Meditations Ranging from Tennyson to the Venerable Bede

Small Collage Study of Charles Dickens

Small Collage Study of Charles Dickens

Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the sorm of spring, not afraid that afterwards summer may not come.

Rainer marie Rilke

I have spent a goodly portion of today in a state of suspended eudaimonia, an excellent spirit of good will.  I cannot explain how these feelings emerged, but I accept them as a legitimate gift.

Summer school began yesterday.  And in my senior years, I confess that there emerges all those usual possibiliites to waterski over this sumer task, after all, it’s summer school.  These are seniors.  The subject is British literature.  How many teenagers are going to be serious in such a study?  Yes, those feelings are real.  But I could not take the task lightly.  I had not soaked myself in the British tradition for a little over a year.  Instead of pulling out all the old, worn lesson plans, I dove into the texts with a renewed sense of anticipation.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

I chose this time to introduce the course on the first day with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Victorian sage, rather than Beowulf.  And when the moment arrived to lecture on Tennyson’s life and contribution, I felt that unexplainable joy of standing in that room as a connection, a conduit, joining that beautiful sage to the imaginations and sentiments of these high school seniors.  The students asked questions.  They answered questions.  The offered follow-up observations.  In short, they engaged.  And then they wrote essays from the heart, essays I read with bosom-swelling joy.

I don’t always know this kind of success.  How precious it was this time to read written confessions from young, engaged minds, acknowledging with Ulysses that “I am a part of all that I have met.”  And how touching to hear their affirmations after reading “In Memoriam: A. H. H.”  When students admit that it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” I can think of no higher affirmation of the educational process.  Listening to them musing after today’s lecture that no one ever gets anywhere in life by quitting, by folding their cards and saying “life isn’t fair” moved me.  One by one, they observed that Tennyson had been dealt a poor hand from the start, but he got where he did by playing his hand, again and again, willing to try again after each loss, and ultimately to win.

This afternoon, my heart was so flooded by the student responses on day two, that I could not simply dash through my old materials on the Venerable Bede.  I sat at my writing desk for hours, until the material became new and fresh to me, again.  I read, I wrote, I re-wrote, I tweaked previous talking points and lecture skeletons on Bede and his Ecclesiastical History.  And then I got stung again:

You are sitting feasting with your eldermen and thanes in winter time; the fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all inside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging; and a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall.  It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other.  For the few moments it is inside, the storm and wintry tempest cannot touch it, but after the briefest moment of calm, it flits from your sight, out of the wintry storm and into it again.  So this life of man appears but for a moment; what follows or indeed what went before, we know not at all.

No doubt much of this afternoon’s enthusiasm in the study was due to my revisitation of studies I pursued during my seminary days of the 1970’s and 80’s.  But it was new today, because I am not the person I was in the 70’s and 80’s.  This is a new era, a refreshingly new chapter.  The text cited above from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History recalled a text I encountered during my dissertation days, nearly thirty years ago, from the Wisdom of Solomon:

All of them passed like a shadow and like a fleeting rumor; like a ship traversing the heaving water, of which, when it has passed, no trace can be found, no path of its keel in the waves.  Or like a bird flying through the air; no evidence of its course is to be found–but the fluid air, lashed by the beat of pinions, and cleft by the rushing force of speeding wings, is traversed.  And afterward no mark of passage can be found in it.  Or as, when an arrow has been shot at a mark, the parted air straightway flows together again so that none discerns the way it went through.  Even so we, once born, abruptly came to nought and held no sign of virtue to display . . . 

Dinnertime arrived, and I was too “wired” to retreat to the kitchen.  Instead I drove to Stovall Park in south Arlington, surprised by rainfall and cool, strong winds that pushed the thermometer down to 79 degrees.  I sat in the shelter of the pavilion, enjoyed the outside with its smells of a freshly-washed landscape accompanied by whispers of the wind and my own soul fluttering its wings of genuine happiness and contentment.  I dont’ even know how long I stayed there, but I filled pages of my journal and read with delight some pages from Julia Cameron’s Finding Water and Anthony Storr’s Solitude.  

With a quickening pulse, I push out the paragraphs on this blog, grateful to have some kind of an outlet for an event today of which no one else knew.

Thanks for reading,
I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to keep from being completely alone.

 

 

 

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