The Social Animal

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I want to keep a quiet heart like Elisabeth Elliot did

but

to keep one I have to have one first, I gather.

It’s not easy.

(I add to the noise in the world, sometimes,

while wishing I hadn’t.

And sometimes I just soak in the static because

Breaking!

You won’t believe it!

Outrageous!

Fools!

Idiots!

Look over here!

Click, click, click on it.

Oh! and

please, pay

no attention to the Man behind the curtain

unless you mean to buy

something

from him).

 

 

The Other

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Tonight, I sink in memory foam

but I remember the mattress on which I used to ease myself in India–the thin, dirty one I came to love.

Other travelers, with their own obedient dreams, had slept on it before me, and so I didn’t mind resting my sooty, unsandaled feet on it at the end of a long day.

Now forced air hurries through my bedroom vents like an American promise, and I listen.

I do listen.

But I remember that wall-mounted AC that cost so much to run right before monsoon in that other life when the air swirled like steam in my lungs and I prayed earnest prayers about the electricity staying on all night.

That mattress, that AC, those prayers still live somewhere

though I soak in tubs of endless hot water now

and have cut off all my hair.

Something Beautiful

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Thirst
Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.

What I’m Reading (Quick Lit)

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Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, people are talking about what they’re reading this month in a lighthearted series called Quick Lit.  I decided to join in the fun since I’m always reading something or other.

This month I happen to be tackling

Crime and Punishment by Fyoder Dostoyevsky.  I’m not far into this book yet but I’m already hooked.  I read The Brothers Karamazov while living in India and I found it to be both deep and morally compelling (if dense to the point of being turgid, sometimes).  This book promises to be a faster read than that one, but no less moving.  What can I say?  I can’t stay away from the Russians.

All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth.  This collection is utterly delightful.  The poems are meant for children but they aren’t sappy, silly, or stupid, as (forgive me) so many things written for children these days are.  They’re written with insight and beautiful attention to craft.  Ms. Worth must be of the same mind as C.S. Lewis, who said,

“A children’s story that can only

be enjoyed by children is not a

good children’s story in the

slightest.”

Valerie Worth writes poems anyone can enjoy.  I highly recommend it.

Onward:  Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore.  So far, so good.  Beyond the practical advice and the encouragement to look more closely at our cultural assumptions as Christians, Moore offers…wait for it…good writing.  Every fourth sentence hits the reader between her eyes and demands a re-read.  I’m going slowly through this one and feeling both challenged and heartened.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.  It’s a re-read many times over, but the kids and I return to the Narnia series whenever we need to feel a certain something.  This book is one of our favorites, though, strictly speaking, The Horse and His Boy is number one for me.  Lewis’ writing is clear and straightforward.  He never wastes words, never tries to be clever, never obfuscates while reveling in his own literary talent.  This is saying something, folks, because it’s rare.  Lewis is one of the modern greats for a reason.

I’m interested to know what you’re reading this month.

What My Daughter Thinks of Me

The living room is gentle in gray walls and we sit in our corners on opposite sides of the room.  My daughter is wrapped in a blanket on the couch and I sit across in the striped chair with my coat still on because I’m always cold.  We look at each other, same blue eyes, and then I let myself glance away to float on the sun stripes that dissect the floor.

I wish I could crawl into her heart, sometimes, to see what’s there.  She’s Rapunzel’s tower, tall and secure.  Let down your heart, I call from the ground below.  She is kind and nine, a mystery I’m left to solve.

She rubs a lazy hand over the triumphant dog perched on top of the couch, and her face is soft with private affection.  Her lips curl over braces we just paid for and that puffy mouth makes her look like a baby.  She murmurs something to the dog, then pulls out the bobby pin that holds her growing-out bangs and shoves it into the loose-weave of the blanket.  I open my mouth, check myself.

I am driven, though I wish to God I wasn’t.  She is a dreamer and I remember being a dreamer once, too.  If I let myself, I can still summon childish surprise at the physical world, feel the solid return to pavement after flying.

And now?

Now I press hard on the lid of the snake-in-a-can inside, hoping all the striving, and teaching, and trying, and dying will stay contained.  Yes, I teach my daughter but what does she learn?  I stare at her face to capture a glimpse of the truth before it darts away, that silver fish that eludes my net.

What I want to ask her is this:  Am I too much for you?  Will you keep dreaming?  Is my shushing and smoothing and  fussing and judging and defining ruining you?  Because I can only be me, and Jesus changes people, but sometimes he goes slow.  So?

But what comes out of my mouth is, Tell me something.

My daughter tilts her head to one side and says, Like what?  Then I tell her to give me advice on what kids need.  But what I need is to take our pulse, hers and mine.

She thinks, then says, “My advice is to go outside everyday if the weather lets you.  And dogs are important.  They are the best part of the day.”

Well, this isn’t what I meant, though a part of me is relieved.

“Also, it feels bad when you correct me.  I remember it, but it fades.”  She pauses.

Here comes everything else, I think.

“I know one thing,” she says.  “People should let their kids sew.”

She smiles at me and shrugs.  My heart contracts.  I still don’t know what she thinks of her mother, but right now I don’t care.