"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 July 2008

Worldview and Art

From Joyce Cary, in Art and Literature (quoted in the anthology The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken, which was recommended to me by LuCindy):

All writers [. . .] must have, to compose any kind of story, some picture of the world, and of what is right and wrong with that world.

(Yes, Bryan friends, I'm teaching at Summit this week . . . and what a privilege.)

21 July 2008

Stitchin' Again

My dear friend LuCindy sent me, years and years ago, a crewel embroidery kit of a unicorn -- a lovely piece. I started it, then all that other stuff of life crowded it out, and it languished in my sewing cabinet for a very long time.

These days I need to write. A seemingly infinite number of inchoate thoughts are whirling about, colliding with each other, begging for expression and perhaps even some resolution. But I find that I can't write them; it's simply not in me just now.

So the other night, I thought, well, if I can't write, maybe I can pick up one of my old stitchery projects and work on it. And lo and behold, there was the unicorn -- satin-stitched leaves curling around the border in varied colors of green on stem-stitched vines, the black trim on a monarch butterfly fluttering in the foreground . . . So I gathered it up, made sure it still had all the yarn it needed, found my kit of needles and scissors (and added to the collection some nice strong magnification glasses), and began to stitch.

I have always loved embroidery work. But I had forgotten how remarkably relaxing it is. I've done quite a bit of cross stitch in the past several years, for gifts mostly, because it's fast and nice-looking, and I enjoy it, but it's not the same as embroidery, with its variety of stitches and textures -- and its infinite possibilities for correcting errors without pulling everything out. Because my mother taught me well, so that I am not only able to do the familiar but understand how to learn new stitches and techniques, my perfectionist nature is well-served in this medium.

It's a good place to be right now, and I already feel that the writing is going to come soon -- perhaps because I am giving my mind a rest by using a different way of creating my world for a time. But I think I won't put the embroidery aside again, now that I've remembered how much I love it and how much I need it.

When the unicorn is done, a sampler: any suggestions for designs that allow for a wide variety of stitches and that capture something of my heart home are welcome.

15 July 2008

Beauty will save the world

I found the following under "Notables" (see the sidebar) at a site recommended by Francis Beckwith, The Catholic Thing.
"Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time."

Joseph Ratzinger, "The Beauty and the Truth of Christ"

08 July 2008


I've just read Steven Faulkner's Waterwalk, a memoir of his canoe journey from the upper North to St. Louis to "discover" the Mississippi with his son Justin, following the route of Marquet and Joliet. It's a good book -- Faulkner is a good descriptive writer, and his meditations on his relationship with his son are honest and thoughtful. There are days of lovely solitude, of excitement and near-disaster, of back-breaking boredom. There's history as he weaves the two journeys together. I found his discussions of environmental and technological issues a bit heavy-handed; even though I agee with quite a bit of what he says, it felt more like being preached at than reflective musing, which is what the rest of the book seems to call for. But despite that particular flaw (to me; others won't mind it), the book is well worth reading to encourage one to think again about the need to slow down, to see what's around us, to reflect, to try to connect with mind and heart instead of cell phone and Facebook. And, in the end, to remember that we can only know so much of any other created being, that we are mysteries even to ourselves, that wisdom can be passed on but must also be learned, each of us in his own unique journey. We may travel together for a time, but even together we may be in very different places; finally, we can only love and pray.

03 July 2008

God Bless the USA

I'm too tired to write anything profound today, but I do want to note that I'm deeply grateful to live in America. Believe me, I am aware of our faults as much as anyone. But there's no place better that I know of, no place I could love as well. I have been challenged by the best of the values our country holds as ideals, and I stand humbled before those like my grandfather, my father, my son who have given of their service so we can remain free to pursue those ideals. May we return to God, and to the many in every walk of life who make our freedom possible, the honor of using it for the sake of unselfish righteousness.