Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Portrait of Loneliness

Silvia trundled home in her little car.  There was a new and unexplained rattle from the engine and the choke didn't seem to be working properly.  Her gate, with the name Roskenwyn painted upon it, stood open.  A pretentious name, she always thought, for such a small and ordinary house, but that was what it had been called when she and Tom bought it, and they had never got around to thinking up anything better.
She parked outside her door, collected her handbag off the seat, and went indoors.  The cramped hallway seemed deathly quiet.  She looked for letters, forgetting that the postman had already passed, leaving none for her.  She dropped her handbag at the foot of the stairs.  The silence pressed upon her, a physical thing.  Silence, stirred only by the slow ticking of the clock on the upstairs landing. 
She went across the hall and into her sitting room, an apartment so small that there was room only for a sofa and a couple of armchairs and desk with bookshelves over it.  In the grate lay the dusty ashes of a fire, although she had not lit one for days.
She found a cigarette and lit it, and stooped to switch on the television, she punched the buttons to change channels, was bored by everything, and switched it off.  After the moment's burst meaningless voices, silence pressed in on her again.  It was only eight o'clock.  She could not, reasonably, go to bed for at least two hours.  She thought of pouring herself a drink, but already had had two with Even and Gerald, and it was best to be careful with alcohol.   Supper, then?  But she felt no healthy pang of hunger, no inclination to eat.
A glass door stood open, leading out into her garden. She threw the half-smoked cigarette into the empty fireplace and went out of doors, stooping to pick up a pair of scissors from a wooden basket. Now, with the sun nearly gone, the lawn lay dark with long shadows. She crossed the grass towards her rosebed, began aimlessly to snip off a few dead heads.
A wayward briar became entangled in the hem of her dress, snagging the material.  Impatient, angry, she jerked it free, but in her clumsiness caught her thumb on on a jagged thorn. 
She gave a little cry of pain, holding up her hand to inspect the damage.  From the tiny agonizing wound blood swelled.  A dot of blood, a bead, a trickle.  She watched its progress, a miniature scarlet river, flowing down into the palm of her hand.
As though in sympathy, tears welled in her eyes, brimmed, overflowed.  She stood there in the gloomy twilight, numbed by the misery of loneliness, bleeding, and weeping for herself.

From Voices in Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher.

Monday, November 5, 2018

14 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Broke My Knee

1.       It’s never wise to go downstairs quickly or run downstairs—you may break a bone and 2 ligaments.
2.       The operating room looks like something out of Star Trek, yes that’s right.  Star Trek, not Star Wars.
3.       When the doctor asks if you want physical therapy, you might want to say “no” and simply google the exercises associated with the injury.
4.       Muscle strength may decline after age 40 and alsowhen you are inactive, find a way to exercise both your upper and lower body—maybe a gym.
5.       When your physical therapist tells you that you can walk over grassy fields and packed earth paths, ask if he’s consulted the doctor.
6.       When your physical therapist tells you that you don’t need a brace, get one anyway.
7.       Stretching like a cat may be better than the stretches prescribed by the physical therapist.
8.       When something other than your knee hurts, you need a massage therapist, not a physical therapist.
9.       When your physical therapist tells you that you cannot quit, quit anyway.
10.   You should not exercise after seeing the massage therapist—it is too painful.
11.   You must not exercise before seeing the massage therapist—the massage becomes useless and the muscles ache for days (instead of removing lactic acid and increasing blood flow, the lactic acid remains and blood flow diminishes with the massage after exercise).
12.   If the massage causes excruciating pain, you should find another massage therapist.
13.   It will take a long time to get back to easy hiking.  Keep working at it, persevere, keep moving. 
14.   Find friends and therapists who are encouragers.  Find them and hold on to their words of encouragement.  Forget the discouraging words in your brain.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Three-Part Invention: a review of A Light So Lovely

Madeleine L’Engle made an impression on me when I read A Wrinkle in Time and the Austin novels as a child and young adult.  The books showed a loving family and gave me hope for the future.  As I grew older, I read her Crosswicks Journals, her adult novels, her other books, and the remainder of the later published Time series.  In all of them I found a hope that included neither the stringent boundaries, the black and white world, or the rigid structure of church.  Nor did it include the lack of structure present in my home with an alcoholic parent.  L’Engle brought me hope and freedom and was someone I went back to time and again to regain my perspective and maintain my faith.

As you can discern, I have been a long‐time admirer of L’Engle: the woman who had a lonely childhood, who lost her father while she was still a teenager, who had an alcoholic son, and a less than satisfying marriage.  But L’Engle was more than the sum of her life experiences.   She became to me an icon: an open door through which I could glimpse a wider world, breathe a breath of fresh air, and walk back into communion with Christ.  Like a gentle masseuse she took my twisted thoughts and stroked and pulled  them into a place where I could experience real life and love.  She taught me to appreciate both my strengths and my weaknesses.

A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle by Sarah Arthur is a work of one part biography, one part anecdotes, and one part analysis.  The author has themed and divided the book into chapters based on the life and works of Madeleine L’Engle.  In each chapter the author shares some of her own life (as a writer, a book judge, a mother, a former youth pastor), gives us a brief partial biography of L’Engle, and relates interviews with writers who have met L’Engle (either in person or through her writings) and have been influenced and motivated by her, and traces L’Engle’s developing faith.  The book focuses on L’Engle’s appreciation of paradox in the areas of icon and iconoclast, creation and evolution, faith and science, fact and fiction, sacred and secular, and scripture or nothing.  Each paradox is a chapter and there is much here to stimulate thought and discussion.  Indeed, A Light So Lovely stimulated me to reread some of L’Engle’s works.

The book’s title comes from  L’Engle’s book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art where she wrote: “We draw people to Christ, not by loudly discrediting what they believe, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

L’Engle strove to be an icon, to show us that light so lovely, to draw us into a wider world and new ways of thinking much as the children in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis left a dark world at war and were drawn through a wardrobe into the wider and brighter world of Narnia.  Icons are a means to an end, but idols are the end.  Icons can come and go and be imperfect with strengths and weaknesses.  Idols must be kept at a distance because we don’t want our knowledge of their weaknesses to tarnish our vision. Icons open our view. Idols diminish it.  L’Engle was no idol.  Rather, she was an icon from whose books I could always return with a renewed and enlarged vision.  She was both an icon and a mentor to me and the others who benefitted from her works.

For those of us who have loved L’Engle and her works, this book renews our acquaintance.  For those who have never met her or who have read none or few of her works, A Light So Lovely is an introduction to L’Engle’s ways of thinking, her life, and the body of her work.  As it has done for me, I hope it encourages others to dig into L’Engle’s work and hopefully keep it in print for generations to come.

 I received this book free through a book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.