There is no more beautiful crepe myrtle tree this year than Mary, in my yard, visible from the north window. Full, bright red / orange /yellow. Perhaps it’s because the past two summers she has held robin’s nests.
It was a warm evening, in the 70’s, last week at dusk. A block away lives a family with three young sons, early elementary-school aged boys. The containers for recycling and trash were pushed to the front of the yard for pickup, and in the space between the two I saw a movement of a white t-shirt of one of the boys on hands and knees. I didn’t speak, didn’t say hello because I wanted him to succeed in his game, stalking me on his hands and knees behind the containers. I kept walking steadily, quietly, pretending I had not seen him. I did not want to break the spell of his shamanic celebration.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, HarperOne, 2009.
In discussing twelve spiritual topics, including reverence, incarnation, community, Sabbath, prayer, and vocation, Taylor uses personal and professional examples and discusses traditions and practices of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities. Of particular interest are a synopsis of the Book of Job and the discussion of challenges in keeping the Sabbath.
Notes on Reading. Fiction and Nonfiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales (1852), in Hawthorne: Tales and Sketches, The Library of America, 1982.
The often-anthologized and most well known of these sixteen stories are the masterworks: “The Snow-Image,” “The Great Stone Face,” “Ethan Brand,” and “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.”
“Ethan Brand” and “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” in their control of imagery and atmosphere, equal the best of Poe’s stories.
Of the works that are lesser known, those I had not read before, four particularly interested me.
I smiled as I read “Little Daffydowndilly,” in the style of a folk tale for children, and I wondered if any artist had ever made it into an illustrated children’s book.
“Main-street” describes a kind of puppet show of the history of a New England village and shows Hawthorne’s feelings of indignation and revulsion of the witch trials, in which a forebearer was judge. It is made amusing by the inclusion of a grumpy audience member, who comments on the action from time to time.
“The Canterbury Pilgrims” contrasts the feelings of hope of a young couple leaving a Shaker village to start a new life and the jaded comments of a group of people returning to the village in disillusion and failure in life in the wide world.
“Old Ticonderoga” is a free reminiscence of a tourist, who, while visiting the fort, remembers and fantasizes stories of events that occurred there. It might serve as a model for thoughts I might allow or generate when I visit Concord, Massachusetts, again.
Quotations from Reading of the Week.
“. . . choose the work, and it becomes your spiritual practice.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)
“People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrows falling to the ground as they can from reciting the books of the Bible in order. They can learn as much from a love affair or a wildflower as they can from knowing the Ten Commandments by heart.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)
“The world is cursed because people do not apologize for their sins or crimes or merely their cowardice, but it’s even more cursed because people apologize much too much–they use their regrets as a way of not really probing what they have done, as permission to persevere in their blindness, absolving themselves without having atoned or understood.” (Ariel Dorfman, “The Gospel According to Garcia,” short story in The New Yorker, November 2, 2015)
“Laughter, when out of place, mistimed, or bursting forth from a disordered state of feeling, may be the most terrible modulation of the human voice. The laughter of one asleep, even it it be a little child–the madman’s laugh–the wild, screaming laugh of a born idiot, are sounds that we sometimes tremble to hear, and would always willingly forget Poets have imagined no utterance of fiends or hobgoblins so fearfully appropriate as a laugh.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Ethan Brand”)