It has been so long since I have had the time to write. School is in full swing. Rosie, Paloma, and Kells keep my hands and brain occupied every spare minute of the day. The dishes are vicious, the laundry insatiable. Saturdays we try not to do anything. It is a wonderful commitment we have with one another, and I am weekly reminded of God’s graciousness in commanding us to rest. We have been spending Saturday afternoons upstairs in our corner library, having grand tea parties and reading books. We have read the first 3 chapters of The Wizard of Oz to the girls. It is so exciting to read them real, classic books! It is exciting to see what things they will love and what they will retain as part of their creative identities. The creative influence is so important to me. As I sip wild orange tea with ginger, I have been writing in my journal and making a list of the most current creative influences in my life. I would like to share them with you.
The first is a book that I checked out at the library with skepticism. I love to cook, and truly it has become the daily channel of most of my creativity for the last couple of months. The cookbook I brought home from the library is called Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran. ( http://www.suvir.com/Cookbooks.html ) I expected, like most ethnic cookbooks, this book would be as hard to follow with hard to find ingredients and directions that only a master chef could decipher. Much to my delight, the book is written for Americans who want to learn to cook Indian food. The directions are simple to follow, and there are American substitutions for spices/ingredients that are not readily available. I fell in love with Indian food when I was pregnant with Kells, but being on a limited budget and living so far away from Indian restaurants, I have only been able to enjoy it on very rare and special occasions. In the last three weeks, I have made the most delicious meals–curries, dals, raitas, chutneys, yogurt drinks. I have never enjoyed food as much. It sounds really silly, but this food, and having the ability to prepare it, has really been ministering to my body and (I think) my soul! We recently made some major changes to our budget, trying to live more within our means, trying to honor God with our finances, not depending on the government to help us with our food, and we cut our working grocery budget by about 50%. We felt it was the right thing to do and that we would be able to let some things go. I feel that God, in response to this decision, has given me a supernatural ability to make food that tastes delicious to us. He has opened up a new palate of spices and flavors, layered one upon the other, and given me such joy in preparing and eating this food. It sounds ridiculous, but it is really true. We are spending less money, but eating better than we ever have.
Another influence is the book To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. ( http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/ ) I am still trying to figure out what I agree/disagree with, but what has impressed me most about the teaching method is this: To discipline calmly. I have been increasingly aware of my tendency to say something 3 or 4 times, expecting obedience from my children and, upon realizing that they are not listening, raising my voice more and more each time to get their attention. I have begun to change this. I notice that they are obeying more quickly, and I am not yelling as much. It is making life in a family of three small children and very busy parents much easier.
One of my most favorite works of art is based on the story of Echo and Narcissus. It is called, “The Echo” by Julia Margaret Cameron, and it is the single image that haunted me and made me want to become a photographer. In preparation for school, last week I reread the story of Echo and Narcissus. It seems to be a very important story in some way. Echo was a nymph who chattered ceaselessly. She fell out of favor with Hera when she detained Zeus too long, and as punishment, Hera cursed her by no longer allowing her to form her own words. She could only repeat the words of others. She fell in love with Narcissus, but she could not tell him she loved him. It wouldn’t have mattered, because Narcissus only loved himself. She followed him around, hoping she would hear someone say something that she could repeat to him. One day, he saw himself in a reflection of a pool, and was instantly in love with his own face. He said, “I love you,” and Echo eagerly repeated. But Narcissus could only see himself. He was blind and deaf to the world around him. He stopped eating, he stopped drinking, and eventually he died right there, looking at his own handsome face. Where he lay, the narcissus flower sprung up. Echo, with a broken heart, slowly faded away. Only her voice can be heard, still senselessly repeating the words of others.
I have been thinking about the precious gift of making unique and original conversation. I have begun to realize that most of my words are echos–either echos of my own voice or the voices of others. Conversation is so fascinating. It is living. I have truly begun to value most the friendships in my life where new thoughts and ideas arise from our living conversation. I have noticed a secret hypocrisy in my way of relaying information to others. I will make a joke that I have made before, but pretend that it is original in the moment. (For instance, I have repeated more than once to more than one person, when looking for lost sippy cups, that there are some cups I hope I never find…which I thought was a clever little joke. You will understand if you have ever found a two-week old sippy cup full of milk under the couch…) The first laugh is earned, but the second seems like it was won over deceitfully. I know this is dumb. But it is something I am noticing about myself and other people. I often find myself surrounded by people who are obviously telling me the same “spontaneous” punchlines they have recited for years, along with other members of their family, with the same vocal inflection, the same raised eyebrow, the same hesitation before the final, and pronounced punch, and the inviting laugh. All as if it is the first time. And I long for a real conversation. To be on the giving and receiving end of it. I have come to cherish friendships that inspire the edges of my understanding to grow. I love words because they give voice to thought. I love friends who can make me say things I have never said before. I have made it a point to be more honest in my conversation. I do not want to be merely an echo, senselessly repeating the words of others.
I have recently been reinspired by The Birthday by Marc Chagall. It is such a lovely painting of himself and his wife, Bella. It sums up, in an image, how I feel about our album, The Seven Year Scratch. It describes a staying-kind of love that is beautiful and poetic and feels eternally fixed. I have been so in awe of Randy. He has been adding layers of harmonies in several of the songs on the album, and it is unbelievable. I feel like each voice is another expression of love for me and for our children. It truly (at the risk of sounding cheesy) reminds me of the many-voices of his heart. I love it. I cannot wait to share it with you. The voices float in a way that is very reminiscent of the man in this painting. I have been playing around with the image and have worked up a little version of it to describe our music. You may see this again somewhere with some alterations in the finished album. It seems fitting.
Finally, there is current influence of comic relief which we have found in The Dick Van Dyke show. There are 159 episodes on Netflix, and Randy and I have really enjoyed watching this show in the evenings. Occasionally, we fold laundry while we watch, but most times we drink tea or eat yogurt. There is something really wonderful about this show. Possibly because I watched it as a kid, possibly because it represents something stereotypically wholesome, possibly because it is just plain funny. I don’t know. But I love it. They have a really believable love, despite Laura’s tendency to be jealous and (let’s face it) extremely manipulating, and Rob’s knack for insensitivity, their marriage is fun and funny and all arguments end with a make-up kiss. There have been more than one occasion when Rosie has reminded us of Richie, the son, and many times where I feel that if a cameraman were present in our home, he would catch us in similar situations. I told Randy that sometimes I feel all our good jokes and arguments are wasted without a studio audience.
But then again, I suppose the readers of this blog could be considered our studio audience, whose presence, laughter, friendship, and support have become one of the greatest sources of creative inspiration for us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being interested enough to read this to the end…