An Open Door

Standard

Speaking from experience…

Serve the Lord in strength with what you may,
And be not fretful for another way,
The good works He assigned for you to do,
Before He said, "Light, be!" those deeds He knew.

You say, "I would do such and such for Him,
If He would open doors and show me in,
Great things I would accomplish for His fame,
If He would let me walk this rosy lane.

But in your haste to pound on bolted doors,
You waste your strength and think yourself so poor,
When all along, there stood an open stair,
But where it led, you willed not to go there.

'Tis better to descend the lowly stair,
And languish in the pit, if God be there,
For you may walk a thorny path of pain,
But if Christ leads there, you've everything to gain.
Advertisements

Dancing With Degas

Standard

My last post put me on a Edgar Degas kick and reminded me of a jewelry project I made back in March for the “Springtime in Paris” contest hosted by Michaels craft store.

springtime_in_paris_collageMy project was inspired by Degas’ ballerinas: black ribbon chokers, colorful flowers in their hair and on their tutus. His palette is so vibrant, and I took the liberty of using my own favorite color (orange) as the primary theme.

I didn’t win the contest (the winners are quite something, though — check them out here), but I sure had fun making and designing my entry. The contest motivated me to set the creative fires burning, and it gave me a practical reason to do it (always important, I say).

Here are a few of Degas’ dancers that got my muse going.

“The Star (Dancer on Stage)”

“The Ballet Class”

See more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/honey-theyre-playing-our-painting/#sthash.3COlDbtP.dpuf

“Dancer Taking a Bow (The Prima Ballerina)”

Paris has never been my dream vacation spot — I have a feeling the reality is a far cry from the Hollywood-ized, romanticized motif I see in craft stores and home decor. But if someone legit ever gave me a plane ticket and said, “You’re going to Paris,” I’m sure it would set my little heart dancing. I wouldn’t turn it down — I want to go to the Louvre.

To set foot in the heart of idyllic romanticism
To experience the reality for myself,
not through the rosy glass of imagination, but through
my own senses
— the beautiful, the common, the real.
To stand before representatives of the greatest
artwork of the ages,
with air alone
between me and them.

See the colors – the colors! – and hear the strange, fluid voices
rolling into my ears.
I open my wide mouth to
drink it all in.
Whet the wanderlust and call me away
To La Ville Lumiere,
Ah, Paris!
A star of history’s play,
What riches lie in your coffers?
Let me spy on your stores
Feel your pulse
Taste your air.

 

The Cage

Standard

These verses were inspired by George Herbert’s poem, “The Collar.” In my own words, I echo his same conclusion. The life of a Christian may feel like captivity at times, yet true freedom is never found in rebellion against Him.

With Herbert I would see the world abroad,
Depart this gilded cage and risk the rod,
To live, to learn, to love, to lust, to laugh,
To taste forbidden wine, its stores to quaff.

Behind the bars I hear the whispering sighs,
“Sweet, Youth! Your sun is only on the rise,
Seize up the moment, journey while there’s light,
Forsake the crippling perch; rise up! take flight!”

With flurried wings in flustered thought I beat
Against the bars – relentless, no retreat,
The door gives way and in a frenzied rage
I tumble out and down, rid of my cage.

A sudden swirl, and falling, falling. Then
Tempestuous wind claws at my wings to rend,
Now down and down I plunge, the sun goes dim,
The smoth’ring clouds like ocean waves close in.

Oh, Youth, where is your golden, guiding sun?
Beneath the clouds you’ll find no other one,
Your golden cage looked on the morning’s dawn,
Yet here in ‘freedom’s’ cloud the light is gone.

Living Like Moths

Standard

Of course Annie Dillard is a poet; I can hear it in her prose. She wrote lyrical sentences, making ample use of assonance and consonance as though she intended her essays to be read aloud. “Pale moths seeking mates massed round my head in the clearing, where my light made a ring.” “He was ten inches long, thin as a curve, a muscled ribbon, brown as fruitwood, soft-furred, alert.” She wrote music without a staff while coaxing the English language into pleasing arrangements of rhythm and sound. “His journal is tracks in clay, a spray of feathers, mouse blood and bone: uncollected, unconnected, loose-leaf, and blown.”

In the three selections of hers that I read (“The Death of a Moth,” “Living Like Weasels,” and “Singing with the Fundamentalists”) she followed one of Strunk and White’s golden rules of writing: “use definite, specific, concrete language.” It’s hard to express how soothing the vision of a university professor’s “long, old ear” is or how satisfying the picture of a weasel that “would have made a good arrowhead.” I guess some people might think I’m funny because of that. Maybe it is funny. But I get so sick of empty abstractions that have gone bald from overuse that I want – I need – something to hold onto. Something fleshy, something pointy. Something sensational.

I want sweat, I want dirt, I want smoky smells and candle wax. I want moth heads spattering in fire; I want virgins facing death on a crackling pyre. All on a stage lit by saffron-yellow lights, with muddy shadows dancing eerily on the curtains.

Dillard supplied my want.

I didn’t know a moth’s death scene could furnish such a sensation. In “The Death of a Moth” Dillard takes a disgusting phenomenon and transforms it into a metaphor of power and brilliance. It truly is a “Transfiguration in a Candle Flame.” She uses radiant, rich vocabulary to describe the scene and create a mood of awe that haunts readers. Golden, flamed, frazzled, tissue paper, moving, circle of light, blue, green, red, fine, foul smoke, glowing, gold, moth-essence, spectacular, burning, soaking, flame, saffron-yellow, immolating, winding flames, light, fire, glowing, fire, hollow saint, flame-faced, light, kindled – notice how she repeats the themes of gold, light, and flame, reminding readers of a pagan ritual, of a holy sacrifice to the gods. Although a scorched insect doesn’t normally conjure up lofty thoughts, Dillard’s moth does because of the author’s skillful wording.

Dillard contrasts her striking moth with the miserable carcasses scattered under the spider’s web behind her toilet. For those creatures she manufactures an ugly mood – drab, mess, corpses, husks, hollow, sipped empty of color, wingless, flake, carcasses, crinkled, clenched, blind, blundering, hazard, mouth on gut, sticky tangle, shines darkly, gleams, smooth, shrunk, gray, webbed to the floor, dust, curled, empty, fragile, brittle fluff, translucent, ragged, drying in knots, stagger, headless, confusion, peeling varnish, jumble, reduced to a nub. Instead of taking her readers to the temple of the gods, she takes them to the Little Shop of Horrors.

In both illustrations, Dillard characterizes two kinds of people: those who live, die, and fade away in insignificance and those who live with strength, make the world take notice, and die in splendor. Dillard does not want to live like the masses do – like bugs behind the toilet. They will be forgotten – “Next week, if the other bodies are any indication, [they’ll] be shrunk and gray, webbed to the floor with dust.” She wants to live with luster.

Dillard’s essay challenges Virginia Woolf’s essay of a similar title: “The Death of the Moth.” A generation earlier, Woolf had also witnessed a moth meet its end, but her response to it differed from Dillard’s. The hay-colored moth on Woolf’s windowsill faded helplessly under the crush of death, but Dillard’s golden moth literally goes out (pardon the cliché) in a blaze of glory. Woolf stressed temporality; Dillard stresses memorability. Woolf’s moth was serene and prostrate; Dillard’s is crackling, blazing, and erect. Dillard saw death differently than Woolf – instead of quietly succumbing to the inevitability of death, Dillard wants to stand out and leave her mark on history, strong to the end.

At the end of “The Death of a Moth,” Dillard says, “Sometimes I think it is pretty funny that I sleep alone.” She must have identified with the moth, a singular beacon shining in the wax. Though alone, she kindled a fire of her own (and still does to this day) by leaving her stories, essays, and poems behind like signal fires for future generations of writers and readers.

Worth Repeating 4

Quote

Rather a long quote, but this poem is definitely worth repeating in full.

The Collar

by George Herbert

I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
                         I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
          Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
          Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
    Before my tears did drown it.
      Is the year only lost to me?
          Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
                  All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
            And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
             Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
          And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
          Away! take heed;
          I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
          He that forbears
         To suit and serve his need
          Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
          At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
          And I replied My Lord.