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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Illiad & Me.

In 1995, I returned from an overseas deployment. It was short even by Clinton-Peace-Era standards, only ten weeks. I got off the boat in my whites, complete with my eagle-adorned cover, to hug and kiss my wife and ten month old son. It was my first such return, and I was as emotional as my wife.
Hector stretched his arms towards his child, but the boy cried and nestled in his nurse's bosom, scared at the sight of his father's armour, and at the horse-hair plume that nodded fiercely from his helmet.
Jimmy clutched his mom tightly and started to cry once he was in my arms. It was clear that he didn't recognize me. We tried to shrug it off, I think, and his mom took him back. But, once we got home, I took out the Dr. Seus book that I had read to him on a video tape--a video tape that he and his mother watched while I was away.
His father and mother laughed to see him, but Hector took the helmet from his head and laid it all gleaming upon the ground. Then he took his darling child, kissed him, and dandled him in his arms, praying over him the while to Jove and to all the gods. "Jove," he cried, "grant that this my child may be even as myself, chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent in strength, and let him rule Ilius with his might. Then may one say of him as he comes from battle, 'The son is far better than the father.' May he bring back the blood-stained spoils of him whom he has laid low, and let his mother's heart be glad.'"
Upon hearing my familiar voice and the familiar words, Jimmy recognized me, and I felt our bond as father and son was restored. I prayed a silent prayer of thanksgiving to be home and to be able to hold my son again. I suspect Pat did as well.
With this he laid the child again in the arms of his wife, who took him to her own soft bosom, smiling through her tears.
We still have those videos of me reading to Jimmy, who now goes by James, but since we can't even talk about them without choking up, we haven't ever watched them. Too soon.

I hope things turn out as well for Hecktor as they did for me. I'm only through Book VI.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I like this painting

This painting intends to illustrate this passage from the Gospel of Luke:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Let's stop here because the painting is intended to show Mary just as the Angel Gabriel arrives. As most probably know, the passage goes on to have the angel tell Mary that, despite her virginity, she "will conceive and give birth to a son, and [she is] to call him Jesus." The passage contains Luke's patented "do not be afraid" admonition, and concludes with Mary's declaration that she is “the Lord’s servant,” and her prayer, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:26-38.

So here is what I love about this painting. First, it shows Mary reading a book and older than I think I see her sometimes. I like the idea of her having her wits about her and not being just an empty vessel to be filled by God, so to speak. Second, I love the realism of her expression, and I get the notion that the angel is over her shoulder, and not as the commentaries I have read on-line suggest, directly in front of her. I don't think the viewer is in the place of Gabriel; I think she is looking off or not really looking anywhere like a person does when trying to listen closely. Finally, I love the quiet intimacy the piece conveys. I've come back to this several times and just found it to be really moving.