Friday, December 21, 2007

evidence of schizophrenia

Here is a conversation:

Me: It is stupid to keep a blog. Who wants to know my silly opinions?

Other Me: Yeah, but you enjoy it. You compose posts in your head all the time.

Me: Yeah, but nobody reads them.

Other Me: well, that doesn't mean you can't write them anyway. And besides, some people read it, and they tell you they like it.

Me: But I don't even know what I'm doing. I use this voice that sounds like I know what I'm talking about, but the reality is that I'm not sure about anything.

Other Me: I don't think you're fooling anybody. I think it's obvious you don't know what you're talking about.

And on and on. And this is why there's not many posts recently. Because the "Me" voice is usually stronger than the "other me" voice.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

But on the other hand, I've had fairly profound experiences that meant a great deal to me during the past month with each of my "areas" (Christian, Buddhism, agnosticism). I just don't see how I could give any of them up. I'm reading a book by Brian McLaren (Finding Faith)(the old, single volume version) that has really helped me. McLaren is the pastor of a Bible church in Maryland. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but his line of thinking has been like a balm for my wounded Christian spirit. I don't think I'll ever end up being an orthodox Christian again -- meaning one that believes in the Virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, the existence of a literal heaven and hell and specific people who go there, etc-- but I believe in the message of Christianity. Not the evangelical message, I've already talked about my disagreements with that. But the message of love for one's neighbor, and one's neighbor is everyone you encounter. The message of the power of love to heal the wounds of living in this messed-up world, no matter what the nature of those wounds. The message of the Sermon on the Mount-- true power doesn't come from financial, military, or authoritarian power; true power comes from loving and serving and giving.

I'm also listening to Pema Chodron's Noble Heart, a ten-day retreat on cultivating bodichitta, the practice of an awakened heart. I'm not comfortable acting as a spokesperson for Buddhism, but it's effect on me has been profound. Even while typing what I believed about Christianity, I found myself thinking in Buddhist terms. "the wounds of living in Samsara." True compassion for one's neighbor begins with true compassion for one's self, "unlimited friendliness" toward our own failings and limitations, Pema calls it. This morning I was listening to the bit about how our minds have an innate capacity for being open and spacious, not tied up with the soap opera of our lives, if we can just shut up long enough to let our minds do their spacious thing. (she didn't phrase it like that, of course). This isn't new to me-- it's the kind of thing you read all the time in buddhist writing. But if you've been raised as an over-achieving Westerner, it's not intuitively obvious, and sometimes it's hard to believe. All those busy, busy thoughts seem so important. I've been trying meditation for some time now. I could easily concentrate here on how terrible-- no, how truly awful -- I am at meditation (maybe I'll do another post on that sometime), but what's relevant for the moment is that just this morning I caught a glimmer of that spaciousness. It's there, if we can just let go of the drama long enough to let it be.

And then there's agnosticism. To be honest, this is the one that feels the most real to me right now. I'm having a hard time believing in anything at the moment. I have a long track record of this. To doubt is fundamental to who I am, or at least, to who I perceive myself to be (Buddhism again). I love to question, to rip things apart. I'm not always great at putting them back together again. I'm reading God is not Great, which is atheist and not agnostic, of course. But I'm not done yet, so more on that later.

But I'm re-thinking my fractions. (you know, the one-third this, one-third that, one-third the other bit.) Because I'm not an agnostic in the sense Huxley intended. At least I don't think so. I think a true agnostic believes that since we can't know the answer to most of our questions about God and eternal truths, we can't believe. But I do believe. I don't know precisely how to name what it is that I believe in, but I do know that there is something there. Make that capital-S Something. There is Something beyond the ordinary sensory experience of life. I've said this so many times before I'm feeling redundant but it has been awhile, so here it is again. I don't know what it is that I connect with-- if it's something within my own consciousness or subconsciousness, if it's God or the Divine Source or cosmic strings or neurons firing in my cerebral cortex or what. But there is definitely Something that I connect with, and I believe in it. I have faith in it, even though my faith falters at times. And further: I believe it is worth connecting with. I think that last bit is the thing that atheists miss.

I'm so glad I'm not worrying about dangling prepositions anymore. That paragraph is full of them.

So I'm changing my fractions. One-third Christian, one-third Buddhist, and one-third something else, and I'm not sure what to call it. I've been thinking about this for awhile, but haven't typed it out because I don't know how to put it into words. But it has something to do with what we do with the stuff of our life, our experience; what we create out of the day-to-day details of living. I'm tempted to call it art. I believe in what we create out of ourselves and our experience, whether it is a literal work of art or a family or a home or a business. Or is it that I believe in the process of creating something out of ourselves? I was reminded of this today-- and here, far too many words later, I finally get to what prompted me to write this today.

My daughter's high school is a half dozen blocks from our church. Every year in December, the high school choir, which is excellent, walks down to our church at lunchtime and puts on a brief Christmas concert. I was there for it today and it was lovely. I've known a dozen or so of these kids for years-- one since she was in kindergarten with my daughter, many others since they were gangly, awkward 13 or 14 year olds. And some of them are still pretty goofy. Lovable, but goofy. But you put all of them together and their love for each other and their affection for their director and their respect and care for the music comes together and creates something far more than the sum of its parts, something that can move me nearly to tears. The concert wasn't perfect; they were trying out some new songs and there were a few rough edges. But it was something else, something better than clinical perfection, something that I aspire to myself. Let me know if you think of how to describe this, a word for it. Life is what you make it, yes? But I mean that in a much deeper way than the flip, casual way in which that phrase is usually said.

Oh, have I ever gone on too long this time. My apologies for the length. And reading over this, I realize that I've used the word "something" way too often and with many different meanings, but I don't know how to re-word it at the moment, so that's all for today.

Aunt BeaN

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've said before that I'm a Buddhist agnostic Christian. Or an Agnostic Christian Buddhist. Or a Christian Buddhist agnostic. You get the idea. It depends on the day you ask which one of those is the noun and which are the qualifiers. This isn't always popular. You get the impression from some people that it is wrong to combine ideas. If you're Christian, you're somehow betraying The Church if you adopt ideas from Buddhists or atheists. Or if you're atheist, you're lower than dirt if you admit that sometimes you have spiritual feelings that make you wonder. You don't get that from everyone, of course. Lots of people out there have cobbled together their own belief system. But I get it from enough people, from all three of my "areas," that it bugs me sometimes.

And I have to admit that the idea of adopting a single belief system and declaring complete loyalty to it is pretty appealing to me. Probably partly because I was raised to believe that is the "right" way to do it, but also because I know some people who are that way whose faith I envy. In the past week I've spent time with two dear friends, one Mormon and one Buddhist, who are both radiant with the happiness that their belief system brings them. They have each found the system that suits them, clearly. It's obvious from the way they glow when they talk about it. I'm fairly comfortable with my weird, one-person path most of the time, but I don't glow. I was envious.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

I made it to 40,400-odd words. Better than last year, but still not 50,000. Maybe next year. Third time's the charm, right? The main consequence (for me) of participating in NaNoWriMo has been the most utter, profound respect for anyone who has written a real, full-length book. You are all gods, every one of you.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I read a review of "Enchanted," the new Disney movie that opened over the weekend, that said it was "one of those rare 'all-ages entertainment' that really does appeal to all ages," and I just have to add: well, maybe, but it definitely will not appeal to all genders. My ten-year-old son, who was willing to go based on a couple of funny scenes in the trailers he's been seeing ad nauseum for the past several weeks, was completely disgusted. He had been sitting down in front with one of his buddies and the look of utter disdain on his face when he turned around to find me after the lights came up was priceless. I told him, "It's your first chick flick, dear. Get used to it." It is so cute it falls all over itself being cute. Get your girlfriends, a big bucket of popcorn, some chocolate, and prepare to be cuted to death.

I'm at just under 25,000 words with a week to go. I go back and forth between cheering myself on, "I can still do this! I can! I can!!" to thinking, well, I'll definitely make it further than I did last year (which was 30,038 words), and wanting to just stop. I have the world's stupidest plot this year, so it's hard to make myself keep going sometimes. But I'm trying to look at it as practice, just plain old practice, at stringing 50,000 words together. I've never done it before. If I just keep going, it will give me an idea of what it takes to do that many words.

I've always been the type that needed a deadline to really get serious about something, so we'll see how this goes. If I didn't have anything else to do this week, it wouldn't be a problem but, well, it's shaping up to be a pretty normal week which means I have plenty of other things I have to do.

Hope everybody had a great Turkey Day.
Aunt BeaN

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This is the only thing I wrote while On Hiatus that seems worth posting, written on a day when I was feeling pretty low.

I have nowhere to stand. The ground has disappeared underneath me. If I fall, where will I land? is there anywhere to land? this is exactly where Buddhism and Christianity diverge. Christianity says God has the hairs on your head numbered, he knows when the sparrow falls. If you jump, He will catch you, you will fall into His arms of love. Buddhism says, there is nowhere to stand. If you jump, you will fall into nothing. But you will be better off because you're not standing on false ground anymore. There is only groundlessness. Which is true? Does it matter? Both are human ways of thinking about something that is not within the realm of human comprehension. ...

and so on for a couple more paragraphs. Boring paragraphs. BUt I wanted to post that, because it will be relevant to some other things I want to say later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

As I've said before, I'm not a very outgoing person. So it was with a great deal of courage that I packed up my laptop and headed to Borders tonight to meet up with a half dozen other local writers who are participating in NaNoWriMo. Fortunately everyone was very friendly and it was a lot of fun. After an hour or so of talking with the others, I can tell you this: I need to get out more. My life has become so boring. It was very stimulating to hear what others are doing. We have one fantasy writer, one history buff, one writing a near-future suspense novel with worldwide catastrophes, one with the most amazing cast of characters I've ever heard, and me, with my 10,000 words and NO IDEAS. Well, I think I might actually be coming up with some ideas now that I can riff off what other people are doing. It was fun. I hope we do it again. And just think, only another FORTY THOUSAND words to go in a mere 17 days. Ah, I love Nano.

Aunt BeaN

Thursday, November 08, 2007

While I was On Hiatus, I read Great Expectations. You know, the one we all had to read in junior high-- Pip, Estella, Miss Havisham, the wedding cake covered with spiderwebs. I remembered the basics (I thought), and I remembered that I often didn't understand what I was reading. I was probably 13 at the time, and had no patience for Victorian English. And Miss Kimbrough, my 9th grade english teacher, the one who wore two different shoes for most of the day without even realizing it until one of her students pointed it out to her during 4th period, wasn't exactly a genius at explicating it for witless adolescents.

But what I discovered upon re-reading it surprised me. First of all, either I bagged on the novel halfway through, or we were only required to read half of it. I had no memory whatsoever of anything that happened after Pip discovered that Miss Havisham was not his benefactor. In fact, in my memory, that was where the novel ended. I was also surprised by how funny it is. Not in a Jim Carrey kind of way, of course, but in a subtler way. And further, I found myself truly moved by Pip. He undergoes a transformation from an arrogant young man to a humble, contented adult that is quite profound-- but also quite clearly planned by Dickens. There's no missing the moral to the story, although it's proof of Dickens genius that the lesson doesn't overpower the story. It's not a quick read, or at least not for me: Victorian english is slow going. I spread it out over the entire seven weeks. But highly recommended.

But BEST OF ALL: early on in the book, Dickens ends a sentence with a dangling preposition. And that settles it. If no less a writer than Charles Dickens can publish a book with a dangling preposition in it, who am I to worry? No more apologies for bad grammar. Or at least, not as many.

I'm trying to think of a witty way to end this post with a dangling preposition but of course not a single thing is coming to mind.

The death knell of sanity for someone who writes is becoming utterly convinced that one has nothing to say. It is easy to fall into, because what can one say that is anything more than a pebble tossed into the sea? Even great writers, real writers, writers with true works of art (or alternatively, bestsellers) to their credit can't claim to have changed the world. Remember awhile back when I said I had become more cynical in some ways and less cynical in others? That is where I am more cynical: I no longer believe it is possible to change the world.

But here is the way in which I have become less cynical: it doesn't matter. Or, rather: changing the world isn't what matters. And I'm still figuring out the implications of this. It is, on the one hand, an enormous relief. To not be responsible for changing the world, I mean. But on the other hand, the things that remain to be done become both less huge and more important. Faugh. words are failing me again.

to participate in nanowrimo is to come up with intricate, philosophical, bizarre, and hilarious excuses not to write.

epononymously yours,
Aunt BeaN

Friday, November 02, 2007

Oh, that just sounded so confident yesterday, about how I wouldn't be able to post much this month because I would be writing my novel. Oh, such delusions. I finally made myself sit down and start typing this morning, after avoiding it all day yesterday because I was afraid nothing would happen. And it was predictably awful. Triggering all sorts of dire thoughts about what an awful writer I am, how insane it was to think I would be able to do this again, etc etc etc. I could bore you to tears with this stuff, trust me. But at least I got 595 words done, so on day two, I only have 49,405 words left to go................ what the hell was I thinking???

The topic I left unaddressed yesterday was the whole realm of coffee substitutes. Coffee substitutes are in and of themselves a sufficient reason to stay addicted to coffee for the rest of your life. I'm trying to be caffeine-free, not just decaffeinated, which limits my options severely. But I still want something hot and somewhat coffee-like in the morning. So far I've tried Pero, Teeccino, Postum, and malted milk. They must definitely be an acquired taste, and I have not acquired it yet. But I'm trying. Teeccino is the best so far. Herbal teas are OK for the afternoon, but in the morning, they are too feeble. wimpy. anemic. whatever.

and that's it for today.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Well, I'm back. But since it is NOVEMBER and November is National Novel Writing Month ( I don't know how much I'll be posting. I'm trying something very different this year and it may make me crazy. I was going to start first thing this morning, but since I was on a plane yesterday, and since being on a plane requires motion sickness meds, I am like a zombie this morning-- still, at 11:20 a.m.

I will tell you about one adventure I had in the past seven weeks, though. I think I am coherent enough for that. Starting almost immediately after I went on hiatus, I decided that I would wean myself off caffeine. (I thought using the word "hiatus" would make it sound glamorous, like a TV show that had left you with a season-ending cliffhanger or something.) I am a caffeine addict, there is no denying it. Any form-- chocolate, coffee, tea, Diet Dr. Pepper, chocolate, and... well, chocolate. I've had caffeine every single day for at least the last ten years. I know that because if I didn't, I'd get a migraine. The leaning-over-the-toilet throwing-up-your-toes kind of migraine, which I hate. I even bought caffeine in pill form (yes, they still sell NoDoz) so if we were camping or travelling, I wouldn't have to worry about finding coffee.

But for some reason I decided it was a good idea to do this insane thing, so I plunged in. The first week, I just pushed back the first caffeine of the day -- so instead of having it first thing in the morning, I would wait until 11:00 a.m., and then 1 p.m., and then 4:00 p.m. That went OK. Then the next week I cut back to decaf (which still has a little caffeine, you know). That was pretty dang miserable. I'm prone to migraines anyway, and I had a mild migraine every day. "Mild migraine" may sound like an oxymoron, but if you have them often as I do, there is definitely such a thing. I classify a headache as a migraine if no over-the-counter meds will touch it (advil, tylenol, aspirin, excedrin-- though of course excedrin has caffeine in it, so it was no good for this purpose). A "mild" migraine would be one that makes you grumpy as hell, but you can still be up and about and haven't needed to take anything stronger. (You can imagine how much my family enjoyed this, by the way. It has already entered the status of legend when my kids talk about it: Remember When Mom Went Off Caffeine? and how horrible it was?)

But then the next week I cut out caffeine entirely and it was MISERABLE. I had a "real" migraine practically every day for the next ten days. Meaning, imitrex/zomig/maxalt (pick one of those three) and/or percocet. But then finally, a month after starting, it got better. And now I think I am truly off, although I am still adjusting behaviorally (I swear it was like getting off something much worse). I still want that damn cup of coffee in the morning, and I want it bad. And I miss the Diet Dr. Pepper caffeine boost in the afternoon. Oddly, I haven't missed chocolate as much as I miss the coffee. I walk down the coffee aisle at the grocery store and I find myself stopped in the middle of the aisle, just inhaling the smell of coffee.

Was it worth it? I honestly don't know yet. Preliminary results are inconculsive. I think I have to stick with it for awhile to see if it makes a difference.

This is somewhat crazy. I admit it. Hey, I wonder if I could use this in my noveL???

Aunt BeaN

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

my six weeks are up, but we're going out of town tomorrow so it will have to be seven.

later gator.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

I'm taking a break for awhile, probably 4-6 weeks. I could go on about why, but I'm not sure I even know. so ................. more later.

Auntie BeaN

Somebody shut me up
So I can live out loud
-Toby Mac
Reading Merton also helped me define some of what has been so helpful to me about Buddhism over the past four years or so. I've been reading about Buddhism for a lot longer than that-- I read Natalie Goldberg's book on Zen Buddhism Long Quiet Highway at least ten years ago, I know, and a few others along the way, too--like the Dalai Lama's book on happiness and an odd book about sheep and Buddhism called the Barn at the End of the World (I think). But I didn't really take an interest in Buddhism for its relevance to me personally until about four years ago when I ran across The Wisdom of No Escape, by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun who is the director of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. I've picked up from reading the various reviews on that she is considered something of a lightweight among certain buddhists, but she has been more helpful to me than I can say. I never underline in books, but almost without thinking about it, I grabbed a pen and underlined half of practically every paragraph in the first few chapters of that book. I think I've read four of hers now, and listened to a number of her teachings on CD, too. Then last year I listened to The Teaching Company's lectures on Buddhism and I've read a few other authors, too-- Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, a little of Chogyam Trungpa and Thich Nhat Hanh, and a bit more by the Dalai Lama.

If that sounds like I'm bragging, it's meant to be the opposite. One of the reasons it has been hard for me to talk about how important Buddhism is to me is that I don't feel qualified. I've done all this reading, but I know it's minimal compared to what's out there. Unlike my history with Christianity, I've never lived as a Buddhist for an extended period of time, I've never even been on a Buddhist retreat. When talking about Christianity, I know it from the inside, I've lived it and breathed it. Of course I don't speak for all Christians, but there's no doubt in my mind that my upbringing was representative of a certain type of Christianity and I can speak about it with some level of comfort. But when I start talking about Buddhism, I'm way out of my league. But I can't talk about where I am now without bringing it up. So I guess I just wanted to make it clear that my understanding of Buddhism is that of a beginner. Very beginner.

So anyway. All that to say: while reading Merton, it struck me how similar the Christian practice of denying the self is to the Buddhist practice of No Self. I know that theologically there is a big difference-- I could go on for pages on the difference between "dying to self so I can live for Christ," "being broken so that Christ can shine through," and the Buddhist idea that the self is a construct that exists in our head that has no other meaning. But in practice, the way you live this out without thinking about what it means, I think they are more similar than different. The idea is to let go of the belief that your wants and perceived needs and desires have any significance at all. Merton talks about how the all the striving after the "desires of the flesh" keeps you from finding what is really important. Pema Chodron says when our minds are spinning with cares and worries and problems, to let go of the story line and see what remains, what is underneath. (I love the Buddhist definition of ego: Ego is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.) The two ideas are not the same, but in terms of how I put them into practice in my life, they're pretty similar. And reading about the Buddhist take on this has breathed new life into an idea that had become extremely stale for me.

enough already.

Friday, September 07, 2007

My working definition of faith, which is borrowed verbatim from Sharon Salzburg, a Buddhist writer and teacher, in her amazing book Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience:

"Faith does not require a belief system, and is not necessarily connected to a deity or God, though it doesn't deny one. This faith is not a commodity that we have or don't have-- it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience.... No matter what we encounter in life, it is faith that enables us to try again, to trust again, to love again. Even in times of immense suffering, it is faith that enables us to relate to the present moment in such a way that we can go on, we can move forward, instead of becoming lost in resignation or despair. Faith links our present-day expereince, whether wonderful or terrible, to the underlying pulse of life itself." (I could also have just excerpted the entire book here, but that would be a bit impractical.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I had originally planned to do quite a bit more reading of current evangelical Christian thinking before moving on, but I was so burned by Blue that I've decided to move on, at least for the time being. I have a Brian McLaren and Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, and I may still read them at some point, but it will be sometime in the future.

So what I've been thinking about recently is- exactly what does it mean to have faith? The analogy I think of most often goes back to a math and chemistry fair that I attended when I was in high school-- so (clears throat: ahem), obviously this was a long time ago. We went off to a huge high school a couple of hours away and attended various classes on interesting things (and I really did think they were interesting, which tells you exactly how much of a nerd I was then)(and still am). The only one I remember was about fractals, imaginary numbers, and chaos theory. I will tell you my memory of it because it's relevant to my point and then tell you what I found out when I went back to fact check this afternoon.

What I remember most is the explanation of imaginary numbers. An imaginary number is a number whose square is a negative number. Got that? Since a negative number times a negative number is a positive number, this shouldn't be possible. For example. The square of 4 is 16, because 4 times 4 is 16. The square of 3 is 9, because 3 times 3 is 9. But what number squared is -9? If you multiply -3 times -3, you still get 9. (hmmm. So is the square root of 9 also -3? but I digress) If you multiply 3 times -3, you get -9 but it's not a square.

BUT. the interesting thing is this: if you allow for the existence of these seemingly impossible imaginary numbers, you can do all kinds of neat things with them in equations that describe phenomena in the real world and help mathematicians and scientists solve real world problems-- I think particularly in electronics and the mechanics of turbulence and fluid dynamics.

And that's how I've come to think of faith. It doesn't have any objective existence in the real world. There is no real, tangible, sensory evidence that you can produce for why you have faith. There is no reason to have faith, it shouldn't exist. But if you accept that faith exists and you work with it, it changes things; it adds dimension and understanding to my life that would otherwise be impossible. If you act as if faith exists, it becomes true, and leads to all kinds of practical, useful corollaries.

Interesting analogy, isn't it? But when I went to wikipedia this afternoon to read read about imaginary numbers to make sure I had the idea right, I found out that the math behind imaginary numbers is more mind-boggling than I knew. It turns out that all numbers are abstractions that are only useful in context. (you can read the wikipedia entry on imaginary numbers for more on this topic. it's really interesting.) So even though imaginary numbers are called "imaginary," they are no less real than what we think of as "real" numbers. So maybe my analogy doesn't hold up too well to close scrutiny, but I'm giving it to you anyway, because I just found that out this afternoon and I haven't had time to think of a new analogy yet.

but you know......... maybe that makes it an even better analogy. I think it needs to be late at night and half-a-bottle-of-wine-gone to follow this train of thought, at least for the non-mathematically inclined, like me.

Sign me boggled.
Aunt BeaN

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In Which Aunt BeaN Revisits the Contrast Between The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, and Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. The latter had been recommended to me by several people as an example of the new, innovative thinking coming out of the evangelical Christian community, and that was reinforced by the reviews on But I couldn't get through it. I'd even say it was downright awful. I objected to it so much that I don't even really want to write about it, because the strength of my response suggests that it is more about my own personal axe-grinding than it is about the book itself. To me, it was a maze of circular reasoning, bad logic, and poor analogies. But obviously it has been very meaningful to a lot of other people, witness the reviews on amazon.

I'll just say this: I have no patience with anyone who can dismiss a major world religion with 300 million followers as a fad, as Miller does with Buddhism. I admit I didn't finish the book, so maybe he makes up for it at the end. But I put it down in disgust after the 2nd time he referred to someone who was interested in Buddhism as only wanting to look cool and trendy. I'm sure there are people who are interested in looking cool and trendy who are also interested in Buddhism. But about four or five years ago, it was awfully trendy to be involved in a conservative Christian church, too, and you don't hear him complaining about that. and anyway, what about the hundreds of millions of people for whom Buddhism works just fine? Oh, I wasn't going to rant and I can just hardly help it.

Well, OK, you twisted my arm so I'll keep going. Somewhere toward the beginning, he talks about his big crisis of faith, which was resolved while he was still in college, so he was probably hung up in this big crisis for what, a year? Anyway. the way he was able to resolve it was through an analogy he made in a literature class. Since the Christian faith has all the classic elements of a story (as defined by his literature professor), that means it's TRUE! Really! I'm not making this up, that was what resolved his crisis of faith. It was so silly that it was several days before I could pick it up again.

I do think there is some innovative thinking coming out of the Evangelical community, there is no question about that. And Miller is probably more representative of that than I want to admit. But as long as they hang on to their exclusivist theology-- that only the people who are Evangelical Christians are going to "heaven" (if that even has any meaning)-- it just isn't enough of a change for me personally.

Which is what brings me back to Merton. Merton is equally sure of the exclusivity of salvation for Catholics, so why didn't it bug me the same way that Donald Miller did? Is it just because he's a better writer? (would I forgive anything for art?) or because there seems to be more intelligence behind his passionate embrace of the Catholic faith? or because he's not evangelical, so I don't have such a big chip on my shoulder when I'm reading? I suspect it's all of that and also this: Merton is so fearlessly passionate about his embrace of the Catholic faith that you can't help but admire him and his willingness to put everything on the line to pursue it-- and that is literally everything, since he spent the rest of his life as a Trappist monk. Next to that, Miller's plays on words and riffing on the traditional themes of the protestant faith seem lightweight at best.

Aunt BeaN

Sunday, August 26, 2007

sort-of the book and movie post for this summer

Last week I did something I've never done before: I went to see two movies in one day. I normally see 4-5 movies a year. But it was a cool, cloudy day (although unfortunately not much rain fell). My son went to a birthday party in the afternoon, so Nell and I went to see "Becoming Jane." It's a beautifully made movie, and to my surprise, Anne Hathaway did a creditable job as Jane Austen. It's an absorbing account of what happens to two young people who fall in love in a restrictive society. But I didn't find it very convincing as a biographical account of Austen's formative years (about which not all that much is known, as I understand it). I don't know much about Austen besides what you learn in college, but I've read her work fairly avidly, and I've never picked up much sympathy for young, passionate, ill-considered love. I think if she had been through what the movie describes, she would have been quite a bit more sympathetic to the Mariannes of the world.

Then that night we packed up the whole crew, including the neighbor kids, and went to see Stardust. I loved Stardust. That's as much fun as I've had sitting in a theater since the Lord of the Rings movies came out. It's not a great movie, and you can pick at it, it's true. but it was great entertainment. Everybody I had with me, ranging in age from nine to 46 (me), agreed. I might even go see it again.

So that brought me to spend my birthday Borders gift card on the hardback version of Stardust written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess, which was also good, but maybe slightly less fun than the movie (my favorite characters in the movie, the chorus line of ghosts, play a far more minor role in the book). That makes several times in the past few years now that I've seen movies that I enjoyed more than the books-- it seems like that never used to happen. But the book is well worth perusing. The illustrations are wonderful and add a completely different element to the story-- I believe it was a collaboration, rather than a book that had a few illustrations done for it after the story was finished.

And this week (finally, finally, after months of chipping away at it), I finished The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton's autobiographical account of his early years and decision to enter a Trappist monastery. I'm not sure why it took me so long; I liked it well enough and found it very absorbing while I was reading it, but then I'd put it down and weeks would go by before I'd pick it up again. It is beautifully written and as heartfelt as anything I've read in a long time. Although there is no question that Merton feels he has found the Ultimate Truth in his Catholica faith, I didn't find that opinion offensive here the way I did in Blue Like Jazz, which I tried to read this summer and finally gave up a couple of weeks ago. More about this in another post.

Off to take my son fishing. He is a fanatic. I don't fish, I don't have the patience for it. but I can take a book and sit in a lawn chair and we are both happy.

Aunt BeaN

Friday, August 17, 2007

So, after you decide you're not going to take the Bible literally as if God dictated it, the next question is: how do you read the Bible? The simple answer, and the one I used for years, is: seriously. You read it seriously, but not literally. It turns out to be much more complex than that, but it is the answer I keep coming back to. (someday I'm going to quit apologizing for dangling prepositions, but not yet: sorry about that one.)

Early on, I went through a number of moments of panic about this, because it is inevitable that you will hear derisive comments made by those who are still literalists and it's hard not to take them personally. My favorite is: "It must be nice to be able to cherry-pick which verses you're going to pay attention to." (do I have to apologize for other people's dangling prepositions?) And the only advice I have is: you just have to let that stuff roll off your back. Because all Christians cherry pick verses. You can't give equal weight to all the thousands and thousands of verses in the bible. It's just that literalists don't admit this, even to themselves-- they hide under the banner of "God wrote it, I believe it, that settles it," often without really being clear about what that means.

this is going off in a direction "on which I had not planned" when I sat down to write this post, so maybe I will stop there and re-start in the next. Which may have to be Monday since the rest of today and the weekend are dang busy. We're taking 15 high school seniors camping tonight. No, I'm not making that up. I have cooler full of hamburger fixings and a case of Red Bull.

It's pretty smoky here-- there are three major and a half-dozen smaller forest fires near the town where I live, and some sort of inversion is holding all the smoke in where we can breathe it more deeply. I should post a picture. Maybe I will for once. If you can see blue sky where you live, appreciate it.............

Have a great weekend and be good.

Aunt BeaN

p.s. (posted later) the case of Red Bull wasn't nearly enough. ack.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Creation Report, Part 3: what WAS said

I'm getting tired of writing about Creation so this will be short. I told you I have ADD, right?

But what I continue to find disturbing and problematic is the insistence that only Christians are OK. There was less talk about converting people from other religions than I expected, I admit, but there was all kinds of talk about how only Christians can have good marriages, only Christian teens will survive with their morals intact, only Christians can withstand the temptation to use drugs and alcohol and so on.

This is the Fear Factor, nothing else. If you don't become a Christian, you'll be a failure. If you don't become a Christian, you'll never be happy. (this was not from the musicians, mind you-- except a couple of the more conservative ones-- it was from the speakers). Since a I know a number of people from a variety of religious backgrounds (and also some who have no religious preference at all) who have happy marriages, healthy teenagers, and well-rounded lives, this is just ludicrous to me. Not to mention that I know plenty of Christians who have difficult marriages and difficult teenagers. I think this is one of the main reasons that conservative Christians tend to hang out with each other and avoid close friendships with non-Christians-- because their prejudices just wouldn't hold up to reality. We all have similar struggles. There's no magic pill/religious belief that buys you an easy ride.

Oh, wait, I'm up on my soapbox again.

But I'm only getting started, because the thing that really got me going was the haranguing about female sexuality. Or the smothering thereof. Not everyone brought this up, but it was a constant theme. Modesty. Abstinence. Virginity. I'm not opposed to any of those things. In fact, since my daughter was in the 10-12 year old range in the midst of the Britney Spears rage, I would have been happy to hear a little more of it than was being said at that time. As part of a range of healthy sexual options for teens, abstinence works just great for me. BUT what mystifies me is why it's all directed at GIRLS. OK, in order for them to be sexually active, there is usually a guy involved. These people may be opposed to sex education, but there's no way I'm believing they don't know that. How come NONE of it was directed at the guys? Nothing to the guys: keep your mind out of the gutter, keep your pants up above your crack, keep it in your pants (excuse me for being blunt).

I think I've made my point. Packing up soapbox and moving on. I guess this wasn't exactly short but it was short-ER.

Love and kisses,
Aunt BeaN

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Creation Report, Part 2: what WASN'T said

Part two in a series of posts about my recent experience at Creation Festival West, a four-day Christian music festival that was held the last bit of July at the Gorge Ampitheater in George, WA:

One of my biggest fears going into Creation was that there would be a lot of anti-gay, anti-abortion rhetoric. I could write separate posts about why I am not opposed to either of those things, and maybe I will someday, but for now suffice it to say that I'm offended by the Religious Right's stance on those (and many other) issues. Well, I can very quickly in one sentence sum up why I'm not opposed to gays, and that's because I know a bunch of gay people and they are just fine, thank you very much. My opinion about abortion is much more complicated than that, but one way to state it briefly would be: I would never want someone else, especially the government, to make that decision for me or anyone else.

But back to Creation. I was assuming there would be lots of posturing about those two hot topics. But you know, I have to say it: there wasn't. The only discussion I hard about abortion was within our own group. And I didn't hear a word about gays, either pro or con. Which I suppose you could complain makes them into an invisible population, but still the point remains that nothing was said, either by any of the musicians or any of the speakers (that I heard, I didn't hear them all). I was surprised. As someone who has for more than twenty years now considered herself a liberal (at least politically speaking), it made me wonder about liberal paranoia. The numbers show, in poll after poll, that most Americans disagree with conservatives on those issues. All the noise is made by a very vocal, very powerful minority. Maybe we should just drop the paranoia and ignore them. They're very quickly falling out of favor anyway.

You could of course argue that the spokespeople at Creation are savvy enough to stay away from hot-button issues until they lure kids in with great music and inspirational talk about the love of God. Maybe the indoctrination into conservative opinions will take place after they return to their home churches. But then again, our church was there with 20 kids, and when those kids show up at our church, they won't hear anything like that. Opinions in our church range from extremely liberal to extremely conservative (that's one of the reasons I love our church, lots of diversity on theological issues), so they will be exposed to a wide variety of opinions and they will see that all of those opinions are acceptable at a Christian church.

So on the whole, in this particular area, I found that Creation was surprisingly OK. It seemed to me that if a teenager with no religious inclinations at all had come with friends, they would leave having been exposed to the parts of Christianity that I would want them to be exposed to: the importance of service-- ie., helping fellow human beings who need help; the importance of supporting each other; the nature of love and forgiveness.

in the next post: what WAS said, the good, the bad, and the ugly

Aunt BeaN
Intrepid Grammatically-Challenged Reporter
(with apologies for dangling prepositions and all other grammatical sins)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Creation music festival report, part I

Well, I'll try and get some of this down before it's so far in my rear view mirror that I can't remember anymore.

Before we left to go to Creation (a huge, multi-day Christian music festival at an outdoor ampitheater in central Washington state), I was sure I was going to have to just grit my teeth and get through it. My spouse and daughter have been going for years, some years with our church youth group, some years with just the two of them plus a few of our daughter's friends. They would come back glowing, and both of them have wanted me to go for a long time. I kept begging off because it sounded so awful-- miserably hot, primitive camping conditions, and lots of conservative Christian rhetoric floating around. But unfortunately I used as my excuse that our son wasn't old enough yet. I had randomly picked ten as the age when he would be old enough to go, and guess who turned ten last month??

So I had no excuses left, and I was kind of curious how it would go, given that I'm working through my conservative Christian background anyway. This year we went with our church youth group and a bunch of various friends, so it ended up being a group of about 25 of us. All of them that know me thought it would be a brand new experience for me since it's not the type of thing that I do these days, but honestly, I grew up going to this kind of stuff. I've been to stadium revivals, Christian music concerts, and smaller church revivals; I've heard Billy Graham, Luis Pulau, Leighton Ford, Hal Lindsey... well, I could go on, but you get the idea. I even went with my family to a huge thing called Explo '72 (short for Evangelism Explosion) that was held in Dallas in June, 1972 (I honestly don't remember that much about it since I was only 11 at the time but OF COURSE there is a wikipedia entry about it that I just found-- apparently 80,000 students showed up for it and at the final concert, there were more than 100,000).

I find these days that I distrust emotionalism in religious practice. Cynicism, again, I confess. But you would not believe how many times I've been to retreats, meetings, seminars, camps, conferences, concerts, etc (not just Christian) and seen people (myself included) get on a so-called "spiritual high" that just doesn't have much to do with living life in the trenches: the everyday grind. But as reported last week, I'm discovering that maybe I've taken my own cynicism a little too seriously. Plus, it was obvious within twenty minutes of arriving that if I was going to dismiss the "spiritual high" phenomenon, there was going to be little to nothing for me to experience at Creation. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to just let myself experience it as if I were a lot more naive than I really am. Or maybe that is an illusion, too.

So I found myself there, the first night, listening to a speaker whose agenda was clearly to convert as many as possible. Normally I would just tune this guy out, because to me, conversion is the least useful spiritual experience (maybe because I was raised in a religious tradition so I've never had a conversion experience?). But I was trying to allow myself to get into the spirit of the thing, so I listened. As I said, I'm fairly adept at re-writing things in my head on the fly, so it ended up being pretty interesting. Toward the end, he was addressing the fears that people might have that keep them from God. So in the spirit of the thing, I was examining my own fears. And I discovered to my own surprise that my biggest fear was that the conservative evangelical thinking of my youth might actually be true. I don't like the person I was then. I don't like the opinions I held as if they were Ultimate Truth. I don't want to be like that again. But here I am twenty years later, so afraid that it might be true that I don't even want to think about it, or let any of those types of thoughts into my head. Possibly what it would feel like to have been brainwashed by some cult and have to go back into it-- what if I get sucked back in? I believed this once, what if I end up believing it again? what if, just what if, it turns out to be true, and-- as someone who professes to want to know what is true -- I have to believe it?

But the cool thing was that the act of discovering and articulating this fear seems to have been all that was required to let it go. I don't think I knew it was there, although I've felt some of it before (what if it's true? what if I get sucked back in?). And as soon as I let it go, I knew it had lost its power over me. It was a very cool feeling. So I was able to experience the rest of the three-day festival as a curious observer: taking in some of it, letting some of it pass me by, watching the people around me, listening to the artists, and just not worrying about whether or not some awful thing was going to happen as a result of having participated. It was very freeing. Just that one experience the very first night made it worth going.

to be continued....
Aunt BeaN

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I could post for days about all the things I observed and thought about and learned while at the music festival last week, but after driving more than 8 hours today on 4 hours of sleep, all I want to do is go to bed. And tomorrow we're headed off again for at least a few days of family time.

In brief, it was a great trip. My spouse and daughter have been going for years now, and every year they've tried to talk me into going. It sounded like the Aunt BeaN version of hell, to be honest-- lots of conservative Christians hanging out in one place (like 20,000 of them), temperatures in the upper-90s, and nary an air conditioner, sink or flush toilet in sight. And all of that turned out to be true. But the thing that outweighed all of that was how good the music was, and how much fun the kids were having. Toby Mac, Relient K, Switchfoot, and David Crowder were just wonderful. I even would say I enjoyed Kutless and the Newsboys, although Kutless leans toward what my spouse calls "pile driver" music and Newsboys is a bit conservative for my taste. They also had a featured speaker each night, which I didn't care for-- more about this another time, I hope-- there was even an altar call every night with hundreds of people streaming down the aisles, just like the revival meetings I went to as a child. But you know, I've become very good at re-writing conservative speakers and sermons on the fly. Often what they're saying contains some sort of universal spiritual truth that I can learn from, I just have to re-word it in my head so that the ideas that piss me off are less prominent. I've learned some great stuff doing that, and this week was no exception. So all in all it went pretty well, and I was very proud of myself for keeping the chip on my shoulder down to a reasonable size.

Stay cool. It gets hotter and hotter around here-- after our hot, dry summer, the forests are starting to burst into flames all around us.

Aunt BeaN

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm at Creation West 2007, a Christian music festival, at the Gorge Ampitheater in George, WA. I'm a quasi-chaperone for my daughter's youth group-- "quasi" because the group is camping in a field and I'm staying at a hotel. :-) I had planned to write about this whole thing before we left, but we've been so busy lately that I feel like I've hardly been home in over a week. But I did bring our laptop that has wireless internet, and the hotel has wireless internet, so here I am. Once again it is too late to post much, but I just wanted to say that I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying the music. The speakers I could do without, but the music-- especially Relient K last night and Switchfoot tonight-- has been really, really good. I'm wondering if age has something to do with it-- the speakers are all my age, and they are preaching Old News, if you ask me. But the musicians are in their twenties, maybe even early twenties, and they are smart and interesting and alive. It reinforces my belief-- having spent several years now with lots of teenagers around -- that these kids are going to be the ones to change the world, after our generation failed miserably to do it.

I need sleep. No moshing tonight, but I hope I'll be down there again for Toby Mac on Saturday. If I don't have time to post more while I'm here, I'm sure there will be plenty to say after we get back home again. I do feel slightly guilty that I'm about to turn in to a cushy bed in a nice hotel while my kids and the rest of the crew are sleeping in little better than a field of grass outside the ampitheater, but I don't plan on losing sleep over it-- I did offer to let any of them stay with me but they were all excited about camping.

We were meant to live for so much more (Switchfoot)

aunt BeaN

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I would just like to record for posterity: I moshed on my 46th birthday. More later, it's way too late for a full report.

Aunt BeaN
reporting live from the Gorge ampitheater in George, WA

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter again (updated)

Well, it's probably no surprise to my readers, all six of you, that we are still obsessed with Harry Potter around here. It's been such a topic of conversation both here at our house, among friends, and in the press, that I've been tempted to post more about it, but since-- as far as I know-- none of you are similarly obsessed, I've resisted. But I'm posting this one, which I'll update after I've read the seventh book, and it's easy enough to skip if you're not interested.

All four of us (plus some of my 17-year-old daughter's friends) went to our local Borders for the release party last night. It was a hoot. A little weird, yes, but also a lot of fun. I was expecting about a hundred people, but I'd guess there were easily 500 there. It's not a huge Borders like I've seen in some cities, but it's a big book store, and it was packed. all ages, all levels of costume-- some very creative ones, too. We left at midnight, preferring to actually purchase somewhere where we wouldn't have to stand in line for an hour, but it was definitely worth going just for the experience.

I haven't read it yet, but here are a few reactions to things that I've read or heard.

It never ceases to amaze me the attraction Americans feel to being the persecuted minority. I've heard both sides-- people who don't like HP who feel that they are looked down on or ridiculed by the faithful, and those of us who are fans who have been roundly criticized for supporting such a silly cultural phenomenon. I've even experienced this one-- I had a woman I'd never even seen before lecture me about the dangers of poorly written children's books a couple of years ago while I was standing in line at a bookstore with a copy of the 6th book in my hand. I've already stated my opinion about Rowling's writing skills-- that she started out as a thorougly mediocre writer and has turned herself into a better-than-average one-- but even if they aren't the most elegantly written books ever, they still are an interesting story well told, and I'm glad my children enjoy them. I guess my definition of good writing for an adventure story is that you don't notice the writing. I don't care about elegance when there's a suspenseful plot involved, I care about finding out what happens and not being distracted by the writing. And I would say in the fifth and sixth book she definitely made that happen. (I never did re-post my review of the fourth book but maybe I will, since I think I made an interesting point, not that I'm biased or anything. ) She has a somewhat irritating tendency to use ellipses or dashes when Harry is in mortal danger and she is recording his thoughts-- I think she is trying to get across the idea that he is thinking on the fly and they aren't fully formed thoughts, but it is distracting. but that would be my only remaining complaint about her writing.

Of course there are all kinds of people that dislike these books, many of whom have excellent taste. Neither of my siblings likes them, and both of them have tried hard to. I know a number of kids that don't like them. In fact, as I'm tallying up here, I think more of our kids' close friends dislike them than like them. Or maybe not dislike, but just aren't interested enough to read 700+ pages worth. So they definitely don't appeal to everyone.

But then there's the people who seem to dislike HP purely because the series is so popular. As if anything that is that widely popular must by definition be derivative and superficial. I just flat out disagree that that is true, so nuff said there. her depiction of good and evil is (to me) surprisingly complex for a children's book. There are definitely two camps in these books-- the bad guys, followers of Lord Voldemort, and the good guys, the ones that oppose him. But on both sides there are a surprising number of people of all types. There are some very disturbing, nasty people who are good guys (Dolores Umbridge, Mr. Crouch, Scrimgoeur). And of course, Snape, who is so difficult to read that declaring whether you think Snape will end up as a good guy or a bad guy has been one of the most fun debates of the last couple of years. And among the bad guys, there are some who are there purely because they fear the consequences of not following the Dark Lord, and many who display otherwise-good qualities of loyalty, devotion and commitment. I think the confusion comes in because Rowling always, even in the midst of the most dire scenes, throws in some humor, which perhaps makes her approach seem more lightweight than it really is. I happen to appreciate this, because as you have probably noticed, I also tend to be a bit flippant when discussing even the most serious of issues.

The other thing that I've seen a lot over the past few days is various different experts recommending other books that make HP look like sawdust, according to them. Since I'm probably one of the few adults that's read most of these other books, I can tell you that there are indeed a lot of good children's books out there that haven't received nearly the interest or exposure that they deserve, probably in part because of the success of the Potter books. But for me, few of them have the magnetic, mesmerizing interest of Rowling's books. Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials books are indeed excellent, and probably the best example of books that didn't get the exposure they deserved. They're interesting, and complex, and very absorbing. but I thought they went downhill as the series progressed-- the first book is definitely the best. I'm planning on re-reading those now that they're making them into movies, so maybe I will revise my opinion about that. I also read last week a woman recommending "Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell," which floored me-- I thought that was the most boring book I'd read in years. I tried, I really did. I love fantasy, and it seemed like a book I would really like. I read at least 350 pages of it. But I kept putting it down and not caring whether or not I picked it back up again. I finally gave it up and put it in the Friends of the Library sale pile.

I can't believe I let this get this long. I'm not obsessed, really I'm not. I can quit any time. More later when I've finished the book.

Update: Finished the book last week. As the end of the series, I'd give it an A-. It is a great read, very absorbing, and very emotionally involving. Given all the expectations she had on her shoulders, it is amazingly good. Definite thumbs up. As a standalone book, though, I'd give it a B-. I can't really say why without giving spoilers, so I'll just leave it as that. I enjoyed reading it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Telling people about your blog is a funny thing. Almost invariably, the people that I am most sure will be interested aren't. I told one dear friend about it not long after I started; for some reason I was sure she above all people would be interested and encouraging. but she was critical of the idea, and as far as I know, she's never even looked at it. It's the people that I've told practically on a whim who are the ones that end up being interested and encouraging. (which doesn't necessarily mean they read it all the time, I know nobody has any time these days.) I've become very wary about who I tell, because the lack of interest from people that you are sure will be interested is pretty discouraging. Sometimes it takes awhile to recover-- and since I'm writing this, you can probably tell it happened recently. but I keep doing it so I suppose that says something. I'm not sure what.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is how grateful I am for my six loyal readers. Well, honestly, I don't really know how many of you there are but six is a nice number.

Aunt BeaN

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A couple of months ago I posted a pretty negative review of the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had a couple of gripes about it, but the main thing was that she wanted the reader to accept the experience of falling in love as a serious part of a spiritual search. As someone who has been married for 23 years, that is so far from my experience that it just seemed ludicrous. Falling in love, it often seems to me, is about self-indulgence. It's amazing, it's one of the most positive parts of being a human being, but it seems practically the antithesis of a spiritual discipline. I've lived through it with friends where it seemed almost teeth-grindingly fatuous. And in each of those cases, the couple is no longer together-- which just reinforced my opinion, of course. It almost seems that the more someone spouts off about how fabulously wonderful and perfect their new love is, the more likely it is that they will split up within a year. That sounds cynical, I know. It is cynical. But call me up and let me know if you disagree after you've been in a relationship twenty years. If you're in it for the long haul, the serious work of the relationship-- the part that (to me) could be considered part of your spiritual path-- begins after the romance has worn off. How do you learn to value who the other person is, even when the way they are requires accepting things that are unacceptable to you? How do you learn to support someone else in their path when it means compromising on some of your own goals and dreams? and my own personal hornet's nest: how do you know when you're striking a healthy compromise and when you're giving away too much? (and of course all of those are only OK if they are being practiced mutually by both partners).

But I read an article recently that is making me re-think my cycnicism a bit, and I'm feeling that a bit of an apology is due to Ms. Gilbert (not that she'll ever know, but I'll feel better) (and for the record, for the purposes of this post I went and checked her website and she and her partner are still together). The article is by Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry, and it appeared in The American Scholar click here. The part of it that is relevant to the above is said in the midst of an elegant and thoughtful essay about the search for God. It's the kind of article that makes me both sigh with envy (for how beautifully written it is) and sigh with relief, because someone with far better writing skills than mine is talking intelligently about this stuff in a public forum.

Anyway. Here is the relevant passage, but you really should read the whole thing. He is talking about three events that happened to him in the previous year that opened him to the possibility of God again, after many years of nonbelief. The second event is falling in love: "it felt, for the first time in my life, like I was being fully possessed by being itself. [falling in love filled him with] a joy that was at once so overflowing that it enlarged existence, and yet so rooted in actual things that, again for the first time, that's what I began to feel: rootedness." There's more, but that's the only bit I can excerpt easily. He convinced me that the resurgence of joy and hopefulness that go along with falling in love can be a legitimate springboard for the search for meaning and transcendence.

So Ms. Gilbert, you have my blessings. (just kidding.)

(expiring in the heat out here, hope everyone else is nice and cool)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Having recently returned from a week at a family reunion (as far as I know, all of whom are still conservative Christian), the topic of recovering from fundamentalism seems more relevant than ever. The problem, though, is that I can't think of anything to say that won't sound ridiculously obvious to anyone who wasn't raised that way. Which brings up the question: are these posts even worth writing? You can tell by the sparse number of posts over the last few weeks that I've been asking that one a lot. Hmmm. Well, they are for me. The process of writing the previous posts about inerrancy made me much more confident about my opinion. Even though I ended up editing out most of the arguments, a lot of thought went into that. Usually when I go to family events it takes weeks for me to recover-- they really throw me off center. But this time I didn't feel that much at all.

The main thing I noticed is that none of them believe strictly in inerrancy, either. At least some of them would protest vociferously about that if they were to read this. But in practice, I really think it's true. Though there were a number of prayers, none of the women covered their heads (I Cor 11:5). None of the men raised their hands (I Tim 2:8). And those are just the obvious examples. Others would be much more subtle.

For me, once I started thinking about inerrancy, it just didn't hold water. Fundamentalists are fond of phrases like: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" As if everything were perfectly clear. But the reality is that scripture is always interpreted. You read I Tim 2, the most problematic chapter in the New Testament if you ask me, and there are parts of it that just can't be right. Women will be saved through the bearing of children? (v. 15) How in the world does that fit in with grace? (Ephesians 2:8, among many others) So everyone tends to ignore that verse. but then the one that is most often quoted to justify banning women from positions of authority in the church is just three verses earlier: "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (v. 12) That one gets quoted all the time.

I don't think you can have it both ways, so to me inerrancy is an untenable position. But you know, there are plenty of people, millions of them, that don't see that as a contradiction. They work it out in their own minds somehow (or maybe they just ignore it) and they're fine with it. Does that mean that belief in a particular theological point is more a matter of personality than anything else? You believe what you can live with? With the way my brain works, I can't accept the contradictions raised by I Timothy 2 (and others, that's just the most obvious), so I can't buy inerrancy. Ha. I've always thought of fundamentalists as people who like to have things black & white, no gray areas. But apparently they're just fine with gray areas when it comes to inerrancy, and I'm the one that can't tolerate them. How can you say that all scripture is the literal Word of God, but then pounce on one verse while ignoring the one that occurs three verses later?

But that works just fine for many. Maybe it just comes down to your comfort level with the way you were raised. If you had a happy childhood and you respect your parents and the leaders of your church, you're not likely to want to question their opinions and want to leave.

I'm not sure. I'm starting to believe that religion is more about choices, choosing the way you want to interact with your experience, than it is about ultimate truth. If the way you were raised works for you, you stay with it, even if it has some rough edges. If it throws up too many barriers, if it just refuses to match up with the way you experience life, you start looking for something else. Some other way of thinking about, interacting with your experience.

hmmm. more thought required.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

immersed in Harry Potter

Time for a break from all the seriousness.

Like everyone it seems, we are anxiously awaiting the 7th and last Harry Potter Book. My daughter has been an addict (almost literally) since we read the first one out loud when she was about seven years old. The first three we read out loud to her, but starting with the fourth, she has read them all herself. And read them and read them. I think she was twelve when the fourth one was published, and she plowed through all 700+ pages in two days.

But it's not just her. My spouse and I are almost as hooked as she is, and our nine-year-old has read them all, too. They're great stories-- lots of adventure and funny, lovable characters, plus some really really bad guys-- some of the "love to hate them" category and some of the truly evil category. We're so involved that we argue about them over dinner. (We mostly agree that Snape will turn out to be a good guy, although there is some dissension about this.)

I would encourage you to read them yourself, but there's a problem with that if you've never read any of them. I'm so loyal to J.K. Rowling that I kind of hate to say it, but the first one is really not well written (it was her first novel). The story is good, but the writing is so marginal it is hard to read if you're not used to reading children's books. The second is better, and by the third she had turned herself into a decent writer. I thought the most recent one was really beautifully written, given that she isn't even trying to write in the "literary" style. So if you can manage to get through the first one (which won't take long, it's also the shortest one), you're in for a lot of fun. You can also skip reading the first one and just get the idea by renting the movie, but unfortunately the child actors in it are so bad (it was their first movie) that it is also difficult to get through-- though they did a great job of creating the visuals of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.

That's my plug for the day. I decided not to re-read all six in preparation for the 7th (as my daughter is doing)-- I just started with the fourth. I think I posted a pretty long review of the 4th book when the 4th movie came out, if I can find it, I'll post it, too.

18 days and counting.

Aunt BeaN
(who really wishes she could use Alohamora in real life)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Time for Aunt BeaN and family to head east for a family reunion. Will report more on my return. Have a great week and don't think too much while I'm gone.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

So I figured out this afternoon that the reason why I'm having such a hard time getting started on this is that I don't want to argue about inerrancy (the belief that the Bible is "inerrant," without error). Since that is the lynchpin of the conservative Christian mindset, it seemed like the place to start. But every time I start lining up my ideas, I hear knives being sharpened in the background-- people girding up to do battle with my meager little arguments. I don't have anything to say that will change the mind of someone who is already convinced. So I just don't want to do it.

And of course I don't have to. So I'm not going to. Whole books have been written on this topic and you can read them if you want. (Try Bart Ehrman and Timothy Paul Jones, who take opposite sides, for a start). I'm just going to chime in with my little bit of experience, the thing that turned the tide for me once I started questioning.

So imagine me, about 23 or 24 years old, still more Evangelical Christian than not, but questioning and thinking and questioning and thinking. And it occurred to me that I had never had the experience of God requiring someone or something to be perfect before God could use it. My experience had always been (and still is, although I would use a different vocabulary to describe it now) that God works through imperfect human beings, messed-up situations, and so on. Moses, David, Peter-- they all had many moments of highly imperfect human-ness. So why would God's scriptures be any different? Why would God cause human beings to supernaturally create an absolutely perfect book, when that isn't the way God has done anything else? Why wouldn't God have scriptures that were messy, vibrant, open to interpretation, a bit confusing, somewhat chaotic-- just like the rest of the world that God created? (again, remember this is me 20 years ago, not the way I would phrase it now).

And that was the grain of sand that tipped the scales for me. You could argue, of course, as Paul does in several of his letters, that Jesus was perfect. But even if you accept that, Jesus didn't write the Bible. Several dozen regular people did. So there it is and I'm moving on, after having been stuck on this topic for weeks trying to figure out how to say it. I know that's not going to convince anyone, so no drive-bys, please. I know it's not an airtight argument. It's just what was helpful to me.

And Happy Summer Solstice to all, by the way...........

Aunt BeaN

p.s. sorry about some of the awkward wording in there, but I was trying to avoid using the male pronoun for God. Even at that stage when I was still mostly Evangelical, that would have been important to me, which I suppose would be the main reason I was only "mostly" Evangelical.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I've spent several weeks now writing posts in my head about how and why I left fundamentalism behind some twenty years ago. At the time it was happening, it was more a survival thing; I had reached the point where continuing in that direction was toxic for me, and I turned and ran. But I never really thought it out, and that seems important, even at this late date. But now that our summer has settled into as much of a routine as it is likely to, and I have an hour to myself before the kids are awake, I'm sitting here at the computer to type out what I've been thinking and the things I've been meaning to say just don't seem that important--the logical inconsistencies in believing in inerrancy; the need to pierce through the self-reinforcing nature of being inside an all-encompassing system of thought; separating out what is one's cultural heritage and what one believes.

It seems more important to point out what I'm moving toward rather than what I'm leaving behind. Which would be: a sense of gratitude flavored with a bit of humility toward the experience of life; a practical integration of what I theoretically believe with the details of being fully present in my current surroundings; and relinquishing the need for the false sense of security provided by the feeling that the universe is explicable. Which is all a very wordy way of saying I want to find meaning in my experience-- my experience as it is not as I want it to be-- rather than thinking about my experience. Meaning instead of meta-meaning.

Ack. Words words words. It's so hard to get them to say what you want them to say. That doesn't quite do it. It's a work in progress.

And my hour is up.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One of the best things about having a teenager in the house is that you keep up with what's going on in popular music, books, and movies. My daughter has me hooked on her radio station, which plays far more interesting stuff than my old classic rock station. But with a few exceptions like Good Charlotte and Pink, we end up buying different CDs. Well, actually, she doesn't buy CDs, she downloads them from iTunes, but that's an aside. She likes the techno-dance-rap stuff that is to me scarily reminiscent of disco music, while I like Robert Randolph and Ben Harper.

I've become a bit obsessed with Ben Harper's new double-disc album, Both Sides of the Gun (you have to wonder if he knew about Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience). He's the guy that did the pop-ish song that was on the radio all the time a few months ago "Always have to steal my kisses from you" --which probably will pay for his children's college educations and many vacations in exotic locations, but most of his music is profoundly thoughtful. I find as I listen to it that lines from the songs pop up in my head in contexts that he probably never anticipated. "Fools will be fools and wise will be wise, but I will look this world straight in the eyes..."

Which brings me to the real topic of this post, which is the relationship that believers have with their sacred scriptures. It's difficult to describe if you've never experienced it. What makes the headlines are things like the Christian Right's insistence on a literal interpretation of the creation story and Muslim suicide bombers who are supposedly acting out the commands of the Koran. But what doesn't make the headlines is the way the wisdom of the sacred words informs all of your actions in a way that makes them both meaningful and thoughtful. The closest I can come to explaining how it feels is the analogy of immersing yourself in someone's lyrics or poetry (Ben Harper, U2, Shakespeare, Keats), which probably everyone has done at some point. The words begin to float around in your ahead, coming to mind at the oddest times-- sometimes adding meaning that you wouldn't otherwise have noticed, sometimes reminding you that others have been where you are.

I think if you weren't raised in a conservative religious environment, any religion, it is difficult to understand how deeply the faithful love their scripture. For Muslims, it's the Koran; for Jews, the Torah; for American Evangelicals, the Protestant Bible. I don't know that much about the eastern religions, but I imagine for Buddhists the sutras of the Buddha and for Hindus, the vedas or Upanishads hold a similar place of veneration.

I still feel a great deal of love for and devotion to the scriptures on which I was raised-- and I use "on" advisedly there, because we were raised on the Bible the way other children were raised on meat & potatoes, or organic foods. I suppose it would be more accurate to say I still feel this love among a blend of other emotions which includes fear (because every time my dad opened the Bible in a disciplinary setting, we knew we were about to feel really, really bad); guilt (of course, because I never have been able to measure up to the teachings of Jesus); and even a bit of embarrassment, because the way we were taught to read the scriptures sometimes led to opinions that (now) I can't believe I ever endorsed.

But there are so many supportive, enriching, marvelous words in the Bible. When I worry about the way I am raising my children, "Perfect love casteth out fear" comes to mind, (I think only those of us who were born up to about 1965 still memorized the King James Version) reminding me that it is more important to love them than to worry about them. When I'm worried that I'll never figure out how to integrate who I am with what I believe, there's James: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault..." and looking that up to make sure I had the wording right reminded me of another good one: "Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be full and complete, lacking in nothing." That was always quite comforting to me. That translation is the NASV, I had to try three different versions to find the one I memorized. My sentimental favorite bible is an NASV (New American Standard Version). I could go on and on but it's probably not all that interesting.

This post has been pieced together because I've been working on it all week. It seems an important thing to say before I go on to the next one I'm working on, which is why I'm not a literalist anymore. So this one is "to be continued......."

Aunt BeaN
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a Light unto my path (Psalm 119)

My soul wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. (Ps 62.5-6)

How blessed are they who walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers, but their delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on it they meditate, day and night. (Psalm 1)

As the deer pants for water, so my soul pants for Thee.... The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42)

The Lord's lovingkindnesses never cease, His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23) which of course brings up the whole topic of hymns, which also live in your head, because there is a great one based on those verses: Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy Faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

ok, I'll stop now.  but I could go on and on.
OK, here's a couple more, maybe my favorites of all.

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

The wording of this next one is from the version we sang in choir when I was in high school, so it doesn't really match up with any particular translation. But this is the way it exists in my head.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall persecution, or distress, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through Him who loves us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God; the love of God which is in our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 8:35-39 (more or less)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I've talked on a number of occasions about podcasts I've listened to, mostly NPR shows that are made available on iTunes or I don't think I've ever mentioned my all-time favorite, though, which is Speaking of Faith. I've been listening to it for over a year now, and while there's been the occasional clinker, it is generally a thoughtful, stimulating look at the many ways that faith plays a role in our culture. It is "public radio's conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas." The interviews she does often are the springboard for posts in this blog (though sometimes months after they aired). Highly recommended.

Friday, June 01, 2007

a technical aside

So I suppose I should say something about the difference between being a Fundamentalist and an Evangelical Christian. I usually refer to myself as a recovering fundamentalist because most people who are not part of the conservative Christian world don't know the difference. And in fact, from that perspective, I don't think there is much difference. Both groups believe that the bible is the inspired Word of God, every last word of it. It is, according to both groups, "inerrant," meaning "without error." Both groups believe that humans are sinful and that this sin separates us from union with God. Both groups believe that you are only saved if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, to borrow an overused phrase. And that we can only be reunited with God because Jesus gave his life for us. And the virgin birth and the divinity of Jesus and the bodily resurrection and so on.

I'm not even sure I remember what the technical differences are, but I know I had an impression that Fundamentalists had a lot more rules. I remember my dad saying once that Evangelicals concentrated more on God's grace (his willingness to forgive us even when we don't deserve it), while Fundamentalists concentrated more on God's righteousness and judgment. If someone wants to chime in here and help me out, please feel free. I do remember that we teased about going to Bob Jones University, a decidedly fundamentalist institution, where (supposedly) the male and female students were so thoroughly separated that they were required to walk on different sidewalks. (I have no idea whether or not this was actually true, I just know we used to joke about it). (great humor Evangelicals have).

For the record, I was raised as an Evangelical Christian. I don't think this will make a difference to most of my readers (all dozen of you) but just in case it ever comes up, I disclosed. :-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

p.s. Unless you have kids that are dying to see it, don't bother with Shrek 3. It's a yawn. Some cute moments but I can't even remember it less than a week later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

OK, I'm adding this in June, but I'll put it back here with the other post that has my list of the my favorite five movies of the last five years. I can't believe I left out Howl's Moving Castle. Those of you who were around for the Original Aunt BeaN's blog may remember how I went on and on about how much I loved that movie. Still do. It's been cool and rainy here, and the kids are out of school, so we've watched quite a few movies this past week-- including Incredibles, Nemo, and Howl. I was going to bump Incredibles for Howl, but I just checked and officially speaking, the Fellowship of the Ring came out more than five years ago, so I can bump that one instead.

Also watched The Queen and the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. Both get two thumbs up, though the new P&P doesn't even come close to the Colin Firth version, let alone the book. (though you have to admit, as my daughter says in that tone of "Hello, stupid," that only a teenager can manage: "But it's FOUR HOURS shorter, Mom.") She is sure that's a good thing, but I'm not sure you can ever get too much of Colin Firth.

Ah, the things I can waste time on................

Monday, May 21, 2007

A couple of months ago, after the Oscars that nobody cared about, I posted a fairly lame objection to the grisly, depressing content of most "important" films these days. I couldn't come up with a reason to feel that way other than I just don't want to be depressed when I go to the movies. Sure you can get a certain kind of bleak joy out of a beautifully made film no matter what its content, art from despair and all that. But I just don't like them.

So you can imagine my delight today when I read not one but TWO opinions that said much of the same thing. one at click here that is commentary by Andrew O'Hehir about the current crop of films at the Cannes festival, and one that I found at Arts and Letters Daily that is actually about literary novels but says something along the same lines click here. They express my general idea far more gracefully and elegantly and make it sound like a real opinion. I've actually thought about this a fair amount lately (there's a surprise) because there haven't been any movies I wanted to see for a long time. What kind of movies do I like? I can't stand brainless romantic comedies, it's been years since I saw one that I enjoyed (which was "While You Were Sleeping" because I love Bill Pullman-- with possible honorable mention to "You've Got Mail" which I mainly enjoyed because of all the references to great kids' books). So I was trying to think what are the five movies I've seen in the last five years that I enjoyed the most. So, (don't laugh) here's the list: the three Lord of the Rings movies, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. I'm hopeless.

But Shrek 3 is out and the new Pirates movie starts this weekend-- suddenly fluff movies abound.

fluffily yours,
Aunt BeaN

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some quotations that have been making me think recently, commentary to follow:

Sam Harris, in a column that appeared a couple of months ago in our local paper, you can read it here : these are where I agree with him, disagreements to be discussed later--

"People of all faiths — and none — regularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to time — but Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?"

Harris again, in the same column: "Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical — and even spiritual — without pretending to know things they do not know. "

E.J. Graff in a column that appeared in our local paper last Sunday, it looks like it was originally published in the Washington Post, about "The Mommy Wars" (the purported tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms) (which is not what interests me so much as the idea that you can manipulate women by inducing anxiety) :
"...middle- and upper-class women are a demographic that responds well to anxiety, says Caryl Rivers, author of "Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women." ... Tell women that working will damage their marriages, health and children and they will buy your magazine, click on your website, blog about your episode and write letters to the editor."

Giles Harvey, in a review (click here) of Christopher Hitchens' book God is Not Great:
"Although I am an unbeliever, this doesn't prevent me from recognizing that what led humans to create gods was not simply fear but a desire to harness and account for those sustaining moments when we receive our lives most abundantly. Iris Murdoch gives a far more persuasive and imaginatively generous account of religion when she writes, "God does not and cannot exist. But what led us to conceive of him does exist and is constantly pictured. That is, it is real as an Idea, and also incarnate in knowledge and work and love." "

more later
In the midst of the current set of posts, it would seem appropriate to be more specific about what I actually do believe right now. Which is something of a moving target, but I'm OK with that. I spent quite a bit of time in the Original Aunt BeaN's Blog typing about this, probably way more time than the topic deserved. There were a whole series of posts which I even numbered. When I was moving things over from the original blog to this one, I decided not to move those because already there were some things that had changed. I figured I would edit them and re-post them another time. But after reading them over again recently, I 've decided to start from scratch. I did move two of them over, very slightly edited, and if you're interested, you can find them in this blog in August 2006-- scroll down (or up, as the case may be) the right hand side and click on August 2006 and there you are. But I'm working on the new version, which I promise will be far less wordy and (I hope) only one post instead of a half dozen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

So here's a bit of what's happened over the last several weeks that I haven't been posting. It isn't that I haven't been thinking about things -- far from it, my brain has been doing its nonstop hamster-wheel-churning as usual. It's just that I haven't sifted through it long enough to have formulated an opinion, which has felt like I have nothing to say. Or at least nothing worth the bandwidth required to say it. But here's a start.

Several months ago, I first heard prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in an interview on NPR. It was fascinating, but he's so over the top (in my opinion) it was hard to take seriously. As I've said before, a part of my litmus test for any belief system -- as silly as it may seem, but at least I'm being honest-- is whether or not I'd be willing to be associated with the people who believe it. And there is no way I would want anyone to think I was rowing merrily out to sea in the same boat as Richard Dawkins. He's just irritating-- I've never met the man, of course, but he comes across as someone who is getting a little too much enjoyment out of his 15 minutes of fame. And I've never appreciated people who enjoy being controversial and stirring things up. It seems like such a waste of energy to argue with them since a big part of why they're doing it is just because they think it's fun.

But then I heard Sam Harris, and read a couple of articles by him (though I still haven't read his book, the End of Faith). And then I read an article by Christopher Hitchens and some thoughtful reviews of his new book, God is Not Great. So I started mapping out how I would respond as a person of faith, although no particular faith at the moment. I was trying to come up with an intellectual basis for being a person of faith (as opposed to an intellectual basis for faith-- a small but important difference). Part of my response was going to be making the case that they completely misunderstand what most "people of faith" are like.

So I went out on the web to do a little research to support my thesis. And honestly, after several hours of poking around some Christian websites (I ended up in the homeschooling world), the only response I have at the moment is a somewhat stunned, glazed look in my eye as I realize OHMYGOSH. THEY ARE RIGHT. The Christian Right has become ridiculous. No wonder Sam Harris, et. al. think the world would be a better place without religion. I honestly could not believe some of the utter nonsense that is out there with page after page of positive, supportive responses. People who believe that the founding fathers were 21st-century-style fundamentalist Christians and are willing to re-write history and publish their own history books to prove it. People objecting to math textbooks because the story problems have fairies and elves in them. People who are determined to see conservative Christians as a persecuted minority even though they are the most powerful demographic in the most powerful country on the planet.

This stuff is not even remotely connected to reality, and you know, it's not even really connected to the kind of conservative Christianity in which I was raised. Oddly enough, even though I don't believe it anymore, I find myself wanting to defend intelligent conservative Christianity, because there is such a thing, even if you'd never know it from these websites. I may have left it behind for other reasons (see previous posts on this topic), but it wasn't as nutty as these websites would have one believe.

But then, I'm not sure if the kind of conservative Christianity I was raised on even exists anymore. Have all conservatives migrated over to this far-right nonsense? how many people actually believe this stuff? and it makes me wonder about my dearly beloved family members who are still Evangelical Christians. Would they agree? I try to avoid discussing religion with them because it makes us all uncomfortable. And honestly, if my parents believe that Thomas Jefferson was really a closet Evangelical, I'm not sure I want to know. But just for the record: among the Christians I knew growing up, "loving your neighbor" was still more important than starting a letter-writing campaign over story problems in math textbooks. If you disagreed with what your children were being taught in school, it was an opportunity to teach them yourself about how Christians believe differently than "the world." The separation of church and state was seen as a logical corollary to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (the words of Jesus to Pharisees who ask him if they should pay taxes to the Roman government)-- not an evil doctrine of liberals determined to undermine the authority of Scripture.

Well, I could go on and on here but I guess I already have. but more will be forthcoming, the hamster is still busy.

Aunt BeaN


So here is what I thought I did this week. I spent quite a bit of time early this week writing a post, which was published on Tuesday. After it was up for the better part of a day, I thought better of it and I thought I deleted it until I could re-word some parts of it to be less obnoxious and (possibly) less hurtful to some people I dearly love. I thought I figured out how to do that today, but when I went back to work on it, I realized that the offending post has been up all week. SO. I would just like to say that I'm a spacehead, and a somewhat inconsiderate one, as well. I know this blog doesn't get much traffic, so I'm hoping no one actually saw it and I will post the less heavy-handed version sometime in the near future.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

spring in the northern rockies

In the southern towns where I grew up, spring begins in mid-February. You put out pansies and the crocuses and daffodils come up and then in March, the dogwoods and redbuds start to bloom. By the end of March, the azaleas are out in force, and there are masses of color everywhere. Everything seems to burst back to life overnight. You don't even notice when the grass turns green or the trees leaf out.

The place where I live now is in the northern rockies, and spring is an entirely different affair. It is raw and slow and cold, just not as cold as February. When I first moved here, it seemed to me that the natives decided it was spring in March just because it was March--it had nothing to do with the weather. People start wearing sandals and capris in March just because the sun is out, even though the high for the day will only be 45. You sit watching your child participate in various sports wrapped in a blanket and prepared for wind, rain, sleet and even outright snow. It's nuts.

Of course after nearly 15 years, I've adapted. I find myself wearing capris when it is sunny and 55. But the thing I've come to appreciate about the slow progress of spring up here is how you notice every little thing. Two weeks ago, the grass turned green. This past week, the trees began to leaf out. They seemed dusted with that spring green that is so new it is practically yellow. On Wednesday, the first tulip bloomed in our yard. My internal Southern self still throws up her hands with impatience and says, "It's MAY, for god's sake," but my growing Northern self knows that we're right on schedule for another glorious summer. We get our payback in July when it's sunny and 80 here and the South is sweltering in the dog days.

I can't wait.

Aunt BeaN
reporting from the Northern Rockies, where it is a balmy 58 and sunny at the moment