25 September 2010

What I'm Reading...

When I start a novel, any novel but especially a good one, I want to read it all the way through from start to finish with as few interruptions as possible, which is of course not at all possible most of the time.  Vacations are an exception.  Earlier this month while on vacation, I indulged in a fiction binge:

Lady Audley's SecretBraddon, Mary Elizabeth:  Lady Audley's Secret, Kindle downloaded from  Project Gutenberg.  Braddon (1857-1915) first published her "sensation" novel about bigamy in 1862 and it was a sensation of the popular sort, going through nine editions in the first year.  I was surprised at how much fun it was to read this book--a murder mystery with a bit of romance and family dysfunction.  The character of Robert Audley (the nephew/sleuth) and some of the book's tone remind me a bit of the much later comic novels of P. G. Wodehouse.  A quote re. Lady Audley's relationship with her adult step-daughter:  "There can be no reconciliation where there is no open warfare. There must be a battle, a brave boisterous battle, with pennants waving and cannon roaring, before there can be peaceful treaties and enthusiastic shaking of hands."    Another favorite:  "Sir Michael Audley made that mistake which is very commonly made by easy-going, well-to-do-observers, who have no occasion to look below the surface.  He mistook laziness for incapacity.  The thought because his nephew was idle, he must necessarily be stupid.  He concluded that if Robert did not distinguish himself, it was because he could not.
"He forgot the mute inglorious Miltons, who die voiceless and inarticulate for want of that dogged perseverance, that blind courage, which the poet must possess before he can find a publisher; he forgot the Cromwells, who see the noble vessels of the state floundering upon a sea of confusion ...  and who yet are powerless to get at the helm...  Surely it is a mistake to judge of what a man can do by that which he has done....  The game of life is something like the game of ecarte, and it may be that the very best cards are sometimes left in the pack."

The Essential Charlotte M. Yonge Collection (27 books)Yonge, Charlotte M.:  The Heir of RedclyffeKindle downloaded from Project Gutenberg, first published in 1853 and the best selling of Yonge's novels, "the most popular novel of the age."  Yonge (1823-1901) used profits from her  books for charity.  Her father told her upon the success of The Heir of Redclyffe "that a lady published for three reasons only: love of praise, love of money, or the wish to do good."  She is sometimes called the novelist of the Oxford Movement and was a life-long Anglican Sunday Schools teacher.   I read this book long ago, probably in imitation of  Jo March in Alcott's  Little Women.  I enjoyed reading it again.  Yonge is  a bit "preachy" even for my taste (despite my complete sympathy with her religious views and, as readers of this blog have undoubtedly noted, my predilection for all things theological) but dear Charlotte does go on and on and on and...  Perhaps that's one more thing I have in common with her.

I've started Wright, N.T.:  Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Harper-Collins, 2008.  This is the book selected for Sunday Bible study in the Open Door class which I'm reading in a digital edition  on Kindle and I'm hopelessly behind the class in my reading.  I'm greatly enjoying the DVD discussion by N.T. Wright and the discussion questions.   A few years ago I read this author's  The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God--Getting Beyond the Bible Wars (2006) and would put it on my short lists of books that made a significant difference in my world view because it finally made clear to me the questions asked by post-modernist thinkers. p. iv "Almost all Christian churches say something in the formularies about how important the Bible is.  Almost all of them have devised ways, some subtle, some less so, of ostentatiously highlighting some parts of the Bible and quietly setting aside other parts."  p. xi "How can what is mostly a narrative text be "authoritative"?  [How can we] "speak of the Bible being in some sense "authoritative" when the Bible itself declares that all authority belongs to the one true God, and that this is now embodied in Jesus himself."  p. 14 "My present point is that these older ways of thinking about the world have left their mark on the study of the Bible, on the way it has been taught... and that these ways of thinking have themselves become discredited in the mainstream culture."  p. 16 "integrity consists not of having no presuppositions but of being aware of what one's presuppositions are and of the obligation to listen to and interact with those who have different ones."  My copy of this book is very heavily highlighted and I recommend it with enthusiasm.  I'm hoping that I will be able to enjoy reading N.T. Wright as much on the Kindle with bookmark/highlight tabs as I did in print with my yellow highlighter in hand.

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters I continue reading Annie Dillard (previously blogged) and greatly enjoyed revisiting Total Eclipse and An Expedition to the Pole from Teaching a Stone to Talk.  I found her short story The Living a bit odd and disturbing, as Dillard can be.  I'm reading a collection of her works on my Kindle.  Dillard is one of the finest nature writers I've encountered and I greatly enjoy her writing style and her powers of observation.  She makes unexpectedly connections and helps me see how intricately all of life is interwoven.  Interwoven--what a great name for the book I'll never write.

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond SixtyAnd as previously blogged  I'm reading through everything by Carlyn G. Heilbrun who will undoubtedly merit a blog dedicated solely to her one day.  I recently finished The Last Gift of Time. Life Beyond Sixty. This author gives voice to my thoughts and I know no other author (who did not live in the 19th Century) who mirrors by interior life and thoughts so well.  p.2  "...aging might be gain rather than loss, and... the impersonation of youth was unlikely to provide the second span of womanhood with meaning and purpose."   p.4 "Perhaps I am one of those who are born... blessed with the gift of eternal old age."  p. 35 "As Sartre said, not to choose is to have already chosen.  The major danger in one's sixties--so I came to feel--is to be trapped in one's body and one's habits, not to recognize those supposedly sedate years as the time to discover new choices and to act upon them."  p. 120 "What one remembers is, I think, a clue to what one wants to be."  p. 137 "To find unmet friends, one must be a reader, and not an infrequent one.... Reading--like those more frivolous lifelong pursuits, singing in tune, or diving, or roller-blading--is either an early acquired passion or not:  there is no in-between about it, no catching up in one's later years."   and p. 182 "Life seemed simpler because I was young and simple."  p. 150 quoting Samuel Johnson:  "the enduring elegance of female friendship." ...perfectly describes the relationship of a woman reader with a woman writer whose work she has encompassed, reread, and delighted in."  Thank you to my "unmet friends for that "enduring elegance:  Jane Austen, Evelyn Whitaker, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Grace Livingstone Hill, Beatrix Potter, Christina Rossetti,  Annie Dillard and, yes, Elaine Showalter and Carolyn G. Heilbrun.

I finished the second of the poetry books DMP gave me for Christmas last year.  Gluck, Louise: Averno.  New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  2006.  She is an excellent poet and I'll probably keep  this book on the shelf and may reread it in a year or two but it was much to dependent on the Persephone myth to be quite my cup of tea.  full text available at the floating library

I'll close this month's reading list with another quote from Carolyn G. Heilbrun (p. 182): 
"True sadness which is not nostalgia can, I have found, be dispelled by reading: by that same literature which seemed, in my youth, to hold both excitement, wisdom, and all I could discover of truth; and by today's newly perceptive books.  Lifelong readers continue to read, finding in books... the means to enjoy life or to endure it." 

04 September 2010

Celebrating our 39th Anniversary

September is a month of firsts for us.  In those days, school started weeks later than it now does.  I first arrived at Rice U. in Houston on 10 September 1967 and first met DMP at the college class party of Central Church of Christ on Saturday 16 September.  We  had our first date two weeks later, a football game--Rice vs. Navy.  Rice won.   We enjoyed many, many dates over the next four years--football games, basketball games, bridge, movies, dinners, Baskin-Robbins,  the zoo, MFA, college open houses, Brown Jones formals, Roundelets, Rice Players, Galveston, Westbury Square, long walks around campus--and we spent lots of time with each other that weren't dates while he tutored me in math and physics, while we worked in college theater productions, while we spent time with friends on campus, while we worshiped at Central and worked with the children at the Drew Street Mission.  Most, if not all, of our friends considered us an "item" almost from that first September.  A few weeks ago my friend, Jo S., asked when David and; I started going with each other exclusively.  She was shocked when I told her, on 17 June 1971, the day he asked me to marry him.

DMP left almost immediately for Army ROTC summer camp.   I got a job and planned a wedding; I was not one of those girls who had spent her entire life planning a wedding, until I met DMP I was not even sure that I intended ever to be married.  We chose the Saturday of Labor Day weekend because it was convenient for me to get at least one day off work, he would have a long weekend from grad school, and our siblings who were all in school would be able to come.  The wedding would have to be in Houston and, indeed, we wanted it there so that our Rice friends could conveniently be with us.   Our decision was reflective of several things that have defined our lives:  (1) Houston is our home, (2) Central is our church, (3) our friends are as dear to us as our family, (4) Rice is important to us. 

It was a simple, inexpensive celebration.  My mother made my gown and my sister's gown.  David's mother made his sisters' gowns.  Andrea made her gown.  The flowers were real.  [If real flowers are too costly, use fewer or skip something else.  There should be nothing fake at a wedding.]   I carried red roses on the white Bible my mother had carried on her wedding day, marked to Ruth's "whither thou goest" passage as it had been at her wedding.  My attendants each carried a single long-stemmed red rose.  The men in the wedding party wore white carnations.  Our mothers wore orchids.  The church had two large white seasonal arrangements, mostly gladiolas.  A friend selected music  (mostly Bach) and played solo piano prior to the ceremony.  We processed to Tchaikovsky's piano Concerto in B-flat and recessed to Beethoven's Ode to Joy.   There was no photographer since we both felt that was a distraction and an unnecessary expense.  (We were wrong.)  One of DMP's roomies and our head usher took photos.  Several of my aunts and cousins snapped a few pics; some of which I didn't see until decades later.  Since no one in DMP's family took any photos there are very few pics of him.

I was not in any sense a "bridezilla" because it never occurred to me that it was "my" day.  David and I both thought, and still think, that a wedding is about family and community and it marks only the beginning of a marriage and not the most important day of our lives.

What was important to us was what would be said, what words would constitute the covenant.  The ceremony was short and uniquely ours.  I walked down the aisle promptly at 4:30 p.m. because we are rarely late and it seemed good to us to start our life together in a timely fashion.

Our ceremony with a few more pics:

Reading:  Genesis 2:18, 21-24

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will provide a helpmeet for him.” …And so the Lord God put man into a trance, and while he slept, the Lord God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh over the place. Then He then built up the rib, which He had taken out of the man, into a woman. He brought her to the man, and the man said:
Now this, at last—
bone from my bone,
flesh from my flesh!—
She shall be called woman,
for from man was she taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother is united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

Reading:  Ephesians 5:21-33

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, be subject to your husband as to the Lord; for the man is the head of the woman, just as Christ also is the head of the church. Christ is, indeed, the Savior of the body; but just as the church is subject to Christ, so must women be to their husbands in everything.

Daddy & me
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for it, to consecrate it, cleansing it by water and the word, so that he might present the church to himself all glorious, with no stain or wrinkle or anything of the sort, but holy and without blemish. In the same way men also are bound to love their wives, as they love their own bodies. In loving his wife a man loves himself. For no one ever hated his own body; on the contrary, he provides and cares for it; and that is how Christ treats the church, because it is his body, of which we are living parts. Thus it is that (in the words of Scripture) ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ It is a great truth that is hidden here. I for my part refer it to Christ and to the church, but it applies individually: each of you must love his wife as his very self; and the woman must see to it that she pays her husband all respect.

David, will you take K to be your wife to love, to honor, and to cherish from this day forward?
K, will you take David to be your husband to love, to honor, and to obey from this day forward?

(David and I agreed that our experience said that we usually agreed but, when we did not, neither of us resigned our position gracefully.  After much discussion we decided to go with the old-fashioned "obey" understanding that it was predicated on the Genesis and Ephesians readings.  That decision was tested pre-marriage when we opened our combined bank account and debated the name.  I wished to keep my own name; he felt strongly that I should take his name.  I finally agreed "for the sake of our children."  Ironic.  Although I am sometimes addressed as Mrs. David Pipes, I never think of myself in those terms.  I am, as I have always been K Cummings and I add Pipes only as a courtesy to my husband.  But truly, the marriage ran more smoothly than the courtship.)
Reading: I Corinthians 13

The vows which we wrote:
David [turned pale and silent for a loooong time before he remembered what to say.  The minister had no copy of the vows so I would have had to prompt him.  A bit unwise, that]:      Because I love you and believe in you, K, I want you to share my life. I will protect and care for you as your husband in times of joy and of sorrow. I will put love first, being patient and kind, never selfish nor quick to take offense. I will keep no score of wrongs, nor gloat over mistakes, but will delight in the truth. Through the Spirit of the Lord, there is no limit to my trust in you, to my hope for you, and to our love’s endurance.

K:            David, because I love you and believe in you, I will live with you as your wife, sharing with you all things. I will be a comfort to you and will endeavor to make our home a house of peace in both joy and sorrow. I will put love first, being patient and kind, never selfish nor quick to take offense. I will keep no score of wrongs, nor gloat over mistakes, but will delight in the truth. Through the Spirit of the Lord, there is no limit to my trust in you, to my hope for you, and to our love’s endurance.

David:      K, take and wear this ring as a symbol of our union.
K:             David, take and wear this ring as a symbol of our union.

Terry K. pronounced us husband and wife in the name of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  (The state of Texas had to be content with the marriage certificate and was not mentioned.)  No one gave anyone permission to kiss anyone.  David lifted the veil and graced me with the most chaste kiss ever seen at a wedding.
Terry offered a very few words of joy and admonition and a prayer of blessing concluding with these words:

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
May the Lord implant his Spirit within you and grant you length of days, vigor of body, deep and abiding mutual understanding, companionship, and love, increasing with the passage of years and in the fullness of peace.

It was a prayer to which we said "amen" and which we have found truly answered in our life together.

And they lived, not unhappily, ever after...
 or at least for the next 39 years, to date.