Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Poetic, lyrical, luminous. These are the words that repeatedly came to mind while reading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead.  That is, when I wasn't too overwhelmed with the emotions her writing evokes to overlay them with thought.

She artfully holds a mirror nearer and nearer the heart, forcing us to encounter head-on the universal, internal struggle to reconcile the pain and the beauty of life, while attempting to live out our deeply held beliefs in both individual and community relationships.  

This intensely personal, yet mostly unremarkable, struggle is undertaken alongside others whose own internal struggles are similar yet disparate - even antithetical - to our own and yet, for them, carry the same profundity, mystery, and power that our own do.  

For Reverend Ames, ordinary life is a continuous self-dialogue that seeks to make sense of all these internal and external enigmas.  Sometimes the conclusion we seek - love for another - requires an extended and steady pursuit.  When it finally blossoms, it is a lasting and peace-inducing treasure.

If you read Gilead, don't stop there.  Home, though written subsequently, chronicles the same timeframe in the same town with the same families, as seen through the eyes of characters other than Ames.  Surely this has been done before, but no instances come to mind.  It is pure brilliance.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Life with Ms. Julie

My phone rang in the middle of the work day.  

"Julie" my screen announced.  

My initial "Oi-vay" was quickly followed by, "Gosh, I hope she's OK."  

She IS ok, but it's been a bad day for Ms. Julie.  Though she began the conversation with, "My toilet is stopped up!" she went on to enumerate a day filled with trials.  A dead battery (AAA rescued her...and the gentlemen happened to recognize her as his 3rd grade teacher: "I know're Ms. Clark!")  A fender bender in the Walgreens parking lot, which she fears will cause her license to be revoked.  A stopped up toilet, which is pretty much the bane of her existence.  And a landlord who dared to retrieve rent checks from the hallway without taking her garbage to the dumpster...which BY THE WAY is overflowing and THEY AREN'T PICKING UP UNTIL THURSDAY (kind of like every other week...?).  

If I didn't absolutely adore her...well, I it's all good.  All I had to do was promise to dispose of her garbage and check out her toilet when I got home...AND reveal the hiding spot for my apartment key so she could use my bathroom.

Following through on my promises earned me a set of very own Sound of Music sing-a-long to commemorate its 60th anniversary.  Ms. Julie tickled the ivory on her baby grand and I, of course, killed on vocals...while Julie Andrews herself looked on almost-approvingly from the signed photograph on top of the piano.  She's famous like that, Ms. Julie.  Her apartment is filled with momentos from the world of Broadway and its stars, all addressing their personal devotion to her.

Sure, I "miraculously" unstopped her perfectly-working toilet (earning me the appellation of "my very own Roto Rooter"!),  I found room for her garbage in the overflowing (70% full!) dumpster, I carried her empty reusable grocery bags down to her trunk, and gave my very professional evaluation of the nearly-invisible scratch on her bumper...AND I spent a sweltering 30 minutes in her 90 degree apartment!  But while she thinks I'm the one blessing her...and I suppose I am...SHE is so full of spunk (and worry) and joy (and worry) and fascinating life stories (and worry), that I'm pretty sure I derive the most pleasure from our encounters.   

I fear I shall be a mite lonely when she's gone.  Long live Ms. Julie!!