Sunday, January 14, 2007

Iced over

This is a tree in our backyard.

Apparently I should have left for school Friday, since it was the last nice day for a bit. Since yesterday, and supposedly on through Monday and maybe even Tuesday, the roads I must traverse are coated with ice. "Light freezing rains expected," the forecasts say. Ah well. My first class is Tuesday, and I only have several hours to drive, but I expect professors will be merciful to students who must miss a day or two.

At the moment, it's not entirely unpleasant to be housebound. The pine needles encased in silvery ice are enchanting, especially seen from
our snug little house. And I think I see a few dusty flakes blowing about...

"That's all the better. Means we shan't have any visitors"
~Mr Beaver~

I'm sure that would suit Bella here. Our fat feline is rather possessive of this coveted fireside chair, which she only shares grudgingly with many a pained "Muuuuueoooow." See how suspiciously she eyes you, even as we speak. Beware, she can have a bit of a sulky temper.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A poet who plays guitar

My older brother, Sam, recently introduced me to a wonderful musician named Andrew Peterson. For Christmas he gave me Love and Thunder, from whence came my quotes of the last few posts, and which I've been listening to and humming repeatedly without tiring. He reminds me a bit of Chris Rice, rather acoustic with some of the deeper lyrics I've heard in a while. He's a fan of Lewis and Tolkien too, which he hints at in some songs. If you feel so inclined, you may legally listen to his album, A Far Country, which he has posted on his website. I especially recommend "Little Boy Heart Alive" and "Heavens Grey" to my Inkling-loving readers, but all the songs are good. "Lay Me Down" is a great example of his ballad-type songs.

*Note: The above picture is from cover art for A Far Country, courtesy of

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A few of my Favorite Things

(Addendum to last post: I finished the book a few days ago. Don't read Beyond the Summerlands if you hate surprise endings. This one is rather upsetting, though once you know to look, you can almost see it coming. I still want to know what happens, and if the writing improves, but I don't think I will now, or for a while. I'd rather spend my gift cards on classics, Lewis, Peter Kreeft, or John Piper. As long as I decide before I use it all on coffee in the Cafe.)

Today, for lack of premeditated profundity, I'm writing about some things I'm thankful for.

My dear Daddy
The other night he took me out to eat, but better than the delicious coconut shrimp dipped in raspberry sauce was spending time with my daddy. We talked about lots of things, like changes in life, work, writing, the oddities of English classes, the oddities of people's hair, and the mysterious tiny forks (one was brought out on my plate, caught in the very act of impaling a hapless lemon slice). It was a good time. Girls, if I can be a bossy sister for a minute, I implore you to spend time with your dad. Be his little girl, and let him know it, and seek his advice. Not only is it right and beautiful to God when we honor our parents so, but it's also great practice for when we get married. You know they tell girls to watch how guys treat their mothers? I think the converse advice is also telling. I know I'm not the perfect daughter, Daddy, but I'm working on it. You are so dear to me.

I'm finishing a skirt I started a while ago, and it's turning out nicely. Since I'm not an experienced seamstress, it's usually a toss-up if clothes I sew will fit or not. Most often they bulge, gape, or constrict someplace, and some have done all three. But this is a simple skirt, with a nice busy pattern to distract from minor flaws ;), and all I have left is the hem and some hand-stitching. Since I finished a scarf earlier, around Christmas, I haven't done much besides read, write, and do dishes. Which all needed doing, and had varying levels of worth attacked. But there's something about handwork that gives more satisfaction than staring at a page or screen. Washing dishes may be a distant relative, since that's doing something with your hands, and bringing order to chaos. But making dishes would be more fun. I know, in our busy culture it's not many who have time (or would want) to make all their own clothes, build their own house, and grow their own food. But I hope we don't forget the value of working with our hands to make useful and/or beautiful things. And by value I mean a sort one can't find at Wal-Mart. So I'm thankful God gave me hands, and work to do with them.

I've started Jane Eyre, and so far it's quite good. Rather dreary, as it's a Romantic novel, and perhaps even Gothic. So far, poor Jane has had a miserable childhood, living with a mean aunt and cruel cousins, and now she's just arrived at a charity school for orphans. I've only heard a bit about it, and don't know much of the story at all. Last semester I was given a horrified look when a 19th century British Lit classmate heard my confession of not having read it yet. I may have to finish it amid many other books, though, as the re-advent of homework is only days away. I also need to finish North and South by Elisabeth Gaskell, which I had to abandon during last semester, alas. But it's so comforting to know many good classics await me, patiently. They don't get flustered and fall to dust when flighty folks overlook them and snatch instead new thrillers and popular-for-a-month paperbacks. They know none of those will keep in bondage people hungry for good meat. Maybe it's the difference between whole wheat bread and the white bread fluff. One might go down easier, without as much chewing, but for those who want more nutrition, fiber, and lasting goodness, the sort that needs chewing is chewed with pleasure.

*Note: The above picture is called "Northwest Passage," by John Everett Millais, a Pre-Raphaelite painter

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Catch-up Post VI: Summerland Revisited

Friday night

I’m re-reading this book. It’s the first book of a fantasy series written by a Christian, which I heard about in World Magazine a few years ago. It had an interesting plot, but at the time it was the only book of the series out. Since then there have been two more written, but money and time to read never seemed to collide. I hate starting a decent series and not finishing it, so when I received several sizable Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas, I decided to catch up. I’ve ordered the next two, but figured I should re-read the first one to reminding myself of the characters, plot, and world. It’s been a bit disappointing so far. The author, Graham, is only about thirty-six, so maybe his writing will get better. Stephen Lawhead’s did. But I have found myself criticizing him on many points of his writing. The painful thing is that I most likely have some of the exact same problems. To be fair, let me mention some pros and cons I’ve noticed so far:

-Interesting fantasy elements, like “slow time” and the eerie Malekim
-Interesting place known as the Summerlands, where all the future young leaders meet every seven years to train, learn, and form bonds that later help unify the Assembly.
-Christian, with good theology as far as I can tell
-Admirable main character
-Respected authority figures
-Interestingly applicable thoughts on guy’s responsibilities to girls (protecting, not pursuing except for marriage)
-Relationships aren’t killed by too much action
-One of the semi-main characters is mui cool. He has a tiger, who’s his “battle brother,” and they share a close bond. And he also has a mysterious past. What could be better?

-Graham is a bit wordy, in my opinion. If half the length was cut and much condensed, it would be much better. I’m not against long books, but this is pretty rambly.
-A bit heavy on the romantic stuff. Nothing bad, as far as I recall, but it seems like that stuff’s half the plot. Ugh.
-Run-on sentences and many oddly placed commas.
-I can’t find any good quotes. This makes me sad, as it’s one way I tend to judge a book’s worth. I know a book can still be good as a whole story, but chewable quality pith is what makes returns joyous.

Despite the problems I feel so guilty about finding, I’m doggedly slogging through. I think things do get more exciting about the middle. It would be nice if it didn’t take 300 pages to get there. But I feel a burden to read it. For one, since it’s in the precise genre of what I want to write (and written from a clearly Christian perspective), I have the selfish motive of spying out my competition and predecessors. Also, as my mom reminded me, I’m supporting a fellow Christian writing fantasy. I do have the gnawing suspicion that by the time I actually finish a book, what I once saw as an empty vacuum will be crowded by dozens of Tolkien/Lewis wannabes. Sigh.

I do have a question I’m dying to ask Tolkien. What might be his view on all these different fantasy writers? Is it good to have so many varied worlds being built? Should Christian fantasy writers try to be as different as possible in their inventions, or is that just creating further chaos? Maybe it’s not as simple as that. Tolkien and Lewis wrote quite differently, and invented quite different worlds, but they are simultaneously wonderful in their own ways. Maybe I need to be more focused on being creative and writing well for God. As much as I love my Inkling heroes, I need to give up aspirations of being the first true woman Lewis/Tolkien. It would be all for the best. Right?

Some dreams die hard.

But some things endure, as the end of Andrew Peterson’s song reminds me.

Long after we are dead and gone
A thousand years our tale be sung
How faith compelled and bore us on
How barren Sarah bore a son
So come to Canaan, come

Where westward sails the golden sun
And Hebron’s hills are amber crowned
Oh, Sarah, take me by my arm
Tomorrow we are Canaan bound

~Andrew Peterson~

Catch-up Post V: Wallago

Friday afternoon

Does anyone else know the wonderful word “wallago”? For example, I might say, “Wallago I heard a siren,” or “I loaded the dishes wallago.” I myself may be too young to use this special word with ease, but just today I noticed it being used handily by certain beloved older folks. It’s related to such words as “maters” (the red fruit, not the truck), and the more common “taters.” I pity people who can’t be around parents and grandparents often. They miss the joys of knowing precisely what the older people will say, with exact phrasing and word usage, before they finish their sentences. They miss the joys of those oddest of words like ochree, and the phrases like “I was so tickled when...”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Catch-up Post IV: Love and Thunder


I trembled at the voice of God
A voice of love and thunder deep
With love He means to save us all
And Love has chosen you and me

~Andrew Peterson~

I’m going to try to read my Bible through in a year. I’ve never done it, though I’ve tried a few times. But I haven’t read many non-favorite books in so long (i.e., anything besides Psalms and a few short New Testament books) that I think this discipline will be exciting and much-needed. So far I’ve kept up faithfully for six days. Once school starts, 'twill be much more difficult, but I shall pray for grace. Here’s an excerpt from my journal entry today:

Today’s reading is exciting stuff! Abram and Lot come back from Egypt, Abram lets Lot choose land (that seems better, but it’s full of bad folks) because “there was strife” between their herdsmen. Then God makes another promise, or rather He expounds on the one He made before, promising him all the lands he could see and descendents as many as the dust. Then we have some battles and action, because several kings of those parts attack some other kings, and Abram’s nephew Lot is carried off. (Oh, one attacking king was Arioch, king of Ellasar…) But some fellow escapes to tell Abram, who takes his 318 fighting men out and attacks the attackers. They win, of course. I think it’s great that we’re told the precise number of fighters, and not a rounded number. These men were not forgotten, and later when Abram refuses to take any spoils for himself, he qualifies it with:

“I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me.”

~Genesis 14:24a~

And this last may have been referring to his allies. This is also where Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, shows up. And Abram gives him a tenth of everything, our first example of tithing. I know he was rich, but that part still impresses me with how much he trusted the Lord. So everything seems wonderful, and God tells Abram in a vision that He is his shield and his reward will be great. But here we see what Abram really wants: a son. After the glorious victory, even after an act of faith in God with his possessions, he still was depressed. Is this a lack of faith that the Lord really would give him descendents? Or is it just humble, human questioning? Whichever it is, it’s followed by God Himself making a covenant with Abram. The thrilling part that struck me this reading is this:

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.

~Genesis 15:13~

It’s a bit of the “love and thunder from Andrew Peterson, a glimpse of the wildness of Lewis’ Untame Lion. Maybe it also carries hints of the “kabod,” the glory of the Lord that some Boundless articles lately have suggested we don’t think of much or take seriously. And it finally reminds me very much of Till We Have Faces, and the fearful beauty that must be hid in darkness. For to behold it truly, now, would mean death.

Catch-up Post III: Quotes

Thursday night

Like the stars across the heavens flung
Like water in the desert sprung
Like the grains of sand, our many sons
Oh, Sarah, fair and barren one
Come to Canaan, come
~Andrew Peterson

How’s about me digging up a little something from me quote book? I’ve been feeling rather Lewis-ish (Don’t you love using words like that, like Tolkien-esque, and Hichcock-ian?), so here are a few from That Hideous Strength. I read the Space Trilogy again this summer, and find myself disliking THS a little less each time I read it. It was the same listening to A Tale of Two Cities. Those classics do grow on one. Anyway, here are a few bits I noted. First a serious one:

The name me was the name of a being whose existence she had never suspected, a being that did not yet fully exist, but which was demanded. It was a person (not the person she had thought), yet also a thing, a made thing, made to please Another and in Him to please all others, a thing being made at this very moment, without its choice, in a shape it had never dreamed of. ~C.S. Lewis~

I like that one. Not many of us like being thought of as things, I fancy, but we’re so used to ideas of people’s rights to themselves and the glory of personal freedom that maybe it strikes at us from a new angle to be thought of as a thing, “a made thing.” And it’s also good to be reminded that the person I am meant to be, the real me, is only beginning to be made. What a relief I’m not all there is of me! I’ve been rather worried lately that I’m not all here, but now it only makes sense. ;)

“The cardinal difficulty,” said MacPhee, “in collaboration between the sexes is that women speak a language without nouns. If two men are doing a bit of work, one will say to the other, ‘Put this bowl inside the bigger bowl which you’ll find on the top shelf of the green cupboard.’ The female for this is, ‘Put that in the other one in there.’ And then if you ask them, ‘in where?’ they say, ‘in there, of course.’” ~C.S. Lewis~

Now, who hasn’t seen how true this is?

Catch-up Post II: Movie night with vegetables

Thursday morning

So bid your troubled heart be still
The grass, they say, is soft and green
The trees are tall and honey-filled
So, Sarah, come and walk with me

~Andrew Peterson~

At the library last night I found three Hitchcock’s, one Gaskell, and a new Veggie Tale! I say new, but I suppose it’s growing rather oldish. One trial of having brothers grow up is that I have to invent excuses to purchase new episodes of my heroes, Bob and Larry. I manage, but still can’t keep up. This was one I still hadn’t seen, called Sheerluch Holmes and the Golden Ruler. My mom and Whit watched it with me last night, and had quite a blast. Whit is such a sweet young lad. He’s my youngest brother, but we have quite a bit in common, and he’s not too old at thirteen to do things with his “little” big sister. Anyway, this episode contained two hilarious stories and a very silly song about a gated community. The Veggie commentary was also quite hilarious, though not as much as on Lord of the Beans. I heartily give many stars to this one.

(This may have been me durring the film. I'm telling you, those stories were intense...Ok, I was cracking up most of the time. But this little lass expresses my general admiration for my veggie friends and their fantastic yarns.)

Catch-up Post I: Dreams, Dots, and DVDs

Note: Our internet went out for a bit. I fancy it went for a vacation or to visit relatives, don’t you? Where else could it have gone to? Anyway, it’s back, so today I'm posting the thoughts I’ve saved up from the last few days. I’ve posted them in the order I wrote them, with the newest at the top. Does anyone else ever have the nagging feeling that blogs are upside down, and new posts should go to the bottom? That’s the order we write, anyways...


Sarah, take me by the arm
Tomorrow we are Canaan bound
Where westward sails the golden sun
And Hebron’s hills are amber crowned

~Andrew Peterson~

I had the oddest dream last night. Either we were in heaven, or somewhere similarly unimaginably wondrous and nice. One could paint in the air with one’s finger, regardless of normal artistic ability, and go right into pictures with more ease than Bert, Jane, Michael and Mary Poppins. Dimensional barriers were only as thick as water. I wish I could remember more.

I found some more classics to chew on at a little used bookstore today, many for a dollar each, and a fine-looking scholarly Tolkien book to add to my collection. The “Friends of the Library Bookstore” is only open Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 9-noon, so the hunting was not as long as I would have wished. Amazon or are easy ways to search methodically when a certain book is needed. But what can beat the excitement of pulling an unexpected tome from a dusty shelf, recalling how “I always meant to read this,” or exclaiming you'd found “Another by that one author who was so wonderful!” and then, wonder of wonders, you find it bears, in the top-left corner of the cover, the special Orange Dot of one-dollar-ness?

If I can pull myself away from the thick fantasy book I’m reading (which shall NOT be before finishing my deliciously warming mug of chai tea) I’ll go visit the library and raid its DVDs. And run to Wal-Mart for my mom. (I should say “on behalf of my mom,” for the items to be purchased are more along the lines of milk and bread.) The new one on the south side is so much less crowded, and the floor layout is exactly like the new one in Abilene. I don’t want to budge, for I’m sitting by the fire and it’s beyond cozy, but then, there may be some good old Hitchcock’s or the Gaskell films just waiting…

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nasty snakes, tasty fruits, and bookses, precious!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Since I haven’t blogged in a bit, I’ve been hankering to get back to it. I have no great stirring thought planned out to expound upon, so until such a thought comes, here are some quotes and small musings.

“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

Satan does have a habit of twisting truth, doesn’t he? We were already as much like God as He meant us to be then, made in His own image and likeness, set to rule all the critters, given a wonderful garden to work in and yummy fruit of every sort!

Have you ever seen a loaded fruit tree? Have you seen a treefull of plums, or apples, or fuzzy peaches weighing down their branches in anticipation of being eaten?

I do wonder, though…They had permission to eat from the Tree of Life. Why didn’t they? If they did, would everything have been good, as it was with the Green Lady of Perelandra after refusing to sleep on the Fixed Land? Such musings are rather pointless, I suppose. A practical lesson for me here is to believe and remember what God says, and shun the nasty snake’s lies. Or maybe run away when I first hear his slitherings. I remember a Bible teacher pointing out how progressive sin is, starting not with visible acts, but with seemingly innocent choices and thoughts. God help me, it’s such a burden!

Ach, this leads to a poem by Christina Rossetti:

“Who Shall Deliver Me?”

God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?

If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run ! Death runs apace.

If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice

Who craves for ease and rest and joys

Myself, arch-traitor to myself ;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free


(And yes, I may be as addicted to using other people’s pictures as their quotes.)

Hm, ought I now blog upon the current life and times of Lady Rael, i.e. Hobbitgirl, sometimes known as Eleanor Baggins? Methinks it be sometimes dull. But I suppose that’s my flighty restless Tookishness speaking. For a Baggins my life is quite lively enough, thank you indeed! We had a hobbit hole full of Big Folk for Christmas, with all five of my brothers here. Now one is back in Iowa, one is busy with his social life, several come back and forth from my dad’s house a couple of miles away, and things are much quieter. The computer is much played, snacks much et, and the beds much warmed. I have a theory that winter is supposed to be a time of sleep and food. The bears have it down.

I have been doing a good bit of reading and listening to books on tape. I’m currently reading Till We Have Faces, which I’ve heard is one of C.S. Lewis’ oddest, but possibly most excellent books. I’m taking a class on the great Inkling this Spring, something I never thought would happen. If only my school had a Tolkien class, also! Though, in my Monster and it’s Critics class I think we’re reading a bit of that fellow. Sometimes I wonder why I’m allowed to spend so much school time doing what I love so much, except for in those horridly frightening moments when I never want to look at another page or type another word again. But I mustn’t let the last scare me. By this time next year it shall be over, and I won’t have to ever again read “for school.” None of this grad school stuff for me at present. Unless God tells me otherwise, I plan to gracefully finish my time as college student and come make this little house a cozy hobbit hole for my mom and brothers, write my books, and wait for my brave Samwise. If he must go to Mt. Doom and back, he’ll only be better and stronger for it, so I must be as patient as Rosie and do my own work.

I meant to post this earlier, but needed to get pictures from my laptop and put it off. I’ve been reading all day, and just finished my book. It’s left me quite speechless. I’ll have to digest and read it multiple more times before I can discuss it sanely, but I can give the basic plot and some quotes. It’s a re-telling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, but more than that it’s about Orual, Psyche’s ugly sister who is angry with the gods. I can’t give out my favorite quotes yet, the humbling triumphant ones, because I want you to find them yourself. But here is a quote expressing the pith of most of the book. It’s all written in first-person from Orual’s viewpoint, and here is the accusation she makes against the gods:

“I say the gods deal very unrightly with us. For they will neither (which would be best of all) go away and leave us to live our own short days to ourselves, nor will they show themselves openly and tell us what they would have us do. For that too would be unendurable. But to hint and hover, to draw near us in dreams and oracles, or in a waking vision that vanishes as soon as seen, to be dead silent when we question them and then glide back and whisper (words we cannot understand) in our ears when we most wish to be free of them, and to show to one what they hide from another; what is all this but cat-and-mouse play, blindman’s bluff, and mere jugglery? Why must holy places be dark places?” (Till We Have Faces, page 249)

Such is her charge, bitter as the most pained heart ever to ask God “Why?” And she is answered, but you must read how and what the answer is for yourself.

Peter Kreeft did a talk on this book, which I must listen too again now. It’s on his website. I confess, I listened to it before I quite read the book a while back, but have forgotten it except that it was even then excellent.