Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Prayer and Praise, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

The Savior

The Savior must have been
A docile Gentleman—
To come so far so cold a Day
For little Fellowmen—

The Road to Bethlehem
Since He and I were Boys
Was leveled, but for that 'twould be
A rugged Billion Miles—

--Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)



Invisible Light

Lord, shall we not bring these gifts to Your service?
Shall we not bring to Your service all our powers
For life, for dignity, grace and order,
And intellectual pleasures of the senses?
The Lord who created must wish us to create
And employ our creation again in His service
Which is already His service in creating.
For Man is joined spirit and body
And therefore must serve as spirit and body.
Visible and invisible, two worlds meet in Man;
Visible and invisible must meet in His Temple;
You must not deny the body.
Now you shall see the Temple completed:
After much striving, after many obstacles;
For the work of creation is never without travail;
The formed stone, the visible crucifix,
The dressed altar, the lifting light,
Light
Light
The visible reminder of Invisible Light.
--T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Adoration, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen.
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few believe
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

--Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Nativity, Simon Bening (1483-1561)

The Christmas Moon

The Christmas moon shines clear and right;
There were poor travellers such a night
Had neither fire nor candle-light.

One plucked them stars out of the sky
To show the road to travel by;
So that the Ass go warily.

She had all Heaven safe in her hold,
Hidden within her mantle's fold--
All Heaven, and It was one hour old.

Her hair under, over Him spread
His spun-gold coverlet and His bed,
Twined with His little golden head.

She sang and rocked Him to-and-fro
Such songs as little babies know,
With Lullaby Sweet, and Lullalo.

He had no need of moons and suns,
Nor the gold-crested bird-legions,
Singing their lauds and orisons.

The Christmas moon shows a cold beam;
He hath His Mother, she hath Him:
Together they sleep, together dream.

--Katharine Tynan (1861-1931)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Nativité, Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Before Dawn

Dim-berried is the mistletoe
With globes of sheenless grey,
The holly mid ten thousand thorns
Smolders its fires away;
And in the manger Jesu sleeps
This Christmas Day.
Bull unto bull with hollow throat
Makes echo every hill,
Cold sheep in pastures thick with snow
The air with bleatings fill;
While of His Mother's heart this Babe
Takes His sweet will.
All flowers and butterflies lie hid,
The blackbird and the thrush
Pipe but a little as they flit
Restless from bush to bush;
Even to the robin Gabriel hath
Cried softly, "Hush!"
Now night is astir with burning stars
In darkness of the snow;
Burdened with frankincense and myrrh
And gold the Strangers go
Into a dusk where one dim lamp
Burns faintly, Lo!
No snowdrop yet its small head nods,
In winds of winter drear;
No lark at casement in the sky
Sings matins shrill and clear;
Yet in this frozen mirk the Dawn
Breathes, Spring is here!
--Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Nativity, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

Nativity, A Christmas Poem

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

--John Donne (1572-1631)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Nativity, William Bell Scott (1811-1890)

Before the Paling of the Stars

Before the paling of the stars,
Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cock-crow,
Jesus Christ was born:
Born in a stable,
Cradled in a manger,
In the world His Hands had made
Born a stranger.

Priest and King lay fast asleep
In Jerusalem,
Young and old lay fast asleep
In crowded Bethlehem:
Saint and angel, ox and ass,
Kept a watch together
Before the Christmas daybreak
In the winter weather.

Jesus on His mother's breast
In the stable cold,
Spotless Lamb of God was He,
Shepherd of the Fold:
Let us kneel with Mary Maid,
With Joseph bent and hoary,
With saint and angel, ox and ass,
To hail the King of Glory.

--Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Star of Bethlehem, Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)

That Holy Thing

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam'st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail!

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need--
Yea, every bygone prayer.

--George MacDonald (1824-1905)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Wise Men, Minerva Teichert (1889-1976)

Journey of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.
I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like
Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these
Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

--T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Journey of the Magi, James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

The Three Kings

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
"Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped --it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Birth of Jesus, Chinese Bible Painting, 19th Century

A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the Kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him
And all the stars looked down.

--G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Virgin and Child, Stefano da Verona (1375-1438)

The Holy Night

We sate among the stalls at Bethlehem;
The dumb kine from their fodder turning them,
Softened their horn'd faces,
To almost human gazes
Toward the newly Born:
The simple shepherds from the star-lit brooks
Brought visionary looks,
As yet in their astonished hearing rung
The strange sweet angel-tongue:
The magi of the East, in sandals worn,
Knelt reverent, sweeping round,
With long pale beards, their gifts upon the ground,
The incense, myrrh, and gold
These baby hands were impotent to hold:
So let all earthlies and celestials wait
Upon thy royal state.
Sleep, sleep, my kingly One!

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Adoration of the Shepherds, Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Christmas

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Outsing the daylight hours.
Then will we chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I find a sun
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev'n His beams sing, and my music shine.

--George Herbert (1593-1633)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Angels Singing and Playing Instruments, Jan Van Eyck (1395-1441)

The Heavenly Choir

What sudden blaze of song
Spreads o'er th' expanse of heaven?
In waves of light it thrills along,
Th' angelic signal given--
"Glory to God!" from yonder central fire
Flows out the echoing lay beyond the starry quire;

Like circles widening round
Upon a clear blue river,
Orb after orb, the wondrous sound
Is echoed on forever;
"Glory to God on high, on earth be peace,
And love toward men of love--salvation and release."

Yet stay, before thou dare
To join that festal throng;
Listen and mark what gentle air
First stirred the tide of song;
'Tis not, "the Saviour born in David's home,
To whom for power and health obedient worlds should come:"

'Tis not "the Christ the Lord:"--
With fix'd adoring look
The choir of angels caught the word,
Nor yet their silence broke;
But when they heard the sign, where Christ should be,
In sudden light they shone and heavenly harmony.

--John Keble (1792-1866)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Shepherds, Arnold Friberg (b. 1913)

New Prince, New Pomp

Behold a silly tender Babe,
In freezing winter night,
In homely manger trembling lies
Alas! a piteous sight.

The inns are full, no man will yield
This little Pilgrim bed;
But forced He is with silly beasts
In crib to shroud His head.

Despise Him not for lying there,
First what He is inquire;
An orient pearl is often found
In depth of dirty mire.

Weigh not His crib, His wooden dish,
Nor beasts that by Him feed;
Weigh not His mother's poor attire,
Nor Joseph's simple weed.

This stable is a prince's court,
This crib His chair of state;
The beasts are parcel of His pomp,
The wooden dish His plate.

With joy approach, O Christian Wight!
Do homage to thy King;
And highly praise this humble pomp
Which He from heaven doth bring.

--Robert Southwell (1516-1595)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Star of Bethlehem, Lord Frederick Leighton (1830-1896)

The Hymn

But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of light
His reign of peace upon the earth began:
The winds, with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

Ring out, ye crystal spheres,
Once bless our human ears,
(If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
And let the bass of Heaven's deep organ blow,
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to the angelic symphony.

But see! the Virgin blest,
Hath laid her Babe to rest,
Time is our tedious song should here have ending,
Heaven's youngest teemed star,
Hath fix'd her polish'd car,
Her sleeping Lord with hand-maid lamp attending:
And all about the courtly stable,
Bright-harness'd Angels sit in order serviceable.

--John Milton (1608-1674)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Madonna and Child, Madame Lo Chang, 20th century

Some Children See Him

Some children see Him lily white
the infant Jesus born this night
Some children see Him lily white
with tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown
the Lord of heav'n to earth come down
Some children see Him bronzed and brown
with dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed
This Saviour whom we kneel beside
Some children see Him almond-eyed
With skin of yellow hue.

Some children see Him dark as they
Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray
Some children see Him dark as they
And, ah! they love Him so!

The children in each different place
Will see the Baby Jesus' face
Like theirs but bright with heav'nly grace
And filled with holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering
Come worship now the infant King
'tis love that's born tonight.

--Alfred Burt (1920-1954)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

New Birth
(For N.)

In the snow, a Lily blooms,
Its warmth belies the frost;
It waits for one to shelter it
Regardless of the cost.
Through the mist, its fragrance swells
And softens winter's air;
Breathe it in, and learn the way
To Heaven's gardens fair.

In the gloom, a candle burns,
Though brightly, all unseen;
It lights the way to happiness
For those with eyes more keen.
Through the storm, that beacon shines
With beams of radiant gold;
Follow it, not looking back,
And haven safe behold.

In the waste, a fountain springs
Though bracken thorns conceal;
The rocky path is worth the pain
The parchèd soul to heal.
Through the drought, this river flows
Its water, living grace;
Come, drink of it, and find anew
Home's compassing embrace.

Hope...Light...Love...
The seeds, yet deep, will bear.
And soon the hour when forth will flow'r
Their gifts, so fine and rare.

Every heart's a broken circle that longs to be complete.

--Luisa Perkins, b. 1966


video

The verses above are actually lyrics to a song I wrote with my friend D. Fletcher; I wrote it to mark the occasion of the adoption of a lovely little girl by two of our best friends.

Since Blogger won't allow straight audio clips, I've made a little movie with some semi-random photos. Jeff Hardy is singing, along with Jonathan Austin and another tenor whose name I don't know. D. is accompanying. I hope you enjoy it.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Census at Bethlehem, Pieter Bruegel (1525-1569)

Bethlehem

The day was done, and slowly in the west
Judea’s sun was sinking low to rest,
And o’er the top of Gedor cast a glow
Of deep’ning crimson. The twilight fadings grow
Far in the east, and with their waning light
Throw dark’ning shadows, heralds of the night,
O’er Bethlehem. Fair Bethlehem, set in
Mid scenes of beauty; city of the King
Of David, Juda’s pride; the sun’s last ray
Kisses thy walls with love, then fades away.

To Bethlehem this winter’s eve there come
Two travelers, who haste ere day is done
To reach the inn: and one of them, a man,
Of stately mein, with eagers eyes does scan
The roadway through the town—a princely form
Tall and erect, his liquid eyes, so warm,
With tender friendship shone; and by his side
Upon a patient animal, does ride
A woman veiled, but see, her veil falls low,
Her face is clear, lit by the sunset’s glow.

Surpassing fair, by right, for it is she
Who is the mother of the Christ, to be:
‘Tis Mary, and her soul’s exceeding grace
Is greater than all else. They reach the place
Of rest, they stop, and Joseph, for ‘tis he,
Enters, but soon returns and plain to see
With disappointment weighed, ‘tis true not there
Is room for them; it seems as though nowhere
They may find rest. At last he leads the way
Out of the town, out in the twilight gray.

Sadly they wander on, the dying day
Now fading fast has almost fled away,
The Virgin fainter grows, but soon they see
A hillside cavern—here their rest shall be.
They haste, they reach the place, they enter in,
The cave is cold, ‘tis full of shadows dim.
It is a stable, for against the wall
Are straw-filled mangers, meant for cattle stall.
Here is their rest, they raise their hearts above
With grateful prayers for God’s protecting love.

--Henry S. Kirk (1895)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Dream of St. Joseph, Georges de La Tour (1593-1652)

The Temptation of Saint Joseph

Joseph:
All I ask is one
Important and elegant proof
That what my Love had done
Was really at your will
And that your will is Love.
Gabriel:
No, you must believe;
Be silent, and sit still.

--W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Visitation, Piero di Cosimo (1462-1521)

May Magnificat

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Annunciation, John Waterhouse (1849-1917)


The Annunciation

The angel and the girl are met,
Earth was the only meeting place,
For the embodied never yet
Travelled beyond the shore of space.
The eternal spirits in freedom go.

See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other's face
Till heaven in hers and earth in his
Shine steady there. He's come to her
From far beyond the farthest star,
Feathered through time. Immediacy
of strangest strangeness is the bliss
That from their limbs all movement takes.
Yet the increasing rapture brings
So great a wonder that it makes
Each feather tremble on his wings.

Outside the window footsteps fall
Into the ordinary day
And with the sun along the wall
Pursue their unreturning way
That was ordained in eternity.
Sound's perpetual roundabout
Rolls its numbered octaves out
And hoarsely grinds its battered tune.

But through the endless afternoon
These neither speak nor movement make,
But stare into their deepening trance
As if their gaze would never break.

- Edwin Muir, 1887-1959

This is a re-post from last year, but it's too good not to include again.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

Sonnet

This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
God's Virgin. Gone is a great while since she
Dwelt thus in Nazareth of Galilee.
Loving she was, with temperate respect:
A profound simpleness of intellect
Was hers, and extreme patience. From the knee
Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;
Strong in grave peace; in duty circumspect.
Thus held she through her girlhood; as it were
An angel-watered lily, that near God
Grows and is quiet. Till one dawn, at home,
She woke in her white bed, and had no fear
At all, yet wept for a brief period;
Because the fulness of the time was come.

--Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Prophet Isaiah, Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

--Anon. 12th century, trans. John Mason Neale 1851
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
Lone Tree in the Morning Mist, by Jack R. Johanson


Spring and Fall
to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:00 AM
The Guardian of Paradise, Franz von Stuck (1863-1928)

The Expulsion

Adam was happy--now he had someone to blame
for everything--shipwrecks, Troy,
the gray face in the mirror.

Eve was happy: now he would always need her.
She walked on boldly, swaying her beautiful hips.

The serpent admired his emerald coat,
the Angel burst into flames
(he'd never approved of them, and he was right).

Even God was secretly pleased: Let
History Begin!

The dog had no regrets, trotting by Adam's side
self-importantly, glad to be rid

of the lion, the toad, the basilisk, the white-footed mouse,
who were also happy and forgot their names immediately.

Only the Tree of Knowledge stood forlorn,
its small hard bitter crab apples

glinting high up, in a twilight of black leaves:
how pleasant it had been, how unexpected

to have been, however briefly,
the center of attention.

--Katha Pollitt, b. 1949
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:15 PM
What's as good as an Advent Calendar full of chocolate? I'm not sure, but how about 25 posts in a row featuring my favorite Christmas art and poetry? Come back every day in December, and I'll try to have something lovely up for you.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:09 PM
Police surround the body of Jdimytai Damour, the employee who was trampled to death by Wal-Mart shoppers in Long Island, NY on Friday morning.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.
--William Wordsworth
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:23 PM
Here's how it happened:

I told Josh, our butcher, back in October that I wanted to be on his list for one of his organic, free-range turkeys, as we have been for the past two years. He took down my name and told me to call to follow up with him in a few weeks.

Josh gets many of his turkeys from 4-H kids. These birds live in the lap of luxury, and are hand fed and given individual attention by devoted (and cash-motivated) children. When the turkeys' numbers are up in late November every year, they are killed quickly and humanely, and Josh takes over from there.

When Hope and I arrived in Kingston for our pick-up, Josh asked me what size bird I wanted; I replied that I was flexible. I needed to feed twenty people and still have ample leftovers, and James really wanted to try a recipe we'd made in our cooking class: a butterflied, stuffed, and bacon-wrapped turkey breast. I was thinking that we'd do a 'smaller' (i.e., 15-pounds or so) turkey and get a large breast as well.

He told me that he had a few smaller turkeys, but no turkey breasts; those had all been snapped up already. He did, however, tell me that he had a couple of larger birds left. I asked, "What, twenty pounds or so?" He laughed and said, "How about thirty-seven?"

After the initial drop of my jaw, I thought quickly. A turkey that size would certainly give us plenty of leftovers--and give us a breast big enough for our new recipe. "Can you cut it up for me?" I asked. "Because no turkey the size of your average four-year-old is going to fit in either one of my ovens."

"Absolutely," he answered, and got right to it. He cut both legs off, then boned both sides of the breast. While we were waiting, Hope and I chose some cheeses and got some other meat to put in the freezer. We lugged our haul out to the car and got moving. Once home, we roasted the carcass for stock and brined the four pieces: both legs and the breasts. Having the turkey cut up made brining infinitely easier; all four sections fit easily in our small cooler.

On Thanksgiving Day, I roasted one leg on a rack early in the morning. I put the other leg and one breast on a rack over a pan full of stuffing and got that going. This was great, since the dark meat cooks faster than the white meat; once the leg was done, I took it out and let the breast keep going.

James and I got busy with the second breast. We skinned it, then butterflied so that the meat was one inch thick. This translated into a rectangle about two feet long! We spread it with a cornbread-sausage stuffing, then rolled it, draped it with bacon, and tied it up.


We had a fabulous meal. The turkey was all delicious--tender, flavorful, and moist--but the bacon-wrapped breast was scrumptious. Also, I can't endorse brining emphatically enough. We've been brining our turkeys for about 10 years now, and I will never go back. For the best directions on the process, visit Cook's Illustrated online; a subscription to this peerless magazine is worth it for their comprehensive Turkey 101 Guide alone.

What's on tap for Christmas Eve? We'll see; Josh put us down for either a goose or a brace of ducks, if available. And if no 4-H kid comes through for us in December, we'll settle for a beef tenderloin.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:42 AM
If you've hung around Planet Blog for very long, you've doubtless encountered folks discussing NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, which stand for National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month respectively. The first requires that the participant write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, while the second requires that one post to one's blog every day in the month of November. Both are rewarded with special blog badges, a sense of accomplishment, and the approbation of peers from around the globe.

I 'did' NaBloPoMo in 2007 and had a blast, but it was exhausting trying to post every single dang day, especially since November is by far my busiest month of the year. I tried to do NaNoWriMo at the same time, but failed pretty spectacularly early on. No matter; I have my own schedule, and I'm cool with that. I think I may do my own version of NaNo in February or March, since those months are relatively uneventful at the Perkins Corral, and I haven't written 50,000 words in one month in a very long time.

I have a few close friends who are having huge success with NaNo this year, and I couldn't be more thrilled for them. To go from aspiring writer to writer-with-a-completed-first-draft in a mere thirty days is a Herculean feat worthy of much celebration. The consistency and momentum that is built with such an event is a fitting reward for the dedication and sacrifice required.

I don't know whether there is a term for words coined by putting the first parts of each word in a title together, as with NaNo and NaBlo, so I'm dubbing them 'fake-ronyms.' This morning, while rocking Anne-the-Fussy-Teether, I thought about creating my own November events and the fake-ronyms to go with them. I could easily earn shiny badges in the following:

CleCaBaDoCo: Cleaning Cat Barf out of Down Comforters Requirements include a neurotic feline, several bed coverings marked 'Dry Clean Only,' a washing machine with a capacious and forgiving lint screen, and a sense of adventure/desperation.

GeHiRuPriShaTi: Getting Hip to Running Primary Sharing Time I've taught Primary twice and served as chorister for a year once long ago, but I have far less experience in the auxiliary than most active LDS women my age. Last week, I got called into our ward's Primary Presidency, so I am surfing Teh Web like a crazy woman, trying to get up to speed.

FaPlaCaCa: Failing at Place Card Calligraphy Yes, we're hosting Thanksgiving again this year. With 20 eaters, the tables will be full and the fun will be plentiful. Every year I aspire to elegant table settings, and every year I settle instead for large quantities of tasty food. Will this be the year my spread looks like Martha's? Doubtful, but one can dream.

SleeDeTeeTo: Sleep Deprivation with Teething Toddlers and EnTaPre: Enduring Tattling Pre-Schoolers Ahh, the fantastic tag team my two youngest children are. Anne stopped sleeping through the night back around my birthday, and every night since then has been a bit dicey. My nights go like this: two or three solid hours of sleep, followed by four or five hours on the couch or in the rocking chair with a restless baby.

My days are dominated by Daniel, who is training for a future position in the CIA by spying on his siblings and reporting their behavior to me in the most annoying self-righteous tones possible. Alternatively, he tattles on me to me: "Mom! The bathroom is a mess. Mom! Anne is all alone in her bouncy seat! How could you leave her? Mom!" Fortunately, KiBaTiSheGi: Kissing Baby Till She Giggles and ReSeuMiTi: Reading Seuss for the Millionth Time go a long way towards mitigating the effects of these first two.

IgGraRooGroFee: Ignoring Gray Roots and Gross Feet Is there any way I can color my hair and get a pedicure before Thursday? Must. Fit. Into. Schedule. Somehow.

NaDaChoTum: National Daily Chocolate-in-the-Tummy I win, I win!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:31 PM

My kids are awesome. Their long-distance friend Gary has his birthday today, so they wrote him a song. We'll record the final version on Friday, but they rehearsed hard all afternoon, and they wanted the G-man to know that they were thinking of him on his special day. So, here's Teh Posse singing "The G-man Blues." Christian's on guitar, Tess is on shaker egg, and Hope and James share lead vocals, with Anne as Official Muse. (Daniel was taking an OSHA break from air guitar when I took these photos.)



Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:02 AM

Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:11 PM
"No one is able to enjoy such feast as the one who throws a party in his own mind."--Selma Lagerlöf

Nearly 100 years ago, Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature; her birthday is next week. The above quote of hers perfectly describes the reason why I continue to write despite such distractions as a romantic husband, six adventurous children, a busy church life, and several absorbing hobbies. The party in my mind keeps pulling me back. Here's what's happening in my writing life lately.

According to lulu.com, my cookbook Comfortably Yum will be ready to order in 6-8 weeks. After I completed the manuscript, I was disappointed to find that it wouldn't be available more quickly--i.e. in time for Christmas--but I'll let you know the minute it comes out.

I'm waiting to hear from a couple of different magazines regarding short stories I've submitted to them. Submitting short stories to magazines is much less painful than submitting novels to publishing houses; my theory is that I'm less invested in short stories because they take so much less time and energy to write. I've successfully weathered many rejections in the past several months. So cross your fingers for this latest round! I would be so thrilled to be published by Strange Horizons, for example.

After the holidays, I'll probably dust off my fantasy novels The Holly Place and ZF-360 and try submitting them to agents again. I am thinking about re-titling both of them.

I got a card from a woman who recently read Shannon's Mirror and loved it. Fan correspondence is pure gold; I keep a file of things like this to pull out and review when I'm feeling discouraged and talentless.

I've started a new novel called Thrice Liam. It's the story of a grieving young widow who gradually becomes convinced that her new neighbor is actually her husband. Ghost story or portrait of a psychological breakdown? You'll have to read and see....

Last and almost as exciting as starting a new novel--I got accepted to Dave Farland's annual Professional Novel Writing Workshop, to be held next April in Saint George, Utah. Dave Farland, who also writes under his real name, David Wolverton, is a hugely successful writer. Apparently he's a terrific teacher as well; past workshop students of his include Brandon Sanderson and Jessica Day George. I am really looking forward to five days of fabulous instruction and growth next spring.

Obviously, one area of writing upon which I am not concentrating is ye olde blog. I only have so many WEUs at any given time, so be patient with me and keep coming back to visit.

Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:05 PM



For information on hair donation to those in need, visit Locks of Love.
42
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:20 AM


Yes, it's the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. It also happens to be my age as of today. It's a special day for more than one reason.

It's not the first time that Election Day in the U.S. has fallen on my birthday in my lifetime; I turned 18 on November 4, 1984, and got to vote in my first presidential election that day. It, too, was a historic race; it was the first time a woman had been nominated as a vice-presidential candidate. I remember my grandmother marveling at that, since she could recall the time when women did not have the right to vote in this country.

Unfortunately, my candidate, Walter Mondale, did not win that year; I'm hoping America comes through with a better gift for me this time around.

The other day, Hope was anxious that I might be feeling old. She told me that I could just say that I'm 21 from now on. I told her I wouldn't be 21 again for anything. I have a wonderful life, and it has only gotten better as I've aged. I have no reason to believe this trend won't continue!

If you are a U.S. citizen and wondering what to get me for my birthday, get out and vote today, no matter how long the lines are, and no matter who your candidate is. If you're not a U.S. citizen, well...there's always chocolate.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:18 PM




Well, what a blast I had today. For the past couple of years, we've been giving the big kids events instead of stuff for their birthdays, and today James and I enjoyed his most recent gift. We spent six hours at the New York City branch of the Culinary Institute of America enjoying the semi-private tutelage of a team of chefs. It was a class for parents and teens--twelve students in all--with the theme "Thanksgiving Favorites," and it was fantastic.

We had a workshop on knife skills; I've always wanted to learn how to dice, chop, and mince like the pros! We made apple pie, duchesse potatoes, green beans in a butter pistachio sauce, and the central jewel in the crown: a turkey breast that we boned, butterflied, stuffed, rolled, wrapped in bacon, and roasted. Afterwards we got to eat the products of our labors: heaven!

James soaked it all in and was a terrific student. Near the end of our cooking time, the chefs were counting down the minutes until we had to plate our creations, and it felt just like we were in Kitchen Stadium. Some of the other kids got a bit snippy under stress, but not James. He stayed calm and cool as he piped the last few of his potato rosettes and finished the pistachio sauce. I was and am immensely proud. We're both excited to try some new things at Thanksgiving this year!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:28 AM
I won't bore you with all the details of my morning.

Suffice it to write that highlights (or would that be lowlights?) include fishing a little girl's hair accessory out of the toilet and witnessing our emphatically non-LOL-cat barfing under the kitchen table.

Do you ever wish you had a magic rewind button for your days?

Yeah. Me too.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:44 PM
Thank you to everyone who participated in my Book Naming Contest. I'm sorry to have taken so long to decide on a title, but it was a three-way tie in my mind for quite a long time. Many of you had terrific ideas, and every comment made me smile.

The tie was broken when I decided to combine two submissions, which means there are two winners who will each receive formal acknowledgment in the book and her own signed copy.

The lucky winners are:

Charrette! and Deb!

And the title of my forthcoming cookbook is:

Comfortably Yum: Food for Body and Spirit

My goal is to finish up the publishing details on Friday; I'll let you know as soon as the book is ready to ship!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:52 PM
I'm thrilled (and a bit nervous) to announce that I've been writing a cookbook, and that I am self-publishing it through Lulu. If you have ever enjoyed one of my recipes (filed under the Delicious Dish category to the right), then I think you'll find this cookbook to be a great addition to your kitchen shelf. I've been having a blast re-testing many of my recipes to make sure they're worthy of publication; it has been a fun project.

Here's the only problem: I can't think of a title that I like. I've bounced a few ideas around with Patrick, but nothing has really worked for us. So I open the question to you, my faithful and patient readers. Can you think of a great title for my cookbook? Something that is witty, original, thoughtful, and connotes deliciousness? Something that will compel the consumer to buy ten copies as holiday gifts this season?

If so, submit it to me in the form of a comment on this post. (No, Pez, I am NOT just fishing for comments here. No, I'm not.) Do me a favor and run your submission through Google or another search engine beforehand, just to make sure it hasn't been used somewhere before.

If I choose your submission as the title of my book, I'll not only mention you prominently in the acknowledgments, I'll send you a signed copy free!

So put on your thinking caps and get to work! I can't wait to see what you come up with.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:55 AM
That's what's printed on a T-shirt for sale at Fleisher's, my 'local' butcher. It makes me laugh every time.

Last Thursday, I called Fleisher's owner, Josh Applestone, to check on the availability of trotters and suet. Suet he had frozen, he answered, but he was getting fresh trotters in on Friday morning, and he could hold some for me for a day or two if I liked.

I hadn't planned on going up there for another week or so; I had slated Friday to be an all-writing day, and it's an hour each way to Kingston from my house. But fresh trotters were too good to pass up, so I made the trip and bought a month's worth of meat to make it worth my time and gas.

Josh is a great guy, a former vegan of 17 years who now supplies locally raised, sustainably produced, grass-fed meat to everyone from Mario Batali and Dan Barber to, um, me. We chatted about Thanksgiving turkeys (this will be our third year getting our bird from him) while I chose what I wanted. Besides the trotters and suet, I got ground beef and lamb, two gorgeous London Broils, four chickens, some liver, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Just kidding about the partridge; I didn't see any game birds in the front case on this visit.)

Regular readers of this blog know why I avoid feedlot and factory-produced meat whenever possible (but click on the link if you don't). I'm glad to know that the animals whose flesh I buy at Fleisher's lived happy, healthy lives in pastures on small farms and were slaughtered with dignity and compassion.

There's a difference between 'cheap' and 'frugal.' I try to be frugal. We don't eat meat every day, and when we do eat it, I make sure it's the very best quality, and I use every part of it. I use bacon grease and chicken, duck, and goose fat in my cooking. I save the bones from the meat we eat and use them to make stock. I make chopped liver and lard and demi-glace.

I actually don't believe food should be cheap; I think this society has a damaging addiction to cheap food. I'd rather know that when I buy it, farmers and producers are being fairly compensated, not squeezed by big corporations, then subsidized by our government. One way to know that is to make sure you buy locally produced goods, whether from a CSA, a farmer's market, or from a small, independent store like Fleisher's.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:54 AM






video
Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:18 PM

I've been having a stupor of thought when it comes to the blog lately. In an effort to inspire me, the excellent Megan recently supplied me with a list of ideas for posts. (Go read her great piece on Joyce Carol Oates's classic short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been"; you won't be sorry.) All Megan's ideas were great, but I'm still coming up short. Is there a such thing as "blogger's block?" If not, I just invented it. Again.

Life is good. Everyone is healthy and happy (except Hope; apparently there is a wormhole in our house, and her backpack has disappeared into it). The weather is gorgeous. I'm busy, busy, busy, but that's nothing new. And I'm thinking that my recent jam-making exploits or ruminations on the current state of the speculative fiction world or rages over evil ninja garden-decimating deer aren't terribly interesting to anyone but myself.

Maybe I'll get myself together in time for Fascista Friday or Soap Opera Sunday later this week, but for now? I'm hoping James Cromwell will nod and smile at me and say, "That'll do, pig."
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:41 AM
Anyone...anyone?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:16 AM


(Click on the comic to enlarge it.) A friend just sent me another Wondermark comic today, and I fell in love instantly. Find more neo-Victorian hilarity at www.wondermark.com.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•11:41 AM
I invented these mouthwatering treats accidentally. There I was on the Fourth of July, racing around in the time between the Ward Pancake Breakfast and the arrival of our good friends, who were coming over for an afternoon and evening of fun and games. I wanted to make a treat, and I needed it to be relatively low-input, so I opted for a bar cookie.

I opened up Christopher Kimball's excellent Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook and found something called "Butterscotch Brownies." Yum, I thought, then noticed that the recipe called for an 8x8" pan--which wouldn't be nearly enough for the crew I would have to please. I decided to double the recipe, then monkeyed around with the other ingredients, as is my wont.

They smelled divine while baking. They looked gorgeously golden brown upon their exit from the oven. We let them cool--barely--and then I cut them into squares. As I did so, I suddenly realized that I had doubled everything except the eggs. Oh, no! I thought, but remembered that on the back of any given brownie mix box, one is usually given two options: fudgy (two eggs) or cakey (three eggs). I'm a fudgy gal, so I crossed my fingers and hoped that this new, 'reduced-egg' treat would be passable.

They skyrocketed way beyond passable. They are so good that I simply cannot make them unless there is a social function involved: picnic, party, whatever. Otherwise, I will eat the entire pan.

Hope dubbed these "Brookies." Here's the recipe, without further ado:

Brookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons molasses
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional, but highly recommended)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13x9" baking pan. Beat the butter and the sugars on mixer's highest speed for a minimum of 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the vanilla and the molasses. Scrape down the bowl again and add the eggs one at a time, then beat mixture on high speed for another 3 minutes.

With the mixer on its lowest speed, stir in the salt and the flour and mix until incorporated. Add in the chips and optional nuts and stir. Transfer batter to pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. The top of the mixture should be dark golden brown and should crack in a few places; otherwise, the center will be too gooey. (Though you can eat all the edge pieces and rebake what's left for about 15 minutes; don't ask me how I know this.) Let cool in pan and cut into small squares.

If you try them, let me know what you think!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:50 AM
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:21 PM
I recently sold a short story called "Dodmen and the Holophusikon," and it is now available as a FREE podcast on the website of the e-zine Steampod.org.

The story is 'steampunk,' a subgenre of science fiction in which the setting is an 'alternate history' world--in this case, a Victorian England which has developed computer technology powered by steam engines. If that weren't weird enough, the main characters are all mammals. Talking mammals, even.

I would be so delighted if this new start-up e-zine were flooded by responses (hopefully positive) to the story. The pay wasn't much, but I am very happy to have the publishing credit.

Would you be willing to take a few minutes and listen? Here's the link:

http://steampod.org/2008/08/episode-7-dodmen-and-the-holophusikon/

And if any of you would like to blog about the story and link to it, I'd be forever in your debt. Really. Throughout eternity.

Thank you so much!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:39 PM








Ahh, my bloggy friends. Time flies when you're having fun; I can't believe how fast the last three months have gone by. Thanks for your patience and all of the good wishes you've sent our way. How have you all fared in my absence?

I owe you many things:

1. Update on Anne: she's fabulous. She's healthy, alert, beautiful, smiley, sleeping through the night, and nursing like a champ: definitely worth every bit of trouble!

2. The end to this Soap Opera Sunday story: I'll try to get to it in the next couple of weeks. (How have you all stood the suspense?)

3. A review of the fantasy novel Far World: Water Keep and an interview with J. Scott Savage, the author. Back in April, I committed to be part of Scott's Far World Blog Tour, and told him I'd be available to do that at the end of August. Which would be now. I'll have this post up next week.

4. The recipe for Brookies, the delectable brownie/blondie/cookie bar that no one can stop eating. I'm drooling at the mere thought of them. Soon, very soon. They are phenomenal and well worth the wait.

5. A report on Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies (and a shipment of same to a certain special someone and partner). Also nearly ready to go.

6. The news that I sold a short story! The online magazine SteamPod bought my short story "Dodmen and the Holophusikon" and is producing it as a podcast that will be available for your download-and-listening pleasure in the next few days. I am thrilled that my story will follow that of Paul di Filippo, a writer I greatly admire. I'll post the direct link to my story the second it is ready.

7. Updated photos of everyone: Done (see above)!

8. I'm sure I'm missing other things you've been expecting (no, Lori, I haven't forgotten that the Grammar Fascista promised to address the dreaded 'lie/lay' issue). Remind me, and I'll see what I can do.

My online time is very limited still; I can read while feeding Anne, but one-handed typing is not my favorite thing. It's also been liberating not to worry about the dreaded feedcrack cravings that accompany blogging (at least, for me they do); I need to be careful that my addictive tendencies don't take over and encroach on essential real-life stuff. I guess all I can promise is my best, right?