Sunday, May 29, 2011

David Copperfield

I finished David Copperfield last week.  It was Dickens's favorite of all his novels and considered the most autobiographical work he had ever produced.  This was the first Dickens novel to be narrated in the first person and would pave the way for my favorite of his novels, Great Expectations, also in first person.  This is Freud's favorite novel.  I'm not entirely sure what to make of that, but I know it's indicative of something.  The completion of David Copperfield is part of a larger project I have undertaken.  Almost two years ago, I purchased the collected works of Charles Dickens, the goal being to read every word he ever wrote.  Growing up, I read Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol.  Earlier this year, I read Bleak House, which I loved.

I first encountered David Copperfield when I was three years old and in a very circumvented way.  In fact, I was completely unaware that I had encountered Dickens at all; it was not until many years later that I even realized that I had undergone such an early exposure.  My mother made the ultimately life shaping decision of letting me watch Gone With the Wind at the tender age of three, thereby ensuring a lifelong preoccupation with the subject and a bit of melodrama that no amount of efforts in humility could break.  (Neither here nor there when it comes to Copperfield.)  During the scene when Scarlett's second husband Frank Kennedy and Ashley were going through the shanty town to find the man who had earlier attempted to attack her and to "clear it out," Scarlett, Melanie, and a host of other ladies sat around sewing and pretending that their husbands were at a "political meeting."  Melanie decided to read.  I will never forget the sound of her voice, "Chapter One, I am born. . ."  And a few chapters later "I passed a memorable birthday. . ."  And upon the banging on the door, "I remember nothing. . ."  What book was she reading?  Why, David Copperfield!  Twenty-six years after first encountering the scene, I encountered the words on the page when I opened one of Dickens's most famous works.  And I was not disappointed.

Entirely random and (I'm afraid) not particularly profound thoughts upon the completion of Charles Dickens's David Copperfield:

*  Dickens routinely outdoes himself in the amazing characters he creates.  This book was no exception. From the no-nonsense, high strung, amazingly liberated aunt Betsy Trotwood screaming at donkeys while chasing them with brooms to the bombastic, forever insolvent, and absolutely hilarious Mr. Micawber---I can't begin to describe the characters.  Each character would warrant pages of explanation. They are so developed, so unique, yet so universally sympathetic at the same time.  And of course, he always gives some of the best names.  Obviously a man named Uriah Heep was born to be a villain.

*I have never encountered a more favorable---in fact jubilant account---of being forced into circumstances that warranted a relocation to the penal colony of Australia.

*David's nurse, Peggoty, stands as one of the most beloved, nurturing characters in all of literature, while still managing to be comical.

*How convenient that Dora dies so that David could be with the woman he was truly meant to marry.  How nice to be able to kill off young, naive first wives when it suits the plot.

*This novel actually features a dog named Jip who walks up and down the top of the dinner table---as in between the plates---and lives in a doghouse made to resemble a Chinese pagoda.  This dog also curiously meets its demise simultaneously as his mistress does (one of the only disappointing moments of over sentimentality on Dickens's part).

*Copperfield's best friend and sidekick, Traddles, could possibly cause one to laugh out loud, particularly towards the end of the novel when he finally weds "the dearest girl of all" and then proceeds to spend their honeymoon catering to her nine sisters.

*When I read about David's travels, I long to see the cathedral in Canterbury and the cliffs of Dover, not to mention St. Paul's as is featured on Peggoty's sewing kit.

*I had no idea that rooks were birds.  They were featured prominently in this text, and since learning this, I have encountered references to rooks no less than 14 other times in other venues.

*How interesting that David's father marries a "child-wife" and that David goes on to initially do the same.

*The description of the forays of David's servants is laugh out loud funny.  They blatantly steal from him, and yet David tells it as if it is all an inevitability and truly stemming from his own character flaws.

*Who wouldn't wish to be Agnes?  Really?

*You feel for David, from the first page to the last.  You pull for him every step of the way.  I know how NOT post-modern it is and how lacking in sophistication it is for me to admit this, but I love a good hero you can get behind.  David is most certainly that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dwelling Places

Father's homily last Sunday centered around John 14:2.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.

Father pointed out that each of us has a place in Heaven prepared for us by God if we choose to open our hearts to Jesus.  But he also pointed out that Jesus's name is Emmanuel---God WITH us.  He is with us here on earth, too, and provides dwelling places for us here as well.  These dwelling places are special places of peace where we can be at one with Him and feel Him more deeply than ever.  It's a place where we can be close to God and feel most comfortable speaking to Him with an open heart.  Father encouraged every one of us to seek out a place like this.  The act of seeking a special dwelling place such as this will also ensure that we set aside time every day to have conversations with Jesus.  Whether it's sitting out on the swing on a front porch watching the world go by, crabbing at the lake, a special chair, a ride on the ferry, or playing the piano, we all need a place where we can connect with God on an intimate level.  He asked us to think of where that place was for us personally and to truly make an effort to dwell in that place as much as possible.

My special dwelling place would have to be the park.  The joy of seeing God in nature is sometimes unbearable for me; I can't contain it---I want to cry, sing out, run after my puppy in sheer ecstasy!  Joy is everywhere at the park, and God's love shows itself in so many ways.  Fathers teaching their children to ride bikes.  Mothers with babies feeding the ducks.  Friends sharing conversation.  Not to mention the beauty of enormous oaks, the budding of knockout roses and hydragneas, swans and ducks floating over the water, birds tending to their nests, trees soaring up high, reaching their branches to the sky, gloriously waving to God.  And a sweet little puppy looking up at me adoringly, a huge grin on his face for being in this place, at this time.  My little dog reminds me to cherish the gifts God gives me in the moment, at this place in my life, embracing the present.  All of the things I encounter in the park hearken back to the essence of what Father was trying to tell us.  EMMANUEL.  God with us.

He most certainly is.  Every single day.  If we just open our eyes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


For a single girl like me, purchasing an entire sack of vine ripened tomatoes is a bit of a commitment.  Or a waste.  Whichever you'd prefer.  A commitment to either eat them all---and quickly---or to waste them.  It's so hard planning meals just for you.  You wind up cooking way too much food and tiring of eating it over five days, or not wanting to cook at all.  And I love to cook, so it's always sad when I resign myself to take out simply because it's "just me."  So what to do with the tomatoes. . .SANDWICHES!  Lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich, with a twist.  I used mozzarella cheese, lots of fresh basil leaves, and tomatoes.  A sandwich take on the Caprese salad.  Dinner was an enormous BLT with corn on the cob, fresh not frozen. . .yum.  (Btw. . .I had tomatoes on both sides of the sandwich and used 2 tomatoes on it.)

I try to find those sweet, little things that make me smile; there are so many of them that they often add up to a pretty BIG thing in a day if I let them.  Something happened today that really made me smile.  One of my little girls drew a picture for another one of my little girls.  Walking by the desk of the recipient, I found that she was writing her a sort of notebook paper thank you note:
"[Name] your drawing was so pretty it belongs in an art muzeum"
How sweet and smart is that?!

Also, I said the rosary yesterday, and I intend to say the rosary again today.  It brought me so much peace and helped me to relax after a stressful day.  Of course, it helped me relax so much that I almost fell asleep!  Not a good thing at only 7 p.m.!  Looking forward to the school year coming to its natural end, but I'm going to miss my kids so much.  I don't think it's really hit me yet that they aren't going to be mine anymore.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Mystery of Faith

My priest gives such great homilies.  I always feel so moved and inspired after hearing him speak.  Yet the week is so hectic, I often forget the main points of his homily by the time the following Sunday rolls around.  I'm going to try to make a point of sitting down each Sunday and recording what I feel was most memorable about Father's homily so that it can stay with me all week long.

Before touching on the gospel today, Father discussed Mary's role in the Church.  She is our Savior's mother, was present at his birth, death, and resurrection, and other than God the Father, was closest to Him.  Mary remains close to Jesus and can help bring our needs to Him.  We can look to her to remember the important events of His life and the miracle of his birth.  We all want to be close to Jesus and to know him intimately; what better way than to make Mary, the human being who was closest to Him, our dear confidante?

Father particularly encouraged us to grow closer to Mary and Jesus by praying the rosary.  I admit that I neglect this important part of my unique Catholic faith.  Recently I purchased a new rosary (the one I had was given to me as a child during CCD, or catechism), and searched online for sites that say the rosary for you.  You just say it along with them.  Perhaps this sounds lazy, but if it helps me to broaden my faith and actually grow accustomed to the process of saying the rosary, I'm all for it!  I am positive I know all the joyful mysteries; things start to go off course with the others, particularly the Luminous mysteries, which are newer.  By using the websites, I can focus on my prayer while listening to the mysteries said aloud and hopefully fully learn them and open my heart to their richness.

Father said something concerning the rosary that really hit home with me.  He said a quote that held deep meaning (possibly said by Kirkegaard, though there seem to be variations in his words):

Life is not a problem to be solved.  It is a mystery to be lived.

Saying the rosary helps us through the mysteries of life.  The rosary and its mysteries are akin to the nature of life itself.  When we say the Joyful Mysteries, we experience the joy of Jesus's birth, the Visitation, Mary's Annunciation, etc., and can also think of times in our own lives in which we have experienced joy.  We can share this joy with Jesus and grow in our understanding of the joy He experienced in His own life and the joy we receive from Him.  When we are on top of the world and experiencing amazing and profound glory, we can say the Glorious Mysteries, and share in Jesus's life and works yet again.  When we are despairing, hopeless, and feeling tremendous sadness, we can say the Sorrowful Mysteries, taking comfort in the fact that our Savior also suffered and that He is aware of how we feel and wants to bring us solace.  When we are at our most enlightened and feel that ideas and concepts are truly becoming clear to us, we can say the Luminous Mysteries, and share yet in again in Jesus's experience, growing in understanding of our own life through His.

The homily itself was about Jesus's use of the phrase "I am."  Today He said He was the gate and the shepherd.  I love the idea of Jesus as a shepherd, caring for us, bringing us all together, feeding us, nurturing us.  Father went on about this as well, but his words concerning the Mysteries of the rosary were what really struck me today.

Here is my new rosary.  It is made of turquoise and Desert Sun beads.  Desert Sun glass beads are wrapped in precious metal foil (gold on mine) and then painted with a special paint that shrinks when the beads are fired.   I purchased it from The Littlest Rosary Shop.  It was handcrafted by a Catholic family, which means a lot more to me than if it just came off an assembly line in a factory.