you can see, we had other home-grown flowers to use — a few surviving ranunculus from the front yard, and even a Bird of Paradise from Pearl’s garden. Several freesia blooms were left after their extravagant display a couple of weeks ago. Scout and Ivy helped by decorating their grandpa’s grave, and their father drew us together by reading these words:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Just now I’m reminded of another passage from I Thessalonians, which is also about our togetherness in the Lord (and it ties in nicely with my “C” post):
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.