Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gospel-sharing attempts

My church is holding an Ultimate Jazz event this Friday evening, as the beginning of a mission week, which should be great! So, I took a deep breath and invited three people from my work. So far there hasn't been a positive response (two of the three had good reasons for not coming, the other is just being non-committal). Guess you can only keep asking and remember that Jesus himself got some less-than-positive responses. On the upside, I've asked a friend to Burn Your Plastic Jesus and they are keen to come (though they asked me if they need to bring their own plastic Jesus to burn :) ...) and have actually read a book I leant them!

A postscript

I have considered taking the previous post down, just because it was something of a wild card and appears to be open to misinterpretation. But, I have concluded that is one of the risks of blogging and if readers take a different angle they can comment and I can then respond. It is, however, not a topic on which I would like to be misunderstood - but neither is one I'd particularly like to elaborate on! Just watch the movie :). But, in simple clarification, I don't believe in sex outside of marriage, and I don't believe in quitting your marriage. Those are non-negotiables. That is why I enjoyed this film. Because neither of those two things ultimately happen. The fact that the two characters have feelings for each other is just that: a fact. That occurs. But, given that that is the situation, it's the choices that you make and what you do with those feelings that counts. And that is where "the girl" does the right thing. In the end she makes the decision to work on her marriage, despite the fact that "there is such distance between me and him" and she feels that she is "letting [her]self down in satisfying [him]" and she thinks he's an "idiot". Perhaps she meant it when she vowed "for better or for worse". (And I found that quite extraordinary in a contemporary secular film!)

Neither would I recommend that women initiate conversations along the lines of "I don't think it's a good idea for us to have sex now". That wouldn't be a wise thing to do. What I appreciated about the interaction detailed below is that the girl rightly assesses the situation, and avoids it - and that she rightly values sex.

Monday, July 28, 2008

One great (non-)sex scene

I’m am a little obsessed at the moment with the music from the movie Once, or more specifically with the album The Swell Season (songs by the two actors of the movie, who were the real musicians, for those of you don’t know about this superb little film – see post below). The night that I initially watched this film the DVD that my friend and I had hired froze in two crucial places, so I had watch it again to see what we’d missed. Below is a piece of the script from one of those two scenes (I knew we'd missed something important!). It’s probably severely lacking without the intonations and the significant glances and pauses, but I think this has to be one of the best (non-)sex scenes I have seen in a movie in a long time. The guy and the girl (who aren’t actually given names in the movie) have quite an extraordinary connection and each do love the other, but there is, let me just say, a significant barrier between them (don’t want to totally spoil the story!). After they have spent the weekend and been up all night recording their music together, they walk home and this is what takes place:

Girl: I’ve gotta go this way.
Guy: Really?
Girl: (Nods)
Guy: Where are you going?
Girl: (Laughs) Home.
Guy: (Laughs) You don’t want to come back? I’ll make you breakfast. We can listen to the CD.
Girl: No.
(Snipped a piece of the story here.)
Guy: ... Come back and hang out, have a cup of tea. It’s the last day. We’ll hang out. Whatever. Breakfast. Whatever. Listen to the tunes. Or you could come over later. Whatever.
Girl: For what?
Guy: What do you mean, what? Just come and hang out.
Girl: But we’ve done our work. Why would I come over? We’d just hanky-panky if I come now.
Guy: (laughs)
Girl: What?
Guy: Hanky-panky?
Girl: (Looks at him at nods)
Guy: It won’t be for hanky panky.
Girl: You know it would. (Pause.) And that would be nice.
Guy: Would it?
Girl: It’d be interesting.
Guy: (Probing) Would it?
Girl: (Laughs) It’d be worthless though.

I thought that was a rather exemplary little interaction for we girls. This girl has kept her faculties about her: she’s aware of the warmth of the moment, given the time that they’ve spent together, the way they’ve connected and shared, added to the little sleep they’ve had; she’s aware of the temptation inherent in going back to the guy’s place - and she is not naïve or foolish enough to overlook any of those things, much as she might like to. And she understands that sex is worth so much more than just indulging in this moment.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blogging for the masses

This very short blog post reaffirms what I was hinting at it my post below re allowing each their own blog, only AP says it better. Blog on!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clearing the fog

This perhaps hardly needs an announcement, but for the faithful few who might wonder where I have gone, I am going to make a small one. I have decided to let this blog fall behind a few other things and clear some of the fog. I have been posting a lot more lately than I previously did in any case, and feel like it is now taking up too much time, not just in the writing of a post, but in the fiddling around loading it up (partly due to our hopeless internet connection, which is something I have to sort out). For example, the bat post below which took me about five minutes to write and then about an hour to get up on the blog loading photos etc. I can no longer access blogs at work so I can’t do any of the fiddling there (which I occasionally used to do during my own time) and I don’t want to be on the computer most evenings.

Also, I feel like much of what I have been writing lately is simply twaddle that I am not pleased with. I have been thinking about this for some time and I was challenged by a paragraph that addressed this The Little Red Writing Book. I won’t reproduce that here because I don't want this to read as any kind of judgment on blogs, which it isn’t; it’s just something I decided to apply to myself. (I am of the belief that if someone wants to start a blog to say what want to say they are as entitled to as the next person – it’s a democratic and free society :).) Then I read this post at the Purple Cellar and nodded my head in agreement, not because I thought Lydia’s blog was mediocre, quite the opposite and being written by a single Christian woman it was of particular relevance to me and I was disappointed it closed, but I agreed with the idea of evaluating what is the best use of our time. I am not writing books but there are a couple other things I would like to write, which are not the stuff of a blog – perhaps more’s the pity, because if our best writing comes from our authentic self, this blog would be better reading if I wrote about those things that meant most to me.

I revisited what I wrote in a very early post on the why of blogging and decided that the best remedy to spending increasing amounts of time on my own isn't writing blog posts to no-one in particular. I have had a small revelation that I am hopeless at using the telephone. So there are old and good friendships I have let slide because those people don’t live in Sydney and I haven’t been intentional about phoning. But those friendships are worth hanging onto, especially given the difficulty of making new ones of equal depth, which I wrote about here. So I am going to put more of my weeknights into that, for one thing. I also want to read more. That has slipped, in part because I tightened my belt on buying books, but I am not getting a lot of food for thought elsewhere and I need to read! (And if I get a tax return I might consider purchasing an iPod, so I can join the podcast generation.) I suspect I’ll be back when I read the next George Eliot :) (and I was pleased to read this post with reference to George Eliot by Jennie Baddeley – thanks Karen for that link).

So, I will still be here, posting when I feel moved to post about something for one reason or another. For now I will cease Poetry Friday, just so the blog doesn’t become nothing but poetry Friday, but poetry will still find it’s way here, you can be sure of that. So this is just bye for a little longer than usual.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Once ...

Just finally watched the movie Once. How good is that film?! Loved it, loved it, loved it! Tomorrow I am going to buy the soundtrack. Then I am going to learn the piano, the guitar, the cello, violin, drums ...

You can listen here.

Poetry Friday - Not so heavy

Here is another of Christina Rossetti, from her book of "religious poems" called Verses.

A heavy heart, if ever heart was heavy,
I offer Thee this heavy heart of me.
Are such as this the hearts Thou art fain to levy
To do and dare for Thee, to bleed for Thee?
Ah, blessed heaviness, if such they be!

Time was I bloomed with blossom and stoof leafy
How long before the fruit, if fruit there be:
Lord, if by bearing fruit my heart grows heavy,
Leafless and bloomless yet accept of me
The stripped fruit-bearing heart I offer Thee.

Lifted to Thee my heart weighs not so heavy,
It leaps and lightens lifted up to Thee;
It sings, it hopes to sing amid the bevy
Of thousand thousand choirs that sang, and see
Thy face, me loving, for Thou lovest me.

-Christina Rossetti

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Second, I have made a start on Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I have to say that thus far I am staggered and repulsed by the behaviour of Rosemary (of all the things a woman mustn't do!) and the unblinking immorality. I guess I shall press on and see what it to be made of it all in the end. The lesson to myself is: don't mention books on your blog that you haven't actually read yet.


Out of a duty of care to my blog readers I feel obliged to tell you all that the photos below were taken before the discovery of the Australian Bat Lyssavirus in 1996, which is very rare but potentially deadly, so do not try that at home.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Greater Hurrah Part II

I am back to the time when I was gathering zoological data at Wallaby Creek. Wallaby Creek was once one of Australia's richest mammal communities, and so the reason my colleague was conducting a mammal survey there was to investigate how the fauna had changed with the expansion of various land-uses.

Another of the greater hurrahs that we were privileged to see at Wallaby Creek was the golden-tipped bat. To our astonishment, one day we actually found one just hanging on the wall inside the hut. Unfortunately this meant that it was disoriented and sick and not long for this world, but we were able to have a very good look at it.

Australia's little insectivorous bats are creatures worth knowing about. Dispel from you mind the vision of large, noisy fruit bats squabbling in fruit trees, hanging from power lines and waking you in the night dropping mangoes on your roof. The insectivorous bats will rarely be seen, and the sounds they make are undetectable to the human ear (but go out into the forest at night with the appropriate high-frequency sound equipment and it's amazing what you will hear, the night full of echoes, or set a harp trap in a flight corridor and you will catch wonders to behold).

Some of these bats weigh less than 5 grams, and they sit in your hand so tiny and weightless, so soft and warm and quivering. I could have developed a passion for these bats, but that would have been traitorous because a zoologist always sticks to their kind, and I was a kangaroo girl.

Note the golden tips on its fur.

And there is a sweet little face in there somewhere.

This is the eastern horseshoe-bat. How is that for a nose?!

Changing of the Guard

For those so inclined the SMH a few days ago ran an article on the pending changes in the High Court. Here is an excerpt:

The constitution forces federal judges from the bench at 70. The Chief Justice, Murray Gleeson, retires next month, after 10 years in the job, and Michael Kirby must go by March.

The vacancies give the Government ample opportunity to recalibrate the balance of the High Court, while another two spots open if it wins a second term, and two more in a third.

Its choice of a new chief justice, the first of the court's seven equals, will be the most important appointment the Government will make, says the University of NSW's High Court commentator, Professor George Williams. "Not only do they have the ability to influence the direction of the High Court, but also the nation," he says.

Only two judges remain from the Keating era - William Gummow (appointed in 1995) and Kirby (1996). Subsequent appointments turned the court conservative, particularly compared with its stand under Sir Anthony Mason.
Kirby dissents more than any other High Court judge, but argues his record would be far less had he served in the Mason court. He thinks the court moved, not him.

Another tender sentence

Here's another sentence from page one of Tender is the Night, which amused me and made me want to buy this book. It's just there, in the middle of a paragraph describing the wider scene:
Before eight a man came down to the beach in a blue bathrobe and with much preliminary application to his person of the chilly water, and much grunting and loud breathing, floundered a minute in the sea.
For some reason I like that. It's so simple, yet I can see it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tender is the night

I had some friends over for a little dinner party on Friday night and had a lovely time of it (except for a few of those moments of trying to keep in mind and manage all the things to do - drinks, change music, spot for the portacot that came with the cutest guest, serve food, oh and speak to guests). With some of these guests (known to the blog world but I shall let them remain anonymous) came a visiting American, in Australia for a conference. He made himself very pleasant and easy company and entertained us with curious facts about America. We came to discussing books, as any good company would ;), and he told me that Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a beautiful story (and his favourite book was The Odyssey by Homer, so I figured there was a chance we were on the same page as to a good book). I've never read any F. Scott Fitzgerald and, well, it sounded quite nicely romantic so thought I'd keep it in mind.

The rest of my weekend was very quiet, so on Sunday afternoon I went wandering up King St, for the thousandth time, just to get out of the house and go and pass people in the street and pretend I was interacting with humanity. Invariably I ended up in the wretched Gould's bookshop, and remembered FSF. There I actually found (very occasionally I manage to find something in that shop) Tender is the Night for $4.95 and then did what you are supposed to do in judging a book and read the first sentence:
On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half-way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-coloured hotel.
Perfect. No-one called Bjorn or Anastasia, no facile verbiage spilling the sentence into half a paragraph, just the artless pleasant shore and large, proud, rose-coloured hotel. So I bought the book.

It wasn't till I was walking back up the street almost crashing into people that I read the back cover: "A wealthy mental patient, Nicole Warren, falls in love with Dick Diver - her psychiatrist ... cataloguing a maelstrom of interpersonal conflict". 'Oh brilliant!', I thought. That's exactly what I need to balance out the psychological musings of a murderer in Crime and Punishment: a mental health patient falling for a psychiatrist, with a whole maelstrom of conflict.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Raisin cakes and bible surprises

Sometimes bible verses just don’t end the way you expect them to:

Hosea 3:1 And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

Cakes of raisins?! That just isn’t what I thought I was going to read next. Why cakes of raisins? And what's wrong with cakes of raisins? So, I did a bit of bible research to find out if I was missing anything significant about raisin cakes, and I discovered that they must have been quite something. See Isaiah 16:7:

Therefore let Moab wail for Moab,
let everyone wail.
Mourn, utterly stricken,
for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.

When I was travelling around England I got a real thing for Lancashire Eccles cakes (pictured) and at the time thought they were worth a decent amount of effort to obtain. And I haven’t had one since and thinking about them right now, I really want one, but I haven’t quite been wailing and mourning for them, utterly stricken. These must have been amazing raisin cakes!

What was wrong with these raisin cakes appears to be where they came from: Kir-hareseth, a notable Moabite town (not Lancashire). It’s as though they were guilty by association. You can read about the judgment on this town, and on Moab more widely, in Jeremiah 48.

I think I’d be pushing things too far if I said any more than that the sin of the Isrealites is that they loved the gods of other lands (as stated in Hosea 3:1 above), together with the really good things of those lands, more than they loved the God of Israel, but it got me asking myself what are my raisin cakes ...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tea on the balcony anyone?

I do like Scottish Breakfast tea. I buy it at Harrogates Teas, Coffees and Fine Foods, a decorous little shop in Pyrmont. The British couple that run it make buying tea a whole new experience. I like my little pink Beehouse (now called Zero) teapot too, which I bought at Peter's of Kensington. I think I must have lived in 19th century England in a previous life.

Another Rossetti

Just because I can, and it is still Friday, here is another Christina Rossetti:

Lord, give me love that I may love Thee much,
Yea, give me love that I may love Thee more,
And all for love may worship and adore
And touch Thee with love’s consecrated touch.
I halt today; be love my cheerful crutch,
My feet to plod, some day my wings to soar:
Some day; but Lord, not any day before
Thou call me perfect, having made me such.
This is a day of love, a day of sorrow,
Love tempering sorrow to a sort of bliss;
A day that shortens while we call it long:
A longer day of love will dawn tomorrow,
A longer, brighter, lovelier day than this,
Endless, all love, no sorrow, but a song.

Christina Rossetti, Gifts and Graces

Poetry Friday - Dost Thou not love me?

Today I have a poem which most of us have perhaps had need of at some time or other. I thought it was time for some more Christina Rossetti. To me she is a master poet of the inner world, and of an unwavering faith robust enough to confront the difficulties.

Dost Thou Not Care?

I love and love not: Lord, it breaks my heart
To love and not to love.
Thou veiled within Thy glory, gone apart
Into Thy shrine, which is above,
Dost Thou not love me, Lord, or care
For this mine ill? -
I love thee here or there,
I will accept thy broken heart, lie still.

Lord, it was well with me in time gone by
That cometh not again,
When I was fresh and cheerful, who but I?
I fresh, I cheerful: worn with pain
Now, out of sight and out of heart;
O Lord, how long? -
I watch thee as thou art,
I will accept thy fainting heart, be strong.

"Lie still," "be strong," today; but, Lord, tomorrow,
What of tomorrow, Lord?
Shall there be rest from toil, be truce from sorrow,
Be living green upon the sward
Now but a barren grave to me,
Be joy for sorrow? -
Did I not die for thee?
Do I not live for thee? Leave Me tomorrow.

-Christina Rossetti

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A magic web with colours gay

Yesterday I finally finished my unseamly sweater, from the Happy Hooker crochet book. And finally, I am quiet pleased with it. All things considered, this is probably not a difficult pattern to make. The difficulty came in me attempting to alter things to my liking and so continually measuring myself against the pieces that I had and the pattern. Then I made several starts at most sections before I worked out how exactly the stitch was supposed to be done.

(I couldn't get a very good picture of me wearing it!)
You can see that I got a little carried away with this rare opportunity to make the sleeves longer and made these ones plenty long enough. Then, just when I thought I was finished, I realised I had three different edgings to do. I am not so sure about the loopy edging around the bottom, and whether or not I am just going to snag myself on everything I walk by, but because it was joined on at the end if I get totally fed up with it and hooked on too many passing hookable things I can just remove it.

I’ll also need to remember to reduce my dietary intake before I plan to wear this sweater, given the way it’s rather snug through the middle. In this day of hipster clothing I think we’ve all forgotten we have waists that used to be seen. And the downside of this nicely long and fitted jumper is that when I turn sideways, there is my gluteus maximus unduly maximised, highlighted as the munificent “curve” that it is.

Anyway, I have quite a bit of this nice claret wool left over and am contemplating a matching hat.
P.S. The title of this post is from The Lady of Shallot by Tennyson: "There she weaves by night and day/ A magic web with colours gay". Crochet is poetry.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A mid-winter afternoon

I am on holidays this week. So far it's been decidedly pleasant. All I am doing is staying in Sydney, because actually staying at home for a holiday is something that I haven’t done for a very long time. For the last several years every holiday I have hopped on a plane and gone to visit family. That is wonderful, but always involves taking minimal luggage, owing to the plane travel, leaving a good many ‘holiday projects’ behind, then staying in someone else’s house and fitting in with what is happening. I felt like it was time to have some days off just to enjoy being home, to get through one or two things on that ‘when I retire’ list and just have something of a ‘personal retreat’ (that’s an idea I like!). It’s extremely nice just to not have to get up in the dark in order to fit in exercise before work, to not have to get dressed in business clothes, sit in an office chair and be gone for almost ten hours a day.

The one thing I would love to do is go camping – real camping, somewhere you couldn’t be except that you’ve brought your dwelling with you and can sit around a fire at night, poking it and toasting things, and watch the stars … But that is not something I would attempt on my own any more, especially not anywhere close to Sydney. A bushwalk later maybe.

Yesterday, I went on a big excursion to the Summer Hill Anglicare warehouse, to fossick for that amazing bargain. I had only one thing in mind though, which is probably not the way to opportunity shop. I didn’t find it. So I came home and worked on formatting the next edition of the Equal But Different Journal, which is the one real “job” I have to do, so I thought I’d get that out of the way, then last night I had dinner with a wonderful family at my church and their gorgeous kids. I have had three meals at their house in fifteen days, so am feeling quite spoilt, but I love the way they live out what they believe church and fellowship is (and include me in it).

Today I took myself off to the Bather’s Pavilion at Balmoral, for no other reason than because I’d never been there before and it sounded fabulous. Earlier this morning it looked like not such a nice day, so I thought I’d leave it for another, then the sun made a re-appearance so off I went. Being there was a perfect moment. I got a little table by the window, ordered a chai latte, took out a notebook and pen and the Little Red Writing Book but then spent as much time just gazing out the window. It was so tranquil and unhurried and the sky was layering deepening shades of blue upon itself like a celestial oil canvas under an invisible hand. Here's a few pictures from the digital camera I inherited when my sister upgraded:

View from my table

Photos rarely do justice to a stormy sky and this one is no exception, but you can get the idea:

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The dead cat on the table - MA15+

Well, I've taken my skeletons out of the closet. There is only thing left to do: get the dead cat on the table. The dreadful tale I am about to relay took place while I was I was conducting research with the Department of Zoology and Tropical Ecology, James Cook University, Townsville. The place was Mount Fox. The year was 1997. I was on one of my regular data-gathering field trips and on this trip I had taken one of the Ph.D students from my lab at the university, rather than a backpacker from one of the downtown hostels as was my usual practice. Perhaps just as well.

If I recall rightly it was the second night of trapping. I was trudging along my trap line at about 2:30am, motorcycle battery strapped to my waist, spotlight in hand, when I shone it on the traps up ahead and paused in my stride. One trap contained a possum, but what was in the other? It wasn't moving like a bettong, had an eye-shine that didn't belong to any wild creature I knew.

A cat! I had caught myself a feral cat!

(You need to understand that feral cats are supposed to be very difficult to trap (even though they are called “cat traps”), least of all with nothing but peanut butter, oats and honey, which mine were baited with.) I arrived at the trap and gazed upon this creature with a mixture of dismay and joy. Joy because it was one less feral pest to eat my study animals, dismay because the task of dealing with it was mine. I was faced with that momentous decision: could I destroy the one for the good of the many?

I like animals, just incase you're wondering, probably more than most, but it would be an act of environmental terrorism to let a feral cat go free in this country, where they kill an estimated 12,000,000,000 native animals a year. Also, foxes don't survive in North Queensland, owing to the temperature isotherm, so many species elsewhere endangered hang-on up there, which makes the presence of feral cats particularly loathsome. But what was I to do? All of the jackeroos at the nearest station were gone for days mustering (and I mean "gone for days" – they’d head off on horseback with a helicopter to round-up the cattle on 200,000 acres of largely unfenced land and come back in a cloud of dust with a great herd of drought masters days later).

I said to my helper Steve, "we’ll come back for that". So I did my usual thing with the possum and trudged on. At the end of the night I came back, gloves in place, and collected my cat, dumped it, trap and all, in the back of the truck and went home. "What are you going to do with it?”, asked Steve. “Don’t know”, was my response - but I was mulling on a plan. When we arrived back at our quarters I pulled the tarp on the truck’s tray over the cat, said “we’ll deal with that in the morning” and went inside to sleep. (It was actually well into the “morning” already, but I meant after the sun came up.)

So, after that minimal sleep I got back in the truck, with Steve who wasn’t going to miss this for the world, drove down the paddock to the nearest dam and did this:

First I had to test the depth of the water (in a professional manner):

Next I got my cat:

Then I didn’t really want to watch what I was actually doing. So I dropped it and then turned and ran. There is a photo of me looking rather distraught taken after this one, but it’s on slide film:

I gave it a good 20 minutes, just to be sure. Then I came back and fished out my trap, but, horror of horrors, the back door came open and the cat actually slipped into the dam and all I had was left with was the trap:

There was nothing for it but to go in after the cat:

If you think I am awfully mean well, drowning is, so I’ve been told, supposed to be quite a nice way to “go” – once you get past the initial struggle. And if you still think I’m mean, here's just one of the reasons why I did it:

I got back to the lab at the university and dumped my dead cat in a sack on the floor, with the declaration “look what I killed!”. One of the mammal nutters rummaged through the sack in excitement. Then came the high-fives and congratulations. We’re a strange lot, us zoologists, but zoological field research has its own rites of passage, and destroying your first feral animal is one of them. A few days later I was presented with the skull of my cat (I didn’t arrange for that, believe me) by one of the skull freaks and told that I should mount it. I let him keep it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

P.S. on the poem

I should perhaps have mentioned that, while I like aspects of the poem below, I have something of a "theological" question mark over the comparison drawn between the actions of the parent and those of God.

Poetry Friday - The Toys

I've had trouble deciding on a poem for today. There just wasn't that one poem that I felt particularly inclined to post, and I have had books open all over the place. I looked at more T.S. Eliot, but he is long and obscure, then considered one by Elizabeth Prentiss, but she wrote it in the depths of her own agony, and in isolation of her own story or your own agony it might be too wrenching. So in the end I have chosen one by Coventry Patmore, which you'll need no great perspicacity to understand.

The Toys

MY little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise
Having my law the seventh time disobey'd
I struck him, and dismiss'd
With hard words and unkiss'd
—His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray'd
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with trancèd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
'I will be sorry for their childishness.'

Coventry Patmore 1823–1896

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Empty hands and unutterable longings

I promised (to my own blog at least) to come back with an example of the faith of Elizabeth Prentiss worked out in her life, from her biography More Love to Thee by Sharon James. There is plenty in this book to encourage trust in the small things, but it’s seen most powerfully in the big things. Thus I have been sitting here reading again the account of the day her second child died, which is something truly harrowing. As the biographer herself writes “one cannot but be struck by the appalling mismanagement of this death”. I shan’t try and write out great slabs of this chapter, but the end of the journal entry of that day is this:

Empty hands, empty hands, a worn-out exhausted body, and unutterable longings to flee from a world that has had for me so many sharp experiences. God help me, my baby, my baby!
And afterwards Elizabeth would write the poem:

One child and two green graves are mine
This is God’s gift to me;
A bleeding, fainting, broken heart –
This is my gift to Thee.
Sometime later, when a close friend, Carrie, lost her own two children, Elizabeth wrote her the letter below. Carrie had been prostrate with grief but on receiving this letter writes that she was "fairly aroused, lifted up, placed upon my feet":

Is it possible, is it possible that you are made childless? I feel distressed for you my dear friend, I long to fly to you and weep with you; it seems as if I must say or do something to comfort you. But God only can help you now and how thankful I am for a throne of grace and power where I can commend you, again and again, to Him who doeth all things well. I never realise my affliction in the loss of my children as I do when death enters the house of a friend. Then I feel that I can’t have it so. But why should I think I know better than my Divine Master what is good for me, or good for those I love? Dear Carrie, I trust that in this hour of sorrow you have with you that Presence, before which alone sorrow and sighing flee away. God is left; Christ is left; sickness, accident, death cannot touch you here. Is this not a blissful thought? … May sorrow bring us both nearer to Christ! I can almost fancy my little Eddy has taken your little Maymee by the hand and led her into the bosom of Jesus. How strange our children, our own little infants, have seen Him in his glory, whom we are only yet longing for and struggling towards!

Another sweet daughter has been lent to me of the Lord. Lent, LENT, let me repeat to myself in remembrance of my own sorrow and of yours.

A sigh for the Family Court

A lot of cases from the Family Court of Australia come my way at work. Most of the them are just plain sad - sad primarily because the relationships have soured to such a point and the Court is needed to make decisions relating to the care of the children and the like. Today I read a judgment in which the judges first wearied paragraph is this:

This appeal involves features typical of a great many applications that assert contravention of an order that a child spend time with a parent: the complaint, even if correct, seems a heavy handed, even obssessive reaction - yet, if the incident is the latest in a series (about which there will commonly be mainly subjective comment, irrelevant to the particular proceeding) perhaps any exasperation of the complainant is at least understandable; secondly, the "excuse" offered by the respondent will seem "fair enough", at least not to be behaviour that ought attract punishment; and finally, whatever the outcome, it will seem unlikely to contribute to any real diminution of the particular family's conflict.

Warnick J

Yes, indeed. I wish they'd just all go home and be loving and reasonable.

Thursday's word

Today's word, from is:
adjective: 1. Gloomy. 2. Ill-tempered.

From Latin atra bilis (black bile), translation of Greek melankholia.

"A couple of nights ago on BBC Two they scheduled an amusing programme, called Grumpy Old Women at Christmas, in which a lot of atrabilious female semi celebs of a certain age moaned about the festive season."
Jane Shilling; Not a Card Sent or a Bauble Hung; The Times (London, UK); Dec 23, 2004.
Not really something to aspire to is it!