" I pray you know joy in the odd moments,
beauty growing up in the muddy corners of the ordinary.
I pray you experience God making his 'kindness
known in the midst of a besieged city'. "
SARAH CLARKSON, from her January 15th Facebook post
A while ago, I jotted the above words by Sarah Clarkson into my journal. She always knows how to describe the ordinary stuff of life with such gentle grace, reminding us that our lives have a touch of the sacred. This week her words, especially the last line, fit so well in light of R*ussia's recent invasion of Uk*raine. All week I have been asking myself: how do we who watch, and pray, from afar carry on with our ordinary lives, how do we keep making something beautiful when the world is so broken?
Then I came across something from Andrew Peterson, author of Adorning the Dark. He says, "Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work, and it can't be done alone." No, it's not easy and, no, we cannot do it alone. We need each other, each one doing our part to keep things sane and kind in our corner of the world. Together, we strengthen each other. Together, we ensure that beauty and goodness prevails in dark and troubling times.
When I started the draft for this post I meant to write about the books that I'm 'butterfly reading'. So even though things feel sidetracked, I'll just carry on in that vein. Butterfly reading is when I give myself freedom to slip in and out of various books, dipping into a page here, a paragraph there. Allowing lines to nourish my heart, jostle my thinking, and bolster my courage. All without delving too deeply.
I certainly don't do this with every book or even all the time, but there are seasons when I can't seem to settle on a single volume. That's when I appreciate lightly flitting from book to book, much the way butterflies flutter from blossom to blossom, gathering inspiration from hither and yon. I never know what will fire my imagination in the moment. What will comfort or encourage. It can be old memories that jostle into consciousness. It can be ideas I never thought of before. It can be a description that perfectly says what I had no words for until that moment. Sometimes it's a line that makes me laugh out loud, and suddenly doldrums drop from drooping shoulders.
What I have discovered over the years is that one book will so often trigger something else I've read. The lines from each place builds on the other, all adding to my feast of good words. In my butterfly reading, I like volumes that are physically small in size and length—short chapters that don't bog down, but still with interesting things to discover.
Here are three books I've been flitting in and out of this week....
Notes on a Nervous Planet
by Matt Haig
" The problem is not that the world is a mess,
but that we expect it to be otherwise. "
A small volume about how modern life feeds our anxiety and how we can aim to live a better life. British author Matt Haig has experienced being ill with anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. He asks the question, "How can we live in a mad world and not ourselves go mad?" How often I've asked myself that question. He's learned a thing or two and happily shares his hard-earned wisdom with readers.
The Book of Delights
by Ross Gay
" I came up with a handful of rules:
write a delight every day for a year;
begin and end on my birthday, August 1;
draft them quickly; and write them by hand.
The rules made it a discipline for me. A practice.
Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day. "
I felt drawn to pull this book of short essays from the shelf recently. Author Austin Kleon mentioned it on his blog or in his newsletter, and my friend, Lorrie, said someone else inspired her to read it. Must be something in the air. Written by award-winning poet Ross Gay, this book is the result of him recording the small joys he used to overlook in his busy life. Noted on the inside cover, he doesn't dismiss 'the complexities, even the terrors' of living in America as a black man. But his life changed when he spent time thinking about delight every day. He enjoys his garden and the natural world around him.
Spring, An anthology for the changing seasons
Edited by Melissa Harrison
" The seasons roll through our literature, too, budding, blossoming, fruiting and dying back. Think of it: the lazy summer days and golden harvests, the misty autumn walks and frozen fields of winter, and all the hopeful romance of spring. Sometimes, as with Chaucer's 'Aprill shoures', the seasons are a way to set the scene; sometimes they are the subject-matter itself—but there's magic in the way a three hundred-year-old account of birdsong, say, can collapse time utterly, granting us a moment of real communication with the past. " from the introduction, Spring, 2016
This book, ordered online, took several weeks to arrive. It had traveled all the way from Kennys Bookshop & Art Galleries Ltd in Galway, Ireland. Imagine that! It's the Spring edition of the British four-season series I've been enjoying by editor Melissa Harrison. This collection of essays and poetry, taken from both classic and modern writing, is a delightful way to celebrate the arrival of a new season. It's also a pleasant way to vicariously enjoy a bit of nature when you can't get out yourself, or the weather is inclement.
" He thought of the grammar of Gaelic, in which
you did not say you were in love with someone,
but that you "had love toward" her, as if it were
a physical thing you could present and hold—
a bundle of tulips, a golden ring, a parcel of tenderness. "
JODI PICOULT, Mercy
I am enjoying these three books. They have made great butterfly reading in a week that has been fraught with larger world events. They keep me grounded. Just as the tulips have done on my dining table. Reminding me to delight in the little joys. To keep loving and being kind in times of turmoil. To let the beauty in God's natural world still wow! me in my tracks.
* * *
On that note, I'm wishing
you a safe and pleasant weekend. Delight!
Photos on this post are mine
Such a lovely post giving me so much to ponder on. I find I have to come back and re read your thoughtful posts, Brenda. The second time around I will always find something that i missed.ReplyDelete
I hope you are keeping well, Barbara, both you and Malcolm. You must be seeing bits of spring arriving. We've got lots of snow here again so no sign of snowdrops or daffodils just yet.Delete
my 'want to buy' book list just grew! Love the phrase 'butterfly reading'! i seem to be doing a bit of that right now as well. esp. with poetry volumes. I bought the book Adorning the Dark after a friend suggested I would love it. and I did. Sometimes I think writers and artists struggle with a sense of something like guilt as we compose and celebrate the beautiful in the face of so much broken! Andrew Peterson highlighted the importance and blessing of being true to our calling as we adorn the darkness with Light, the Light that is ultimately Christ! Thank-you for continuing to bless 'the muddy corners of the ordinary' with beauty!ReplyDelete
Janet, we could compare notes and see which pages we both have underlined in Andrew's book. We'd probably have a lot in common - we share so much kindred thinking. That is such a perfect book title, Adorning the Dark, for that is what we are all called to be, lights in darkness.Delete
It really can be hard to turn out thoughts to pleasant things when war is raging. I hiked this morning and the yellow Jessamine was in full bloom. I stood still to enjoy it for awhile!ReplyDelete
Diane, I was just reading a little essay in my Spring anthology this morning by George Orwell about his enjoyment of the very ordinary toad when he emerges from his winter hibernation as spring approaches. A wonderful little essay, where he made mention that it's these little beauties that are what life is about in the end. So, I'm heart-happy you stood still to enjoy that yellow beauty today.Delete
Oh they each sound delightful and anything that provides distraction or a better way to think about life is most helpful. I am not reading much these days, though I am listening a lot. 🙂ReplyDelete
Listening is good, too. As I'm more of a visual person than an audio one, I tend to like reading better than listening. :)Delete
I had never heard of 'butterfly' reading, but I do like that idea. Sometimes trying to read through one whole book can seem daunting.ReplyDelete
Here's to butterfly reading then, Ruth! Thanks for visiting.Delete
Your term "butterfly reading" perfectly fits flitting from book to book. I enjoyed seeing your lovely hydrangea painting behind the pretty tulips.ReplyDelete
Lorrie, we sure are loving that hydrangea painting too. It's by one of our wonderful local artists, Robert Lemay.Delete
Dear Brenda...I think it's great that you are a prolific reader. Love your blog header. That's a fairly new one, isn't it? Your flowers are beautiful. We must surround ourselves with little bits of beauty, otherwise, all that's happening in the world would drag us down into a dark pit. I hope your weekend is terrific, right to the end. Thanks so much for your visit and comment on Writing Straight from the Heart. Hugs. SusanReplyDelete
Susan, thanks for your comment about the blog header. I think I changed it a couple of years ago. I love the colours in it. Not one of my own photos, something I found on Pixabay, I believe. It's true, we need to surround ourselves with beauty when world events turn ugly.Delete
I like the idea of butterfly reading!ReplyDelete
Indeed, we all need to have bits of beauty to inspire us in the journey . . . something from nature, delight in a book, a phrase in a hymn, a song in the air. And, of course, God's Word is essential, the ultimate beauty of truth!
You always give us something to think about, friend!
Cheryl, you are so right, God's word is the ultimate beauty of truth. Thank you for your lovely words!Delete
I love the phrase ‘butterfly reading’. What a perfect picture of flitting from book to book. I’m most drawn to The Book of Delights and Ross Gay’s rules for himself. Begin and end on his birthday, which is a day after my birthday, and seemed the sign to begin my own book of delights - on my own birthday. Hopefully the enormous task of moving will be mostly done by then. But that’s not to say I can’t start noticing the delights already. I will come back to this beautiful post again. Thank you for pointing us to beauty in the midst of chaos. ♥️ReplyDelete
I, too, like the rules he set to notice what gives him delight. It's a practice that I think can help us keep our sanity in the midst of the insanity.Delete
Thanks for this beautiful post, Brenda. It was just what I needed to lift my spirits, as your quotes and thoughts reminded me to write of delights of every day, and to leave a touch of grace and the sacred.ReplyDelete
Here's to celebrating the delights every single day!Delete
thanks for some good suggestions for keeping our mind off of the ugliness all around us now.ReplyDelete
Yes, Lin, we need all the help we can get - to keep our minds alert to what's lovely and good around us.Delete
I have never hear of the term butterfly reading but now I will use it for I do the very same. I think I am currently reading 5 books. I cannot wait to get a copy go your book recommendation Spring! Have a wonderful day!ReplyDelete
You mention having five books on the go - ha ha, we sound like kindred readers, Elizabeth. I cannot imagine you not enjoying the Spring anthology. I'll be slow reading it over the next couple of months as Spring begins to appear here where I live in Alberta, Canada. Thanks so much for visiting.Delete
Lovely post and book suggestions - I have all four of the seasonal anthologies - they came from over the pond, too. The covers alone are amazing.ReplyDelete
Just reserved the Ross Gay book at my library. I listened to a short Youtube of him reading from the book and was so struck by his humor and humanity. Thank you for your recommendations.
Yes, I do think the anthology covers are wonderful! Thanks so much for the heads up on the YouTube of Ross Gay reading from his book - I'm off to find it. I have been enjoying the book.Delete
Dear Brenda, this is a beautiful post and I read it three times and it spoke to me each time. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and loving message.ReplyDelete
Thank you, dear Sandra! xoDelete
Thank you for this wise and wonderful post, dear Brenda. Just what I needed on a sad, gray day. A hug.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Amalia. ((( Heart hugs )))Delete
Dear Brenda...I always love your blog posts. Your header is lovely, too. Thank you for your sweet visit to Writing Straight from the Heart and your wonderful comment, as well. Just loved it. You are so right that if an object is well cherished and loved, don't get rid of it. I truly am having a terrible time. I have the empty boxes ready to go but nothing is getting packed so far. Too painful. Then I think of the situation in Ukraine and then realize how insignificant and trite my problems seem in light of the human suffering there. Puts things into perspective. Thank you, dear Brenda, for your kindness and thoughtfulness. Hugs. SusanReplyDelete
Thank you, Susan, for your lovely comment. I know when we look at the suffering of others, it does put things in perspective. At the same time, we must not diminish our own pain. Large or small, pain is pain to the brokenhearted. Sending warmest thoughts your way! xoDelete