“We Stood Upon Stars” Blogging for Books Review

“Mountaintops give vision to life but cannot sustain it.”

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Roger W. Thompson’s We Stood Upon Stars is on the surface a sweeping array of travel memoirs in essay form. But woven throughout the collection are strands of self-discovery, discovering God, familial ties, and the experiences that define and shape Thompson–and all of us.

Rooted in camping, fishing, and outdoor adventuring experiences, Stars is packed with beautiful descriptions of creation, from famous sites like Old Faithful to quiet, secret fishing holes. In Thompson’s rich language, beautiful scenes unfold before the reader — vistas and mountains, oceans and lakes, small towns and isolated plains. You truly can see each place he visits through his detailed prose.

Woven throughout are Thompson’s thoughts on masculinity, at times toxic, and his desire to see his sons become men. As a female reader, I didn’t always connect–and at times disagreed–with this strand of the book. However, I appreciated Thompson’s recognition that his ideas about masculinity and manhood are often twisted, and that the core of what he wants to teach his sons is reliability, presence, and curiosity.

Stars is quietly religious as we share in some beautiful moments of Thompson’s life as he encounters God out in creation. As a reader who also seeks the wildness and openness of the outdoors as a way to encounter God, I connected with this element of Thompson’s essays.

More than merely a travel memoir, Stars is a beautiful collection accounting the ways in which the places we go, and the experiences we have there, become who we are.

**I was provided a copy of this book by the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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Take Your Broken Heart, Make it Into Art

Recently, Meryl Streep quoted the late and great Carrie Fisher at the Golden Globes, saying, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

Since the election in November, my creative life has stalled. Only this month have I gotten back into the swing of things by printing out my manuscript and starting a revision plan. And yesterday, I revised the first chapter.

It felt really important to start this work yesterday, because of what today is. Today is an embarrassment and a tragedy. Today is another bullet point in an American history fraught with racism, sexism, bigotry, religious intolerance, greed, and hypocrisy. Today reminds us all that white privilege is alive and well, that people put party affiliations in front of morals, truth, and other people, and that wicked, power-hungry, greedy people can still do damage.

Reverend William Barber reminds us that “this is not the worst thing we’ve ever seen.” The country has endured the attempted genocide of its native peoples, slavery, Jim Crow, and periods in which non-white people and women alike were not permitted to vote, among so many other devastating elements of our nation’s history.

This is not the worst thing we’ve ever seen. It is, however, a step back towards those very events that are the worst we’ve seen in this country.

I have found myself feeling more powerless and hopeless than not these past few months. And I feel the need for this honesty is important: part of this powerlessness and hopelessness comes from the fact that as a white, straight woman, the effects of this disastrous administration on me will be limited. Nonexistent? Absolutely not. But limited.

I fear for my non-white friends, for my non-Christian friends, for my fellow women, for the refugees and immigrants whom I welcome with open arms, for the LGBT+ community, for those in my generation already struggling with debt and lack of jobs, for those of us who rely on the ACA, for our beautiful land and natural resources, for the creatures who inhabit it, and for so many other groups. The negative effects of this administration will leak out into every area of life, and that shakes me. Within me burns a desire to fix everything, but I am continually confronted with my inability to do that very thing.

And so I write. I create. I tell stories where evil always loses. I tell stories where people put others before themselves; stories of love, of selflessness, of courage, of growth, of honesty, of the fight for justice. It does not feel like enough to me, but it is what I have. It is one element of my resistance.

Art matters. Out of my own bias, I’ll say that stories matter especially. We get drawn into worlds and lives and experiences that are not our own, and our own perceptions can widen. Our own capacities for empathy can grow. Our views of the world and the people in it can change.

So get to creating, artists. The world needs us. Take your broken heart, make it into art.

~Teresa

WALKING ON WATER, Blogging for Books Review

 

 

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Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water, a book about the intersection of faith and creativity, is a must read for any artist (especially writers) of religious persuasion. Finally, here is a work that thoughtfully explores the relationship between faith and art, and what it means to be a Christian artist.

While L’Engle writes from a Christian perspective, I think that a lot of her ideas and conclusions about the nature of creating art and the meaning within would be useful and interesting to anyone who finds art and the creating of it to belong to some higher order. Still, it will hold the most meaning for readers who share the faith base from which L’Engle is writing.

L’Engle is careful and methodical in her work, laying out logical arguments about this relationship in beautiful language that never loses heart and passion. For writers/artists like myself who have often struggled with whether or not to create “Christian art,” L’Engle offers insightful ideas not only on what this vague concept of “Christian art” is, but direction for those of us who are seeking.

Although assembled as a book, the essays in Walking on Water are easiest–and perhaps best–to read individually, giving the reader time to process and consume the content.

I marked dozens upon dozens of quotes from this work, finding myself at times inspired and at other times finally provided with the language to express my ideas about what I see as my place in the intersection of Christian and writer. In lieu of rambling on any longer, I will leave you with a few of my favorites:

“…all art is cosmos; cosmos found within chaos.”

“Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth….”

~Teresa

**I was provided a copy of this book by the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.