The Pensive Gargoyle

December 9, 2010, 8:44 PM
Filed under: Life

 “The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I logged in today, ready and eager to start writing again, I came face to face with the unpublished post below, a post I had begun last June, a post that was written from deep within my own personal abyss.  The thing about an abyss is when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t realize how dark it really is:

With my chin resting on my curled up knees, I sat naked and shivering as the scalding jet of water from the bathtub faucet gushed violently over my toes.  By the time the water climbed up to my ankles, my feet were crimson red and looked like two lobsters submerged in a boiling pot, making my legs look even paler in the stark bathroom light.  Waiting to feel something, I slowly turned the icy faucet knob to make the water hotter.  Soon, the current circled around my calves, then crept up toward my knees.  Savage steam hovered above the torrid cauldron of a bathtub, clouding the mirrors and hiding my reflection.  Disappearing in the fog, desperate to feel something, I reached to turn the bitter faucet knob to make the water hotter, but the knob stubbornly refused to move.  I had reached the limit: the water was as hot as it could go, yet still not hot enough to make me feel, to make me hurt.  And all I wanted was to hurt because when you hurt, you’re not numb; when you hurt, at least you know you’re alive.  And sitting there, poaching in my bathtub, I wasn’t sure if I was.  I’m still not sure I am.

Today, though, having emerged from the darkness and the shadows, I’m sure.  Alive—that’s what I am.  Today, I walk back through the gate of this blog anxious to see where it leads me, and amazed at the path that has led me here.  Perhaps you wondered if I’d fallen off the face of the earth.  Perhaps you didn’t even know I was gone.  But I was. I was long gone.  I was in the middle of a dark, dark abyss, tinkering on the brink of destruction.  But now, now I’m back.  And I’m alive.  Wildly alive.  Exuberantly alive.  Life is no longer an abyss, but a world full of gates, full of opportunities, full of wonder.  Full of hope.


Water, water everywhere . . .
May 30, 2010, 10:48 AM
Filed under: Pray-Fast-Give

If you are not as close to God as you used to be, who moved? — Anonymous

For Saturday, May 29:

  • Fast from blaming God for your spiritual distance.
  • Pray using a new way to communicate with God today.
  • Give by reaching out to someone with whom you’ve fallen out of contact.

I know it’s here somewhere . . . It has to be here somewhereEt voilà, there it is: Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire. I reached for it, and whoooosh: with one hardy exhale, the gossamer veil of dust that covered the book’s black jacket whirled and danced in the air like dandelion seeds in the wind.

“We reach for God in many ways.  Through our sculptures and our Scriptures.  Through our pictures and our prayers.  Through our writing and our worship.  And though them, He reaches for us . . . Our search for God and his search for us meet at windows in our everyday experience.  These are windows of the soul.”

Since today’s challenge called for praying using a new way of communicating with God, I reached for this book to remind me of all the unique forms of communion with Him.  Flipping through the pages, I skimmed all the “windows”: Windows of Poetry. Windows of Dreams.  Windows of Moves, Scripture, Writing and Art.  And then I found the one that resonated with me the most today:  Windows of Tears.  So, I echo what I unwittingly alluded to yesterday: as the rain taps a window pane during a storm, so my tears tap at the Window of my Soul, a prayer pleading for God to meet me, to hear me, to help me.  And as grapes are crushed to make wine and grain is crushed to make bread, may the tears that come from the experiences that crush my soul bring me closer to Him.

After reading through the book, I serendipitously turned to the inside cover.  “There is so much more to you than you know,” whispered the inscription in Amber’s familiar handwriting.  Ours has always been a friendship whose waters run deep: at times, they hide below the surface of our everyday lives like water in an untapped aquifer, and at others, they spring forth like a geyser full of joy.  Lately, it’s been more of the former rather than the latter.  So, in addition to reaching for this book and reaching out to God in a new way, I also reach out to Amber with hopes that the waters of our friendship will bubble up once again.  Amber, here’s to Monday!  🙂

May 26, 2010, 8:28 PM
Filed under: Pray-Fast-Give

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. — Albert Einstein”

For Wednesday, May 26:

  • Fast from rushing through your day without noticing the beauty around you.
  • Pray that God might show you something beautiful that you hadn’t noticed before.
  • Give some time to enjoy a piece of art or a nature scene.

Everyone’s heard that beauty’s in the eye of the beholder.  But, honestly, some things are undeniably beautiful.  Standing on the edge of a rugged cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Big Sur and Monterey, California, I can’t imagine someone NOT being in awe of the powerful, foaming waves crashing against the rocks below.  Walking along a clear stream at the base of a majestic mountain, the rocks and trees dusted with newly fallen snow and the air so crisp that it awakens your lungs, who wouldn’t be moved?  It’s easy to find beauty in the beautiful.  It’s much harder to find beauty in the mundane or in the ordinary, much less in disappointment or tribulation.

Today had the potential to be the perfect late spring day.  A quick stroll down the street to my parent’s house, a new CD for my commute, a light schedule at work, and the anticipation of a long lunch date all had me feeling good this morning.  I was eager to see the beauty around me.  I expected to see beauty around me.  I expected the day to be great.  And it was—the two ducks that wander into our garden from the pond seemed extra quacky, the flowers outside were extra perky, and I had an extra spring in my step.

Around 10 o’clock, I had just settled into my morning’s work when I was summoned to the front office.  I’m getting the good news I’ve been waiting for!  What an awesome day! But it wasn’t good news.  Something I’d expected, something I thought I deserved, something I wanted fell through.  Shell-shocked, all my expectations for finding beauty started to fade as I focused in on this loss.  It didn’t take me very long to realize, though, that God was using this situation to reveal some truths—truths about me and about those around me—I that I absolutely had to learn.  When I realized this, not only did I feel peace, but I realized that even loss and disappointment can be beautiful because of what they teach us, what they reveal.

As I sit by the pond tonight, mesmerized by an orchestra of dancing water and a chorus of bullfrogs croaking a raspy lullaby, I am thankful for this and the other undeniably beautiful moments from today:  a sun-drenched, two-hour alfresco lunch at Rise n°1 with my Frenchman, the tickle of grass between my toes as I watered my newly-planted Zinnias, my dog’s wet tongue on my hand to thank me for scratching her belly.  I am just as thankful, though, for the ugly moments from today that had beauty hiding inside them.

Ash Wednesday in May?
May 25, 2010, 7:21 PM
Filed under: Life, Pray-Fast-Give, Spring

I have a beautiful backyard this May, mostly because everything we planted last year is idiot-proof (the gardening idiot being me).   I was much more aware of Spring this year because of the plants changing and growing right outside my kitchen door:  one day, the snowball bush that looked like a barren stick in the dirt was suddenly covered in blooms.  Seemingly overnight, a tumbleweed growing out of the rocks transformed into the tall, fuchsia Mexican Sage that sways gently when the wind blows.

In spite of me, the flowers all grew and bloomed.  Even so, full-fledged Spring came to our backyard much later than it should have this year.  Why?  Because I didn’t know how important it was to remove the dead stems from the living ones.  The hummingbird salvia with its delicate raspberry pink petals didn’t really blossom until we trimmed out the old, dry stems left over from last fall.  The lacy, periwinkle globes on the endless summer hydrangea didn’t flourish until we pruned it.

Spring this year has made me think more and more about my own personal Spring and why it’s been such a long time coming.  If Mars’ seasons are twice as long as the ones here on Earth, maybe my metaphorical Spring is a martian one!  But, then again, maybe there’s nothing alien about it; maybe my Spring hasn’t come yet because I still have dead stems in my garden . . .

Which brings me to Lent.  I like the concept of Lent.  It’s like spring cleaning of the soul in preparation for Easter, and everyone knows how much I like spring cleaning.   And Easter.  Even so, I’ve never really “participated” in Lent; it’s not something we Baptists did.  Just like I learned a bit late about the importance of pruning my flowers in preparation for Spring, I didn’t realize the power of Lent, exactly what it was, and the importance of letting God cut the dead out of  my life until the holy season was well underway this year.  I discovered (thanks to my fabulous friend Ani) the website Busted Halo and their Pray, Fast, Give lent calendar halfway into lent this year and pledged to take on their daily challenges next year.  But, as my garden taught me this year, I decided it wasn’t too late to get rid of the dead, the excess, the useless.  Without further delay.  Now.

So tomorrow will be Ash Wednesday for me.  I’m going to reflect, give, and pray for the next 46 days, using the suggestions from the Pray, Fast, Give calendar as inspiration.  I’m also going to blog about my experiences along the way.  I’m excited to see what God is going to do in the garden of my soul during this inward and outward journey toward renewed life and full-fledged Spring.

La Femme de Gilles
December 19, 2008, 8:08 PM
Filed under: Life

femme_gillesLast night, we watched La Femme de Gilles.  Set in a small French town in the 1930s, the film explores the complex relationship between Elsa, played beautifully by Emmanuelle Devos, and her husband Gilles, who is having an affair with her younger sister Victorine.  After confirming that Gilles is having an affair, Elsa does something surprising.  She doesn’t leave him, she doesn’t erupt into a rage.  No, instead, she remains steadfast and loyal to the man who is so passionately “in love” with her sister.  And when  Gilles thinks Victorine is seeing someone else, she helps him find out who it is in a feeble attempt to calm his  furious jealousy.  While some might be initially surprised by Elsa’s stoic acceptance of the affair between Victorine and Gilles, the film’s shocking end shows the meek and humble housewife to be cunning and deftly shrewd in her quest to defend her role as Gilles’ wife/woman. 

embraceI hate that the English translation of the title is Gilles’ Wife because, since in French “femme” can be translated as either “woman” or “wife,” the original title lends to the sense of ambiguity over who really is the woman in Gilles’ heart.  That was absolutely the only thing I hated about the movie.  It is a fabulous film, a dramatic tour de force.  One of the most striking things about the film is that hardly anyone says ANYTHING.  But how powerful this silence turns out to be!  The lack of dialogue is masterfully effective in portraying the tension between Elsa and Gilles, and, moreover, the inner battle going on inside Elsa’s head and heart.  The silence not only exposes Elsa’s inner turmoil better than any words could, but it also gives us, as viewers, time to process and think about what is going on.  Inasmuch, we feel her anxiety, we feel her angst.  Through the silence, we see that she has no words for what she is feeling and experiencing, yet we understand just the same.

emanOne scene from the film that still stays with me takes place after Gilles and Elsa take their family on a picnic.  On the train back to their village, a woman seated across the aisle from Elsa and her family gazes at them and smiles sweetly, as if she were thinking, “Isn’t that woman lucky!”  Indeed, from the exterior, any bystander would think that Elsa’s life is perfect—she lives in a large house, has a handsome, hardworking husband, and is the mother of twin daughters and a new baby boy.  How deceiving appearances can be. . . .

Do as I say, not as I do?
October 9, 2007, 11:19 PM
Filed under: Life

Yesterday I read an Op-Ed article by Gary Cross, a professor of history at Pennsylvania State University, who, in the light of the Chinese-made toy recall, postulates that character licensing and the way toys are advertised to kids are just as dangerous to children’s psyches as the toys’ lead-based paint is to their health.  Cross claims that most of the toys on the recall list, which include “56 Polly Pocket sets (including a Lip Gloss Studio Playset), 11 Doggie Daycare toys, 4 Batman figures, 43 Sesame Street toys (not just Elmo Stacking Rings but Giggle Grabber Soccer Elmo and Grow Me Elmo Sprinkler), 10 Dora the Explorers and more than a score of assorted figures and cars,” are junk and that the advertising promoting them does little more than teach children to be good consumers and instill additive tendencies.

When I was a kid, my brother and I were just as obsessed with amassing Care Bears, Popples, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and He-Man figurines as today’s kids are with collecting Dora or Elmo stuff.  (For the record, Care Bears are WAY cooler that Elmo, and Rainbow Bright trumps Dora.)  Maybe our obsession started as a result of the deregulated ads we watched during Saturday morning cartoons (arguable), but it stopped because we had people around us to teach us–no, to SHOW us–that we didn’t need mounds and mounds of toys to be happy.  They also refused to buy them for us in excess.

Since deregulated toy ads aimed at kids have been here since 1980 and are probably here to stay, it’s up to parents to teach their kids how to be smart consumers.  Of course, parents can tell their kids they don’t need 10 Elmo toys until the furry little imp stops laughing, but I’m assuming that that’s not too effective when the ‘rents have 7 different ipods and a drawer full of discarded cell phones. Do as I say, not as I do, right?

Wow, it sure is easy to spew out parenting advice when you don’t have any kids. . . . 🙂

In the past three weeks, we’ve seen . . . .

. . . the exhibit, The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the age of Picasso, at the Kimbell in Fort Worth.  While there are some Picassos featured, the exhibit is more about the evolution of the portrait as a genre, and not so much about Picasso.  I wonder if the curators threw in the name Picasso to conjure up interest from the masses, much they often throw in “Impressionism,” or “The Big ‘I’” as my artsy friend Jennifer calls it, to draw a crowd.  Though it would seem to be an elementary concept, I had never really thought about the idea of a portrait reflecting the likeness of the artist more than the subject.

. . . Little Women: The Musical at the Black Box Theater in Dallas, which from what I can gather was a “final exam” of sorts for the students in a local acting conservatory.  The main character, Jo, was played by my mom’s colleague’s daughter, who was quite talented.  Several of the other actors, however, were not-so-impressive, which actually made me admire them more; it takes a lot of guts to pursue your dream with reckless abandon, especially when you’re short on talent.  Or maybe I’m mistaking grit and fortitude for stupidity and lack of foresight. . . . In any case, I’ve always been in awe of people who attempt to make a living in theater, or music, or acting, much less of those who actually succeed in doing so.  But, like the portrait reflecting the artist as much as the subject, this admiration reflects my shortcomings and fears as much as it the gumption of any starving actor.

. . . the film Molière at the Innwood.  I wasn’t expecting much from the film because the NY Times’ review was less than glowing, but I really enjoyed it.  What some might call “bastardization of history,” I call a nice diversion.  The film mélanges fiction and reality to concoct a story about several unaccounted months of the playwright’s life in 1644, and the result is a witty, charming, and laugh-out-loud costume extravaganza.

. . .the new theatrical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at the Dallas Theater Center.  I read the book a long, long time ago, before Austen-mania had taken over, and, remembering that the novel had a slew of characters and numerous subplots, I wondered how the novel would translate to the stage.  Fairly well, I would say.  There was palpable chemistry between the Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, and the actors playing Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins were especially entertaining.  Although it was unexpected for a character to address the audience directly, Elizabeth Bennett’s narration helps the plot along.  One of the most impressive and clever aspects of the play was the set design which consisted of large turntables, allowing scene changes in seconds.  Overall, it was an enjoyable evening.  Now, I think I’ll go see Becoming Jane.