Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Octopus Has Three Hearts

I wrote this a while back, but just found it and seeing as it's summer, figured I might just let it out.

The Octopus Has Three Hearts

Summer's sinewy smile
the horizon
frames my legs
hanging like dead weights
over the sea wall.

Somewhere out there
whales will roll and arc
as if the tides
were a hammock.

But here in the reef,
life is smaller
less sanguine.

There's the octopus
with its three hearts
and gills
like feathery filaments:
a whole delicate system
hidden under
flaccid grey flesh.

The octopus,
whose home is
the dappled dark
of the ocean floor

who, like a good politician
discovers its strength
lies in the ability
to elude.

So I'm about a week late...

...but how cool is this wrapping paper from the blog Cakies?

I'm so not thrifty enough to keep those kinds of things in a handy little place. But maybe I'll try to more in 2011. I usually end up wrapping things as I'm running out the door late for whatever event that has demanded the gift. But why not be optimistic about change?

This is also cool, but way too much work for me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

in which sophie attempts to speak of the ordinary

She's about to knock on the door. The drawers are ready, and I feel ready to give them away, but not quite ready to take $60 for them. But I listed them for 99 cents, and people say ebay's all about market value. But $60 for some IKEA drawers? Seems a bit unfair. It also seems wrong to stand there apologising, explaining that she paid too much, that they're just a bunch of drawers, and actually they've been pretty dusty these last few months and probably not worth the money you're about to give me. I can't give them away, so I try to offer her a discount. Look - there's a scratch there. How about we settle for $40? No. It won't be done.

Or sitting on the floor wrapping presents in brown paper. Brown paper. Why do all the shops decide that Christmas is the time for hideous, eye-stabbing red and green cartoon prints? And why is the brown paper stored at the back of the newsagent with the "craft items"? Brown paper reminding me of the nakedness of God in flesh, the baby in the feeding trough. The humility of naked. But brown paper also reminding me of the presents inside, the money we could've spent on other things, things that have less to do with me and more to do with actual needs out there. But how are you supposed to buck the system when the system is swallowing you whole?

And reading this article by a friend at work's boyfriend, along with 35,000 other people.  And loving this, his response, quoting Jesus, talking neighbours. There's not a quota. And wondering if things will ever improve.

Wanting to write but feeling all dried up. Reading instead. Wishing words would not pass, but simmer for a while. Wanting to stop and just do this reading and thinking thing for a bit.

Working six days in a row, with the flu and a tummy bug, going to a coronial inquest, talking on the radio about collapsing awnings, telling people to drink responsibly, reporting on former rugby league players being violent and dead bodies being found in backyards.

Coffee: "How are the Melbourne plans?" "How are you feeling about moving?" "How long till you go?"

The book of Jeremiah and being taken into exile and told to live well in a foreign land, to leave your countrymen, not to stay there in fear, but to listen and obey, to LIVE. Not to be wiped out. Not to betray, not to doubt.

Twilight in my parent's backyard, the dog under the table making people shriek. My cousins. She's lost her wallet, he's angry. Dad's by the barbecue. The moon rises, eclipsed. Partially, at least. We look for it, but can only see the trees, their silhouettes crackling. Too much to eat. Mosquitoes. Friendly arguments that turn ugly before turning to laughter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You know it's Christmas when...

...Sufjan releases a Christmas album on what appears to be a whim, and it's better than his last album.

Listen to it all on SoundCloud here.

I especially love The Midnight Clear:

"Do you delight, do you delight in me?....I will delight, I will delight in this, though you may doubt it."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Open Letter to Le Corps

[insert photo of tissues and tea here with caption: Tea and Sympathy]

Dear Body,

I know when written in french, you sound quite formidable. Le Corps toujours! But the fact is, you're nowhere near indestructible.

Just this week, you made small babies look more resilent than your 24-year-old self. How on earth did you manage to contract a tummy bug while still fighting off a virus we're going to codename Lousy Good for Nothing Flu? How?

I had hopes... expectations even, of your abilities. But when your moment to stave off the enemy arrived, you let me down. You let us both down.

Ok, so I got the message pretty clearly. Le Corps, while fearfully and wonderfully made, is also rather vulnerable. Especially that small intestine.

Well, let me just say, props for avoiding hospitalisation and deciding to fight against those who have successfully invaded us. It could've been worse.

And thanks also for the opportunity to lie in bed reading for long stretches, to justify going to sleep before 9pm and eating jelly.

And thanks for the reminder of all that stuff Paul said about this earthly tent and groaning and longing for the heavenly dwelling yet to come. I've heard he was talking about Le Corps. For the record, I can't wait till "what is mortal [is] swallowed up by life".


Friday, December 17, 2010

from the mind of Marilynne Robinson

I recently read an interview by the Paris Review with Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead. There were some great thoughts. She even has a little go at Richard Dawkins. But you should read the whole interview...

"Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision."

"People are frightened of themselves. It’s like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we’re supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much different view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."

"I don’t think I could want something else. For instance, I’m kind of a solitary. This would not satisfy everyone’s hopes, but for me it’s a lovely thing. I recognize the satisfactions of a more socially enmeshed existence than I cultivate, but I go days without hearing another human voice and never notice it. I never fear it. The only thing I fear is the intensity of my attachment to it. It’s a predisposition in my family. My brother is a solitary. My mother is a solitary. I grew up with the confidence that the greatest privilege was to be alone and have all the time you wanted. That was the cream of existence. I owe everything that I have done to the fact that I am very much at ease being alone. It’s a good predisposition in a writer. And books are good company. Nothing is more human than a book."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grief, Music and Jesus

I've just started reading this thoughtful blog, Papermind, after Ali linked to it. The author, Dan, is in the middle of a fascinating series on the theology and nature of friendship, which I've really enjoyed.

This week, he's written beautifully about grief. I hope he doesn't mind if I just reproduce it here. You should all read his blog regularly. It's brilliant. You should also read this one about Lazarus, Jesus and friendship.

Grief is a mood through which we experience the transmutation of time from future into past. Grief, like music, is the consciousness of time. The contrast might be instructive: music is a formal structure for bringing time to consciousness. Within this structure many further (more particular) relations to time, and to the timeful-world (the world viewed as a timeful order) can be communicated. Music allows us to intuit time. In any particular musical moment we are full of the patterns of communication and coherence that the score has built up through its flowing, we are anticipating the particular notes and figures which will extend this musical coherence, and we passing from this anticipation, through a particular articulation – a note, a silence – which may or may not be what we anticipated, and we are refiguring, re-cohering, the total piece in the light of this moment. In music, when the music truly captures us, we catch a glimpse of that rarest of moments: the present.

Grief is also consciousness of the present. The multiple futures toward which we have invested, sustained by the natural uncertainty of future-time, collapsing into a particular, unitary, actuality. Possibility becoming a story. The coherence and order which the universe requires comes at the expense of these unrealised potentialities. Grief is the consciousness of the perishing of futures.

I guess that’s why it’s so hard to explain to each other, and to comfort, redress, justify grieving. How can anyone console another for the loss of something that never was? The love that was never returned, the children who were never born, the trip that was never taken, the work that was never completed. The loss of these ‘nothings’ is, in a sense, infinite. The lack of definition, the non-concrete nature of these hopes, makes their loss harder not easier. The loss of the possibility of a child includes, in some ways, the loss of the actual child, and the sweetness of his childhood, the glory of his maturity, the loss of all his hopes as well.

The loss of a love that was never returned includes all the loss of all the pathways opened up for us by that love: the friendships never shared, the places never visited together, the histories never told, the further futures never anticipated.

What word of comfort can we speak to someone grieving the future? Each hope was a little singularity, pregnant with universes. And thus the loss of each future threatens to overwhelm us with an incalculable, infinite loss.

How can Jesus be the Lord of this time? How is Jesus the Lord of the futures that never were? If we are comforted in this grief, how is it with the comfort we recieve from God? And, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, how also, through Christ, will our comfort overflow?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Here are some gems from Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's staggeringly beautiful book which I'm reading at the moment. This is the voice of the fictional Reverend John Ames, who is writing a letter to his son as he's dying. It's not so much a story as a meditation on life.

"Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it."

"For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I am often enough. You feel that you are with someone."

"When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the "I" whose predicate can be "love" or "fear" or "want", and whose object can be "someone" or "nothing" and it won't really matter because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around "I" like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else. But quick and avid and resourcesful. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned."

"Now I am about to leave this world, I realise there is nothing more astonishing than a human face. Boughton and I have talked about that, too. It has something to do with incarnation. You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any. Boughton agrees."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Tallest Man on Earth in a music store

Apparently this was filmed when the Tallest Man on Earth (from Sweden) was stuck without his guitars in NYC. I'm loving the old guy whose shop it is.