Archive for December 29th, 2009

On Michelangelo’s David

December 29, 2009 @ 8:45 pm | Filed under: , ,


“During the tour I became separated from the group, and, searching blindly through the corridors of the Galleria dell’Accademia, I came upon the statue from the wrong direction. Suddenly there it was. My first glimpse of it was from the reverse. It is normally viewed from the front, and from that direction one sees a powerful body firmly planted on the earth, poised, balanced, muscular, set in its essential form, like the triumph of the will.

“But I saw it first from an entirely different vantage point: viewed from behind, the figure appeared to be glancing back over his shoulder. The image of the noble torso was dominated by David’s facial expression. The eyes, the mouth, the brows, and the sinews of the face were taut with an emotion that is so quintessentially human: a split second of uncertainty and a groping for faith, the moment when courage overcomes terror—not as animal instinct but as a spiritual decision. From the front it appears as an embodiment of confident resolve; from the rear it is about doubt. That was the artist’s intention, and that is its word. It is concerned above all with the struggle of the human spirit.”

—from Strangers and Sojourners, Michael D. O’Brien

Five Golden Rings

December 29, 2009 @ 5:42 pm | Filed under: , ,


Well, it has been a funny old Christmas in these parts. About half of us, including me, were sick with a rather vicious bug on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day—fever, chills, aches, cough—and others succumbed over the weekend. Today, Tuesday, the fifth day of Christmas, most of us have climbed back to normal. I’m sitting in the playroom watching three girls ride scooters in rings around the patio, while half a dozen sparrows scold them from the bushes. The feeder sat empty since Wednesday (you can tell I was really sick) and the birds are very happy to have their feast before them at last.


On Christmas Eve, around light-twinkling time, I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself, knowing I’d miss Mass the next morning. Then I thought about Billy and started writing the post I’ve been carrying in my heart for a very long time, and that snapped everything back into perspective. We had a lovely Christmas, fever and chills nothwithstanding. Happy children, the Babe in the manger, candy canes, beeswax candles tied with red ribbon, sparkly lights on the neighbor’s palm trees, a snuggly blanket and a little girl at just the right age for that stack of Jan Brett books she found in the basket. Scott took the healthy kids to church on Christmas morning and I stayed home with the little ones. Later he made a ham dinner. A good day. They are all good days, even the hard ones.

Today I feel almost back to normal, except for the lingering cough. I wandered into the backyard this morning and started pulling weeds, and suddenly there were pruners in my hand and I was whacking away at three months’ worth of neglect. I chopped the overgrown salvia bushes back to reasonable clumps, and beneath their straggly branches we found legions of seedlings: columbine and nasturtium, mostly.


And in the veggie patch the delightful surprise of a tomato plant and some tender cilantro seedlings. It’s all looking very springy back there and I know that must sound so strange to all my friends in the wintry parts of the world. Three years here, and this climate is still a wonder to me.

Against the back wall, a geranium is blooming: here’s where I find my Christmas red and green.


Now it’s later, and Scott is chopping potatoes for soup. It got cold here fast when night fell, chilling my toes, but the girls are still out there riding. Rose’s Christmas present was a new bike, inspiring a new passion for all wheeled conveyances, it seems.

Whack, whack, the knife on the cutting board. Shrrr, shrrr, the wheels on the cement. “You know what just occurred to me?” asks Scott. “Meryl Streep really did have to learn to chop onions at a dizzying speed.” He’s thinking of Julie & Julia, and he’s right, that was one of the scenes where I forgot I was watching an actress play Julia Child. Tonight, after the kids are down, I think we’ll watch part three of Lark Rise to Candleford, which we started last night. I’m so enjoying seeing Lydia Bennet of the BBC Pride & Prejudice all grown up and doing well. (Though I wish she’d spend less time riding horses with the Squire. Worrisome.)

That’s the fifth day of Christmas in these parts.