Thursday, April 23, 2009

“The Church is to transform, improve, “humanize” the world – but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love?”
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI!!)

My ideal grocery store is an indoor/outdoor market-place, like the Eastern Market in Detroit, where exotic and everyday mingle on the streets and in the shops. It needs a meat-market, fresh produce, and a spice shop - where herbs, spices, and teas line the walls floor to ceiling. I’m still waiting for my ideal to come to New England, but Saturday, we took a walk around the local Whole Foods. It isn’t ideal, no smoky spice shop, no outdoor produce stands, but it was lovely. Cleaner than Eastern Market, and less exciting, the store still impressed me: fruit piled in pyramid displays, warm colours, inviting meat and cheese counters; looking and feeling like an upscale indoor market.

Aesthetically, it has a Catholic spirit; I could feel their desire to create a sense of community among the shoppers, to appeal to our senses. I loved it, the only thing that keeps me from making Whole Foods our regular store is the rumor I hear that they are big supporters of Planned Parenthood. I haven’t yet figured out if the rumor is true or not, and until then we’ll stick to our usual store. Visiting Whole Foods made me wish I could make over all aspects of life in the Catholic ideal – cafés, theatres, and all manner of shops. I want that, Catholic aesthetic without all the morally problematic elements that so often go alone with it. Why is it that so many Catholics forget that the ugliness and artlessness we surround ourselves with “constitutes a really grave spiritual problem” (Thomas Merton).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"You my own deep soul
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing."


It rained all day long today. We spent the day inside, listening to the wet dripping sounds and enjoying our bright walls. Our seeds are just beinging to sprout in boxes and pots along the windows of the blue room. I can't wait until we can pick our own greens again and eat salad everyday.

I love the Easter season, when everything is growning and the symbolism with which we celebrate the resurrection! As I've been talking more and more about the importance of symbolism and ritual in Catholic living, I've realized how neglected and misunderstood this symbolism is. Easter is the highest feast of the year and we can't abandon its symbolism and celebratory elements simply because they've become popular in the secular world. It saddens me to hear about people who want to take away the eggs, lambs, and candy of Easter to put the focus on Christ. They don't realize that all this things do put the focus on Christ, our sacrificial Lamb.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I have just finished Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Leaf Storm and other stories. Amazing. Read Leaf Storm, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. I love Marquez; in college I read One Hundred Year of Solitude and was completely overwhelmed. Recently my husband and I read Love and Other Demons and Memories of my Melancholy Whores. I think I remember seeing A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings on stage once, I can't remember when or where, but it was very familiar to me.

We have also recently discovered some fantastic modern poems, my husband especially is caught up in Claude McKay. It's taken a while for me to be able to appreciate modern poetry, I think in part because poetry professors tend to choose frustrating, disjointed, or angry poems to represent modern poetry, which only encouraged my own prejudice against them.
"For I have known them all already, known them all-
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room."
T.S. Eliot

Recently, a friend of ours sang jazz at a small club downtown. My husband and I went, walked around the city before-hand and enjoyed coffee and good bread at one of the dark little tables near the bar. The coffee was ideal: dark and rich. It came on a small black tray, in a two-cup French Press, with a white cup and saucer. The hot bread came, wrapped in a towel and we dipped large chunks of it into olive oil and devoured it, while C. sang jazz in front of the big café window. Jazz is full of varying sounds that almost become visual they are so alive, sounds that mean nothing on there own but seek only to build the song as a whole. They’re fascinating done well, my fingers tapped only and for a while I thought only of the music and the lovely coffee tray. Later, when the coffee was finished my mind wrote while my fingers sat useless without a pen. I thought of my pots at home waiting for the kiln, and my beautiful home. We had arrived happy, we left happier, with the exhausted happiness that comes after a day of pure enjoyment. We drove home forgetting the details of this late-night inspiration and clinging tighter to the essence, in our new blue car with the moon-roof.

Easter has come and the apartment is suffused with joy. Light is streaming in, making all our colours come alive again. We are living on Easter food: eggs, bread, meat, and cake are continually out for us to enjoy. There is a flower on the table, belonging to St. Joseph, which smells seductively of heaven. It is not a lily, I wish I knew more.

Wesolego Alleluja!

Monday, April 13, 2009

"When two people give themselves up in order to come close to each other, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continual falling."

Rainer Maria Rilke

I am supposed to write an article on "fighting in marriage". I'm at a complete loss. My husband and I have never fought. I've explained this, and been given permission to write about our lack of fighting, but I get the impression that it is considered something of a lack. Perhaps we lack the passion to fight, or courage in our convictions, perhaps we avoid issues that may cause fights. It surprises me, because I've never thought of fighting as something natural or necessary to marriage, now for the first time I've been told that it is essential. I want to write my disagreement without being self-congratulatory or defensive, and be convincing. I'm at a loss. Help would be appreciated.

"All things become more intimate for [the artist], and there is nothing else for him but a great recognizing, seeing again, and being welcomed."

Rainer Maria Rilke

It is difficult sometimes to find the balance between keeping a clean, beautiful, hospitable home and a neat, tidy, untouchable house. Cleaning can become draining – a chore we do only for the end result, which we’d like to keep as long as possible. Hence the untouchable rooms: clean breakable places to which children and dogs are forbidden. These rooms smell of dust and disuse; they are opened only occasionally to older, important guests – the people we hope to impress – cleaned, and closed off again, providing a constant temptation to children and casual guests, who long to touch the untouchable. When we see cleaning as an art itself we recognize that molding our environment is a continual process and that each day offers a new opportunity for beauty. People touch and alter, guests explore, husbands add and enjoy; and we have the blessing of rediscovering our homes each day as they absorb and adjust to the life within them. It is not an art to keep each room at its neatest day after day, but it is an art to create each day a beautiful space that is clean and inviting out of an environment that alters with each day.

Our attitude toward the process is essential. If the cleaning and arranging of our home is just a means to an end, then we tend to see the process as drudgery and the result fleeting. What is the point of cleaning if they’ll only mess it up again, we often wonder. But when the process itself is our focus, when we can truly appreciate the sound of the broom against tile, relish the smell of soap and the first shiny streak of Murphy’s Oil Soap on a dry floor, when we learn to play as we clean and forget perfection for the joy of momentary loveliness, then our attitude toward cleaning itself is not “what I must do to have a decent home” but rather “what I love doing for those I love, myself included.” Then we don’t think “cook first, clean later” but instead clean first, so that the home is an inspiration, then spill flour, dirty dishes, and chop fruit while the home is rejoicing at being loved, cared for, and used for its purpose.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our Lady’s home at Ephesus could not have been a large one, nor very grand. But being the home of the Queen of Heaven it certainly was beautiful. We often forget that our God is a God of beauty. The Catechism reminds us of what we see each day in the natural world, that “truth is beautiful in itself.” Our Lady, knowing God so intimately could not be blind to beauty, or neglect it in her own home; the home is the reflection of its inhabitants, if they value beauty, the house will be beautiful, if they do not the house will languish. That is not to say that it must be neat – everything in it’s place, swept clean each day, there is beauty also in artful chaos so long as it is a chaos of love. Clean and beautiful are not the same as neat and tidy. Clean and beautiful homes radiate welcome. They are places of rest and encouragement, as Mary’s home must have been. They are hospitable homes, where food is shared and love is thick in the air. Books may be piled on the floor, guitars lounging on love-seats; dishes may be forever accumulating in the sink, but they are lovely dishes, used to make each day special, not saved for better times, or better company; the books are well loved and the guests are welcome to peruse them.

In the past it was common for Catholic homes to have a crucifix in each room to make sacred each area of life; many homes still display this lovely consecration, others add to it by allowing the Catholic imagination to play at decorating. Colors, light, art, music, scents of holiness infuse these homes and allow them to step out of the stagnant repetition of many modern homes and into the wild beauty of the Sacraments. If we allow our homes to rise out of the pages of “Better Homes and Gardens,” if we instead form them from the richness of our faith, they themselves will become the canvasses on which the saving beauty of God’s love is illustrated for all who seek rest and encouragement within them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."
T. S. Eliot

It has been a gloomy morning, and promise to be a gloomy day; heavy with mist, damp, and grey. I am collecting my thoughts and trying to avoid taking on the colour of the day. In the second half of Lent I have been trying to frame my day with prayer - this week has been difficult. Not evening prayer, which we do together, but my solitary morning prayer, which I forget more often than not until afternoon has made it all-together out of place. Today I remembered. So I raised my voice from the earth, from the very gates of the netherworld, my cry. They are preparing us for the Passion; it is as dark as the grey morning. But the hope of God is behind it, and I found myself relishing the day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

“We are not to know why
this and that masters us;
real life makes no reply,
only that it enraptures us”
Ranier Maria Rilke

Spring is such a hopeful season. The snow is almost gone from the garden. Our landlords have laid old doors down in a path to the garage; they come everyday now to clean out old wood, trash, and tiles that have filled the garage for years. We are cleaning out as well – the car which has carried me on so many journeys is dead and gone; we’re in the process now of finding it’s replacement. My high hopes about a car he looked at this evening, a very mundane car – not like the pick-up of my dreams, but a good car all the same, and of course, when it belongs to us, it won’t be so mundane. It will be ours.

Late Lent is such an ideal time for cleaning out and changing habits. I have a card from my sister I would like to frame and hang on the wall of the blue room. I have books I would like to find a home for, and walls that want shelves. After Easter, I look forward to taking the plastic off my windows and reacquainting my rooms with the outdoor air.

This morning I am drinking cold tea and making bagels. It’s a grey day, ideal for books, tea, and working around the stove. I’m trying to convince myself to throw in the cold pottery room later today and have almost succeeded.