Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Little Word for 2014

I didn't post much about last year's OLW (you can see the post here where I introduced it, and if you follow the links in that introduction, you can see the other OLWs I have chosen since 2009 and find more about the whole concept of choosing One Little Word), but in a way, everything this year was about shalom.  That word "flourishing," cited in the definition, kept coming up again and again in my life, in what I heard and read.  I saw examples of shalom, and felt its absence.  In the latter part of the year, our church began an in-depth study of the book of Genesis, and I learned a great deal about the literary aspects of the creation narrative, and how it compared to the creation narratives of surrounding Middle-Eastern cultures.  I began to think even more about shalom, and the picture of it in the garden, when all was as God had intended it to be.  Instead of separation and fear and suspicion, there was connection and rightness, shalom.  There was shalom between people and God, between people and nature, between the genders.  We seek that now, wishing and longing for the way things ought to be. 

The OLW I have chosen for 2014 is, then, continuing the theme from 2013.  But this year I was inspired by Irene Latham's choice for 2013.  Instead of picking an abstract concept, Irene, a true poet, chose the word "sky."  I loved watching her play with and enjoy her word all year long.

So this year, my OLW is garden.    I want to think about that original garden Paradise Lost, about the garden in myth and metaphor, and about flowers.  Quite honestly, I want to play, too, to take off my shoes and feel the grass between my toes. 

Here's to 2014!  I can't wait to see what's ahead!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Reading Update of 2013

Book #38 was Dr. Thorne, by Anthony Trollope.  I am loving these Victorian novels about clergymen.

Book #39 was the long-awaited Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey.  I've been enjoying Sarah's blog for a long time, and I liked this book, too.  It isn't the last word, of course, on the subject, but I like her approach.  "People want black-and-white answers," she writes, "but Scripture is rainbow arch across a stormy sky.  Our sacred book is not an indexed answer book or life manual; it is also a grand story, mystery, invitation, truth and wisdom, and a passionate love letter.  I've abandoned the idea that my job is to get the absolute, 100 percent right answers on everything."

Books #40 and #43 were both by Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, both about Thomas Cromwell.  I am not sure what keeps drawing me back to the story of Henry VIII and his times, but somehow I can't look away from the fascinating, horrible tale.  Mantel does a fabulous job of showing Cromwell in all his complexity, but I do wish she would use quotation marks consistently and quit switching tenses.  Reading these was sort of a weird combination of breathless admiration of a brilliant writer and annoyance as I wanted to take my red pen to her prose.  Oh well, just call me pedantic, but also call me a Hilary Mantel fan.

Books #41 and #42 were both specifically Advent titles, Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas, by John Blase, and Opening the Stable Door: An Advent Reader, by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher.  Both were quick, easy reads, and both helped me focus my scattered attention on Advent this year.

Book #43 was another quick read, but a helpful one from a writer I have loved for years, Philip Yancey.  This one, The Question that Never Goes Away, is his most recent response to the problem of evil, and it includes his visits to post-earthquake Japan; Newtown, Connecticut, and Sarajevo.  Highly recommended. 

Book #44 was another Trollope title, Framley Parsonage.  Only 43 Trollope novels to go!

Here are the other books I read this year:

Books #1 - #6.
Books #7 - #14.
Here's a link to my post about Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist, my eleventh book of the year.
Here's Book #15, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, by Dan Brennan.
Books #16 - #23.
Book #24, Middlemarch, by George Eliot. (Surely this one counts as several books, and can boost my total from 45 to closer to my unreached goal for this year, 52.)
Books #25 - #32.  (In this post I continued my annual tradition of getting the numbering wrong.)
Books #33 - #38.  (Yeah, the numbering in the post doesn't match.)

So I read 45 books this year.  This was a rewarding reading year, a satisfying mix of professional reading, reading about faith, and juicy novels, both YA and books written for people closer to my own age.  I didn't include all my re-reads, and I didn't include books of poetry.  I'm looking forward to another year of books in 2014!

Here's a link to some other people's reading lists for the year.

Poetry Friday on Monday

We just got back from a few days at the beach with very limited internet, so I missed Poetry Friday last week.  Here's the roundup.  I'll be back soon with links to the last few books I completed in 2013.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Poetry Friday: Difference

I was looking for a poem about peace, a poem appropriate for this day, the first morning waking up with no grading to do, with hours to fill as I wish.  I didn't exactly find it, but I did find this one, which I hadn't read before.  I love its portrayal of two minds, his and (I imagine) a woman's.  It makes me want to write a poem about my own mind, and sets me thinking about how I would do it.  And after all, what better thing to do with this first day of my Christmas break, my first day of peace after days of frantic work? 

by Stephen Vincent Benét

My mind’s a map. A mad sea-captain drew it   
Under a flowing moon until he knew it;
Winds with brass trumpets, puffy-cheeked as jugs,   
And states bright-patterned like Arabian rugs.   
“Here there be tygers.” “Here we buried Jim.”   
Here is the strait where eyeless fishes swim   
About their buried idol, drowned so cold   
He weeps away his eyes in salt and gold.   
A country like the dark side of the moon,   
A cider-apple country, harsh and boon,   
A country savage as a chestnut-rind,
A land of hungry sorcerers.
                                              Your mind?

—Your mind is water through an April night,
A cherry-branch, plume-feathery with its white,   
A lavender as fragrant as your words,   
A room where Peace and Honor talk like birds,   
Sewing bright coins upon the tragic cloth   
Of heavy Fate, and Mockery, like a moth,   
Flutters and beats about those lovely things.   
You are the soul, enchanted with its wings,   
The single voice that raises up the dead   
To shake the pride of angels.
                                                 I have said.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Poetry Friday

Today was the last day of classes, and I have giant piles of grading to do, so that they will be out of the way and I can focus on grading finals next week.  All that to say, no poems today, but you can go to the roundup here, at The Opposite of Indifference, to see what everyone else has posted. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Poetry Friday: Sounds from this House

I am knee deep in grading, final exams to write, and assorted other end of the semester tasks.  But I'm popping in to link you to a poem I contributed to our school's online literary journal (first issue just out this week).  The poem is called "Sounds from this House."  I wrote down the idea a long time ago, because I had noticed that the sounds out of every window of our house are different.  I decided to catalog them.  I didn't intend for the poem to be about the earthquake, but somehow it got in there; at the time, everything I wrote was about the earthquake in one way or another. 

Sounds from this House, Delmas 83, Haiti

There is a different sound from each bedroom in this house.
Upstairs, you can hear the conversations next door,
Loud voices speaking Kreyol,
Cajoling, joking, insulting,
Sometimes shouts, and a few times, even a gunshot.
There are parties and vodou ceremonies,
Music and drumming through the night.
From the other window, church wafts in;
Singing, preaching, microphone-amplified.

You can read the rest here.

And Robyn Hood Black has today's roundup here.