Well, I am back from my long and unintended hiatus! I had a lovely trip to Italy and have thoroughly enjoyed my summer. When the days grow shorter and the weather turns, I will post some of my favorite pictures of the trip.
In the meantime, I would love to share with you several passages from a book I just finished – My Several Worlds, by Pearl S. Buck. The book is a lovely autobiography after a type. As she states near the beginning, ‘the story is incomplete, and, worse still, that it is told upon different levels and about different places and peoples, the whole held together merely by time . . .’. I found this book utterly beautiful and refreshing. It was one of those lovely reads I wished would never end.
The great beauty of Japan is in the spots that you and I, if we be mere passerby, never really glimpse.
It is the beauty which moves the veriest coolie, after a day of crushing labor, to throw aside his carrying pole, and after a bit of fish and rice, to dig and plant in his garden the size of a pocket handkerchief. There he works, absorbed, delighted; his whole being resting in the joy of creating beauty for himself and his family, who cluster about him to admire. No one is without a garden. If fate has denied a poor man a foot of ground, he buys a big plot for a penny and slowly, after hours of labor pleasant and painstaking, he constructs a miniature park, with a rockery, a tiny summerhouse, a pool, with bits of moss for lawns and grass heads for trees and toy ferns tucked into crevices for shrubbery.
It is the quality of beauty, too, which moves a Japanese host to place in his guest room each day for the delight of his guest one single exquisite note. From his precious store he selects today a watercolor, in black and white, of a bird clinging to a reed, painted with a charming reserve. Tomorrow it will be a dull blue vase with one spray of snowy pear bloom arranged in such a way as to be a living invitation to meditation. Sometimes it is a piece of old tapestry, with a quaint procession of lantern bearers marching across its faded length.
Meanwhile I was also enjoying quite a different sort of life. First of all were my house and garden. Though I can live anywhere, be either rich or poor with equal acceptance, I have to have a setting, and if there is not one, I make it. I subdued, therefore, the too large and somewhat graceless grey brick house where I lived, and within the limits of a small amount of money, I did as my mother had taught me to do and created as much beauty as I could. The garden furnished plenty of flowers, and well-designed furniture of cheap materials could be cushioned with the inexpensive but beautiful chinese stuffs. Wicker and rattan I had wearied of, but the Chinese about that time were weaving cash string, a thin robe made of grass, upon strong bamboo frames, and such chairs were comfortable and substantial. Old chinese blackwood tables could be bought cheaply, and there were always delicate and beautiful bowls and vases in the chinashops. One day in a silkshhop I found yards of faded silk going at a bargain price and I bought it for curtains and dyed it in different colors. Matting rugs upon the floor gave good effect and sunshine and flowers did the rest. I enjoyed the whole process and have often thought to myself that if I had not wanted to write books above all else, I would be a cook in a big family, perhaps in an orphanage, and make delicious dishes for everybody. But there are many persons I would like to have been – for example, again, a sculptor – had I not wanted to write books.
These passages are just a selection among the many I found refreshing and inspiring. They slightly readjusted my vision for a beautiful, peaceful, and God honoring home.
I have always, quite possibly from the moment I gained consciousness, desired to travel the world but especially Italy. The many things that I have heard second-hand about Italy deeply resonate with my ideas off family and culture and life. I love the geography, the cities, the art, the history, the food, and what I think the culture and the people are like. And I am finally heading of to Italy! Finally! My Mom and I have two weeks to hit all of the main spots – Rome, Siena, Florence, Venice, Ravenna, Assisi, etc. I don’t know how we will be able to see all I could wish! Of course if you have any ideas and travel tips please feel free to pass them along.
And now enough of me – here is a quote from Alberti’s Prologue to On Painting. He is speaking about the accomplishments that some at the beginning of the Renaissance had achieved and later more specifically Brunelleschi and ‘his dome’.
“Therefore, I believe the power of acquiring wide fame in any art or science lies in our industry and diligence more than in the times or in the gifts of nature. It must be admitted that it was less difficult for the Ancients – because they had models to imitate and from which they could learn – to come to a knowledge of those supreme arts and sciences without teachers or without any model whatsoever.”
‘For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.’
Romans 5:6 – 11
1. The White Crucifixion – Marc Chagall
2. The Entombment of Christ – Michelangelo Caravaggio
3. From the Isenheim Altarpiece – Matthias Grunewald
“One of the great Victorians has said that if classicism is the love of the usual beauty, romanticism is the love of the strange in beauty, and the statement gives to admiration the essence of the difference between the two. The very words romance, romantic call up a vision, vague yet bright, that banishes the drabness and monotony of every day life with a sense of possible excitements and adventures. Of course, if every day life did not look drab and monotonous there would be no reason to turn to romance. That is primarily why the Greeks were not romantic. Facts were full of interest to them. They found enough beauty and delight in them to have no desire to go beyond.
But to Romans facts were not beautiful nor, in themselves, interesting. The eagerness for inquiry into everything in the universe which had stamped Greece never reached Rome.”
- Edith Hamilton from ‘The Roman Way’ Chapter 10 – The Roman Way