This Older Self, Part I

Today is my birthday. I feel like an old woman, despite my mere 22 years. So much is happening this year that is forcing me into adulthood, though my spirit will stubbornly remain playful and curious. However, I can’t say for that I am not thankful. Do you ever feel older than you are? While many of my classmates crave the glitter and glory of success and money in this time of our life, I yearn for a cup of coffee and lightning bugs on a summer night. I want simplicity. At my age, I am constantly asked “what are your plans for life?” by well-meaning people, but many times I think my answer is not what they want to hear. “To be happy, and content. To love God, and see Him,” is often my response. While I enjoy success and work to be successful, work is still just work, and it’s not what I live for.

So given the backdrop of aging and maturing, and to remain in our common thread of the good things in life, today’s poem is one of the great, T.S. Eliot. I have always heard so much about this poet, but until recently I had never seriously read any of his works. I cannot get enough of this piece from his collection of poems (around 1920), titled “Gerontion”. Every time I read it I see a layer get peeled off and more depth underneath each line. I also felt my vocabulary stretch a bit, which is always a healthy exercise. I have included the entire poem, but will not be discussing every single line today to keep this post at a relatively reasonable length. I will be talking about the first stanza today, and will be finishing the others in the weeks to come. 🙂

1. Gerontion

Thou has nor youth nor age

But as it were an after dinner sleep

Dreaming of both.

HERE I am, an old man in a dry month,

Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.

I was neither at the hot gates

Nor fought in the warm rain

Nor knee deep in the salt march, heaving a cutlass,

Bitten by flies, fought.

My house is a decayed house,

And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,

Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,

Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.

The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;

Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.

The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,

Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.

                  I an old man,

A dull head among windy spaces.

Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:

The word within a word, unable to speak a word,

Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year

Came Christ the tiger

In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,

To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk

Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero

With caressing hands, at Limoges

Who walked all night in the next room;

By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;

By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room

Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp

Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles

Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,

An old man in a draughty house

Under a windy knob.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now

History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors

And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,

Guides us by vanities. Think now

She gives when our attention is distracted

And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions

That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late

What’s not believed in, or if still believed,

In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon

Into weak hands, what’s though can be dispensed with

Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think

Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices

Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues

Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes

These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last

We have not reached conclusion, when I

Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last

I have not made this show purposelessly

And it is not by any concitation

Of the backward devils

I would meet you upon this honestly.

I that was near your heart was removed therefrom

To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.

I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it

Since what is kept must be adulterated?

I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:

How should I use it for your closer contact?

These with a thousand small deliberations

Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,

Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,

With pungent sauces, multiply variety

In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,

Suspend its operations, will the weevil

Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled

Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear

In fractured, atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits

Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,

White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,

And an old man driven by the Trades

To a sleepy corner.

             Tenants of the house,

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

      -T.S. Eliot, 1920-

This piece has SO much going on, so many elements to it. I get nervous writing about poems like this because I’m afraid my ignorance really shows when I try and explain what words and phrases translate to me. So this is me, asking you all who have more experience and knowledge in poetry like this to bear with me.

When this poem starts out, I feel like I’m zooming into the future, and I see myself gray haired and fragile, staring out the window. I can smell and taste the weather in the fourth line of “warm rain.” The man is thinking back on the life he has lived and the life he has not lived. I think his house means his own body, with evidence of the wear his life has had on his body characterized by the places he has gone “Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London….”. The surroundings are quiet, enough so to hear a goat nearby, to feel the nature around “Rocks, moss, stonecrop…..” His woman makes tea as she always does, and he seems to feel like an average face “among windy spaces.”. There is then a space to the next stanza, which to me helps to set this setting of “windy spaces.”.

This poem is able to take me to a place that I often times feel like I am in, but don’t have the words to describe it (This is another reason I adore poetry- often times it speaks the words you can’t find). This gives me much to think about today regarding growing older. I don’t think it’s in a negative or pessimistic sense, it is real. I think it could be easily seen with a shadow of sadness over it, but I don’t feel that way.

Next week Part II will continue with our geron-talk. I’d love to hear any feedback you all have or thoughts this piece provokes.

Until next time,

-L.E.

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Lovely Silence

I can’t help but always be drawn back to well written verse and absolutely love discussing it with other poetry enthusiasts. One of my favorite poets is Wendell Berry. Being from my own home state of Kentucky, he has the same deep appreciation for nature and those lovely Appalachian mountains as I have. There is a simple, steady way of life in this part of the country, and Mr. Berry captures it beautifully in so many of his works. Today I would like to share the second section  from one of my favorites  entitled “Words” from his book “Given”

“WORDS

….2.

Well, we can stop

for a while, if we try hard enough,

if we are lucky. We can sit still,

keep silent, let the phoebe, the sycamore,

the river, the stone call themselves, their own

sounds, their own silence, and thus

may know for a moment the nearness

of the world, its vastness,

its vast variousness, far and near

which only silence knows. And then

we must call all things by name

out of the silence again to be with us,

or die of namelessness.”

-Wendell Berry, “Given”

Growing up in the rural, rolling hills of Kentucky, I was spoiled to having been able to see and get to know nature for how it existed, and fall in love. I was taught to appreciate and understand the many languages it speaks. This intentional stillness that Berry speaks of is a foreign concept in today’s fast paced, not-enough-time, drive-through-line world. His emphasis on “can” in the first line makes the point that we are all capable of hearing, feeling, experiencing the creation we live amongst, yet we often choose not to, with excuses as to why we “can’t”. It is also so lovely, in my opinion, how he crafts parts of nature “the phoebe, the sycamore, the river, the stone” to have a voice of their own, that we aren’t able to hear or recognize if we aren’t listening for it. I like how Berry seems overwhelmed with the nearness and vastness of the world when he mentions that perhaps it is a realization we can only withstand for a few moments. Its this raw simplicity that can only be discovered through silence on our parts. I think Berry wraps it up by touching on the fact that it is how we relate with the world that gives us our identity. I think he is saying, maybe, that how we determine names and identities for the world, in a sense, names and characterizes us.

It is refreshing to spend a few moments soaking in a few well written lines that with one can identify. I am always on the look out for similar verse that seeks to capture the same simplicity of life that I was raised in and to which feel deeply connected. It’s because of this I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the “vastness” to which Berry may be referring. So many people in the world, so many lives being lived, so much beauty and so much sorrow…

I would love to hear from any of my fellow poetry-lovers. Recommendations are always good, or perhaps you read the same lines and understood them to mean something completely different.

Until next time,

L.E.

Lovely Perspective.

As I sit here, waiting for my last class of the day to begin I can’t help but wonder what each person that walks by me wants most in life. For some it is obvious – attention, to be accepted, or maybe to not be noticed at all. For others, I think it is less apparent. To do something worthwhile maybe, or at this moment it may be as simple as getting a sandwich for lunch. I have always tried to see people for who they are, look into their eyes, and see how they are special. Each of us gets so caught up in our own lives that I think we forget sometimes that each person we come into contact with today has a life of their own. The girl walking by with too much make up on and barely there shorts is somebody’s daughter, maybe a little sister. She probably gets just as excited about Christmas Eve as I do, and maybe when she was a little girl she wanted to be a mermaid as badly as I did. It is all too easy to write somebody off as what you believe them to be, and I am guilty of doing this as much as the next person. Notice when we walk through crowds it is nature to keep your eyes sort of downcast and avoid making eye contact. I find when I walk through a crowd and purposely look at people in the eyes, and maybe shoot a quick smile, their cold focused looks tend to soften and warm. Other times, they just look at me like I’m strange, and that’s okay too. I just wonder what it would look like if we were more aware of the fact that we are all imperfect in some ways, and perhaps wildly talented in others. I play classical piano. I know I’m a science major, and I don’t play publicly very often, but few things in life make me as happy as sitting down to a worn copy of Claire de Lune in a quite sanctuary, though my hands know what keys to move to without it. I also enjoy a Jazz radio show that comes on every night at 10:00 on a local radio station. Each person I see has something in life that they care about, something that is more important to them than anything else, and wherever they are walking now, it is probably on their mind. My fiance is always on my mind. I love him so much it almost hurts to breathe, and there isn’t anything in this world that I wouldn’t do to show him the kind of Love that God has shown to me. I know that I’m not the only person to love somebody else though. What is the bus driver that I saw this morning going home to at the end of today? What did my professor say to his wife the day he asked her to marry him? What is the person next to me in traffic in such a hurry to get to? What does the actress on television with millions of dollars think of each night when she’s trying to go to sleep? We are each so desperately human, yet I think we all forget that too often. Today I would encourage each of us to perhaps notice others a bit more, and realize that within each of our own little lives is somebody else trying to live theirs as well. This world is a beautiful place if we have the right perspective from which to look at it.

Just for fun today, leave a comment of something you think is beautiful in life 🙂

 

Until next time,

L.E.

Lovely Verse.

IMG_1606

Poetry is such an understated, under appreciated type of writing. I was privileged to do a summer program for, I suppose you could call us “scholarly” high school students, and during this program around 350 sixteen or seventeen year-olds spent five weeks on a college campus getting a taste of what college would be like. We had classes that we signed up for, and events to go to. There were many speakers and performers, and it was truly one of the best times of my life. During this time the class I chose was “creative writing” because I had come from a family of writers and thought it would be fun. My teacher came in the first day, wearing a loose, white, button up linen shirt and slightly-baggy khaki pants. He had salt and pepper gray hair that was that length of “too short to be long, but too long to be short”, but it wasn’t so noticeable because it just sort of stuck up and out all over, moving every time he spoke because of how passionately he did so. The first day we did an exercise called “free-writing” and it was invigorating. We were given strict orders to write without stopping and just to write of whatever came to mind for two straight minutes. If you couldn’t think of what to write you wrote “I can’t think of anything else to write…” and so on. We then picked the “juiciest chunk” and used it as the prompt for the next two minutes. This doesn’t sound that difficult, but if you write fast for two minutes straight your hand will immediately start to cramp (which was saying a lot when mine began cramping despite 10 years at that point of classical piano lessons and learning trills that lasted for 8 measures…).

What I was left with were pages of my soul that were now in material form that I could go through, sort, and cherish. Hopes, worries, desires, quirks – they were all just barely under the surface of the skin when I wrote like this, and it was pure catharsis. From this technique we learned poetry – appreciating it, reading it, reciting it, writing it… and I have been in love with this expression of human language ever since. It forces you to slow down, and chew on a few words. It forces you to think and empathize. When you’re writing it, it forces you to pick out your “juiciest chunks” of lines and only use the best ones, making it like having an entire bowl of just marshmallows instead of the normal bowl of Lucky Charms.

I don’t know why, but my soul is always touched by some well-written verse, and I wouldn’t be surprised if poems find their way to this blog a few times in its’ life.

So, enjoy this short, yet stunning poem by Emily Dickinson. This poem was one of hundreds discovered in her desk after she died, and were simply published in a few volumes and titled by number. Note the enjambment of the words- that is, note how she cuts lines off and starts new ones in what seems like the middle of a thought. This is intentional. Try reading one line and visualizing it by itself, then the next line independently as well. Now put them together and see what you get. Note her uses of capitalization and personification – “Sunset” instead of “sunset” – as if Sunset were its name and not just the word for it. She also uses rich adjectives, and throws in an interesting bit of verse on spirituality- speaking of the sunset as if it were God’s watchful eye perhaps. She speaks very deeply as well about human existence, imperfection, and nature. All of this within just a few lines, and there is still more we could talk about, but I won’t make you wait any longer.

552

An ignorance a Sunset

Confer upon the Eye –

Of Territory – Color –

Circumference – Decay-

 

Its Amber Revelation

Exhilarate -Debase –

Omnipotence’ inspection

Of Our inferior face-

 

And when the solemn features

Confirm – in Victory –

We start – as if detected

In Immortality-

 

– Emily Dickinson-

 

Just let that settle in for a bit, maybe re-read the lines over a cup of hot coffee and mosey on the front porch for a while.

 

Until next time,

L.E.

Lovely mornings.

As promised, here are a few of my tips to becoming a morning person and learning to appreciate one of (at least in my opinion) the most wonderful times of the day. It’s so, so worth it.

Tips to help turn yourself into a Morning person:
1. Make yourself get up the FIRST time you hear your alarm.
It gets exponentially harder to make yourself get out of bed every time you hit that snooze button, so the sooner you can make your feet touch the floor, the more you will get used to it. This is the hardest part of becoming a morning person.
2. Brew yourself a nice hot pot of coffee and learn to mosey.
The second part of step two will seriously change your life. What I call “moseying” is simply sitting and taking your sweet time to enjoy a cup of coffee. I have studied the coffee industry intensely when I spent a summer researching it in Brazil and all I can say is you won’t see many Brazilians with a massive cup of overly sweetened syrupy coffee covered in whipped cream speeding down the interstate because they’re running late for work. I have also learned this from my family and I have seen my parents get up early together and just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with the sunrise nearly every day of my life. I also like to take this quiet time to pray and study scripture or journal. This not only has been what has turned me into tolerating early mornings, but (brace yourself for this) actually looking forward to waking up early. Some of the best conversations happen here, and it’s one of those daily decisions you can make that I will bet you a kilo of the finest Brazilian coffee beans you won’t ever regret. More articles on moseying to follow in the future ;).
3. Figure out what to wear and eat for breakfast the night before.
This seems a bit like what your mom used to do when you were in elementary school, but mom knew what was up – morning time is precious. Much too precious to spend the time frantically running around trying to find something clean/less wrinkled/less tight/matching/etc. to wear. I also enjoy working out in the morning after I’ve finished my coffee, so it’s very helpful to go ahead and lay out gym clothes and tennis shoes (which also gives me one less excuse to not go). When you can wake up without having to even think about what to fix or wear it will make getting up easier and more enjoyable.
4. Learn the value of watching the sunrise.
In my teenage days of sleeping in until noon, by the time I got out of bed my dad would say “good afternoon, you’ve successfully slept away the majority of your day.” He was mildly joking/scolding, but it stuck with me. We each only have so many days on this earth, and sleeping until lunchtime regularly not only is a huge waste of time, but it makes it that much harder every time to wake up early later. Now, I would be lying if I said I never sleep in anymore, and getting enough sleep is crucial to a healthy body and mind – but consciously make the decision if a couple extra hours of sleep is more valuable than the beautiful, quiet morning hours. Sometimes the sleep is more important – and that’s okay, just be intentional about how you spend your precious hours each day.
5. Be consistent.
One of the most important things in becoming a morning person is disciplining yourself to get out of bed, and it is so much easier for your mind and body to adjust when you get up early every day. It also gets easier if you train yourself to go to bed earlier instead of staying up the extra hour to watch just one more episode of Downton Abbey online (ahem…not that I’ve ever done that..). It’s like this though: when you adjust to going to bed earlier, you can wake up early easier; and when you wake up early, it will make you sleepy earlier and easier to go to bed and fall asleep.

So there you have it- five steps to learning to cherish some of the most wonderful, peaceful, and enriching times of the day that the majority of people sleep through and completely miss.

A Lovely Dwelling Place.

 

“I dwell in possibility.”

-Emily Dickinson-

How true it is. We each dwell in a possibility of some form, every day. My life has consisted of choices made each day, that evolve into consequences, and eventually settle down as memories. This blog will be my account of the life that I am blessed to live, the possibilities that I am blessed to dwell in, the people that I am blessed to know, and my attempts to better myself and the world around me through simply living and loving each day as it is given to me. I learned a tough lesson many years ago, that happiness is a choice, and to love is a conscious decision. Yet, how many days do we each spend just using up breaths, planning for the next day, and forgetting to cherish now, which is really all that we have any form of control over – and even then the attempts are usually fleeting. What we do have is a choice every morning when we open our eyes – will I dwell in the possibility of joy or the possibility of sorrow today? Both are options each day and the decisions we each make, even the smallest ones or the unconscious ones, will result in one or the other. I choose to be happy today because I have much to be happy for – a warm home, the opportunity to learn, people who love and invest in me, a fiance that I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with, and a robin outside my bedroom window that quite enjoys singing to me about the sunrise each morning. My hope is that you will join me often on this blog website and join in on the journey. I will be sharing quotes, scriptures, recipes, photos, videos, remarkable stories, advice, pleas for advice, failed and successful attempts to be more gracious and aware, and hopefully a few laughs along the way. I am praying that the accounts I will give, both the victories and failures that are each inevitable, will somehow resonate with you and inspire you to take the steps towards a happier and more fulfilling life.

So what lies ahead for this week? I will be referring to them as Spoilers (yes, I am a devout Dr. Who fan…). More lingo to come in the future.

Spoilers for week of 8.24.14:

  • Tips for becoming a “morning person” (or one of those people as my fiance so dearly refers to us as)
  • My feeble attempts at healthy meal planning as a college student
  • Goose-bump triggering poetry that you are missing out on if you haven’t read it yet

In the meantime – let some Claude Debussy compositions soak into your dwelling space a little bit. I am a huge fan of Late Romantic Era composers and this particular piece is so lush it makes me want to cry happy tears:

 

 

Until next week,

-L.E.