ee cummings, Flowers and Hat: Patchen Place, c. 1950
Yes, I've been absent a great deal this week--resting (as prescribed), beaching, spending precious time with precious friends, attempting to survive the July heat of Southern California. I've been trying to rest--rest my body and rest in Christ, and it's not always the easiest balancing act. In fact, it seems well-nigh impossible at times. But, occasionally, rest, even Sunday Rest, can be found in some unexpected and enchanting places.
For example, this morning on Twitter, Ruminate Magazine posted two links to the art and poetry of ee cummings, my favorite poet since high school when Mr. Sebastian, my tenth grade English teacher, first introduced us to "in Just--" (click here to hear cummings read it himself!), "anyone lived in a pretty how town," "maggie and milly and molly and may," "next to of course god america i," and "l(a", among others.
So I was intrigued this morning with Ruminate's posting of a link to images of cummings' paintings and information about his visual art work. Some of his work is simply lovely, like the one above, some rather Cubist, some rather abstract, all very modern. While I'm not much of a fan of most modern art, I felt a connection to his paintings--not with the same power and fundamental hunger I experienced with his poetry at age 16, but a connection nevertheless.
Then in their next tweet, Ruminate posted a poem with which I was not familiar, a perfect poem for a Sunday morning. I reproduce it here from a note on Ruminate's Facebook page:
i am a little church(no great cathedral)Isn't it simply lovely? I'm going to have to pick up my nibbed pen and my ink bottle and copy the entire poem into my Quotation Journal. I love the preponderance of cumming's "positive" words, words he uses to undergird his personal opinion within his collective work--sun, April, finding, laughing, children, joy, gladness, miracle, birth, glory, resurrection, hope, wake, rapture, peace, nature, silence, singing, spring, now, forever, humbly, light--mixed thoroughly with his "negative" words--squalor, hurrying, rain, striving, losing, crying, sadness, grief, death, sleeping, patience, frantic, anguish, worry, winter, darkness.
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains
i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing
winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)
That's life--light juxtaposed against darkness, joy interwoven with grief, rapture calmed by anguish, the losing followed by the finding, laughing impinging upon crying. Life. That's what cummings so joyfully--and, at times, so cynically--celebrates throughout his work, whether in poems introduced by a beloved teacher over a quarter century ago (yet undimmed in their power to birth joy and healing), or in his new-to-me paintings, freshly vibrant despite the half-century or more since cummings put brush to canvas.
ee cummings was a lover of God and a lover of life, an artist of words and an artist of images--all timeless in their expression of truth tinged with an almost childlike joy at times, withered with an almost bitter cynicism at others--yet always innovative, always on the cutting edge, and somehow, someway, thoroughly grounded on earth while always, forever, soaring toward heaven.
May we all be grounded on earth yet also soaring toward heaven.
A blessed Lord's Day to you all,