Sunday, April 17, 2011

To the President of Fashion, an apology

To the President of Fashion,

i feel i should apologize
at least confess:

we visited your mall
with our children yesterday
it is not something we often do
a rainy saturday
we wanted to get out
take a walk
and so we went
we didn't mean to insult you
walking through your sparkling stores
which you work so hard to keep shiny

the spring displays are very beautiful
your
new styles are lovely;
spring colors (citrus)
(which makes updating last year's colors a cinch, they say)
(what a relief).
statement shoes
military jackets
high-waisted jeans are back
happy prints
something rust-colored
or Japanese inspired
70's glamour
biker
punk
ladylike 60's
tassels
lace
jumpsuits
belt purses
clogs
comfy
serious
preppy
neutral

i can see that you have worked very hard
again this year

which is why it must be quite a shock
devastating, really
to finally see the perfection of fashion
that you have aspired to all these years
with visions
and revisions
in style
  out of style
starting over every six months or so-

accomplished so easily
so unassumingly
by my three year old.

her favorite dress
she wears with ease
at least three times a week
evoking
that unassuming charm
classic confidence
winsomeness
artistry
boldness
grace
you were going for.

(i am sure you could see her colors did not make your line
the drop waist and attached skirt-
purchased, if you must know, at a yard sale-
sending your designers scrambling)

who, as she ambled past
your envious mannequines
and drooping spring fashions
did not even notice,
so intent was she
on learning
how to whistle.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jayber Crow



I finished Jayber Crow last night.  I hardly want to attempt to review this book, as it is so lovely and moving that I am unable to do it justice.  Jayber Crow is the barber in the town of Port William, and maybe the most memorable and comforting fictional character I have ever read.  It is also one of the most tender love stories I have ever read.

Barry writes slowly and quietly, with gentle reverence so that the reader breathes the town, the characters, the river and fields.  Along the way are these luminous passages of philosophic thought and theological wrestling that are deeply resonating.  I cannot believe that Barry has written more than fifty books (eight novels), as this one alone felt to me like a life work.

 I am glad that the library was so slow so that I purchased by own copy, it is already dog eared and calling to be passed around and read again and again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

straight from the mysteries

Yesterday we were outside before nine, barefoot.  

Yesterday I opened up all of the windows and all day the breeze was warm and all day felt like every good thing I can ever remember.

Yesterday I read this poem.  It is perfect . . .


Lord, the air smells good today,  
straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown
across the garden, free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being, drunkenly
forgetting the way back."
-  Jelaluddin Rumi, from "Lord, the Air Smells Good Today"
(from today's Verse and Voice, a daily email from Sojourners)


Yesterday the baby sat here in front of the screen for an hour or more, I kid you not, 
and all day long she kept coming back here to her spot, to smell the air.

And all day long as I passed her sitting in the air that is straight from the mysteries, 
I thought how she seems so familiar with this smell in the air, with these new clothes; 
that she has come from Being, so recently, and forgotten her way back.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth

Every once in a while you can sink into a book in such a way that it's reality becomes more real than your own.  Wendell Berry and the town of Port William was my reality this week, and I am still having a hard time finding my way in this world now that A Place on Earth has ended.  In fact I am growing anxious now that it's taken my library more than 36 hours to locate the next Wendell Berry book that I requested.  If it doesn't come by this weekend I'm not sure how I will cope.

I feel rather silly reviewing this book on a blog, as I am pretty sure that Berry would reject blogging and most forms of instant communication.  In fact while reading the book a lot of life in our culture feels pretty silly, robbed of it's meaning and potential.  

I almost gave up on the book at the beginning, until I caught it's cadence and fell into the quiet joy of life in this small farming community.  I became endeared to the people of Port William and their sensible, nourishing ways and relationships.  The book spans the themes of loss, friendship, love and families, religion, conservation and respect for the land-- written with such clarity and wisdom that I feel somehow like a better person, more aware and more alive having read it.

There was not a lot of comparison between the town of Port William and the small town I grew up in, I don't have the same reverence that he writes of, but I can imagine the community that my grandparents lived and farmed being similar- the depth of respect for the land, neighbors who weep together and take care of one another, the firm belief in working hard and doing your work well.  It is sad to wonder if many of those core values are passing away with their generation.

I am pretty sure that Wendell Berry embodies all of the things I have loved best about the people I've respected most.  I think that I will need to read everything he's ever written.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's all I have to bring today

April is National Poetry Month, so I thought I would share a poem that has been flitting through my mind lately:


It's all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.
-Emily Dickinson

I find myself reciting the first line of this little poem as I go through my days- first in the enduring, phlegmatic way.  

It’s all I have to bring.”  
Sigh.  Shrug.

How dour I can be (and dramatic), when my world feels small, and what I do feels small and insignificant.

“It’s all I have to bring-”
and then I tell myself the rest of the poem;


this, and my heart besides
He asks for nothing more from me than this:
my small work,
and my heart.

I think about what I do have to bring to God, in the smallness of my days.

I can offer Him:
quiet
thanks
beauty
compassion
contrition
grace (for others, for myself)
kind words
wonder
art
faith
attention

How often do I think that what I have to give is too meager, too shallow, too small, and so I give nothing. I do not have a lot of money to give. I do not have a lot of time. I don't have a lot of talent, or a lot of imagination, or a lot of courage. I am limited, in so many ways, to this home, this rhythm, these three children, this small, ordinary work.

But God does His work with smallness. It is our lack that He desires. Our limitations, our fear, our inability. He takes these few small loaves, the widow's mite, this ordinary life, and this is where he chooses to do His work.

It's all I have to bring today . . .
it is not up to me to define what is small. I give what I am.
It is much less than enough,
He makes it more.

This, and my heart,
and all the fields
and all the meadows wide.

(I spent a long time last night reading about Emily Dickinson, her mysterious, gentle life. She lived a lot of her life as a recluse, taking care of her mother, unseen by the world. Yet in all her smallness her voice still speaks to the world, she speaks to me).