The Forced Pause, the Gift of Rest

Winter Weather

I walked to the grocery store in hopes of finding a power outlet to charge my laptop. Or better: a rogue bit of Wi-Fi that might allow me to e-mail my editor and assure her that, despite the 18 inches of snow being dumped onto our small town, I would be making my deadline. It was not a peaceful walk, the sort you’d expect as snow slowly pillowed on the ground and the entire world went quiet. Read More

The Book Thief

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A train winds its way through a wintry forest; nine-year-old Liesel watches as her young brother dies in their mother’s arms. After the burial, the book thief’s first acquisition is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, fallen from the pocket of the gravedigger. Just as Great Expectations begins in a graveyard, the film The Book Thief begins with this unavoidable end of all earthly quests.

Liesel is soon separated from her mother, whose political views attract the unwanted attention of the Fuhrer. She is assigned a foster family, an elderly couple living on Himmelstrasse –  Heaven Street.  There she finds a gentle foster father who teaches her to read and to sing through fear, and a stern but sacrificial foster mother who teaches her to love, though haunted by insecurity. And there she also finds a true friend who teaches her to hate evil and cling to good.

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No spoilers, please!

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My kids hate spoilers more than anything, and it’s all my fault.  A few days ago, I heard my son talking with his friend, when out of nowhere, he exploded, “WHAT?! I can’t believe you just did that!!”.  Naturally, I rushed over to check for blood or bruises, only to find out that this friend had spoiled the ending of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ by implying that Smaug was not killed at the end. “But you’ve already read the book…you already know how it ends!” I said. Owen replied, “I know, but still. I wanted to see it for myself.”  Read More

Clothed in Mystery

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After being out of town for a couple weeks, I climbed the stairs to my apartment, dropped my suitcase to the floor, and noticed the light had changed. The sunlight no longer blared with cool blues and purples; it filtered through thin chloroformed leaves leaving fluorescent green slatted across my wood floors.

Even now I write this in the light from my laptop screen. An unchanging, medical light of pure white. My cursor blinks with black insistence to cover the light with words.

When Justinian rebuilt Hagia Sophia, after conquering Istanbul and overthrowing her Islamic rulers, he sought to fill the halls with a holy light. Small windows circle the dome so closely set it appears to be floating. Under the dome, our position is not fixed; we are awash in illusionary light and shadow.

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Is it art?

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There’s an American artist; his name is John Baldessari. In 1973 he mounted two photographs of a pencil on a board. Beneath these photographs is his hand-lettered story of this pencil. So I look at this work and I wonder how it ever made its way into a gallery. It’s certainly no Mona Lisa; it’s definitely no Sistine Ceiling. Is it art? I’m not sure. I suppose if it is art it is because Baldessari causes us to reflect (at least for a moment) on the actual nature of art. Art expresses skill, and art expresses emotion, but art also reflects change. Clay is molded, wood is carved, stone is chiseled, words are arranged, a pencil is sharpened. Something rough is made into something more beautiful, or more useful, or more provocative, or all the above. Art speaks of transformation and sacrifice. Even the dull pencil had to give up something. Did it hurt? Probably. Read More