Tuesday, December 30, 2008

complicated feelings

Recently a beloved friend of mine read some of my poetry for the first time. She leads a beautiful life as a mother of three (with one more on the way). Her home is always open to neighbors and her collection of bedraggled friends--My son and I are often showing up at her house in part because I simply delight to be around such homeiness and goodness. But of course, all of that homeiness, hospitality and liveliness takes almost everything she has to give and much more than that, I'm sure.

When she read my poetry, she was so sweet and encouraging and positive, just as I could have expected of her. And then she said: "Jenny, I'm glad you don't have four children. If you did, you wouldn't be able to write poems like these."

I said I knew she was right. I know that's true. But it isn't a truth I make peace with very easily. All my feelings about writing and about time and about family life are so complicated. I can barely make any sense of them at all.

I have never been someone with a very clear life aim or plan. I never thought about getting married or having children until I wanted to marry one particular person (who I married ). But I always thought once I was married I would have many children and be busy and happy with them. It was so easy to imagine, (since in my fantasies I never had to factor in how selfish I actually am). It was so easy to imagine and it seemed so clearly (in my fantasies) to solve all my problems with trying to figure out what I should do with myself. I'd be busy. Busy would mean worthwhile. And then I'd be OK.

I know that was unhealthy and faulty reasoning and really amounts to using children to prop up my shaky ego. Not a lovely thing to do to anyone. So, I am glad that I didn't just simply get what I thought I wanted.

But here I am with these unexpected gifts... a beautiful family I adore and some extra time to think and to be creative and to even write.

And as much as I believe in God's soveriegnty and goodnesss and say that I trust him, I really I haven't made peace with these gifts, the gifts of my reality. I spend lots of time spinning my wheels feeling guilty. I spend a lot of time wondering how I can just make myself busy enough to know for sure inside myself that I'm OK. That my life is not just a long looping exercise of futile self-absorption.

I feel guilty I only have one son and am not as busy as other friends. I feel guilty because I have time for the luxury of writing and then I feel so afraid or reluctant to write that I start to spin around looking for other ways to make myself busy --because busy in my emotional life equals feeling OK, like my life has some value. But although service other activities are wonderful things--I find that if they are done to prove something to myself or to my perceived audience (God ? my friends? my family? ) those good acts of service become self-righteous and manic----I'm not giving of myself with generosity and grace--I'm simply desperate to prove I'm OK.

So here I am-- I have a certain things--time, money, freedom, health--in relative abundance. I'm not really a busy or important person, though I pretend (in my fantasy world) that I am. I have time. I have enough time to write poems, sometimes, and that's OK. It's nothing to be ashamed of.


I write that and reread it with the full knowledge that I don't believe it. Oh well.

Here's to another year to continue on in the craziness, thankful always for grace ... and thankful always for my many beloved friends.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Favorite Christmas Carol

What's your favorite Christmas Carol?

Mine is Joy to the World--

He has COME--Sin and sorrow can no longer reign -- far as the curse is found (and sometimes I see it everywhere)

Let us receive our King--even my narrow, tight heart, crammed as it is with unwelcoming, crowded inns, even there I pray he can find a stable.

Verse 1
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Verse 2
Joy to the world!
the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 3
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

One of my favorite things about Advent Season is that we get to sing such rich, beautiful songs in church. I delight in the poetry of good lyrics--and I feast on them whenever I can. Today in church we sang "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." I don't ever remember noticing these lyrics before today, but today they struck me as wonderful-- "THE WORLD IN SOLEMN STILLNESS..." Ahh, how sad and wonderful and perfect those words are.

I think I am at a time in my life to be aware of how desperate this world is to really know the gospel the angels sang about...

I loved the promise and hope that even now, above our weary world and all our Babel sounds (what better description could we find for our contemporary life?) the song of "He's come to us. He's come" would ring out. Let the day come quickly when the whole world owns its King.

Merry Christmas...May His Kingdom Come...

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.--

Peace on the Earth, Good will toward men,
From heavens all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What do you think he meant?

I read this poem by E. Ethelbert Miller-- and wondered ...what was going on in it. Does anyone have any idea?

Growing Up

the day my mother
threw away my comic books
and encouraged me to read the bible
was the day i gave up being
a superhero and started to think
of miracles

this is how i came to love you
like moses looking over his
shoulder before he left that

I love poems like this--so pure, to me, sparse and true sounding. But who is the 'you'? Is that God? That's how I read it...but then, ...what is the reference to Moses meaning?

I know there is a relationship to his development from a child fantasizing about superheros to one thinking about the spiritual world with a more religious and biblically Christian worldview--...

but what is he saying?

He imagines Moses on Mt. Sinai....

My emotional read of this is that there's this awe, longing for largeness, for amazement, for power and glory--and that is combined with a wistfulness, an open space.....

but maybe I'm all off here.

Any one of you loyal readers got a take on it?


Monday, December 15, 2008

A poem was published

One of my poems got published-- http://www.convergence-journal.com/editors/linville/--

Cynthia Linville is a friend through the Sacramento Poetry Center's Tues. night workshop. First she invited me to be a reader in a poetry reading she coordinates and then she asked me to submit a poem for the online journal Convergence which she edits....

I feel very encouraged and honored by these things! It feels very good to be a little part of this poetry community in Sacramento.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Man On Wire

We watched the movie Man on Wire last night. Jack says he wouldn't recommend it, but I do...with some qualifications--(see below) It was a documentary of Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. This perhaps doesn't sound all that interesting, but it was really the chronicle of one man's obsession ... and the story of a unique artistic performance and artist. Despite it's singularity, I believe the story has generalities for many driven, even possessed and extraordinarily talented and singularly-focused artists. I found myself marvelling at what it would be like to have such all-consuming passion. It was also fascinating to see how many people joined his team -- it had a lot of the feel of a great crime caper, bank-heist type of thing, with many of those dare-devil personalities or rebellious personalities involved.

It was also interesting to see how acheiving the event for this man really changed the dynamics of all his relationships. It seemed like the dream held him to others in ways that the realization of the dream did not.

(This is where the qualifications for recommendation come in. There is one racy sex scene. And nudity. And in general, this is probably not a person who we would want to emulate-- fascinating, talented and driven as he was. Great talent and great vision and passion sometimes seem like another excuse people use to orient their living around themselves. That's not a very remarkable part of his story--how many artists, musicians, writers, actors, athletes, politicians, and on and on have the same proclivities. It's actually more remarkable when an extremely gifted person is not completely self-consumed. The recent movie about Beatrix Potter was one refreshing example of the artist who has found a way to live graciously and with love in the midst of the tension of dreams and gifts that are in some opposition to the culture's status quo. I liked that movie a lot. But... it didn't have high wire walking and espionage. I was surprised to find myself very moved by the beauty and wonder of the high-wire performances--especially the one over the Notredame.

Also as I wondered about this man's personality, I kept thinking about how utterly challenging he must have been for his parents and teachers. This was a person who in my reading seemed only to submit to his own intense desire. But as paradoxical as this may seem, that submission required immense discipline and concentration. That's another thing-- I guess I was in awe of that kind of focus and attention--just the kind I, who couldn't walk along a painted line on the ground, could never muster.

Also, I liked all hearing all that beautiful French-- although, the subtitles not so much. I think that to comfortably read those subtitles, we would probably need a bigger TV. (but don't let Jacky know I said that).


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Going Off-line

The Wondering Eye Blog is no longer linked to the Oak Hills Church Website.

I'm relieved, a little sad, but mostly relieved. I've been in some unrest about this blog for the last year and a half, plus, ever since I was given the assignment to do a blog about the arts for the church website.

The purpose of the blog was supposed to be to connect artists and to encourage artists and stir up the arts in the church. And I have always thought this was a marvelous purpose. I had some missgivings about my abilities, but it was kind of like all the elaborate recipes or craft projects I have taken on in my life (and there have been a'plenty)... I figured the details would come together somehow and it would all turn out. But much like the queen-sized blue and yellow star quilt I got far enough to have 90-some blocks of varying dimensions--I always had a profound sense that the Blog representing Oak Hills Artists was not what I was writing and I didn't know how to begin to gather the resources to write the blog that I thought should be on the church website...

That blog, I thought, should be by someone who knew a lot about the arts, who knew how to speak intelligently and eloquently about the philosophy and history and theology behind art. But I haven't read enough or interacted enough with the materials to do that.

That blog, I thought, should make connections with the other artists in the community. Musicians and visual artists, actors and playwrites, novelists, photographers, dancers and composers, as well as quilters, cooks and wood-carvers should all find something that helped them in their pursuit of art as incarnational work and worship. But I didn't know how to make those connections. The truth is that although our church is filled with many wonderful artists who are passionate followers of Christ and extraordinary people-- I don't really know them well--we simply run in different circles.

That blog, I thought, could be a venue for the arts community--we could publish poetry, fiction and essays or photographs and other visual art on the blog as a sort of online 'zine. It would be a lot of fun. But again, the thought was overwhelming to me. I didn't know how to begin. And I always thought, no one will want to do this with me. I was very intimidated by the thought of asking people to take me seriously.

So, the blog became simply a place where I felt inadequate. I didn't know how to begin to do what I really wanted with this, and I fell into trying to do something that came close. But it turned out most often to be some kind of TRYING and TRYING that never seemed to measure up in my mind--and I always felt rather lame and impotent.

I thought, what I really have time and ability for right now is a simplistic blog of my own thoughts and musings about things. A blog like the blogging a lot of folks do out there on the blogosphere, but not a blog that belongs on the church website. And so, finally, after months and months of trying to figure out if I could somehow get around quitting...like if my blog might just grow a virus and disintergrate... or if I was going to quit, how I could do it without looking too silly... I finally mustered up the courage to be a goofy quitter, and I quit.

I think I'll still keep blogging--but now instead of the horrible angst about how this is not what it really should be--I'll shamelessly write what's going on in my own head. Not because it's profound or of use to anyone, but because right now, at this moment in my life, that's all I've got.

I have no idea where this will lead... but I have this tiny glimmer of a hope that perhaps this could become a small training for becoming the kind of person, artist and writer who can more fully and honestly and vibrantly serve the church, and especially my beloved church, and her artists with more than "all I've got."

My prayer for all of you readers (if there are any) is that you could find places and people to explore the person that you are, with freedom to use and enjoy the skills and gifts you have right now... with the trust that with prayer and hope God will enter into these small gifts, the "not-trying gifts," and make of them something beyond what we can now ask or imagine.

Godspeed to all of us,

Jenny Jiang