Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mistress in the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Why do people go to such trouble to avoid the truth? Living lives carefully constructed to prevent ever having to bare yourself to the often abrading wind of reality. It must be exhausting to run in the convoluted circles required to ascertain that you never come upon a mirror for your soul. Piece by piece, building a facade that is not you to present to the world because you are so afraid that an unedited, unembellished presentation of yourself would be found wanting or even worse, repellent. I cannot abide people who spend their lives hiding reality, whether the construct is physical, spiritual, or both. I had never realized that the feeling might be mutual. In Mistress in the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, a rabbi tells Dr. Trotula: "truth produces hate for those who speak it." Read the book if you like historical, medieval mysteries and especially if you like to read about a smart, strong woman who's not afraid to tell the truth. I liked the book enough to buy the next in the series, which I am reading now, and I ordered the third tonight. I would not suggest the book for youngsters. (The above rant is my own and is related more to my own life than to the book.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Be Still and Know

When I was younger, and far more religious, my favorite Bible verse was "Be still and know that I am God." Although I spend more time with poetry now than with the Bible, the sentiment is still one of my favorites. Another favorite quote of mine has been "If you do not understand my silence, you will not understand my words." I think often of the idea of silence as I go through life being overwhelmed with the constant noise of our world. Why do we feel that every moment must be filled with something? Why can a moment not just be? Just stand alone on its own in its silence? This idea seems to dance around the edges of my consciousness. I am often confounded by my inability to find silence in my daily life. I feel so out of sync with society for needing such isolation. A few years ago I came across a Dixie Chicks song called Easy Silence that spoke to this need in me: "And I come to find a refuge in the easy silence that you make for me. It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me...and the peaceful quiet you create for me, and the way you keep the world at bay for me." The need for a refuge in silence can be as compelling as the need for warmth and shelter. Sometimes all we need is someone to keep the world at bay for us.

I finally finished reading The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd. I had the same experience with this book that I had with his book, London. I enjoyed the book until about 500 pages in, when it began to drag and repeat itself. Then I enjoyed the last 100 pages. I guess I just don't have much patience with a book that takes me a month to read. I feel like I have so little time to read that I should only devote an entire month to a masterpiece. I did, however, find enlightenment in the middle of the book. I often have trouble describing to people what art, poetry, or music gives to me. A quote in the books sums it up: "Do you see how it glimmers? It's as if you could step right into the page; and once you are there, you encounter...a great silence." I remember the first time I was in Paris seeing one of Monet's large lily pad paintings. I had the strangest feeling as I stood there, as if the world around me was fading and becoming silent, as if I could take a step forward and be there by that pond, in that world. That's what all art gives us -- a chance to be quiet with who we are and to connect on a spiritual level with the people who went before us who saw the world as we see it now. It tells us that we are not alone.

Less Sure About Less

" And at fifty, Less muses drowsily, you're as likeable as you're going to get." I experienced a strange transitio...