The times they are a changin’

I guess it’s been three years since I posted anything in the blog-o-sphere world. Lots has happened and this isn’t a blog about my day-to-day so I haven’t used it much. I’m in El Paso, TX, married, working as a nurse in the Army and trying my darndest to keep up personal growth and development. That thing was easy in college where you’re surrounded by like-minded, like-aged people who are all learning a once. Their are countless events you can go to related to art/literature/science/media/culture/etc./etc. On the other side (out of college and miles from Los Angeles) its been more difficult to find those experiences. But never fear! all is not lost, there are still lots of great things and people out here. I am constantly reminded that a place is what you make of it and that only you decide how to perceive a situation. All that being said I’d like to talk about a few recent interests:

  1.  A new blog project: I haven’t used my own blog in years and I’m starting a new one? I know, I know, what is she thinking? Let me tell you. This new project is a collaboration that I’m starting with some friends. Its centered around the idea of sharing recommendations in conversation. I’m hoping to get mixed involvement with a variety of interests and subjects. I’m no expert in blogs and if this evolves the way I’m hoping it will I’ll need to learn fast and enlist some help. Primarily I’m really excited to see what other people come up with and what they suggest to form and shape this thing. It may fizzle out and die, but I hope it can survive as a way to connect friends and enrich our lives. Heres l’chaim: to life!
  2. Outsider Art: Probably late to the table on this one but I’ve just discovered the term “outsider art”. It seems like it may be a term on its way out for political correctness sake, since it can ostracize these artists, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Outsider art is work created by someone who is untrained. An amateur artist setting out to make art, almost accidental artists in some cases. Examples I’ve found compelling so far are: James Edward Deeds, who created a series of incredible and somewhat weird drawings from inside a mental institution, Bill Traylor, an African american man born into slavery who didn’t start drawing until he was 85 then produced an astounding 1200-1500 pieces, and Adolf Wölfli, a Swiss peasant who suffered from mental health issues but went on to create a 25,000 page 45 volume “imaginary autobiography” that intertwines prose, poetry, collage, drawing, and music pieces to form a staggering, detailed compendium.
  3. Minimalist Wardrobe: I have noticed a refreshing increase in environmental awareness in America over the last several years. Maybe I’m just seeing more of it, but there is hope that it’s an actual shift in people’s mindsets and lifestyles. I’m sometimes paralyzed by the things I do to contribute to a lazy abuse of the world we live in. When I think about the fact that I’m using plastic bags for my produce and food storage, or not making all of my food from scratch to cut down on waste I feel a little guilty. Then I remember that no one ever taught me better growing up and now that I’m learning it’s going to take time to get there. I’m working on one step at a time. One of these on the forefront for me right now is clothing. I shopped a lot at big chain retailers who would sell me cheap, trendy-enough clothes. Never thrilled about supporting businesses with less than perfect labor practices and material sourcing, I justified it by thinking I didn’t have enough money to do anything different. Not a good enough excuse. Being conscious and intentional about our choices in apparel is as important as the food we eat. No more supporting child labor/sweat shops/economic inequality /human rights abuse and massive amounts of unnecessary waste out of neglect. I’m looking for clothing brands with transparent business practices and ethical production processes. Companies Who make high-quality goods so I don’t need clothes every month when cheap things rip, fade, and lose their shape (or go out of style when you turn your head). The first step for me was to get rid of most of my clothes. I took 80% of my wardrobe to Plato’s Closet where they bought about 15% and took the rest to the Salvation Army. I still have plenty of clothes and I’m working on slowly and steadily adding better pieces that will last long and look great. One resource I found to be incredibly helpful in this project is this blog Where the author explains her own wardrobe and some ins and outs of having an intentional and thought out closet. If you are interested in learning more, watch this (a quick look at whats wrong with fast fashion), and this (John Oliver’s sarcastic, satirical comedy doesn’t diminish the serious issue of clothing consumption in America).

Sacred Space

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The Hagia Sophia: Church, Mosque, Museum

“So many people come here and for so many different reasons. Some to rejoice, some to mourn, some to worship, others to sit steeped in thought. Almost everyone who comes to this place must be united by one thing: the staggering awe of one of the most beautiful spaces on earth.”

I wrote this as I sat on a stone step in the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul in Turkey. As I entered this magnificent building I couldn’t help but be struck by its glory. The vaulted and domed ceiling towers high over the viewers head, and the space is suffused with golden light streaming in from the windows, around the domes, and emanating from chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. Gold paint and intricate mosaic tiles glimmer in the radiance. However, despite this magnificence and splendor, the viewer is immediately confronted with a stark juxtaposition of two religions. Islam and Christianity. On the walls massive discs with beautiful, gold, Arabic lettering bear the names of Allah and Mohamed. Many of these discs are hung directly beside a glittering mosaic depicting a scene of Christian iconography. Jesus Christ, Mary the mother of Jesus, a seraphim covered by his six wings.

As a visitor to this museum I felt a sense of unease at seeing a place that was once holy, first to the Christians, then to the Muslims, stripped of its identity like this. Neither Christians nor Muslims can now claim this awesome place as their own space of worship. It is a museum, neutral. Sacredness cross-canceled by competing religions.

Museum to Mosque

Now, as tension continues to rise in the middle east, there is talk of changing this Hagia Sophia in Istanbul back into a mosque. Two other Hagia Sophias, one in Iznik (once Nicea) and one in Trabzon have recently been converted into mosques. These events point to the possibility of the golden Hagia Sophia of Istanbul being converted as well. In an Article on Al-monitor Amberin Zaman discusses the conversion of the first two buildings and the implications that this may have for the future of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum. However, in his conclusion he states that:

Western diplomats warn that the court ruling for the Trabzon Hagia Sophia has set a dangerous precedent. Even so, converting Hagia Sophia in Istanbul seems far-fetched. Restoration work on the famous basilica has continued throughout a decade of AKP rule, and new frescoes have been uncovered. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has himself dismissed speculation about Hagia Sophia’s future. Drawing around 3.3 million visitors in 2012, the museum is in the words of Kalas, the Byzantine historian, “a money-generating machine.” Kalas believes Hagia Sophia will not be converted into a mosque “precisely for this reason, … not because [the government] doesn’t want this to happen,” she concluded.

This sentiment is echoed in an article published in The Economist. 

While some spectators offer the Hagia Sophia’s monetary value as a museum as proof that it will not likely be converted, other evidence points in the opposite direction. In the Hurriyet Daily News an article appears indicating that due to the activism of some citizens parliamentary consideration is indeed being given to this proposal.

“Three citizens living in the northwestern province of Kocaeli appealed to the commission with a request to change the status of Hagia Sophia. A survey conducted with 401 people was attached to the application, in which more than 97 percent of interviewees requested the transformation of the ancient building into a mosque and afterwards for it to be reopened for Muslim worship.”

 

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Implications of the Conversion

The conversion of this building has so many implications. As a follower of Christ I see a direct attack on Christendom. While it is true that a relationship with God is not dictated by physical buildings, I can’t help but feel sad that the icons of the Christian church will be covered up once again. The tension that exists there now will give way to a victory for Islam.

This issue is not simply a religious one though. There are many pieces of art in this building created by Christians that are not allowed to be present in a mosque. This means that they will be covered in one way or another and not only will the public not be allowed to view them, but further discovery of such pieces would likely halt. The artistic value of these incredibly detailed mosaics is undeniable. The historical nature of this building and its extant past infuse it with cultural significance. Buildings like this one are important examples of byzantine architecture and art. The conversion of this building will likely cause damage as has been seen in the other two converted churches.

In 2011 Michele Stopera Frehauf wrote an article for Popular Archaeology in which she asserts that:

“Hagia Sophia represents the very essence of the history of Turkey and the continuous transformation it has undergone throughout the ages and even today … As a Museum, this structure must remain a testimony to its past, Pagan, Christian and Muslim alike, standing to tell a story, in its structure and stones.”

This museum is a rich vein of history and its conversion into a mosque would stifle the benefit of being able to explore such a sacred space in an academic or religious way. Is the fate of the Hagia Sophia in Trabzon as depicted in The Economist a window into the future of Istanbul’s building?

“A red carpet now obscures exquisite floor mosaics. Shutters and tents beneath the central dome shield Muslim worshippers from “sinful” paintings of the Holy Trinity. Shiny steel taps with plastic stools for ablutions clutter a once-verdant garden filled with ancient sculptures.”

This Haunting image of a once richly historical place now shrouded in obscurity for the sake of Islam is a grim one. Only the future will show what will become of this sacred space.      

Poetry as Promised

Four poems written during and after

reading the poetry of T.S. Eliot

  

On Reading the Poetry of Eliot

Eliot.

Poet.

Read it.

Confounded.

Get it?

Confound it.

Repeat it.

Got it?

Forget it!

Quit…

Revisit.

Find it?

A bit.

 

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Kinetic Move

Time and memory swell and flow

Light dances with the shadow

Never lingering there too long

Gracefully flitting over sand and sea alike.

A man can be too still,

and Stagnation may be easily won,

More simply than silver and gold.

Yet still, time does not bother to stop.

Tell me, Thomas, when did you begin

To truly move in life?

was it Only once you saw the light

When you then sang of godly things?

Why is it then that I, your reader,

Feel less moved on drinking in those words

That feel to me so forced

—-Pushed

                                                                out—

                                                           painfully—

                                                    Where is the flow of light and time?

   —————————–

I Spy

Cut up

Fixed up

Jacked up

Mixed up

Snipped up

Picked up

Poetry’s not easy

Find the hidden meaning

or seek no meaning.

Feel the textured words.

Were we meant to see some truth here?

Or is it simply UP To interpretation?

———————-

 

The “Aha” Place

Words and phrases that are

Wound up like a spool of thread.

Like a child in a musty attic,

One comes to the pages to discover

Chrysoprase and porphyry beneath the dust.

Stretches of work, rewarded in kind,

with stretches of treasure, found.


Above one’s head, Edison’s invention,

A switch is flipped and it all converges,

This is the space of the “aha”.

“I get it now, I see the light”

One only hopes to reach that place


And oh, what ecstasy to feel

As though you were the first

To land on untouched soil, where

Other men have never stepped.

But then again how lonely…

I will feel the joy of seeing

That many more are here beside me

And rather than deplete the wealth,

Digging knee deep in the sand,

They multiply its opulence.

Here, at the end of all things (yet not quite an ending)

As we come to the end of yet another semester, I find myself unusually wistful. There is an increasing feeling of opportunities gained and of those missed as this earth continues it revolving dance with the sun. Reflection fills my mind with pictures that flash and glow like scenes in a dream sequence or a life in review moments before death. So much has happened and I feel almost as if each piece deserves its own space. However, there is little time for all of that and so much can be offered up in a summary form more conducive to reading. Among other things this spring was filled with school, music making, art exhibits, Los Angeles excursions, a car accident and many pensive, sun-dappled moments. I will give you just a few stories since I cannot fit everything in this little space between 1s and 0s. I’ll supplement this post with some poetry I wrote, inspired by T.S. Eliot.

I spent several delightful evenings this spring at The Charity shop. This is a fantastic little place operated by none other than Jordan Avila. In order to promote this place and garner the attention such a place deserves, events are being hosted that offer guests the opportunity to meet new friends, enjoy good food and discover burgeoning artists. Rapid courtships, box wine, crackers and goat cheese? a guaranteed good time. Stop by sometime and pick up something unique, its an incredible establishment, well worth a visit.

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The event of a lifetime of course was returning to Fauxchella. Joshua tree, Shangri La. The incredible miss Laurel Dailey is the true artificer of this world, read her own words about it. Heres my take: The little house off of a dirt road: Shangri La, hides a lot of things. It hides the fact that it is a virtual petri dish for creative minds. This isolated desert house, rented by a group of beatniks in the spring two years now seems to spawn fresh art. It may seem odd since its a dessert house surrounded by nothing but chaparral and, well, a lot of dirt. Yet when the ladies and gents start arriving at this piece of dusty thirsty ground, its like the gold rush era all over again. There’s gold in them hills. The untold secret of the California desert lies in its severe beauty and devastating sunsets. The stars that glitter in endless swaths that smash Hollywood’s cemented five pointed wannabe’s all to pieces. How could a human fail to find a muse in the peach and butter flavored sunrises, or in the way the horizon surrounds you in a low lying bowl of little foothills that seem to blanket you and strand you all in one motion? The song of the cicadas, invisible orchestras surrounding low lying tents, or the warm eddy of a raucous passing dust devil are the roots of the purest forms of essential human expression.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,

In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

Stevens said it well I think. We experience this world of natural, raw beauty and the result is the maker’s rage to order the words of the sea, of the mountain trees, of the desert sands and winds. This being said, going to Shangri La was merely an accident in this case. While there is obvious inspiration in that place, the artists who found themselves there possess talents that show themselves in any environment. Last year songs like this blew our minds. This year was no disappointment  Musicians gathered together, voices swelled, and instruments clamored, creating some of the most epic, beautiful music I have ever heard. The place where this happened might have something to do with the magical creation that took place there, but I am certain that the people involved make up the majority of that incredible experience from year to year and it is a unique privilege to know them, though we be ships in the night. I wrote this piece about that experience with the inspiration of the desert, Wallace Stevens and East of Eden:

Mountainous atmospheres of sky and sea,

We believe that miracles happen here

Where creative angst takes a final stand

Sparkling earth admits this, a mere

Ground for growing that which we understand

To be a breeding ground where all will mirror

Every expression, developing, coming to hand.

Fire withers and consumes such fears

That mortal minds build to be grand.

However barren it may to one appear,

This is arrival in a fertile land

Watered not by rain, a hemisphere,

A world created by the makers minds and

Offered only accidentally to those who hear.

This is the agricultural dream of melodies,

Enter in and here retrieve

Any pieces you have lost along the way.

——————————————–

The memorabilia in my mind does not end there. Other bits and pieces roll around like the tumbleweeds you see in the desert and I’m looking around at them to see which I should capture to offer up next.

Another highlight of the new year, 2013, would be Sacred Streets. This is an art exhibit created by Jason Leith and installed on Skid Row in Los Angeles. He created portraits of homeless individuals living in the area and set them up in a sort of makeshift temple. each portrait contained saint-like symbolism and was accompanied by a story about the person depicted. This exhibit served to offer a connection between the viewers and the people on skid row, some of whom were one in the same. It was an incredible opportunity for members of different communities to connect through art placed in a very unusual space. It is not often that an artist chooses to showcase their work in a place that is famous for its dense homeless population. However, Jason created a place where people who are often looked down upon in society were shown, etched and sketched on pieces of found objects, some gilded with gold-leaf, in a new and radical light. Depicting these people in a manner similar to the way that the saints of the church are rendered gave viewers a chance to adopt a completely different point of view. Many of the stories shown here contained tales of beautiful spirituality and intense spirituality that put me to shame. One woman even directly asked God if it was His will for her portrait to be drawn when Leith approached her. After I had looked through the gallery I stood outside in the light drizzling LA night and watched the faces of people ascending the steps into this space and viewing the artwork in this unusual venue. As a friend and I stood observing this, we saw some homeless men and women approach the gallery with some suspicion, eyeing the security guard at the door. Would he let them in, was this place only for those with homes? No, he even helped some people up the stairs, this is a place that all are welcome. One homeless man approached, not on his legs but borne by two wheels. Immediately my companion realized that the gallery was not wheelchair accesible and he could not get in. We gazed as another man pushed the wheelchair around to each of the four doors of the gallery and the man looked in. In this occurrence I saw a similarity to the story of the paralytic man who is taken to Jesus to be healed but cannot get to him because of the crowd, his six friends carried him to the roof and took of the shingles to lower him at the Lord’s feet. Approaching the fourth and final door, this man, unable to use his legs could not enter the sacred space. Then something incredible happened. As if from nowhere, about five or six people from different places around that door surrounded the wheelchair and after a moment or so of discussion I could not hear, lifted the chair up, over the steps and into the structure. After wheeling around inside the man was borne out again and I think Robynne saw a tear glisten on his cheek.

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This rapidly growing year has presented many new things and continuations of old ones. Friendships are strengthened or broken, things created and worlds changed. My best friend is engaged (she’s not the only one) and I have one final year of school ahead of me. I have raided bookstores (especially this one), spent too much time on pinterest, and learned much more about nursing. A major chapter comes to a close in my own life, but not before I read Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, T.S. Eliot, Lewis, and Chesterton among others, and struggled with some of the most difficult things I have encountered yet. And after all this I gotta say, the future is comin’ on.

My Christmas List

I went to write a Christmas list this year, like you asked for. I started out by writing that I want Marilynne Robinson’s “When I was a Child I Read Books”, The “Pina” dance film, the SLAKE literary journal, The poetry of Dana Gioia, also a record player. These are things I sort of want but I can tell you that what I want even more is simply to spend time with my family, to go places, do things and see things. I want to go to the theater, and walk around LA, and spend time smelling books in used bookstores and talk for hours over steaming coffee as it grows cold, and to look into the eyes of my mother and father and brothers and feel contentment. To see the ocean in the winter and to see trees that dress up so fantastically for the seasons. I want to experience the world every day as if it was the last day of my life, but also as if the big picture includes more than just me. I want to learn people and meet new ones all the time. I want to serve God like my life depended on Him, because, lets face it, it does.

I want to cook meals and watch the people I love enjoy them. I want to receive letters and spend time writing back. I want to find secret places where magic still exists and bask in the warmth of the untouched places still left to this world. I want to read poetry and stories out loud in spaces made just for that purpose, underneath a spreading chestnut tree or over a lazy river on a warm summer day. I want to run around like a child and lie in the grass guessing at the shapes shifting in the clouds. I want to go to a zoo. I want to read, and read, and read, then talk with people about books and find those who are as fascinated with the world as I am.

I want to see creation through I microscope and through a telescope, then just with my own eyes. I want to write new stories, not because I think I can add to the vast world of literature as it is but because I want to respond to the conversation of time that beckons me in. I want to climb to the tops of tall buildings and watch sunsets and sunrises. I want to make snow angels and sandcastles and daisy chains. I want to love and to be loved. I want to shop in thrift shops and spend my free time talking to homeless people and showing them the love of the Father. I want to create paintings, drawings and music that will remind people of the one who created us in His image so we could be little creators. I want to listen to the craftsmanship of great composers and skilled musicians, and gape for hours at the brush strokes of the demi-gods who are worshipped in galleries.

I want to collect sea glass on the oceans doorstep and train marbles by the tracks. I want to breathe the air of different countries and see how its different from mine – or the same. I want to make wishes on eyelashes, puffed up white dandelions and shooting stars. I want to let the televisions of the world gather dust and fall asleep while I see the world for what it really is. I want to watch things grow and watch them die to let other things in. I love music and art and literature and people and conversation and timeless moments. I want to stretch in the sun on a wooden boat on a tired old river with trees hugging the banks. I want to hold a hedgehog and ride a horse. I want to eat fresh snow every winter and feel my face grow red and icy in the cold wind. I want to go for long walks in forests when they are fully clothed and when they are completely naked. I want to sleep for hours knowing that the people I love are near me and that they are safe. I want to click my heels and play my violin and dance even though I so obviously don’t know how.

I want to hear people’s stories and let them cry and laugh. I want to get wrinkles around my eyes and mouth where I laugh and frown. I want to sing and talk till I’m hoarse and then do it some more. I want to play board games all night with you, mom. I want you to beat me at scrabble and tell me how you only drink herbal tea and hate vegetables and salad dressing. I want to sit across from you in the fat chairs in your room and hear about your students and your teaching and how much you love what you do. I want to hear stories about how you grew up with your sisters and how you met daddy. I want to know what it was like for you to see your children grow up from babies to become adults. I want to see you bundle up in the cold so I can laugh and call you “snow penguin”. I want to learn how you did it all those years – how you took care of four kids who could drive anybody insane. I want to reminisce about the times you read to us on sleepy afternoons with the smell of fresh baked bread laced in the air like an opiate. I want to give you foot massages since I’m the only one who doesn’t tickle your feet. I want to come in your room and jump on your bed to distract you from your Grisham novel when you’re tucked into bed in your jamies. I want to curl up next to you so that you stroke my hair and call me your favorite daughter (lucky for me you only have one). I want to tell you all of my stories and secrets and revel in our blooming friendship. I want to talk about how brilliant my little brother is. I want to make you laugh and see your beautiful smile light up the room. I want to tell you that you’re the most incredible mother a girl could ever ask for and that I love you more than all the things this world has to offer. These are the things that I really want this year. I know its a tall order so you don’t have to get me everything listed here. I’ll understand if the only one I can have is cuddling with you. I love you momma.

Hummus making

Today’s adventure was Hummus. I haven’t made it before and my family is on a health kick so they are letting me make them great, healthy food. I used this recipe and modified it a bit.

I used:

One 15 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
• Juice from one lemon
• One artichoke heart in oil
• ¼ cup water
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1 teaspoonTrader Joe’s thyme, lemon, and bay sea salt
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 10 sprigs parsley
• ½ teaspoon paprika (on top as garnish)

I used this juicer to get the max amount of use out of my lemon, I don’t think the recipe was expecting that and this ended up making the final product a little bit watery!

 

 All together in the blender…

…baby food…

The final product: topped with oil and paprika with mixed veggies for dipping!

Stealing Gum

I just finished reading Douglas Coupland’s Gum thief. This book simply adds to Coupland’s already rich reputation for having a finger on the pulse of our culture. I first experienced this author’s talent for pinpointing the attitude of the current times in Life After God. I sat reading on the floor of my brother’s living room in LA, while he slept in the back room. I was absorbed in that book and finished it in about an hour. Since then I have read All Families are Psychotic, Shampoo Planet, and parts of Microserfs and Generation X. In The Gum Thief Coupland writes in an unusual format, using diary entries, letters and a novel as the only form of interaction between characters with no actual dialogue. His story centers around Rodger and his coworker Bethany and their lives, past and present, as they work at Staples, the monster of an office superstore. Through their own and other’s written interactions Coupland explores themes of life and death, love and loneliness in relationships: lovers, mother and daughter, a divorced husband and wife, and of humanities pursuit of success, often accompanied by failure and disappointment. Coupland pinpoints some hard to admit realities that humans deal with. He writes “Your Joan of Arcs and Supermans don’t come around too often. Mostly the world is made up of people like me, plodding along. It’s what people do–plod plod plod. While it kills me to come to grips with the fact that I’m like everyone else, that pain is outweighed by the comfort I get from being a member of the human race” (Gum Thief 256). Everyone wants to be someone, but for the most part people aren’t Leonardo da Vinci and they don’t always end up creating light bulbs or penicillin. Coupland offers a hope that finds its basis in the fact that the experience of being human is a shared thing. No one goes through the pain of failure alone, since the same mistakes have been made before and will be made again in the future. In the first pages of this novel Coupland’s character Roger writes “At least if you’re bitter, you know that you’re like everybody else.” Poor people are bitter, rich people are bitter, everyone is miserable. This certainly carries some truth, and yet, I’m not sure how comforting it is to realize that everyone is sick. Roger’s ‘epiphany’ that “Having the same illness as everybody else truly is the definition of health” (23) does not make me jump for joy. The universality of humanity’s plight certainly brings some measure of comfort: we are not alone. Yet, I would say that our patterns of failure, and periodic feelings of hopelessness, are born out of the sin begun in Adam and Eve and passed down to every single fetus pushed into this world since then. Although our trouble is universal, it isn’t normal. While Coupland offers a visceral and honest account of life now, as it really is, he doesn’t know where to look for hope. It certainly can’t be found among the wreckage of the blind leading the blind, in a world where being sick is universal. Instead the hope must come from outside of this madness. In a review from Entertainment Weekly, Coupland is described as “Dark and cutting about our flourescent-lit times.” It continues, saying, “but there’s also a real underlayer of gratitude here, for the hand that can reach down and unite you in the darkness.” The hand reaching into the darkness is a lost concept in The Gum Thief, There is an obvious need for it, and a longing for an outside something that will repair the problems in the world. However, Coupland’s characters only seem to find solace in one another and the universal nature of the human experience.

I love Coupland’s work and this book is no less brilliant than his others that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far. He has a magnificent talent for understanding and explaining to people what life is like now, a talent which has been undervalued in most current media. I appreciate the focus on something which is taken for granted by many artists and can offer a view of our life and times that may help us to re-evaluate and live better.

A strawberry nectarine kind of morning

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          This morning I woke up after a dream about making sweet potato pancakes and my mouth was watering. Unfortunately I don’t have any sweet potatoes right now so instead I went in search of other good breakfast recipes. I was inspired not only by my dream but also found the spark in Brett McCracken‘s latest article about Eating Christianly. The idea of paying close attention to what you are eating, to keep your body healthy and to enjoy the food you have is an awesome way to work on being whole human beings. With my fairy dust in hand I set about an adventure to take time to create something that I could then enjoy. It is a well-known fact that you gain more pleasure from the things that you work hard to get. In my search I discovered a recipe for a Peach smoothie, which looked lovely, so I repeated the experiment with a few changes.

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For starters I used a plain yogurt instead of Greek simply because my budget is a little tight. I also decided to use nectarines instead of peaches and add strawberries to the mix (using what I have!). The original recipe uses Stevia, which is a great idea if you like a little sweetness in your drink. I like my smoothies a little bitter and my coffee black (unadulterated pleasure!).

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Blend it all up…

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…make some French press coffee on the side, add toast with strawberry jam…

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…and viola! a delicious, contemplated brunch (it was 11 o’clock by the time I finished!). Two drinks too much? I think not, the warm, rich coffee did a wonderful job of balancing out the creamy, cold smoothie!

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A Confederacy of Dunces

I finally got around to reading this book after it was recommended to me by my brother. I had read Neon Bible because it was shorter and I loved the way Toole wrote that novel and how he worked the end. Confederacy has a similar feeling and was everything I hoped it would be. Toole writes a comedic story about a sort of pitiful, foolish character called Ignatius. The story follows this corpulent, blundering man through different events and attempts to find employment and share his ‘infinite knowledge’ with what he perceives to be a desperate, decadent world that needs him to survive/progress. The main character’s name, Ignatius, also applies to my Torrey Honors cohort group. Interestingly enough as I read this text I was suprised and a little frightened by how much Ignatius Riley seems like a Torrey student. The Torrey Honors Institute is a great books program at Biola University that is, according to its mission statement, “designed to hone students’ critical thinking skills by exposing them to classical texts and using discussion as the primary mode of instruction.” I have been involved with this program since high school and have a strong affinity for their way of teaching. However, there is room for error here as everywhere. Sometimes Torrey students learn and learn and learn, and learn so much that they forget to do anything else, or they forget why they are learning, or they start to think they are better than everyone else which means they don’t have to associate with them. Toole’s Ignatius has his masters degree and is continually quoting Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy as he bemoans Fortuna’s cruel turning of her vicious wheel. He is smart, there is no doubt about that. However, he is also consistently mistreating and misunderstanding real people. Towards the end of the book the character’s mother says, “You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being” (427). Although the intellectual capacity is there, Ignatius never makes the jump from head to heart. He has no love, except for himself, and he cannot connect with the real world. This is seen best in one of his conversations with the gay man who calls himself Dorian Greene. He says “I suspect that beneath your offensively and vulgarly effeminate facade there may be a soul of sorts. Have you read widely in Boethius?” The man has no idea what he is talking about and vaguely replies that he never reads newspapers. Ignatius is continually trying to “better his fellow man” when it is not obvious that they even need his help. a thirty-something man who still lives with his mother and thinks that he is the one with something to offer. Dear Torrey students please don’t forget why you are learning! connect your heads with your hearts and hands and live in the world. Do not let learning be all you do but as you learn, do. Let people teach you real life things and don’t be always behind a book. Remember reality and engage it.

Connectitude

This is a story about connections. I’m telling you because of my own surprise and wonder at the impact that a glimpse at the fabric of our world, our Father’s world, can have on a person. It may have be one of those events where you just ‘had to be there’ but I’ll try and give you a feel for what I experienced.

I’ve heard so many times that this is a small world and yet, though you hear a thing a thousand times those moments where you really and truly grasp something not just with your mind but also with your heart can make a thing that much more real. Things still jump out of the bushes and from behind walls to give you a jolt and remind you of their ‘reallness’. This is a small world, and yet, not in a small way. There is freaky amount of veritable collagen binding our world together and the series of seeming coincidences which follow gave me a momentary vision of the magnitude of the small world.

I have a voracious reading habit. I don’t read because I am super intelligent; I read because I’m behind. I have a whole world to catch up on and I’m miles behind. Its a hard thing to keep up with the thousands of years of history and keep a tight enough hold on reality. You’ve got to remember that you’re alive and not part of some book, you live now and you have to see people and talk to them and then write the next story that people in the future will have to catch up with; but for now I am catching up.

I was reading an article in New Yorker Magazine and it told a story about some guy who cut and pasted every part of his spy novel from various places and then claimed that it was all his own work. The poor sap would have been fine if he had just admitted that it wasn’t his own, that he had borrowed work from everyone else. Its not that bad of a skill to be able to dissect, snip, and fuse chunks of other people’s writing into a cohesive piece; but the guy had to say it was his, not a mashup, but an original. Poor fellow. Of course he made some good choices on who to cut from. He picked people like Scott Bradfield, Robert Coover and Don DeLillo. I took notes on who he had picked, and went to look these fellows up. I found a Delillo in the library, not Americana, the novel our friend the klepto had lifted from, but instead one called White Noise. It was incredible. Thats the first part of my story. I was led to a great book, but it wasn’t even the one I meant to find. So far so good.

Another thing was this: A few weeks ago I went in to talk to one of my teachers about writing. He’s brilliant about it. Excited like a little fox chasing a squirrel, but he chases creative writing. Well I wanted some tips and tricks of the trade to push me along in my writing and he did not disappoint. He told me that Mahatma Gandhi had said that “Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it”. Basically you are only a tiny part of the big picture but you have to do what you do in the tapestry to make it whole. Good quote. I never wanted to be mediocre and he said maybe its fine if you aren’t on top, if you’re an Einstein or a Michelangelo you would know. I guess I know I’m not them. But I am me and I’m supposed to create. I want to contribute to the chunk of work about memory I told him. He said great, good idea. I told him about my inspiration, the last time this coincidence thing happened. I wanted to start writing about memory and then I read Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine which is all made a dredge of memories that resulted in this delicious book. As sweet as Dandelion Wine. So he gives me some tips on books on memory and on the list is something called Swan’s way (I learn later that its Swann’s way, I didn’t know) so I write that down and save it for later. So far so good. At the time I’m reading some other book called 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Brilliant stuff. Ate it up. Especially for a translated text, I’m in shock at how good the words taste coming off the page; incredible. As I’m eating this text, word by word, the main character is reading too. She has picked up a set of books known for being long. Almost too long to read. She has some time on her hands and starts reading ‘In search of Lost Time’ Which is by Proust. Great, sounds interesting to me. I’ll write it down, check it out later. I probably won’t be able to read something all the way through which is notorious for being too long to finish. Maybe I would just pick a section and get a feel for Proust (a name I’ve heard but never read). So far so good.

Next, go to the library and check for the books I’ve been writing down now. The culmination of a collection of various unrelated suggestions and indications for further reading. When I look up DeLillo and realize we have White Noise but not Americana, I second guess pulling this one out. I’ve never heard of it. Oh well its the only thing our library has. Apparently penguin liked it, this is part of a list of 20 books of the 20th centuries greatest literature. So far so good. I look up ‘In search of Lost Time’ and realize that ‘Swann’s Way’ is actually a large part of that series. Wow, thats a weird coincidence, my teacher told me to look for a book that just so happens to be mentioned in the book I was wading through at the time. So I look at the list in the beginning of the penguin book and lo and behold not only is One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest on there (a book I had just read two weeks before) but another book, not In Search of Lost Time, I guess that would be too big, no, ‘Swann’s Way’ specifically. These books are not even related in their content they only fall into the same broad time spectrum of the twentieth century.

How does that happen? How can all of the things I read be connected like this? Its uncanny. Its scary. it makes the world feel incredibly small and incredibly huge at the same time. Rough. I see spider webs clinging to my life in a raging network, and the spiders are on it yelling at me to remember that they’re connecting this whole world together. I don’t know whether to be happy or to freak out. So I do both. It just sort of makes you sit back and slack jaw for a good minute or two (just as long as no one’s looking). Its just weird to get a flash of a bigger picture. Sure you know that things connect, six degrees and all that. But its one thing to know it and another thing to really see it for a second and feel the weight of the strands that draw a world into order. Sort of deconstructing the chaos you thought had a part in life and putting things in boxes. Not boxes that restrain the content but boxes like little galaxies that contain universes planets and stars. Huge little places that contain mysteries, totally magic. Ridiculously intricate, not easy to get a handle on or wrap your mind around. You might think that seeing the organization might make things seem a little boring, not as free as you thought they were. Instead it has essentially the opposite effect on me. Realizing that everything I go for reaches back, around, through, and up, into, from, and by history is really a beautiful thing and it makes you feel small. Small but also like you could be a part of this, that you almost have to be a part of all of this. The things you do, make, create, are going to end up slung up into this web, part of the galaxies rolling around above our heads and surprising us when we happen to look up. That miraculous moment before we drop our bewildered heads back down to our chests and lose the glimpse once again. But we hold on to that remembrance of what we happened to see. It keeps us going for awhile and draws us upward to something higher. To spirituality, to holiness, to the divine, to God. It raises your soul up to see the degree of intimacy between the ideas, the writing, the art and the music that men make. An infinitely wide tapestry that is woven so delicately and beautifully you know we couldn’t have done this all by ourselves, we’re too close to it to see it all like that. I know in my mind that the one who made this work of life is omni, that he can do anything and everything. That of course he’s capable of building a matrix like this one. But when I see it, when I actually get a peek behind the curtain and see how big it really could be, I’m flat on my back. Awesome. Wow. Okay now don’t forget about it, let it inform your life. That’s the hard part. Well try. Okay, try.

“Wow”. My Aunt Sharon, who was the director of Camp Cherith at Sky Meadows for forty years, used to give star talks and weave wonderful stories to awestruck children about the bears, scorpions and hunters that glitter from the night sky. She is incredibly charismatic and has a twinkle in her eyes that may have come from the heavens itself. As she wraps up her talk she invites her audience, whose necks are getting sore, to lay down on the hard dirt floor and stare up at the sky. She says “Our God created all of this, doesn’t it just make you say…’wow'”. When I see the intricate nature of the cosmos, which extends not only to physical creation, but also to the moving growing hearts, minds and souls of mankind, I do want to say “wow”.