Aslan Did Not Say That (Lewis misquoted again)

[UPDATE below]

Literary Lewisians – that is, those who view his written texts and his recorded readings as the only things that qualify as Lewis quotes (as opposed to cinematic adapted one-liners and outlandish self-empowering slogans) – likely expend too much energy seething about the ever-growing corpus of non-Lewis quotes cluttering (even polluting) the digital universe.

I do, anyway.

And perhaps I should stop caring. Or stop blathering about it. Or stop calling it out.

But I think it matters immensely, far beyond anything that has to do with being a devoted Lewisian, medievalist, literarian, or would-be-Narnian. (For these reasons and these. Also these and these. And so many more.)

This is not merely about misquotes. It’s about being thoughtful, careful, precise, clear. Truthful, even.

But I am once again disheartened and confounded by the most recent misquote because it is in printin a bookabout Lewisthat perhaps many people will read, and so there’s very little chance of retracting this particular absolutely-not-a-quote (just like there is very little chance of properly recovering the correct order of the Chronicles of Narnia, yet another reason literary Lewisians gnash their teeth).

The newly released book Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis (by Patti Callahan; Thomas Nelson, 2018) ushers readers into Part I with this page:

Anyone who has read Lewis will recognize this “quote” of Aslan’s as not possibly having been written by Lewis, ever. It drips with modern self-actualization that appears nowhere in Lewis’s writings (who was thoroughly unmodern and utterly I-am-lost-without-my-Lord).

I suppose the cinematic-adapted CGI-leo might have uttered these words. But if so, the above quote should indicate such by 1) deleting C. S. Lewis as the intimated author and 2) clearly noting the cinematic-adapted-and-ravaged version as the actual source.

That seems only fair. And accurate. And clear. And precise. And factual.

I assume this “quote” comes from the cinematic-adapted scene wherein the Dawn Treader (“such a very Narnian ship”) enters the Darkness – a very real and very terrifying place of evil. A place wherein Aslan would never advise someone to defeat the darkness in oneself (which isn’t to say he denied inner darkness, or didn’t think it should be defeated). Those who know Aslan (and his earthly incarnated human-divine reality but please remember the Chronicles ARE NOT ALLEGORIES) know that when any of his children find themselves in the midst of evil danger – quivering hands, overwhelming despair, paralyzing fear – if that child has only enough strength to whisper, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now,” – well, even if that child would forget to say please or pretty please or by your mane – Aslan would never respond with: “Well, hmmm, okay. But first you must defeat the darkness in yourself.”

Never. Absolutely and unequivocally never.

Instead, after pleading hopeful words in the midst of palpable despair, something would begin to change inside the child, and inside all the other children on whose behalf she also whispered.

First, a tiny speck of light would appear up ahead.

And then a broad beam of light would fall upon the ship, even while it was still surrounded by darkness.

And then along the beam, the children (some young, some grown) would see what looked like a cross, then like an aeroplane, and then like a kite before finally arriving in a whirling rush of wings. It would be an albatross. It would circle around the mast three times before perching for just an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. And then it would spread its wings, rise, and begin to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little starboard, leading the whole shipload of children folk out into the warm and welcoming sunshine.

And the one who’d whispered for help back in the evil dark – rather than being chided for not first defeating her own inner darkness (blather) – would have heard these words from Aslan-as-albatross while still in the darkness:

 Courage, dear heart.

And as she heard the voice, she would also have felt a delicious smell breathe in her face – the breath of love, the breath of joy, the breath of presence, the breath of spirit, the breath of undeserved rescue.

And when finally out of the darkness, without knowing exactly when or how it happened, everyone would realize there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been.

That is what Aslan would have done and said – because that is what he did and said in Chapter 12 of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

So, yes – misquotes matter.

Because though both Aslan and our Lord are in the business of forming humility and love and grace in their children while also helping them die-to-self each and every day, neither Aslan nor our Lord are in the business of self-help nonsense-babble that only leads to disappointment, despair, and emptiness. (And maybe also poisonous self-inflation.)

Words matter. Because behind the words are ideas, meaning, stories, and truth. At least that’s the hope.

[UPDATE: 9 Oct 2018]

Turns out this is not just a misquote: it is a misattribution of a misquote. Aslan-of-the-screen did not say these words. Rather, Coriakin-of-the-screen did, per the Confirming C. S. Lewis Quotes page (CCSLQ) of the meticulously researched Essential C. S. Lewis site. I highly recommend it.

I don’t know if this makes things any better. Or worse. To misattribute a misquote is two too many missteps. To misattribute to a false Aslan something said by a false Coriakin is beyond reckoning. It’s Dufflepud-ish, if you will. It’s as difficult to imagine Coriakin saying these things as it is to imagine Aslan saying them.

Coriakin is, by his own estimation, the least of Aslan’s magicians. He oversees the Duffers, who would drive anyone mad. But he never once lays on them platitudes about overcoming inner darkness, pride, or stupidity. Nor does he presume to deliver supposed Aslan-esque platitudes to them regarding their petty and outlandish stubbornness, not even to the Chief Duffer, who would drive anyone sky-high-batty after just five minutes. Coriakin’s ethos and discourse runs more like this:

Lucy followed the great Lion out into the passage and at once she saw coming towards them an old man, barefoot, dressed in a red robe. His white hair was crowned with a chaplet of oak leaves, his beard fell to his girdle, and he supported himself with a curiously carved staff. When he saw Aslan he bowed low and said,

“Welcome, Sir, to the least of your houses.”

“Do  you grow weary, Coriakin, of ruling such foolish subjects as I have given you here?”

“No,” said the Magician, “they are very stupid but there is no real harm in them. I begin to grow rather fond of the creatures. Sometimes, perhaps I am a little impatient, waiting for the day when they can be governed by wisdom instead of this rough magic.”

“All in good time, Coriakin,” said Aslan.

“Yes, all in very good time, Sir,” was the answer. (Chapter 11, VDT)

Actual-Lewis’s actual-Coriakin is surely not someone who would blather about defeating inner darkness in order to defeat outer darkness. He knew better. Much better. The Chief Duffer, on the other hand…

 

New Old Things from C. S. Lewis

[Note: When a writer steps away from writing, for whatever reason (and there are usually several, and at least some of the several are usually very real and true), it is hard to step back into it for the simple reason that writing is work. Hard work. Fly-in-the-ointment work. Day-in-day-out-nose-to-the-grindstone work. No matter how much it is embedded in one’s blood, bones, heart and breath. But: it is good work. Glorious work. Real work. Meaningful work. True work. And so writers – if they step away, when they step back – must always step back into the work again. Because they can’t not. Because they must. It’s just a matter of when. Today, for example…]

It’s a big year for Lewisians across the world.

Today a new-found old letter hits the auction block. I read about it here first, on a delightful blog I discovered during my stepped-away-from-writing season.

The letter is delightful for several reasons.

  • It’s addressed to “My Dear Grittletonians.” We should all live in a world of such places and people.
  • You can see where Lewis’s fountain pen ran low on ink.
  • He capitalizes Sea Serpent and Dragon, indicating their true is-ness.
  • He specifically refers to three completed and four upcoming books as a unified series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • He writes about some of his favorite books, all of which would be found in the children’s section of a library, but which for him were never categorized by age.
  • He adds a P.S about more favorite books, because that kind of list has no end.
  • He talks about what he did when he was a boy, as though it were a vivid and recent memory.
  • He writes to children as though they are full-fledged human beings, i.e. he takes them seriously.
  • He crosses out a mistake in his writing.
  • And – perhaps most wondrously gratifying of all to those of us Lewisians who are book-order purists – he makes it unequivocally clear that the sixth book that “will go right back to the beginning and explain how there came to be that magic wardrobe in the Professor’s house” – i.e. The Magician’s Nephew is absolutely and intentionally and authoritatively the sixth, not the first, book in the series.

You can imagine how satisfying this is to people who’ve known it all along – known it not just in their own bones, but known it based on all the internal evidence of the books themselves (a critical literary practice that Lewis himself holds in high esteem).

CS Lewis letter 1

CS Lewis letter 2

But this new-found old letter is not the only Big Lewis News of the year. There are also two new-found old articles that have heretofore never been collected or anthologized. I don’t remember where I first got wind of these, but there were hints in the Lewis-sphere that The Strand Magazine might contain articles by Lewis that were not yet indexed in Lewis collections.

Happily, my research institution maintains copies of Strand Magazine in its expansively mysterious repository. And after much dusty digging, sorting, and page-flipping, I found these:

CSLewis Christmas Sermon

CSLewis Cricket

“A Christmas Sermon for Pagans” will sound familiar to anyone who has read Mere Christianity and De Descriptione Temporum. The language, phrases, and ideas are recognizably Lewis. “Cricket’s Progress” is another thing altogether. Did Lewis – who wrote other things under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton – care about cricket? Did he hanker to be a sports writer? I haven’t pored over this article enough to make any sense of what’s going on, but I do find vague hints of Puddleglum in this narrated Cricketer’s quote:

“It’s a great game, but fast bowling takes too much out of a fellow,” he told me. “You want to be a nice, steady all-rounder, good for thirty years’ service…Keep one eye on the ball and the other on the future, and you’ll be all right. And above all, never let them get you down.”

It does rather sound like our favorite wiggle, doesn’t it?

“I’m not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say – I mean, the other wiggles all say – that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’ they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this – a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has even seen – will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”

In a fascinating twist of literary nuance, the final page of “Cricket” features a footer quote by G. K. Chesterton. Curious indeed.

All of that to say – a new-found old letter and two new-found old articles are no small thing in the world of Lewis. And though there have been many, many reasons and moments and means to step back into the world of writing, these have proven to be the golden ticket.

In Lewis’s own words to the Dear Grittletonians:

“Do you write stories yourselves? I did at your age. It is the greatest fun.”

Or, modified for this specific juncture of life:

“Do you write? I do. It is the hardest work. And the greatest fun.”

 

“Behold, I am of no account” – Job’s shocking solace

galaxy

Job is often read as a book about suffering, patience, providence, righteousness, and faithfulness.

Certainly Job discusses all of those things.

But it is not primarily about those things.

It is primarily a book about someone coming face-to-face with this stunning and silencing truth:

Behold, I am of no account. (ESV)

I am nothing. (NLT)

We just finished reading Job in my Bible as Literature class. We plowed through its dialogues and discourses, its philosophical wonderings, and its theological thunder.

Job, like all of scripture, is richer, deeper, wider, and wiser than anyone can possibly understand in a single lifetime. Its narrative structure and poetic beauty are hallmarks of ancient literary genius.

In his introduction to Job, G. K. Chesterton – with typical brilliance, wit, and British pithiness – notes that God’s ultimate discourse (chapters 38-41) upends our expectations in four ways:

  1. Rather than offering answers to all the questions posed of him, God offers questions of his own – richer, deeper, wider, and wiser questions than any yet presented. “In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wider things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.”
  2. Though God offers deeper, darker, and more desolate riddling questions than Job has yet encountered, Job is strangely comforted by the Lord’s words. “[Job] has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”
  3. As God unrolls a panorama of his mighty creation, he seems to “insist on the positive and palpable unreason of things” and to declare that the world’s inexplicableness is one of its finest truths. “Instead of proving to Job that it is an explicable world, [God] insists that it is a much stranger world than Job ever thought it was.”
  4. In a stunning use of imagery, and sacred language – and “without once relaxing the rigid impenetrability” of divine power – God drops here and there “the metaphors, sudden and splendid suggestions that the secret of God is a bright and not a sad one…like light seen for an instant through the cracks of a closed door.”

Indeed, oh yes indeed he does.

  • God robes his earth in brilliant colors.
  • He guides the Bear and her cubs across the heavens.
  • He tilts the waterskins of heaven to satisfy the parched ground.
  • He creates the cosmos to the celebratory accompaniment of singing stars and shouting angels.

The secrets of God are indeed bright. The inexplicability of God and his creation is indeed a comfort. The impenetrability of divine power is indeed a reassurance.

To be small, to be of no account, and to be nothing – this is in fact that most spacious truth within which to exist.

It is to be deeply content with my identity as a child of God (as opposed to believing I am a god myself).

It is to be thoroughly assured of my role in the universe as merely one of trillions (but one who is nevertheless fully and undeservedly loved).

It is to be wholly at rest in the arms of one I cannot condense, comprehend, deconstruct, or delimit (but one who I can surely know – personally and intimately).

Only when I believe of myself, “I am of no account. I am nothing,” will I be positioned to finally be all that God has made me to be.

Only when I accept the paradox of being fully loved while being nothing and being fully redeemed while being of no account will I finally understand the price and purity of God’s love for me.

Only when I embrace my very finite smallness will I be able to rejoice assuredly in the frightening magnitude of my Lord.

“Behold, I am of no account.” Yes and amen. Thus can I live and love with a full and free heart.

[Quotes taken from “Introduction to the Book of Job, by G. K. Chesterton (originally published 1916), available at chesterton.org]

 

What Lewis almost said: some thoughts on quoting carefully

lewis-hamlet-quote
Detail of page 99, _Selected Literary Essays_, C. S. Lewis, ed. Walter Hooper. (Cambridge University Press, 1969).

I’ve ranted in the past about C. S. Lewis misquotes. So has the C.S. Lewis Foundation, Essential C. S. Lewis,  and a host of other Lewisians.

I’ve often wondered why I care about this so much, why it rankles me so deeply when someone tosses around a quote offhandedly – or heavy-handedly, as the case may be – and then takes special care to note that it is from none other than C. S. Lewis, implying that it (the quote) is nearly scriptural and therefore they (the quoters) are entirely trustworthy and authoritative.

Does it really matter?

I think so (for reasons mentioned here). I think it speaks to something about how we use language, words, and ideas, how we view authority, and how we tend to accept (often blindly) what we are offered by Those-Who-Know, whether in virtual conversations, printed text, or spoken word.

We often let others do our thinking for us. But to make it look like we’ve done our own thinking, we buttress it with a quote by Someone Really Important and Smart, like C. S. Lewis, or countless other dead people whose words have been dissected into convenient sound-bites that make us look good.

Sometimes the quote is nearly-right, as in the case of this popular one:

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live among those who are.

This quotes gets almost 3 millions hits in a Google search. Bravo for Clive on being viral, a thousand times over.

Unlike many of Lewis’s other misattributed quotes (including: “Humility is not thinking of yourself less: it’s thinking less of yourself,” and, “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream,” and, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”), this one is almost spot on. What Lewis actually wrote was:

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are: that good fortune I have enjoyed for nearly twenty years. (C. S. Lewis, “Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?”)

If the misquoters knew that the original included “in a circle of” as opposed to “among,” I suspect they would love it even more. We are all about circles these days – circles of friends, circles of life, circles of prayer, circles of circles.

[“Circle” is a very strange word if you look at or say it over and over and over again.]

The problem with this quote being used as it so often is – i. e. to say that if one’s friends have common sense and real-world wisdom, then so will you – is that Lewis wasn’t talking about that at all (which isn’t to say he wouldn’t agree).

This quote is from one of Lewis’s literary essays, “Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?” You can find it in at least three places: Proceedings of the British Academy (Vol. 28, 1942), They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses (Geoffrey Bles, 1962) and Selected Literary Essays (ed. Walter Hooper, Cambridge University Press, 1969). It appears rather unexpectedly about two-thirds of the way into Lewis’s argument that Hamlet is best enjoyed for its poetic power and prowess rather than being critiqued along various theoretical and critical lines. He tips his hat to Owen Barfield, not for being a friend who helped Lewis navigate the difficulties of daily decision making (though perhaps he did do that) or for being a friend whose mere presence deepened and expanded Lewis’s own daily wisdom (though perhaps that did happen).

Instead, he tips his hat to Owen Barfield specifically and his other literary friends generally for being the kind of people who kept Lewis grounded as a reader and critic, for being people of deep intellect and smart ideas who challenged Lewis as a reader and critic, for being people who thought carefully and thoroughly and creatively before spouting off about nothing in particular.

For those who are interested, Lewis tends toward a reading style that embraces the poetry, the lyricism, the words, the essence, the donegality, and the visceral responses rather than a reading style that hacks and dismembers texts into lifeless blobs of intellectual blubber. Lewis believed that the many critics who had examined Hamlet’s character through every lens from every angle had missed something important. He warns that our own reading of Hamlet (should you choose to read it, which he would strongly recommend) will also miss something important if we approach it in the same clinically sterile way.

Perhaps I should rather say that it would miss as much if our behaviors when we are actually reading were not wiser than our criticism in cold blood. (“Hamlet: The Prince of the Poem?” in They Asked for a Paper, pp. 68-69; Selected Literary Essays, p. 103)

Lewis’s famous quote about wise friends is assuredly about wise friends – but not in the sense that most people use it.

And perhaps that’s not a very big deal at all. Perhaps if the quote is powerful and good and true, it has limitless applications.

But maybe it is a big deal. Maybe we need to be very careful about what we write and say and quote. Maybe knowing the context is as important as knowing the words.

If a writer doesn’t know absolutely certain where a quote is from (which includes almost every wildly popular [uncited] internet quote) but the words are good enough to stand on their own without the weight of Someone Really Important and Smart behind them, then simply say so. “As someone once said: … ”

Don’t claim the words as your own if they aren’t. At the same time, don’t attribute them to someone else if you have not checked and confirmed their source. Language is too important and powerful, too beautiful and poetic to be flung about lightly and carelessly.

 

Language (in which I present Sayers’ sage and timely warning about words)

Dorothy L. Sayers (image from Bodleian Library)
Dorothy L. Sayers (image from Bodleian Library)

[From an address Sayers gave in February, 1942 (“The Creative Mind” in Unpopular Opinions: Twenty-One Essays, Dorothy L. Sayers. Gollancz Ltd., 1946. p. 57). These words are as true now as then, but even more pressing because of how immediately and how widely words are today cast out into the world.]

“It is as dangerous for people unaccustomed to handling words and unacquainted with their technique to tinker about with these heavily-charged nuclei of emotional power as it would be for me to burst into a laboratory and play about with a powerful electro-magnet or other machine highly charged with electrical force. By my clumsy and ignorant handling, I should probably, at the very least, contrive to damage either the machine or myself; at the worst I might blow up the whole place. Similarly the irresponsible use of highly-electric words is very strongly to be deprecated.

“At the present time we have a population that is literate, in the sense that everybody is able to read and write; but, owing to the emphasis placed on scientific and technical training at the expense of the humanities, very few of our people have been taught to understand and handle language as an instrument of power. This means that, in this country alone, forty million innocents or thereabouts are wandering inquisitively about the laboratory, enthusiastically pulling handles and pushing buttons, thereby releasing uncontrollable currents of electric speech, with results that astonish themselves and the world. Nothing is more intoxicating than a sense of power: the demagogue who can sway crowds, the journalist who can push up the sales of his paper to the two-million mark, the playwright who can plunge an audience into an orgy of facile emotion, the parliamentary candidate who is carried to the top of the poll on a flood of meaningless rhetoric, the ranting preacher, the advertising salesman of material or spiritual commodities, are all playing perilously and irresponsibly with the power of words, and are equally dangerous whether they are cynically unscrupulous or (as frequently happens) have fallen under the spell of their own eloquence and become the victims of their own propaganda.”

Lord, help us all – especially those of us whose vocations are language-centric – be mightily careful of the work we do, never forgetting the power and import (and sacredness, for did you not speak the universe into existence?) of the tools we wield.

From social media to Sacred Mediator: reclaiming “follow me”

So.

Here we are in the two-thousand-and-teens, all of us thoroughly networked, connected, and socially mediated.

Theoretically, things should be nearly perfect because, you know, we are all so desperately in need of being networked, connected, and socially mediated.

[We are also desperately in need of eye contact, sincere empathy, meaningful conversation, and maybe also unstrained opposable thumbs, but we’ll save those for later, shall we?]

In fact, we all know that things are not quite so nearly perfect as many would like to believe.

[Nor are they quite so absolutely desperate as others would like to believe because, let’s admit it, Google and Skype have, on more than one occasion, proven extraordinarily useful.]

I take issue here with neither the staunch proponents nor the strident naysayers of social media. Nothing and nobody is going to change either of their minds.

Rather, I take issue with the linguistic loss that socially mediated connectedness has wrought on our discourse. Specifically, I mourn the fact that follow has been co-opted, flattened, emptied, and sucked dry of all its inherent power, depth, and gravity.

For the first time in history, follow denotes passivity rather than activity, and follow me is a plea for shallow popularity rather than an invitation to disciplined humility.

Rather than try to minimize the linguistic damage, we instead add to it our own unique brand of self-centrist carnage: “Follow me, I follow you. Unfollow me, I unfollow you.” Mm. It simply drips with relational grace and kindness.

I do sometimes wonder how technology is reshaping our lives, how smartphones are rewiring our brains, how Facebook is redefining our relationships, and how Twitter is re-energizing our addictive tendencies.

But of more import than my periodic wonderings are my increasingly persistent concerns:

  • that an obsession with gaining more followers will divert attention from the only One worth following ;
  • that carefully counted likes will obscure infinitely expansive Love;
  • that the demands of social media will clamor more loudly than the grace of a personal Mediator;
  • that the need to constantly refresh will weigh more heavily than the need to be continually refreshed;
  • that a vast web of virtual friends will crowd out a small circle of close community;
  • and ultimately, that follow me will no longer be heard as the radical invitation of a loving Savior but merely as the needy plea of a lonely (but fully networked) soul.

I know that we will never wrest follow me away from its two-thousand-and-teens context. To try would be decidedly futile.

But please, let’s never allow its newly mutated form to replace – or even minimally influence – its two-thousand-year-old meaning. To do so would be desperately fatal.

Of water bans, words, and privileged nonsense

Confession: I am a soda snob. I like it out of a fountain, in a 32-ounce styrofoam cup, with my choice of crushed or cubed ice, with the option for free flavor shots. And if at all possible, could the straws please be orange?

I gave up caffeine a while ago (all on my own) and sugary drinks long before that (dental necessity) which presents a real problem because not very many places have caffeine-free diet soda in the fountain. (Speedway and QT are two notable exceptions. I can spot either of them from miles away.)

Just a few days ago while driving 750 miles back home to Indiana, I needed (and when I say “needed” I mean “needed”) a fountain pop. My husband needed coffee. In America, if one person needs pop and another person needs coffee, they stop at a gas station, the epicenter of all good and necessary things.

So that’s what we did. At about midnight. Walked into a station fully expecting to walk back out again just moments later with the purchased necessities. Which we would have. Except for this:

No soda No Coffee

Excuse me? Is this possible? Is this allowed? Is this a bad dream?

Shocked. Speechless. Mentally paralyzed. That was me. Mostly because I really, really needed a 32-ounce fountain pop. But also because the sign’s wording was so very wrong, which particular burr rubs me quite raw under my wordsmith saddle.

(Too, I Get A Little
Agitated
When All The
Text
Is Center-Aligned
And All The
Words Are
Capped
And The Line
Breaks Are
Illogical.
No
One Talks Like
That.
Ev-
Er.)

This is what I learned about me that night:

One – sometimes (or maybe always) I care about words more than the situation warrants.

Two – I’m not really a soda snob. Rather I am a rottenly spoiled child. I live in a protected bubble where, if I want a fountain pop at midnight, I expect to get a fountain pop at midnight. Period.

In a world where over 780 million people don’t have access to clean water, I exposed my nakedly narcissistic core when I stood in that gas station, mouth agape, distraught and disgusted by the inconvenience and appalling lack of regard for my pressing needs.

Meeting myself face to face, whether in a gas station at midnight or in my own soul at dawn, is sometimes just the hardest thing ever.

Tiny journals – from old and used to new and useful

I love journals. Unlined journals. Lots and lots of unlined journals. (You can read my relevant confession here.)

Lately, besides loving unlined journals, I’m also loving small journals. Mini journals. Little journals. Tiny journals. Journals that fit in the palm of my hand. Journals that force a person to choose her words very, very carefully because the tiny books neither offer non-essential empty space nor allow non-essential empty verbiage.

Tiny journals force a person to plan out her words. To think carefully about what she will write on the limited pages. To stop and consider what she is doing rather than rushing into a rambling reflection. (And maybe also to wear extra-strength reading glasses.)

Unlined journals are hard to find. Tiny unlined journals are even harder to find. So I must either fall out of love with them or make my own. I don’t know how to fall out of love, so I have no choice but to make my own, and in the process give new life to limp and worn leather goods.

It’s always gratifying to give new life to an old thing. It’s even more gratifying when the new thing is delightful and wondrous and has a purpose. Thus, while making my tiny journals, I glimpse ever so slightly the joy of the Creator when he remakes an old thing (such as me) into as new thing that has a purpose.

Such is the miracle of tiny, remade, repurposed things.

Mini-journal supplies   Mini-journal supplies

Mini-journal   Mini-journals

These book signatures (top left) are 2″ x 2.24″ and 1″ x 1.5″. I decided to punch the sewing holes (read: skewer them) on a princess coloring book (top right) for what I think are obvious cultural reasons. Note my new bookmaking awl (top right). It’s amazing. Splendid. Stunning. You should probably get one. Today. These little books (bottom left and right) are the remade offspring of a purse (orange), a datebook (navy), a wallet (teal), a coin purse (black), a checkbook clutch (brown), and a skirt (fuscia). The larger of the tiny journals are just the right size for copying out Romans 8. I tested it. The smaller of the tiny journals are just the right size for a favorite Psalm or poem or song or fable or alphabet (regular or runic) or note to a special someone, which would require giving up the tiniest of tiny journals, which would require a long pep talk to self about generosity and sharing and friendship and love.

 

 

Of daisies, waves, and bridges across the bay

Though a wordsmith and a talker at my core, I readily concede that sometimes a picture says what words cannot.

And so, these pictures from the past days:

Cabrillo (Photo: CKirgiss)
Sun-kissed (Photo: CKirgiss)
Cabrillo (Photo: CKirgiss)
Wind-blown (Photo: CKirgiss)
(bath)room with a view (Photo: CKirgiss)
(bath)room with a view (Photo: CKirgiss)
Up the lighthouse (Photo: CKirgiss)
Up the lighthouse (Photo: CKirgiss)
Down the lighthouse (Photo: CKirgiss)
Down the lighthouse (Photo: CKirgiss)
Ocean grace (Photo: CKirgiss)
Ocean grace (Photo: CKirgiss)
Walk with me (Photo: CKirgiss)
Walk with me (Photo: CKirgiss)
Orderly bridge (Photo: CKirgiss)
Structured order (Photo: CKirgiss)
Disorderly bridge(s) (Photo: CKirgiss)
Constructed disorder (Photo: CKirgiss)
Peace above the clouds (Photo: CKirgiss)
Beyond the clouds (Photo: CKirgiss)

Sometimes when we are far from home we see more – not because there is more to see, but because our eyes are more widely open and more clearly focused.

Such far-from-home seeing — if we allow it — helps recalibrate our spirit and soul so that when we are finally home once again (and home is such a very, very sweet place to be) we continue to see widely, clearly, carefully, joyfully.

Our souls may have been blind once, but now they see. And what they see, if they really look for it, is a world filled with faith, hope, love, and beauty beyond compare.

Groundhog Sonnet

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Groundhog Day 2013 is fairly mild in the heartland. The snow is dusted sugar. The air is misted grey. A person can breathe without shellacking her nasal passages into a frozen wasteland.

But in northern Minnesota, Groundhog Day is never mild. Never sugared. Never shadowed.

It matters naught what Punxsutawney Phil does or does not see in faraway Pennsylvania. If he were brave enough to live in the northern tundra, he would always be quite shadow-free on February 2.

Truth be told, most northern tundranites like it that way. Cold and snowy, that is. Cold and snowy and beautiful. Cold and snowy and beautiful and substantial. Cold and snowy and beautiful and substantial and magical. Cold and snowy and beautiful and substantial and magical and real.

Still – every now and then, sunbeamed shadows on February 2 in the northern tundra would probably be most welcome.

Like when there’s been snow on the ground since Halloween. Like when the collective preschool population is riotously climbing the city walls. Like when the ice-fishing villages have become so established that it’s hard to distinguish whether their sprawl is seasonal or permanent – or whether they will ever yield up their devoted inhabitants (who hopefully still have jobs and families somewhere on the mainland).

I’m long gone from the northern tundra and suspect I would not survive another of her winters. But at one time, her frigid air was shellackingly familiar. Sonneteering was one of several (quirky) strategies to survive the season. And so this, from 1999:

SPRING? ME THINKS NOT

Hark! What sound doth I hear out my frozen
Window payne on this early and frigid dawn?
A scraping, snuffling, earthy noyse; chosen
Claws and whyskers scratching the earth upon.
Ah! thinks I, ’tis the February’s moon
Day two – Candlemas, Purification –
A day whereupon northerners cry, “Soon,
Oh dear God we beggeth a vacation.”
But the scraping, snuffling, earthy thyng laughs
Softly in its fur, yawning at the syght
Of a dark and shadowless land what hath
No shine, no thaw, nor any ‘morrow’s light.
Up here are froze our fannies and our cars.
But in their sacred course, we’ve still the stars.

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Groundhog Day. Go ahead. Have a party.