Friday, June 16, 2023

Poetry Friday: Summer, Finally!

Yesterday was our last day of school, and we've been packing for travel and moving house, but I don't want to skip yet another Poetry Friday, so I'm sharing a poem I shared for the last day of school back in 2017 (you can read that post here). The poem speaks of how "another circle is growing in the expanding ring" in the center of a a tree. As I look back over this year, I see ways the kids grew, and ways that I grew, and that makes me happy. I'm excited to come back for my second year at this new-to-us school in Uganda.

The Work of Happiness
by May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life's span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

Reading Update

Book #26 of the year was Scandalous Risks, by Susan Howatch. I've been rereading the whole series.

Book #27 was Friends and Strangers, by J. Courtney Sullivan. I really enjoyed this novel about a woman and her relationship with her college-aged babysitter. 

Book #28 was a re-read of Shauna Niequist's I Guess I Haven't Learned That Yet. I wrote about it when I first read it here. In fact, I've been rereading all of Shauna's books, and book #31 was Present Over Perfect and book #37 was Bittersweet. Since I'm rereading them from newest to oldest, I continued the pattern and am now rereading Cold Tangerines. There's something about Shauna's voice that really speaks to me. I wrote more about that, and her, here.


Book #29 was Yellow Crocus, by Laila Ibrahim. I bought it for my Kindle back in 2014, but for some reason had never read it. It's the story of an enslaved woman who becomes a wet-nurse for a white child in Virginia. While Mattie's life is hard to read about, the sweet relationship that develops between nurse and baby is the focus of this novel. Saying it's "sweet" suggests perhaps that it's romanticized, but that's not at all the case. The author is able to show us the beauty of their bond without suggesting that it's anything less than heinous that Lisbeth's family legally owns Mattie. But the long-term effect of Mattie's love on Lisbeth is truly beautiful. The author is a birth doula and gets details of childbirth and breastfeeding right.

Book #30 was All My Knotted-Up Life, Beth Moore's memoir. The line to read this at the library was very long, but I finally was able to download it. I really loved it. It's written with so much honesty about the hard things Beth Moore has suffered in her life, and yet it's funny too. Her personality comes out loud and clear.


Book #32 has been on my Kindle a while too, since my daughter and I used to share an account. I bought it for her back in 2013. It's Un Lun Dun, by China MiĆ©ville. I enjoyed this YA title about two girls who travel from London to its abcity, Un Lun Dun, a kind of un-London. 


Books #33 and #34 were both by Addie Zierman, as I started wondering what has happened to her. I liked both of her books, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over, and Night Driving, when they first came out, and I like them still. (I wrote about them upon first reading here and here.) I never missed Addie's blog when she used to write there regularly (you can see it here). I think she's a really fine writer and I look forward to her publishing something else, but I also found this podcast interview with her, explaining the wilderness she's been going through creatively. (The link may just take you to the general page for the podcast, but if you search for Addie Zierman you should find the interview -- it's from July 2020.) What happened to Addie is what everyone who tries to write honestly about their lives always dreads; she was kicked out of her community -- in her case a church -- with her words used as a reason to condemn her. 

Book #35 was They're Going to Love You, by Meg Howrey. This novel is the story of a daughter and how her parents' lives influence and change her own. It's also about ballet and choreography and creativity. It's complicated and ultimately redemptive.

Book #36 was Gentle and Lowly, by Dane C. Ortlund. I read this with a small group of friends, and we unpacked Ortlund's ideas every week over snacks. We found the book comforting, nourishing, and thought-provoking.