Thursday, January 31, 2008

Three (actually four) cheers

Hooray, tomorrow's Friday. Hooray, my homework's done. Hooray, January's almost over, one of the two gloomiest months of winter. February's the other, but, hooray, it's short.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I say, I say

James Lileks wrote over in his Bleat about Foghorn Leghorn (you have to read a while to get there). Foghorn Leghorn is, of course, the Southern chicken of cartoon fame. Lileks talked about him a while; like me, he likes him, but then he finished up by saying he hated it when they paired him up with that chick kid, though. But those were my favorites because they generated my two favorite Foghorn Leghorn lines, even though I can only remember one in full. That one would be when the kid talked too much to him (or was that the chicken hawk, not the chick kid? There was a chicken hawk half FL's size that would keep trying to carry him off), and Foghorn Leghorn would state, "Ah say, git away from me, boy. You bothah me." The other remark started out, "This boy, Ah say, this boy is so dumb that . . ." and then would follow some ludicrous Southern-style comparison. It's been a long time since I watched cartoons.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Calvin, Calvin

Before the snow fell, my parents and I, who are all Calvin College alumni, went to a sports bar in Bellingham to watch the Calvin-Hope basketball game by satellite. Calvin lost by three points, throwing away the eight-point lead they had at half time. Many Calvin alum were there, and a few Hope grads, including the guy who did my surgery in December. I showed him my scar, and he said he was glad I was doing well.

Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and Hope College in Holland, Michigan, affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, are arch-rivals.

When I was at Calvin, I went to the Calvin-Hope games that were played at Calvin, where I would get caught up in a mob mentality and exhibit extremely poor sportsmanship. I remember that if Calvin was ahead, we would yell, "There's no hope! There's no hope!" And if the game was ending with a Calvin victory, we would sing, "Na, na, na, na. Na, na, na, na. Hey, hey, hey, good-bye." They sang the same to us if they won, but they couldn't come up with a yell as good as, "There's no hope," because the name "Calvin" just doesn't lend itself to good yells.

Actually, even though I love the church I've belonged to all my life, and to which my family has belonged for a couple centuries, and the college my family has attended for three generations, I must admit that both "Christian Reformed Church" and "Calvin College," are somewhat needlessly nerdy names. But, oh, well, I'm all the more loyal. Speaking of which, when we sang the Calvin song, I rather fell down in the second verse. I need to brush up on those words.

Speaking of my family's generations, even the name Kok requires explaining outside of Dutch circles and calls forth extra levels of loyalty to compensate. Or I could disclaim, like Gideon.

Again with the winter wonderland.

Okay. We get it. It's winter. In fact, it's January. Here comes the snow.

Here's the frozen pond in the deck outside my door.

A snow-covered tea rose.
Snow-covered bird feeders and bird bath.
Snow-covered trees.
Snow-covered blueberry bushes. A certain theme is developing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

January blessing

God Knows
Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown." And he replied, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way!" (1908)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Borrowed Blog Idea

Over at Quiet Life blog, Mrs. "Booshay" generates comments by asking some questions in her postings. On Friday, she asked five questions and got 49 comments (last I checked). Instead of adding number 50 over there, I decided to borrow (steal?) her questions and write the answers as a post on my own blog.

1. What are you reading?

While I eat breakfast, I've been reading a chapter or so each morning of New Seeds of Contemplation, by Thomas More.

In leisure time, I've been re-reading some novels I own by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. She wrote the screen play adaptations for Merchant-Ivory Productions' Howards End, Room with a View, and The Remains of the Day. She also has written quite a few novels, of which I own a few. If I am informed correctly, she was born in Germany, educated in England, and married a man from India, and she lived in India for many years. That is where my favorite novels of hers are set. The first one I re-read was my very favorite, The Nature of Passion. Then, Amrita: Or to Whom She Will, my third favorite. I still need to re-read my second favorite, The Householder. These are all just amusing, slightly biting, yet overall kindly books about Indian families. I like The Nature of Passion best because the plot strands tie up in happy yet ironic ways.

2. What are you making?

I'm afraid I'm not making anything with my hands. Mrs. Booshay is a knitter, as well as a talented photographer, so she always has socks, a hat, or a beautiful photo to show.

If I stretch a point, I'm making myself into a paralegal. The process should be complete in June, 2008.

3. How often do you grocery shop?

I grocery shop about once a week, sometimes less. As a single person, I can buy in different patterns: stuff I really like, stuff that's easy to make, or just what I need most desperately. And if I don't get to the grocery store, I can make do with whatever's in the cupboard or fridge.

4. Would you buy a house with a one-car garage?

I certainly would. I own only one car.

5. Do you dream of living in a big city (e.g. Chicago or New York) or on a farm?

Neither appeals to me. I made my choice of the kind of place I want to live, and it's a city with a population of just over 10,000. And that's after a lot of growth. The Lynden I knew as a little girl I think had a population of under 4,000. I like not having heavy traffice or crime. On the other hand, I like having neighbors. I think I would feel isolated either in a big city or out in the country. But in Lynden I feel right at home.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Seeking Silence

On New Year's Eve (during the day and early evening), I watched a DVD of the movie Into Great Silence.

It is an unusual film, as it has very little dialogue, no narration, and no "mood music." A German filmmaker spent about six months living in the Carthusian monastery La Grande Chartreuse (The Great Charterhouse) in the French Alps. With no film crew or artificial lighting, he filmed the monks praying, meditating, working, eating, chanting, and generally living their lives.

Rather than writing about it myself, I'll refer you to a good review by Steven Greydanus, a Catholic reviewer, whose site, Decent Films Guide, I visit fairly frequently. In fact, I should put a link in the margin to it.

I find books and movies about monastic life interesting. I probably have a romanticized idea about that way of life, but I have benefitted from insights about integrating faith and everyday life particularly from reading about Benedictine spirituality. The Benedictines take a vow of stability, to stay in one place and with one community for the rest of your life. The idea is that you don't find enlightenment or work through your issues by going somewhere else to find it there, but by persevering where you are -- changing places won't change you. It's that saying, "Wherever you go, there you are." (I'm in Lynden, and here I am.)

Two books that have taught me well are The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris, and Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict, by Esther de Waal.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


January 6, 2008

Epiphany is the traditional church holiday that celebrates Christ made manifest to the Gentiles. The first Gentiles to worship Jesus were the Wise Men, or Magi.

Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Two good Epiphany songs are below, though neither video has visuals I would have chosen, so here's a picture:

In addition to the fact that they bring three gifts, the traditional number three may derive from the three known continents of the middle ages. Sometimes the Magi were portrayed as European, African, and Asian, to symbolize in their persons all the Gentiles of the world, worshipping Christ.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

The Bible does not call the Magi "kings," nor does it specify three as their number. However, this song does give draw a nice symbolism out of each gift, gold for Christ the King, frankincense for his divine nature, and myrrh for his death and burial.

Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning

This song deals with the story of the Magi, which is told in Matthew, but it has a rather Luke-like emphasis on including the poor and penitent.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

January frame of mind

Well, I followed a slightly saner schedule the last couple days. On January 2, it was my own fault that I stayed at work until I didn't have enough time to drive home, do the things I needed to do there, and drive to class and get there on time. So I figured out a schedule for myself with what I hope are reasonable work hours.

It's time to stop bemoaning the end of Christmas (today is the Twelfth Day) and start living January. The January experience is more austere and cool than the warm, colorful, and cozy atmosphere of Christmas, but it has its own pleasures. Chilly, bleak, gray, cloudy, dull, twilit, dark, cold--these don't have to be negative words. They can be bracing, challenging, calling forth a cheerful stoicism. They have the appeal of military or monastic life. As someone who likes to read works about Benedictine spirituality, I should embrace them.

If I remember my church history correctly, Christian stoicism was influential in shaping some of the greatest elements of Medieval society.

Canterbury Cathedral. [Photograph]. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nine Ladies Dancing

Until about 3:00 yesterday afternoon, I was in holiday mode, relaxed and home-loving. Then I acknowledged to myself that the next day was a work day and discovered to my dismay that it was also a school day. (I was thinking surely WCC would start classes Monday the 7th.) So this morning I was up early, off to work, home to feed the dog, off to class, home to feel tired.

A little dinner has revived me, but now I need to go to bed so that I can get up again.

Work and class were fine. Just cumulatively, with two round trips between Lynden and Bellingham, a bit much.

Christmas and even New Year's Day (brunch at Pierside, SemiAhMoo with family) seem a long time ago. Oh, well. I may as well brace myself and be strong for the stretch of waiting for longer days and returning flowers for the next couple months. One thing that's cheering, my prayer book has January as its last month in the autumn-winter volume, and moves into Spring in February. And indeed the word Lent (Lent starts in February) means Spring.

Meanwhile, it's not even Epiphany yet. Liturgically, Christmas is not over, despite the zeitgeist.