June 30, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [41]

ivory face

how long did you pose

for laboring hands

to mold

your lithe figure

- 4/27/09

June 27, 2011

Spring Reading [Part 2]


So, I'm going to tell you about a book I didn't actually finish reading. I've always loved the story of Victoria and Albert (the A&E movie is fantastic). For me it is a beautiful picture of a women placed in an incredible position of power- and how she succeeded in balancing that legal role with her holy one of being her husband's help-meet. Yeah, ok. So then somebody gave me this book and at first I was enjoying it- the author's a good writer. I was fascinated to read of the generations leading up to Victoria (her father and his four brothers all had mistresses and illegitimate children and were an awful mix of madness and genius and all of them rogues- no wonder the people loved Victoria and Albert). However around the time Victoria meets Albert the whole book goes down-hill. The author is apparently a flaming feminist (and shows no knowledge of true piety) and chalks all righteous actions up to devious ulterior motives. Albert, for example, could not have been a virgin till his marriage at twenty-one because of his conviction on the subject- but because he must have had homosexual leanings. (Despite, like, Victoria and their nine kids and his life-long devotion to moral integrity. Yeah, right.) Gill admits there is no evidence- but the suggestion is there anyway. Furthermore, she described Victoria's eventual submission to her husband's headship and lead as resulting from Albert having some sort of physiological and sexual power over her. (Eww.) Gill ridiculed all sentiments pure or pious- and psycho (and psycho-sexually) analyzed everything. I'm convinced she studied Freud. I was disgusted. So I put the book down. Maybe it got better. But I'll never know. [NOT RECOMMENDED]


Great Scott, this was an interesting ride. I was poking through my shelves for something to read and found a book of short Russian novels. (When all else fails- you gotta love the Russian novel). First Love begins with a few gentlemen sitting around and deciding to tell the story of their fist love. Only one has anything interesting to tell (hence the resulting novel). And it was certainly interesting. The young laddie falls for the princess, Zinaida, next door who delights in collecting suitors and torturing them with her charm and unobtainable beauty. He and the other suitors alike are lead by a mad passion which allows the princess to make them suffer as much as she likes (they endure not just snubbing and false-leading, but hair-pullings and window-jumpings). The story culminates when the hero discovers his father has been lead into an affair with Zinaida- who has in turn discovered this possessive, permissive love (the young man witnesses the princess allowing his father to beat her). "That's true love," the character comments, "obviously one accepts anything if one really loves." Such was the message of the book. To love is to worship- idolize- and make the object of your devotion's desire your law (over God's), regardless of the moral consequence. How revolting. I have long been of a more Aristotelian mind when it comes to love- to love is to desire someone's highest good. -To desire their happiness (but not at the cost of their righteousness), to want them to have what is best (even if that means not you). I was, at the book's conclusion- reminded of those lovely words of the poet Richard Lovelace, "I could not love thee, dear, so much / Lov'd I not Honor more." [NOT RECOMMENDED]


Persuasion has long been one of my favorite books. It is, I believe, Austen's crowning achievement- and widely recognized as her most mature novel. In no other of her novels do we so fully get inside the heroines head- nor in any of her other works do we find so mature a love. This is due to the fact that the novel begins with love already being established (as opposed to, say, Pride and Prejudice, where I must admit that she never convinces me that Darcy and Lizzy really had a meeting-of-minds, hearts, souls, etc, in their constrained discussions over tea and the weather). Rather conveniently for Austen, we have in Persuasion a love already in full bloom at the beginning of the book (she  is thus spared writing how it happened)- but tortured and repressed. One of my favorite portions is where Anne laments her estrangement from Wentworth, " Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a time, when (...) there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement." Austen does a masterful job of revealing the delicate intricacies of passion, misunderstanding, pride, even forgiveness- and best of all the kind of  biblical, never-failing love that "loves longest, even when all hope (...) is gone." [HIGHLY RECOMMENDED]

June 25, 2011

Spring Reading [Part 1]


While going through church history in Sunday-school, my pastor briefly detailed the life of David Brainerd who was a missionary to the American Indians in the 1740s. Brainerd was a friend of Jonathan Edwards. It was he that compiled Brainerd's writings, wrote the "Life" part, and published the book. (Edward's seventeen-year-old daughter Jerusha Edwards nursed Brainerd in her father's house for the months leading up to his death from tuberculosis in 1747, and died herself from contracting the disease from him a few months later). My pastor lend me a copy (old and red) of The Life and Diary and I must say that all in all I enjoyed it. The book was roughly split into three sections- Edward's biography of him (mildly interesting), Brainerd's spiritual journal (terribly boring- Brainerd was what Edwards called a "melancholy" man and day in and day out he wafted between the depths of despair and spiritual ecstasy). The last portion was Brainerd's writings of his dealings and ministry to the American Indians. This was fascinating! And so uplifting. It was neat to read Brainerd's descriptions and reactions to the indigenous, pagan practices of the tribes (pre-revolution, and still a far-cry from the peace-loving, story-telling, animal-loving fiction promoted by the media). It was also wonderful to read of his preaching and endurance through harsh conditions (and at first reaping no fruit), and then the genuine repentance of individual after individual- and evidence of lives radically changed for Christ. [RECOMMENDED]


So believe it or not, I read the first two  Harry Potter books (and hopefully will have the rest read by mid July). Growing up, we (my family) and then I was one of those people that eschewed Rowling's series as something less than exemplary. (Despite my love for the fantasy works of Tolkien and Lewis- we felt there was a difference.) At any rate my sister watched the movies at college and fell in love with them- and since then those of us of age in my family have been enjoying them as well.  About a week ago I felt like some light reading- so I decided to take the plunge. And yes, I love them. There's no denying they're not high-literature, but regardless Rowling is an absolutely delightful writer. She has an incredible (and ever-surprising) imagination (I really get a kick out of the idea of "every-flavor-beans" and jumping chocolate frogs) and her characters are endearing and full of true feeling and an ultimate desire to do right. So far as the magical elements of the novels go- I have found nothing that gave me pause. I would not, myself- hand them to a twelve-year-old, anymore than I would hand a twelve-year-old Anna Karenina- not because they have anything "bad" in them so much as it deals with themes that a child may find difficult to process. For those of us who know fantasy when we see it- it's a fantastical ride. [RECOMMENDED: for light reading and the high enjoyment of a discerning reader]


Unfortunately my library doesn't have The Idiot on hand (the Dostoevesky novel I'm dying to read)- so I am contenting myself with working through their collection of Dostoevsky's lesser novels. The Friend of the Family was nothing other than boring and torturous. The main character never does anything of consequence (except immortalize the miserable tale) and I found none of the other characters likable. The story is of  how a family is taken incredible advantage of by a wily "fool" (Dostoevsky loves making people play the buffoon) named Foma. Foma takes particular advantage of the generous, large-hearted (though simple) "uncle" in the story- who can't say the simplest thing without the rogue, Foma, (who is living at the uncle's expense in his house), spouting tears and curses  and accusations of ungratefulness, pride, and wickedness (to which the poor uncle is sure Foma must be right and repents of his so-called sins with tears and kisses). Maddening stuff.  The scenes go on for pages and pages. The worst of it is that Foma never gets what he deserves and at the end still has the upper hand on everyone. That really annoyed me. [NOT RECOMMENDED]


The second novel in the book was Netochka Nezvanov. Such a difference! This was the gripping Dostoevsky I know- with all his brilliant understanding of the minute emotions and far-reaching importance of human interaction. One particularly interesting aspect of this story was that it was written in the first person- and I only discovered half-way through that it was a girl. I'm afraid I never really was convinced (I kept thinking the girl would turn out to be a boy) for the character's mind was anything but feminine. (I am glad to know that Dostoevsky got his females under control by the time he wrote The Brothers Karamazov). After following the main character through her abused childhood, her placement in a new home and (rather creepy) infatuation with the family's daughter, and then teen-age years in a psychologically oppressed family- (the story culminates when a revealing letter is found and there is much screaming and dying and fainting and that sort of thing)- suddenly the story stops. So much drama- and no conclusion. I was shocked. I googled to see what the scholarly opinion of the work was and read on wiki that it was only the beginning, barely a prologue, to  Dostoevesky's first and  never finished novel. (Man, thanks a lot, Fyodor.) [RECOMMENDED FOR THOSE WHO DELIGHT IN  MAKING A CASE-STUDY OF DOSTOEVSKY]

NOTE: This post is split into two portions- I read three romances and I found them in interesting contrast to one another so they will make up the second part of this post. 

June 23, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [40]

 Guest Gogyohka by Peter Fiore. (Ok, so, obviously I seem to be making a habit of this...hmm...  IDEA IN INCUBATION! I'll keep you posted.)


lined up in a row-

baker asks,

"What would you like?"


June 22, 2011

God in the Car

I remember my first day of college. I was nervous, probably late, and up at six. It was still dark outside. I was anxious to see the patches of road which I knew would all too soon grow familiar as day after day I would pass by them,  pass time by them, and even keep time by them.

The route was unfamiliar to me, and when I at last got through back roads and made it to the highway the entrance ramp brought to me up to a stretch of road overlooking a great expanse below. Mountains vaulting before me, behind me, and in the distant sky. The rising sun was dying the clouds a misty violet- highlighting them in brilliant gold- and rays were shooting down into the valley casting deep purple shadows. The beauty caught my breath and brought tears to my eyes. This is what I'd see every morning. Thank you, God.

Such gifts of beauty have been frequent in my many excursions. I've known sunny days so delightful- with the wind in my face and music playing in my ears and the sweet taste of freedom in my mouth- that made me so happy I thought I could burst. And I've known days driven in torrents- when the rain came down so hard and the roads were so slick or the snow so deep that I felt first terror- and then a surrender taking over my soul as I sensed the fragility of life and the safety of my Father's loving arms.

I remember once I was driving home on a wet day and I came to a blind T- where there should have been a traffic light (I have since rerouted to avoid that turn) and where parked cars made it difficult to see oncoming traffic. I took the turn quickly to take advantage of what visibility I had at the moment, and the back of the car slid out. Back and forth the car s-curved... I felt my blood chill within me as I felt what could have happened if there had been a bit more momentum or if anything- or anyone- had been nearby.

Such narrow escapes always leave me with a breathless, numb feeling- like I cheated death- or tested God- or made my angels work hard. The panicy feeling doesn't subside till tears come- usually hours later.

In one of my classes this last semester we had a session where we interviewed a fellow classmate to see how they dealt with stress. The guy I talked to said one of the things he did was drive- and drive fast. At the time it struck me as slightly odd- driving fast is rather equivalent to courting death- and as thrilling as that may be I've had enough thrill unasked for keep me content and loving life dearly. But I have since discovered that driving does have an amazingly therapeutic effect on me.

I have come to the conclusion that the calm which a car creates in me is caused by some sort of habitual, happy, anticipatory nostalgia which it instantly induces. I don't always see beauty when I drive- I don't always go anywhere- half the time I leave the music off- but I am instantly aware as soon as I get into a car that I am delightfully alone- in a singular sort of way. The rumble of the car seems one with my own heart-beat- constant and comforting. And in the isolation that the four walls provide- the windows, moving panoramas looking out into the word- it's just me and my thoughts.

In the world but not quite. Alone but not quite. For it's in the car that I see and feel evidence of God all around me- His hand in the things I pass and in each safe turn I make... and though I can recall many drives spent in ceaseless prayer- I have also known the quiet assurance that though I drove and drove and never thought a thought- or said a word- He was still there and listening anyway.

Thank you for the sunrise. Thank you for keeping me safe. And thanks for listening.

June 16, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [39]

Usually the picture 

goes with the poem

but today we devote five lines

to wringing more use

out of this expensive photo

June 14, 2011

Amazing Love

There are trials in everyone's life. The Word tells us that they are instruments for our perfection. I don't know if I write transparently enough for you to tell, but I have been for some time amidst just such a trial, that has for the last month left me numb- and only recently culminated in healing pain.

Particulars do not belong to public writing. But I would like to share with you my thankfulness for those people God has blessed me with. I am so thankful for my sisters in the Lord- who have affirmed me, sent me hugs (through cyberspace), prayed for me, and cried with me. And I am thankful for my mother- who can tell my mood and state from a glance, and feels pain as I feel pain.

For the last five days I have been pretty sick to-boot (I see now that this too was God's blessing). First it was a cold- then a fever- then a cold again, sore throat, nose, headache and all- and then added to it I got an eye-infection and  have been nauseous for the last  48-hours (from nerves and coughing). Due to the latter this weekend I had barely eaten lunch and completely skipped dinner and so my mother took me out of the house to eat.

It was ten o'clock. Dogs were howling in the night and beginnings of rain rustled the trees. We went to our favorite diner- where she was so patient with me as I took about a half hour to pick something to eat. Everything sounded bad to my upset and knotted stomach. We poured over the menu- and at last ordered hyper a-la-carte: Roasted potatoes, cottage cheese, apple sauce, and egg whites. I barely picked at it (though I did drink lots of coke- you know that stuff was originally a stomach syrup), but just being out with her was wonderfully comforting.

So yes. I am thankful for my mother. And thankful for my sisters. But most of all I find myself incredibly thankful to God. 

I wasn't expecting that. Usually when I hit a storm I do a lot of why?-ing, (that is, whining). But through this I have found myself drawn incredibly closer. I have been overwhelmed, overpowered, and overshadowed by an incredible sense of his love for me. It's ironic because God's love is something I've always struggled with- and so I see a priceless purpose even amidst my pain.

I know a God who's love is unchanging, who knows everything I've ever wanted someone to know- who doesn't leave. Who says that he, "guards our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus"- who IS love- that always hopes, endures, forgives, and never fails. (And this is love- that he loved us and sent His son). 
Oh Lord-God, thank you for your love. I trust you a thousand times over.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. - Psalm 139, 5-6

June 9, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [38]

driving with my brother

giggling, singing

talking heart-to-heart

we miss our exit


June 6, 2011


I first began rethinking friendship about this time a year ago. This was brought on when I found my heart being drawn towards several girlfriends whom I never expected to be close to, and this made me stop and think. 

Up until that point I had unconsciously divided my friends into two groups: those I was drawn to, and those drawn to me. In other words- there were the people who I found intriguing- and the people who wanted to be my friends and I could do nothing about.

Yet I found about a year ago that simultaneously I had learned two lessons. On the one hand was a girl I really really liked. Yet whenever we saw each other (despite my efforts) we never had a single conversation. What sort of friend was that? A friend that could write me a letter- but not say hi over the lunch table? On the other hand was a girl- who I genuinely liked- but didn't immediately feel a connection with. Yet she constantly sent me notes of encouragement- prayed for me- and made a point of spending time with me. And I found (last summer) that her persistent love for me won my heart.

Perhaps then it isn't who we love- but who loves us? Isn't there a verse... "We love him because he first loved us, and this is love that he loved us and sent his son." Perhaps love begets love.

This past week I spent twenty-four hours with my dear friend Katherine. I drove nearly two hours to be with her- with my typical inability to read maps getting me lost four or five times. (The irony of it was when the music started singing, "I knew the pathway like the back of my hand...") We took a walk  along the country road under the brilliant blue sky, the spring wind playing with our hair. We stuck our feet in the creek- took a walk, talked, talked, watched movies, and talked some more. Midnight found us still talking- on our backs next to each other- our feet up on the wall.

It'd been a long time since we'd had so much time together. There was a curious nostalgia in the air- remembering when we were new friends- scarcely fourteen- and we went camping together and had spent the day under the very same sun- talking, talking, talking. We had argued. She had stormed off. Those years were hard- we had some enormous differences between us.

"I think we'll always be friends." she said at last the other night.

"Are you kidding? I didn't see you for two years and I prayed for you every single day. I can never forget you."

What is it about some people? How do they do it? People have different ways of expressing love (in quality time, encouragement, service, etc)- but I think it is something in that expression that separates true friends  from mere acquaintances. Perhaps it is the continual expression of love- regardless of disagreement or unpleasant circumstances- that builds trust and knits hearts together.

We fought and we worked it out. We were separated and you didn't forget. I was in sin and you called me out. I was heart-broken and you comforted me. I was discouraged and you pointed me to God. I pushed you away- and you didn't let me go. I was at my worst- and you didn't leave.

True friendship patterns itself after the love of Christ.  There is a giving of oneself- even when the other person is being unlovable. We choose to love. Love is an action. I can't tell you how many people have been just that sort of friend to me. They inspire me to be a better friend myself.

Friends are not the people I've known the longest, or have the most in common with, or have the best conversations with. My friends are those who by their sacrificial love have dug themselves so deep into my heart that I can never, ever, forget them.

And so for each of you who have been a true friend to me, I thank God for you. Bless you a thousand times over.

June 2, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [37]

The Canadian Goose turned away,

affronted, when I threw him a nut.

Then I read the park sign:


Literate, law-abiding goosie.