Trailing Clouds of Glory

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

— from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Each new baby is a person, unique and hand-made by God. When I consider homeschooling my children, I often find myself wanting to put this and that knowledge into them, as if they were empty jars. This poem reminds me to respect the person and to ask myself, how can I offer them the knowledge they need without detaching them from who they are? How do I preserve that uniqueness that lies around them like clouds? Which ideas do I present to them, and which ideas of mine are only intended to make them more like me?

Dear Lord, grant us wisdom so we know how to raise your little ones so they do not entirely forget their home in You. Amen.

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Feeding the Chickens

Feeding the Chickens, Luigi Rossi (1853-1932)
Feeding the Chickens, Luigi Rossi (1853-1932)

The kids and I visited a neighbor this morning. We saw a litter of puppies, collected eggs from the hen house, and fed grass to three horses. There were cows, too, but those are nothing new to us. We have a herd of cows, and they are there to produce milk. It’s how my husband supports us. Our neighbor’s farm, with all its animal charm, is also supported by milk cows, but there’s more to it. All those animals and their by-products make up a way of life. Eggs to eat and sell. Chickens to butcher and eat. Puppies to cuddle and love and then sell. Horses to ride. Now, I’m not trying to argue whether one way of farming is better than the other. I’m just noticing that there are differences in farms, even among the small farms which are said to be dwindling away in our country. Is it a difference between an old-world lifestyle and a farm designed to make profit? Or is it a difference between organic or natural farmers and farmers who employ the latest technologies? Farmers who do a lot of work by hand and farmers who use machinery to do as much as possible? I think it is easy to stereotype farms and farmers, but really the farm world is as multi-faceted as the people who live on the farms.

A Wrinkle In Time

Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, 1962

Here is where my Christian faith and my love for good literature are battling it out. It’s not in humanist books that exalt man above all else. I know better. It’s not in science fiction books that promote evolution and the Big Bang theory and such things which I firmly believe are not true. My biggest faith/literature battles occur in books by Madeleine L’Engle, who claims to be Christian, and often uses Christian imagery, quotes from the Bible, and characters of faith.

I love the way L’Engle writes. She is so personal, delving into the intimacies of life, and her characters reflect on life in deep, thoughtful ways. She writes with such authority to what goes on inside a person’s mind. The quote above gets at that, I think. She seems to understand things about her characters that she couldn’t have known just by observing real people.

However, there is something about her imagery that goes beyond Christianity and into the wavy, mystical forces of the New Age. Even A Wrinkle In Time, a children’s story, brings us to a place of light and darkness which does not ring true to the Light of God and the Darkness of Hell. I have trouble explaining it, and that is why this is such a battleground. I can’t say to L’Engle, “No, you’re wrong and here’s why.” And I can’t say to myself, “There’s nothing to worry about. She’s on God’s side.” My intuition tells me to take caution because L’Engle’s fiction might influence my faith.

Picasso’s Mother and Child

Mother and Child, Pablo Picasso, 1901
Mother and Child, Pablo Picasso, 1901

I admire Picasso for the changes his style went through. He didn’t get in a rut. He lived a dynamic artistic life. In the same way, I think, mothers are forced to live dynamically. Change is always in the air because the children are always changing, and so must our mothering tactics. There are blue days, bright days, days when everything is crystal clear, days when the picture looks like it is falling apart, surreal days, and emotionally expressive days. Whatever stage you are at now, reflect on the big picture, the collection of days that you and your children will look back on, your life-work. Happy Mother’s Day.

Ethan Frome

But at sunset the clouds gathered again, bringing an earlier night, and the snow began to fall straight and steadily from a sky without wind, in a soft universal diffusion more confusing than the gusts and eddies of the morning. It seemed to be a part of the thickening darkness, to be the winter night itself descending on us layer by layer.

— from Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, 1911

Sometimes things happen to you and they are like a sudden gust of wind, sweeping your usual life away and replacing it with feelings and emotions, people and conversations you aren’t accustomed to dealing with. And sometimes things happen to you and it is more confusing because it is like a darkness hiding your usual life. You are still at home with your family and your daily chores, but you hurt yourself doing them. Everything has changed even though nothing has changed.

It’s a matter of living through these things. God is there. He’s helping you live. You just don’t see it until later.

Report on NaPoWriMo

National Poetry Writing Month is finished! I loved April. I think I’ll like May, too, but for different reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed writing a poem every night. I tried out different styles, including free verse, sonnets, rhyming verses, verses with rhythm (you should have heard me pound out the lines on my computer desk!), children’s poetry, spiritual poetry, narrative poetry, non-narrative poetry. I read a lot of other poetry to inspire myself. I especially became better acquainted with Emily Dickinson, Robert Bly, and William Stafford.

What type of poetry do I prefer to write?
I prefer narrative poetry (tells a story), free verse. Rhyming sometimes helped me find my way through an idea, but more often it hindered. Similarly, getting the lines of a poem to scan was often beneficial in helping me find words I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of, but when my poems scan they seem a little forced and unnatural. Free verse gives me the freedom to gather my words in different ways so as to find the meaning.

Children’s Poetry
Is fun but hard. I like challenges. I like children. I like to read poetry to my children. All the same, my ideas come out of my adult-mind and I have a hard time making it seem like it came from a child-mind.

Spiritual Poetry
So much has been written about the Bible and God and everything spiritual. I find it hard to find my own voice in all of that. Easter Morning was a popular poem on my blog (how I ended up with 20-plus followers, I don’t know), but in my opinion, After Easter Dinner is the more honest poem. And honesty is extremely important to me.

My Favorites
Family Beds because it tells a truth about my family in artwork imagery. Poetry and art all rolled together:)
I also like The Recording Angel for the progression of thought from beginning to end. It surprised me.
And I like Grass Fire and Grass Fire Reconsidered as a poem in two parts. I really did rush through “Grass Fire,” hot on the trail of Emily Dickinson. I pushed “Publish,” I reread it, and sighed deeply because I knew I had not pleased God very much with that poem. So “Grass Fire Reconsidered” came naturally because I was feeling contrite and sheepish.

What Next?
Revising! I love revising! I love having thirty first drafts to work with. Hooray for April! And not all of them are destined to be poems. Morning of Life is already being revised into story form. Others will also work better as prose. Some of my poems will get thrown in the Scraps folder. For example, I have no desire to work on The Dance Instructor. It’s a lovely painting by Degas, but I don’t think I have anything original to add other than that first draft, which I don’t consider to be worthy of submission.

Yes, submission! After a poem is worthy, I will find a place (or places) to submit it. Poems ought to have homes. I might start with The Hand. It’s almost ready, I think. Not my favorite poem, but there is something memorable about it.

What I accomplished
I came up with lots of new material. I proved to myself that I can be a very dedicated writer. I also proved to myself that I have lots of things to say. In a way, these poems helped me sift through my thoughts, defined my persona, put the important things in the open. Some nights they became my way to digest what happened during the day, or to refocus my mind after a day of thinking about troublesome things.

Thank you to everyone who read my poetry! I didn’t write them for the “likes,” but I was still encouraged by them. The next phase of my writing won’t be as public, but I will share on Revision 3 if one of these poems gets published. In the meantime, I still plan on writing my bi-weekly posts on art and literature.

Sincerely, Amy

A Sunlit Interior

A Woman and a Child in a Sunlit Interior, Albert Edelfelt, 1889
A Woman and a Child in a Sunlit Interior, Albert Edelfelt, 1889

In my contemplative moods, I like to think about spiritual transparency. This Finnish painting (and other paintings of sunshine lighting the faces of people indoors) reminds me of God’s light warming our hearts through little windows of life. A window could be a time of prayer. It could be an encouraging person we meet. It could be the testimony of nature as we gaze at its beauty. Here in our little house of earth, we never see the blaze of God directly. We see it through things. Sometimes it burns our souls, sometimes it melts a cold mood, and sometimes it warms a lonely heart. God’s light reflects onto us, and as we grow closer to the light, it breaks down our solidity of self, and we become transparent, allowing the light to show through us. As this painting speaks partly of motherhood, I am reminded that I can direct God’s love onto my children by soaking myself in His Word and letting it soak right through me onto them.

A small poem of mine which touches on this issue can be found here. I’m not sure I got it right, but my words did reach for the truth.