"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

29 May 2006


In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

Thanks to all our veterans. May we never forget the sacrifices made; may we be worthy of those sacrifices.

26 May 2006

The Duties of the Present Moment

The soul that does not attach itself solely to the will of God will find neither satisfaction nor sanctification in any other means, however excellent, by which it may attempt to gain them. If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire? [. . .] No soul can be really nourished, fortified, purified, enriched, and sanctified except in fulfilling the duties of the present moment. What more would you have? As in this you can find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Do you know better than God? As He ordains it thus, why do you desire it differently? [. . .] Do you imagine you will find peace in resisting the Almighty? Is it not, on the contrary, this resistance (which we too often continue without owning it even to ourselves) which is the cause of all our troubles? It is only just, therefore, that the soul that is dissatisfied with the divine action for each present moment should be punished by being unable to find happiness in anything else.

from Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Father de Caussade
(some punctuation editing done for contemporary English readers)

22 May 2006

Rain Dance

Reading on the porch Sunday morning in pleasant spring sunshine, I gradually became aware of distant rumblings of thunder and saw that the western sky held gradually darkening clouds. Slowly the thunder grew closer, slowly the grey darkened to charcoal and filled the sky, shutting out the sun and further cooling the air. At last the soughing of the rain moving across trees and lawns, at last the first agate-sized drops on the sidewalk, then the blanketing downpour driving me to salvage my book and watch from the doorway. Within minutes the sky lightening to grey again, rain a mere patter on the walk, thunder rumbling away, and trees dancing in the light-giving beauty.

19 May 2006

Longing for Wisdom

I have just read a book on writing, somewhat too New-Agey, Zennish for my taste, but with nuggets of interest that do intrigue and will no doubt inform the writing over time. However, one concept that occurs throughout it disturbs me: that it is necessary for the artist to be a flouter of convention and breaker of rules to be true to art and to speak truth at all.

Now, I fully concur that convention can be wrongly constraining and rules can be unjust. But the sense here is the Romantic one: all conventions and rules, by definition, are always wrongful and probably evil constraints upon us; in fact, the way we prove ourselves to be human and worthy of the name is by flouting -- or as the Romantics and neo-Romantics would say, transcending -- conventions and rules.

This way lies madness.

Reality and Truth are not found within us. They exist outside the self. (Perhaps we discern them, at times, as we honestly explore the self, an idea I've not thought through.) I do not create Reality; I discover it, I perceive it (even if only through a glass darkly), but I do not create it. And Reality and Truth have principles -- conventions and rules, if you will, though I realize these are not always synonymous -- which we flout at our peril and cannot transcend. Some actions are simply wrong; some are simply right. Not "for me" -- for all of us.

I cannot write "anything I want." I cannot be "anything I want." I cannot do "anything I want."

Unless . . . Unless I am given over to Reality, to Truth, and allow Him to give me the desires of my heart: not fulfill my fleshly desires but implant the desires themselves so that I desire what He desires.

Just as in writing, one must understand the principles and how the conventions and rules embody the principles, in order to know when and how to flout them -- and when it is not possible -- for the sake of the writing, so it is in life.

To flout fallen human conventions and rules? Yes. But not all conventions and rules are fallen, just because human beings articulate them. So the need is to understand His principles in order to discern what may be flouted, what must be flouted -- and what must be honored.

Oh, for wisdom!

06 May 2006

Travel Time

Commencement commences in half an hour, after which I go home, change clothes, and get back into the car heading for Texas to visit my mother-in-law and my folks. It has been a long year, a difficult one in important ways, but a rewarding one in others. I look forward to some time for renewal, family, getting things done that are most important to me. The books are piled up waiting, Daniel and I are going to do basic Latin, and I can sleep as late as I like every morning.

I will be absent internet access, I think, for the next couple of weeks, so won't be posting here until after that.

02 May 2006

On Roses and Reason

In "Roses, Late Summer," Mary Oliver asks

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall


Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?

Then she describes the way the foxes and the roses simply go on about their lives and concludes

If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occured to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

Of course one thinks of Matthew and the lilies that neither spin nor toil. I can't imagine Oliver really wants to be mindless, not having the very human questions about the soul which she is always posing, but I understand her desire to learn to simply live, not constantly questioning and wondering, but knowing one's place and filling it with joy and abandon and without doubt and rebellion.

This poem reminds me of Tony Esolen's post at Mere Comments that I linked a few days ago, about needing to understand and accept our place in the world, the place God has given us. Of course, it's a fallen world and surely some of our angst comes from seeing that sin does affect who we are and what our circumstances are, causing us to doubt. But is God really sovereign or not? Does sin (generally speaking) keep Him from placing us where He wants us, or is it sin (my personal sin of hubris and discontentment) that keeps me from seeing this fundamental truth?

I, too, would like to be like the roses, not asking foolish questions.