Friday, November 30, 2007

Another favourite -- the Dove descending

This one is a short extract (one section) from T S Eliot's longer poem "Little Gidding" (One of his "Four Quartets"). Who else but a poet of Eliot's skill would have both the audacity and sublimity to combine the pentecostal descent of the Holy Spirit with the firebombing of London in WWII?
read and be stunned ..

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

Check it out

(drum roll)

Today it gives me great pleasure to introduce a new blogger to the world (or that tiny proportion of the world that ever reads my blog!)

check out

Of course, I'm a tad biased, because this particular blogger is very near and dear to me.But she IS a very special person, despite the handicap of being my daughter!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Favourite -- The Sparrow's Skull

From time to time, as well as my own writing, I want to include some bits of other people's work which is especially dear to me.Today, a poem I love, by Ruth Pitter, who was a friend of C S Lewis, and a poet who deserves much more recognition than she has. The final stanza is one I return to again and again as a source of courage and faith.


Memento Mori Written at the Fall of France

The kingdoms fall in sequence, like the waves on the shore.
All save divine and desperate hopes go down, they are no more.
Solitary is our place, the castle in the sea,
And I muse on those I have loved, and on those who have loved me.

I gather up my loves, and keep them all warm,
While above our heads blows the bitter storm:
The blessed natural loves, of life-supporting flame,
And those whose name is Wonder, which have no other name.

The skull is in my hand, the minute cup of bone,
And I remember her, the tame, the loving one,
Who came in at the window, and seemed to have a mind
More towards sorrowful man than to those of her own kind.

She came for a long time, but at length she grew old;
And on her death-day she came, so feeble and so bold;
And all day, as if knowing what the day would bring,
She waited by the window, with her head beneath her wing.

And I will keep the skull, for in the hollow here
Lodged the minute brain that had outgrown a fear;
Transcended an old terror, and found a new love,
and entered a strange life, a world it was not of.

Even so, dread God! even so my Lord!
The fire is at my feet, and at my breast the sword:
and I must gather up my soul, and clap my wings, and flee
Into the heart of terror, to find myself in thee.

--Ruth Pitter

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

White Ribbon Day

I was asked to do a blog post in response to white ribbon day which is taking a stand against violence against women. This is a cause i am delighted to support, and I invite anyone else who is interested to also blog on the subject. This is what I wrote:

She walks in fear. He has cast a long shadow over her life, and she can see no prospect of light. The light went out the first time he hurt her, when the hands that had caressed and held her first turned into slamming fists. She learned, with acid pain, how swiftly fear and pain can destroy the fantasy she had mistaken for love. She carries her heart like a crushing stone inside her, confused and guilty, and finds it hard to keep hold of the reality that it is he, not she, who violated and destroyed love.

He does not hit her often. This confuses her too. If he were wildly, frequently violent, she thinks she would know what to do. Her physical survival would be at stake, she would have clear reason to leave him and the terrible ambivalence would be over. Yet even to say that it would be simpler if it were worse sounds like some perverted heresy. After all, whatever she has heard some people say, she doesn’t want to be hit. She doesn’t ask for it, and finds no security in his macho control. She is a woman, not a child, she never asked for anyone to do her thinking for her, or supply external discipline to help her to conform.

Yet self-doubt lingers. What if, in some unfathomable way, she is provoking him? What if she really is the failure, impossible to live with and impossible to please, that he has told her she is? Who can she turn to? She has internalised his condemnation for so long, she believes the whole world would condemn her: a woman who exasperates her own husband to the point of lashing out. On the bad days she suspects that even God condemns her; on the good days she remembers that He is supposed to be on the side of the hurting and oppressed. Her shame runs deep, deeper and more permanent than any bruise, it has stained the very colour of her soul.

She walks in fear. She has been taught it is her duty to submit, and she has really tried. But she cannot turn her brain off, or deny her own principles, and this is what has got her into trouble. Nothing enrages him like being questioned, but how can she not question when his orders make no sense? How is she supposed to conform when the demands keep changing, the goalposts keep shifting? How can she be the ‘perfect Christian wife’ when she is a human being with a desire to understand, not a pre-programmed robot? She has lost all confidence in her own judgement and doubts her social abilities (and all their friends are his choice anyway, she doesn’t feel close to anyone). Sometimes she almost hates him, so smug, so self-righteous, while she carries all the pain, but that just makes her feel guiltier. What sort of wife doesn’t love a husband who is faithful, a ‘good provider’ and well-liked by the rest of the world?

She walks her days as an automaton, afraid to think, afraid to truly be. She withdraws from life, she does not have the emotional energy to engage with risk, laughter or tears. She swallows her dreams with the same dull terror with which she has learned to swallow the retorts that would upset him. At night she lies alone in bed, two inches from his warm body, alone, cold and desperate, and tries to remember a reason, other than fear, for getting up the next day ... and the next … and the next …

And she wonders if that overused word “love” is just another terrible lie ..

Here I am!

After quite a hiatus, I'm back and ready to blog again. college is over, for good! After 6 years of p/t study, I have finally fulfilled all righteousness in terms of degree requirements, and, assuming I passed my last assignment and exam (and I fully expect to) it's all over bar the graduation ceremony (March 29th next year). I think I'm still walking round in a daze, on some visceral level I never thought I'd actually get this far. For those who don't know, I was a dropout from uni in my youth (at least partly to do with abuse issues)and I never quite believed that one day I'd actually make it through a course of study and get that degree. I really believe that this degree was God's idea, not mine, and I'm waiting with some anticipation to see what He wants me to do with it.

I've also changed the name of my blog; "From the Pickle jar" sounded a bit too domesticated for me. I'm still going through a belated adolescence and trying to work out who I am, but i'm sure I'm not the earth-mother type. Spend far too much time with my head in the clouds for that!