Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Words and Wool

 I'm linking up with Yarn Along over at Small Things Blog—do stroll around Ginny's delightful blog; so much loveliness and inspiration for the Montessori and Waldorf inspired family.

Here's the stuff:
Hat is the Cisco pattern, book is the Restoration of Christian Culture by John Senior, which I'm reading for the third time. The Cisco hat is delicious, and free of course.

John Senior is one of those writers—we all know someone like this (some of us *cough* are married to one)—who express themselves so passionately that your first instinct is to disagree with them; you know, just to tone them down. But then on reflection you realize they're right after all.

I love his vision of Christian culture as a culture of "worship" and "praise" grouped geographically around a Church, a house of prayer.  When we're not praying, we work, that is, physical labour that is worthwhile and makes the world more habitable. Prayer and work, ora et labora. Beautiful.

Here's one of my favourite quotes,

"Woman's place is in the home not because some chauvinist put her there but because there is a law of gravity in human nature as there is in physics by which we seek our happiness at the center."

This time round I'm enjoying Restoration of Christian Culture for the insights on education, specifically reading, as the boys are just learning to read and discover books...

"I have taught Great Books myself for well over thirty years but have found larger and larger numbers—now, the overwhelming majority—of freshmen coming up from the schools who cannot read at any thing like the proper speed, by which I don't mean fast, but at the speed where the mental concentration is on the wit and wisdom and even something of the taste and touch of what you might call standard college-level prose and poetry...What you get instead is a painful decoding of hard sentences as if you were studying Latin." John Senior says we are at the point where students need facing-page translations of standard English literature.

"To cope somewhat with this, I tried to get college students at the age of twenty to fill in children's books they should have read at four, eight, ten and twelve—and discovered deeper still that the problem isn't only books; it isn't only language; it is things: It is experience itself that has been missed."

What to do?

"If the soil of those [children's] minds has not been richly manured by natural experience, you don't get the fecund fruit of literature which is imagination, but infertile fantasy. Children need direct, everyday experience of fileds, forests, streams, lakes, ocean, grass, and ground."

In other words, how can children feel the thrill of Goldilocks if they've never wandered through a forest? Smelled the dead leaves, saw the filtered light of sun through the branches? Felt the momentary panic of being "lost"?

I'm taking this to heart. We're going to spend the rest of September outdoors. Plenty of time to do schoolwork when the snow's on the ground!

Sunday, September 9, 2012


A strong cup of coffee, a pretty table, the pure voices of these beautiful men.

Our little family has been trying to make Sunday, well, special. 

In the rough and tumble of life with small kids, this does not mean living out the fantasy of high culture I entertained before I was married. We do not play string quartets together, for example, or feast on delicate cheesecakes.

I wish I could say we studied Scripture or something.

Actually, most Sundays are a big scrabble to get to Church, where I run in four different directions, persuading, teaching, threatening, exhorting, and herding my sons back to the pew. I try to listen to a word or two, to ponder in my heart for the week. I hope that my children will come away with something to remember. We place ourselves, mentally, in the chalice on the altar, remembering that in spite of us we are lifted up to the heavenly Father, who loves us so tenderly.

Will is the cantor for the Latin Mass here in Peterborough. He and his friend John form a two-man schola. While the rest of the Pemberton family rolls under or lolls about or jumps over the pew (depending on age and ability), Will and John sing the beautiful, ancient Gregorian chant. It is a very real, visual reminder of our place in the Church at this time of history—there was a time when the cultural treasures of the Church, that is, the beauty of music, art, and liturgy, were a free gift, the gift of centuries of dedicated men and women whose quiet lives produced something worthy to be handed down from generation to generation. 

Now in the post-modern melee, without the help of clergy or any other institution, it is up to lay people to give this gift back to the Church, that is, to the community of brothers and sisters who worship around the same altar.  Because we are raising families too, we are stretched to the utmost of time and energy. We feel tired most of the time. But the way we see it,  someone's got to do it. "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." (G.K. Chesterton) Not that we're trying to be shoddy. At the risk of sounding romantic, I feel that we are standing in the gap between the modernist revolutionaries of my parents' generation and the unknown future, the "new springtime" of faith and culture in my children's generation. 

It's exciting to think about the future, and what it will hold. We didn't choose to be born in this time, yet here we are, with the obligation to choose, as Gandalf tells Frodo, "what to do with the time we've been given." I don't know what trails our children will blaze, or where they'll lead. Maybe they will help to grow a uniquely Canadian expression of Catholicism, just as there is a uniquely West African expression at Keur Moussa. All we know is that we have to give them the tools. 

And that brings us back to Sunday. One of those tools is joy, not the feeling of joy (because alas we can't magically produce it), but the activity of joy, doing joyful things together—having brunch in special dishes, special clothes, a special lively baroque playlist on itunes, a windy hike, a board game with papa. It's a humble start, but as the Sunday liturgy proclaims, 
...."the joy of the resurrection renews the whole world."

Some of the fiddle-faddle I'm working on on my lazy sunday afternoon...