Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Swiffer and Gogol (good fish names)

Have you ever had a totally irrational and long standing hatred of a product? I just realized the other day that I have this /thing/ against Swiffer! The first time I heard of it I thought it was stupid -- basically a paper towel jammed on to the end of a pole. Gross. Okay, then came "Swiffer Wet". Oh great, so now I get to run this thing all over my filthy floor, then pull it off with my bare hands, delightful. Then for some reason I heard this Swiffer ad coming from the other room (even though we gave up tv for Advent, I swear -- oh that's right we turned it on briefly to check the weather report) and I swear I was /heckling/ the ad out loud! Things like "That's so dumb. Just get a mop, moron".

Anyway, this has been going on for years. I should get over it.

Okay, so having absolutely burned through Crime and Punishment (and again I cannot recommend this new translation strongly enough -- will it help to say that this team have also translated Lossky and Schmemann?), I felt I had to continue in the Slavic vein, so now I'm reading Gogol for the first time. Boy, that's what's great about literacy, isn't it? All your life, no matter how ancient you become, even, say, 36, you can still have new experiences without leaving your living room. Anyway, it's this book of his stories called The Overcoat. So far I've just read the first story, called the Terrible Vengeance. It's one of the weirdest and most lyrical things I've read in a long time. It's kind of a scary fairy tale with a hair raising end bit which turns out to be a prequel thing which explains the whole bizarre thing. Check it out.

Then there's the second story -- I can't remember the name -- Somebody and his Aunt -- and I've only read a bit, but it has this great line from the aunt writing to her nephew. It is the ps and has nothing to do with anything:

We have the most wonderful turnip in our kitchen garden. It is not so much a turnip as a potato.

Monday, November 20, 2006

St Barnabas

 Posted by Picasa

two more completed icons, bringing my lifetime achievement up to five!

Well, here it is at last (thanks, Tab!) -- a photo of my completed St John the Forerunner. And it only took three and a half years! The St Barnabas one is above (if I do this right); I finished that one at the same time. They are now up Island and installed in the new (drumroll. . .) well, read on --

Congratulations to the mission of St Barnabas in Comox, BC, who have completed and moved into their new, purpose built CHAPEL!!!

I can't wait to go see it!

Joy of the Feast to all you Orthobloggers out there. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Actually I'm a fairly happy creature these days, rain and mud notwithstanding.
Really I have nothing to say except hi there, just to break throught the blog-block I have going again.
Just read: Till We Have Faces, by you know very well who. Hadn't read it in a loooong time. Pretty gripping stuff: I am Ungit! Brrrrrr!

Reading now: Crime and Punishment. Have never read it, which is delicious. The last time I had a 'Russian' phase was in oh, 1992. High time for another one. If you want to know, the first couple of chapters constitute one of the most heart-wrenching depictions of what alcoholism does to families in --I'm sure -- all of literature. (Angela's ashes is another, of course.) It is a bracing reminder of one of the functions of literature: to bypass the cliche detectors in your brain and slap it with something as if for the first time. All the AA pamphlets in the world can't shake you the way Dostoyevski does when he drags you into a miserable apartment where children are starving (and then beaten for crying with hunger) and a young woman-- their stepsister -- is forced into prostitution to save them (and then is kicked out of the building for being an 'bad' person) all because their father drinks every bit of money that comes his way.

It sounds wretched, and of course it is, but reading it is somehow wonderful. It helps that the translators of my edition are the exquisite team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volohonski. If memory serves, Heather (my iconography guru) went to St Vlad's with Ms Volohonski and I think Mr Pevear as well. Cool. Plus the book has a nifty cover design, which always helps.

Okay, off to bed now, mainly so I can read.

Friday, September 29, 2006

hello from your friendly neighbourhood single celled organism

I don't really have anything to say and it's super late but I am
BUSTING OUT OF BLOG AVOIDANCE!!!! Aiieeeeee heeeeeeeeeheeeeeee!!!

There. Okay, so I've been really busy and I finally finished two major icons for St Barnabas Mission -- the same two you've seen many times in the past in various states good and bad.
I'm pretty happy with how they came out, but can I show you pictures of them? No! Why? Because my digital camera went belly up, that's why! I took some regular photos, so at the rate I do things those should be available about 2025.

So now it's on to the remaining four (two archangels and XC and MP OV enthroned). It's a lot more fun starting these as I am no longer terrified quite out of my mind. Though don't get me wrong -- I feel rather unworthy to even contemplate doing iconography. The deeper I go the deeper it gets and the more like a silly amoeba I feel, but in a good way. Funny how eschewing the fear of doing what you are meant to do actually leads to more joy and more gratitude, and humility (I'm especially proud of that, ha ha) rather than some kind of reckless presumption that you can do this.

Okay, I'm not even sure I'm writing English anymore. Gotta go read Harry Potter until my eyelids collapse. . .

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dubious Deeds

Is the name of a very funny book by someone named Philip Ardagh. It is the first in a series which is itself a sequel series (lost yet?) about a little boy named Eddie Dickens. The style is hard to describe -- they are set in the Victorian period, but the author talks to you the reader in the present day. Hmm. Better just give you an excerpt and leave it at that.


He knew that English Law could be a very slow process. Once a local schoolteacher had tried to sue when Mad Uncle Jack had grown a particularly ugly hybrid vegetable and named it after him. Some gardeners made it their life's work to grow new varieties of flowers and vegetables, with varying degrees of success. Mad Uncle Jack's cross between a pea and some root vegetable or other had come about accidentally and the result looked like a very large, very hard and very knobbly pea; the kind of evil giant pea that would be discovered pulling levers behind a curtain at the end of a film in which vegetables were rising up against their human masters.

Mad Uncle Jack had decided to give a name to this extraordinary new vegetable, which didn't taste too bad if boiled long enough and was served with plenty of salt, ground black pepper and butter. Eventually, he settled on 'Lance Peevance' because, as he later explained in the local court, 'Peevance incorporates the pea element of my triumphant vegetable-child, and it is also the name of that man there,' he paused to point at the schoolteacher who was also in court that day because he he'd brought the legal action against Eddie's great-uncle, 'who bears more than a passing resemblance to it.'

Lance Peevance -- the man not the vegetable -- had, by now, had quite enought of Mad Mr Dickens and tried to make a lunge at him, screaming: 'I'll get you yet, Dickens!' which didn't please the judge.

The judge was already on Mad Uncle Jack's side, as it happened. Although schoolteachers were well-respected members of society and seen as better than scullery maids, for example, they still had to /work/ for a living. Mad Uncle Jack, on the other hand, was a true gentleman /and/ lived up at the big house, which meant that, in the judge's opinion, he should really be allowed to do what he liked and that included calling ugly vegetables after Mr Peevance.

Having said that, both Mad Uncle Jack's and Mr Peevance's lawyers wanted to make as much money from the case as possible, so kept raising very complicated legal objections on both sides
and sending eachother very expensive letters (which their respective clients would, of course, eventually have to pay for).

After three and a half years, judgement was finally passed in Mad Uncle Jack's favour and Lance Peevance was ruined. As a result, he owed his lawyer and the courts so much money that he fled the country disguised as a bag of coal.

On a matter of principal, Mad Uncle Jack paid for WANTED posters to be printed at his own expense. On them was an artist's impression of his own new variety of vegetable, under which were the words:


As a direct result of seeing a copy of the poster, a Briton holidaying in France later recognized Lance Peevance and had him arrested. Mad Uncle Jack felt that this was proof, if proof were needed, that calling his vegetable child "Lance Peevance" in the first place had been completely and utterly justified.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I don't know whether we will be able to find out whether the child was a boy or girl, but assuming we can't, the baby's name will be Innocent.

This is not because we expected a boy -- my intuition has always been non-existent for these things -- but because a girl could, in a pinch, also be called Innocent, whereas I would not want to land a boy, even a boy in Glory, with "Nina" (our choice if we knew it was a girl).

Innocent fits for many reasons -- what a wonderful saint (Renaissance man in a kayak), and what a good description of the child.

I want to thank everyone for their words and prayers (expressed or not). One great blessing to come out of this experience is that we are left in no doubt that we are loved (a lot!), and that this community of the Orthodox Church in BC and beyond is really filled with light, life and the Holy Spirit. I am just completely humbled and honoured to be part of it.

Drop Everything

Okay, listen up homies. My friend Susan the Scottish Siren (hi Susan, ya like that?) alerted me to this blog and if you

A) Love yourself even a little bit


B) Have had even the teensiest exposure to Middle English

you must drop everything, stick your hypothetical kids in front of something fascinating on tv (it can have violence, inappropriateness of all kinds, trust me, you won't care), go to the bathroom (Susan's advice, and it was good) and GET yourself to! Aka "Chaucer's Blog".

Oh, my goodness, so funny, so verray verray funny. If I weren't so hungry I would write out a few lines but you will just have to check it out yourself. Click on the classic posts on the left hand side. I am halfway through his "outline" for the Canturbury Tales and I had to drop everything and tell you about it. See how much I love you?

PS I would just link the Chaucer blog to mine like a normal person, but guess what? I am a huge technopeasant and I /don't know how/! Is that sad or what. I would learn more computer stuff but I guess when it comes down to it I just don't care enough. Hey! Are you still reading this? Stop it! Get to House of Fame before I come through your computer and rough you up! Is that possible?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ice Window

Something cool to look at in the middle of summer. This is something Ella made back in February by putting water in her wheelbarrow and floating garden things in it. It froze solid and we took it out and took pictures of it. Note: crocuses in February!

A sad event: since I announced my pregnancy on this blog I guess I better also let you know (if you don't already) that on the night of Thursday July 7 I miscarried. We will be naming the child and I will let you know when we finalize the name -- no jokes this time.

Memory Eternal, little child of God. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 25, 2006


 Posted by Picasa
Here is my St Arseny nearly done -- I have since finished it. I changed the lettering to all red (not the scroll but the title) because it looked too gimmicky with that alternating red and brown thing. I like subtle variegations in lettering colour; this was too obvious. Posted by Picasa

Ahhh. . .

This was my view from my studio in Oregon (I was there for a week in May -- it was great). The ocean was 1/2 a block away and the beach was sandy and HUGE! All I could do not to run out there all the time, except I am not a sun person and it was pretty blinding out there, so that was fine. As if that made any sense. Posted by Picasa

A detail

. . .of St John's robe Posted by Picasa

getting there. . .

They're still not done, but I'm inching closer. . .
St Barnabas' robe will get a couple more veils and will not be electric green in the end.

I'm really looking forward to doing the sandals -- Heather agrees that it's like saving a special treat until you've had all your vegetables. If you draw or paint you probably understand this too. Posted by Picasa

Good Advice

Never moon a werewolf.

(I can't remember who said that; wish it was me)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Before and After

My husband took these shots of the kids and Uncle Rocky (the one who looks like King Edward the abdicator-guy) in the morning on the way to Liturgy and then after. . .pretty funny. He tried to take an after-shot of me: pretty unfunny. That was nearly the end of the camera. Posted by Picasa

I'll take "How to Make a Priest go Broke" for a thousand, Alex

 Posted by Picasa


Just a sweet bedtime scene. . . she insisted on holding up her book for you to see. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Howdy strangers

Okay, I don't really have anything to say but I need to break my weird thing I have against my blog these days (could it be -- I have other things to do!?)

In case anyone is still out there, and apparently Seraphim is (hey there), okay: here's a thing to read. Read The Brothers K by David James Duncan; it's one of the best-written and entertaining and moving books I've ever read from any period in any language. Okay, I only read English, but that's not the point. How can you deny a book that encompasses the following phrases?:

1) lolloping mutants
2) Mmmm! Yak butter!
3) The oracle demands your exhausted crustaceans.

Don't you just have to read it to know what the heck?

And the locations. Washington State, Viet Nam, Vancouver Island, and India. Go figure.

Okay, I have to go watch me some Lost (got it on dvd, addicted, MUST know what happened to Claire before I can go on in life).

Seacrest out.

PS. Oh yeah, I'm having another baby. Top names we're considering:

Thomas Kincaide, painter of light

Heavenly Haraani Tiger Lily

There, now you don't have to ask!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

wonderful wonderful magazine called beyond (don't hold the slightly hokey name against them -- you gotta see this thing of beauty)

Matthew Francis (hi Matthew) was just here in Victoria, which was great, and he left a stack of 'beyonds'. He seems to be a regular contributor to this worthy publication since these two issues both had pieces in them by him. It's eclectic, beautifully illustrated and designed, ad free (!!!), Canadian, deep, and in places hilarious. The two issues Matthew left also happened to contain interviews with Bruce Cockburn and Jane Siberry respectively, both of whom I happen to have practically revered since birth/age 14, respectively. I haven't gone to their website yet (am about to do so as soon as I finish this) but I'm assuming it shatters previous categories of cool as well as does the publication itself. If not, subscribe anyway and help a very very Good Thing continue. My stars, it's good -- --go there or be square.

Okay, now for a Something. Until I think of a good name for the kind of thing I post, that's what it'll be called. This Something is shamelessy stolen from issue 13 of beyond (their lack of capitalization, not mine, so don't bug me about it).


We really cannot undertake to advise you as to what is your best course. Yours is a peculiar case. It is rare for any one person to be simultaneously threatened with epilepsy, deserted by an affianced lover after the banns have been published, bitten by a dog, which had been rendered insane by being led about by a string, expelled from her lodging for non-payment of rent and thrown out by an active volcano. These events do not often happen together. Do not, at any rate, return the presents you lover gave you. If we were in your place we should convert them into cash. Then you might take out a County Court Summons against the owner of the dog, also the volcano, and have something left over for a Breach of Promise action.

Punch, 1887
Dear Worried Violet
Rosemary Hawthorne

and there's this Something for my fellow film lovers -- again, stolen:

The most beautiful films are those which one hasn't seen.

--Bernard Eisenschitz
quoted in Film Journey: Confessions of a Cinephile
by Doug Cummings (also issue 13)

Okay, I'm off to explore, and to catch up on what's cookin on my favourite blogs! Cheerio.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Elinor Wylie

I hereby swear that to uphold your house
I would lay my bones in quick destroying lime
Or turn my flesh to timber for all time;
Cut down my womanhood; lop off the boughs
Of that perpetual ecstasy that grows
From the heart's core; condemn it as a crime
If it be broader than a beam, or climb
Above the stature that your roof allows.
I am not the hearthstone not the cornerstone
Within this noble fabric you have builded;
Not by my beauty was its cornice gilded;
Not on my courage were its arches thrown:
My lord, adjudge my strength, and set me where
I bear a little more than I can bear.

From "One Person"

I have loved this exquisite sonnet for many years now. I don't know anything about the poet or the work it is apparently excerpted from, but wow is this woman a deep thinker, and can she ever write! It is such a perfect poem to express a woman's service to God. And an architecture theme to boot!

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The Seraph could not touch the fire's coal with his fingers, but just brought it close to Isaiah's mouth: the Seraph did not hold it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do both.

St Ephraim the Syrian

Monday, February 13, 2006

Okay, more moderns.

He said some good stuff.

I am against the terms 'fantasy' and 'symbolism' in themselves. All our interior world is reality -- and that perhaps more so than in our apparent world. To call everything that appears illogical, "fantasy," fairy tale or chimera -- would be practically to admit not understanding nature. . .

. . .please defend me against people who speak of 'anecdote' and 'fairy tale' in my work. A cow and a woman to me are the same -- in a picture both are merely elements of a composition. In painting, the images of a woman or of a cow have different values of plasticity, -- but not different poetic values. As far as literature goes, I feel myself more "abstract" than Mondrian or Kandinsky in my use of pictorial elements. "Abstract" not in the sense that my painting does not recall reality. Such abstract painting in my opinion is more ornamental and decorative, and always restricted in its range. What I mean by 'abstract' is something which comes to life spontaneously through a gamut of contrasts, plastic at the same time as psychic, and pervades both the picture and the eye with conceptions of new and unfamiliar events. . .

Now Kandinsky! His thoughts about children's art I find especially poignant -- make sure you read to the end:

Here lies the explanation for the marked effect of a child's drawing upon the impartial, the untraditional observer. The practical-purposeful element is foreign to the child since he looks at each thing with unaccustomed eyes and still possesses the unclouded ability to register the thing as such. Only later does he slowly begin to become familiar with the practical-purposeful element through many and often sad experiences. Thus the inner resonance of the object reveals itself of its own accord and without exception in every children's drawing. The adults, especially the teachers, endeavor to force the practical-purposeful element on the child and criticise the child for his drawing, even from the shallow standpoint: "your man cannot walk because he has only one leg," "One cannot sit on your chair, since it is crooked," and so forth. The child laughs at himself, but he ought to cry. . .

. . .the talented child also has, aside from the ability to do away with the external, the power to clothe the remaining internal into a form in which it appears most strongly and effectively (so to say, it "speaks"!) [-- this makes me wonder whether Kandinsky wrote anything about iconography --JH]

. . .for every glowing, there is a cooling off. For every early bud -- the threatening frost. For every young talent -- an academy. These are not tragic words but a sad fact. The academy is the surest means of ruining the above-mentioned force of the child. Even the very great strong talent is more or less held back in this respect by the academy. The weaker talents go to ruin by the hundreds. An academically educated person of average talent distinguishes himself by having learned the practical-purposeful and by having lost the ability to hear the inner resonance. Such a person will deliver a "correct" drawing which is dead.

If a person who has not aquired any artistic schooling-- and is thus free of objective artistic knowledge -- paints something, the result will never be an empty pretense. Here we see an example of the inner force which is influenced only by a general knowledge of the practical-purposeful.

Since, however, the use of even this general knowledge can only be made to a limited extent, the external is also done away with (only less that with the child, but to a great extent) and the inner resonance gains in force: not a dead thing comes into being, but a living one. Christ said: "Suffer the children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."


So Kandinsky reveals to me why I have always been spellbound by children's art, folk art, and drawings by people who 'can't draw' and those by handicapped people. They have this force which I am awed by and which I cannot reproduce because I'm tyrannized, as are most of us, by a long immersion in the 'external'. I'm not just saying this -- I mean that I have actually tried to draw like Ella -- even just a bit like her --and can't. It is literally impossible, at least for now. Awhile ago an aquaintance asked me how Ella's drawing was coming along and I said that she was better than I am, and that I really, truly, envy her ability. Fortunately this friend is also an artist with a healthy respect for the moderns, so he knew what I meant, where most people would not believe me, or would think I was one deluded doting Mama. At the time I only dimly understood my own mind on this; reading Kandinsky (why oh why has it taken so long?) I am realizing more what I have been mentally groping toward. By gum, I think I'm modern!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Picasso! Kandinsky! Compassion!

I bought a book at James Bay Coffee and Books today called Theories of Modern art. Okay, sounds boring, right? WRONG! I am ecstatic! I just pulled it off the shelf to have something to flip through while I drank my got-through-the-Liturgy-without-selling-Heulwen-to-black-marketers reward (coffee -- what else) and it was one of those books you want to walk up to total strangers with and smack them on the head and say "Listen to this! You are going to sit there while I read you excerpts from this and you are going to /like it/, mister!!!"

Then I remembered that that is what my blog is for. . .mwah hah hah hah hah!

Anyway, far from being dry-as-dust theorizing by an individual 'expert', it is chocolate-box of writings from the actual modern art demi-gods -- Picasso, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, etc, -- themselves! And here's the thing that I am so excited about: they write like they paint. It is so fresh and colourful and profound and in your face it just is going to make my brain explode. Now sit still like a good critter and dig some text-only Picasso (Matisse and Kandinsky to follow later):


Do you know when I painted my first guitars I had never had one in my hands? With the first money they gave me I bought one, and after that I never painted another. People think that bullfights in my pictures were copied from life, but they are mistaken. I used to paint them before I'd seen the bullfight so as to make the money to buy my ticket. Have you really done what you planned to do? On leaving your house, do you not often change your route without thinking about it? Do you cease to be yourself on that account? And do you not get there anyhow?And even if you don't, does it matter? The reason is that you didn't have to go in the first place, and you would have been wrong to force destiny.
An idea is a beginning point and no more. If you contemplate it, it becomes something else. What I think about a great deal, I find I have always had complete in my mind. How can you then expect me to continue being interested in it? If I persist, it turns out differently because a different matter intervenes. As far as I am concerned, at any rate, my original idea has no further interest, because while I am realizing it I am thinking about something else.
The important thing is to create. Nothing else matters; creation is all.
Have you ever seen a finished picture? A picture or anything else? Woe unto you the day it is said that you are finished! To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow: the most unfortunate one for the painter as well as for the picture.
The value of a work resides precisely in what it is not.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

the weather

Come on, come on wind and rain
I know the sun will shine again
Till then my lady and my lord will keep me sane. . .

Bruce Cockburn
My Lady and My Lord

Monday, January 30, 2006

It's Hegel time

Well, and Goethe and another guy, but they're connected.

Against the great superiorities of others
There is no remedy but love.
--Goethe (later quoted by Hegel)

Is it possible to know and doubt simultaneously?
That, Hegel tells us, is what knowing in the fullest possible sense really is.
--Frederick G. Weiss

And now the man himself in a lengthier passage; stay awake now, it's worth it:

Time was when man had a heaven, decked and fitted out with endless wealth of thought and pictures. The significance of all that is lay in the thread of light by which it was attached to heaven; instead of dwelling in the present as it is here and now, the eye glanced away over the present to the Divine, away, so to say, to a present that lies beyond. The mind's gaze had to be directed under compulsion to what is earthly, and kept fixed there; and it has needed a long time to introduce that clearness, which only celestial realities had, into the crassness and confusion shrouding the sense of things earthly, and to make attention to the immediate present as such, which was called Experience, of interest and value. Now we have apparently the opposite of this; man's mind and interest are so deeply rooted in the earthly power that we require a like power to have them raised above that level. His spirit shows such poverty of nature that it seems to long for the mere pitiful feeling of the divine in the abstract, and to get refreshment from that, like a wanderer in the desert craving for the merest mouthful of water. By the little which can thus satisfy the needs of the human spirit we can measure the extent of its loss.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

explanation below

 Posted by Picasa

Another arty shot. . .

. . .from the other day, exploring Saanich with the kids in foul weather. We had a surprising amount of fun, thanks to this farm which had a cool animal-visiting area for the kids (utterly abandoned except for us) in which were two bubblegum machines (outside! in the middle of the animal pens!) which -- oh rapture -- sold not bubblegum but goat and duck treats! Then even cooler -- there was this little pulley system which the kids could work themselves which featured a little 'delivery truck' and you put some food in there and winch it up to the goats' upper level!It was neato! I guess you will have seen a pic of that 'above' since I am going to put one up after this. Here I go to do that. Weird.
Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a shot of the whole system. Too busy being arty. Sigh. Posted by Picasa


I opened a poetry anthology at complete random for something to go with this image (an experiment in -- whatever) and I'm not kidding you -- this is what I saw first:

. . .a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight. . .

That's Coleridge, This Lime Tree Bower My Prison
(has anyone since the 19th century read this poem?)

I like the lines a few steps on:

Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, but be Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to love and beauty! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A couple of things

I've been a bit lackadaisical (sp?) about the ol' blog lately and thinking I can't be really bothered anymore -- at least not on a daily basis. I have a lot of stuff to do, and there are a lot of great blogs out there to read so I will perhaps just post every week or so now, if that. Any less and I will probably just can it altogether. This is not me feeling all glum or anything -- just that life is so full and I have a lot of other very good ways to use my limited energy!

Anyway, enough of that: here are some nice snippets from my Christian Imagination book.
Oh, just before that: where I said 'snippet' there -- I know that is an annoying word, but have you noticed that EVERY word for something small is annoying!? Here are the others I considered and rejected:
morsels (yuck)
tidbits (totally unacceptable)
bits (er. . .)
bon bons (retch)
quotes/quotations (can't stand either word, don't really know why)
sushi rolls of thought (what the!?)

So you see it could have been much worse. Maybe just 'timbits' would be good. Very Canadian, not too serious . . .

Okay, let's try this again.

A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, "Do you think I could be a writer?" "Well", the writer said, "I don't know. . . Do you like sentences?"

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

It is easy to forget that the man who writes a good love sonnet needs not only to be enamoured of a woman, but also to be enamoured of the Sonnet.

C.S.Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Memory Eternal

The father of my dear friend Gregory Scratch, the priest John Scratch, died in Ottawa in the early hours of Sunday January 15, 2006.

I remember him mostly by voice, since we used to talk on the phone whenever he called Greg at our shared house in Vancouver. I was puzzled at first at why someone I had never met, living all that distance away, would ask to converse with me merely because I was a pal of his son. After a few talks I gave up wondering and just accepted his love -- for that of course was the reason -- a broad mind and a huge heart. I never got to know him very well, and we met in person only once, but these characteristics of openness and good will are, in my experience, reflected in all his children -- who dropped in and out of Vancouver to visit their dear big brother fairly often. (A favourite moment from one visit was the younger John Scratch acquiring a beer for himself in a restaurant -- even though he was only about 15 -- because he looked the waitress right in the eye and requested a "Czechoslovakian Pilsner"! That, I thought, as the drink was duly delivered, was style.)

I envied my friend his large and loving and funny family. But the more Orthodox I have met in my life the more I have come to realize that Matushka Suzanne and Fr John were in a sense the parents of an even larger family -- the archdiocese of Canada. I know I felt that parental tenderness even at such a distance; how much more so those close to them. And now Fr. John will be missed keenly along with his wife. God grant that we complete our race with even a portion of the love, humour, and yes, even style, of those beloved and loving god-parents in Christ.

God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.

(from In the Valley of the Elwy --Gerard Manley Hopfins)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Finally Flannery

First I should mention that this is from a great anthology of essays and excerpts on the subject of literature and Christianity called "Christian Imagination". It's edited by Leland Ryken and includes writings by Denise Levertov, CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Luci Shaw, George Macdonald, Tolkien, Chesterton, TS Eliot, Peter J. Leithart, Chad Walsh and my latest discovery, Janine Langan of the University of Toronto, among others. I picked it up on sale at Regent College and I have spent many happy hours in it so far. It's a nice source of Good Thoughts on the relationship between art and faith, or whatever you want to call that mystery --usually whenever I hear about it my eyes start to roll upward from the cliche of it all, but nearly everything in this book is fresh and real. Not least, of course, St. Flannery. So, fighting the temptation to write out the entire essay, here's a delicious bit of Novelist and Believer:

At best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily. The fiction which celebrates this last state will be the least likely to transcend its limitations, for when the religious need is banished successfully, it usually atrophies, even in the novelist. A kind of reverse evolution takes place, and the whole range of feeling is dulled.

The searchers are another matter. Paschal wrote in his notebook, "If I had not known you, I would not have found you." These unbelieving searchers have their effect even upon those of us who do believe. We begin to examine our own religious notions, to sound them for genuineness, to purify them in the heat of our unbelieving neighbour's anguish. What Christian novelist could compare his concern to Camus'? We have to look in much of the fiction of our time for a kind of sub-religion which expresses its ultimate concern in images that have not broken through to show any recognition of a God who has revealed himself. As great as much of this fiction is, as much as it reveals a wholehearted effort to find the only true ultimate concern, as much as it in many cases represents religious values of a high order, I do not believe that it can adequately represent in fiction the central religious experience. That, after all, concerns a relationship with a supreme being recognized through faith. It is the experience of an encounter, of a kind of knowledge which affects the believer's every action. It is Paschal's experience after his conversion and not before.

Bliss and something amusing

The bliss part is it is only 8:00 and my kids have already been asleep for over half an hour. Time to par-tay!

The amusing thing (yes, I will get to Flannery, but after this -- keep your hair on) is a dialogue from one of The Daily Show's interviews (one of the few things in the universe worth watching on the evil box). The scenario is that there is a town in Texas that just sold its name to a satellite dish company -- that is, it changed its name from "Clarke" to "Dish" in exchange for everyone in town getting a free dish. That actually happened.

So on the show (if you haven't seen it, it's a VERY clever satirical news show) they dispatch one of their 'reporters', Ed Helms, to act as a buffoon who can't see what the big deal is, and he interviews the local beard and tweed sporting bleeding heart intellectual, here abbreviated as BHI:

Ed: I guess I just don't get what the big deal is. TV is great! (I'm paraphrasing a bit, obviously)

BHI: Well, it's just that there are a better thing to spend money on in this town than satellite dishes.

Ed: Name one problem your town could have that can't be solved by TV.

BHI (already looking bewildered) Ummm -- education!?

Ed: The Learning Channel.

BHI: Proper policing!?

Ed: Law and Order.

BHI: Okay, I have a good one. Garbage removal.

Ed: Oscar the Grouch.

BHI:(pauses) What?

Ed: Oscar the Grouch! He lives in a trash can, eats all the trash -- it's how he survives.

BHI: But what does that have to do with --

Ed: He can eat all the garbage!

BHI: No. . . no, he can't eat the plastic (clutches head) -- I can't believe I'm having this conversation!

One of the interesting things is that the Daily Show is the ONLY thing I have ever seen on TV that points out how stupid and stupefying TV is. There is a creepy conspiracy of silence about TV addiction -- I doubt there's ever been an Oprah about it, despite it being a HUGE problem in our society. Okay, enough soapbox. I have a few things to do, then I'll come and put up that Flannery thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Back to work

Okay -- thanks guys. I was taking a Christmas/New Years/ Old calendar Christmas/Theophany break, heh heh. I guess taking a break through OC Theophany would be pushing it. Ella is clamouring to do video games (viz Elmo on the sesame street site, etc.) at this moment but watch this space for a most excellent post from a Flannery O'Connor essay -- soming soon to a blog near you!