Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

21 December, 2006


There's this sculpture in Chattanooga that I love. It sits in this little stony alcove off to the side of an otherwise very modern (UGH-LEE) sculpture garden. I used to go there with my paternal grandmother and grandfather; after my grandfather died I went there alone or with my grandmother.

My sister just came for a visit, and among many exciting and wonderful aspects of our time together, she brought along a couple of pictures my grandmother took of the statue, one of which you can see below, though crooked. I had been trying to poeticize the scene for a while, and having the picture helped. Below the picture is the poetic attempt.

Statue of the prodigal son in the Bluff View Art District sculpture garden

As long as that river…
(He seems to be saying)
As long as that river,
a hundred feet down
and a half-mile across
unwinds itself
between these folded mountains
will we stand here
entwined in one another’s
robes, tattered from the old

Now held fast,
bronzed in embrace,
words fail the one who
wandered—“Make me
like one of your hired
men.” Unspoken—
wondering at love
felt from the
One, long-waiting,
in whose arms he is

12 December, 2006

poem for the season

This comes from a book of poetry edited by Luci Shaw, called A Widening Light.

After the bright beam of hot annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth
his searing sharply-focused light
went out for a while
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor
his universal grace
small-folded in a warm dim
female space--
the Word stern-sentenced
to be nine months dumb--
infinity walked in a womb
until the next enormity--the Mighty,
after submission to a woman's pains,
helpless on a barn-bare floor
first-tasting bitter earth.

Now, I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closed in time
he is my open door
to forever.
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
find wings.
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death's mesh,
time's bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

Luci Shaw

11 December, 2006

O, Tannenbaum!

I bought a Christmas tree today. First time I have done that. I usually don't get into "the Christmas spirit," if that means a bunch of decorations in your house. The tree is silver and about four feet tall. I bought it at Metro, which is like Sam's Club. You have to have a card to shop there. I had noticed the tree when I was in there earlier today. It stuck out because it was silver. All the others were green, more like real trees. This one was like a real tree too, its needles were resplendent with the flourescent lights forty feet above.

I went back for the tree a few hours later, after I had run my decision by my trusty friend, Darin, whose opinion is invaluable at times like these. I realized at once that this was going to be a little trickier than I had at first thougt. It was not as if I could just walk out of there with their floor model silver Christmas tree. There must be a box somewhere. We looked around for a box that might contain it, but to no avail. I realized I did not know how to say "silver" or "Christmas tree," so the prospects of asking for help were growing slimmer by the minute. Looking at the floor model, though, we found the words (which I have since mentally blocked) for metallic silver and began looking for a box with those words printed on it. Still no luck. I got depserate and began looking for some assistance from the Metro staff.

A young man walked by, looking like he probably wasn't real excited about trying to understand how he could help me, but I seized him and asked, "Where is the box for the metallic silver Christmas tree?" He pointed to a large stack of boxes about three inches from me and said, "Right there." I looked at the boxes, which all had pictures of verdant, stately, realistic-looking trees on them and said, "No, I would like the silver, metallic tree." "Yes, that's the one," he assured me. I pointed at the picture and Darin gave it a shot, "This one's not silver. We are looking for a silver metallic tree." I really respect the salesman for maintaining a relatively calm demeanor with the two of us. He pointed to the side of the box, which, in the very words we had learned, said, "SILVER METALLIC CHRISTMAS TREE." Oh.

The man walked off and we thanked him, watched to make sure he was out of sight, then opened the box to see if it did, in fact, contain the desired silver metallic Christmas tree. And it did. So. We spent the next few minutes shopping for tinsel, ornaments, a star, and now have a very dignified silver, metallic Christmas tree in our school room. Pictures soon to follow.

09 December, 2006

this little piggy

Killed a pig yesterday.

Perhaps I should explain. Apparently this is what all Romanians do as winter rolls around. They buy a pig and slaughter it. I will spare you the details, suffice to say that it was interesting and not quite as gruesome as I thought. As a matter of fact, after the first five minutes, the pig was surprisingly calm throughout the process.

I feel like I should somehow justify taking part in the process. I actually did very little. I watched the pros and took pictures, most of which will never make it to this site or to my prayer letters. But why, you may ask, would a recovering vegetarian want to witness the dispatching of a pig and the consequent piecing out of it into various usable forms? I guess I should say that it wasn't even my pig. My boss bought it at the behest of his neighbors and will use it for food for his family this winter. I will probably mooch a couple of sausages off him, though.

I can give two justifications for showing up at 8AM (we even adjusted the school day) for this event. First, I am less prone to the sin of believing that food comes from the supermarket. There I was, watching a living, breathing, squealing, screeching creature bleed and be silent. Four hours later, I was eating his meat. I was witnessing the process of the whole God-ordained order of man taking dominion over and sustaining himself with creation. Not to stretch it, but it is a picture that reminds us that our lives come at a price. And that price is not $3.98/lb.

Second, it gives me a vivid and radically accurate fresh outlook on the levitical sacrificial process. When I get to those parts in the Bible where the priests are commanded to sacrifice thousands of various kinds of animals (I know, I know...none of them pigs), and then I remember the lake of blood pooled around that carcass, then I think of that multiplied by thousands, and the sound it must have made all day long, maybe for days on end, and the smell, burning hair, burning serious as that was and is, it was always only intended to point towards an even more awful and harrowing sacrifice. Christ, Son of God, and God himself accomplished what man never could if he sacrificed all the lambs in the world. It is easy for me to read the Bible and for it to start seeming nice and tidy and neat. I forget that it is a blood-soaked book. There is nothing tidy about the death of God.

As we enter the Christmas season, join me in not forgetting that the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay was only about thirty years away from greusome death, horror itself, rejected by God as His lifeblood drained out, soaked the tree, the hill, and all whom the Father draws near.

Merry Christmas.

01 December, 2006

pictures from Wednesday's hike

Claus: This guy cracks me up

Slanina and Fleica

Cooking the meat...Dan's way

A nice way to end. Kingstone Mountain (Piatra Crailui) to the left of the setting sun.