My nephew is getting married in a suburb of Chicago this weekend, so the kids and I are going on a little trip with my parents. Some of us have colds, and I actually lost my voice all day today, but off we go anyway! The wedding will be outdoors (weather permitting) and I shall think of this lovely lady, sitting tall and proper, gazing at the goings-on from beneath her parasol. Effortless elegance. I think I prefer this charcoal study to the actual painting of her in Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon.” The soft, smooth texture and the cream background color suit her. A drawing is so direct, the artist’s hand is so very close to the paper, that the personality of the person drawn can be easier caught than in a painting. Paint covers. A drawing tool shapes.
The tortoise never hurries
And is happily resigned
To being late for dinner
And to being left behind.
The tortoise doesn’t ask for more
If he can do with less–
Perhaps that is the secret
Of the tortoise’s success.
–from “The Tortoise,” The Carnival of the Animals, Music by Camille Saint-Saens, Verses by Jack Prelutsky, Illustrated by Mary GrandPre, 2010
I picked out this Book and CD combo at the library on a whim. It looked fun. It is fun! More than that, it is wise. Prelutsky’s poems about animals show that “birds and beasts and such behave a lot like people do, at times a bit too much” (from the introduction). I couldn’t decide if my favorite was the humble, cautious tortoise or the exquisite, graceful swan. I definitely know some people who are like the rooster and hens. And thankfully, the poem for the wild donkeys was kept short.
The bonus, of course, is the classical music. The three components–music, verse, and illustrations–suit each other well. We first listened to it at bath time, which added a bit of craziness to the mix. That went well with the book, too:)
I’ve been thinking about gentleness and parenting lately. With three little ones, I often find myself speaking sharply, acting quickly and without much grace, doing my best to not let anyone get away with anything. Because one moment of craziness quickly escalates into mayhem. At least, that’s my excuse. But when I stop and think about things from one of my children’s point of view, well, then I see need for improvement in myself.
So how do I go about my daily work (like the father in this painting) while showing great amounts of love, patience and grace to each of my children? This is probably something I need to pray about. Pray my heart inside out, and let the Holy Spirit turn it around.
Whenever I met someone, I talked about Jane. If I went to a diner for lunch, or sat at a bar, and a stranger said, “Please pass the salt,” I passed it and said, “My wife used to salt everything, even ham. She died of leukemia, fifteen months after she got it. She was only forty-seven. She was in good shape, climbed Mount Washington the summer before, then suddenly…” Everybody had to know, and everybody had to know everything.
— from Unpacking the Boxes, Donald Hall, 2008
Writers who write about their own lives give you a glimpse into a privacy you wouldn’t know about. Most people don’t have the words to explain their inner (and outer) lives. I am interested in Donald Hall because I like some of his poetry, I really like his wife’s poetry, and the kids and I have enjoyed a couple of his children’s books. In this memoir, I found much of the early part of his life to be a large party, meeting people, sharing a funny anecdote to break the ice. I’m not a party person; I didn’t particularly enjoy that part of the memoir. When he gets to Jane Kenyon, his wife, I was delighted. He talks mostly of his reaction to her death, and Donald becomes very honest and open about himself. I love that. The last chapter is called “The Planet of Antiquity” and is about his old age. He makes it fascinating. From what I’ve read, I don’t think I’d like to be a personal friend of Donald Hall, but reading this memoir lets you in on parts of his psyche his personal friends probably can’t see. Then again, maybe he talks as much as he writes.
He has written a book all about Jane. It’s called The Best Day the Worst Day. I might have to read that sometime.
The sun cast its summer brights all over the outdoors today, and the leafy trees cast their shadows. I love the contrasts in summer. One step can take you from face-reddening heat to cool, breezy shade. And water in summer is full of bright white shine right next to deep blacks and blues. The landscape in this painting looks perfect for an exciting exploration on foot. My son wants to be an explorer when he grows up. So do I.
Here is an exciting announcement from my very favorite publishing company:
Announcing the “301 Likes” Wiseblood Lottery
Why: Win a book, any Wiseblood original of your choice. (A Flower in the Heart of the Painting by Amy Krohn is an excellent choice!)
How to enter: Everybody who follows the Wiseblood facebook page is automatically entered in the drawing. We’ll announce the winner on June 30.
The catch: We’re looking for 301 likes. So invite your friends to “like” our page, and we’ll announce the winner on June 30.
Anything else?: Nope.
They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning.
In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.
— from “Indian Camp” by Ernest Hemingway, 1925
Hemingway writes with simplicity. But beneath those simple sentences and those snapshot images lies an undercurrent of story and tension. A story pushed below the surface. Does it work? For many readers, yes it does. They like the understated style. As for me, I like it until I don’t anymore. I start wondering what Hemingway is really trying to say after all.
Let me read Hemingway in small doses, and then hand me something written by a person who loves words and sentences and paragraphs and isn’t afraid to pile them up until the book is dripping with prose.