Books: January

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetI am not one for New Year’s resolutions, particularly because I am too ambitious, fail miserably a few weeks in, and then beat myself up about my lack of discipline for as long as I can remember what my resolutions were. So I didn’t make any this year, but I made one goal, shall we say. I want to read 30 books in 2018.

All of my life I have been a reader, but the exhaustion of parenting and new babies and little sleep has taken a toll on my book list. If I am being honest with myself, Netflix has also taken a toll—something I am also looking to remedy with my goal to read more. So far it is working out great. I feel entirely dedicated to this task, and the more I read, the more I love to read, the more I want to read, the more I drag myself out of bed every morning at least an hour before my children wake up, so that I can just read some more. So far so good. But it is only January.

That being said, I finished five books this month, and if you are looking for any suggestions, I recommend all of them to you.

  1. The Second Coming, Walker Percy
    I love Percy. I love him so much. His novels are strange, eerie, bizarre, unsettling, and I feel them in my bones long after finishing them. This one was no exception. I discovered after reading it that it is the second part of a story he began in The Last Gentleman, a book I plan on picking up this year, as well. However, I wasn’t lost or “behind” on the details because I read this one on its own. The story follows a man who has spells of depression, bordering on insanity, and who sets out to categorically prove or disprove the existence of God. His experiment fails, and he is left questioning, only to come across a girl with supposed mental issues herself, who lives in a greenhouse. In the end, he finds that perhaps God exists after all, and that he has known Him in the love of another. It is one of the most satisfying endings—one of the best final paragraphs—I have read in a very long time.
  2. The Irrational Season, Madeleine L’Engle
    Madeleine is the writer I most want to emulate. As always, this book is full of poignant questions and lovely reflections. I find reading her books always feels like talking to a friend. She lets us in on her wonderings and her searchings, and in her words we can find comfort and hope. My favorite parts of this whole book, though, would be the poems she intersperses throughout.

    This is the irrational season,
    when loves blooms bright and wild.
    Had Mary been filled with reason,
    there’d have been no room for the child.

  3. The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander
    One of the most profoundly moving and life-changing spiritual works I have read in a long time. The chapters are short, the writing simple, but her reflections on Christ and His Mother are infinitely beautiful and infinitely practical, all at the same time.
  4. Joy, Georges Bernanos
    After I finished Diary of a Country Priest at the end of last year, Travis gave me this book. It is little-known, recently translated, and very dialogue-driven. I wasn’t sure what to make of it until the end, which is so redemptive and filled with hope for a priest wrestling with apostasy. The last few pages alone made this book entirely worth it.
  5. A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle
    I returned again to one of my all-time favorites in children’s literature after watching the trailer for the movie version of this story, set to come out in the spring. It is as profound and magical and Christian as I had remembered it—even more so, really. I hope to read the rest in the series as the year continues.

(Consider this an open invitation for any and all book recommendations!)

Just doing Nothing

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“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

~

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m—when—Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

(A.A. Milne, The Complete Tales of Pooh)

This ending to Winnie the Pooh tugs at my heart every time I think about it and hear it on the 45-minute adaptation on Spotify that Edith listens to every day.

I think about how beautiful it is, that my children can do nothing with their days and nothing with their time, and that this nothing is a good and right and beautiful thing for them to do. I think about how never again in their lives will they be encouraged to do nothing, never again will it be a positive thing.

Most days, I feel like I did “nothing,” but I am learning that it is actually a good thing. I am guarding their ability to do nothing. I am protecting their days of playing and reading and exploring, for truly they will be gone, as one day they must be.

One day they will have classes and worksheets and assignments and schedules and logs and calendars and everything else. But not now.

For now, their nothing is everything.

Written Words, II

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The Bright Field, R.S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

On the feast of the Annunciation

DSC_0210In one of his Advent homilies, Bernard of Clairvaux offers a stirring presentation of the drama of this moment. After the error of our first parents, the whole world was shrouded in darkness, under the dominion of death. Now God seeks to enter the world anew. He knocks at Mary’s door. He needs human freedom. The only way he can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free “yes” to his will. In creating freedom, he made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforcable “yes” of a human being. So Bernard portrays heaven and earth as it were holding its breath at this moment of the question addressed to Mary. Will she say yes? She hesitates … will her humility hold her back? Just this one—Bernard tells her—do not be humble but daring! Give us your “yes”! This is the crucial moment when, from her lips, from her heart, the answer comes: “Let it be to me according to your word.” It is the moment of free, humble yet magnanimous obedience in which the loftiest choice of human freedom is made.
(Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Benedict XVI)

Written words, I

_smo1082-copyHere is the first in, I am sure, a number of small posts collecting words that I read and want to remember. To begin is a  rather sad poem, but I find the last lines incredibly striking.

 

 
After the storm and the new
stillness of the snow, he returns
to the graveyard, as though
he might lift the white coverlet,
slip in beside her as he used to do,
and again feel, beneath his hand,
her flesh quicken and turn warm.
But he is not her husband now.
To participate in resurrection, one
first must be dead. And he goes
back into the whitened world, alive.

The Rejected Husband, Wendell Berry