“Whenever you are sincerely pleased, you are nourished.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Considerations by the Way, from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Collected Essays & Lectures,” The Library of America: 1983)
I love to hear my girls sing.
To watch them on stage — yes.
But, even more than that, to hear them humming and whistling,
singing spontaneously around the house.
Oh, what does John O’Donohue say?
“I love music.
I think music is just it.
I love poetry as well, of course, and I think of beauty in poetry.
But music is what language would love to be if it could.”
(“Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living” by Krista Tippett, Penguin Books, 2016: p. 77)
“Words make worlds.” — Krista Tippett
On my desk this week: Moby Dick (by Herman Melville), Workshops Work (by Patricia Zaballos), The Poetry Handbook (by Mary Oliver), The One-Straw Revolution (by Masanobu Fukuoka), Becoming Wise (by Krista Tippett, and Project-Based Homeschooling (by Lori Pickert). I’m reading bits and pieces of all of them — because that is how my reading happens right now: in little snippets of time in the midst of very full days.
I might be hiding upstairs in my room right now, taking one of these mini reading breaks . . .
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way of starting
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own. — David Whyte
This beautiful poem has been on my mind this week. Everywhere I turn, I am reminded to start close in.
Have you discovered the book “How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare” by Ken Ludwig? I brought it home from the library last fall and it sat in a stack of books, unopened, for three weeks. It wasn’t the right time. Or maybe I was intimated by the thought of Shakespeare? Where to begin with Shakespeare?
Well, I brought it home again last week. And this time I managed to open it up on my lap on a quiet Sunday morning when everyone else was still asleep. The result? I’m hooked! I love it. We’re learning Shakespeare. Memorizing it!
I love Ken Ludwig’s philosophy and his emphasis on the importance of hearing Shakespeare’s poetry aloud and memorizing passages with your children. He writes:
“With Shakespeare, memorizing is the key to everything. . . In order to memorize something, you have to be very specific and very honest with yourself. You have to work slowly, and you have to understand every word of what you’re memorizing. There was a time not long ago when memorization was considered to be one of the basic tools of an academic education. Students were expected to learn hundreds of lines from the Greek and Roman classics, then, later, from poetry in their native tongues. This tradition has faded from our lives, and something powerful has been lost.” (p. 6 & 8)
Reading this I realized how much memorization was part of my own education — and yet I hadn’t thought about it much before. So many choir songs; solos; lines in middle-school and high-school plays; passages from the Bible; and French! Oh, the French memorization I did in college was endless.
But when I studied Shakespeare in high school, it was all in written form. Always read silently, to myself. Never spoken — let alone memorized. And so the thought of learning Shakespeare through memorization, right from the beginning, was completely new to me — and yet it felt absolutely right. And so we dove right in with A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows . . .”
Amidst a great deal of talk about our country this week: the transition in leadership; the grace of President Obama as he left office; the inaugural address; what it means to be trustworthy; the importance of our words; the value of integrity and respect . . . While all the while wondering what we can do, in our relatively quiet part of the world, to reach out to our neighbors . . . there was a whole lot of quiet work (and play) happening in our home.
January feels very dark. Not just this year, but especially this year, I feel a heaviness that I cannot shake. I do not know if I should try harder to shake it or try to sit with it. But when I sit here, trying to enter in, fully, to the weight of this darkness, I find myself simultaneously celebrating life — life and the joy that is so very present in each day shared with our beautiful children. Their curiosity. Their wonder. Their questions. Their pureness of heart. This is light.
I think of this poem by Wendell Berry (forgive me if I have quoted this recently. It has really been on my mind.)
To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, 1998: p. 68.
Did Wendell Berry march in the Woman’s March yesterday (or would he have in his younger days)?
Does he outwardly protest? Or inwardly? Or both?
Does he speak out in body? And on paper?
In the light? Or in the dark?
A little reminder to myself as we enter back into our homeschooling this week:
“Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things. Awaken people’s curiosity. It is enough to open minds; do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire.” — Anatole France
(Included in “The Earth Speaks,” edited by Steve Van Matre and Bill Weiler, 1983)
“All the prophets were poets. And if you don’t know that, you try to literalize everything and make shambles out of it. A metaphor is really remarkable kind of formation, because it both means what it says and what it doesn’t say. And so those two things come together, and it creates an imagination which is active. You’re not trying to figure things out; you’re trying to enter into what’s there.”
— Eugene Peterson
(From an interview with Krista Tippett, onbeing, December 26, 2016)
I am outside at dusk.
It is cold.
Here we are,
in winter now,
wrapped in her cold, white beauty
she holds us
She beckons to us — silently
she invites us
to enter in
to the cold,
“Figure out what matters to you. That’s your meaningful work. Find out who else it matters to. That’s your community.”
— Lori Pickert, “The Introverts Guide to Building Community,” Camp Creek Blog
I’m thinking a lot about building community right now. Lori’s words make it sound so simple, right?
And yet we know how difficult it can be. How do I find the people who care about the work I care about?