Easter is calling me back to the church

I went to church on Easter Sunday last year, and never went back. It wasn’t a boycott, exactly. It was an inability, week after week, to face the other believers…At church, all I could think about were the millions of people likely to lose their health insurance thanks to Catholic bishops who opposed the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. I was supposed to be thinking about the infinite love of a merciful God, but all I could hear were thousands of Christians shouting, “Build that wall!” By the time Easter had come and gone, I was gone too…

In the past year, while my husband and his father were at church on Sunday mornings, I was in the woods, where God has always seemed more palpably present to me anyway. (And not just to me: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” Emily Dickinson wrote back in the 19th century. “I keep it, staying at Home.”) For me, a church can’t summon half the awe and gratitude inspired by a full-throated forest in all its indifferent splendor.

The year away from church hasn’t made me miss the place itself. I don’t miss the stained glass. I don’t miss the gleaming chalice or the glowing candles or the sweeping vestments. But I do miss being part of a congregation. I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.

So I will be at Mass again on Easter morning, as I have been on almost every Easter morning of my life. I will wear white and remember the ones I loved who sat beside me in the pew and whose participation in the eternal has found another form, whatever it turns out to be. I will lift my voice in song and give thanks for my life. I will pray for my church and my country, especially the people my church and my country are failing. And then I will walk into the world and do my best to practice resurrection.

~ Margaret Renkl, from Easter Is Calling Me Back to the Church (NY Times, March 25, 2018)

 


Photo: Arnaud Maupetit

Bigging it up

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The Pantheon of Smallness was a way of thinking about smallness differently. Sometimes we make small things, sometimes there are small bird songs, but it can have an enormous impact. Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Our culture is very much one of “bigging it up,” always upping the noise level in order to produce a louder signal. What you see in the bird world is sometimes that the smallest tweet can actually pierce through the cacophony in a different way. That became a metaphor for thinking about art. Emily Dickinson did quite miniature work that had a very profound, almost epic, impact, culturally speaking.

~ Kyo Maclear, from How a stressed woman found solace through looking at birds (Macleans, January 22, 2017)

Find Kyo Maclear’s new book on Amazon: Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation


Photo: Thank you Sawsan @ Last Tambourine

Is there any other way?

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Excerpts from A Few Questions for Poetry by Daniel Halpern:

Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? […]

A question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”

Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. […]

[Read more…]

Death Valley Bloom Explosion

“About once every 10 years, Death Valley is coated in millions of flowers, becoming the valley of life. The conditions have to be just so, in order for the flowers to bloom, including the perfect amount of rain combined with conducive temperatures. About 20 species of wildflowers are currently blooming in the desert, northeast of Los Angeles. Those interested in seeing the super bloom should go sooner rather than later because if temperatures reach above 100 degrees, the flowers will wilt and die. Strong winds can also dry out the flowers, nipping the super bloom in the bud.  If the temperatures stay under 100 and no strong winds come, the flowers will likely stick around until April.

The last time the blooms exploded on the desert floor was in 2005.”


Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem “To Make a Prairie” (1755):

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.

The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.


Video & quote source: Grindtv

Did you feel this too?

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After great pain, a formal feeling comes—

The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—

In the days after Paris, Emily Dickinson’s poem kept ringing through my mind as I tried to figure out what I felt—and, surprisingly, didn’t feel. I did not, as the facts emerged and the story took its full size, feel surprised. Nor did I feel swept by emotion, as I had in the past. The sentimental tweeting of that great moment in “Casablanca” when they stand to sing “La Marseillaise” left me unmoved. I didn’t feel anger, really. I felt grave, as if something huge and terrible had shifted and come closer. Did you feel this too?

[…]

I feel certain that in the days after the attack people were thinking: This isn’t going to stop.

~ Peggy Noonan, Uncertain Leadership in Perilous Times


Image: The Economist

Feel as if the top of my head were taken off

In 1870, Emily Dickinson was said to describe poetry this way:

 “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”

 And, then you read a book, that does exactly that.

[Read more…]

The winter will fly swiftly

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The winter will fly swiftly,
then will be the spring —
think of nothing but hope —
heed nothing but anticipation…

– Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Austin Dickinson, November 16, 1851


Notes: Dickinson quote via Lit Verve. Photograph: We-Love-Rain via Through Dreams

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