I sure hope you all have Genesis in your head now. If not, your 80’s musical education was deficient.
If you live around Raleigh, NC, go have Elina snap your family pics. She’s awesome.
I have a confession to make. I really, really, really don’t want to home school this year. Lots of other things have drained my energy reserves, and raising children is hard even on full batteries. I’m not a generally consistent person. I don’t even view strict consistency as a moral good. So I’m not consistent… except when I am. (Ha!) Once in a while I put my inner determination to a task and I set to it, and almost nothing or no one can dissuade me. All obstacles seem to melt away as I run head long into whatever it is. Spending time in Lebanon was that way. Becoming Orthodox. Getting married. Having children. Buying a house. Home schooling the kids.
Here we are giving it a go even under less than ideal spiritual circumstances. A friend pointed out to me that if I’m going to make a mess of it this year, at least it’s just second grade. We really don’t have to do anything more than what the public schools do, which is way less than a classical education anyhow. As long as the kid can read, write, do a little arithmetic, and learn to be a little more a child of God, we’re good.
That last one is the root of the trouble.
I don’t know what other women think about when they are stirring their soup, but I’m usually not thinking about the task at hand. I practice a foreign language in my head, or see how many digits I can mentally multiply out, or write my next post. If something is truly puzzling, it will spill out to other tasks in the day. Small people are naturally disruptive of my inner world and I often get grumpy. This year, the mental puzzles are numerous and the luxury of space for inner reflection has disappeared. I feel hounded by The Other and what I would really like to do is to grab my BOB and march myself out into a forest for two weeks. I’m not a good model of a child of God. I’m the mother crab that walked sideways, telling her child to walk straight.
When I was a kid, one of my math teachers told me this: if you get stuck on a problem, move on to a different problem. When you come back to the first one, you may have learned something that will let you see the solution for the first. I find myself doing that often these days, but with my actual life. This post is in the middle of that process. Normally I write something when I find some sort of solution. Quiet is this space is usually the result of me not finding solutions. There weren’t very many posts this year.
I’ve been asked to join several book clubs recently. I never liked the idea of them. I envision an adult version of a literature class: only three people actually read the book and the rest skimmed it the morning of, and the questions we ask about the text rarely reflect anything approaching real experience. I feel like the space between the book the author wrote and the way it touches someone’s soul is a place of solitude. Yet I still sometimes post pieces of what comes out of those revelations here, so I’m not unmindful of that contradiction.
The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers…I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep. – My Antonia, Willa Cather
Some words express something so well that it cheapens them in some way when you talk about them. Why do I have to talk about them? Aren’t there some times when it’s enough to just feel the warmth in silence and not look for answers? I did a lot of that this year. The soil of my heart needed a winter under a thick layer of snow for the flowers to rest quietly. God should have been close because He’s always there in silence, but I had a hard time feeling Him in spite of that. And this was a year when SP’s questions about such things have pierced us with the clarity of the innocence she brings with them. I want to be silent, but she needs answers.
“Before I go,” he said, and paused — “I may kiss her?”
It was remembered afterwards that when he bent down and touched her face with his lips, he murmured some words. The child, who was nearest to him, told them afterwards, and told her grandchildren when she was a handsome old lady, that she heard him say, “A life you love.” – A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Every time I read those last lines they pull the breath from me and my heart seizes. Nothing I could say in a room of pastries and coffee would improve them, and I feel like they would lose something for me if I tried. Or almost worse, someone would make me read The Old Man and the Sea again.
Those two thoughts are related. Or maybe they aren’t. But both of these things roll around my head these days and I feel like they are two keys to an unusually difficult puzzle.
I run around in intellectual circles. Somehow my husband and I stumbled into each other, and the combined population of Super Nerddom that is our group of friends is a poor reflection of general reality. I know this, because I worked retail for many years. Nerddom is less common than nerds tend to think. You may think that everyone knows what it is you are referring to when you say “Necessity is the mother of invention”, but most people will hear their grandmother, not Plato.
The world of Orthodox theology is full of intellectuals, from my little corner of such things. Not that any of them are doing something wrong. It’s not surprising that people who like to think abstractly like to read theology. But lately it has bothered me, not any single person, but as sort of a wall of intellect, that the amount going in and what’s getting brought back out for a gallop in real life… well, I don’t even know how to put it into words.
A friend of mine once chided me gently when I carelessly repeated a bit of slander that was making the rounds in seminarian wives’ living rooms. I was raised better than that. My taita has always told me to base my judgments on people from my own direct experience, and not gossip. This friend pointed out that the woman of ill-repute in the seminary community had a really lonely set of circumstances, and told me this story:
Every week, there was a coffee hour after Liturgy. The seminarians would relax and the conversation was about important things like the writings of the Desert Fathers or what exactly was the relationship between Divine love and love for our neighbor and who is God.
It’s really easy to talk, even about abstract spiritual knowledge. But who actually cleaned up after fellowship? It wasn’t those guys, almost without exception they’d throw their cups out and go back to the dorms or homes they lived in. No, it was this woman everyone disliked who washed down those tables, pushed in the chairs, tidied up the kitchen.
Who is a better model of Love, even with her imperfections?
Not enough answers to too many questions. And somehow, a second grader is sitting there sounding out Calvin and Hobbes, a four year old is building a boat out of blankets, a two year old is giving hugs, and we’re not eating too many take out meals.