Monday, April 30, 2018

Everybody's Talking

When I was still a single girl, the Wyman family at my church invited me for dinner. And I was delighted to accept. These people were just my type  creative and crazy. The family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Wyman (the parents), and their three grown children  all living at home  along with the daughter's two school-aged children. 

Fabulous people. One Wyman son was an artist and the other was a scientist. The daughter was an accomplished pianist. Mrs. Wyman was a poet. 

Dinner was delicious  Mrs. Wyman's famous homemade spaghetti. The conversation at the table was lively and interesting  art, music, science  all topics that interest me. 

There was just one problem. Everyone was talking to me. Everyone. All at once. I looked from one face to the other to the next, not wanting to be rude to any of them. But it was impossible to follow any single thread of conversation. All the threads were as tangled as the pasta on my plate. I couldn't reply to anybody because I couldn't keep it all straight. 

I had fun that night anyway, because I always enjoyed their company. But I knew I couldn't do that every night. My puny brain would explode from all those dangling threads of conversation.

And now, sometimes when I'm on social media, I get the swirly-headed feeling I'm back at that dinner party with the Wymans. Doesn't it sometimes feel like everybody's talking and nobody's listening?  

Some people on Facebook (not you, Dear Reader, just some people) seem to post all the live-long day: "Here's what I had for breakfast / Here's my new puppy / Survey: how many of you like the color green? / Here are 57 random pix of my boyfriend / Need a new therapist -- recommendations? / So, radishes. . .yes or no? / Selling my Honda Civic -- any takers? / Walked 6017 steps on Fitbit today / Plz pray for my sick goldfish, Rudolpho /..../ What? bedtime already? Nitie-nite, Facebook."

And blogs? I'm pretty sure there are about twice as many people writing blogs as there are people reading them. And that's a conservative estimate.

I check my Twitter messages about once a decade, but there must be people tweeting like canaries around the clock as well.

It’s tempting to say that maybe we should all talk a little less and listen more. But I don't think that's gonna cut it. Instead, maybe we need to quit talking AND listening. 

I think the word for that is silence

We need a time DAILY when we are unplugged from all the beep-beep-beep, jabber-jabber-jabber. And now and then, a longer vacation from tv, internet, smart phones, email, Pandora, Siri, and Alexa. At least a day. Maybe two. And what restoration and renewal might happen in our minds and spirits in a whole week? 

I think the word for that is peace.

Ahhhhh. Lying down in green pastures. 

Resting beside still waters. 

Soul restored.

And who knows? After a season of silence and peace, we might actually have something to talk about.

Image Credits:
    Spaghetti - Author: Benreis
    Eating spaghetti - © Can Stock Photo / logan5
    Children talking - © Can Stock Photo / lenm
    Woman at computer - © Can Stock Photo / endotune
    Sheep in pasture - Attribution: Chris Upson / Sheep Grazing / CC BY-SA 2.0
    One sheep - Author: Jackhynes, Public Domain;
    Sunset - Author: fir0002 |

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bard Watching: A Shakespeare Quiz

Huzzah! It's spring — and a perfect time to take up Bard watching.

April 23rd (1564) is the assumed birthday and April 23rd (1616) the recorded death day for William Shakespeare — aka the Bard of Avon. He is one of the greatest playwrights and poets in British history, and hey nonny, nonny — that’s saying something.

Billy Shakespeare has contributed so many words and phrases to the English language that it’s impossible to calculate his influence. If you’re an educator or an English major, you may think it’s a foregone conclusion [Othello] that truth will out [Merchant of Venice] and you will get all the questions right. While this Shakespeare quiz may not be the be all, end all [Macbeth], nonetheless the game is afoot! [Henry IV, Pt.1].


Do you know (or can you guess) which play these expressions came from? Answers are at the bottom, but no peeking!

1.) "Too much of a good thing"

a.) As You Like It   b.) King Lear    c.) Comedy of Errors   d.)  Twelfth Night

2.) "Kill with kindness"

a.) Julius Caesar   b.) Pericles    c.) Taming of the Shrew   d.)  Richard II

3.) "Love is blind"

a.) A Winter's Tale   b.) Merchant of Venice    c.) Measure for Measure   d.)  Love's Labour's Lost

4.) "There's method in my madness" 

a.) Macbeth   b.) Pericles    c.) Othello   d.)  Hamlet

5.) "Send him packing"

a.) The Tempest   b.) Henry IV, Pt 1    c.) King John   d.)  Julius Caesar

6.) "What the dickens"

a.) Merry Wives of Windsor   b.) The Tempest   c.) Pericles   
d.)  Titus Andronicus

7.) "Knock, knock. Who's there?"

a.) Henry V   b.) Macbeth    c.) King John   d.)  Julius Caesar

8.) "Wear your heart on your sleeve"

a.) Hamlet   b.) Henry IV, Pt 1    c.) King Lear   d.)  Othello

9.) "Eaten out of house and home"

a.) Antony and Cleopatra   b.) Henry IV, Pt 2    c.) King Lear   d.)  Julius Caesar

10.) "All the world's a stage"

a.) Merry Wives of Windsor   b.) Measure for Measure    c.) The Tempest   d.)  As You Like It


Which Shakespeare characters might have sent these tweets?

11.) Yo, anybody in Scotland know a good drycleaner? Can't get this dang spot out!

12.) 2B. . .or not 2B. Can't find my girlfriend's apartment. Tragic!

13.) Guys, I said BREECH. Not "once more unto the beach"! Prepare for battle.

14.) WEATHER ALERT: Rain falling on the just and the unjust. Have mercy!


Which characters from which plays might have posted these memes on Facebook?








Family Pix  22--25

What fabulously famous playwright might have posted these pix on Pinterest?


Stratford-upon-Avon -- my birthplace

My wife Anne's cottage

The Globe Theatre, where I used to play around
Huzzah! A statue of me. Cool, right?


1.) "Too much of a good thing" A - As You Like It ;  2.) "Kill with kindness"  C - The Taming of the Shrew; 3.) "Love is blind" B - The Merchant of Venice; 4.) "There's method in my madness" D - Hamlet; 5.) "Send him packing" B - Henry IV; 6.) "What the dickens" A - The Merry Wives of Windsor;  7.) "Knock, knock. Who's there?" B - Macbeth; 8.) "Wear your heart on your sleeve"  D - Othello;  9.) "Eaten out of house and home" B - Henry IV, Part 2; 10.) "All the world's a stage" D - As You Like It

11.) "...Can't get this dang spot out" - Lady Macbeth, feeling guilty, in Macbeth; 12.) "2B...or not 2B..." Hamlet, contemplating suicide in Hamlet; 13.) "Not once more unto the beach" -- Title character in Henry V, encouraging the troops to fight one more time--"Once more unto the breech!"; 14.) Weather Alert: Portia, pleading for mercy, in The Merchant of Venice , "The quality of mercy is not strained..."

15.) "A very palpable hit!" - Osric in Hamlet (during swordfight)--if you got Hamlet, that's good enough!; 16.) "Guys in the Senate are killin' me." Title character in Julius Caesar, as he was literally being killed by Senators; "Don't it make my blue eyes green" - Iago speaks to Othello of the "green-eyed monster," jealousy;  "'" - King Lear might have posted this URL, since he thought his daughter Cordelia didn't love him (King Lear);  "Coven-on-the-Moors" - The Three Witches in Macbeth meet on the Moor and give Macbeth a tantalizing prophecy; 20.) "So is it okay to kill your uncle..." - In Hamlet, Hamlet ponders killing his uncle, for the very reason mentioned in this meme; 21.) "For sale: one pound of flesh" - Shylock wants to extract a pound of flesh from Antonio in The Merchant of Venice.

22--25 -- Pix from Shakespeare's life: Duh, William Somebody-or-other

Image Credits:
    Shakespeare painting: possibly by John Taylor, Public Domain
    Twitter symbol -- Icon made by Freepik from
    Facebook symbol -- Icon made by Freepik from
    Memes made by Patty Kyrlach
    Pinterest symbol -- Icon made by Freepik from
    Stratford-upon-Avon -- Original uploader was Kev747 at en.wikipedia
    Anne Hathaway's Cottage -- Author, Richard Peat
    The Globe -- Author: Maschinenjunge
    Shakespeare Statue -- Author: Lonpicman

Monday, April 16, 2018

Surprised by Joy

The world of writer and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (Jack) was decidedly masculine.

The Kilns

Jack lived in a house called the Kilns, in a quiet, predictable life with his brother Warren Hamilton Lewis (Warnie).

Magdalen College, Cambridge

He was a professor at an all-male school.  

He had a group of good friends – all men. They met at a local pub for drinks and intellectual discussions. He went on walking trips with Barfield, Tolkien, or Warnie   all men.

Jack's world was pretty much limited to men — tweed jackets, foaming pints, and pipe smoke.

And then came Joy.

Helen Joy Davidman

A child prodigy raised in the Bronx, Helen Joy Davidman read the writings of George MacDonald. She later wrote that these stories “developed in me a lifelong taste for fantasy, which led me years later to C. S. Lewis, who in turn led me to religion.” She went on to earn a Master’s degree in English literature from Columbia. She was an award-winning poet and the author of two novels.

In youth, she was an atheist and a Communist. Her marriage to William Lindsey Graham was unhappy. Her husband drank too much and was given to outbursts of temper. 

Partly because of the writings of C. S. Lewis, Joy converted to Christianity. She struck up a trans-Atlantic correspondence with Jack and actually fell in love with him long distance, although her affections were not reciprocated. She even made a trip to England with her two sons.

The Study at the Kilns
One day, Lewis had a letter from Joy, asking if they could meet at a restaurant. When the day came, Joy found Jack and Warnie at a table, and a lively conversation instantly ignited. 

Warnie later confided to his diary that Jack and Joy had built “a rapid friendship.” He described Joy as “a Christian convert of Jewish race, medium height, good figure, horn rimmed specs, quite extraordinarily uninhibited.” And he later wrote, “For Jack the attraction was at first undoubtedly intellectual. Joy was the only woman whom he had met…who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humour and a sense of fun.” 

Joy and the two boys spent a couple of weeks as guests of Jack and Warnie at the Kilns. While in England, Joy received a letter from her husband saying that he was having an affair with her cousin and he wanted a divorce. She went home to try to save her marriage.

After the divorce, Joy returned to England, found an apartment, and set the boys up in school. But child support from Gresham soon stopped, and she found herself in financial straights. Lewis found her a house close to the Kilns and also paid for the boys’ schooling.

Jack and Joy helped each other with their writing, with Joy serving as the inspiration for Orual in Jack’s Till We Have Faces.

Suddenly Joy had another problem, when her Visitor’s Visa was not renewed by the Home Office. Lewis, wanting to help a friend, offered to marry Joy in a civil ceremony to keep her from being sent back to America. This was a marriage in name only  they continued to live separately.

One day Joy tripped on a phone wire and broke her leg. In the hospital, the doctors found that Joy had a far more serious problem  breast cancer that had spread to her bones. Their prognosis? Incurable.

Upon receiving this news, Jack was devastated, for he now realized that he loved Joy as she loved him.  

Joy underwent several operations and procedures to treat the cancer. In March, Warnie wrote in his diary: “One of the most painful days of my life. Sentence of death has been passed on Joy, and the end is only a matter of time.”  

Jack and Helen were married in a religious ceremony at the hospital on the 21st of March in 1957. After that, several of Jack’s old friends avoided them, because Joy had been divorced.

Lewis's bedroom at the Kilns

A week later, Joy went home to the Kilns — and there she enjoyed a long remission of the cancer. They took a few trips.
But the cancer returned, and she died in July of 1960.

Lewis had written a poem as a tribute for his friend, Charles Williams, and he adapted it for Joy:

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may 
Resume them on her Easter Day.  

Jack had written a memoir of his early life, entitled Surprised by Joy. By joy, he meant a longing for something so other, so holy, so awesome, that there are no words to describe it. God must have chuckled when He sent Joy — as a person — into Jack's life

Their time together was short but certainly transformative for both of them.

On April 18th, we celebrate the birthday of Helen Joy Davidman Lewis, while Jack and Joy celebrate in Heaven.

Image Credits:
    The Kilns -- Author: jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA;
    Magdalen College -- source unknown;
    Eagle and Child sign -- Author: ceridwen
   Joy Davidman -- Wikipedia, Author: The Book Haven, Cynthia Haven's blog 
         -- used for illustration and identification;
    Lewis's study at the Kilns -- Author: jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA;
    The Kilns, Jack's bedroom -- Author: jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA;
    River and woodland -- Author: inkknife_2000

Monday, April 9, 2018

Doggie Dreams

Not long ago I had a dream. About a dog. 

I found it strange, because we haven't had a dog since we moved back to the city. It turns out I'm allergic to dogs, and so I limit my dealings with those of the canine persuasion  however winsome they may be.

But in this dream I had a dog. And apparently a group of people had gathered to watch my dog do his tricks.

The dog  don't remember the breed  just a dog  walked on his hind legs over to a blackboard and picked up a piece of chalk. Whereupon he wrote out several complex mathematical equations.

Of course, this was a dream, so I suppose an equation-writing dog didn't seem all that out of the ordinary.

Until a man in a tweed jacket turned to me and said (in a snooty-patooty voice), "You do realize, of course, that the dog doesn't actually understand the math...."

Whereupon I woke up  presumably from an adrenaline  rush triggered by this man's utter arrogance and stupidity.

Tweedy had so missed the point. Who cares if the dog understood the equations? I mean, I couldn't go to a blackboard and write out fancy-pants equations. (For me, long division is higher math....) And it was pretty darn impressive that this dog could do it  whether he understood them or not.

The moral of the story must be that dogs are sometimes smarter than people. 

I was reminded of this dream and this moral recently when I read an utterly enchanting book called The Poet's Dog, by master-storyteller Patricia MacLachlan. 

If the name Patricia MacLachlan sounds familiar, it's probably because she is the Newbery Award-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall

In this story, two children  Nickel and Flora  are lost in a terrible snowstorm but are rescued by an Irish wolfhound  named Teddy, who leads them to the cabin he had shared with his poet friend Sylvan. 

Through the days of their confinement together, the dog and the children share many confidences  for Teddy can talk  but only to children and poets. And if you had conversations with your dog as a child, you will know that this must be true.

Not since Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate diCamillo have I enjoyed a "dog book" so much. I am sure this is one of those books I will reread many times, with fresh pleasure in every reading.  

The children built a fire to keep warm in the cabin, to keep the howling, growling storm at bay. And in this story, MacLachlan has built a fire to warm our hearts in the long winter season of our souls.

So, Mr. Tweed Jacket, can you understand that?

Photo Credits:
     Dog Silhouette -- Public Domain
     Spaniel -- Public Domain
     Equation -- Collections École Polytechnique / Jeremy Barande
     Irish wolfhound -- Author: Tirwhan
     Fireplace -- Author: Fastily (TALK)