Thursday, October 30, 2008

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
Ernest Hemingway

Late afternoon is lovely at home. The walls of the yellow room catch what little is left of the autumn light and play it across the floor in soft golden tones. I love to watch the light that moves as the leaves dance and shiver against the glass; the naked trees looks so exposed against the grey sky and remind me to be grateful that I am warm. The colours alone in our home could warm me, I love the vibrant yellow, deep blue, and new living green in the kitchen! In my autumn afternoons I wander room to room and am wrapped in beauty.

Our Lady glows above my desk – gold, red, and green against the deep blue; we have given Her red berries and the branch and potted marigolds for the fall and She, our Lady of the Watchful Eyes looks out on us with love and gives us Her prayers in return.

I love writing in the afternoon, when the house is clean and warmed by the hidden sun. I love listening to Rachmaninoff’s Vespers chanted throughout the apartment from the record player as I write, though it makes me restless so that I have to leave off my writing often and pace through the rooms, loving the beauty and the sounds and the musky smell of incense burning. Today I interrupted my writing to read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. It makes me hungry for good bread and shellfish, wine and rum, and strong coffee. I first discovered the book in Pennsylvania, living with my actress-friend in our up-stairs apartment, as I wrote and developed my passion for pottery and she wrote and acted; and we both fell in love with the artistic life. When I read Hemingway, he struck a chord that had recently been tuned by our Polish Pope’s letter to artists. It was then I began to dwell on Ritual: the rhythmic living of the True and Beautiful in daily life.

It surprises me when I meet people, to discover that they don't like Hemingway: the man who writes the soul so well, who writes ritual so well, and beauty and good food. He is one writer who realizes so well the importance of detail in revealing the state of the soul. I remember first reading Hills like White Elephants and feeling the tension between the couple as they both flitted around the discussion of aborting their child. The pain in that story was palpable in the almost mundane descriptions of the little table, the drinks, clothing, sky, scenery, and the hills far off that look like white elephants.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"This life I lead, setting pictures straight, squaring rugs up with the room - it suggests an ultimate symmetry towards which I strive and strain. Yet I doubt that I am any nearer my goal...even granted that this untidy world is ready for any such orderliness."

E.B. White

The paintings on the walls of this café depress me; I’m not exactly sure why. They are ugly for sure – the figures are badly drawn and out of proportion; the colours are banal, like cheap hotels: washed out blues and greens, and that particular shade of mauve that is supposed to inspire a restful, open attitude, but in reality inspires only discontent. Apart from the paintings, the café is ideal: white painted brick, perfectly weathered, black trim, heating pipes exposed along the walls, wood floors, wood tables; it has atmosphere, if only the painting would disappear!
We leave this evening for New York City to visit our dear friend Bill, who is studying there, and who is happy to play tour-guide for the weekend. We’re leaving our apartment in a state of disorder, which weighs on my mind more than it really should. The kitchen is half painted, two walls completely done and two only just begun. The kitchen things are everywhere: in the pottery room, on the floor, on the washer. The dishes are washed and stacked to dry beside paint cans and old brushes, and the laundry is piled desperately high, as the washer is taken over by kitchen things. When it is done, the kitchen will be beautiful. We are painting over the blah, barely blue walls with two different greens – both so refreshingly earthy I want to eat them, and running horizontal between the two a clean white stripe. I was unconvinced by the white stripe when my husband first proposed it, but yesterday, when we peeled off the tape on the first wall and saw the first finished wall, I fell in love. The stripe is perfect: so white, so clean, and so joyful! The whole kitchen, when it is done, will be refreshing as a spring rain.

I have been thinking recently about how difficult it would be to live a fully Catholic life without a good community. We are particularly blessed here to be surrounded by young families, people we love for themselves, who are passionately Catholic. It would be so difficult if our friends did not share our faith, or if they shared only our faith and none of our other passions. Cafés often make me thank God for the blessing of our community. In the cafés of Portland, there is such a mix of people: business men in suits and ties, sipping coffee and talking salaries; the young Urban Liberal in his cords and careless, windblown hair; the vocal woman behind the counter, lecturing her customer on the absurdity of having six children, rights of homosexuals, and the plight of American Indians. I sometimes feel as though I’m traveling incognito – they assume I agree and I am silent; I long for the company of my potter-friend, my old roommate, or my husband, all of whom have the sort of aesthetic that belongs in little cafes and the passionate Catholicism that completes that aesthetic and takes it from empty and haunted to whole.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

“ We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.” E.B. White

My life is not hectic. It flows. Friday afternoon I prayed a rosary while walking the warm wood floor in my bare-feet. I love the feel of my skirt swishing and the smooth feel of the beads in my hands; I love the light on the floor and the smell of incense in the walls now; I love the Icons that watch and pray with me as I walk, the Virgin who follows me with her dark eyes, stern St. Nicholas, and the laughing little Christ in the cup. I felt as I prayed that I must be in a novel, everything is so beautiful: the bright walls, the long windows, the sunlight that moves as I walk and the sound of the wind in the trees. Friday evening I walked through downtown Brunswick in the dark autumn-evening air with my husband, smelling the nearby ocean air and peaking into warm, well-lighted little shops.

I am so blessed in my life! I can look into the dining-room and see my own mugs, full of good black tea, and a fresh-baked apple pie. I can spend my days creating beautiful pots and writing poems in my own well-loved little home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further. " -Soren Kierkegaard

I am spending this morning in a small cafe on commercial street. It's grey and rainy outside with that damp, leafy smell that belongs only to rainy autumn days. A man with two lovely labs is lecturing a small collection of like-minded people on the virtues of Barak Obama. They are not passionate, but they are very certain. I can hear them repeating the party line with a sort of half-hearted enthusiam but with the conviction born of many hours spent listening to NPR news reports and CNN "in depth" reports.

The man with the labradors has announced that we the layman cannot possibly understand the differences between the policies of the two, it is too far above us and his friends agree - they are not Harvard-educated after all, how could they understand; but Obama is so engaging.

There is a definate loss in man when he fails even to attempt faith, and this crisis: economical, political, and social is the result of man's pursuit of some other, lesser passion that has been raised in his mind above faith. But how do we take a mind so tightly wrapped around the little things of this world and remind it that there are made for greater things? What works on a mind to work faith out of it?

Even we who believe, our faith is not the passionate Faith that it ought to be: the faith that shone through the saints, that poured from the words of Augustine, the poverty of Francis, and the blood of countless martyrs throughout history. We do not want is as we should, so many times we forget to love God for Himself alone; because He gives us so much we begin to think of Him more as a giver and less as a lover, who Loves whether He gives or takes away.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"I conclude it from your Word,
from your gestures of the past,
when you, hands cupped, limits set, gave rise
to all that is and was, so warm and wise.
You said "living" loud and "dying" low
and ever repeated: "Be." "
- Rilke

There is something about the autumn that feels so alive - the crisp air and teh smell of dried, dead leaves falling brightly all around. It is a season for walking briskly in textured jackets and clicking boots; a season for soup-making and hot tea; a season for letter writing and for love.

Matka visited this past week and we watched the rain together, pinched pierogis next to the warm stove, and planned much more than we accomplished. It was a good visit. When she left on Friday I set my sights on the Feast of St. Francis and cleaned house. Now the feast is over, I am cleaning again, remembering the joy and and goodness of the day.

St. Francis amazes me. His simple, crazy zeal, his intensity; how could he sustain it? I love him because he loves and because he wanted God with such a desperation that his longing can still be felt accutely, even now when he has become the secular saint of hippies and vegetarians who ignore his orthodoxy as determindly as they ignore Christ's divinity; and Francis shakes his head, loves them and prays that they may be made whole.

The clouds are gathering, I wonder if an autumn storm is coming.