The Ship Near Coast by Ivan Aivazovsky
So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.
– from The Weighing by Jane Hirshfield
When my siblings and I were kids, we observed the attributes of mercury on our kitchen table. We must have gotten it from a broken thermometer (and I’m not sure how we escaped its toxicity). We watched the mercury bead up and roll ahead of our fingers, always propelling itself away from our touch. The silver gem held its shape, in spite of being a liquid, due to its high surface tension. It was lovely and fascinating. Now, all these years later, I see it as a metaphor for longing; a soul leaning toward something precious that’s just beyond reach.
The room (she looked round it) was very shabby. There was no beauty anywhere . . . Nothing seemed to have merged. They all sat separate. And whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her.
We remove the low table from its place in the entryway, fold out and lock its two sets of legs, and place it on the area rug in the center of the living room. The table is inlaid with a fancy-looking peacock, but the plastic white edging is now almost completely broken off, and even the glossy surface is cracked and beginning to reveal the particle-board realities underneath. We accumulate mismatched sets of silverware and plates and water, a jug of water, and a roll of paper towels for napkins.
It’s the sacred harp—the voice. It’s also the eponymous title of a choral music book, first published in 1844. What’s odd about this book is that the music within it, from traditional hymns, appears in shape notes: Fa, a triangle; Sol, an oval; La, rectangle; and Mi, diamond. The book reflects a style of choral hymn singing, associated with the American South. Except now, it’s making a comeback, not only in the South, but in New England, the Midwest, and the West, as well as in Europe and Australia.
We have to react against the heavy bias of fatigue. It is almost impossible to make the facts vivid, because the facts are familiar; and for fallen men it is often true that familiarity is fatigue.
– G.K. Chesterton
If you don’t mind, visualize a short little mental clip for me.
A friend and I have just been walking for 35 minutes to get to every booklover’s Mecca, Powell’s City of Books in Portland. One square city block of bookish awesomeness. Despite the heat and slightly sweaty state of our sandals—when book hunting, comfy feat are important—we are hugely stoked about beginning our four-day Powell’s event. Just as we are coming close to our destination, we see two peddlers nearly blocking the entrance to the bookstore.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10
The first grade art assignment was simple enough: draw our mothers working around the house. I went with a laundry theme; as the oldest of four kids I probably saw my mom beside that front-loader a lot. But to draw it? I was an abstract-leaning kid even then, and this exercise in visual realism apparently escaped me. I managed to produce a spindly specter with sea urchin fists inside a swishy enclosure whose boundaries pushed against the edges of the paper. While my classmates’ drawings yielded Mary Tyler Moore moms next to sensible blenders and ironing boards that looked like the real thing to me, my own mother was caught in an appliance nightmare. I simply could not visualize her anywhere but wedged inside that washing machine. I remember my tears; I still feel the moment’s helplessness and shame.