"I saw an image of a young actor against a white background that, in the film, represented heaven. He was gazing up and he was exceptionally beautiful and reminded me of Renaissance paintings, devotional paintings. I started to think about what it is about certain kinds of beauty that creates this feeling. What makes you want to go consume something when you see a bikini clad model in a commercial, and what is it that makes a beautiful person touch you on a different level, where it sparks your imagination and makes you want to create?"

— interview with author Laura Lee on The Readdicts

Beauty

An encounter with true beauty
Unleashes terror on the mind
It is a glimpse of infinite space
Reflected back in crystalline
Beauty is not a quality
It is, in fact, a time
A recognition that
You’ve stumbled upon
The moment stars align

-Poem “Beauty” by Laura Lee from Where Souls Grow Warm

Beauty

An encounter with true beauty

Unleashes terror on the mind

It is a glimpse of infinite space

Reflected back in crystalline

Beauty is not a quality

It is, in fact, a time

A recognition that

You’ve stumbled upon

The moment stars align

-Poem “Beauty” by Laura Lee from Where Souls Grow Warm

Ken is eternally young, but unlike Dorian Gray, literature’s great immortal, this has not made him dark and sinister. In fact, he is always smiling. Maybe he has a portrait in his attic that takes on all of his bad moods as well. He needs it to have stood by Barbie for decades as she chased after fame and expensive clothing, cars and beach homes and as she tried on one career after another. Research shows that good looking men are actually more aware of the social power of their beauty than women are. So Ken always knew he had lots of options, yet he stood at Barbie’s side, as high maintenance as she was. Maybe he was able to keep his good humor because no one ever criticized him as an example of beauty that it was impossible for men to “attain.” So unfair to Barbie, who ever said people were supposed to “attain” her looks? Some marketers. She spent a lot of nights crying on Ken’s shoulder over that one so she could keep up her smile in public.

-Something I wrote in response to a query for an article on the birthday of the Ken doll.  I heard it was going to be included in the article, but I never learned if it ran anywhere. 

Ken is eternally young, but unlike Dorian Gray, literature’s great immortal, this has not made him dark and sinister. In fact, he is always smiling. Maybe he has a portrait in his attic that takes on all of his bad moods as well. He needs it to have stood by Barbie for decades as she chased after fame and expensive clothing, cars and beach homes and as she tried on one career after another. Research shows that good looking men are actually more aware of the social power of their beauty than women are. So Ken always knew he had lots of options, yet he stood at Barbie’s side, as high maintenance as she was. Maybe he was able to keep his good humor because no one ever criticized him as an example of beauty that it was impossible for men to “attain.” So unfair to Barbie, who ever said people were supposed to “attain” her looks? Some marketers. She spent a lot of nights crying on Ken’s shoulder over that one so she could keep up her smile in public.

-Something I wrote in response to a query for an article on the birthday of the Ken doll.  I heard it was going to be included in the article, but I never learned if it ran anywhere. 

(via tmjpeace-deactivated20121008)

agoodthinghappened:

Little Church in Yosemite by Stuck in Customs on Flickr.
nevver:

Old lyrics for new songs
ahardyperspective:

rainier

Natural beauty of Mount Rainier

via hikinggirl

The Purpose of Epigrams and L’Esprit de L’Escalier

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of attending the Plymouth Book Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Plymouth United Church of Christ.   I met some great people and we had a wonderful discussion of the novel Angel. 

One of the questions that I was asked had to do with the epigrams that begin each of Angel’s chapters.  Some people don’t like them and tend to skip them, which doesn’t bother me, and shouldn’t impact the understanding of the story much.

So why put them there?

I gave an answer to the question, but not a very good one.  Rather than explaining why they were there, I talked about the process of finding them and deciding which illustrations to use.  After the fact, I thought about this question a bit more and I have come up with a better answer.  

This phenomenon is called Treppenwitz in German and l’esprit de l’escalier in French.  Both expressions refer to finding the perfect rejoinder or answer the moment the other person has left the room.  Writers are the masters of Treppenwitz.  In fact, I have a theory that a large portion of literature is made up of the things writers thought of later and wished they had said at the time.  They have their characters say it instead.

(One such Treppenwitz of my own, which found its way into Angel, was Paul’s response to a woman who said that gays shouldn’t advertise their sexual orientation, which Bishop Craig Bergland mentioned in an article on his blog Engaged Spirituality.)

It can be difficult as a writer to articulate why you wrote something the way you did.  This is not because you don’t know why you did it.  Rather it is because finding the right words and style is more a matter of feeling than intellect. 

I put the epigrams there because I felt they belonged there.  That’s the short answer.

The longer answer, now that I have analyzed it, is this:

The novel Angel was inspired by Mount Rainier in Seattle.  The mountain provides the spiritual center of the story.  It was the image that I kept going back to in order to find the right feel for the events of the story.  In the book club meeting we talked about some of the things the mountain represents in Angel

It symbolizes the church and is tied into an internal church debate about whether or not to repair a crumbling steeple.  The steeple is a man made mountain, designed to remind us of our smallness and humility in relation to divine forces.

It is also a symbol of natural forces that are of a scope that does not allow them be controlled through human will (as is the attraction the character Paul feels toward Ian).

The mountain also symbolizes the relationship of the protagonists.  I consciously thought of Ian and Paul as being like the mountain, where heaven and earth meet, so Ian is earthy and Paul has his head a bit in the clouds.  This shaped the characters and what makes them compatible. 

The mountain symbolizes beauty and the fear that sometimes accompanies our experience of beauty.  (Our experience of the mountain is one of of “beauty and terror” as the author Bruce Barcott wrote.)  Thus as Paul discovers his attraction to Ian’s natural beauty, he is forced to face his fears.  And like the dormant volcano that is Mount Rainier, the relationship has the potential to be destructive in the future. 

The cycle of destruction and renewal that a volcano represents also ties into a theme of resurrection that is a subtext of the novel.  It comes into the novel through Paul’s discussion of the mass with Ian, Ian’s participation in communion, and the new life direction that each finds through his relation to the other.  (At the cost of the death of a previous way of existence.)

Finally, a volcano, so seemingly solid, is a reminder that everything beautiful is transitory and therefore we should remember to cherish it.

The mountain informed the story for me from the beginning and infuses every aspect of the story.  It is the breath of the story.  So I wanted it to remain a poetic presence.  In the body of the narrative itself, however, I did not want to constantly refer to the mountain.  Ian and Paul’s story is their story, not a metaphor. 

The epigrams at the beginning of the chapter, however, ask the reader to back up for a moment and view the intimate and personal events of the story in light of universal truths, the types of truths that are difficult to articulate, but which can be discovered and felt by contemplating nature.  It asks the reader to connect the specific to something that is, like Mount Rainier, larger than the story and its characters. 

This is what I would have said at the book club if I’d been able to go off in a corner and write my reply.  That might be a good way to interview authors in general, really.

Mountain Monday.

Mountain Monday.

(Source: sunriver87, via thebeldam-deactivated20141009)

"Remember that you, dependent on your sight, do not realize how many things are tangible. All palpable things are mobile or rigid, solid or liquid, big or small, warm or cold, and these qualities are variously modified. The coolness of a water-lily rounding into bloom is different from the coolness of an evening wind in summer, and different again from the coolness of the rain that soaks into the hearts of growing things and gives them life and body. The velvet of the rose is not that of a ripe peach or of a baby’s dimpled cheek. The hardness of the rock is to the hardness of wood what a man’s deep bass is to a woman’s voice when it is low. What I call beauty I find in certain combinations of all these qualities, and is largely derived from the flow of curved and straight lines which is over all things."

— Helen Keller, The World I Live In