What We’re Reading


The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris.

I just finished “The Quotidian Mysteries” by Kathleen Norris a Catholic Christian and a  Poetess. I had such high hopes! But was a little disappointed  by it. The little book is actually a lecture she gave in 1998 at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indaiana. It begins with reflections  on her first encounter of a Roman Catholic Mass. What struck her was the priest cleaning the chalice after Holy Communion. From there she  delves into the inescapable duties of daily life that even the Liturgy is bound to.

Of course, she identifies  herself as a feminist (what published poetess/authoress doesn’t these days?) and believes that the feminist movement has developed far enough that we can now admit to finding meaning in our daily work. A very naive view of feminism! But of course, no feminist would touch her or her ideas, they are too feminine. I also found her “calling” to barrenness  unsettling; All women are called to motherhood of some form even if they are barren.

That aside, the lecture was refreshing. Many of the poems, psalms, quotes, prayers referenced and her commentaries were very good and encouraging.

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

“Owl at Home” is our favorite Arnold Lobel book. Great for beginner readers. It has five easy and interesting stories in it. “Tear-Water Tea” is rather a poetic little story and my favorite out of the five. We’ve been reading it daily for a week now. My girls insist upon it. The illustrations also by Arnold Lobel are endearing.

April is the Cruelest Month

NPG x88526,Thomas Stearns ('T.S.') Eliot,by Ida Kar

T.S. Eliot is this month’s poet. Last month’s poet was Milosz and it was a great success that is,  I learned a great deal. I am more familiar with Eliot but just couldn’t resist dedicating the month of April to studying his works.  Where to begin? I suppose The Waste Land or The Four Quartets would be a good start.

Toads and Ashes

Here’s a poem for you on this Ash Wed:

At A Certain Age

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”

Czeslaw Milosz
Some quick thoughts:
I love the movement of this poem: It begins with inner turmoil and quickly moves to the sky and wind. The sinner finding no rest in the clouds, turns to the land and its creatures. The description of the dog and cat brings the poem to earth in one quick sweep and invoke the domestic life. They are uninterested and disappointed. He moves to humanity. Friends are indifferent and how humiliating and sterile it would be to pay someone!
We have a turning point – Churches – Clouds, animals, friends, professionals – Churches.  The tone seems to shift a bit with the turning point. The examination of conscience begins. What is this unrest? “But to confess what?” The poet seems unsatisfied with what he knows he should confess. Pride. He thought himself noble but now he is no more than a  toad. His description is so perfect! Slit eyes -half open. The image of the toad brings to mind both land and sea, the mythical fairy tales and the factual, the scientific- both body and soul. The poem ends with knowledge of self- seeing oneself as is, and not what’s thought to be. And so, this Ash Wed, let us remember what we really are – Toads and Ashes.

A Simple Proposal and An Honored Request


When my husband proposed to me it was a simple proposal. We went for a walk in my parents’ backyard. Beyond the sprawling walnut tree and swing and behind the tall white shed my father built, he stopped and asked, “Will you marry me?”I smiled, kissed him and said,  “yes!” He then walked me over to his car, opened the door and pulled out a little box, “I have something for you.” He opened it and slipped a ruby on my finger. “Come with me” he said and we showed my family the ring.

I remember such energy, such contentment surrounding that day. Everyone was thrilled. But what I remember most is a small act of kindness- a moment of vulnerability following the initial bustle of excitement. After telling my family the news and setting a date – the earliest possible date mind you, my now fiancee sat down on the sofa, kicked up one of his boots and said, “take off my boots.” I looked at him; I had never taken his boots off before, I had never thought to, he had never asked, but I walked over, took his shod foot in my hands and began to untie them. I felt like Esther approaching the throne or Ruth lying at the feet of Boaz as I untethered the knots, tugged at the heels and set the boots on the floor by his feet. He smiled. I smiled. He kissed my forehead, “thank you.” That was it. Soon afterwards my younger siblings and parents came in to talk.

We’ve been married for a number of years now and we have a number of children but that moment stays with us. It was small but, oh, how significant! I could have easily brushed his request off with a laugh and sat down next to him, pestering him about upcoming plans and we would have never had this tender recollection. Thankfully, I took his request to heart. I followed his lead. I was bit uncomfortable and unsure about it, but I honored his request.

Now, when my husband comes home from work and he has had particularly rough day, he walks over to the sofa sits down and kicks up his foot. I walk over and take his shoes off without a word. We smile as we find sanctuary in one another and in a memory.