Mirror, Mirror had a Great Fall

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There is a story to be found in anything and, I am finding, that there is also a theology to be found in any story. I feel this poem is an apt example of enjoying the beauty of an old tale reimagined while contemplating a truth that shimmered in the retelling.

Mirror, Mirror Had Great Fall

“Mirror, mirror upon the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?”

I once was asked from day to day

And in reply I’d always say

“My lady, it is surely true;

The brightest, fairest one is you.”

 

It was my joy, your face to see,

Peering in and out of me.

And mine was whitest complexion

For it was rightest reflection;

To revel was no vanity

For I shone back your own beauty.

.

“Mirror, mirror upon the wall.”

I’d thrill to hear my mistress call

And sing to her worshipful words

That beauty best was only hers,

That there could be another one

Would be to think the moon the sun.

 

Yet still a subtle crack did creep

Out from some secret, smeary deep

And when her face would turn aside,

A self-whisper would soft confide.

The dream I dared not dream when she

Would smile, singing, before me.

.

“Mirror, mirror upon the wall-”

Her song my heart did yet enthrall

For ’tis my nature to reflect

That which I love as first object.

In her dawn’s light, all else soon fades,

Sly secrets flee as shyest shades.

 

But then again as she’d depart

(Though I know she yet saw mine heart)

I’d ponder those sly smudgélings

That obscure honest imagings

And I could not but speculate

What once I’d simply contemplate.

.

  I, the Mirror on the wall, 

Dreamt I was fairest of them all!

And as I answered, said aloud

Those words, so false and yet so proud:

“I cannot say, my dearest queen,

For you’re the only one I’ve seen.”

 

“Perhaps,” I pressed, not to give in,

Enthused by this first spoken sin,

“There is another one dearer

Kept hid within this magic mirror

And if I only can break free,

I’ll find the fairest one is me.”

.

O! Mirror hung upon the wall,

You must have known that you would fall;

To try and see your own self rule

Was to prove only princely fool.

A mirror looking in its glass

Will find nothing but emptiness.

 

In turning to a blank portrait

I chose the broken mirror’s fate;

Bad fortune was my prideful gain,

For nihil gleamed the shattered pane.

I thought not e’er to see again

Bright Beauty,

but, of a sudden- 

.

“Mirror mine, though you did fall,”

Spoke she, most loved and feared of all,

“Your shattered face was made for mine

And I have power to refine,

To smooth and polish, good as new,

Though with a somehow richer hue.

 

“You, shaped to be an image of

The Beauty that shines forth above,

Are raised once more to this high wall,

To see the more-than-fair of all

And hence reflect and emulate

That Beauty ever true and great.”

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Fairy Dust

I am a firm believer in dandelion wishes. Now, I don’t mean to say that I think they always come true, but I know the joy that comes of finding the perfect, fuzzy blossom, squeezing my eyes shut tight, and whispering a little prayer as its petals dance away on my breath like pixie parasols.

My friends laugh at me when I veer off a running trail or sidewalk at the sight of a dandelion waiting to be wished upon or go out of my way to step on a crunchy leaf or examine a bright flower. As focused and busy as I may be, however, I must pause to enjoy such things, childish as they might seem.

When was the last time you stopped to listen to a creek babble as I am doing now as I write this? When was the last time you took off running just for the sheer pleasure of movement? When did you last greet a squirrel or whistle along with a bird? Or made up a story to amuse yourself or sculpt shapes in the clouds or imagine music in the wind?

I know I’m beginning to sound like a Disney princess, but I mean it. These little things are not so little; they are life-giving, small remnants of paradise left to us by a gracious Creator. They are the dustings of fairyland and more real than some of our “grown-up” concerns.

I believe in dandelion wishes and, right now, wish that more of you would join me.

Weekday Communion: a little poem

In God alone my soul finds rest

And oft I meet Him here:

In the quiet, dim narthex,

Breathing the churchly air.

Babies here have been baptized

And joyful couples wed;

Funerals tearful bade goodbyes

And pow’rful scriptures read.

But as I sit now quietly-

No sound but for the organ-

I rather think this cup of tea

Is a weekday communion.

Royal: A Typewriter Story

I feel I should offer a few disclaimers before you read the following story:

  1. I do not drink, but apparently the narrator does.
  2. I love typewriters and mean no offense.
  3. No cats were harmed in the making of this story.

Royal

December 23, 2017

It was an impulse buy, totally impractical as demonstrated by the fact that I am typing this on my laptop instead of the metallic clunkers of the aforesaid impulse buy.

But I’ve been suffering writer’s block for some time now and even during short periods of creative constipation (my wife hates the term, but it makes me chuckle) I tend to be reckless, spontaneous. Thank God that Susan has a steady job and, better, an even head.

But this bout of writer’s block is the worst yet. It’s been nearly six months since I’ve written anything worth sharing. The only words I’ve penned are those such as I’m scribbling now: the exaggerated ravings of my private journal. Usually I just use it to jot down ideas I don’t want to lose; it serves as overflow control for the ideas that bubble up in my brain.

But since July the pages once tattooed with colorful bursts of inspiration have devolved into rants about my vacant mind. There seems to be a wall between me and ideas worth writing and this wall seems to be made of blank, white pages. Funny, though, these white pages used to be a source of wonder for me, like a fresh snowfall just waiting to be traipsed through and molded into snowmen and forts. But now, I cannot bear the cold of these empty pages, for I am armed with no thoughts of how to shape them. I’ve run out of the childlike boldness that lead me once to rush headlong into the snow and feel I have become pragmatic (Susan still disagrees) and reserved. No dangerous ideas for me, thank you very much. I am being forced into retirement ten years early, it seems.

Susan would say I am overreacting. “Every artist has a dry spell,” she says. “It’s like the weather; it can’t always rain.”

Her words are comforting, falling gently in her lilting mezzo, but I can’t agree with her. Every artist has a dry spell, but not me. Even Beethoven took breaks to walk through the natural world, pondering and refreshing his mind after explosive productivity. But I’ve never needed such times of refreshment, for I only am at rest when I am doing what I was made to do: write.

Hence, the impulse buy.

There’s an antique store downtown that’s served as the setting for more than one of my stories. Something about the musty air there breathes ideas, much like the dust of an old library is thick with words. I was wandering about under the pretense of doing some Christmas shopping. (Funny, I know. Susan always takes care of that and anything I get her is promptly returned under the guise of “not fitting quite right,” even when what I bought is not clothing.) But, even so, I spent the better part of the afternoon pacing outside of the shop and the better part of the evening wandering around inside it, conscience of the fact that closing time was soon but no particularly caring. After all, my short story, “The Shop,” increased their business enough that the manager can hardly object to my prolonged presence. For all he knew, I was dreaming up another bestseller to boost patronage.

I was not.

Finally, even the hopes for increased shoppers and income could not keep the manager away from his family any longer. (It was the night before Christmas Eve, after all; the preparations were beyond those of a wife alone and all husbands realize that, while they might not do it correctly, they are at least expected to offer help with the holiday preparations.)

“Sir,” he greeted. “Can I help you find anything?”

It was a polite way of asking if he could help me find the door.

“No, thank you,” I replied, continuing to browse the crackling spines of long-abandoned books. It always encouraged and disheartened me to find books in an antique store; on one hand, these works endured for decades and even centuries, but on the other hand, they were long abandoned as reading and had fossilized into vintage decor. It is at once every author’s dream and nightmare and I am fascinated every time.

The manager watched me for a moment, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.

“Any recommendations?” I asked, to break the silence. He breathed a sigh of relief and I expected him to recommend that I check out the pub across the street. Rather, he nodded and disappeared around the shelves. I followed, finding him standing beside a sight so odd I was disappointed in myself for not having noticed it earlier. After all, writers specialize in oddities. (Susan often jokes that this is because writers are oddities. I quite agree with her.)

Before me, the manager stood beside an enormous birdcage made of cast iron. It’s bars were thicker than those of a typical birdcage and my mind suggested at once the image of an enormous raptor roosting in it; no harmless sparrow or lark would need such a barrier. It was a cage made to house a vulture. And then, I noticed what it held: a heavy black beast rested inside bearing lettered teeth and a crest of yellowed paper. On its flat, metal jaw was the emblem: Royal.

“A fine typewriter, I do say,” said the manager.

“It certainly is,” I agreed. I stared at it and had the eery feeling that it was staring back. Being in a birdcage made it feel alive. My fingers twitched. Used to the ease of my laptop’s keyboard, they were aching for a challenge. I could already feel them digging into the weighty keys of the typewriter, could hear the clackity-clack of their action and the chipper bell announcing that I ought to reset the page. I should note that I have never actually used a typewriter, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that all the true writers have at some time or another craved to try.

“It’s a bargain, really,” the manager was saying, but before he could finish, I’d opened my wallet and then waited as he extracted the typewriter from its prison.

“Why was it in there?” I asked simply to make conversation; there is nor ever has been any rhyme or reason to the displays in that marvelous shop.  This very lack of order is what makes it such a great honeypot of inspiration.

“Oh,” he gave off a chuckle, “he’s a fearsome beastie, that Royal.”

I laughed and took the boxed-up typewriter, the door jingling merrily as it swung shut behind me and the manager releasing a sigh of relief and already dialing up his wife to apologize for the delay.

 

December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, indeed! An idea has dawned and shines like the star we sing of in church. I woke this morning before the break of dawn, something I have not done since our children were home and young and overeager to unwrap Santa’s gifts.

But I woke and felt immediately that this Christmas was something to greet with the excitement of a child. Something was going to happen, was already happening. I just needed to be awake to witness it.

I lay still, Susan’s ever-even breathing beside me, wondering what it was that I felt was to happen. After twenty minutes, I felt silly. What did I think would happen? Was I expecting there to arise a clatter on the rooftop? To spring from my bed to see what was the matter? I started reciting this cheesy Christmas poem to myself as I fell back into a doze.

But then, I did hear something. But it was not a clatter. It was a clackity-clack. Believe it or not, there is a difference between onomatopoeias; I’ve read enough children’s books in my time as a parent to know.

I sucked in my breath, waiting. The noise fell silent, but I knew I did not imagine it. Braving the cold air, I tiptoed to my office where the typewriter sat in its box, unopened, a Christmas gift to myself. I listened, but heard nothing but the ringing of silence. I could tell by the cold and this crystalline silence that it had snowed overnight.

I peeled open the box. The typewriter sat nestled among tissue paper just as the store manager had wrapped it. I took it from the box and set it on my desk beside my charging laptop. It was silent. Though the air was still, the yellowed paper left by a long-lost writer waved a ghostly greeting.

I squinted at the paper. The ink was faded, but there were certainly words there. I flicked on the light and held the page up to it. I could barely make it out,  but when I did, I cried out in delight. There, printed on the page who knows how long ago was my next idea. I have no qualms over taking it, though it was surely dreamed up and written by some author past. He or she is long gone based on the yellowing of the page and I am a mind in need of ideas, in need of words. And there, before me in the light of Christmas morning, the words have come.

I had never hummed Christmas carols with more vigor than I did this morning, flipping open my laptop and pounding away, writing three thousand words of a story before I heard Susan’s alarm sound. Oh, glorious day! Oh, happy impulse buy! A word has been born again in my mind, though it was written first ages ago.

 

January 1, 2018

I have scarcely left my office since Christmas. The festivities over, I locked myself inside with a cup of coffee and no blankets (I write best chilled). Bless Susan. She always remembers to bring me refills on coffee and make sure I eat every couple hours… I really need to do something nice for her once I cash in this story. It’s going to be my best yet; I can feel it in my soul as I pound away at the feather-light keys of my laptop.

I rejoice, a writer restored to creativity, and it is no chore to write the story that dances in my imagination. In fact, to write it is the most natural thing in the world to me. That’s why not writing, not dreaming up ideas, was so painful; it goes against my entire nature as a sub-creator. But I am restored. A few faded words on an old typewriter have revived my lazy mind and I am back in the race, streaking past the word count for a novella in record time. I could make this a full-length novel someday. But for now, I must submit it to my editor before she loses faith in my productivity.

I am at rest as I do the work I was born to do. Susan understands and that is what makes us such a good pair. I am wild, spontaneous, and dark, whereas she is calm, practical, and optimistic. But we both agree that one cannot be comfortable unless doing the work one was born to do. And so she balances her work as a professor of mathematics and I power my way through another bestseller.

But I digress.

This will be a killer little book, not just because it is about a little killer. Rather morbid for an idea born on Christmas, but I like it nonetheless. I look fondly at the typewriter as I scribble out this journal entry. It grins back at me with its toothy keys and I cannot suppress a shudder.
Perhaps it is too cold in here.

I glanced back at the typewriter just now and a gruesome image of it licking its black lips crossed my mind. I should laugh. It’s such a ridiculous idea. Besides, I have better things to think about than freakish fancies: I am writing a marvelous little book and what better way to begin the New Year than with a new creation?

 

January  25, 2018

I’ve been too long absent from my journal, but I have been in the same writing craze as I was when last I wrote. But now I am finished and the manuscript is bundled neatly and en route to my editor. I’ve never written anything so good so quickly and I am shaken. I can scarcely believe it. But I can at last breathe a sigh of contentment, knowing now that my creative dry spell was a temporary trial and perhaps even lead to this great rush of words.

Susan and I went out to dinner for the first time in a month. I listened to her talk about the university and plans for a new math and science center, but I admit I was distracted. As we walked downtown searching for a restaurant, we passed the antique shop and I was set to thinking about the typewriter. I wrote my novella on my laptop and my journal I write by hand, but I feel I owe the typewriter for the idea that revived my spirit. It was the messenger of the words that inspired me, after all.

I could easily restock its paper supply, but where to purchase ribbon? And does it need any maintenance? Why bother…I wouldn’t actually type on it. Not seriously, anyway. But it could be fun to fiddle with now and again.

As soon as we returned home, I went online and ordered several different kinds of typewriter ribbon as well as a repair kit, just in case. I could use a hobby, I told myself, to excuse the money spent.

“Soon you’ll be good as new!” I said, patting the Royal on its iron top. It clicked as I touched and I jerked my hand away. Then I laughed at myself for doing so. It’s just a typewriter and not even a working one.

 

February 1, 2018

My editor’s feedback was excellent. Usually  my manuscripts return red-penned and gory, looking like victims of some great grammarian battle. But she didn’t even return it this time. Instead, she called me up and asked if she might just forward it to the publisher.

I thought it a prank. This never happens. Not even the best writers get away without a number of revisions. I look at the typewriter as if it is somehow responsible, but know that’s ridiculous.

“Sure,” I said, not wanting to press her. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, as the old saying goes.

“Terrific,” she said. “This is without a doubt your best work yet, Brad. Keep it up.”

“Thanks,” I said before hanging up. My jaw is still hanging open.

I spent the rest of the day drinking and tinkering with the typewriter. It’s great fun to pound away at its keys, but I am so slow at it I know I’ll never write anything serious on it. Still, I feel like a real writer when I kick back with a drink in one hand and typewriter keys under the other.

What am I saying? I am a real writer! Perhaps I need to cut myself off for now.

 

February 15, 2018

Two weeks. It’s been two weeks and I’m ready for another idea. Oh yes, and Valentine’s Day was yesterday. That was nice, as usual.

But an idea. I was alright to take those two weeks off in light of the news from my editor, but now I’m rearing to get back into the race. Until I think of something, I’ll fiddle with the typewriter some more.

 

February 16, 2018

Hurrah! An idea struck not five minutes after I penned those last words yesterday. Not another novella- it’s too soon to launch into a bigger project anyway- but a nice short story. And by ‘nice,’ I naturally  mean ‘horrifying and thought-provoking,’ but those are ultimately the same thing.

And you’ll never believe where the idea came from! The typewriter! I was idly skimming the words I’d typed last on it when I saw at the bottom a line I do not remember writing. But I must have…after all, I’d had a couple too many Poe family eggnogs before last I pounded at its keys. It took barely three minutes for me to read the words, imagine a plot, and open a new document.

Now, not six hours later, I have a revised and chilling product. I love it. Oh, being in love with one of your creations is the most wonderful feeling. I always understand the opening chapters of Genesis best when I have just produced something I can proclaim “very good.”

Thank you, typewriter, for holding onto an idea I might otherwise have forgotten amidst multiple cups of eggnog. When I went just now to pat it in thanks, I could swear I saw it’s keys shift. I must have accidentally pressed something, but I still felt a shiver down my spine. In that moment, it was eerily resemblant of a beast baring its teeth.

But no, my mind is just in a whimsical state. As I look now, it is the same chunk of still metal that it was before.

No more eggnog for me! But I can’t help being a little giddy off my own ideas, now, can I?

 

February 20, 2018

I woke to a piece of good news and a piece of unfortunate news. The good news is that my novella is already at the top of the publisher’s list and will be on its way into the world in record time. The bad news…

My laptop is broken. There is a massive crack across the base of the keyboard. I heard a crash last night and thought perhaps a shelf had fallen off the wall, but when I checked in the morning, everything appeared in order. Everything, that is, except for the cracked laptop. The typewriter was disturbed too, though whatever caused the breakage must not have been able to hurt the iron of the Royal. I reset the typewriter and am scheduled to have my laptop repaired as soon as possible.

But what could have caused this?

 

February 21, 2018

When I went to retrieve my laptop this morning to take it in for repairs, I was met with a horrific sight. It lay spreadeagled on the floor, like a book whose covers have been splayed and torn. The repairman said it was beyond fixing, though the crack I found yesterday would have been alright.

I asked Susan if she had perhaps bumped it, but both of us know that’s unlikely as I’ve always been the clumsy one and she has never so much as chipped a glass. Our cat has not entered my office since the allergy fiasco three years ago. I have nobody but myself to blame. I suppose I left it balanced precariously on the desk…

I went back into the office to investigate just now and, as before, nothing was amiss. Nothing besides the Royal, which had shifted slightly from the place I remember it. But I clearly cannot trust my memory to be exact. When I moved it back in place, I rediscovered words I must have typed on it last time I was fiddling with it in a fit of idleness. The words were chilling and, not surprisingly, I do not remember composing them, but I will take credit and employ them in a horror story soon enough.

 

February 24, 2018

Speaking of horror, the past few days have been terrible. I woke on the 23rd to find my journal in tatters! It was clamped under the metal jaws of the Royal and for a split second I was inspired by the thought that the typewriter looked exactly like a predator and my poor journal its prey, pages fluttering limply like the wings of a slain bird.

But the fancy faded as I realized the extent of the damage. All but the final page upon which I had written had been slashed and torn in the most awful manner. I blamed the cat, much to Susan’s protests that Millicent had not been anywhere near my office, and tossed her (the cat- not Susan) unceremoniously out into the muddy snow.

I’d better lock the office door. Millicent is too smart for her own good and one more act of destruction will lead to hers…

 

February 26, 2018

My last prediction, scribbled on some spare scraps of paper in the absence of my dearly departed journal, came true.

Susan, usually so calm and collected, has been inconsolable. Millicent (too smart for her own good, I said!) found her way into the office and managed to pull the Royal typewriter off the desk, right down on top of her, crushing her small ribcage. Susan doesn’t believe this is possible, but I see no other explanation. Irritating as her fur might have been to my eyes and nose, I never hated the feline enough to plot her demise! 

Well, I must go begin digging a small grave for poor Millie. But with Susan glaring at me from her teary eyes, I feel a little as if the grave were my own.

 

March 1, 2018

Things are looking up. I’ve been writing these journal entries on loose-leaf paper, but will purchase a binder soon. I’ve discarded of Millicent’s things and Susan seems slightly less upset. My new laptop is set to be delivered tomorrow evening.

And that’s not a moment too soon! I’ve been tampering with the Royal and whenever I return to read the words I’ve typed mindlessly, I find a new story idea brewing! I do fear that my memory is becoming lax, though, for I don’t often remember the story ideas that I later return to love.

But I’ll just let Susan know and take whatever vitamins she recommends without complaining. I am content, after all, for it seems my creative block has been lifted and ideas just flow and flow and flow.

Oh, how thankful I am for this impulse buy. As I write this, I glance occasionally over at the Royal, even stopping to pat its cold head as if it were a cat. This makes me laugh, though I cannot tell poor Susan: Who needs a cat when you have a beastie like this typewriter?

Funny, I can almost hear it purring. My imagination is such fun, much more fun than a snappy memory.

 

March 2, 2018

I fell asleep in my office, writing away by hand at an idea that I was particularly struck by. But I woke feeling that I had been struck by more than an idea. Not only did I have a pounding headache (Susan confirms that there is a lump on my skull she cannot account for) but my writing hand was squashed beneath the Royal.

How did I manage this in my sleep? Unless Susan decided to change her entire character and begin playing gruesome pranks, I believe I ought to see a sleep specialist. It seems perhaps Millicent was innocent and I might have a critical case of sleep walking.

 

March 4, 2018

It’s getting difficult to write. My writing hand did not hurt terribly at first, but it has swollen tremendously. Thankfully my new laptop is here so I can type again.

 

March 6, 2018

This is Susan. I am dictating for my husband, whose hand is out of commission. He blames the Royal, but I blame too little sleep and too much frantic writing late at night under the influence. He says not to write that. Too late. Sorry, dear. It’s not often I get to put my perspective in words and I’m enjoying this a bit more than I ought.

I put the Royal on the top shelf in the office, out of the way. I think it’s becoming an obsession and that it is not quite healthy. The hubby says that’s not true. He also says he hates the term “hubby,” but last I checked, I’m the one with the pen in hand so I get to decide the wording for once.

 

March 8, 2018

A full day away from writing was a torture only a little worse than listening to Susan write in my journal. I could not suffer either again and so am writing- painstakingly- with my left hand. Must use shorter sentences. That hurt.

But I can type.

And have an idea.

So type I shall.

 

March 9, 2018

It’s the wee hours. Been typing all night. Susan asleep next door. Office clock ticking. Want a drink. And sleep. Almost done with story.

Heard a noise. Like clackity-clack. Ha. Clackity. Hard to write with left hand. Kind of fun.

Sounds like a typewriter. Weird.

Did the Royal shift? It’s on the shelf just up there, above my head. Still there, barely over the edge.

Over the edge…

Oh dear.

I can almost imagine it falling and crushing me…like poor Millie. Chomping down on my neck…like my poor journal. Cracking my bones…like the laptop.

But that’s ridiculous. Silly.

It’s there, though. I can see it now.

Over the edge…

Over…

O-!

Ordinary Beauty

Sometimes I want to weep

At unnoticed beauty –

That’s not seen for its shyness,

Dismissed, “ordinary.”

It’s in the chatter of the birds,

The smell of mesquite trees,

The ebb and flow of whispered words

Caught by th’eavesdropping breeze.

In foamy sips of coffee

In silly, printed cups,

And in the dreamy things I think

When I’m just waking up.

In books written for children

That yet I love and keep.

In the softness of my bed

As I drift back to sleep.

When in rare quiet moments,

I slow my busy mind,

I fall in love with beauties

Of daily, simple kind

And realize that perhaps- perhaps!

The truest art of all

Is found more oft’ than splendor

In beauties sweet and small.

Year in Review: The Arts

This year was crazy and everyone seems to be bidding 2017 good riddance. However, there are so many beautiful things that I discovered and enjoyed this year! Though Facebook tried to make my “year in review” (and somehow managed to gather all of the photos I am least inclined to post), my true year in review consists of my favorite pieces of art that, though not necessarily created in 2017, I was fortunate enough to enjoy this year.

My Artistic Year in Review

(basically a list of my favorite things)

Sculpture: Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne”

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While I adore all of Bernini’s works, this one struck me and seeing it in person during a trip to Rome was extraordinary. The expressions on the character’s faces are so alive and the stone itself seems to move and breathe with the grace of dancers. Looking at it made me feel more alive, as if Bernini were sculpting my movements as I circled the glorious work. Gazing at it made me more aware of myself as a creation “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Painting: “The Woman in Red” by Giovanni Boldini

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I stumbled upon this painting on Pinterest and immediately knew I needed use it for my junior piano recital poster and more than a few people asked me how I managed to get a painting of myself… It was humorous having to explain that no, the woman in the painting is not me as I was 1) never a model and 2) was not alive during the Impressionist era. Still, this made the work more personal and I am thankful to now have a reproduction of it hanging above my piano at home.

Architecture: Glasgow Cathedral – Glasgow, Scotland

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I was disappointed to find that the choir was on sabbatical and would not be doing evensong during my stay in Glasgow. However, both the inside and out of this building are stunning. I felt an incredible sense of awe as I entered and spent more than a few minutes just sitting in the pews praying with my eyes open to the splendor of the Beautiful that lends itself to objects of beauty (couldn’t help the Plato reference there). Also, just outside the Cathedral is the Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery that is filled with crumbling old tombstones, wildflowers, and stories waiting to be unearthed. A hike up the hill of this graveyard gives the most spectacular panoramic view of the Cathedral and Glasgow as a whole.

Theatrical Production: Hamlet starring Andrew Scott

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I love the West End and, when I had a free night in London, was so ridiculously excited to find cheap tickets to see Andrew Scott (aka Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock) star in a version of my favorite Shakespeare play. Not only was Scott terrific, but the production put a Cold War era twist on the story that worked perfectly. (Pro tip: purchase “obstructed view” seats for last minute tickets; they are cheaper and often the view is still quite good.)

Musical: Jane Eyre by Paul Gordon and John Caird 

Of the books written by the Bronte sisters, Wuthering Heights is so far my favorite. However, the Jane Eyre musical redeemed a novel that I formerly considered “too tidy and stiff.” The music is beautiful, the lyrics are brilliant, and the story is made infinitely more human and powerful. Only one other person I know has ever heard this soundtrack, but I highly recommend it to any literature or music lover as it is excellent in every possible way.

Instrument: Bagpipes

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While I regret my expense of 100 pounds on a set of bagpipes I cannot play to save my life, I fell in love with their music. It turns out, the astringent sound of bagpipes has a calming effect on my overactive mind since it drives out all other thoughts than “I am a Scottish warrior princess and I can do anything.” Plus, I fell in love with Scotland and now bagpipes sound like home to me. (Oh, and I use the terrible video of my first attempt at playing them as a conversation starter or ender, depending on who I’m talking to.)

Piano Piece: The Dante Sonata by Franz Liszt

Learning this piece made me cry. A lot. And bleed. And sweat. You think I’m kidding? No. It’s literally a piece about the Inferno. But the wonderful ties between music and literature (my two loves) are what got me through and I am so happy with my final performance of this piece! (Check out the link above!)

Symphonic Work: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony 

Not only is this great running music (see post “The Eroica 10k”), but it is just incredible for any occasion. Nothing is more empowering than listening to this symphony. Not even bagpipe music. From a more analytical standpoint, it also has the key features of Beethoven’s style: fighting against strict measures, dynamic contrasts of volume and mood, powerful instrumentation, and- best of all- the underlying idea of an anthem to a single great soul.

Album: Notos by the Oh Hellos

http://music.theohhellos.com/album/notos

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I love everything by the Oh Hellos, so I was delighted to find that they recently released a new album! It is marvelous and made a long drive across the desert so much better. (Obviously I listened through it more than once.)

Poetry (large scale): The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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This was mentioned in a lecture I heard at Cambridge by Malcolm Guite. As soon as I returned home, I purchased a copy and read it with awe. It was so beautiful and mysterious and I still have yet to decide my exact thoughts on it, which makes me love it even more. Highly recommend, but especially if read aloud with great expression. It inspired my performance of the Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata and Liszt’s “Dante” Sonata with its storms and spirituality.

Poetry (smaller works): The Singing Bowl by Malcolm Guite

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/the-singing-bowl-a-poem-and-a-new-book/

I listened to these read aloud by the poet on a drive from California to Arizona whilst watching a sunrise. It was a lovely hour of poetry, theology, and natural beauty. Although I’d loved his lecture at Cambridge, hearing his original poetry read aloud made it so much more powerful. It is inspiring to know there is a modern poet who sings in the tune of the greats yet maintains his own clear voice.

Novel: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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I expected this book to be as dry as dust, which- since it is about the ocean- is ironic. However, I came to appreciate the great depths of this narrative (pun intended, as always). There is a great deal of philosophy hidden throughout and, as with Coleridge, I have not yet determined my exact ideas regarding this book. I have many theories, though, and am itching to write a thesis on it… Oh, and there are tons of whale facts, so that’s interesting! Others might argue they distract from the plot, but I naturally have a theory on why they are, in fact, essential to the overarching themes. Do your brain a favor and dive into this book!

YA Novel: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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This was the brain candy that I needed after a semester of heavy study. However, it was far from mindless! It was clever, endearing, and exciting all at once. I raced through it in a matter of a couple of hours and am glad to find another YA author that writes passion about mythology, relationships, family, and hardship in a believable way, incorporating wit and suspense with brilliance. (Basically, I was glad to find a YA novel that I could read in public without feeling ashamed. This one was far from an embarrassing teen romance and I was proud to read it at my favorite coffee shop for all to see!)

Short Story: “The Scythe” by Ray Bradbury

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Every story in Bradbury’s The October Country inspired both love and fear in my literary soul. I am admittedly a Bradbury fanatic and accredit him with inspiring me to try my hand at short stories, but I believe my admiration is merited. “The Scythe” is a short story with the emotional depth and character development of a novel. It is mysterious and beautiful and tragic all at once and I will happily force any one of my friends to borrow my copy and read it, as well as all of its sibling stories.

Library: Tynsdale House-  Cambridge, England

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I could have stayed in that creaking, musty library for days. It was colorful with the spines of diverse books and alive with the buzzing thoughts of its scholars busy at work. I found an empty desk that I swear had my  name on it… A brilliant and intimate literary/theological destination that I look forward to visiting again.

Movie: Dunkirk 

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Many have complained about this movie, but I found it to be remarkable. It was simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming and, overall, one of the most powerful cinematic experiences I have ever had. Kenneth Branagh is a magical human being, but the entire cast was terrific. The storytelling, comprised of three different amounts of time and three different locations (land, air, and sea), was captivating and fit together with the intricacy of a well-crafted, multi-narrator novel. The soundtrack, minimalism with effects such as the “shepard tone” to enhance the intensity, effectively kept me on the edge of my seat and my senses as alert as if I were one of the characters in the midst of war. The acting, visuals, story, and music were all phenomenal and, combined, made for a film that, like Dunkirk itself, will not soon be forgotten.

Bonus…

Dessert: Stroopwafel

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Is it a waffle? Is it a cookie? Who knows and who cares! Just put it on top of your cup of cocoa and enjoy its melty, delicious caramel goodness!

Coffee: Cappuccino from Costa Coffee

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To my dismay, the U.S. is not advanced enough to have Costa Coffee shops on every corner…Sorry, Starbucks. However, I enjoyed enough of their cappuccinos during my month in the U.K. to hold me until my next visit. (Yes, coffee is an art. I mean, look at that palm tree!)

Poll: Best Part of Movies are Concessions

 

PHOENIX, ARIZONA- Polling of consumers leaving a current blockbuster film reveal that the best part of the movies are, indeed, the concessions.

“But we don’t just mean popcorn and jumbo sodas!” said customer relations director Jack Hughs. “It turns out that the concessions made by viewers are what allow them to enjoy almost any movie that the market produces.”

When asked what kinds of concessions, Mr. Hughs replied, “Oh, there are a wide variety, much like our candy selection.”

These include:

  • ignoring obvious plot holes
  • Junior Mints
  • allowing for archetypal characters with little to no development
  • excusing poor pacing
  • never expecting singers to actually sing
  • Mike and Ikes
  • being dazzled by painful CGI animation
  • extra-butter popcorn
  • excusing the cliche and predictable as “heartwarming”
  • extra medium diet fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan soda water
  • ignoring lazy filming mistakes
  • enjoying soundtracks that sound roughly like pop radio
  • nachos
  • excusing cultural or historical inaccuracy for the sake of a good story

“We are thinking of expanding our menu to incorporate all of these,” said Mr. Hughs.

95% of those polled, including Local Millennial Kale McBirkenstock, are in favor of this.

“People come to the movies to be entertained, plain and simple,” Miss McBirkenstock said when interviewed. “I mean, I just want to watch something that makes me- like- not even.”

Her boyfriend, Lux Filterton, added, “Yeah, after all, the point of art is to just give you all the feels. Oh, and the more gratuitous violence, sex, and language, the (expletive) better…those are powerful literary techniques, right?”

This poll reveals potentially good news for the film industry, though; the less thought consumers want to put into their viewing experience, the less thought producers need to put into their cinema. As a result, nearly 200 new movies are expected to premiere between January and February alone and, while critics are lamenting the decline of well-crafted storytelling, crowds are applauding what has been described as “spectacle…without all that nasty substance.”