Monday, August 20, 2007

A few things I've liked lately

1. "Stardust" -- go see it -- it's a fun fairytale to spend some time in.

2. the sea breeze that has just started breathing again into the heat

3. being among C.S. Lewis's thoughts as he wrestled with losing his wife in A Grief Observed.
A few striking moments:

"One never meets just Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment that comes. .. Many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst. One never gets the total impact of what we call 'the thing itself.'...The thing itself is simply all these ups and downs: the rest is a name or an idea."

"Is it rational to believe in a bad God? ... The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile?
I think it is, if nothing else, too anthropomorphic. When you come to think of it, it is far more anthropomorphic than picturing Him as a grave old king with a long beard. That image is a Jungian archetype. It links God with all the wise old kings in the fairy-tales, with prophets, sages, magicians. though it is (formally) the picture of a man, it suggests something more than humanity. At the very least it gets in the idea of something older than yourself, something that knows more, something you can't fathom. It preserves mystery. Therefore room for hope."

"Images of the Holy easily become holy images -- sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. .. The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins... All reality is iconoclastic. The early beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her..."

"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask -- half our great tehological and metaphysical problems -- are like that."

4. Watching Silas learn to anticipate -- playing with the train at the bookstore, running out of edamame while he is still eating them, getting to the park.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

I am sitting on the living room floor drinking mint tea. Ben and my mom are sitting on the couch. We have been talking about death, about roles and loss, and so many things we know nearly nothing about.

Somehow during our conversation, after talking about C.S. Lewis, we started talking about the name of the cat who wore little dresses and bonnets and lived in a tree on Mr. Roger's Land of Make Believe -- almost immediately the name Henrietta rolled off my tongue. It's funny how the characters from childhood stay nestled somewhere in our minds for the rest of our lives.

If you feel nostalgic for King Friday, Queen Sara Saturday, Prince Tuesday who goes to school Some Place Else and Henrietta Pussycat:

I love childhood.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I didn't used to understand this poem

by Elizabeth Bishop:

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Ben, Silas and I just flew back home from a weekend in DC. We went for Steve's wedding and to spend a little time with his mom. At the wedding we talked for a while with our friend Sherry, a strong, spunky woman who is battling cancer, herself. She was full of wisdom and bold enough to ask us hard questions -- about funeral arrangements and wills, about Welcome Home parties and grief. She said that she does not want her doctors to give her any kind of time frame for her life, that she won't let them. What good does it do, she asked, to be told that there is no hope; hope is all that we have.

The more I've thought about her words, the more I agree. I cannot imagine the kind of pressure that rests on every single hour Cindy's had since a doctor told her she had 8 healthy weeks of life left. And when there's that much pressure on small moments and big ones, how much risk there is for disappointment... How deep will she have to dig for hope?

Sherry and I talked about what a solitary road cancer is, that even when she is surrounded by people who love her, she still has cancer alone, still falls asleep in her own thoughts at night, still feels the pain by herself and alone is facing death. I think for most of life we can trick ourselves into believing that we don't, actually, have to go it alone, and in many ways that is true; we so rarely have to be stripped down to our cores and forced to stand outside. But cancer does that to people, and so does great loss.

Christina and Drake are standing outside holding sharp silver hope. I hope when Cindy reaches in her pocket, she finds shards too, glimmering, polished, warm to the touch.