Joy’s Joys

Back on Dorothy’s birthday, I spent the day sharing quotations of hers on Facebook. They came from her fiction, her non-fiction, and, in at least one instance, from her letters. Among these choice bits was the beginning of “The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers” – better known here as her description of the Egotists’ Club:

The Egotists’ Club is one of the most genial places in London. It is a place to which you may go when you want to tell that odd dream you had last night, or to announce what a good dentist you have discovered. You can write letters there if you like, and have the temperament of a Jane Austen, for there is no silence room, and it would be a breach of club manners to appear busy or absorbed when another member addresses you.

Somehow, the idea of announcing one’s dentist, of all things, captured my imagination the most.

In the spirit of sharing one’s humblest joys, one’s most quotidian triumphs, one’s practical delights…here are my joys of late:

– Yesterday I bought a MacBook Pro. Not without trepidation, mind, as I have always been a PC user. But after my beloved Samsung fried, and my far-less-beloved Asus came to have an inoperable wireless card and tracked poorly…well, I basically went without a home computer for a year, using my smartphone instead, and growing steadily more frustrated by my lack of keyboard.  The new model glows with promise: the promise that updates will not overwhelm me, that I need not pay a subscription to store my own documents, that I might go forth to join others in sub-creation.

– Not unrelatedly, having obtained the equipment to do it, I have started learning about the nuts and bolts of coding in HTML.  My programming brother recommended this course of action to me, and it is perhaps the closest a Muggle gets to reading a book of spells: when you assemble the necessary elements (be they ever so boilerplate) and press “Run,” behold!  These curious ciphers and characters LIVE!  If you did it properly, anyway.

– I have been getting so much delight from the Ann Arbor District Library Summer Game.  But that’s a whole other blog post, it turns out!
AADL summer game top graphic

– The people around me have reminded me of delightful things.  My flatmate reminded me of how delightful Brideshead Revisited is, by preparing a picnic for us to eat on the solstice while reading excerpts of “Et in Arcadia Ego.”  Emily reminded me about that most adorable composition tool, Written? Kitten!   Katherine and Ike, friends from Hillsdale that I hadn’t seen since 2012, drove through the UP before meeting me in Lansing for lunch and a good few hours of catching-up.

There have been other delights this summer – volunteer dill, stars-and-stripes pie for Independence Day, reading Gaudy Night aloud, brunch at Aventura, the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter coming out, revisiting The Great British Bakeoff, and watching The Tempest in the Arboretum.

Truly, these be joyful days!

Joyrides

I took a different road to choir the other night, since rehearsal was on north campus instead of our usual room in Palmer Commons. Huron River Drive took me through the woods, around the river, away from all the shoppers and students and sidewalks of my normal route down Washtenaw Avenue. The windows were down, the air gently breezy and free from summer’s mugginess. Not too hot, not too cold, no bugs, as my uncle always describes a perfect day.

Zipping about with Carbon Leaf blaring filled me with a quietly piercing sort of contentment, the music underscoring the freedom and possibility inherent in the spring. It all struck me as so appropriate: the alternately intense and mellow music, the car, the weather, the drive. I felt the right age, for once. Not too old to discover new things, not too young to do something of consequence.

The delight spreads out like a vapor to fill the heart it’s in, leaving me ready to face the formidable, ready to rejoice.

*

I took a different road to work yesterday morning, since Ruby was due for her three-month checkup and my father graciously allowed me the use of his vehicle once more. I-96, my typical freeway from Detroit to Plymouth, has been ripped up for replacement, and traffic has been shunted to the parallel roads. So I headed down Fenkell, which was livelier than I’ve seen it quite some time, trying to hit the green lights as ZZ Top sang about cheap sunglasses on 94.7.

I had already forgotten, for the most part, what it’s like to drive a big boat of a Buick: the wide circle of the thin steering wheel, the weight of the car and resulting momentum, the noise of the engine, the raspy speakers. This, too, felt appropriate. Like Fenkell and classic rock and a Buick Century were meant to be together.

The delight rumbles and burns, a Motor City jalopy that keeps on keeping on.

Yesterweather

It is a soft, slightly gloomy day out, and no one around here revels in that but me.  The morning drizzle has left a few puddles and a cloudy sky behind.  All is rather grey, but a gentle breeze blows on the melting snows, much warmer than the winds of weeks past.  Walking around outside, I caught a scent of something sweet like pipe smoke.  Some ice still lingers, but stepping on it splinters and crushes it into slush.

This is some of my favorite weather, I think; it is above all calm and quiet.  No beams of sunlight stab the eyes or glare off virgin snow.  It’s not quite warm enough or green enough to register as spring, and so it most resembles October: the month of gallivanting through the woods or by lakes and streams.

Thus there is a northernness about it: a lie, because I am no further north than I was yesterday, but a claim made by right; the rain has reminded the streets and trees and air of the world beyond these buildings and this town, and issued its muted invitation to go forth and explore it.

Roadside Rescues

Last week, I was getting on the entrance ramp to US-23N to head to work when Friday Night came on my radio.  I may have accelerated more than was wise, which resulted in the car spinning about some 270 degrees and coming to a stop off the left side of the ramp, mostly on the shoulder but jutting a bit into the median.

Which, no matter how smooth the aftermath, is alarming.  Fortunately, no one hit me, I didn’t get stuck in the snow, and I hadn’t gone off the right side of the ramp, which slopes down into a clump of trees.  The only casualty was the splash guard, which was partly dislodged from under the front bumper.  And so I thanked God for my safety, resolved not to listen to the radio whilst on entrance ramps henceforth, waited for the adrenaline to stop flowing, and carried on driving to work.

~~~

Yesternight, having decided to get my hair trimmed, I was driving down Sheldon Road when I hit one of those potholes they’ve made such noise about.  Bam!  Immediate flat tire on my front passenger side.

Which was incredibly annoying.  Dang and blast it all, there went my plans for the whole evening: haircut, picture for a new passport, going home to read and clean and generally Take Care Of Business had all been swallowed up by waiting for assistance and the expense of getting a tire fixed.  Fortunately, I was able to get off Sheldon, my phone was charged, there was a spare tire in the trunk, and the plans were more or less etched in Jell-O anyway.  And so I thanked God for that and made some calls.  With my brother Mark’s help, I cancelled the hair appointment, called AAA for roadside assistance, and ordered a personal pizza delivery given the expected 2-hour wait.

Settling down to read Something Wicked This Way Comes, I was heartened when a woman stopped her minivan to ask if I needed help.  “Nah, I’m fine – just waiting for Triple A,” I told her.  I said the same to two teenage boys who stopped their vehicle some minutes later.  When the third minivan stopped, I said “Well, I’m waiting for roadside assistance, but if you want to change a tire, well, go ahead.”  So this fellow parks his car, digs a couple of lug wrenches from my trunk, reveals a secret compartment (!) with another full-sized spare tire in it, and spends some 20 or 30 minutes trying to remove the lug nuts.  He wasn’t successful, but we spent the time chatting about the neighborhood, the schools and churches our families have attended, Michigan’s foster care system, urban beautification efforts in Detroit, his mum’s garage sales, and the startling spending of the wealthier folks in Grand Rapids.  Eventually he gave it up as a bad job and we sat in his car until the AAA guy arrived.  Ten minutes thereafter, I headed home.

~~~

This morning, I got on US-23 ever so carefully, my radio off, since I have the capacity for basic learning (although I suppose that’s up for debate.  Maybe I should be taking a different route?  Different car?  Moving to Panama?).  Everyone was driving around 35-40 mph given the snow, which seemed reasonable enough.  A little over a mile down the expressway, the person in front of me braked.  I also braked – gently, I thought, but evidently not gently enough: the car spun around 180 degrees, until I was facing oncoming traffic.

Which was swift and baffling and even more alarming than last week’s adventure.  Fortunately, I was on the right shoulder, neither hit the guardrail nor rolled down the slope, and no one hit me.  After a couple minutes, there was a wide enough gap that I could drive across and turn the car around; a few minutes after that, a wide enough gap to ease off the left shoulder and back onto the road, hazard lights flashing all the way.

And so I thanked God for my safety, drove the rest of the way as carefully as I could, and prayed we all might be delivered from the snow and ice.

Clearly I’ve been delivered three times already.  This reveals God’s glory to me if to no one else…but I keep wondering if it might not be more glorious for Him to send a thaw?

500!

Dear readers, today is a day – though, in fairness, so are all days – to summon up all the grandiloquence I can muster.

To wit: the world, and WordPress, tends to judge on the basis of readership, on likes, on pages viewed and comments made.  This is well and good: whatever else the world can get wrong, it does well enough with quantitative data.

But none of that data could exist without posts to support it.  An empty blog drives no engagement, no discussion, contains no ideas whatsoever.  And so today we celebrate, for this club of ours now has 500 posts to its name!

Okay, so, 501 once this is published, but still.

Okay, so, 501 once this is published, but still.

Not only so, but the annual report shows thousands of views from 119 countries all over the world.

Stat Map

140 since they started the stats-mapping business. I have spent a year wondering how to lure readers from Greenland and Kazakhstan.

All of which is a delight to see.  Therefore do we sip at our whiskey and reread our manifesto, before turning our eyes to other stories and poems awaiting us.

Thank you all for joining us in the club.  The firewhiskey of words served neat, the chamomile of comforting stories, the vanilla waft of lignin from older books, the smoke of snark and the warmth of conversation: all would lose their savor without you.

We hope to share them all with you for hundreds posts more!

Infinity, Plus or Minus One

Over the past few days, I’ve been pondering the extent to which Christians are heirs of infinite blessing, incorruptible and undefiled and waiting for us.

Waiting for us is the worst bit.  It’s frustrating to be the heir who can’t access the fullness of his inheritance yet.  One is left anxiously fiddling with one’s pocket change, and casting about for security elsewhere.  I tend to eye the people who have more capital (so to speak) than I do: the people with more to be happy about (as though contentment were quantifiable), the people more focused on their goals, the people with more graces and gracefulness.

God help me.  When I was younger, I imagined that I would grow out of envy at some point.  Despite the fact that I am just as loved, just as redeemed, as any of them – loved and redeemed by the Creator of the universe, loved beyond my comprehension – I look, and I focus on the +1 that my neighbor has, that I don’t.

The very fact that such a mathematically small gap feels so big should be signal enough that my perspective is skewed.

It feels preachy (also, like cheating) to copy and paste the entirety of Romans 8 right here, even though it’s precisely what I need to reread.  Instead, I will share a poem from Sheldon Van Auken’s A Severe Mercy.  Julian, a friend of Sheldon and Davy’s, wrote it for them; it hung over Davy’s bed as she lay dying of cancer.  Davy’s life and love were part of the +1 that Sheldon enjoyed; the fact that he survived her, the severe mercy that taught him what inheritance was his through Christ.

If everything is lost, thanks be to God
If I must see it go, watch it go,
Watch it fade away, die
Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all, only a farewell to the wind
Farewell to the grey sky
Goodbye, God be with you evening October sky.
If all is lost, thanks be to God,
For He is He, and I, I am only I.

Reflections on an Anniversary(ish)

2 years ago, Melpomene and I were on gchat, and my sistermuse idly mentioned that she thought she might like to blog, as it would be a forum for continuing to write in a semi-deliberate fashion. It was a very quiet night at my former job, so I set up an account with wordpress, and sent Mel the joint passwords. I chose my name, and hers… with the idea of highlighting our rather opposite natures, but I confess that I was afraid she’d hate the name I gave her. After all, the first time you look “Melpomene” squarely in its Greek face, it is a bit of a shock.

I am so glad that Melpomene leaped aboard and took hold of the tragic muse blithely. I delight in the company of the muses who have joined us since. I hope soon to welcome one more. I wiggle with the satisfaction of a child who performed a ‘sucessful’ puppet show when you, our readers, express delight with the thoughts of these, our not so humble egotists. God grant us all the continuation of this great venture, by nursing our creativity and whetting all ya’ll’s’s appetite for this blog’s peculiar brand of thought provoking hilarity and hijinks.

Now may he also preserve us from run on sentences, and forthwith, with my love, Good Night

Thank a Man

While I was stuck at an auto repair shop the other day, I watched a little drama occur.

A woman walked up to the door, and one of the mechanics hurried to open it for her. She slanted him a thankless look, and muttered, “I could have done that.”

The man grinned sheepishly, and let her walk out.

That man will probably never open another door for a woman as along as he lives.

That is very sad.

Behaving in a gentlemanly manner is part of what marks men as, well, Men.

And it is darned attractive.

But we women have somehow been trained by the culture to see an assertion of manliness as a threat. So we have forgotten how to respond appropriately.

I understand the desire to be an independent woman. Really, I do. I know how hard it is to let someone do something for me. I resist owing anything to anyone, and I detest relying on something that is going to be a constant occurrence in my life, and I hate needing any assistance. (Well, personally,  I have a hard time being dependent and finding happy mediums anyway. But I think that – in relation to social expectations – these concerns are common to most women.)

This, and all the complicated baggage left to us by the feminists, gets in way a gracious acceptance. I am guilty of this too.

I am sorry.

I appreciate men. Women really do appreciate men.

So even though I might only respond with a smile and a nod of head when you do something chivalrous, I am really saying “thank you”. For all those little acts of consideration and care that you show to me and every other woman whom you encounter.

Thank you, for:

  • Giving up your seat.

I know it is a difficult thing to stand for the entire church service. And I know that most girls have even started to assume that they do not have the right to take your seat in this day of perfect equality. Or androgyny. But your act, more than being simply courteous, reminds me that I am not a man. I am woman. And yes, that does make me special.  (And, if I am wearing high heels, I am incredibly, vastly, grateful.)

And, when a guy does this, most of the women watching swoon a little it inside. This is a fact.

  • Walking on the street-side of the sidewalk. 

This small act of protection is not a sign that you think I am weak, but that you think I am precious. Thank you.

  • Pulling out a chair for a girl.

I know that this is a gesture of respect, not of making me dependent.My sister’s Godfather, who is sort of like a Godfather to me as well, is the kind of man who will not sit down until every woman in the room is seated. He kisses hands, and pulls out chairs. He is one of the sweetest, smartest, most wonderful men I have ever met. And he still downhill skier despite being over 80 years old. I will maintain that this type of courtesy increases vim and vigor and life expectancy.

  • Catching the waiter’s eye.

This is a difficult one. It requires some skill and presence. It feels awkward to stare at a perfect stranger until they finally look back. So I very much appreciate it when I do not have to do it.

  • Giving the elderly person a supporting hand to cross the street.

This is a simple courtesy and act of kindness. But, sadly, most people do not see the opportunity to do this. And that sight, along with the decision to act on it, is what marks a noble character.

  • Giving a child your hand to cross the street.

Supposing that you have the parent’s permission, of course. You cannot just be nice to random children these days. But the fact that you care, and that the child in question trusts you, says a lot about you. Thank you for keeping children safe. And, getting to hold a child’s hand is its own reward. Also, it is adorable.

  • Taking charge of a difficult situation. 

Granted, many woman do want to make their own decisions. But when the tire explodes on the highway half-way to church, a man who can deal with the situation is a gift. Because while the woman can technically handle the situation, if necessary, they would really prefer not to while wearing impractical shoes and clothes.

  • Offering your hand to the woman trying to walk up the hill or steps in stilettos.

A  common courtesy, and act of practical consideration. Most women don’t want to fall and break their necks. So even if they kept rejecting your hand out of a dislike for needing help, thank you for keeping an eye on them anyway. And for walking behind them in order to catch them if they do fall.

  • Carrying bags for girls, women, or elderly.

Again not because you think that I am weak – although in most cases, at least in reference to physical strength, I am – but because you respect me. And because you are nice. I appreciate this.

  • Offering to help.

Fixing the sink, driving the car, offering advice .  . . even if I do not take you up on the offer, I still am gladdened by it. Particularly in the offer of  fixing of things. I hate to ask for help, so when you offer my life gets much easier.

  • Opening the door.

I know that this takes practice. Everything has to be timed just right. You have to think ahead to figure out which way the door opens, and plan your movements accordingly. When it goes gracefully, know that I am suitably impressed. And even when it does not go gracefully, I appreciate the gesture.

Women like these courtesies more than we can tell you. But just because we do not always express thanks, or even accept these gestures with grace, does not mean that we cannot properly value them

Men, you are wonderful.

Thank you for being manly.