Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On books

On Sunday, our bookclub discussion about The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris became something deeply fascinating. The majority of us had considered this as a book about a fellow who was basically ‘normal’, but who lapsed into episodes of madness brought on by physical distress (if my legs made me walk all night through a New York winter I’d go mad too!). But then there was another member who basically thought that everything after a particular point in the book was madness, and that some events, which most of us took as real accounts, were actually hallucinating versions of visits to the hospital. This did actually start to make some sense, as we realised that other things we’d just accepted didn’t make so much sense. In the end we were all sitting around in the café, shaking our heads and starting to laugh about our inability to separate truth from madness. We felt like we’d, genuinely "literally", lost our grasp on reality. The trick of the book is, that being written from the fellow’s perspective, of course it’s reality for him, so that’s how you see his world. No wonder this book was making me feel all queer at the time. We then started to read out and compare some of the dust jacket blurbs about the book, and some of the brief recommendations inside, and realised that very few people seemed to actually understand what this book was. It was mind-blowing. If I had the time and inclination I’d now read it again, but I probably won’t.

Other books I have in the pile (when normally I have no such pile) at the moment are:

Mirror Mirror by Graham Beynon – book on identity that was reviewed and recommended at a women’s morning at my church last year. So far, so good (and it has good reviews by Tim Chester and Richard Coekin). I probably need to start at the beginning again though, because I’ve taken it too slowly.

The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb – yeah, I know. But in doing that book meme recently I looked at my books by Larry Crabb and noticed I hadn’t read this one (for obvious reasons) so I flicked through the introduction, and got sucked in. It’s really quite apt to some aspects of my glossing post about the dating scene and what have you (I just took that post down, because I decided it was an out-loud raving, of little use to anyone, that needed a few more correctives and didn’t need to be preserved for all time). I have a number of married friends who tell me this is the best book they ever read on marriage. No doubt others would say otherwise, and it’s older now, so many books have been written since. But, it says some very helpful things, which do apply to all relationships (though there's a section I think I am going to skip!).

One to One bible reading by David Helm. I haven’t really started this yet, but I need to.

Romola, by George Eliot. Still on this one, her historical novel set in Florence.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. This is not as esoteric as it sounds. It’s about the influence of our built surrounds on us. I’ve also got his book on The Romantic Movement in the pile, for some time in the future.

Once I am finished this crochet dress, I am going to clean up this pile!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Modern society believes in Love and in Work - but, imbued with Romanticism, rarely believes in Working at Love.
- Alain de Botton (via his twitter feed)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday morning motivational

I went looking for this poem, sure it was on this blog, and couldn’t find it. And worse, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the internet either. I came down to Sydney in about 1999 to hear Don Carson give a series of lectures at University of New South Wales, and he concluded one of them with this poem. I thought, ‘where did he get that?’, only to discover that he wrote it himself. I like this reminder, that some things, rightly understood, should spring forth naturally.

Shall forests hide their beauty?
Shall rainbows fade to grey?
Shall mountain streams stop dancing?
Shall lambs forget to play?
And shall I keep silent
at grace beyond degree?
Before the cross I count as loss
What once was dear to me.

Shall birds forget their singing?
Shall constellations stray?
Shall thunderstorms be muzzled?
Shall sunlight fade away?
And shall I keep silent
ashamed of Christ my Lord?
His holiness and faithfulness
The angel hosts adored.

Shall flowers mask their colours?
Shall waves die in the sea?
Shall full moons turn to darkness?
Shall laughter cease to be?
And shall I keep silent
while basking in his love?
I’ll tell his praise through all my days
And then in Heaven above.

Don Carson

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hooking along ...

I’m having a fairly quiet weekend this one. I didn’t go to a writing group I am sort of part of yesterday, because I’ve let the writing endeavour fall by the wayside lately and would have felt farcical turning up with nothing to discuss, so I really only have bookclub fun then church today. In the meantime I have been hooking away on finishing this crochet dress for my niece. It’s so much work!

I don’t think I do crochet for quite these therapeutic reasons, having never been in depression. But, doing crochet definitely has benefits during times when I’m feeling a little anxious or disturbed. For instance, over the long weekend I went to stay with my Aunt and Uncle and was quite agitated over something (not to do with them), and I found myself crocheting quite feverishly while I was internally churning (I’ve blogged about crochet as a ‘centering pursuit’ before here). This also arose because my Aunt was knitting a cardigan while I was there, so the two of us could sit about chatting and working on our projects, and she, the Queen of all crafting pursuits, was spurring me on to finish mine. Often if I’m somewhere that involves an amount of sitting about, but requires you to be at least semi-sociable (so you can’t be reading for example!), I like having crochet to do. It also makes good occupation for a quiet weekend.

It was over the long weekend that I actually made enough progress on this dress, finishing the front and back, to feel like there was even an achievable end in sight. Even so, I seem to have spent hours on it since, weaving in ends, sewing it together, making sleeves ... and I’m still not done! It was a silly idea to begin it, but the light is now at the end of the tunnel.

So, I’m just blogging this partly as an incentive. It’s a trap of blog world to fall into doing things for the sake of blogging them, but every now and then (though certainly not always) I feel that if I write that I am undertaking something here, it gives me an extra reason to get on with it. So, now you and me both (I’m sure that applies primarily to me) can anticipate photos of the finished product. (And, of course, I've only shared this here because I now have reasonable confidence that it will, in fact, come to pass!) There’s even going to be craft happening over book club this afternoon (we discovered we all like various crafting endeavours) so I have set my goals!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Poetry Day - rose from brier

Image from here.

Thou hast not that, My child, but thou hast Me,
And am not I alone enough for thee?
I know it all, know how thy heart was set
Upon this joy which has not been given yet.

And well I know how through the wistful days
Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways,
As unregarded as a breath of air,
But there in love and longing, always there.

I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow
A rose for others. If it were not so
I would have told thee. Come, then, say to Me:
My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.

Amy Carmichael
- Rose from Brier

Friday, June 24, 2011

Where the soul never dies

I listened to this (which is beautiful) via here, and ended up on this video.

Without expectations

As something of a follow up to that “I need …” link and associated ramble of yesterday, in the serendipity Chris over at Standing and Waiting, posted this quote yesterday:
At the heart of the gospel is the proclamation that ‘Jesus is Lord’. Because he is Lord, the Christian allows Jesus to be the very focus of life. We will learn to value and serve people as he does, but at the same time will be kept from expecting these people to meet all of our needs. What needs they do meet in our lives we will value and thank God for, and in so doing will be reminded that they are gifts to us from our Lord. When others, even those closest and dearest to us, are viewed like this, we are free to minister to them without expecting them to meet our needs.
Peter Brain, Going The Distance, p 72.

First chill, then stupor ...

This is the poem on which The Unnamed is based (lines from it form the section titles). Knowing this adds a huge metaphorical idea to the book.

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Emily Dickinson

The Unnamed

I seem to be in the unusual, distracted state of having several books started and stopped and scattered about partly read all at the same time, which is not usually how I do things.

This week I began and finished The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris, because I had to read it for book club. I was not looking forward to it. It is the story of a fellow with an unnamed medical condition, in which he starts walking and physically cannot stop, and has to walk until he collapses with exhaustion anywhere he happens to be and falls asleep. I didn’t think this sounded particularly riveting.

But then I started reading and was pleasantly lured in and couldn’t put it down. That is until I got to the part where the protagonist decides that he is going to try to master his body with his mind, and then begins an internal dialogue that rivals Crime and Punishment for madness. At that point I had to put it down. I was home alone reading it one evening and felt all insane myself.

It’s a fascinating and disturbing book, that actually takes it's shape from an Emily Dickinson poem. In essence it’s a book about marriage, and the toll of sickness on relationship, and about what it’s like to suffer from something that others can’t possibly understand and suspect is all ‘in your mind’. Whether the character's condition is ultimately mental or biological is a conclusion you're left to reach more or less for yourself.

It’s quite beautifully written, and I liked what it had to say about marriage, without glossing over the temptation to ditch it when the going got tough. Here’s a little passage from near the beginning, as a prelude to the rest of the story:
Was she up for this? She lay in bed under the covers, her breath visible in the slant moonlight. Really up for it? The long matrimonial haul was accomplished in cycles. One cycle of bad breath, one cycle of renewed desire, a third cycle of breakdown and small avoidances, still another of plays and dinners that spurred a conversation between them late at night that reminded her of like minds and the pleasure they took in each other’s talk. And then back to hating him for not taking out the garbage on Wednesday. That was the struggle. Sickness and death, caretaking, the martyrdom of matrimony – that was the fluff stuff. When the vows kick in, you don’t even blink. You just do. She had to be up for it.
It's well worth the read, though I do concur with the end of this (good) review, that it disintegrates in places into something less than cohesive. When I started what I'll call the 'madness' section, I was almost shocked, and felt like I'd begun a different book, met a character. But perhaps that was a deliberate ploy to say something about mental illness (it's only here that we begin to suspect it is a disease of the mind, though it's hard to tell which is the chicken and which the egg). And I can't quite separate whether my disappointment with the end is with the circumstances of its ending or with the book itself.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guitar advancements

Now to bury that post in something else. I did have a complete lightbulb moment in guitar class the other night. Because I tried to learn classical guitar out of a book initially, I knew what the notes were on the strings, but was getting so confused when people talked about chords and how you knew what key something was in, and while I knew they were different things, flats and sharps were in some kind of mental blur with majors and minors. Then the other night the teacher gave us a sheet with all the E-shaped Barre Chords on it, and it was like the universe suddenly made sense. I do like to know the theory behind things, the framework that everything hangs on, and I feel like I now understand. It’s funny how sometimes it takes just that extra little piece of information and everything slots into place.

That was the last class for that term, and I haven't decided whether or not I'll go on yet as there is one more class I could take, but I think I shall. I'm also still only borrowing a guitar off a friend, and want to but my own. I'm just waiting long enough to be sure I know what sort it is I want to buy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Being girly

I don’t have a lot of patience for female hysterics, possibly because I grew up in a house in which there was no cavalry, so screaming and carrying on hoping someone else would come to the rescue and deal with a problem was a pointless endeavour. You might as well get a hold of yourself and deal with it.

That said, I do not like spiders.

I was just on my way out to get a few things from the supermarket at lunch, going to stop off at the ladies’ ablutions down the hall en route, when I spied a great big huntsmen spider on the wall right above the door on the way in. I was alright going in, because I could see it and keep an eye on it, so I went in a did my business. But then I had to come out. I stood inside the toilets holding the door handle in a moment of nervousness, knowing the spider was right above the door on the other side, hoping like mad it wasn’t going to drop on me as I exited and land in my hair or fall down my shirt, in which case female hysterics just might have got the better of me.

So, I pulled the door open, paused, then took a sort of running leap out into the hall, aiming to lower the probability of it landing on me, where thankfully no one was watching.

Then, on my way out the front of our building the maintenance fellow just happened to be chatting to the chap at the security desk, so I approached and rather sheepishly told them there was a big spider outside the ladies’ toilets upstairs. I felt very girly, going to the front desk to report a spider. But I also figured I was doing my part for all the other women who’d have to resist hysterics at the sight of it and possibly find themselves trapped in the bathroom. And we all know men like a good reason to be heroic, so I was letting them have one.

On my way back I noticed there’s a big smear on the wall where the spider once was. Arrghh.

In the bleak midwinter

And, because this is something of a Christina Rossetti appreciation blog, I thought I'd post a winter poem of hers also. This is essentially a Christmas poem, but as that doesn't fall in winter for us in Southern climes, such that this poem is rarely heard, or the carol rarely sung, I thought I'd post it now. I don't believe it actually snows in Bethlehem, but we can forgive her for that, knowing that it would have been colder in that stable than an Australian summer.

— by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A poem on winter solstice

So the winter solstice is going to occur at 3:16 am tomorrow morning. I thought I'd mark the occasion with a winter poem by Amy Carmichael.

WINTER — by Amy Carmichael

When my leaves fall, wilt Thou encompass them?
      The gold of autumn flown, the bare branch brown,
The brittle twig and stem,
      The tired leaves dropping down –
Wilt Thou encompass that which men call dead?
      I see the rain, the coldly smothering snow,
My leaves dispirited,
      Lie very low.

So, the heart questioneth, white winter near;
      Till jocund as the glorious voice of spring
Cometh His “Do not fear,
      But sing; rejoice and sing,
For sheltered by the coverlet of snow
      Are secrets of delight, and there shall be
Uprising that shall show
      All that through winter I prepared for thee.”

Wabi and Sabi

I do like a good German word for something for which English has no equivalent. But I have lately expanded that beyond German into Japanese. I have the guy who sits across from me at work to thank for sending me down this path. Boy can he talk. I have to try to remember to only engage in speaking to him when I have time for the ensuing conversation, which it is usually very interesting and informative. He studied urban landscapes and design and is passionate about architecture and history ... I don't know what he is doing here working on the boringest among boring products, but none of us knows what we're doing here.

Recently, after the cold weather brought it out, he held up the Dr Who scarf that he knitted himself and asked me if I could spot the mistake, which, unfortunately, I could, but he then told me that was the "wabi"  - and on we went with a conversation about wabi and whatever else. It would seem that wabi has had a number of different meanings over time, but the sense in which my colleague was using it is below. The meanings of wabi and sabi have also since been combined into this Japanese world view or kind of spirituality called (you guessed it) Wabi-sabi, about finding beauty in imperfection and simplicity etc, which is something else again.

Japanese noun. A flaw that gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole. This can be as simple as the tiny crack in one's favorite cup. It can also be handmade books or dinners that you've made from scratch. Everyone's face has wabi.

Japanese noun. The patina of age, such as the softness of worn granite or the browning in one's favorite tea cup. It refers to the natural progression of time, and carries with it an understanding that all things will grow old and become less conventionally beautiful.

I took most of this from here (leaving out the sweeping cultural generalisations), and added to it from about the place.

A new blog

I’ve already mentioned the Centre for Christian Living, and Andrew Cameron and his book Joined-up Life. I skipped another guitar lesson a few weeks back to go to the lecture on what to do about world need. We made a little night out of it with those of us on our Made Fair markets committee at my church, and went to a café afterwards to chat and de-brief. Fair Trade, as a concept, received a favourable analysis overall, so that was good to hear (you can actually read a fair amount of information on it on Wikipedia here and it’s impact here). The night was mostly about the “far” neighbour, towards whom most of us can do little more than give monetary help, and next year they might run a night on the “near” neighbour, which would be interesting.

I bought the book Joined-up Life, which was launched that evening, but have done little more than look at the table of contents so far. However, Andrew has now also started a blog of the same name, to discuss some of the concepts. Most of us probably don't need more blogs to read, but this one should be good!

Granny square circles

I have already made myself some circular crochet placemats (here), because every now and then I think of something myself, but over at Purl Bee are some instructions for how to make granny square circles. I like them (though I'd use different colours)!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Messing about on guitar

Over the long weekend I went away and stayed with some extended family. I took my guitar along, as my Uncle is quite the guitarist and used to do, and still occasionally does, gigs about the place, and my teenage cousin is following in his footsteps. My Uncle is a bass player primarily, but he does pretty well on guitar also. We had a good time "jamming", especially playing Stand by Me, with me on the basic chords and him doing the fancy stuff I can only aspire to (but I didn't get that on video).

Apologies for my home movie here. It has real home movie "charm" (euphemism for it's rubbish). My camera takes video, but is not a video camera per se, and something was going on with the focus (another video was much better, but you don't get any of the lead guitar in it, if that's what I call it). We were also just fooling around and he hadn't played this in a long time. But without further ado, here's a bit of footage of my Uncle playing Mark Knopfler.

If you have no idea what he's playing it's Going Home. Here is a video of Mark Knopfler playing it live, and here it is in the movie Local Hero. There was a time when just about everybody in my extended family owned, and thrashed, the Mark Knopfler CD Screenplaying, a compilation of his soundtracks (tracks like this one are so nice in the background).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Poetry Day - Nothing but pain

I thought I'd give you another Amy Carmichael poem. This one alludes to the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17, who thought she was destitute, with nothing left in the cupboard to give, then the prophet Elijah came along and asked her to bake him a cake of bread, which she did in obedience, and from that point on her flour and oil never ran out. Elisabeth Elliot (in The Path of Loneliness) expands this poem to the idea that our lives are a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and that a broken and contrite spirit is good material to be offered up in such a sacrifice (Psalm 51:17).

I suspect Amy Carmichael has borrowed a line from Christina Rossetti's poetry, a line that Christina's brother Dante considered one of her finest, from the poem (Later Life) which gave me the title of this blog: "Its very song-bird trails a broken wing".

"Charity never faileth" by Elspeth Young

Nothing in the House

Thy servant, Lord, hath nothing in the house,
Not even one small pot of common oil;
For he who never cometh but to spoil
Hath raided my poor house again, again,
That ruthless strong man armed, whom men call Pain.

I thought that I had courage in the house,
And patience to be quiet and endure,
And sometimes happy songs; now I am sure
Thy servant truly hath not anything,
And see, my song-bird hath a broken wing.

My servant, I have come into the house-
I who know Pain's extremity so well
That there can never be the need to tell
His power to make the flesh and spirit quail:
Have I not felt the scourge, the thorn, the nail?

And I, his Conqueror, am in the house,
Let not your heart be troubled: do not fear:
Why shouldst thou, child of Mine, if I am here?
My touch will heal thy song-bird's broken wing,
And he shall have a braver song to sing.

Amy Carmichael

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kinds of blue

Some talented friends of mine have made an anthology of short comics about depression. You can read it for free online here (which everybody should!), and also contribute to getting it into print here (by pre-ordering a copy of the book or donating).

I used to work, and meet to write, with some of these folks in the place of hard labour and I was intrigued by knitting therapy (you could say it's possible I get a little addicted to crochet, every now and then).

In search of the true self

This post, from The Stone at the New York Times Opinionator, is very interesting. It explores the question "How is one to know which aspect of a person counts as that person’s true self?". Is it our desires, our values, or something else?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wooden heart

And it would seem that today I have a theme. I watched this on facebook then traced it to Hayley at Without a Shepherd. You can read the lyrics here. "We are all made out of shipwrecks ..."

Listener "Wooden Heart" from Nathan Corrona on Vimeo.

Fortress around your heart

This is such a seriously bad 80's music video that I had to hide it (the dance/guitar moves at the beginning leave me speechless), but it is an enduringly good song.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Poetry Day - Where lieth peace

He said, "I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filled again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease."
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, "I will crowd action upon action
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of Manhood, cease."
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavor lieth peace.

He said, "I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life's riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease."
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, "I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmuring, why will ye not cease?"
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, "I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God to-morrow
Will to His son explain."
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not vain the word, not vain.
For in Acceptance lieth peace.

~Amy Carmichael
Toward Jerusalem

Friday, June 10, 2011


For the weekend. Watch closely. I stole this off Nathan's blog.

The life of the insane

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results,* then that is the story of my life right now.

At work it involves technology that has become completely dysfunctional. I’ve stayed back at work and sat here with the IT heavy weights upstairs sharing my desktop observing and trying to fix things, only next time, it isn’t fixed. We’re all just about ready to go on strike, or hoping the system completely falls over and we can’t produce the products that generate the revenue (at the moment we are nursing them through) so that then they will finally have to throw some more resources at the technology. But in the end, it’s actually not my responsibility, and I wash my hands of it (without the insanity of Lady Macbeth on that particular point).

Outside of work, well let’s just not talk about that, because there it is probably closer to being truly insane.

I am looking forward to this looong weekend however. Hope you all have a very pleasant one.

* I think this is largely discredited, unverifiable and considered adverse to perserverance (see here), but it suits the purposes of a melodramatic blog post.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A date

My connect group at church has been asked on a “date” tonight, by another connect group, and they are providing us with dinner. Isn’t that nice? I’m looking forward to what should be a very pleasant evening.

Disenfranchised grief

Here's another good post from Sarie King, about the difficulty of grieving something which cannot be openly acknowledged or publicly mourned. If you're single or childless (or both) or facing some other kind of silent grief, or know someone who is, it's worth a read.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A green typewriter on the beach

And just because, for reasons I can't quite explain, I love this photo (from this seller on etsy - and I also very much like her photo Tempest in a Teacup).

Proverbs 31

That’s a blog post title that I suspect makes women everywhere groan. But, I did actually work my way through Proverbs in May as it was preached at my church, and felt like I came out the end of it with a new perspective on Proverbs 31. I know the author of this particular chapter is unknown and not considered that of the rest of the book, but Proverbs 31 is well placed at the end of it. As you read through the Proverbs as a whole, over and over you find proverbs about diligence, about not being an idle “sluggard”, about making adequate preparations for the future (but all the while acknowledging that it’s God who brings them about), about the appropriate use of words, and about wisdom as the fear of the Lord.

Then you get to the end and find there an acrostic poem, which reads very much as a summary of what has come before, only in particular application to women.

And, also, as with the rest of the book, it holds up an ideal, and isn’t all to be applied literally and fully to any one individual (eg “her lamp does not go out at night” and “she rises while it is yet night”, which would mean never sleeping – and there's no argument here for rising early in the morning over staying up late at night, because this woman does both!).

The ESV study notes were quite helpful on this:
... the woman embodies in all areas of life the full character of wisdom commended throughout this book. This shows that even though the concrete situations up to now have generally envisioned a cast of males, the teaching of the entire book is intended for all of God's people ... Second, as with other character types [eg the “righteous person” of the rest of the book], this profile is an ideal: a particular example of full-scale virtue and wisdom toward which the faithful are willing to be molded ... It is not expected that any one woman will look exactly like this in every respect.
And as the book of Proverbs begins with “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), so it ends with “a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised”. Here is wisdom for women.

Rather than seeing it as an isolated prototype or list of instructions for what an excellent woman will look like, connecting it to the rest of the book in such a way made a lot more sense of this chapter for me (and we can all now sleep at night!).

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Poetry Day - A tree standing over a grave

I read this poem during the week, and liked it, so here it is (it's almost a little "hallmark", but manages not to be).

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

Wendell Berry 1993, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (via Austin Kleon)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Handicrafts meet home organisation

After writing that post about books, I do feel like I’ve let reading slip a little lately, because I’ve been directing time and energy into producing physical things. At moments like this I feel like I should hit the pause button on blogging, because without a certain level of input, the output is bound to suffer. But, since it’s been all about crochet lately (I must be a glutton for punishment, because I am now trying to make a dress for my niece's birthday, after I couldn't find a nice one to buy), and since there is a current phenomenon of decluttering and organising, and since handicrafts and uncluttering don’t often go together, how good is this idea:

You can get the pattern from a link on this post (a new blog from two crocheters who make good patterns, available in their etsy store). I have a few spots where I think a removable hook (because I’m renting) with one of these hanging would be just the thing.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

5 books that changed who I am

Ally has tagged me in a meme. To play along, I need to share five books that changed who I am.

The book Arch Image from TOBEDOIT via sparrows and arrows, via Ally.

I found this hard. I've read quite a few books and have certainly been changed and shaped by many of them, but which ones in particular? In the end I decided not to deliberate on this too long, and just name a few that spring to mind.

The Bible - that has to be first. This is the book that explains life the universe and everything, diagnoses humankinds true condition and provides the wonderful solution in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Finding God by Larry Crabb. It's been a while since I've read this now, but I have read it many times in the past. It has a tag line along the lines of moving through your problems to finding God, but it's not just for those with "problems". It taught me to understand what was really going on underneath all the ways I relate to other people and process what happens to and around me. And there was a time when I read other books by Larry Crabb called Understanding People, Men and Women, Encouragement ... which I think are the first books that opened up psychological insights for me.

I'll call this the Elisabeth Elliot conglomeration. As a teenager I started in on Passion and Purity, Let Me Be a Woman ... The Path of Loneliness is one I find particularly valuable. Elisabeth Elliot has a unique, anecdotal style of writing, that's very easy to read. Essentially she encouraged me trust God to give us and be for us what we need in all that comes along. I think I can credit Elisabeth Elliot for giving me an understanding, early on as a teenager, of what it means to be a woman, and why there's no need to push against that.

Stepping Heavenward by Elisabeth Prentiss (even though I wouldn't sign off on all the theological ideas that come through in this one). It's curious, because I am someone who is quite happy to start and finish non-fiction books, on theology, psychology, whatever topic, but I've realised that I actually really do learn things through the telling of stories. Perhaps we all do in ways we don't even begin to realise. So, it seems odd to mention fiction as something that changed me, but I think much of the fiction I have read really has. This book is the story of one girl's growth in maturity and godliness, from the woman who wrote the hymn More Love to Thee, and it's truly inspirational, as well as just beautiful. It's not autobiographical (as sometimes thought) but if you read the Elizabeth Prentiss's story, you will realise that it's close! (Her biography by Sharon James is worth a read.)

The Albatross Book of Verse, edited by Louis Untermeyer. My Mum had this book, and it is here I discovered a love for classic poetry.

Rules are:

• Tag between 3 and 5 people
• link back to this post.
• call the post '5 books that changed who I am'
• enjoy.

So, I am going to tag Sophie, Simon, Ben and Rebecca. (I realise some people don't do memes, but I can't remember who, so, if it's you, sorry. And if anyone else wants to have a go, I'd like to read about your "changing" books.)

A fashion conumdrum and announcement

I’m having a fashion conumdrum today. I need to do something about my winter work wardrobe, because it’s all a little old and casual. So this morning I decided I’d actually wear a skirt and tights (momentarily forgetting about cycling till I got downstairs and tried to get my leg over my bike) and with it a proper button-up shirt, one which I got at Vinnies. It’s a shirt with bold stripes on it in two shades of pink and blue, is some classy London brand, and felt like it had never been worn (you know how cotton shirts have that feel when they’ve never been washed?). And it’s definitely a ladies shirt, because it has the darts on either side, but, I think I know why it may have ended up at Vinnies, because, at the end of the sleeves it has only slits on either side. After fumbling around wondering what was going on here for a few seconds, I realised that they must be for cuff links!

Now, I thought cuff links were some sort of men’s bling, and I have never seen women’s cuff links in my life. It’s possible I haven't been looking, but since when did ladies shirts require cuff links?

I did some googling and came across this rather distressing news:

One item that you’ll rarely hear about is ladies cufflinks. When you think about cufflinks, you’ll invariably think of a James Bond style figure who wears cufflinks to look debonair and to finish off a nice suit. While there’s nothing wrong with this look or with men wearing cufflinks (since they are primarily a man’s accessory), there are more and more women’s shirts being sold that require ladies cufflinks.
So, that's what we might be in for. I really don't need to have cuff links in my life. For today I am walking around with the flaired-sleeve-poking-out-the-bottom-of-my-cardigan look happening (this shirt has a slightly seventies look, with a wide sort of collar too, so I think I am getting away with this) and I'd really like to keep good ole buttons.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Inconsolable longing for an unnameable something

It's a day for wishes and longings. I think today Laurel is being a little Sehnsucht-ish.

Still she wished ...

Anyone who lives in Sydney is aware of what the weather here has been for the last couple of days: rain coming down in torrents. So, I walked in to work on Monday and Tuesday, because it’s easier to walk with an umbrella and get slightly less wet than cycling without one.* Upon walking half-way home one day and waiting 20 minutes for a bus (which reminded me why it’s good to cycle), I tried hard to stay out of the second-hand bookshop at the bus stop, so I wouldn’t either miss the bus when it did come or buy more books. However, they did have postcards of the covers of books for sale near the door, and I couldn’t resist this one.

*Despite the fact that I live in a great place and got 100% in this “walkability” test (H/T Ally), though it invented a supermarket where there isn’t one, there is no very direct public transport between my house and my work, unless I defy Pythagoras and take a long route involving two buses, three shorter walks between them and lots of waiting around, which hardly seems worth it.