Finding the Art in Everything

30 September, 2008

French Fete

I am really excited about my birthday this weekend. I'm hosting a French wine tasting, which promises to be a night filled with cheesy berets, eyeliner mustaches, and something other than Chianti (my obsessive favorite).

Here are the beautiful invitations and envelopes my friend Melissa made for the event:

29 September, 2008

The Trouble with August

I was thinking about this idea of "seasons" as I was comforting a struggling friend. Seasons are important to the grieving because Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes that everything has its own season, and that God makes everything beautiful in His time. In trying times, sometimes Peace flows from these, sometimes not.

Annie Dillard wonders in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek "Assuming you hadn't noticed any orderly progression of heavenly bodies, how long would you have to live on earth before you could feel with any assurance that any one particular long period of cold would, in fact, end?" That the cold might not end poses two horrors: the death and dormancy a "permanent cold" would bring, and what Dillard calls "the horror of the fixed...which assails us with the tremendous force of its mindlessness." Those of us in any kind of transition long for something fixed and stable, but Dillard compares the fixed not to a firm foundation, but to a Mason jar in which the class-project moth dies because it can't beat the glass open with its wings.

So it's not in the movement from cold to warmth in which redemption is found--it's in the movement itself. And natural order is one of constant movement. God promises in Genesis to the early people that neither the seasons nor day and night shall cease. But the rhythm of seasonal change, no matter how comfortable, would become another Mason jar. That's why we were given unreliable weather.

Dillard points out, "What we think of weather and behavior of life on the planet at any given moment is really all a matter of statistical probabilities; at any given point, anything might happen. There's a bit of every season in each season. The calendar, the weather, and the behavior of wild creatures overlap smoothly for only a few weeks and then it all tangles up again."

In Minnesota, there is special appreciation for summer because everyone knows winter is right around the corner. For the last couple of years, I've been reckoning with this practical agnosticism that believes God can but doesn't think he would. Florida poses a problem for me because I generally live without this extreme, natural reminder that the order of the universe is one of constant change. How long will I have to live here before I can feel, with any assurance, that this one, particular, long period of heat will, in fact, end? In Isaiah, God tells his people He is "doing a new thing" and asks "Can you not feel it? Can you not perceive it?"

No. I cannot. The subtleties of holy change--the green bud poking through the snow, the first yellowing of August leaves--are washed out by the fixed heat and glare of the Florida sunshine.

14 September, 2008

Not a Stalker, but...

This is my set list from the Inkwell show on Thursday night. At the end of the show, we went to go say hello to the band. The frontman gave it to me, right after I asked him to play a song that makes him miserable--at which point I would have stopped talking to me. He was so personable, and I liked him so much, that the details he shared about his upcoming album made me so excited for him--almost proud of him? I wanted to be his friend.

I felt this way when we saw Billy Collins' reading at Rollins on Tuesday:

I get this urge to be friends with people whom I have no business claiming all the time. And I think it is caused by three things:

First, I really appreciate people who are at the top of their craft--its inspiring. As a teacher, I live to be part of the small accomplishments of my students--I am proud when they excel even beyond what would be a return on my investment. When someone is THIS good at what they are doing, I am that much more eager to be part of it and think I should be because of my routine, small-scale opportunities.

Second, there is that urge to hang on and prolong the extraordinary moments. I have come across this image of "manna" several times this week. I want to be friends with these people because they seem so great, and I feel like I have space for them. But real people are not as great as stage people, nor do they have the space for me. Trying to hang on to the people I find in these shows and performances would spoil in the way that manna did. It's the familiar paradox that what is most worth keeping can rarely be kept.

Third, there is the trill of seeing THE person who MADE the THING that means so much to me. I was this way with the songs and the poems. And seeing these performances live, the reading or the rock show, puts me in the same moment as the person who is making the thing that means so much to me. It meant something to the performer enough to create the song or poem, it meant enough to me to go to see it performed live, and now it means something because the performance makes for a shared, meaningful experience. And somehow I think this shared meaning ought to be enough to make me friends with Kevin Devine, Andy Hull, Travis Adams, Billy Collins, and the rest.

And, yes. I know that telling them that makes me sound like their stalker.

So if you are in one of these places with me, and I start to tell whomever we just saw that they were destined to be my friend (or marry me), please point out my drink is empty and that it is time for a refill.

13 September, 2008

Because Jen Does

An interactive birthday list: