Catholic, Non-Catholic. Believe. Don’t Believe. But Watch.

Of course I have sinned….
As a child, I have failed you first by not having the courage to taste of life itself.
Instead, I hid away in books, and then study.
I know now this left me empty and void of the world.

Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes (Netflix, 2019)


If you’re going to make a movie about what’s holy, it had better be outstanding — and this drama rises to the occasion.” ~ Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media

Sunday Morning

When you’ve been raised inside a religion, it’s not a small thing to step outside it. Even if you no longer believe in it, you can feel its absence.

There’s a spirit-wound to a Sunday.

You can patch it, but it’s there, whether natural or invented not for me to say.

Niall Williams, “This Is Happiness” (Bloomsbury Publishing; December 3, 2019)


Photo: Kuehn Malvezzi of “House of One” (Berlin)

 

Sunday Morning

Belief is tricky. One day I do. One day I don’t. Believe. But there are things I believe that have never wavered. My belief in God is not one of those. Not long ago, I made a list, my attempt to address this question: “Do I believe in God?” It went like this:

God as an old white man with a beard—No

God as a human—No

God as a being—No

God as energy—Yes

God as consequential—Don’t know

God without definition—Yes

God as a creative force in the Universe—Yes

God as natural processes in motion—Yes

God as evolution—Yes

God as gravity—Yes

God as love—Yes

God as forgiveness—Yes

God as beauty—Yes

God as a no and a yes—Maybe

God as wrathful and merciful—Perhaps—This one scares me.

God as Mystery—Most certainly

I realized through my Q & A exercise that my problem is with the word “God,” for all the limitations it has placed on my imagination, such as “God the Father.” This was the beginning of my erosion with Mormonism in particular and religion in general. It happened early. I watched birds and studied them. If I dreamed of a great horned owl and saw one the next day, that was normal, to be expected. If a yellow warbler came into my mind, it was not unusual for me to hear one. As a child, I came to understand my relationship to nature was reciprocal and that nature had a relationship with me. We called to one another. We called one another into being. What I mean by that is we have evolved together. I still have a tailbone. I trust what I see and I believe what I feel. Trusting direct experience is the open door to revelation. This was my foundation for faith. It still is.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Portrait of Terry Tempest Williams by Cheryl Himmelstein

Sunday Morning

October.  Its brilliant festival of dry
and moist decay.  Its spicy, musky scent.
The church’s parking lot deserted
except for this one witness,
myself, just resting there.

Somewhere a radio plays Flamenco.
A spotlight of sunshine falls on the scattered debris.
Blood-red and gold, a perfect circle of leaves
begins to whirl,
slowly at first, keeping the pattern,
clicking against the blacktop
like heels and  castanets,
then faster, faster, faster. . .
round as a ruffle, as the swirling
skirts of an invisible dancer.
Swept off into the tangled woods
by the muscular breeze.
The hoarse cheering of crows.

Inside the dark empty church,
long cool shadows, white-painted wood,
austere Protestant candles thriftily snuffed,
Perhaps a note on the altar,
Gone dancing. Back on Sunday

~ Dolores Stewart, “Outside” from The Nature of Things 


Notes: Poem, Thank you Beyond The Fields We Know. Photo: Pixaby

Sunday Morning

“You’re going to ask if you can marry my daughter,” Nan’s father said.

“Yes,” James answered.

“Why?”

James thought: Because she is jolly and pretty and bright, like a firefly, blinking in and out of hedges and trees. Because I imagine her in the kitchen, washing dishes, looking out the window and humming to herself, her brow knit in concentration. I imagine myself coming up behind her, putting my arms around her, resting my chin on her shoulder. I imagine her face turning up to me, bright and pale and astonishing, and I imagine her lips just before I kiss her, full and parted, almost singing the words of a song. Because I think beyond kissing her, because I think about her naked and warm under clean sheets and damp from the bath. I imagine her bare ankle rubbing against my own. I imagine her hair disheveled; I imagine myself smoothing it out of her eyes. I imagine making toast with her and eating it at a round table. When I do, I am just as crazed with passion for her as I would be in bed. There is no difference between imagining her naked and imagining her with a kerchief over her hair. 

“Because I love her,” he said.

~ Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, August 13, 2019)


Notes:

Sunday Morning

It’s hard to hurt things.

Isn’t it.

I’m afraid of spiders but I still scoop them cold

into my hands & let them free.

Where’s the church for things like this.

Talin Tahajian, from “No steeple” (Cosmonauts Avenue)


Notes: Poem via bostonpoetryslam. Photo “no bell” by Christian Collins

Sunday Morning

I asked my Mother if she believed in God.

“People are my church,” she said.”

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)


Photo: Luke Jackson-Clark, Jamnik Slovenia (via Landscape-Lunacy)

Running. With Turtlenecks.

Christmas morning. I’m running.

35° F, feels like 26°.  Wind cuts, it’s wet, akin to wind coming off Lake Michigan in Chicago, the Windy City. It penetrates the bones. I shiver.

I pull down the zipper on my jacket, and reach for the zipper on my running shirt.  I zip it all the way up. This blocks the wind but triggers another, deeper, pain point.  The moisture wicking fabric on the running shirt wraps snugly around my Adam’s Apple. Oh, God. No. My hand instinctively claws at the shirt to pull it away, offering temporary relief, but no more. The shirt snaps back around my throat.

I scramble to unzip the jacket, to unzip the shirt, freeing my throat. The cold air swooshes in. But at least it’s free. Can’t have anything touching the Adam’s Apple.  We all have our tics. This one is mine. Raye speaks of a Medium calling for a new Puppy in 2019. I believe her, but don’t believe in Mediums, Tarot Cards or any other woo woo, but I shudder to think what the Medium would say about this Adam’s Apple thing – some horror in a prior life.

In his story titled “Little Birds“, Simon Van Booy describes memories as “Each year…putting a new coat over all the old ones. Sometimes I reach into the pockets of my childhood and pull things out.” So this triggers a pulling out of a thing. My little bird. With its broken little wing. [Read more…]

Stir the Soul


Notes:

  1. Attendees at Christmas Eve Mass in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Juni Kristwanto, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  2. A man stands inside a damaged church in the village of Tel Nasri, Syria. (Rodi Said, Reuters, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  3. An elephant wearing a Santa Claus costume performs for Thai students during Christmas celebrations at Jirasart school in Ayutthaya province north of Bangkok. (Chaiwat Subrasom, wsj.com December 24, 2018)

Sunday Morning

“She had described her home and her life in a way that had often returned to me during those years and that I could still clearly recall. Her description of the town where she lived – a place I had never been to, though I knew it wasn’t far from here – and of its beauty had been particularly tenacious: it had often, as I had said, returned to my mind, to the extent that I had wondered why it did. The reason, I thought, was that this description had a finality to it that I couldn’t imagine ever attaining in my own circumstances. She had talked about the placid neighbourhood where she had her home with her husband and children, with its cobbled streets too narrow for cars to pass down, so that nearly everyone travelled by bicycle, and where the tall, slender gabled houses were set back behind railings from the silent waterways on whose banks great trees stood, holding out their heavy arms so that they made plunging green reflections in the stillness below, like mirrored mountains. Through the windows you could hear the sounds of footsteps on the cobbles below and the hiss and whirr of bicycles passing in their shoals and drifts; and most of all you could hear the bells that rang unendingly from the town’s many churches, striking not just the hours but the quarter and half hours, so that each segment of time became a seed of silence that then blossomed, filling the air with what almost seemed a kind of self-description. The conversation of these bells, held back and forth across the rooftops, was continued night and day: its cadences of observation and agreement, its passages of debate, its longer narratives – at matins and evensong, for instance, and most of all on Sundays, the repeating summons building and building until it was followed at last by the joyous, deafening exposition – comforted her, she had said, as the sound of her parents’ lifelong conversation had comforted her in her childhood, the rise and fall of their voices always there in the next room, discussing and observing and noting each thing that happened, as though they were making an inventory of the whole world. The quality of the town’s silence, she had said, was something she only really noticed when she went elsewhere, to places where the air was filled with the drone of traffic and of music blaring out of restaurants and shops and the cacophony from the endless construction sites where buildings were forever being torn down and then put up again. She would come home to a silence that at those times felt so refreshing it was like swimming in cool water, and she would for a period be aware of how the bells, far from disturbing the silence, were in fact defending it.”

~ Rachel Cusk, Kudos: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; June 5, 2018)


Notes: Photo above & Book Review: ‘Kudos’ by Rachel Cusk deserves kudos indeed.  This book, the last of a trilogy, was named one of the NY Times Top 100 Books of the Year in 2018 and an Amazon Book of the Month in June 2018. Reader beware, imo, “Outline (Trilogy Book 1)” and Transit (Book 2) were preferred by this reader.

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