"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

11 November 2014

Gratitude

The other night, I didn’t want to set the alarm; I knew I’d wake in plenty of time anyway, and there was an hour’s leeway before urgent tasks came into play.  But still I did ask the Lord to wake me at the “right” time for the day, whatever He saw fit for that to be.  When I opened my eyes groggily to see the cheery scarlet numbers greeting me, I admit that my thanks was a bit grudging.  Really?  I didn’t have to get up till 7:00 and You wake me a full hour earlier?  But I rose from the bed and I did give my grudging thanks – and asked for help to mean it.

And leaving the house a half-hour later, there was the nearly full moon, just a day or two on the wane, shining with a gem-like brilliance above the tree line as I reached the top of our street.  And when I arrived on campus, she shone like a beacon directly between the tops of the trees just above the chapel roof, beside the soaring cross.  Fifteen minutes later and I would have missed it. 

Why is simple, full-hearted thankfulness so hard?  The mind knows that He is sovereign, that even in the brokenness of this world, He is to be trusted.  Yet the heart sighs and complains; and how many times must I miss the beauty He offers because I refuse to look?

Yesterday and this morning, the moon again in a clear just-lightening sky, shining her reflected light for us to see if we have eyes, to hear if we have ears.

30 September 2014

Hiatus


White fog swaddled the trees along the ferry road this morning and swirled like visible wind about the car.  The highway was clear of it, banal as always, but the hill to campus lay before me like a baby’s blanket.  In front of the student center, a clear sky held the sparkle of early morning stars, though the fog accompanied me again on the way to class among the trees.  Later, walking out of the ad building, the beauty of white and red pansies gleaming through the shroud that still enveloped and softened the buildings stopped me for a moment of praise.

18 September 2014

Beauty, beauty, beauty . . .

The last few days:  clouds and dark fog, clouds and mist, clouds and rain -- mirrors to my sad-weary heart.  But this morning:  a crescent moon shining joy into the early-morning, still-night sky, lifting the weight from my soul and making another day seem possible.  Thankfulness for beauty and eyes to see.

23 August 2014

Dr. Richard Cornelius, RIP

When Dr. Richard Cornelius announced his retirement, I was the one privileged to find myself with a position in the English Department at Bryan College.  I did not take his place:  no one possibly could have.  He had been the Department chair for 30 years; he was a treasure, an icon.  

My seniors that first semester did not want me as their teacher.  A fierce love of and loyalty to Dr. Cornelius kept them from allowing themselves, for awhile, to warm to a stranger; they had wanted him to teach their final classes in the major.  Over the last 15 years, I've heard from so many graduates before my time who loved him, as a teacher, a mentor, a friend.

I know him as a gracious and witty Southern gentleman who gave me all his course handouts and syllabi, and who, with good will, wished us success even when we changed some age-old academic traditions of the department.  I too have watched things that I established and directed change under new leadership, and it can be hard to let go.  If it was for Dr. Cornelius, he never let on to us.

I will let others tell the stories of his teaching and his attention to detail and his unique ways of challenging his students.  I've heard so many of them, but I never experienced them.  I can only say that he was a brilliant, humble, and kind man who made me feel that I had found a home and was welcome in it, even as he was moving toward its edges.  While I did not have a great deal of interaction with him, I always felt his friendship and lovingkindness; I always knew I had only to ask and he would offer advice and wisdom.

His legacy permeates our department even now.  His name comes up regularly within the department and from our alumni.  We may do some things differently on the surface (no more MEG test!), but we do all things with the heart and vision of Richard Cornelius:  love for our students, love for our Lord, and the instilling of a desire for excellence at every level.  

I am grateful for his influence, much greater than it seems on the surface.  I am sad for his loss and glad that I will see him again someday and know him better than I had the opportunity to in this world.  May the Lord comfort his family and friends with many lovely memories and with eternal hope, and may we never forget to live his vision.

14 August 2014

A Time for Everything


The echinacea are far gone now; none lifts a head toward the sun, and the drooping petals are fading rapidly from their elegant purple to a dull bleached white. 

But the sun seems to burst from their decay in small fireballs as the local flock of goldfinches feeds and plays among the washed out blossoms.  As I watch, one lands on the cone-shaped head of the tallest plant, swaying back and forth as he surveys the patch.  I see at least five now, playing tag or leapfrog as they swoop toward and over each other in a few minutes’ play before settling to the serious business of harvesting.  When K walks outside, at least eight take flight like brilliants in the late evening sun, breathtaking against the darkening blue of the sky.

Their bright gold, trimmed in glossy black, emphasizes the pallor of the echinacea and the dying of summer.  Yet, just as I begin to feel the sorrow of the coming autumn, their sudden and startling color delights the eye and reminds me that even this decay holds its purpose – the birds feed and store up for winter flight; the flowers drop and fertilize the earth for spring.  Indeed there is a season for everything, and the inevitable autumn need not be feared.

Photo Credit: Goldfinch on echinacea at Penn State Arboretum's pollinator garden. Photo by Anita Colyer Graham

04 July 2014

"That's what a lady does."

I have discovered Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on PBS and, despite the lead character's amorality, I love the show.  It takes place in Australia in, I believe, the 1920s.  The lead character is Phryne (pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher, an elegant, wealthy young woman who, among other good deeds, tries to help young street girls to better lives; she has taken Dot on as a lady's maid and has adopted Jane.  And, of course, she is an amateur detective who helps Inspector Jack Robinson to solve murders.  In last night's episode, she is teaching several such girls social graces.  One of them doesn't show to dinner, and they find her on the beach, drowned.  The mystery is rather complex and brilliantly solved by the combined efforts of Phryne and Jack, but another aspect is how the murder changes Phryne's teaching of the girls.

Here is the scene from which the title quote comes:  a day or two after the murder, the girls have gathered to practice dancing.  They are dressed nicely and, scattered about the room as they wait for Phryne, they are trying out graceful dance movements.  Phryne sweeps in wearing an elegant skirt set, looks about, and says, "Gather 'round, girls.  We're doing something different today."  She then demonstrates and sets to teaching them judo moves -- because self-defense will be far more practical for them than the fox-trot.

They are well into it when Inspector Robinson enters.  He seats himself near the door and observes with interest.  When his Detective Constable murmurs, "Miss Fisher knows judo, sir?" with some amazement, Jack merely replies, "Of course she does" -- he is beyond being surprised by her.

One of the girls finally sees the two men and alerts Phryne.  She turns, arches her eyebrows, and waits for Jack to speak.

Jack, deadpan:  "I hope you're not concealing a dangerous weapon under that skirt."

Phryne, archly:  "I'm concealing a lot of things.  That's what a lady does."

Ladies, let's be ladies!

11 April 2014

"Let joy size"

I have been either too early or too late for sunrises lately, or they have been obscured by stormy clouds and rain.  This morning, as I approached the turn onto the old ferry road from home, I was greeted by a riot of purples and pinks between the peaks of the hills, announcing the sun's coming, and my heart, inclined at times to despair for no given reason, lifted in the joy of God's beauty.  A Hopkins phrase came to mind -- "between pie mountains" -- and I looked it up when I arrived at the office.  The poem, one of the Sonnets of  Desolation, is more than apropos:

My own heart let me have more pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.


Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather--as skies
Between pie mountains--lights a lovely mile.


Oh, I haven't been in that utter of despair for quite some time, but I feel it coming on here and there, and more here than not lately.  These past few days have threatened more than rain, and I've been in a constant coping mode, hoping to hold it off, trying to quiet the brain from its churning, mindless repetitions and noise.  There's no cause; it just is.  But this beauty of the skies this morning, heralding the light of dawn, being the smile of God, "let joy size" in an "unforeseen time" -- "as skies / Between pie mountains -- [lit] a lovely mile." 

Followers