Tag Archives: Beauty

“Griffin & Sabine”: believe in magic

Remember the joy of pop-up books? The books that were tactile and interactive? What a wonderful way to connect with what you’re reading! This is why I am so glad that one of my good friends recommended that I read Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. It had envelopes and letters you could actually touch! I loved it.

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Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/381102.Griffin_and_Sabine

Bantock writes and illustrates a creative idea: a woman writes postcards (which she creates) to a man in a completely different country and they begin a beautiful friendship. There is romance. There is mystery. There is despair. There is magic. There is hope.

Griffin and Sabine write letters and postcards back and forth, exploring their extraordinary relationship. As a reader, it’s so lovely to slow down and read mail. You have to actually open the envelopes in the book to read the handwritten (cursive) letters. I found it such a beautiful and intimate experience that let me be a nosy neighbour and eavesdrop on someone else’s conversations. Griffin creates postcards in a shop in London. He is an artist, but didn’t fully agree with the art school’s ‘art for art’s sake’ philosophy. In fact, at one point in the book Sabine encourages Griffin to explore his darkness. She almost gives him permission to explore his depression through his art, that he sells on postcards.

goldfish
Source: http://www.geocities.ws/kimkronk/SBA1/nickbantockart.htm

Sabine is an interesting character, and she knows it. She lives on the island Katie in the Sicmon Islands in the South Pacific. Yet she doesn’t always exist there. She has a strange and mysterious connection to Griffin: she can see when he draws. She can’t see Griffin, but she sees his art as he creates it. Weird, right?! But so fun!
Sabine is an artist of her own and also creates postcards and stamps.

gekoprint
Source: http://www.geocities.ws/kimkronk/SBA1/nickbantockart.htm

I am so grateful for the experience that Bantock created in this book. You have mystery, you have magic, you have beautiful art, you have intimacy. Reading the letters and thinking about that ‘what if’ scenario: what if there was someone you had a connection with, but had no way to express that connection or make that connection a reality? What if we are all alone because we aren’t able to accept that life might not be reasonable and might in fact be magical?

The hope for the unexpected is something that is hard at times. We get run down by life and we become emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I think it is during these dark times that we miss the joy and the magic of simple connections. In those moments we are hoping for something big and dramatic to come into our lives (as Sabine enters into Griffin’s life), yet I don’t think it needs to be that dramatic.

What if a life-changing, life-altering, life-affirming moment and expression happens in the smallest way, to nudge us and remind us that life is worth the living. Maybe these small, daily miracles (a butterfly, a great memory, a delicious tasting meat, a smile from a passer-by) are the ones we need to be looking for and appreciating. I suppose that is why depression is so brutal: you can’t take the miracles for miracles because you don’t have the energy or the hope to believe that things will get better or that life is beautiful.

So hold on to those small miracles when you are able to see them for what they are! And hope for magic!

magic
Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/24293989/Believe-in-Magic

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“The Book Thief”: more love

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, was the choice of my Jr High book club.  I bought this book seven years ago when I first started teaching and never got around to reading it, so I was grateful for my club of reading fans for picking it as our book to read.  And what a book!!

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Source: http://sydneyjewishmuseum.com.au/shop/talk/markus-zusak/

It was interesting to me that in our first conversation about the book one of the students who had seen the movie adaptation said that she thought God was the narrator, not death.  This opened up a lot of conversations about death and how we talk and think about death. We thought it was interesting how much compassion death had for those he was collecting.  Throughout the novel, death repeated expresses his displeasure and distaste with humanity for the scale of work they create for him.  He reflects on how war is no longer an equal to him, but now a weapon used to destroy others completely.

As we read, the students were truly disturbed by the scenes of the Jewish prisoners being marched into Dachau, yet the approach was new and made them think about Hitler’s Germany in a different way.  They saw from the inside out what it was like for those who tried to resist: jail, concentration camps, sent to the front lines, beaten, whipped, bullied, shunned.

As death describes his work, he shows reverence for humanity and the human spirit.  He shows respect for those who live a full life and die well.  He shows compassion for those who are left behind.  He shows honour in how he perceives the importance of every single soul, even on the nights when he touches thousands of them.

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/katieahall91/the-book-thief/

I am happy to say that resilience was a word we were left talking about. Liesel, even after losing her friends and family, is able to continue on.  That ability to cope and live on was inspiring to the students in the book club.  They were devastated by the story Zusak tells and had a hard time moving beyond the cruelty of humans toward other humans.

Yet the worst part was bringing in some Canadian facts: Canadians allowed the cultural genocide of entire Nations and no one seemed to stop that (yet, we all know there are those who spoke for the trees, so to speak).

There are numerous accounts of the Canadian Government conducting experiments on students in Aboriginal residential schools: Psychic experiments, food and nutrition experiments.  Students also died in residential schools without proper records being kept.  Generations of families were broken and separated.  Thousands of children were filled with fear, shame, and guilt.  Culture, language, teachings, and stories were lost and destroyed in order for the Government to get rid of the “Indian Problem” so that they could use the land instead of sharing the land.  We, as Canadians, have a lot to see in our shared history with the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people who we share this land with.

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Source: https://purposesearchers.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/residential-schools-in-canada/

For me The Book Thief was a new way of looking at humanity and the needless suffering we cause by being driven by our fears instead of acting always in love.  The majority of our conversations revolved around the relationships in the book and the connections people had with each out of genuine interest and love.  Walking away from this book I am left with the impression that we need to be reminded of our darkest moments so that we can see how fear and hatred thrive.  In order to live boldly in love, we need to see each other as beautiful humans and honour the beauty in all.

people are beautiful

Source: http://quotesgram.com/book-thief-quotes-and-page-numbers/

“What we all want should look a little more like love” (Shad).

“I am haunted by humans” (Death, The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).

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Source: http://www.relatably.com/q/death-quotes-book-thief

“My Bright Abyss”: beautiful truth

Christian Wiman’s book My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer had me wanting to do something terrible: I wanted to highlight and underline my library book! That is what happens when a poet writes about those moments in life that are inexplicable, those soul moments that make time stop. Wiman is able to put into words the experiences that seem to transcend words.

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Source: http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/marapr/edge-of-all-i-know.html

He has genius moments of clarity: “Be careful. Be certain that your expressions of regret about your inability to rest in God do not have a tinge of self-satisfaction, even self-exaltation to them, that your complaints about your anxieties are not merely a manifestation of your dependence on them. There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a shared sense of complete isolation: you feel at home in the world only by never feeling at home in the world” (pg 9-10).

For me, he is able to see through all of the smoke and mirrors, and is able to speak the truth with grace.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was that it wasn’t just reflections on his life, he also challenges himself, and his readers, along the way. He realizes that “you must not swerve from the engagements God offers you. These will occur in the most unlikely places, and with people for whom your first instinct may be aversion” (21). Beautiful reminders that have me believing that there could actually be some universal truths.

After writing about belief, doubt, death, and life, Wiman writes about faith: “But faith is not a new life in this sense; it is the old life newly seen” (pg 108). And then after writing about his horrible experiences with cancer, he is able to write, “The temptation is to make an idol of our own experience, to assume our pain is more singular than it is. Even here, in some of the entries above, I see that I have fallen prey to it. In truth, experience means nothing if it does not mean beyond itself: we mean nothing unless and until our hard-won meanings are internalized and catalyzed within the lives of others” (Pg 162).

Wiman’s book is beautiful and challenging and heartbreaking all at the same time because it is full of clarity and honesty. He begins and ends with a stanza from one of his unfinished poems:

My God my bright abyss
into which all my longing will not go
once more I come to the edge of all I know
and believing nothing believe in this:


Source: http://www.mbird.com/2013/10/mondays-with-mandelstam-rough-draft-1937/

“Human imagination is not simply our means of reaching out to God but God’s means of manifesting himself to us” (Christian Wiman).

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

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Source: http://nicolettelodge.com/truth-2/

“The Crooked Good”: telling stories

I can’t remember how I found Sky Dancer’s / Lousie Bernice Halfe’s book of poetry The Crooked Good, yet I have enjoyed reading her poetry the past few weeks.

Louise Bernice Halfe is Cree and she is from Two Hills, Alberta, so I have enjoyed reading a local poet. Based on a brief biography from the Banff Centre, Halfe has had a life full of experiences, both good and bad. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed her book of poetry so much: it had something of her real self in each word, both English and Cree words.

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Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi2jQZO5U5k

The beauty and pain in her poetry is so clear, as seen in the opening of the poem “Listen: To the Story”:
We lived in tents, teepees before the four walls,
before the ugly, broken years.
Ears witnessed this story my mother, aspin,
unfurled. (Pg22)

To hear her reading this poem, forward to 22:55 on this video.

Recently, one of my favourite albums has been Tanya Tagaq’s album Auk/Blood. (Listen here on YouTube for the album.) I have never seen throat singers perform live, but I can imagine it through the words of Halfe. She writes a poem called “wepinason” that describes throat singing:

Two women stare at each other.
Grunts, groans, rippling, meowing and cawing,
they sping these songs:
Of a brook searching. A crane meditating
A frog croaking. A mantis sucking on a fly.
A beaver caught in an iron jaw.
Thunder shuddered. A pair of lovers parted under a treed.
Lightning smiled through one’s heart.
Dew rolled into the woman’s basket.

The Inuit voices bounced, echoed against
their lodge, wet with death.

A deer rubbed her nose into her mate,
pranced into the meadow,
fell as an arrow flew.
Her robe sliced with fluttering hands.
Her bones become the scraper, skinning knife, needles
and flute. Her sinew thread, rawhide bowls, folding boxes,
drums and medicine bags.
Her skin a lodge of sticks and hide. Her hair, a mattress.
Close by, fur-covered men sat drumming.
This I saw, e-kwekit–Turn Around Woman. I am she. (Pg 2)

singers
Source: http://www.arcticphoto.co.uk/supergal/ba/ba20/ba2080-25.htm

Throughout the book, her poems are so private. She speaks about her life and the lives of those around her, always connecting to the land and the animals as if the two cannot be separated. She includes stories intertwined with her poetry. This collection of poems is vulnerable and heart-breakingly real. Beauty, truth, fear, anger, love. She writes about it all. From Residential School to picking up a dead moose on the highway. The cultural clash between round dancing and answering a cellphone.

pow wow
Source: http://samsoncree.com/2013-samson-cree-nation-powwow-results

Sky Dancer / Louise Halfe is a voice to be heard.

“I write because I love. I write for the survival of self, my children, my family, my community and for the Earth. I write to help keep our stories, our truths, our language alive” (Sky Dancer / Louise Halfe).

“Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation” (Joel 1:3).

story
Source: https://creeinfo.wikispaces.com/Religious+Practices