“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
who is and who was and who is to come,
– Revelation 1:8 New Revised Standard Version
Sometimes, in the space where I’m drifting off to sleep,
texts I’ve heard recently,
words I’ve just read,
and songs I’ve sung in the past
meet up in my mind.
They’re a bit shy, a little nervous,
not sure they should be in the same place at the same time.
That summer was a new beginning, a new end.
When I look back, I remember my slippery
hands of paint and the sound of Papa’s feet
on Munich Street, and I know that small
piece of the summer of 1942 belonged to only
one man. Who else would do some painting for
the price of half a cigarette? That was Papa,
that was typical, and I loved him.
– Markus Zusak, in The Book Thief
Alpha and Omega.
First and Last.
Before the beginning and beyond the end.
Always there. Always here.
Past. Present. Future.
Yet we measure time in discrete bits, distinct seasons.
That was then.
A new beginning. A new end.
This is now.
Also a new beginning and a new end.
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
– Natalie Sleeth, “In the Bulb There Is a Flower,” verse 3
Linear. One thing after another. Never to go back.
Circular. One thing after another. Back at the beginning again.
Timeless with God.
As soon as I read about it in November, I knew I wanted it.
I suggested it as a Christmas gift. But the book wasn’t officially available until December.
So I ordered A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick for my birthday. It arrived Friday – along with four other books in three packages.
Birthday Books 2019. To share with my beloved. Photo: TLClark.
I’m the sort of person who likes books about books. A Velocity of Being is not quite that. It’s better: letters about reading from authors and artists, musicians and scientists, actors and others. Each was asked to “write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny.” (Maria Popova, “Introduction,” A Velocity of Being).
As if that were not enough, every letter is accompanied by a work of art created in response to that particular message. The works by illustrators, graphic designers and other artists are exquisite, adding a rich layer of interpretation to the letter.
Just a few examples:
- In the first letter Jacqueline Woodson writes of reading to her young son and impulsively kissing “the top of my son’s mohawked head.” (p. 16) Lara Hawthorne captures the moment beautifully.
- Leonard Marcus encourages us to pack books carefully when moving. “Not many things in life can be counted as ‘permanent possessions.’ But a few things can, and our favorite books are among them.” (p. 158) Julia Rothman’s illustration shows the chaos of boxes being packed to move with one carefully marked “PERMANENT POSSESSIONS.”
- “The world itself is all beautiful” Andrew Solomon writes, “but sometimes it can be hard to see that, and books let you understand moments of beauty you might otherwise miss.” (p. 100) He writes about loneliness, justice, kindness, sadness, happiness and more, two sentences at a time. Catarina Sobral used bright, bold, primary colors to portray a child whose world is upended by reading a book.
I haven’t read every letter – yet. Nor have I spent time musing over every illustration – yet. A Velocity of Being will take some time to absorb and to enjoy – one letter, one picture at a time.
Read about Maria Popova’s creative vision for the book and see some of the many exquisite illustrations by visiting her blog: A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read.
Snow drift through the sun room window. Glad for the sun. Not so glad for the wind – except to see the fabulous shapes being sculpted. Photo: TLClark.
My beloved suggested I could write about Cabin Fever. We’ve reached the age where “better safe than sorry” guides decisions. We’ve both driven enough miles on snow/ice covered interstates or in gusty cold winds to know that snow/ice covered plus gusty cold winds is a recipe for disaster. So we’ve rescheduled today’s appointments in Iowa City which were the rescheduled appointments from yesterday.
What to do?
- Play games on the computer (seems to have become the default option).
- Read a book (another common default option).
- Pull out an old fashioned board game or maybe a deck of cards.
- Memorize a poem.
- Work on the puzzle.
- Do some genealogy sleuthing.
- Sort those old pictures and get them boxed to mail to someone who will enjoy having them.
- Play the piano/keyboard.
This puzzle was a challenge the first time around – not sure why we decided to do it again. Photo: TLClark.
- Watch a movie.
- Bake cookies.
- Clean the bathrooms.
- Clean out a drawer or a closet.
- Write a sympathy note or a thinking of you card – with pen and paper.
- Be creative in the sewing room.
Clockwise from top right: a) Hand sew the binding on scrappy strip quilt. b) Free motion quilt the butterfly quilt. c) Add sashing to the finished blocks and join them into a quilt top. d) Start an entirely new project using fabric from the bins in the corner. Photo: TLClark.
- Use the colored pencils to draw something new or color in a coloring book.
- Sort, discard or keep, categorize eleven years of digital photos.
- Plan another series of blog posts.
- Call Mom & Dad or Grandma Mary.
- Sort through a box full of old church papers; recycle most of it.
- Work on taxes.
What would you add to the list? What would choose first?
I’ve started the new year with two works of fiction. One was added to my “to read” list as soon as I heard the author was preparing to release her next book. The other was a Christmas gift.
Both books are written in English. Both have language that stretches me.
Tony Hillerman has long been one of my parent’s favorite authors. But it’s my first time to read one of his books. I started The Blessing Way as bedtime reading on Tuesday.
I have read every book in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series – except the latest one – at least twice. The Kingdom of the Blind went with me on Wednesday as waiting room reading. Once started, I read it straight through, putting it down only to drive home, to prepare and eat supper, and to sleep.
Returning to the Hillerman book, I was struck by how I was challenged by the language. The names of the native peoples, their names for places, and even some of the descriptions of the southwestern U.S. landscape are mostly foreign to me. I have to concentrate to keep them straight.
Set in French speaking Canada, Penny’s books also include names of people and places which are mostly foreign to me. Having done nothing with the French I took in college 34 years ago, decoding phrases written in French takes effort. I have to concentrate.
Reading as an enjoyable pastime requires falling into the language. Relaxing into the rhythm of words and phrases and sentences. Being open to new vocabulary as well as new ideas. Allowing the text to reveal a new or unfamiliar world.
What are you reading? How is it challenging you to see more broadly or think more deeply?
So many books. So little time.
Mary gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. – Luke 2:7 CEB
Just a few of my mom’s many miniature nativity sets.