So…..I’ve been sick. ‘Twas just a cold but it had me buried physically and emotionally for a couple of weeks. I’m back now and at the advice of my husband (who knows I’m not yet 100% with either my health or my emotions), I’ve decided to share just a bit of miscellany with you….things I’ve read, reviewed, enjoyed as I’ve been lolling around in bed.
Did you know W. H. Auden kept a commonplace book? Neither did I. But something I read in BrainPickings (something you should be receiving in your emails if you’re not already), alerted me to Auden’s commonplace book so I requested the book via interlibrary loan and it arrived yesterday. Its entries are arranged alphabetically and I’ve only advanced to the “B’s”, but there is an entry under Birds that I’d like to share with you. It’s by Loren Eiseley.
“When I awoke, dimly aware of some commotion and outcry in the clearing, the light was slanting down through the pines in such a way that the glade was lit like some vast cathedral. I could see the dust motes of wood pollen in the long shaft of light, and here on the extended branch sat an enormous raven with a red and squirming nestling in its beak.
The sound that awoke me was the outraged cries of the nestling’s parents, who flew helplessly in circles about the clearing. The sleek black monster was indifferent to them. He gulped, whetted his beak on the dead branch a moment and sat still. Up to that point the little tragedy had followed the usual pattern. But suddenly, out of all that area of woodland, a soft sound of complaint began to rise. Into the glade fluttered small birds of half a dozen varieties drawn by the anguished cries of the tiny parents.
No one dared to attack the raven. But they cried there in some instinctive common misery, the bereaved and the unbereaved. The glade filled with their soft rustling and their cries. They fluttered as though to point their wings at the murderer. There was a dim intangible ethic he had violated, that they knew. He was a bird of death.
And he, the murderer, the black bird at the heart of life, sat on there, glistening in the common light, formidable, unperturbed, untouchable.
The sighing died. It was then I saw the judgment. It was the judgment of life against death. I will never see it again so forcefully presented. I will never hear it again in notes so tragically prolonged. For in the midst of protest, they forgot the violence. There, in that clearing, the crystal note of a song sparrow lifted hesitantly in the hush. And, finally, after painful fluttering, another took the song, and then another, the song passing from one bird to another, doubtfully at first, as though some evil thing was being slowly forgotten. Till suddenly they took heart and sang from many throats joyously together as birds are known to sing. They sang because life is sweet and sunlight beautiful. They sang under the brooding shadow of the raven. In simple truth they had forgotten the raven, for they were the singers of life, and not of death.”
And so shall we. Music shall return. We’ve all recently seen the picture of the 4-year-old child of Aleppo caught in the midst of a man’s war. When I saw it, it undid me. I cried for days. The vacant eyes, the shocked and broken soul of that precious little one was more than I could take. I’m still working my way through the sorrow. So this excerpt by someone I never knew buried in a book I might never have read spoke volumes to my own broken soul as I read it yesterday. Sometimes the darkness of sadness, sorrow and death weighs heavy, very heavy, but eventually the sweetness of life and the beauty of the sunlight returns. We will all learn to sing again in spite of the brooding shadow of the raven, for the world that God created is very good. And it deserves a song.
While I was sick, I started reading an Elizabeth Goudge book that’s been on one of my shelves for a long time. Linnets and Valerians is about four children who are left in the care of an imposing uncle after their mother has died and their father has returned to his job in the Middle East. I finished the book today. As I’ve read, I’ve copied sentences or fragments of sentences that spoke to me. Goudge certainly had a way with words.
- “….for anger does weigh heavy.” (Don’t we all know it?)
- “…for where she trusted she was obedient…” (Trust and obedience go together….fancy that.)
- “In the moonlight, all these wonderful colors were muted and the moon lent them mystery.” (I’ve always been enchanted by the moon.)
- “Education is a mosaic of beauty. The various colored fragments are interrelated.” (Interrelated? Then why do we teach subjects as if they were not?)
- “Distance lends enchantment to the view.” (True of physical views and of anything committed to memory, don’t you think?)
- (This one’s for all my homeschooling Mama friends – you can relate) “…she realized suddenly that the education of children is not a process in which the children alone are the sufferers.”
- And this one just caught and held me tight, “In the month of June, daylight lingers long enough to make love to the moonlight.”
And the third item of literary merit is a book due out the 18th of October. It’s Peter Leithart’s newest offering and its called, The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church. Shocking title, perhaps? Yes. But a necessary one. The years since the Reformation have seen a fragmenting within Christianity that has not been good for the church universal. I’m thinking this book will probably be a continuation of Dr. Leithart’s thoughts presented at Biola University during two consecutive conferences, one called The Future of Protestantism and the other called The Future of the Church. The first time I heard Dr. Leithart describe his vision for the church (sitting in my living room watching the above on YouTube), I sat with tears streaming down my face. When Dr Leithart reached the end of his description of the church he envisioned, I immediately jumped up, pointed to the TV and told my husband that THAT church was the one I wanted to attend. Dave’s response? That church probably doesn’t exist. But we’re both hoping that with Dr. Leithart’s help, maybe just maybe we can get a little closer to it before our time on earth is through. Check out the hour-long YouTube videos in anticipation of the book. They’re worth your time and effort.
Til next time,