Crown and Bough

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Winter Afternoons

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

-- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, 22 January 2017


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2017."

Roan:  the day we thought it'd be a good idea to go to Llandudno, before the meltdown.  ^^;;;;  He loves trespassing and closing other people's gates.

Afon:  after school on a sunny day, eating his favorite, a granola bar.  His grandfather took for a new, cool (and slightly messy, one can only hold him down for so long) haircut this week.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Yarn Along

Just got some worrying news about a dear friend and her pregnancy.  So feeling all prayerful, all of the sudden.  When I'm agitated, I like to read Kathleen Norris.  (I've been agitated the past few days, while my friend has been suffering and tested, and I wonder--can we sense that like some kind of invisible radio waves, trembling along the air?)  She draws the tears out, somehow, like drawing out poison, and I feel a bit better.  I'm thinking,  I need to be a better Christian, if only so that God will listen to my prayers when I am finally moved to them for the people I love.  If I can't be holy for myself, at least I can try to be holy for them.

My snowflake is floppy, even after I drenched it in starch and ironed it.  I'll forgive it, though, for being so pretty.

Sunday, 15 January 2017


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2017."

Afon:  the actual prince of Wales.  ;)

Roan:  cold day in Llandudno.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Yarn Along

A triptych of a baby bonnet, more or less.  Been a long time in the making.

The title caught my attention, Fast Days & Feast Days, but after the initial double take I knew it had nothing to do with the liturgical year.  It still made enough of an impression that I picked it up on clearance in The Works a few days ago.  The gist of it is that incorporating two days of 500-calorie fasting into one's week will improve health.  Its foundations are in scientific research; the weight loss that comes along is just an added benefit.  Well, well.  What do you know!  Yet another thing the Catholic Church was onto centuries ahead of everyone else.  (I hardly need to add that there are two main days for fasting, on Wednesdays and Fridays, so . . . I'ma shut up now!)

There's a forecast for snow (!!!) tomorrow, and while I appreciate the attempt, Mission Impossible hail stones falling from the sky today just wasn't the same!

Striking a Balance

Being a parent to small children entails a kind of spiritual tiredness no one could have warned me about.  It would be taxing on a good day to have autonomous human beings utterly dependent on you for every aspect of their existence without them cheerfully endangering that existence at every turn.  I've never met any other kind of species which required so much active intervention to keep alive.  Refuse to wear clothing 30 degree weather?  Sounds luxurious!  Eat this soap/rock/foam/styrofoam/stick/mysterious plastic object?  Delicious!  Step out of a moving vehicle?  Don't mind if I do!

I've been thinking lately--usually when I'm walking to and from places, that's the only time my mind is ever really free, though my limbs are occupied--about striking a balance between being kind to myself and holding myself to higher standards.  Like, when do you know that you've given all you can give and when do you know that you can be stretched, the way God sees into your heart and says, "You can do better"?

It helps to have a community that can be honest with you, the way a mirror is honest, without personal feelings coloring the reflection, but with the unique human attribute of being invested in you for your own sake, because they love you and care about you.  If you can find a community like that, you've found the eighth wonder of the world.

Sunday, 8 January 2017


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2017."

Roan:  very studiously at his books in the library, instead of participating in the read-aloud story time.

Afon:  a bit wound up from the Christmas festivities!

New year, new 52 project.  Let's see if I can actually complete one!

Roan has been going around saying what I believe to be, "that, that!" indicating that he wants something.  At first I thought it was "Dada," but we've always referred to him as Daddy, so I think it's the former.  Is it odd that I'm sort of excited to potty train him after his second birthday?

Afon really thrives with one-on-one attention.  He has a one-on-one helper at school who stays for part of the day, and when you talk to him, he listens, and looks back at you with these intense, pond-green eyes.  He is starting to communicate better with the phrase, "I want ___, please," which is fantastic.

We'll see where we are come the end of 2017, versus the beginning.  Ready, set, go!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Remember the Magi

Between today and the 6th of January, Christians everywhere will mark their doorways with the signs 20 + C + M + B + 16.  Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, the traditional names of three mad kings who went away and were never the same.  Don't take my word for it.  Hear it from T.S. Eliot:

I love this poem for its brutal honesty.  Cause sometimes searching for God isn't all angels-on-high and rocks crying out.  It's hard work.  It's uncomfortable.  It means tears and sleepless nights.  It means traveling in the wilderness (waste land).  We think of the wise men following the star like a lighthouse in a storm, but Scripture doesn't say anything about the star leading the way.  They tell Herod, "We saw his star when it rose. . ."  The next thing we hear in Matthew,

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  (NIV)

The magi saw the star as a summons, not a safety net.  They embarked on an arduous journey knowing neither when nor where the destination.  There is no mention of the star until it appears again over Bethlehem.  Between those two times, they made their way in darkness.

Remembering that they had seen the star, believing it, that's the epiphany.  That is faith.

(Reflection and photos from last year.)

Thursday, 5 January 2017


Saint Lucy in the Christmas lights  |  Roan Reuel, my little wild thing #Halloween  |  Kinfolk-y feels (but only inside the frame!)  |  Roan insisted on doing his part and holding a sign (NOT staged)  |  Christmas morning scene--Father Christmas was here!  |  Afon <3  |  Roan-boy  |  family photo  |  Roan Reuel indulges

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Happy Birthday, Professor

I read "Leaf by Niggle" for the first time about six weeks ago.  It was one of my last as it was hard to find, but I picked it up in a little 1975 collection that includes Tree and Leaf in a charity shop (nice to be in Britain for things like that!), and it was an easy and quick read.  It's one of Tolkien's simpler, straightforward tales, and his insight into us humans as silly little people doing silly little things that can--by fortunate accident or divine providence?--be beautiful and meaningful.  I knew what it was about as I had read Joseph Pearce's thorough and highly commendable biography.  But it was good to read it and absorb it for myself.  I cannot do it any more justice than to quote it here:


'Niggle's Picture!' said Parish in astonishment.  'Did you think of all this, Niggle?  I never knew you were so clever.  Why didn't you tell me?'

'He tried to tell you long ago,' said the man, 'but you would not look.  He had only got canvas and paint in those days, and you wanted to mend your roof with them.  This is what you and your wife called Niggle's Nonsense, or That Daubing.'

'But it did not look like this then, not real,' said Parish.

'No, it was only a glimpse then,' said the man; 'but you might have caught the glimpse, if you had ever thought it worthwhile to try.'


Happy birthday, Professor.  Thank you for sharing your little tree with us.

Monday, 2 January 2017


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Roan + Afon:  making themselves comfortable on Daddy on a January morning.