Thursday, April 28, 2011

House and Home: Living Room

“Why haven’t you posted any pictures of your house?” someone recently asked me. If you recall, I posted “before” shots of our empty rooms before we moved in. I also posted “inspiration” photos to help me fill in our blank slate. Herein lies the reason I have not posted “after” pics. For our actual, moved-in house (though truly lovely) doesn’t quite match up to the “inspiration” shots I was drooling over last June. It turns out that it takes time and lots and lots (and lots and lots) of money to furnish a home to the standards of Elle Décor or Lonny Magazine. I look at my (lovely) Living Room, for example, and think: “I should post pictures. But no! It's not FINISHED!! It is missing the fantastic Turkish rug, the dazzling landscape depicting the Flint Hills under Storms, the Lee Industries sofa in that *particular* shade of blue, etc. etc. etc.)

This train of thought is not profitable, for it invites the demon of Greed. And the demon of Ingratitude. And the Demon of Discontent.

NOTE: I am not joking when I call these feelings demons. They are mean. They can RUIN your day—maybe your life. They are the ANTITHESIS of those virtues which help us live in the moment, they steel from us Now, Today, (see yesterday on the Hour of Mercy). They tear down our ability to love or to feel joy.

(SIDENOTE: It was this struggle which led me to confession a few weeks ago. Instead of clearly articulating the above, I told the priest that I was “addicted to interior design blogs.” And he laughed at me. Then he absolved me.)

So with all this in mind I decided to post pictures of our Living Room as it is Now.

Now is the Hour of Mercy (and Not Just Because the Baby is Sleeping)

As I type this post the hour of 3 pm has come and gone. Three o’clock: Christians call it the Hour of Mercy because it was the hour when Jesus died. Now is the Hour of Mercy.

But we are also living the Octave of Easter, which lasts from Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday. This whole week seems permeated with a profound joy and a joyful awareness of the Mercy of God, which St. Faustina identified as His most important characteristic: God reveals Himself and defines Himself in and by His mercy.

So in this week and at this hour I try again to be aware of God’s mercy.

The Hour of Mercy is now--this hour and this week especially. BUT The Hour of Mercy is always Now. And I must remember this, even when 3 o’clock passes, when the Octave of Easter is over, when the Easter Season turns over into Pentecost, when the fire of Pentecost is replaced by…Ordinary Time.

The Hour of Mercy is Now, Now in the ordinary time.

After all, Now is all we have, the hour of decision: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

"Take no thought for the morrow...Sufficient unto the day..."

Today is the only day we have access to.

Now is the only moment we can choose to love.

I read back over what I have just written and I fear I am becoming "preachy. This is not my intention. Or rather, if I preach, I preach to myself only. If I write, I write to myself, because this is the lesson I am learning. Or (more accurately) this is the lesson I have such difficulty learning, have learned and lost over and over and over again. Must learn once more.

Recently someone asked me what I hoped to “get out of” blogging. I didn't know the answer, and so (partially in defense) I told her what I disliked and feared about blogging. That I fear that blogging is fundamentally self-serving, self-centered, a call for affirmation, fundamentally narcissistic, a revelation of insecurity, etc. etc. This week I have continued to reflect on “what blogging is” and what it should be. What it could be for me. Though I still maintain the dangers of this form of media, I recognize this blog as a possible location of sanctification, where I might begin to work through my weaknesses and defeat my most insidious fault.

That fault being: my inability to be content with Here and Now, my refusal to be silent in this Moment, to be STILL and witness the world as it settles and lifts around me: right here, right now. Now is the Hour of Mercy.

I know I need to defeat this. For I have missed so many hours. Am I missing this now?

Am I missing my child sleeping in the sunlight, her lips, her small tongue?

Missing the gold leaves becoming green?

Missing the clouds and sky with the electric blue, the slate blue, the cerulean, the sea grey, the smoke, the silk, the blinding white?

I don't want to miss my life.

So now, at the Hour of Mercy, I am rededicating this blog to here and now: the life I have been given in this moment. I offer it to you, my Cloud of Witnesses (whoever, wherever you are!) with as much humility as God will grant me.

Jesus I trust in You.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Devin and I have recently expanded our art collection, which has, up until now, consisted of a few sketches and whatnot that I attempted in college. When these are hung up around the house, they drive me vaguely nuts. "Your proportions are off," I mumble to a rough nude, whenever I pass by. She is obviously depicted by an amateur hand. "No offense," I say, "but your butt's too big."

Obviously this nutsyness and muttering to pictures *will not do*. So the search is on for non-homemade, non-amateur art.

Since moving into our new house we have made three major acquisitions.

1. "Magnolias," oil on canvas, by B. Callaway.
This painting is on permanent loan, compliments of my grandmother. It was commissioned by said grandmother early in her marriage, and painted by an artist friend. I love magnolias, don't you? This spring I am being driven wild by magnolias, and might plant one in our garden,despite the fact that they do not reach the epic proportions common by the trees in the southern regions of our country.

2. "Nudes," series, pencil on paper, ink on paper, by Paulina Everett.

While digging through the back labyrinths and stalls of a local antique mall I discovered a cardboard box full of these delightful sketches, for sale at the very reasonable price of $7 each. I bought eight. Paulina Everett, I later discovered, was a Kansas City artist whose complete works were donated to the Nelson Art Gallery upon her death. Most of her work is still in their permanent collection, but the museum had no use for her sketchbooks, which (apparently) they intended to throw away. These were snatched from the rubbish bin by a local antique dealer, who sells them off cheap to folks like me.

3. "Saint John the Evangelist," tempera on board (?), artist unknown.

Yesterday all three of us (human) Winters went to an estate sale. It was very exciting. We entered into a ramshackle old house built at the turn of the (last) century, which hadn't been updated since probably 1925. The plaster was peeling. The ceilings were caving. Rooms were jammed with junk and the occasional treasure. The original owners of the house possessed quite a remarkable collection of religious icons and antiques, many of them quite fine. These antiques were the reason for our initial interest. We were most disheartened to find, upon arrival, that most of these had already been purchased by antique dealers. All of the really good wooden sculptures were gone. But they didn't get St. John. (You can tell it's St. John because of the tiny dragon emerging from the chalice. This is a reference to the Golden Legend in which John blesses a cup poisoned by a pagan priest in Ephesus. The poison escapes in the form of a dragon.)

I know nothing about this painting. It is either oil or tempera on board. It was sold to the first owners by a man named Conrad Hug, an art critic and dealer in the early 20th century who imported many good paintings from Europe--included a painting reputed to be Leonardo da Vinci "La Belle Ferronnière". The authenticity of this "American da Vinci" has long been debated. But, fake or no, it was recently sold at Sotheby's for $1.5 million. Interesting, no?

Anyway, I don't think that our little John is any sort of masterpiece (or master forgery, as the case may be). But I like him. I like his red cloak. I like the little dragon. And I hope to some day find someone who can tell me more about him.

Of course there is always our little Work of Art, on semi-permanent loan: