A Song for and by Depressed Men

If you have ever lived with a depressed man, you know this is what they can sound like:

“I’m scared if I open myself to be known

“I’ll be seen and despised and be left all alone

“So I’m stuck in this tomb and You won’t move the stone

“And the rain keeps fallin’ down …”

The minor, monotonous melody perfectly matches the content.

But then …

“My daughter and I put the seeds in the dirt

“And every day now we’ve been watching the earth

“For a sign that this death will give way to a birth

“And the rain keeps fallin’ …

“Down on the soil where the sorrow is laid,

“And the secret of life is igniting the grave,

“And I’m dyin’ to live but I’m learning to wait,

“And the rain is fallin’ down.”

And the rain, which at the beginning of the song was just relentless and chilling, is now something that might be giving life.

This song is a work of art.

I am your Sunshine Blogger

And you are mine.

So, the Sunshine Blogger award is given to bloggers by other bloggers who believe that the recipients spread sunshine. Imagine how surprised and thrilled I was to be given this award by Rachael Corbin at The Crooked Pen. Thanks, Rachael!

The Sunshine Blogger award is also a tag. If you get tagged, you must …

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blogging site.
  2. Answer the questions.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  5. List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award logo on your site or on your post.

So, Numbers 1 and 5 down, 2 through 4 to go.

Here were Rachael’s questions:

  1. What was the most transformative reading experience you have ever had?

I am going to leave out those times when I’m reading some passage in the Bible and all of a sudden something jumps out and punches me in the gut.  Or when it crawls into my head and becomes lembas that I feed on throughout the day. Some of you readers will know what I mean.

Other than that, my most transformative reading experience has been ‘Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  I read it in college.  The tortured friendship between Orual and Psyche in the book closely mirrored a relationship that had been toturing me through the previous several years … though of course with a much more tragic yet satisfying ending.  Anway, it helped me see that some of the problems we were having were not purely my fault nor purely hers, but built into the nature of reality.  Also, Faces is just packed with insights and it’s set in an ancient pagan culture, which I love.  C.S. Lewis is under-appreciated for his ability to write horror, and there is plenty of that in this book.

2. What is a book you wish someone would write?

To be honest, it’s probably already been written.

I’m a sucker for well-researched fiction set in ancient cultures.  So I would love to read a book set in the heyday of the Anasazi … or Carthage during the Punic Wars … or a Noble Savage book where the noble savage is one of the Gauls during Caesar’s Gallic Wars … or What Was Really Going with Stonehenge.

I have seen people take a stab at some of these, but never as thoroughly as I’d like.  But, again, they are probably out there.  I just haven’t discovered them yet.

For example, Bjorn Andreas-Bull Hansen has written some novels about Vikings.  I think these are exactly the Viking novels I’ve always wanted to read … but they don’t exist in a language that I know! Aargh! (By the way, go to his site. Sign the petition to get his books translated into English.)

But I have, in my possession, waiting to be read, Pompeii by Robert Harris and People of the Silence (about the Anasazi) by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and Michael W. Gear.  I have high hopes for both these books.

3. Where is somewhere you really want to go, but have only read about in a book?

It would be shorter to list places that don’t match that description.

I guess my current #1 place would be Mongolia.  I had to research it for my first book, and it looks so beautiful.  It also resembles my home state a bit in the sense of being vast, treeless, high-altitude, and far inland. And I love the herding culture.  The food is gross though.  (Follow that link and scroll down to the heading “Exotic Nomad Foods.”) Also, my kids are extremely interested in the Mongolian Death Worm.

4. If you could have a book re-written, which book would it be?

1984.  I know, I know, the ending is integral to the book itself, but … still. I would like to see Winston hold firm at the end.  Or find out that Julia had.

5. What is a book you dislike that everyone else loves?

1984 and The Great Gatsby.  (Or, I guess people love these?)

6. If you had the power to bring any mythical creature to life, which creature would it be?

The Mongolian Death Worm.

Just kidding.  I don’t know.  Maybe Grendel so I could find out whether he was really a T-Rex.

7. Where is your ideal reading spot?

When I am reading, any spot becomes ideal.  (Car, bus seat, middle of a party …)  But I prefer to be comfy (plushy chair or sofa) with a view of the outdoors and some place to set my coffee.

8. What is the most disappointing book you have ever read and why?

OK, I am going to pick on one particular book here, but it’s representative of a whole category of disappointing books.

The Sign by Raymond Khoury, 2009.   This book was disappointing for many different reasons (see my full review of it here).  But the main reason was this: it promised mystical adventures but delivered only international intrigue. 

It is not the only book that has this problem.  It’s just the only one that I happen to be able to remember the title of.

9. What is your favorite genre of book and why?

Ancient mysteries/historical fiction set in ancient cultures.  But I don’t read a lot of this genre for two reasons.  Firstly, it’s kind of hard to find.  Too often, purported “ancient mysteries” books end up being modern thrillers.  (See above.)  And when I do find a book that scratches this itch, I have to be careful.  If I’m writing my own version of this genre at the time, I don’t necessarily want to be pulled into another world until my own has gelled.

So what I end up reading a lot is mysteries, especially mysteries with an anthropological bent like those by the wonderful Tony Hillerman.

As for why the “ancient mysteries” genre is my favorite (also why I like my mysteries to be anthropological), I can do no better than to quote the following poem from C.S. Lewis, titled, “To Certain Writers of Science Fiction”:

Why did you lead us on like this

Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,

Building, as if we cared for size,

Empires that covered galaxies,

If at the journey’s end we find

The same old stuff we left behind …

Well-worth Tellurian stories of

Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,

Whose setting might as well have been

The Bronx, Montmarte, or Bethnal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,

Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,

Unless, beyond its guarded gates,

Long, long desired, the unearthly waits:

Strangeness that moves us more than fear,

Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,

Or wonder, laying on the heart

That fingertip at which we start

As if some thought too swift and shy

For reason’s grasp had just gone by?

10. If you could make one book required reading, which book would it be and why?

The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton.  I almost listed this one as my transformative book because it set me free to love paganism while still remaining a Christian.  I think everyone should read it because there is a ton of misunderstanding out there about the pagan roots of all cultures, and this book clears that up in such a beautiful, lyrically written way even though it’s nonfiction.   

One major qualifier.  Chesterton frequently lapses into anti-Semitism and it’s really jarring, not to mention inconsistent with his usual generous way of viewing the world.  (TEM was published in 1925, before the Holocaust.)  Also, as this book was written almost 100 years ago, Chesterton can come off as overly focused on the West and a bit insensitive and ignorant about non-Western cultures.  Nevertheless, his insights about paganism can be fruitfully applied to any traditional culture, and I think they ought to be.

Other than that, I heartily recommend this book.  I am thinking about doing a Hallowe’en post that relies heavily upon it.

11. What is your favorite bookish ship? (noncanonical and crack-ships are acceptable answers)

Haha, so at first I was going to name the Dawn Treader from Voyage of the Dawn Treader because I don’t read a lot of sea stories …

For those who aren’t up on fan fiction terminology (as I barely am), a ship is when you imagine two characters from a book or books getting together as couple.  (Short for “relationship.”)  Non-canonical ships are pairings that didn’t happen in the original book or series.  “Crack” ships are pairings that you would have to be on crack to even think of.

I am not a big noncanonical shipper. I just enjoy the ships as they show up in the books.  But, I did always think that rather than going off to live with the dwarfs and eventually get kissed by the Prince, Snow White ought to have run off with the huntsman.

Now, here are my questions for you …

  1. What kinds of non-fiction are you most likely to read?
  2. What is your culture crush? If you are a book blogger, you must have at least one. But please feel free to list more than one.
  3. What one currently living writer would you most like to have lunch, a beer, or coffee with?  (Pastors count if they have written a good book or two. Bonus points if it’s a pastor you could have a beer with.)
  4. What genre do you think is not your favorite, but find yourself picking up again and again?
  5. Sex scenes: poetic, explicit, or none at all?
  6. Favorite animal protagonist from a book or series?
  7. Have you ever stopped identifying with the point-of-view character in a novel, and what caused it?
  8. Did you then finish the book, or put it down?
  9. Dream vehicle from real life or fiction.
  10. If you currently have a Work in Progress (or are pitching a recently finished one out), give us your one-sentence hook for it.
  11. Post a favorite poem or fragment of poetry. If you don’t read poetry, then song lyrics count.

By the way. Commenters, if one of these questions really pulls your chain, feel free to answer it in the comments.

The following bloggers are my sunshine:

Kathleen Rollins of Misfits and Heroes

R.S. Rook of The Rookery

David of The Warden’s Walk

Black Sheep of Not Sheep Minded

Jen of “Of Time Storms and Tourniquets”

Book Stooge

Ed Mooney of Ruinhunter

Devouring Books

Katie Jane Gallagher

Jaclyn of Tiny Ticky Tacky

Colin of ColinD.Smith.com

Poem: Settling

Sometimes a picture’s

the difference it makes.

Beauty you look at

gets you through the day.

Chamber of stillness

in prosaic life:

Beauty you look at

can help you survive.

Then comes vacation.

You can get away:

enter the beauty,

if just for a day.

Surrounded by aspens

on a mountain hike:

Beauty you live in

brings you back to life.

Back from vacation,

re-enter the grey.

Beauty you live in

seems so far away.

Back to the picture

but make no mistake:

Beauty you look at

just isn’t the same.

Kitchen Bulletin Board Poetry

My poetry board at the old place

What kind of thing goes on your kitchen bulletin board?

Well, recipes, obviously. Maybe a calendar. I have another, larger bulletin board that houses library and trash collection schedules, photos of friends and family, Christmas letters, things like that. But something else that I need around me is poetry.

A poem is the sort of thing you feed on. You take a moment to stand still and read it to yourself, slowly, like a deep breath for your mind in the middle of the day.

As you can see, on this bulletin board, I have:

  • Two recipes (pancakes, pie crust. The essentials)
  • A hand-drawn portrait of buttered toast, done by a toast-loving kid,
  • “Dill with it,” which was a gift from a loved one who knows my love for dill and script,
  • And four poems. One is Tableau by Countee Cullen, which I think of whenever my blond son plays with his friend …
  • One is one of my own, Theophany, which I wrote for a friend who was going through a hard time and then never sent to her …
  • One is a scrap of poetry posted by a fellow blogger from his collection Bone Antler Stone, which I had to print out because it grabbed me by the throat with its beauty …
  • And one is actually the lyrics to a hymn, Jesus I My Cross Have Taken, in case I need to refocus during the day.

It’s actually kind of rare that I have four poems up at once, but these four give you a good sense of the range of things that might, at any time, appear upon my bulletin board.

What poems, (say, within the last month), would you have liked to post in your kitchen?

Poem: The Stone Serpent of Loch Nell

Why lies this mighty serpent here,

Let him who knoweth tell —

With its head to the land and its huge tail near

The shore of fair Loch Nell?

Why lies it here? — not here alone,

But far to East and West

The wonder-working snake is known,

A mighty god confessed.

Where Ganga scoops his sacred bed,

And rolls his blissful flood,

Above Trimurti’s threefold head

The serpent swells his hood.

And where the procreant might of Nile

Impregned the seedful rood,

Enshrined with cat and crocodile

The holy serpent stood.

And when o’er Tiber’s yellow foam

The hot sirocca blew,

And smote the languid sons of Rome

With fever’s yellow hue,

Then forth from Esculapius’s shrine

The Pontiff’s arm revealed,

In folded coils, the snake divine,

And all the sick were healed.

And Wisest Greece the virtue knew

Of the bright and scaly twine,

When winged snakes the chariot drew

From Dame Demeter’s shrine.

And Maenad maids, with festive sound,

Did keep the night awake,

When with three feet they beat the ground,

And hymned the Bacchic snake.

And west, far west, beyond the seas,

Beyond Tezcuco’s lake,

In lands where gold grows thick as peas,

Was known this holy snake.

And here the mighty god was known

In Europe’s early morn,

In view of Cruachan’s triple cone,

Before John Bull was born.

And worship knew of Celtic ground,

With trumpets, drums, and bugles,

Before a trace in Lorn was found

Of Campbells or Macdougalls.

And here the serpent lies in pride

His hoary tale to tell,

And rears his mighty head beside

The shore of fair Loch Nell.

Poem written by Prof. Blackie, accompanying the description of the Loch Nell serpent by Miss Cummin, quoted in The Serpent Mound by E.O. Randall

Poem: The Grandeur of God by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The first time I read this poem, I didn’t get most of what it said.

I knew the last line rang on intriguingly, as last lines sometimes do, and that it felt like the culmination of the whole poem, but I had missed the meaning of most of what had gone before. I liked it enough that I went back and read it many more times, out loud, until my mind was processing the sentences. (They are grammatical sentences, despite the first impression.)

Many poems function as I just described, this one has a really bad case of it. That’s because of the cacophony. The thing reads like a tongue twister. It really makes you work for it. And that’s what I ultimately love about it.

The other thing I love is how it addresses our universal fear that the world has been permanently ruined and that we can never get the glory back.

I hope you’ll read it through several times, as I did, and that the reading rewards you as much as it did me.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
it gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
crushed. Why do men then now not reck His rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
and all is seared with trade; smeared, bleared with toil,
and wears Man's smudge and shares Man's smell; the soil
is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

Yet for all this, Nature is never spent:
there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.
And though the last lights off the black West went
oh, morning, o'er the brown brink Eastward, springs,
because the Holy Ghost over the bent
world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Poem: The Raven Speaks of the Gospel

The death of a king.

He hangs here, fair,

bound, blue of skin and flowing hair,

with oken leaves to cover him.

Soon he will groan, a-crushing ‘twix two sacred stones,

and never a morsel for me, for me,

for after they will burn his bones.

The Precious Blood.

It costs, men say,

can stave off some god’s judgment day,

so valuable gods find him.

And others, too … a hundred valuable kings pass through,

but never a morsel for me, for me,

though I be Raven, black and true.

The Sacred Tale

may be told again,

when he’s long gone, of such great men

as Lancelot, God save him.

As Gawain, Percival, great lights, a sad score sacrificed by night,

(though never a morsel for me, for me),

and lastly, greatly, of the Christ.

The First of Kings,

ancienter than these,

was hung, in past age, on a tree,

with never a leaf to cover him.

And he did groan, and later All shall become his own —

but that’s to be. For now it’s me,

in grimmest vigil, all alone.

Poem: Romans at Your Back

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com
Do you feel uncomfortable with Romans at your back?
Are you thinking this is not exactly what you’d planned?
Are you thinking, This looks bad, but someday soon He’ll see
I was right to use my knowledge of Gethsemane.
 
Possible you don’t recall what, months ago, He said:
that the Christ must first be killed and then rise from the dead.
In the sacred city He’d be turned in to the priests,
then to the Gentiles to be killed – do you not feel unease?
 
Just hours ago He broke the news that He would be betrayed.
You’re certain He did not mean you … but why are you afraid?
If you would only think it through!  But you’re set on your track,
although you look uncomfortable with Romans at your back.
 
Don’t think about it, Judas.
You’ve begun – now see it through.
There’ll be time for thinking later when you’re swinging from a noose.

Again He took the twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to Him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him.  Three days later He will rise.”
Mark 10:32-34

As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out.  And it was night.
John 13:30