Tag Archive - Words

11 Favorite Turns of Phrase

I have an almost idolatrous relationship with words. I admit it. To be able to express a thought, an emotion, with precision…to make it live in the mind and heart of another is deeply satisfying. I admire writers who string words together elegantly, evocatively. I have collected these for years. Here are a few of my favorites.

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery…  ~Annie Dillard

In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. ~Aeschylus

All this indescribable thing that we call the Christmas atmosphere only hangs in the air as something like a lingering fragrance or fading vapor from the exhultant explosion of that one hour in the Judean hills nearly two thousand years ago.  But the savor is still unmistakable, and it is something too subtle or too solitary to be covered by our use of the word peace.  ~G.K. Chesterton

For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.  ~Mary Oliver

Trample not on any; there may be some work of grace there, that thou knowest not of.  The name of God may be written upon that soul thou treadest on; it may be a soul that Christ thought so much of as to give his precious blood for it; therefore, despise it not.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.  ~e.e.cummings

I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.  The function of man is to live, not to exist…  ~Jack London

I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles.  Also, of endless books.  My father bought all the books he read and he never got rid of any of them.  There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not.  Nothing was forbidden me.  In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves.  I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.  ~C.S. Lewis

My worship is a blue sky and ten thousand crickets in the deep, wet hay of the field. My vow is the silence under their song.  ~Thomas Merton

Most children enjoy the sound of language for its own sake. They wallow in repetitions and luscious word-sounds and the crunch and slither of onomatopoeia.  ~Ursula K. LeGuin

Luck!
In the house of breathings lies that word, all fairness. The walls are rubinen and the glittergates of elfinbone. The roof herof is of massicious jasper and a canopy of Tyrian awning rises and still descends to it. A grape cluster of lights hangs therebeneath and all the house is filled with the breathings of her fairness, the fairness of fondance and the fairness of milk and rhubarb and fairness of roasted meats and uniomargrits and the fairness of promise with consonantia and avowels. There lies her word, you reader! The height herup exalts it and the lowness her down abaseth it. It vibroverberates upon the tegmen and prosplodes from pomoeria.  ~James Joyce

Where have you found words wielded winsomely? A phrase that delights your senses?

 

 

Eleven Elevens: the Concept

I am not mathy. Numbers are not my friends. Usually. But even I could not overlook the rather unusual occurrence coming up just two weeks from today. For the only time this century, the date will read 11.11.11. That’s wicked awesome! In my humble, non-mathematical opinion.

To commemorate this most auspicious occasion, I am writing eleven posts, beginning November 1st. In keeping with the theme, each will be a list of eleven….somethings. Eleven secrets to powerful procrastination, perhaps. Eleven places that have stolen my heart. Eleven great recipes for brussels sprouts. You get the picture.

Here’s where I could use your help. I have several list ideas already. But, as you can see from the whole brussels sprouts thing, not all of them are very good. Shoot me some suggestions. Sublime or ridiculous, all will be considered.

God bless you for your kindness.

May your tribe increase.

Elevenfold. 😉

If I Were Really Brave….

Luci Swindoll is a wild woman. Her life story throbs with adventure, with risks taken and narrow escapes, with moments seized and savored. Few people know how to squeeze more glory out of a life than she.

However, even she has a few things she would like to have done differently. Opportunities missed. Moments when she wishes she would have followed her heart. She talks about this in  her book, Doing Life Differently: The Art of Living With Imagination. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I keep asking myself, “What are the dreams I surrendered too easily? What would I do if I were really brave?” And, most importantly, “Which of these is still possible?”

They are uncomfortable, vulnerable, scary, thrilling questions to ponder. I thought it might be easier if you and I consider them together. So, I will share a few of mine with you and you can share yours with me. If you dare. And maybe we will end up borrowing one or two from each other. And we can sit out on the ledge together until one of us has the courage to jump. 🙂

Write a Book  There. I said it. Out loud. It is something that has tugged at my heart for a couple of years now. But I keep sabotaging myself. I say I have no time. Which is true, and not true. I do have many demands on my time. And I feel selfish writing when there is  a baby to take care of and homework or laundry or dishes to be done. But, I also waste time. Every day. Mostly I’m scared. Scared that it will be awful. Scared I will write it and nobody will read it.

Play the Mandolin  I bought one. That’s a start, right? I love it’s sound…in bluegrass…in lovely Venetian barcarolles and love songs. And, though it has 8 strings, it only has 4 pitches. Pretty accessible, given that I am already relatively musical. But it’s harder than it looks. And there’s that whole time thingy. It’s looking across the room at me right now. As I type this. Not accusing, exactly. Singing…softly…

Study Abroad  Was this even available when I was in college? I didn’t know about it if it was. But I wish I had had the chutzpa to get myself out of the country, one way or another, when I was younger; more malleable.

Study Literature or Art History at the University Level I could totally be one of those people who just goes to college for the rest of my life. I actually looked into it a couple of years ago. But, it’s expensive. And the schedule is inflexible. So for now, I read great literature on my own. And visit museums. And attend lectures. And read about artists…

Become Fluent in Another Language  This is one of two that Luci and I share. I know a fair amount of survival French and bits of Italian and German. But, I would like to know another language well enough that I could have a thought in that language without thinking it in English and translating. Does that make sense? Phrases sometimes come to me in French. That’s a start, I suppose. But I am far from being able to carry on a comfortable conversation without lots of stopping and starting and wrinkling my nose and grasping for the right words.

Live in Europe Probably France. Or Italy. Or both. 🙂 Visiting has been so lovely. But I want to live the rhythm of life in a Provencal or Tuscan village. To buy fresh bread at the boulangerie every morning. And assist with the grape and olive harvests. To know a people who sees the world through a different lens. I regularly survey rental properties online. (When I should be writing or practicing mandolin or French. :)) It is a dream, fortunately, that Mike and I share. So, just maybe….

Walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela  Beginning on the French side of the Pyrenees and crossing northern Spain, this is one of the oldest and most traversed pilgrimages in all of Christendom. 780 km. It usually takes 3-4 weeks to complete it. I first learned of it from my friend CeCe who traveled the final 150 km with her sister a few years ago. Orthodoxy has taught me to eat, and breathe, and wear my faith. Now I want to walk it. Father Kevin Dodd’s beautiful book, To the Field of Stars, is stoking my desire. And I am seriously considering a mini pilgrimage (in my car) to a neighboring state to see the new film called The Way which depicts one man’s (fictional) journey. I had decided the Camino would be a most appropriate way to mark my 50th birthday (in 2016) until Jake and I began seriously taking about this:

Hike the Appalachian Trail  Probably not all of it. That takes around 7 months. But we’re thinking we might hit it for a couple of months the summer after he graduates from college. That gives us a while to acquire the gear and take a number of practice hikes. Appalachia is my heritage. I drank the rugged beauty of it in with my milk. It is a worthy endeavor, especially if I get to do it with my son.

OK, there you go. A rather unwieldy collection of dreams deferred…for now…but not forever.

How bout you? What would you do if you were really brave?

How Inarticulate the Longings of My Soul…

How inarticulate are the longings of my soul, O God,
yet how acute are its pangs.
How incapable am I in understanding those longings,
let alone, in tending them.
Feed me with food, O God, that will best nourish my soul,
food that will intensify rather than satisfy
my love for You
and my longing to be with You.
Awaken every eternal seed You have planted in my soul
so while I am yet rooted in this earth
something of heaven may blossom in my life…

~Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul

God Who Told Stories

A friend of mine, a fine storyteller, remarked to me, “Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories.”
~Madeleine L’Engle

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables [stories]; and without a parable he did not speak to them.
~Matthew 13:34

Why stories? Why not rules? Precepts? Propositional truth? Why in the world would the Creator of the universe sit around spinning yarns?

Could it be that Christ had something for us that was too round, too subtle, too textured and layered to be summarized into 3 points? Or 5 steps? Or 7 secrets?

A story isn’t really any good unless it successfully resists paraphrase, unless it hangs on and expands in the mind.
~Flannery O’Connor

Hangs on?

Expands in the mind?

Brothers Karamazov  Peace Like a River  Til We Have Faces  Lilith  My Name is Asher Lev  The Alchemist …just to name a few. Stories that wrap themselves around me. That draw me in. Asher’s pain is my pain. When Ruben wonders why the healing his father gives to others is not given to him, I wonder too. What Santiago sees, I see. I breathe the same air. The same grains of sand sting my skin. When Lilith dies…I die.

And the stories roll around in my head for weeks…months…rankling, provoking, stretching me, giving me hope…

Truth we have lived is truth we own. Experience is a most effective schoolmaster. When we encounter great stories, those experiences become ours as well. We stand inside truth that is too complicated and messy, too transcendent and glorious, to be reduced to a principle. It must be wrestled with. Clawed at. Cursed. Clung to. Celebrated. And finally, taken deep within. Til it becomes part of our blood.

Why did God tell stories? What was it that He would give to us that could only be given in this form? What do you think?

The Voices in My Head

I am a big fan of Ansel Adams. Of all his images, this has always been one of my favorites. This time next week I will be somewhere up in those mountains. I can hardly believe it. As I have looked at photographs in preparation I have found myself in tears, imagining what it will be like to finally see them for the first time.

Last week I talked to you about gear I am taking to care for my body in the Grand Teton Ultra. This week, I acquaint you with those friends I am taking along to care for my soul. Unconventional to be sure. Of all the ultra sites I visited, nobody told me which prayers, poems, and music would travel with them mile after mile.

But I know myself.

I chose this event because it is BEAUTIFUL. And I will need words, as much as I need water and food. God will give me words of my own. This I know. But there will be times when I need to borrow the words of another. For a space. So I am filling my phone with prayers and poems and my ipod shuffle with music.

Here is a sampling of the voices who will be in my head as I run…

 

Poems:

Praying by Mary Oliver

O Land Alive With Miracles by Thomas Merton

Point Vierge by Thomas Merton

The Summer Morning by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese by Wendell Berry

 

Prayers:

O Lord, how lovely it is to be your guest:
Breeze full of scent; mountains reaching to the skies;
Waters like a boundless mirror,
Reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds.
All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing depths of tenderness,
Birds and beasts bear the imprint of your love,
Blessed are you, mother earth, in your fleeting loveliness,
Which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever
In the land where, amid beauty that grows not old,
Rings out the cry: Alleluia!

You brought me into this life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky, like a deep blue cup ringing with birds in the azure heights. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the sweet-sounding music of the waters. We have tasted fragrant fruit of fine flavour and sweet-scented honey. How pleasant is our stay with you on earth: it is a joy to be your guest.

~excerpted from the Akathist in Praise of Creation. I am taking the whole of it with me on the trip. I want to read it in the gorgeous places where we will find ourselves. I will only bring excerpts on the trail.

*Portions of Psalm 104 and Psalm 148.

 

Playlist:

Andrew Peterson  Audrey Assad  Beethoven  Bela Fleck  The Brilliance  Cara Dillon  Carl Orff (Carmina Burana)  The Civil Wars  David Teems  Delirious  The Doobie Brothers  Eddie Vader  Eric Clapton  Gateway Worship  Gungor  Herbie Hancock  Iron and Wine  James Taylor  Javier Navarrete  Joe Cocker  Kaki King  Lion King Broadway Cast  Loreena McKennitt  Michael Buble’  Mutefish  NeedToBreathe  Nickel Creek  Norah Jones  Nuns of St Paisos Monastery  Old Crow Medicine Show  Patti Griffin  Ray Charles/Count Basie  Rachmaninoff  Russian State Symphony Capella  Soggy Bottom Boys  St. Petersburg Chamber Choir  Sufjan Stevens  Vivaldi  Yo Yo Ma

 

P.S. My travel reading list (for the trip, not the run. :)):

A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire (re-read)
Thirst by Mary Oliver

Music Lesson

She sits on my lap–smooth, cool whiteness
under her fingers–tick of the clock barely pierces
the silence. She pushes against a cluster of notes
and is surprised. I watch her face reflected in the ebony.
Rapture.

I play figures against the keys. She lays
her hands on mine–following up and down.
And she sings. Ecstatic eruption–conversation
with the notes.

I do not say to her—This is G. Nothing could be
less important.

I press the pedal, letting all the notes jumble
together. We sit perfectly still as they hang
in the air–breathing the music–feeling the coolness
of it–listening as the notes separate to dance singly–then
drift away.

She pounds the keys and squeals with joy as they yield to her
their song. She slides her fingers over them–probing. What is it
about smooth, cool, white that makes this?

Clock ticking–silence–tiny hands–shared breath–singing–
warm babies in laps–leaning into one another–wonder–
cherubic face reflected in ebony–joy.

Music.

~sm

 

Booklist: Picture Books

Picture Books are a world unto themselves. It is here, most often, that children will wet their literary toes. In the best of them, illustrations and words dance in and out of one another with ease. The one illuminates the other. Sometimes they frolic, at other times they waltz. But always, the two are one.

I hope your childhood was resplendent with beautiful picture books. Books that tickled, and provoked, and nourished your imagination. Books that taught you to love words. The way they slither and slide, the way they play, the way they sing. I share here a few of our favorites. Please tell me about yours. I do have a little granddaughter who is already in love with books. She will need to know them.

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter For the elegant language, the sublime watercolors, and mostly for the endearing characters who peopled the lives of my children and me for a season, I owe a great debt to Ms. Potter.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne The writing is clever. The characters  thoroughly loveable. The misadventures goodhearted and fun. And, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a bridge someday playing Poohsticks.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown I can still recite the whole of it from memory, I read it so many times. When I asked Kelsey about books from her childhood she would like Kenzie to have, it was the first one she mentioned. A sweet benediction. A deep breath of quiet.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert Thus far, this is Kenzie’s favorite. I don’t know if it’s the bright colors or the lilting cadence but she gets so excited when I pull the book out. An alphabet book with rhythm.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton My husband (Mike Mullican) loved this book as a boy. Obviously. Never mind the one little letter difference in his name. It is a story of loyalty and love. A step back in time to a world less complicated.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak This Caldecott winner was one of my childhood favorites. And I passed my love of it on to our children. (Kelsey covered our copy in Christmas stickers one year. I have never been able to part with it.)

All the Eric Carl Books, especially Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle’s beautiful tissue paper illustrations can still take my breath away. Stunningly gorgeous! I love looking at all the details in them. Whether paired with Bill Martin’s rhymes, or simple stories of industrious insects, these books captivated my children. Kenzie is already a fan of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Blueberries for Sal and Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey Books remembered, again, from my own childhood. Simple, sweet stories along with glorious Caldecott winning illustrations made these books that we read over and over. Nothing beats an early morning reading of Blueberries for Sal just before heading off to the blueberry patch.

All the D’Aulaire books  The Caldecott winning husband and wife team of Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire created sumptuous, whimsical picture books. Mostly biographies of American luminaries like George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and Pocohontas. But their book of Greek Myths is one of the best I’ve ever read. And you can’t beat their illustrations.

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant Much of this story is my story. Baptizin’ in the old swimmin’ hole, fried okra, outhouses, breaking beans on the front porch. If it is not your world, pop by for a visit. Rylant tells a compelling story and the illustrations are lovely.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Inside the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser An unwieldy, runaway balloon has a number of misadventures out and about New York while its owner peruses works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In a very creative “life imitates art” approach, the scenes encountered by the balloon mimic the art works observed by the little girl. Such fun!! And there are no words. You must supply the story yourself. A great pre-reading book.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado Lucado has written a number of lovely children’s books, but this one is my favorite. The truth that the Incarnation is good news for everyone, especially those who feel left out, is winsomely told here. And the paintings are magnificent.

Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse A mother’s love has no limits. Nothing her child does could ever change that. That is the message this book tells with its lovely illustrations drawn from the native Inuit culture of Alaska.

Love you Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw I’ll admit the concept of an elderly mother climbing a ladder into her son’s room at night is a little far-fetched. And yet, the truth of this book has always over-ridden its impracticalities. Another of the books Kelsey asked for specifically. I guess the truth got through to her as well. 🙂

Yonie Wondernose and Henner’s Lydia by Marguerite De Angeli De Angeli lived in an Amish community for a while. With these books, she takes us there as well. And we see inside the life of a little boy and a little girl. Their mischief. Their longings. And the beauty of their simple, but rich lives.

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Stephen Kellogg “How was your class trip?” Kinda boring. Until the cows started crying.” “Why were the cows crying?” And so begins a rollicking backward adventure that any child (or any adult for that matter) will find HYSTERICAL!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff Maybe I like it so much because it reminds me of the way I do housework. One thing leads to another…. My kids loved this whole series of books about inevitability and circuitous thinking. Great fun.

OK. Your turn. GO!!!

 

 

Un-booklist

Firemen no longer put out fires, they start them. It is their job to eradicate any clandestine stash of books that may be found. The powers that be have decided it is dangerous to allow people to think for themselves. Therefore, they will be told what to think. And nothing poses a greater threat to manipulation and propaganda than books.

This, in brief, is the disturbing and eerily plausible world presented by Ray Bradbury in the book Fahrenheit 451. Brave souls who attempt to preserve books face imprisonment or even death. But there is a remnant…an outcast group of scholars and intellectuals living like hobos on the periphery of civilization (if you can call it civilization). They know that a culture that does not think is destined to implode eventually. And when that time comes, they will be needed.

Each of these men carries with him the books that will be needed to rebuild the world. But, he carries it inside him. Books like Plato’s Republic, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli’s The Prince, the writings of Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, the Magna Charta, the four Gospels… have been committed to memory. Astounding, but not impossible. A recent film, The Book of Eli, explores a similar premise.

Today’s “booklist” post is a little out of the ordinary. I am posting no list. Rather, a question. If it were up to you to contribute one or two books to the rebuilding of a world that had lost all, which would it be? What truth, what idea or story is so pivotal to who we are as a human race that you would be willing to eat its words in order to pass them on?

I would like to make one stipulation in order to keep things interesting. I know that most of us would want to be sure the Scriptures would carry on. However, if you choose to memorize Scripture, will you be so kind as to specify a book? One of the Gospels, perhaps, or the book of Proverbs, et al…

I listened to Fahrenheit 451 on audio, mostly on a trail run I did a few weeks back. The finish wrecked me and left me sobbing on the trail. There has been a monstrous battle, and our outcasts are now walking back toward the smoking remains of the city to begin the long work of redemption. Our protagonist, Montag, formerly a book-burner, has told the group earlier that he can contribute most of the book of Ecclesiastes and parts of Revelation. As he begins to search within himself for words appropriate to this hour, he lands on these. May they inspire you…

To every thing there is a season…
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to keep silence and a time to speak…

And on either side of the river was there a tree of life which bore twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations….

Stained Glass Hearts

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

Diminutive dynamo. Teller of tales. Wearer of audacious designer boots, including at least one pair in red. She who can captivate a whole stadium full of women and keep them breathless, on the edge of their seats. All are apt descriptions of Patsy Clairmont.

But it’s only part of the story.

Contemplative. Poet. She who has a deep ache for beauty, transcendence, truth. Weaver of words who can turn a phrase with a delicate, fragile loveliness that pierces the heart. This too is Patsy Clairmont.

I’m known for my playful approach to life, which is fused within me; but to those who are closest to me, I’m also known for my need to pull on galoshes and wade into a thought. I guess when you’ve lived 60-plus years you collect a lot of heartache from this wind-whipped world that causes you to search the shadows of the forest. In my childhood I would have skipped through the woods oblivious to anything more than the path ahead, but today I’ve learned to check the secret places for the treasures of darkness.

Patsy’s new book, Stained Glass Hearts, is a sweet washing of the soul, with stories true and deep. With generous transparency, she takes us inside some of the more excruciating places in her life. She gives a courageous, vulnerable account of fear so paralyzing that it kept her housebound. Difficult to imagine if you have ever seen her on stage. But that is the beauty of the story. She shows us how, if we let Him, God will take the broken shards of our lives and solder them into luminous works of art.

…even though the stained glass pieces are artistically designed, they still have been broken, sanded, and soldered. They didn’t naturally fit the redemptive pattern without holy repairs. Also, stained glass art doesn’t begin to show its beauty or its inspiration or release its story until light touches the dark. The light transforms an otherwise subtle picture into a brilliant, dimensional experience.

Along with her stories, her experiences, her great loves and her great woes, Patsy introduces us to some of those who have shed light on her path. At the end of each chapter is a gallery in which she shares poems, paintings, songs, prayers, artistry of all sorts that have nourished her spirit. I implore you to google each of these as you read. A sumptuous feast for the soul.

Many of us have come to love the ones who have left lovely lines that fit inside us, that help us to see our world more grandly and ourselves more kindly.

Don’t all of us wish we had more wise voices in our lives? Those who deal with us winsomely and honestly, helping us find our true selves. Patsy is such a voice. As she walks with us through gardens and galleries, thunderstorms and snow, she gently points out things along the way. “Did you see that?” “Listen!” And our parched souls drink the liquid grace of the moment. And we are refreshed. And inspired. And emboldened.

Rescue us from small speculations. Enlarge our hearts. You alone, Lord, can attend to our desperation. Silence us with your peace. Comfort us with your tenderness. Mend us with your love. Amen.

Amen.

 

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