The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

31 August 2013

The Great Reading project: Gift from the sea

What a gem this book is - a gift indeed.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in 1955, took a vacation on the Florida Gulf Coast, during which she wrote this collection of reflections inspired by various found treasures on the beach. And treasures on the beach, as we all know, are shells.  Each shell - the Channelled Whelk, the Moon Shell, the Double-Sunrise, the oyster bed, Argonauta -  provides her food for thought about the interior life, relationships, and daily life.

Gift from the sea, though a slender volume and written in a thoroughly approachable fashion, imparts wisdom, inspiration, and, insight enough for months of meditation and reflection. Though men as well as women would glean much from this book, the author writes very personally from her own experience and knowledge as a woman. She touches particularly on a woman's need for quiet, creativity, purposeful giving of herself, and knowledge of herself in order to know and connect with others in meaningful ways. I heard echoes of Alice von Hildebrand and Edith Stein in some of what she writes, and in fact she quotes from several Catholic saints.

If I could copy out the whole of the chapter titled 'Moon Shell' for you to read here, I would do so. In it, Anne writes particularly about the importance of feeding the soul, and feeding the soul requires silence and solitude in some measure every day, every month, every year.

My one complaint of the book isn't really a complaint so much as a moment of sadness and came while reading the epilogue of the 50th anniversary edition I have. The epilogue was written in 1975 and the influence of the feminist movement is evident. In this little book is evidence that one of the results of radical feminism is stripping beauty out of the feminine, leaving ugliness in its place. I hasten to reassure you that Anne does not spout feminist diatribes, but it is clear that the movement in full swing by 1975 has coloured her writing.

And so concludes another book from The Great Reading Project. I have begun on Dante's Inferno, the book that sparked this initiative. It's the one I've really really been wanting to read, so here goes!

Small Island  - Andrea Levy

Inferno – Dante

Heart of the matter – Graham Greene

The Snakepit – Sigrid Undset

Sound and the fury – William Faulkner

Man and woman – Alice Von Hildebrand

The Cloistered Heart – Nancy Shuman

Invisible man – Ralph Ellison

Masterful Monk (series) – Owen Francis Dudley

Shepherd’s castle – George MacDonald

Last light – Terri Blackstock

84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

Gift from the sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Unlocked – Karen Kingsbury


25 August 2013

Five sentence fiction: travel

Five sentence fiction: travel

I felt trapped in the mass of bodies on the train; limbs hung out of windows and pressed against the doors. The landscape rolled passed in dry and dusty counterpoint to the vibrant clothing of my fellow passengers - a riot of colours lending exuberance to this unfamiliar place. They spoke excitedly - and loudly - to one another in languages I could not comprehend, sharing food I could not name but which tantalized my senses. How different India was from my adventures last night in comfortingly familiar England!
With happy anticipation of what tomorrow would bring, I closed the book and turned out the light.

Books can take you anywhere

24 August 2013

Happening now at a library near you: Local food mysteries

This was too good to not share with you, dear Reader.
Cataloguing new books today, I came across this delightful treasure:

A Tine to Live, a tine to die: a local foods mystery by Edith Maxwell.

The cast of characters includes an 'enthusiastic Brazilian volunteer' and local handyman Mike Montgomery who is fired because 'he won't follow organic growing practices'.  Mike, of course, becomes the corpse in this cozy set in... you guessed it, a small New England town (where all cozies seem to take place). This New England town is 'full of eccentric locavores'... they were bound to have a murderer in their midst eventually.

The concept tickled me, because cozies - mysteries without sex or gore set in a small community with an amateur sleuth, generally have a gimmick or schtick to set them apart from all the others. This one is about a lady who bakes cupcakes, that one is about a mystery bookshop owner, the other one is about a weaving enthusiast.  It was only a matter of time before someone recognized the growing popularity of the locavore movement and mined it for murder mystery potential.
And at last, here it is.

20 August 2013

Of clouds of witnesses and bubbles

I am often struck by the beauty of language in really fine writing. Words can have an intoxicating effect, whether the author is Lucy Maud Montgomery or Nigella Lawson. What matters is a deft hand, respectful intent, and a willingness to play. By that last I mean not taking oneself too seriously or using one's medium to berate others. (I've been reading Nigella, and so have temporarily adopted the British 'one' in place of the American 'you'.)
From a strictly literary perspective, a good translation of Scripture gives me the same pleasure as reading the poetry of Donne: I don't necessarily perfectly understand what is being said, but I so enjoy how it is said. I savour the sounds, hold the consonants and vowels on my tongue, allow their shape and meaning to permeate through my mind. I carry the words with me during the day and hear them echo in my thoughts at random moments. They leave an impression in my imaginations like fossils, sometimes only suggesting at the whole of what they once were. 
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

"Though lovers be lost, love shall not, and death shall have no dominion." Dylan Thomas

"Paris (and our apartment) is so dark and quiet this morning that I feel as if I'm entirely alone. The sky is the color of gray flannel, the darkness broken only by the dormer window of another early riser. The woman who lives in that attic painted her walls yellow, and reflected light bounces out like a spring crocus. If light were sound, her window would be playing a concerto." Eloisa James

"And since I think best with a pencil in my hand, I started naturally to write." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"People disappear all the time." Diana Gabaldon

"I lead a small life. Well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void." Nora Ephron

Sip them slowly, and let the words bubble up.


15 August 2013

Five sentence fiction

Five sentence fiction.

Prompt word: Learning

For the third day in a row, Sally handed over her peanut butter and jelly sandwich; for the third day in a row, Roberta promised she'd pay her back tomorrow. For as many days poor Sally went through gym class (murderball, again), art, French (Mademoiselle Parfait was particularly peppy this week), and language arts (parts of speech: yawn is a verb) on a handful of raisins and a mini yoghurt. Sally was pretty sure she'd never see a sandwich from Roberta, ever, nor would the pb&j purloiner let Sally in on the four square game like she'd promised, either.

Sally slumped into the kitchen after school, feeling a wisp of her former self, barely lifting her head from her hand when her mother asked what she'd learned in school that day.

Never give away your peanut butter sandwich,” she replied, “no matter how much you want to play four square.”

14 August 2013

Of cheating and reading

I  a cheater.

I'm a cheater cheater pumpkin eater.

Hi. My name is Tess, and I cheat.

I'm cheating on The Great Reading Project.

That's right: I'm reading around.  I'm reading behind Anne Morrow Lindbergh's back.  And not because I prefer another book, or no longer love her. I caved under the pressure. There are so many beautiful books out there!  But that isn't even a good excuse because I haven't been reading around with other beautiful books, I've been reading books that mean nothing to me while Anne's 'Gift from the sea' remains on my bedside table unopened.

I think I figured out why, this morning. Not only was I going to read this book, and extract every drop of fine meaning from it, I was going to turn the experience into a multi-part article I was going to write for my weekly deadline elsewhere. I wanted to share everything I was feeling about the book, all the wisdom I was gaining, my delight in the words, my joy in the message. Too much! It was too much! I am but one woman, a poor writer with serious discipline issues. I was unable to live up to my own expectations.

Having an outer-body experience this morning, observing myself throwing books around the living room in search of the notebook I was writing notes in - with no success, as if the notes had never existed, though if I went back to Starbucks I could probably find witnesses who would attest to witnessing me writing frantically in a little blue notebook. That's when it dawned on me: just read the book. Don't try to hold on to every drop of meaning, don't scribble extracts, or copy quotes. Just read it.  Enjoy it. It's a book! A beautiful, delightful book.  Allow it to seep into my mind and imagination. Let it spark some current of creativity. Let it whisper to me in its own still, small voice.

Just read. And just then the sun came through the clouds. For real.

And so read, I shall.

Won't you join me?

11 August 2013

A breath and a pause

Big relief.

Manchester United have won the Community Shield, the first big competition of the season. First major win with the new manager (moment of silence for the old gaffer, Sir Alex.                         )
Well done David Moyes.  Well done boys.

Now we can take a breath and start the Prem season with our heads on straight.
Let's make 2013/14 number 21!

Photo: Fox Soccer

09 August 2013

Of twirling and soundtracks

I just had a twirling moment.

My friend Bella Martini would know what that is all about. We used to twirl when we both taught in a tiny little school way back in the day.  Back when we were kids and twirling came naturally to us.  Do you remember that scene in You've Got Mail, when Joe Fox (F-O-X) asks Kathleen Kelly in the Shop Around the Corner about the picture on the wall of her and her mother?  They were twirling.

Twirling is what you do when you are so full of good feeling you just might float away. The only way to stay grounded is to twirl... circling in giddy, tight circles, hands joyously up in the air, or holding the hands of a friend overhead as you take turns ducking under the clasped hands.  Twirling is our version of bubbles dancing to the surface in a glass of champagne.

The only thing lacking in my moment of twirling was the stirring music that always accompanies such scenes in the movies.  Movie characters are so lucky to have an ongoing soundtrack. Soundtracks are useful as they are often a cue for how we should be feeling, or alert us of impending danger, or reassure us of happily ever after.  Movie soundtracks are often a great deal of fun to listen to on long road trips.

In my moment of happiness, I would have wanted Higher Ground - Red Hot Chili Pepper's cover version.  Or something soaring and instrumental. 

I'd twirl to either one.

07 August 2013

Feeling reflective

I miss the seven day blogging challenge. It surely was a challenge to write something every single day - something for public consumption, that is - but it was also a great deal of fun. I played with a few different writing prompts, and allowed myself to put something up even if it wasn't the shining beacon of perfection I had hoped for. If I want to do something 'real' with my writing, I'd best get back to that mindset.

The trick is to just do it, right? That would seem to be a theme in my life just now, and I feel just as if I am standing on the very edge of the high diving tower. Taking that final step is pretty scary. But as the very wise Fran says in Strictly Ballroom, "A life lived in fear is a life half lived." She says it in Portuguese though, which sounds much more emphatic.

Someone close to me is going through the same thing. Not with writing, but with something that will have very serious ramifications, good or bad. I admire him for taking that brave step off the board into the unknown. Is it bravery, or is it wisdom that leads him forward? Perhaps it is faith with elements of both.

Today (actually yesterday) is my birthday, and that always seems to invite reflection and introspection. It's a good time to look over my life and adjust my course. People I've met and talked with and observed, things I've learned over the past year, finer clarity of ideas all serve as navigational markers along the way and help me figure out where I'm headed.

The early days of a new year always feel propitious. For sure this is going to be a good year, a great year, a big year! Wonderful and exciting things are going to happen this year. Maybe I'll be published; maybe I'll meet my Mr. Darcy; maybe I'll get the perfect job. Maybe I'll finally kick discipline in the butt and actually finish The Great Reading Project.   Whatever happens, it is going to be a wonderful and exciting year. 

It always is.

06 August 2013


Happy Feast of the Transfiguration

This is my favourite feast in the whole of the liturgical calendar.
It is so because here the Old and New Testaments come together in the meeting of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. (Elijah is beloved to Carmelites) It is the moment when man meets God, and is transformed in glory.

My prayer is that we will all one day see God face to face, and be transfigured. I look forward to seeing my loved ones revealed in all their glory... the new man that was hidden in the old... when their appearance will reflect their inner self.

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

02 August 2013

Trending in a library near you: hugging trees

The Orchard house
The Lemon orchard
The Orchardist
The Apple orchard
The Courage tree
In the orchard, the swallows
Rubies in the orchard
Kilmeny of the orchard (ok, this is a bit of a cheat as it is from LM Montgomery and is very old, but I'm including it anyway. The creator of Anne with an e doesn't have to follow the rules.)

I find myself longing for a softly warm day, gentle breezes blowing just enough to whisper in the branches of the trees as I lay on a checked blanket, pretending to read but instead watching the clouds drift through the lace of leaves.

My book would be called 'The Lighthouse Tree'  It would be about An old lighthouse keeper at one of the last manned lights. Over the course of his long life he has had adventures, and encounters with memorable characters. The book recounts his story and the tree marks the passage of time.

What would your book be?