I am this season’s child
though I am dressed as spring:
The burning gold of fall is hid
beneath the flow’rs I bring.
While storms of thought are whirling,
and swirl within my mind,
All you see’s the cloudless blue
of clear sky in my eyes.
Dreams and nightmares flutter
like vibrant, falling leaves,
But I doubt you’d ever know
for the roses in my cheeks.
Though my hair’s bright as sunlit May
and my lips brim with laughter,
My birth was a November day
and I am Autumn’s Daughter.
I took this photo on a sunset run and added the words (surprise! They were not actually fabulous skywriting!) as I was doing some reading later. The exercise, combined with the wisdom of St. Hildegard, were a welcome relief to an emotional day.
Sometimes on overcast days like today, we fail to remember the sun. Yet, by grace, it descends to us each evening, casting its warm glow over the earth and tempering the darkness with the promise of its brilliant return come dawn.
What a marvelous image this is of the reality we know as Believers. (Plato has me on an image-reality thought trend.) As beautiful as sunsets are, they are a mere flicker of the splendor of the True Son who humbled Himself for us. Likewise, although we run in a darkened world, He has already risen with splendor beyond any sunrise…and, in Him, so shall we! We live in the purgatory between sunset and the sunrise, but our hope is more sure than the dawn. The race is not in vain, for the Lord gives us the wings to overcome; through His comfort, we can rest in the promise that joy comes not only in the morning, but through mourning.
Yesterday was the birthday of renouned American author, Ray Bradbury. Three more years and we can celebrate his 100th birthday. But even in 2017, Bradbury’s birthday is special to me because his stories provided the kick-in-the-pants I needed to take my writing seriously.
Before entering high school, my family and I made a trip to the bookstore. Barnes and Noble was having a sale on its classics (when is it not?) and I picked out two with ease. But when searching for a third (buy two get one), I was at a loss.
“How about this one?” my mom asked, holding up the book I found least attractive. It was red with planets orbiting on it. Ew, Sci-fi.
“It’s good!” she persisted. “When I was teaching English, I would read aloud a short story from this book every Friday!”
Oh great, I was thinking. Science fiction and short stories.
Poor little me. I was so fixated on reading thick Austen or Bronte novels in an effort to seem impressive that I felt I was above fanciful scribblings about space.
The irony…now I cannot help writing such scribblings myself.
Not wanting to argue any longer and urged on my my brother, who was worried we would miss our movie, I surrendered. I purchased my selections and let the Ray Bradbury collection thud like a rocket into the bag, forcing its way between the indignant British classics.
That night, after the movie, I lay awake. Perhaps the movie had not satisfied my desire for a good story. Perhaps I had just eaten too many candies during it. For whatever reason, though, I found myself flipping open the red tome.
“Let’s see if you live up to your reviews,” I might have whispered into its crisp pages, which fell open with all the grace and crunch of snowflakes.
Minutes later, I was buried in an avalanche of words that fell so beautifully from Bradbury’s mind to pen to page that I could not dig my way back out had Jane Austen herself called for me.
Hours later, I was several stories in and near tears with that delight that only true bookworms know- the inexplicable thrill of having found writing that transcends mere ink and paper, writing that is instead made of the same substance as dreams.
I devoured The Illustrated Man and made dessert of The Golden Apples of the Sun. It was with great self-control that I rationed out The Martian Chronicles for a later year when I was in need of escape.
And, as this diet of “words, words, words” digested, it fueled ideas.
And soon, these ideas begged for a form. Or did they beget a form? (Alas, Plato…your philosophy is not wanted just now.)
As my ideas grew on those of Bradbury, I sought advice on how to bring them from the abstract brainstorm into croncrete being.
“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
Bradbury’s words came to me (possibly via Pinterest) and away I flew.
I definitely did not write 52 stories.
I definitely did not write more than a couple semi-decent ones.
But I was writing and that was enough.
(Not that I hadn’t been writing before. My memory boxes are stuffed full of the “newspapers” written in crayon and “manuscripts” typed on the family computer with my mom as my editor.)
But now something clicked within me and I could not seem to stop writing. This blog testifies to that; not every post gets likes, some poems are feeble in hindsight, and only a few stories turn out to be keepers. But just like Bradbury’s short stories, it is impossible to have a year’s worth of bad posts, right?
Don’t answer that. 😉
Back to Bradbury. He inspired me to write (especially speculative fiction) and continues to make me fall more and more in love with literature every time I read his writing.
For instance, just a few days ago I finished reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and then watched the 1956 movie for which Bradbury wrote the screenplay. It was quite possibly the most flawless book-to-screen transition yet. Bradbury perfectly portrayed the central themes of MD in under two hours. (Whereas the book took…well, a long time, to read.)
He also wrote Leviathan 99, which is dedicated to Melville and is essentially Moby Dick in space. This stunning novella portrays the same themes of MD in a completely different setting, yet does so with such mastery that I believe Melville would be proud. (Also, pro-tip: if you don’t have time to read MB, just read Leviathan 99.)
Reading Leviathan 99, I was filled with the same joy and wonder that I felt when first reading “The Veldt,” the first story in The Illustrated Man. Reader, do your mind a favor and listen when your English teacher mother encourages you to purchase a Ray Bradbury collection.
Although Ray Bradbury is sadly no longer with us in body, we are still able to celebrate his legacy on his birthday. He has left his readers deeper in love with literature and filled with awe at the power of writing.
He has, also, left us a little bit lost on Mars.
The world is a mess. Whatever your political views, we can all agree that it’s a rough world out there. However, while the news is increasingly depressing, I found an unlikely hero to cheer me for a few hours: Winnie-the-Pooh.
Somehow I grew up reading everything in reach yet missed this classic! So I decided, “What’s more comforting than cuddling my Eeyore pillow pet and reading Winnie for the first time?”
It was a marvelous decision; not only are the stories delightful and humorous, but the characters can teach even us “knowledgeable” grown-ups a thing or two.
And then sweet, nervous little Piglet reminds us that it’s okay to ask for help and that we should always look out for the “Very Small Animals.”
Of course, we must mention Pooh. Continually called “brainless,” he still manages to come up with ideas to help those he loves. Perhaps caring for others is better than cleverness in the end.
As simple as these stories and characters may seem, they are all the more important in today’s overwhelming, grown-up world. As I’ve said before, good children’s books are for adults too, and this is certainly true of Winnie-the-Pooh. After all, adults need to be reminded of consideration, service, and friendship perhaps even more than children do.
Went to the children’s classics section in search of some light reading…now I am just wondering how many poor young Winnie-the-Pooh fans have been traumatized by Poe instead…
Still, “Welcome to your nightmares” is a daunting phrase to put on a book beside a beloved nursery classic.
Oh, how I love when shelving decisions go awry. Endless amusement!
Please read the following poem. Then, please click the link and listen to me read it; I have of late found great value in reading poetry aloud. Once you do those two things (it should take but two minutes of your time), you are welcome to read my explanation of the poem or to interpret it for yourself. I’d imagine both will lead to similar conclusions. Finally, if you are so inclined, I would love to hear from you! Thank you in advance!
First, the written word:
Sing, Muse, of rage-
or rather- Desire.
Drive with twin rhyming whips –
Name and Fame-
up mountains toppling, rising peak,
ever crying, out of reach,
“On, on, onward!”
Harpy howl to clamoring poets’ ears
as siren song does fall.
Dazzling, drawing, drowning:
divine-seeming, it pulls
still higher, higher
up Tow’r where language
began and begins
“On, onward, pilgrims!”
So scaling e’er, traipsing eager,
worshippers seeking sanctuary
not for rest
but to exalt,
that which in climbing, we sculpt:
New relic, sainted self.
Oh! To be one of the many few,
who, pious, always “onward”
and yet- when time trickles low-
Wherefore place an icon made
(like us only in its fade)
of substance age-old, ever-new:
Ambition dressed as Holy Muse?
Second, the spoken word:
Finally, a brief word of explanation:
I found myself forcing creativity today, working to compose a piece of music without passion. I was inspired only by the thought that if I finish this, it will be another successful accomplishment to my credit.
But as I realized that selfish ambition was my main motivation (at the moment), I was deeply convicted. Why create at all if what compels me is untempered ambition? What profits it to climb what a favorite author of mine calls “the Alpine Path” if I seek only to plant my lonely, temporal banner at its peak?
And, as in most moments of intense emotion, poetry happened. In scribbling and speaking this poem, I was able to recall why I write and compose: not to glorify myself but, as in the parable, to be a faithful steward of my talents. To do this, I must write to the best of my ability to reflect the true Author and pray that my words will direct minds toward the living Word.