Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lockhart and other Joys

love you too, Gilderoy ;)

 Gilderoy Lockhart is pure delight! Obviously, he fails on a human level..but he's supposed to fail. He's a self-absorbed monstrosity..and I think it's in caricatures like Gilderoy that Rowling's talent really shows itself. While I'm forever disappointed with her primary characters, her peripherals are delightful, cartoonish, and consistent. Lockhart is one of my favorites, he so unabashedly self-serving..and his office is full of his own signed photos!!! What could be better - especially wizarding photos that seem just like tiny little mockeries on the wall. We are supposed to laugh, shaking our heads at him, and we do, because really, there's no other way to respond. Hermione does break character though, in her little crush on him. I can't really believe that Hermione isn't one of the first to notice his shallowness and his weak magic. It's not really fair to Hermione's character that she giggles and blushes with the rest of the girls whenever Lockhart goes by. I feel like there's a confusion here - Hermione seems to be passionate about knowledge until it comes to Lockhart, and then she's sort of reduced to just being impressed that he's "written most of the booklist"..and while Laura's right in saying (back in the comments somewhere) that it's tough to be consistent when you're 12, I think Rowling makes Hermione a bit weaker of a character when she has her hold on to the illusory Lockhart months after meeting the real man.

We've been talking a lot about the attitude toward muggles in the wizarding world, and this book really does bring out the dark underside. The fact that the rights and protection of muggles is even under debate is a pretty sad commentary on the wizarding community, also, as Christie's mentioned, J.K. Rowling seems to be presenting common decency as exceptional goodness pretty often as it relates to any interaction between wizards and anyone else, be they elves or muggles. I'm not sure if it's to create in the reader an awareness of how deeply flawed the wizarding world is, or if it is supposed to be viewed by the reader as exemplary. Thoughts here??

Jenna brought up an interesting point about believability - Ron's wand is an obvious Plot Necessity. If it weren't, any decent school would have it replaced, because he really can't do anything with it. Right now, it's just for humor: Ron attempts a spell - Failure! The general disorder of the school though, makes Lockhart's careless release of freshly caught Cornish Pixies acceptable and fun, but at some point you'd expect one of the more aware teachers to catch on to Ron's troubles and loan him a dumpy sort of school wand for the year. All that said, this book is doing a great job so far of  bringing us back to Hogwarts without making us feel we're repeating anything.
Cornish Pixie, bored by Lockhart's chatter

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reflections: The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

 “..but more often he would be alone, feeling through a quick instinct, which was almost a divination, that the secrets of art are best learned in secret, and that Beauty, like Wisdom, loves the lonely worshiper.”
~Oscar Wilde
“The Young King”

I read Oscar Wilde on calm Sunday afternoons and never fail to fall in love.  Wilde’s fairy tales are the tales of a man well acquainted with dark and light; a man haunted by God and beauty, nurtured by pain, and lost amid the wild distractions of the world. They are stories can’t be read without tears - there is too much of life there. Wilde wrote them for his own children and it’s lovely to see him point them again and again toward the whole-hearted love of the saint.

“As for thy dreams, think no more of them. The burden of this world is too great
for one man to bear, and the world’s sorrows to heavy for one heart to suffer.”

“Sayest thou that in this house?” Said the young king, and he strode past the Bishop,
And climbed up the steps of the altar, and stood before the image of Christ.

~Oscar Wilde
“The Young King”

The magic of Wilde is that of one who can not turn away from the pain he finds. Each tale teaches love in a different way, but all though the eyes, heart, and mystical imagination of the author, who, like the priest in the final tale, has finally lost his demons and come to welcome the whole of the world into his heart.

“The fauns also he blessed, and the little things that dance in the woodland, and the bright-eyed things that peer through the leaves. All the things on God’s world he blessed, an the people were filled with joy and wonder.”

~Oscar Wilde
“The Fisherman and His Soul”

Friday, August 16, 2013

Collected Chamber of Secrets Thoughts

O Harry..harry, harry, harry, Harry.. What were you thinking, Harry? Just because Ron is trying to imitate Fred and George doesn't mean you should go along..don't you know yet that Ron is Always Wrong??

I'm with Jenna on the car trip to Hogwarts. It doesn't really impress me. But in all fairness, I'm pretty sure I was full of dumb ideas myself when I was 12, weren't we all? And when things didn't go As They Should, I know my mind also tended to leap over all the practical, expedient options to the wildest, most dramatic solution. Still..not exactly a great start to the school year for Harry & Co. 

This year's missed sorting is a frustrating reminder that Rowling's house system is not at all a division based on personality and talent, but on virtue. The Good Guys go to good houses, the bad kids all end up in Slytherin.  Families don't all end up with the same temperament and abilities, obviously, so the fact that Gryffindor is welcoming it's 1 millionth Weasley seems like more of an easy way to drive it home to the reader that the Weasleys are Good People, Magically Competent. Not Evil. If I were the sorting hat...this is how the Weasley's would really break down:
Mr. Weasley would be in Hufflepuff, because, well, he doesn't have much backbone
Mrs. Weasley leans toward Slytherin, because she's obviously a talented manipulator, well meaning, but determined to get her way with other people.
Bill is sort of a wild card, I can see him anywhere, but I'm leaning toward Ravenclaw (he's the smart Weasley) or Slytherin, because anyone working everyday with Goblins has to have some serious cunning. And, he's the hot Weasley: hot = dangerous, and dangerous = Slytherin, right!
Charlie is pure Gryffindor. Brave, daring, not a lot of sense.. adrenaline junkie..
Percy is an easy Slytherin, didn't you see what he was reading at the bookstore?
Fred & George really are kind of interchangeable, aren't they? And both of them fit Gryffindor perfectly.
Ron could go Hufflepuff or Slytherin. He striving enough for Slytherin, but also sort of lacking in distinction. But sometimes he's Hufflepuff?
Ginny leans toward Gryffindor (willful and disobedient) or Slytherin (wait 'til you see her dating)

..but J.K. Rowling didn't consult me, obviously, and her books probably wouldn't have sold as well if I'd gotten my hands on them.

But all that sort of goes along with Hagrid's comment about the Malfoy's having 'bad blood'. Poor Draco never had a chance in the eyes of the world..though, you do sort of get a sense that Rowling gave him a bit of one (not so much Crabbe and Goyle), which is nice to see. And Hagrid's attitude doesn't bother me as much coming from the gamekeeper than it does coming from the sorting hat, the Weasley's, and the 'good' wizards in general.

I found myself liking the Weasleys as a family more this time around, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley as a couple less. They make me uncomfortable with the whole screaming, pushy, intrusive, over-bearing wife and mother with her mild, hen-pecked husband, who's always in trouble for something. In my mind, I always imagine Mr. Weasley at the office, head in hands: "If I'd known, Perkins! If I'd only known 30 years ago, I've have run off with that pretty secretary down the hall! She, at least, was calm!" and maybe he wouldn't mean it, but Perkins would always think less of Molly anyway.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


 "You are fruit snatched out of our life,
a berry hanging round and sweet;
simply let us taste how you melt
on the tongue of eternity.

For we remain blind down here where you left us.
And each place here desires solace and peace.
Grant us at least grace and courage,
since seeing down here has ceased."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

The fast is ended. And so too, it feels, is the summer. Seeing my breath in the cool morning air and planning a cake to celebrate the Mother's return to her Son, I can't help but feel sad to see the end and the beginning. To feel change so obvious in the world around me. 

We have berries, round and sweet, hanging all around us to fill the Virgin's cake with the flavors of life. Blackberries growing wild along the drive, behind the garden, and right up to the stream. 

"Who would have thought that until her coming
the entire heavens were incomplete?"


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Late Summer Spirituality: Dormition Fast in the Dying Season

The leaves are still green and high, the tomatoes are just starting to ripen. The pigs are heavy, muddy beasts -eating and sleeping their days away. I've a screen of herbs drying above the sleeping stove, and sunlight streaming in through every window; but the nights are bright with autumn stars and my bare-feet are unhappy, running through early morning chill to feed the animals. It's a good season for the fast - vegetables everywhere. I can make a meal without leaving the yard, and watching the summer die feels Marian in a way - a bright, perfect passing - beautiful and too soon.

I'm mourning the season early this year, because August tastes like September now, and because my birthday feels momentous this time around. I can't help hovering over all the things I should have done - almost as much as I anticipate the things yet to be, my "memories of the future" that haunt these magic days. August is a month for magic - a month of otherland wanderings and paths that may not come again..paths leading the Virgin each year back to her Son and me to the hidden places of wood and stream where elderberries laugh under the fading light.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Reflections: Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses

"..he teaches, I think, by the things he did that the one who is going to associate intimately with God must go beyond all that is visible and..believe that the divine is there where the understanding does not reach."
   ~Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory's life is interesting, there are bits about it that I love - like the above quote, and absolutely dull bits to skim quickly while nursing or half-asleep. I feel as if I'm missing something half the time..and maybe reading half-asleep will do that. But the reminder again and again that Moses saw God in the darkness, that he had to "go beyond all that is visible and..believe that [God] is ..where the understanding does not reach" is the essence of it all for me. Gregory returns often to the darkness which God has made His hiding place and tells me it is "the place where [Moses'] intelligence lets him slip in where God is..the unknown and unseen."

So perhaps it is better I read him in the dark dawn..half-awake and unresisting; with tea in hand and a blanket wrapped around me. With silence, or the soft sounds of sleep bringing the darkness to life. Waiting for the clouds to lift, for the sun to rise and warm the garden, and to "never cease straining toward those things that are still to come." (Phil 3:13) as Gregory encourages in his reflections on the man who approached the dark and returned with a face radiant as the sun.


Friday, August 2, 2013

[Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real]


I've never been so proud of my gardens!!! Look at those beds! And this was taken back in the empty third bed is full of basils (Thai, Lemon, Lime and 'normal'), the poppies are blooming, the greens are over-running us!

  My husband built the little patio this spring, and surrounded it with yarrow, comfrey, radishes, and little flowers. 

 And the Surprise Lily! We did not plant this..I've no idea where it came from, but I was thrilled when it blossomed!


Because playing outside is the Best!..


Lots of rainy days in summer have driven us to this:
 so much so that Yarrow will point to the computer in the evenings and say "Watch. Da'ia. Watch. Da'ia?" It's kind of embarrassing..


Rainy days also bring out the creative in all of us..desperate for some indoor fun, my husband set up The Swing:

The Swing was such a hit we had a hard time convincing her to let us take it down.."bye, bye you too swing!"