Hummingbird

I received my first edition of Hummingbird in the mail today! It is a small, elegant magazine of short poetry. I read it all already, and I am impressed. Most of the poems have a delicacy I like. They are not too difficult to understand. Simple and thoughtful. A quiet book, perfect for that moment in your day when you must sit down and be still.

The editor was kind enough to include a poem of mine, as well. It is called “Night Milking.” You have to purchase a subscription to read it, so here is the address to their website.

Saving Books for Later

I generally read three or more books at once, I read out loud to my children every day, and I follow a literature-based homeschool curriculum. And yet, I force myself to NOT read certain books to my children. I’m talking about good quality books, not twaddle. I want to save more difficult books for a later date when my children will understand them better, but that’s not the only reason. I think I ought to save some really good books for my children to discover themselves!

I think back to my own reading history, not at all like my children’s will be. My family had a few classics in the bookcase, but mostly Christian romance fiction. I remember the day I took down my first “grown-up” book, I remember the arm chair I sat in, and I remember the slow but very satisfying progress I made through the first chapter. It was a Janette Oke book. Since then my reading history has been characterized by phases. I’ve been obsessed with Christian romance, westerns, mysteries, Michael Crichton books, and then I dove into classics during high school by falling in love with Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I still hated poetry and Shakespeare at that point. In college I learned to love more classics, even difficult stuff like Beowulf and The Fairie Queene. I respected poetry. Still hated Shakespeare. In later years, I learned to love more types of good literature, even Shakespeare (I forced myself to read it at the table when eating supper alone. Now, it is a very vivid memory of my married life before we had children. I can smell the pages of that old thrift-store book.) I am coming to my point: I came to my literature-passion a lot later in life than I expect my own children will. I came to it through my own investigation, not because anybody forced me to read the classics while I was in elementary school. In fact, I have a confession to make. I am about to begin reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my children, and I have never read the entire series myself. (!) Here’s another confession. I don’t recall reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia series either. I also had never read the real Winnie-the-Pooh stories until I read them to my own kids. You know what? I don’t feel guilty. I feel excited to be learning along with my children. Even though I have only done first grade, I have read a lot of good literature that is new to me, and as a result, I am even more excited to be homeschooling than I was before I began.

I don’t want my own kids to miss out on that excitement of finding good books on their own. Sure, there will be plenty of good books we read together, and lots of things I will be assigning them in the future, but I’m not going to be standing behind them at the library, pointing out the books they ought to read for their own enjoyment. I think that would cut down on the enjoyment part. I hope my own enthusiasm for good literature is contagious, but even if it isn’t, I know there is always hope that they might start reading Shakespeare at their own supper table with pizza and a pile of napkins.

Marriage

I’m not much for political talk. I usually think I don’t know enough about the subject to speak my mind and be correct. And I don’t read or listen to the news enough to be up-to-date. But while my husband (male) is sleeping through the news, I overhear things about marriage equality in all fifty states. And there’s this rainbow border above my WordPress reader that I know doesn’t represent God’s promise to never destroy the earth with another flood. So here I am, writing about something that I need to say.

An old girlfriend of mine, a classmate, married a woman two or three years ago. I saw them both at the local pool shortly before that. It struck me as strange that I did not feel awkward around her. I didn’t. She was the same girl I used to know. I definitely disapprove of her lifestyle, but I don’t feel like I need to shun her in any way. I didn’t talk much; I’m not much for talking. But I’ve imagined conversations where I’d tell her I think her lesbianism is a sin, and then I remind her that I sin, too, and these are things we must pray about. These are things between ourselves and God.

That was an individual person. Now there is a movement which our country has embraced. The movement is something I must react against. I must shun it. I must not talk nicely to it, even in my imagination. This movement moves against Biblical truth. It pushes people toward sin, away from God. My old friend is not a movement, and neither are the individuals bound together in this rainbow-ribboned ride to hell. I can love the people and hate what they believe in. I can pray for the person’s soul and pray that our country rejects gay rights. I can love what is good and beautiful and hate what is bad and ugly. I can still tell my daughter that she can’t marry another girl. I can reject that term “marriage equality” because it is faulty math; man plus woman is the only way to equal marriage.

Persephone

Kore, daughter of Demeter, between 500 and 525 B.C., now in Acropolis Museum, Athens
Kore, daughter of Demeter, between 500 and 525 B.C., now in Acropolis Museum, Athens

We learned some Greek mythology at our library event this morning. I regret that I never studied mythology. There are so many references to it in classical literature. My son loves it. He has listened to a Jim Weiss CD about Greek myths. He knew what was going on today at the library. And then we picked up some great books. One is about Persephone, the goddess who is abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld to be queen. She is very sad. Her mother, Demeter, searches all over for her and is finally informed of the abduction. She curses the earth so nothing will grow on it. Zeus sends down Hermes to help get Persephone back so the earth will grow again. He succeeds, but Persephone eats three pomegranate seeds which Hades offers her, which means she will spend three months of the year with him in the underworld (and above ground, those months are the season of winter). But when she returns to her mother, Spring also returns and the earth flowers.

The statue above is Persephone, also known as Kore. I like this story for the strong mother-daughter tie, and also the tensions between Hades and Persephone. They are, in a sense, opposites, and although Persephone is very sad the entire time she sits on the throne in the underworld, she does light up the place and make it beautiful. And Hades appreciates that. He also lets her go without much of a fight when Hermes comes for her. He tricks her into eating the fruit, which is sneaky. Even though winter can be long and cold, I don’t really want to live someplace without winter. I feel the same way about Persephone being underground. It is not something she enjoys, but I like how she returns to Hades and her throne for part of the year.

Greek myths are great stories! I feel like a whole new avenue of story-world has been opened up to me.

Home

A mean grandmother is one of the worst things a girl could have. Mamas are supposed to spank and rule you so you grow up knowing right from wrong. Grandmothers, even when they’ve been hard on their own children, are forgiving and generous to the grandchildren. Ain’t that so?

— from Home by Toni Morrison, 2012

Follow the story of Frank and Cee Money, if you can. Delve into Frank’s war-twisted mind. Find out how Cee gets out of her mistakes. See if you like the little town of Lotus by the end of the story. See if you like Toni Morrison’s way of pulling her readers through the story. I do. In Home, humanity is so cruel and so full of hope all at the same time.

I’ve read two books called Home now. Toni Morrison’s and Marilynne Robinson’s. I feel at home in both books because they are so expertly crafted. I recommend both.

Summer vacation, the first weeks

I set out to have a simple vacation, stepping way back from my teacher-mom persona, letting the kids be creative with how they spend their time. I busied myself with house-cleaning. The children busied themselves with being annoyed by each other. Honestly, you’d think if someone annoyed them, they’d just leave the room and find something else to do. But no, they seem to think they all have to be doing the same thing all the time. But the problem is they can’t ever agree on anything! So that’s where my summer vacation is at right now. We’re all driving each other nuts.

I am seriously considering a few weeks of school during the summer. Then we could take off a few more weeks around Christmas. But I don’t know. I shouldn’t give up on summer yet. We have some structured things on the calendar: some library events, swimming lessons. We have a family pass at the pool. At home I could step in more often, enforce quiet times with each child in a separate room. Hopefully my son’s seasonal allergies will lessen soon and we can get out on some nature trails.

And we have the American Girl books. Which we can’t get enough of. Kaya is my favorite so far. She is also my son’s favorite. Felicity is my middle daughter’s favorite, but Kirsten comes in a close second. I’m not sure about my youngest daughter. I think she liked Marie-Grace, but she fell asleep during the last half of that book. Right now we’re reading about Saige from New Mexico. She seems to be a contemporary American girl. She has a cool Grandma who paints. I might try a painting this summer. If I don’t go crazy first. How do moms who dislike confrontation make it through their children’s childhood? I suppose we take a lot of deep breaths, and we learn not to envision whole summers at a time. One hour at a time. Get through one more hour, and then maybe we can read a book together again…

Renoir, My Father

The Luncheon of the Boating Party at Bougival, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1880-81
The Luncheon of the Boating Party at Bougival, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1880-81

I finished reading the biography of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, written by his son, Jean Renoir. Renoir is French, and I never really adjusted myself to all the French words and cities in the book. It bugs me when I have no idea how to pronounce something. Other than that, I enjoyed the book because it had so much to do with a little boy seeing his father through little boy eyes and not through art historian eyes. Renoir seems not-so-strange. He was ambitious. He had some idiosyncrasies. He looked strange because of his severe rheumatism. But he was a father, protective, anxious for his children, thinking about their well-being. By the end of the book, I was convinced that Jean’s mother, Renoir’s wife Aline, is the real superhero in the family. She devoted her life to keeping Renoir happy. She was his servant. They moved around frequently for his health and also for his art, and it was Mother who bought houses, arranged parties, brought in friends to cheer up Renoir. She worked hard. In the painting, she is the one looking at the dog. Renoir is the one gazing in her direction, sitting backward in his chair. Aline grew to be quite stout, which was apparently an honorable thing in that culture. Renoir stayed thin. He cared more for painting than eating.

At the end of his life, crippled and terrified that he wouldn’t be able to paint, Renoir did what exercises he could do: juggling, twirling a wooden block. He had to give up more and more of these things, but he managed to paint until the end. I liked the descriptions of his very clean palette, the dabs of paint he used in their correct order, his meticulousness. One of the author’s jobs was to help clean the brushes at the end of the day.

I also enjoyed making connections between Renoir and his contemporary artists. It’s fun to read about a meeting between such folks as Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Degas, and Morisot. Now I want to read more about Paul Cezanne because in this book he seems like such a crusty character!