Cassatt’s Mother and Child

Mother and Child XI, Mary Cassatt, c. 1890
Mother and Child XI, Mary Cassatt, c. 1890

No matter how many times they make a pile of all their toys, how many times they fuss about the socks I make them wear, how many times they need to be returned to their seat during dinner time, how many times they lock the cat into the kitchen cupboard, how many times I find myself shouting at them to be quiet, how many times they quit a game halfway through, how many times they hide behind my bed when I say it’s time to brush teeth… it’s really no matter when they cuddle in my lap just because I’m mom.

Let’s hope I never forget how vulnerable we all are, and how we need to care and be cared for.

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Nobody Cares…

Nobody cares if you stop here. You can

look for hours, gaze out over the forest.

And the sounds are yours too–take away

how the wind either whispers or begins to

get ambitious. If you let the silence of

afternoon pool around you, that serenity

may last a long time, and you can take it

along. A slant sun, mornings or evenings,

will deepen the canyons, and you can carry away

that purple, how it gathers and fades for hours.

This whole world is yours, you know. You can

breathe it and think about it and dream it after this

wherever you go. It’s all right. Nobody cares.

— from Even in Quiet Places by William Stafford, 1996

A good poem to drink in after a rough day in the house.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

Seurat had his own reasons for painting this very large painting with tiny dots of pure color, a method called pointillism. I’m sure this painting has been analyzed to death. And yet, it lives. I have seen it twice at the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s most impressive.

Here is a spiritual interpretation I have adopted thanks to a sermon I recently heard. Stand close to the painting, and you see individual dots, not a beautiful picture. Stand far away and the individual dots disappear into the tranquil, stately beauty of the picture. Now I think about my view of life. When I look at people (myself, my children, a former classmate, an unbelieving neighbor) I see their individual lives, and it doesn’t make much sense. For instance, why am I here at this time and place when I think I was meant to be in another time? Or, why did God allow that person to fall so deep into sin? The questions go on. But, if I step back and look at life from the viewpoint of eternity, God’s grand plan falls perfectly and harmoniously into place. How do I look at life that way when I have not yet reached heaven? Only through faith, which is like a telescope pointed always at Jesus.

I love finding connections between art and everything else important.

Angel on the Square

After he left, I wailed to Mama, “He’ll be killed in a war like my papa and his papa were.”

“Nonsense,” Mama said, trying to comfort me. “There are no wars for soldiers to fight these days. Countries are too sensible for such things.”

— from Angel on the Square, Gloria Whelan, 2001

This older-aged children’s book is about the Russian Revolution. The narrator, a young girl named Katya, is an aristocrat going to live with the Russian tsar and his family. Her cousin Misha, a strong-willed boy being sent to military school, is a supporter of the Revolution. The history comes alive in this story, as do the attitudes of the common people, the aristocrats, and the revolutionaries. Katya’s attitude, torn between her own tenderheartedness for the mistreated peasants and her loyalty to her royal friends, strengthens as her country weakens and eventually falls into the evil hands of Lenin.

The quote above struck a warning chord with my own naivete. Like Katya’s mother, I would like to believe in peaceful, sensible countries. But also, like Katya, I know that wars will happen, countries and their people will fall, governments will be overthrown and changed, and that is how the world works. Sometimes God chooses to build His kingdom through the crumbling of earthly kingdoms. Like Katya, God’s people rise from a war in changed circumstances but with stronger hearts.

The Rooks Have Returned

The Rooks Have Returned, Aleksey Savrasov, 1871
The Rooks Have Returned, Aleksey Savrasov, 1871

When I think of Russia, I think of long winters. Winters long enough and cold enough to keep a person inside so he can finish writing War and Peace or some other thick volume. I have found myself thinking about Russian winters and comparing them to this particularly cold Wisconsin winter. Look at all the posts I wrote this winter! I’ve been feeling Tolstoy-ish. And now I’m ready to be Savrasov-ish. In his country, the return of the rooks were a sure sign of spring. His “mood landscape” shows the hope he has despite bitter winters and dark days. (And, according to my research, this particular painting was painted after Savrasov’s daughter died and he spent a period of time trying to escape his grief by wandering the outdoors.)

So let the rooks return to Russia, let the snow fort in my yard melt away, and let the noisy birds nest above all thirty-one of my windows. Spring will come at last.

A Wilder Rose

I didn’t consider my work for Mama Bess to be the same thing as my ghostwriting for Lowell Thomas. She was my mother and I was obliged to help her–and I wasn’t getting paid. But if Marion Fiery had any idea how much I was involved, she might consider it ghostwriting. She might just toss off a mention in an editorial meeting: “Oh, by the way, Mrs. Wilder’s book is being ghostwritten by Rose Lane, so there won’t be a lot of editorial work to be done on it.” Word would get around, and I didn’t want that. 

Would I have felt differently if I had known that this one book was only the first of an eight-book series? Would I have asked for recognition and a share of the royalties if I had known that each book would take two or three months away from my writing projects and sap whatever meager store of energy I might have for my own work?

Perhaps.

— from A Wilder Rose, Susan Wittig Albert, 2013

This novel has permanently changed my view of the Little House series. Having grown up with the books and the TV series, Laura Ingalls Wilder is a household name. Rose Wilder Lane was not. Maybe in the past ten years I had somehow acquired the knowledge that Rose was Laura’s daughter, but it didn’t mean much to me. I had no idea Rose was the professional writer in the family, the one who took her mother’s orange composition notebooks filled with her anecdotes and created the books that sit on many, many bookshelves today. But the really interesting story lies in the strained relationship between Laura and Rose. And then, place an already tense family situation into the volatile time period of the 1930s and early 40s. The Little House books might be about brave pioneers surviving difficult trials, but between the lines hides the ghost of the books: the daughter who inherited the stories, built the storyline, supported her parents, but whose independence led her through an entirely different journey.

The Hailstorm

The Hailstorm, Thomas Hart Benton, 1940
The Hailstorm, Thomas Hart Benton, 1940

I’ve been doing some thinking about the 1930s and 40s, FDR, and the New Deal. I don’t normally find myself in a political frame of mind, so when a political idea pops into it, I take notice. It seems to me the people of the United States suffered under the bureaucracy and regulations of the New Deal. Less freedom, more government. The US political scene has changed since then, but now I see many of the same things in our current federal government. More government control, less free market. Well, when you see a bad thing coming, you run for cover or you get hit, right? I’m wondering if there are safe places in running distance, or if the storm will be so bad it completely changes the landscape.