"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

25 May 2008

Memorial Day

I am privileged to spend this Memorial Day with my father, a WWII veteran, and be listening to stories of his work in the war, reminding me of the "ordinariness" of men who considered themselves simply to be doing their duty to the best of their ability -- and yet without their sacrifices, we would not have the freedoms we have today.   

From The Book of  Common Prayer:

general prayer for Memorial Day:
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country.  Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."

for all soldiers:
"O Lord God of Hosts, stretch forth, we pray thee, thine almighty arm to strengthen and protect the soldiers of our country.  Support them in the day of battle, and in the time of peace keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty; and grant that in all things they may serve without reproach; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."

And I have to add this special one for sailors, of whom my oldest son is one;
"O eternal Lord God, who alone spreadest out the heavens and rulest the raging of the sea; Vouchsafe to take into thy almighty and most gracious protection our country's Navy, and all who serve therein.  Preserve them from the dangers of the sea, and from the violence of the enemy; that they may be a safeguard unto the United States of America, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our land may in peace and quietness serve thee our God, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."

18 May 2008

Off for a While

So before the YM finished, the college term was also over, and I am free for the summer -- well, relatively speaking:  no courses to teach and papers to grade, just prep for the fall, with new books for the two old courses, and two new courses . . . 

I spent this week, other than the day we finished up the last of the YM's work, clearing out my office at the college.  I don't know how many bags of paper I threw out -- 8 years' worth.  And a friend helped rearrange some of the furniture.  Although one desk still needs the drawers cleared and straightened, I will walk back into a clean, neat, almost completely prepared space when I come back at the end of June, a wonder to contemplate.

Tomorrow, I fly to visit my parents, to stay for a month or so; whenever J. gets leave after 9 June and comes to visit, I will return with him and his family.  I look forward to this visit so much!  My mother needs my moral support and help, along with my brother, in making decisions concerning my daddy, whose health continues to decline.  And I need time with both of them, more than the few days we usually are able to spend on our Christmas break.  I expect it to be both wonderful and very hard; all prayers are welcome.

I shall miss K and the YM, of course, and I hope they shall manage to stay out of trouble in my absence.  :)  I do not know if I will have internet access or not while I'm gone -- if so, I'll make an occasional update; if not, I'll be back sometime in June.

Blessings to all.

14 May 2008

No More High School!

So the YM graduated from high school today.  I shall report his final grades and order his final transcript sent to the college he will attend and a diploma.  He has done his work faithfully, made me proud, and it's hard to believe he is moving on now to a new phase of life.  

Of course, I'm not sure what it says that his immediate response to putting away the books was a slide down the hallway to the Playstation . . . :)

13 May 2008

Beauty and Terror

I haven't any idea where I garnered this quotation of Frank Bidart; I found it on a sheet of notebook paper while cleaning out "stuff" from my office now that the semester is ended. But it goes along with what I posted the other day about "terrible beauty," and the comment Cindy made on it :

I'm after something that will make sense of the chaos in the world and within us. The result should be something that is, well, "beautiful," but beauty isn't merely the pretty, or harmony or equilibrium. Rilke says beauty is the beginning of terror.

12 May 2008

Blue Skies

I have had several occasions this semester to remind students that we stand before God and not before man. There was the young woman who had to finish several incompletes, the result of illness last semester, and so fell behind and did poorly on her first essay for my lit class. "Did you do the best you could with what you had?" I asked her. When she nodded through her tears, I reminded her, "Then you can stand before God without shame and be unconcerned with your grade. His judgment of your character is far more important than your performance on this essay, or my evaluation of it." And with the incompletes out of the way, she went on to do well in the class; God did not let her fail because of circumstances beyond her control.

He may have done so, however. There was, too, the young woman pouring herself into her classes, valiently fighting freshman homesickness and discouragement, and yet -- despite her intelligence, understanding, and hard work -- somehow not making the grades she could have legitimately expected. "What might God be teaching you about trust?" I asked her when we talked about an assignment she had done poorly on. "Might He be inviting you to trust Him without seeing results, to know His love for you despite a less-than-stellar performance? Perhaps the struggle itself is His gift to you this semester?"

We can only ever do the best we can in any circumstances. We don't have any more. We have only the knowledge and the wisdom thus far gained, only the time and energy granted, only the desire to give enough, knowing that what we have may never be enough, not from man's perspective, and not in a broken world. And after that -- the results are His, and our job is to learn to accept them, not rail against them or despair over them when they aren't what we'd like . . .

On a Jorma CD, Stars in My Crown, that a dear friend sent me, my favorite song has become "Heart Temporary":

Blue skies in the morning,
Stars, they fill the night.
Fall wind rustling through the trees
Sings a song of great delight.
On such a day you think you'd say
Exactly what you mean.
But in God's perfection, things ain't always
Just the way they seem.

When the best you have to offer
Falls short of the mark,
Self-inflicted holes are piercin'
Deep within your heart.

Blue skies in the afternoon,
Breeze, it starts to still;
Two dogs sleepin' in the sun,
They lie upon that grassy hill.
At such a time you think you'd find
A way to share your heart,
But though you're reaching for her hand,
Still you walk apart.


Sun upon that old barn roof
Celebrates the day.
I hold this moment in my hand,
Follow it along my way.
The future flows; this feeling grows
Outside my window sill.
By letting go, I might escape
The prison of my will.


When the best you have to offer
Is all you have to give,
Enjoy the moment: God has granted
One more day to live.

Blue skies out my window
Said good-bye to early morning rain.

03 May 2008

Simple Beauty

Between allergies and end-of-semester urgencies, I've spent little time outdoors this spring.  After several hours rain this morning, the day began to warm up, so after completing senior grades for one class I've wandered onto the front porch while K and the YM are trimming trees and pulling weeds.  An intermittent breeze cools the air; the westering sun remains hidden behind the last of the grey, but most of the sky revels in clear washed blue, a few fleecy clouds wandering its vastness.  Birds chirp and sing their spring tunes amid the deep green of dancing dogwood and gingko leaves, and my bare feet are warmed by the red brick of the steps.  Roses -- pink, crimson, coral -- waltz lazily among the variegated greens of the flower beds alongside the saffron coreopsis and purple-black clematis.  For a few minutes, the world is simple, and my soul slides peacefully into its trusting beauty.