Flames and Embers

Sitting in front of the fire again, this Thanksgiving birthday morning, thinking about whom I have to thank for having come this far, I’m drawn not to the leaping flames, but to the gently glowing embers below.

There have been people in my life, of course, who have caught fire in one way or another; flaring into a brief, brilliant brightness for a moment before fading away, or crashing and burning too close for comfort. They’ve left their indelible marks on me, for better or worse.  But thank God, there have been also been those who have quietly, faithfully tended the hearth, keeping a warm, sheltered place for me, and a steady glimmering light to find my way by.

By the way…

Some of you might not know that this isn’t the only place I share thoughts; the more bookish posts and reviews can be found on the blog page of my website, http://www.booksbybecka.com.  I reviewed my new favourite book of poetry – Malcolm Guite’s The Singing Bowl, which I’ve mentioned here within the last few days – there this morning.

Form and Limits

Malcolm Guite says, in the the preface to his just-released poetry collection, The Singing Bowl, “Both people and poems become more completely themselves when they find their true form, work within their limits, and concentrate their power within what Blake called ‘the bounding line.'”

This phrase strikes me as one of those truths so fundamental that it is often overlooked. Too often, we neglect or even deny our true form in the perceived need to meet someone else’s – our parents’, our partner’s, our employer’s, our society’s – expectations, to conform to the prescribed image of our time and place. We disregard the limits of time and strength and common sense on our work, striving to catch up, to get ahead, to do more than humans can reasonably do. And we far overstretch the bounding line, extending our efforts into so many arenas that our power is diluted to the point of failing to do quality work in any of them.

It is probably a task of years for most of us to let go the habits and the guilt that have driven us beyond ourselves; at least, it is proving so for me. But I’m finding as I learn to be still and find my true form, recognize my limits, and concentrate what power I have within the appropriate boundaries, I am becoming more myself, a person with whom I can be comfortable.

Reading List 2013

I, too, like Kelly Belmonte at http://www.allninemuses.wordpress.com, keep a list of what I read.  Here’s this year’s list so far:

Jane Kenyon: A Literary Life – John H. Timmerman
A Circle of Quiet – Madeleine L’Engle
Baby – Patricia MacLachlan
Telling Secrets – Frederick Buechner
Gifts – Ursula LeGuin
The Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning
The Book of Hours – Rainer Maria Rilke
What Men Live By – Leo Tolstoy
Celtic Prayers from Iona – Philip J. Newell
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E.L. Konigsburg
Arthur, for the Very First Time – Patricia MacLachlan
The Tiger Rising – Kate DiCamillo
Sabbatical Journey – Henri Nouwen
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
A Room Called Remember – Frederick Buechner
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Three Ways of Searching – Kelly Belmonte
East of the Sun and West of the Moon – retold by Kathleen and Michael Hague
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver
The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis
Picnic, Lightning – Billy Collins
Bilbo’s Journey – Joseph Pearce
Sixty Odd – Ursula LeGuin
The Singing Bowl – Malcolm Guite

Several of these are re-reads; there are a number of titles I need to read again every couple years. And some of the first-time reads listed here will undoubtedly show up again in future lists. I heartily agree with C.S. Lewis’s statement in “On Stories” that “We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties.”