Repeat

The summer after freshman year was when I started to write with any regularity. Mind you, a writer of any amount of discipline would laugh at what I here refer to as “regular”—outside of journaling I write once a week at most, even less frequently at college—but I stand by my word choice. I think that the increase in output can be chalked up to a serious increase of feelings. For people who try their hands at anything creative, feelings, like yogurt, can produce movement and… regularity.

Around this same time the way I pray changed. I began to pray that God would use me—a fairly open-ended prayer that always feels like a cop out until I remember the opening line of the Prayer of St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” Petitioning God with specific requests is something that I still do, but less frequently. Part of this is has been realizing that, in many times and places, I am unable to see clearly enough to find an outcome worth praying for. So, Thy will be done—in the world, in this city, in my life, and in my writing.

Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal was recently published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It contains her prayers from January 1946 to September 1947, when she was twenty and twenty-one years old, attending writing workshops in Iowa City. Only a few pages in, the prayers are earnest, clunky, and occasionally luminescent. The passage quoted on the back is also from the prayer most frequently quoted in any of the recent writing I’ve seen pertaining to the slim volume. Continue reading

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A Gurney Kind of Love

Where the airplane gashes morning sun
the summer loses all its fun
I turn and run from everyone;
I turn and there meet you.

When everything is done and said
and I’ve been beaten ’bout the head,
lying in the gurney bed—
that’s where I’ll meet you.

I’m about to commit the cardinal sin of writing poetry, which is to accompany a poem with my own commentary. I’ve wanted to share this poem for a while but haven’t. It came to me as I was settling into Oxford some months ago. When I wrote it, the recent anti-gay violence in Russia (and the scattered incidents in the States) was very much on my mind. I very rarely write love poetry, but when I do, it often ends up being as applicable to God as much as to any possible person. This, I think, is especially true for this poem. I’ll leave it at that.

Thanks to Maddie for her critique even though I was unable to resolve the little bumps.

Scotland, For I [Part II]

I may not know much about alcohol, but I do know that morning drinking on the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen will get you a few odd looks—although probably not as many as you’d expect most other places. The man with the food cart came down the aisle at ten fifteen and asked if I wanted anything. “What beer d’ya have?” I asked him. He looked at his watch with a little concern before hesitantly naming a few labels. I’d never had any of them before, so I employed a tactic that I’ve mastered recently. “Foster’s, please,” I said, nearly cutting him off. I may not know much about alcohol, but other people don’t need to know that, so I play connoisseur as well as the next American twenty-year-old.

“Shake It Out” by Florence & the Machine came onto my iPod and I enjoyed a few moments of victory before the train filled up with Scots. A surly young woman sat next to me. “Don’t judge me,” I told her. “I’ve never drunk on a train before and I wanted my first time to be in Scotland. I swear this isn’t sad.” “No, seems reasonable,” she muttered. I put my earbuds back in.

I wrote in my journal a lot on these train rides. An excerpt written while flying past little Scottish towns:

The steeples on the churches here are dark and bleak. If the Christopher Wrens in London inspire awe and wonder and glory, those here seem to say that there is hard, unglamorous work to do before we can get to where they’re pointing. Protestant work ethic and whatnot.”

The next nine pages of my journal are spent on the metaphor of Christ and his Bride. After that, two pages of quotes from Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss, including the following:

Faith cannot save you from the claims of reason, except insofar as it preserves and protects that wonderful, terrible time when reason, if only for a moment, lost its claim on you.” (7)

On falling in love with his wife:

…it was human love that reawakened divine love. Put another way, it was pure contingency that caught fire in our lives, and it was Christ whom we found—together, and his presence dependent upon our being together—burning there.” (22-23)

I didn’t understand the brogue of the taxi driver who took me from the train station in Elgin to Pluscarden Abbey, the home of the Benedictine community I was to stay with for the week. I did, however, understand the posh and articulate to the point of theatrical Oxbridge accent of the man who greeted me upon arrival—a young visiting dom, ranked somewhere between priest and monk. “Oh, you’re an Oxford man. Oh, so sorry. I’m a Cambridge man of course, which, as I’m sure you know, is better than Oxford for most things. What college? Wycliffe Hall? OH, so so sorry.” I was surprised and smugly pleased to learn a few days later that the dom was, in fact, a mere New Yorker born and bred who did his undergrad at Cambridge, changed his voice, converted from Episcopalianism, and joined an order.

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notes from Frontier 846 SEA-DEN

These are a few thought-remnants from the first leg of my flight to Michigan last week.

a.

You never see car commercials with the car driving luxuriously through the suburbs. Mountain passes are great, as are roads curving through hills, the occasional Gotham-esque city street, and long stretches of straight-and-narrow country roads, but never the suburbs with their cul-de-sacs, kachunk kechunk kachank kachink architecture, and general aura of futility. They could use a sports car or two tearing up their asphalt.

b.

I’ve been in Seattle long enough to feel ignorant and slightly inferior in a nice café but also like I’m really stooping if I go to a Starbucks. A good way to distract myself from these sister emotions is by checking in on Foursquare—and for the check-in picture, instead of taking an aerial picture of my drink’s latte art with a fancy filter, I take an up-close, unfocused “still life” of absolutely anything. This can include the table supporting my beverage, the socket that my laptop’s charger will soon be filling, or the side of the mug. We might as well let the content follow the ridiculous form.

c.

Death walked onto the plane carrying a long tube, the kind architects use to carry blueprints. He was an old white man wearing a white polo tucked into his jeans. His eyes were once blue, but they had long since fogged over. His pupils occasionally peeked out from behind the grey swirls contained by his eyelids.

the glory of it all

In several days I will be flying back to Seattle. Christmas break will have ended, a month away from Seattle Pacific University will have passed, and I’ll have left behind another year. As I prepare for the new year, starting with Winter Quarter, I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. I began reading it more than a year ago “for fun,” if that expression actually describes the motivation that drove me to buy the book. But school led me away from Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha and into the world of ancient Greece. Before I stopped my attempt to blast through it, I made it approximately a third of the way through.

If you are familiar with The Brothers Karamazov, you might recall when the Elder Zosima relates the story of his life to Alyosha and others as he is reaching his life’s end. He begins with the story of his brother, who, an atheist, became sick and returned to God before dying while still a young man. In the last days of his life, he was consumed with a joy and love that confused his mother, visitors, and doctor, who mistook his fervor for madness. It was this passage that I read on the plane back to Seattle nearly a year ago.

Kerry Park

I closed my eyes and sketched what I imagine to be the perfect city. As it turns out, it already exists.
This is Seattle’s Skyline as seen from Kerry Park on Queen Anne.

seattle

I’m sad I didn’t plan well enough to get all of Rainier in. 😦
From my current journal.