"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." Flannery O' Connor
Our local library is full of bad books, lacking good books, and generally weak on information. All the same, I love to wander the shelves. There are so many books I would edit out of existence if I could. Books that belong unpublished in the journals of lonely teenagers, or in the private writing clubs of flighty women; instead they replace Claude McKay and Hemmingway on the shelves of public libraries everywhere.
“When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built in garden of reasons to choose from.” John Steinbeck
Those who know me well will recognize that I have been remarkably settled since my marriage. I doubt I had previously gone a whole year without some major journey since leaving high-school freed me from most practical restraints. Though marriage has somewhat calmed my restless feet and directed my wandering mind, it cannot cure me. My husband has proposed a drive down south to visit his sister this spring, which sounds lovely, and along with our May visit to moja rodzina, an excellent, though temporary remedy for my restlessness. Our May trip is especially exciting to me, as moja rodzina is scattered at the moment, and we will all be together again at this visit – from Europe, Nevada, and Michigan.
This month we have an abundance of feast days to distract from the day to day Lenten atmosphere. It is good of the Church to break the fast with these joyful bursts in March, with, though not as ugly as February, is still a season of dirty snow, mud, and early nights. St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s feast days are so close, and I am always reminded of how neglected poor St. Joseph is as I watch the crowds gather to celebrate St. Patrick. On the 25th of March we have the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the largest Lenten feast, and which my husband and I are eager to make the most of. These feast days we relish because they are days when the Church demands we forget the rigors of Lent for a little while and rejoice in the grace and goodness of the Lord. The American Church often forgets this, perhaps because we have neglected Lent itself to such an extent that there is no fast to break in our celebration of these feasts. Where there is no fasting, there can be no feasting, the two must go hand in hand.
“What fields are fragrant as your hands? ….Stars stand in image above. Give me your mouth to soften, love; ah, your hair is all in idleness.” Rilke
I never tire of Rilke. He has kept me company the past few days while my husband has been at work and I have been sick in bed. The flu hit me suddenly Saturday and stayed longer than I expected. It trailed into a sore throat that kept me miserable, though not in bed for the week and brought me to the point of considering calling a doctor, until the symptoms began to decline midweek.
I feel like I lost a week, so it's difficult to believe that St. Patrick's feast-day is tomorrow, and St. Joseph's on Thursday. I thought ahead enough to being a novena to St. Joseph on the tenth, thank goodness, as my Lenten prayers have been slacking I think. St. Joseph is an ideal focus for right now, as the house we live in has finally found a buyer, and we don't know his plans for the apartment we live in. Hopefully, it all goes well. I'd rather avoid apartment hunting.
“…love’s most intimate union Is through eating, tasting and seeing interiorly. He eats us; we think we eat Him, and we do eat Him, of this we can be certain.” Hadewijch
My husband and I are unrepentant foodies; we fast and feast with passionate intensity. Beautiful meals are an essential part of the artistry of life. An ugly, unwholesome meal in an otherwise lovely home is an abomination. It cheapens the entire atmosphere and strips away the comfort of the place. Food done well is an artistic extension of the self: like music or clothing it reveals the state of our hearts. Done badly or ignored completely, it indicates a floundering interior life. That is not to say that those who can’t cook at all are spiritually deficient, so long as they don’t use their deficiency to excuse regular meals of wonder-bread and frozen burritos on paper plates; or tasteless, soulless health food eaten without joy. But we must recognize that “our meals are alive with the goodness of God” and that all of them “point toward [the] greatest feast of all, in which we receive no longer just earthly things, but the incarnate act of God’s mercy.” When we begin to see meals in this light, how can we be satisfied with food that does not also feed our sensual and aesthetic hunger? In this sense, “health food” often fails as much as “junk food;” neither the power bar, nor the candy bar lead us to dwell on the “goodness of God,” instead they encourage us to treat the body as a machine, to minimize the importance of the body. Instead of minimizing the importance of meals – treating them as a means to refuel the body, or else as solely an opportunity to socialize, “we should resolve to make our meals once more holy times, to open and close them with prayer,” to fill them with beauty, to allow the meal to nourish our faith; “doing this will introduce a new, [fuller] atmosphere into our homes.”
A meal doesn’t have to be extravagant to be a beautiful, holy time. Often simple meals of bread, cheese, fruit, and vegetables are filling, simple to prepare, and absolutely lovely. Set out on a table with cloth napkins and nice dishes it becomes a thing of beauty to be enjoyed by the whole person. Other meals may take longer to prepare, but they too are worth the effort. They make a meal the event of the evening (or morning, or afternoon). Lenten meals are sparser, and further removed from each other, but they too demand loveliness. Simple soups are ideal for the season. They are warming and filling; they evoke memories of loving parents or grandparents, and pleasant, warm winter evenings. In lent I have taken to making tomato soups with dumplings of flour, oil, water and spices; along with baked flat breads topped with herbs or sundried tomatoes. I try to avoid extravagence, but keep up appearances. To fast from beauty would be like fasting from God.
I'm spending another afternoon at the auto-shop. The car that has served me so well on so many long drives is on it's way out. We are going to dump it as soon as we can find a replacement. It's the first time I've had to replace a car and the process is a little overwhelming. The car has cost us more in the past month than we will probably be able to get for it, it's frustrating.
I'm watching television in the repair waiting room, something I haven't done in a long time. I think the commercials fascinate me more than the shows. I can't imagine watching television on a regular basis. My husband and I don't own on, and don't want one, but I can't but be fascinated by the most pathetic shows when I'm set in front of a t.v. Especially in the waiting room of the auto-shop, where there is very little to see.
"Beauty demands for itself as much courage and decision as do Truth and Goodness, and she (Beauty) will not allow herself to be seperated from her two sisters.." Von Balthasar
March always begins with celebration. Ojciec claims the first, his birthday has always reminded me of apple pie and hopes of spring. My husband has the second now, and his brithday was salmon and chocolate and snow; but still with hopes of spring. Now, the third, St. Winwillow's we have snow piled in the center of the road and blue skys. March is a lovely month. I have not been social recently, except with my husband and my books; but I mean well. I am so full of distractions, of Lent and Marquez and the need for ritual in life. I would like to sweep up the dust collecting in my loved one's lives and order them towards beauty, but I am not God, so I content myself with prayer and my own glorious home.