Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Robert Frost's House and the Bennington Battle Monument

 I get hungry for little adventures. I have been a long time Robert Frost fan, and have been wanting to see his house and museum since I discovered it existed a year ago. So my friend and I took the day to explore Shaftsbury and Bennington Vermont. 

 The weather was freezing and rainy, but I was so excited to see my favorite poet's dwelling and spend the day with my friend. Frost's farm is in the beautiful Southern Vermont countryside. Though all of Vermont is beautiful, I can see he didn't have to go far to find inspiration for many of his poems. 

 I seriously contemplated moving there. It was that pretty. And I may have contemplated using "Frost" as a middle name for my future son. We'll see about that one.

We weren't allowed to take any photos inside his house where they had set up a small museum-like display. The inside of the house was disappointing. There were only two rooms and a hallway that we could see. They didn't have much in them except interesting information about Robert Frost all along the walls. Though I learned a lot about him and was nerding out as they analyzed his poetry, I probably could have found almost all of that information online or in a library. 
 But just being there and seeing Robert Frost's house was worth it for me. He writes with such simplistic power that I wish I had in my words, a simplicity that does is not "dumbed down" but everyone can understand without spending half an hour with one poem. But you could spend half an hour analyzing and find such meaning and talent and beauty. He has such a technical command of his poems, the meter, style, and rhyme. He knows when to follow the rules and when to break them, and he breaks them well. 
 There was a path you could walk on through the woods on Frost's farm, a path that Robert Frost himself walked along, but we didn't venture very far. Not only was it cold, but they had several warnings of the many ticks carrying Lyme disease found here, so we decided not to risk it, despite how much we wanted to see everything. 
  Since we were right next to Bennington, I had to see the Bennington Battle Monument. My friend was sweet to let me drag her to all of these places as I satisfied my need for an adventure. The photos are of poor quality mostly due to rain and an overcast sky.

 The monument was built to remember a battle fought during the Revolutionary War in 1777. A man whose job was to tell us all about the monument and take people up and down the elevator all day said it is the tallest structure in Vermont and the 6th tallest in the U.S. We hated to disappoint him when we told him we were just from New England as the highlight of what can be a monotonous day for him is meeting people from all over the U.S, and often the world. 

 Though we couldn't get the full panoramic view, in each direction we had beautiful views of Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. 

 At the end of the day on our way back to my car, God surprised us with one more special thing. My friend took a wrong turn, and it took us to a covered bridge. 

 I am thankful for the reminder that unexpected turns can become better than what I had planned. Not unexpected for God, but me. I don't know what will happen, but God does, and it will be better than my plan simply because it is the Lord's will. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How He Destroys the Darkness

The sun has been leaving earlier, lately. Every day the darkness pushes back a few minutes of sunlit evenings.

 It will creep up on us, slowly stealing more time from the sun until one day I will leave work in darkness, headlights on, the eight hours of daylight spent inside working, eyes on my work but my heart and skin and fingers being pulled to the little sunshine visible in our one window. 

 Darkness creeps near me, tonight, an unwanted companion. 

 I feel him hiding in a corner under my bed.

 I only have one weapon against the darkness, when even the light in my room can't possibly be bright enough.

I reach for my Bible, covered in gray fabric with a flowered pattern in white. The bookmark is in Exodus 39 and 40, and I force myself to read this holy book.

 "From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the Lord had commanded Moses (Exodus 39:1) ...They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates all around the hem of the robe, between the pomegranates- a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate around the hem of the robe for ministering, as the Lord had commanded Moses" (Exodus 39:25-26). 

But what do the priest's garments have to do with me? The bells and pomegranates on the hem? The colors of the clothes? What do they have to do with the darkness that is slowly consuming me, this pain I feel over life's circumstances, this feeling of hopelessness?

 This book is hope and life itself. He died for me. He gives me hope. He gives me life. But instructions for making the priest's clothes? 

Exodus chapter forty. "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil" (1-3).

What on earth do these words have to with my pain?

And the darkness doesn't go away, but it stays, abated by my question being voiced. 

I keep reading, keep searching, one eye on the words on the page, the other on the shadow the darkness makes as it moves closer to me.

"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys" (Exodus 40: 34-38). 

 The tent of meeting was where God met with His people. This took place after they made a golden calf and worshiped it. After God had saved them from their slavery to the Egyptians. After God had parted the Red Sea. After God plagued the Egyptians with afflictions. 

 "...and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle...in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys..."

Oh darkness, it is me.     

Darkness, do you see God's holy light next to the blackness of us? 

 He loved us enough to send his son to die. He loved us enough to be particular about clothes. He loved us enough to be creative and demand bells and pomegranates of gold on the hems. He loved us enough to not abandon us even though He was and is the Almighty God who is so holy the priest's robes must be made a certain way, with gold bells and pomegranates dangling from Aaron's hems.

And the darkness recoils by my bed. In my soul. 

Darkness has no place in the tent of meeting.

This is how He destroys the darkness, a little corner each day. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Why I'm Not Doing the Non-White Authors Challenge

I have always considered myself to be a diverse reader. 

 I don't read just one kind of book. I read contemporary novels, historical fiction, biographies, non fiction, old books, new books, classics, fantasy, fairy tales, graphic novels, children's books, young adult books, adult books, mysteries, romance, Christian and non Christian. I love to read books that take place in different countries and different time periods. I love to learn new things. I love books that have a lot of depth and meaning, but I'll read lighter books, too. I am not afraid to read things out of my comfort zone. I have read quite a few Sci Fi books, a genre I personally don't like, and have even discovered a few I like. 

 But lately, I've been wondering how "diverse" my reading list really is. So I did some research. Of the twenty-three books I have read so far this year, I have read very different books- fiction and non fiction, men authors and women authors, JF to YA to Adult Fiction, and things in-between. But I also noticed that of those twenty-three books, only two were by non-white authors. 

 I looked at my shelf of favorite books, hoping I would see something different. Twenty-nine beloved books of mine: two novels by a Jewish man and a book of Japanese poetry. Many countries represented, like Germany, France, Persia, and India. But all by white authors except three. 

 I really had no idea.

 And I started to feel guilty. Guilty about the white authors I was reading, guilty for not being as "diverse" as I thought I was, guilty for not reading more books by people from different cultures and skin colors. 

 But it was an easy fix. I got onto Goodreads and did Google searches to find books by non white authors that looked interesting and I added them to my reading list. I promised myself that I would be better at reading a wider group of authors that were not so pale skinned. 

 And then on Google I found several links for something called the "Non-White Authors Reading Challenge". It looked interesting, fun, different, and dare I say it, politically correct. And for a few seconds I considered doing the challenge in 2018 and only reading non white authors. 

 But this is why I'm not.

  1. I should never be ashamed of reading books by white authors.

   First of all, because I am white. Second, since when is it a crime to read books by white people? It's not. It should never be a crime to read books by people of your own race just like it should never be a crime to read books by people of other races.

 2. I learned that China publishes the most books in the world, followed by the USA and the UK (Which Country Publishes the Most Books). 

 If you combine the USA and the UK, that means most of the books in the world are written in English by white people. That's just the way it is. I believe that we need to get better at translating these books so people in other countries are able to read more books and have more resources. I know that is a bigger problem than us English speakers realize. I also encourage other countries to crank out the books. I want to read them!  But the facts are that most books are by white people. 

 3. I've always focused on the book itself and not necessarily the author. 

 If someone picked up my future book in the library and decided to read it based purely on my ethnicity, I wouldn't be thrilled. I would prefer that they read my book because it looks interesting, well written, or they read another book of mine and loved it. And I assume other people feel the same way about their books.

 Of course, I get excited when I find a good book by a Japanese author for example because that is what I love to read. But I never want anyone to feel obligated to read a book just because someone is white or non-white. 

 I am not saying that white people are the best authors. I don't think that. I am not prejudiced against non white people; some of my favorite people are not white. I love other cultures, countries, different races and skin tones. I have been obsessed with Japan for quite a while, and since I visited Colombia, I'm in love with that country, too. Honestly, if I could choose what I looked like, I would rather be Asian or Latin American. Just saying. I think they are beautiful people. So there is no prejudice or hate here.

 I just don't want to apologize for being white and reading white authors. 

 However, I am glad I realized that I have been reading mostly white authors. I have already added more non-white authors to my reading list, and I'm already excited about some of the new books I have found to read. I just don't plan on completely taking out white authors, either.