King Latinus lays it out

Line by line, I’m advancing through the Aeneid. I’m still not even halfway done, but I’m in no hurry. Just trying to deepen my cultural knowledge, refine my capacity for concentration and remember what is essentially human. So, no deadline (you know, like I’d have if I were trying to do something really important like pass an exam or obtain a degree. Ha!).

Anyway, Hera has just whipped Allecto into a frenzy and she, in turn, has provoked war between the Latins and Rutulians on the one side and the Trojans on the other. The Latins and Rutulians promptly lined up additional allies, leaving Aeneas overwhelmed and sick at heart, but old River Tiber in a dream sped him to seek alliance with Evander’s Acadians and he’s subsequently done so.

Prior to the outbreak of war, though, the witness of King Latinus (as his name suggests, the king of the Latins) particularly moved me. He knows — through a  prophecy from his father, Faunus — that his daughter, Lavinia, is destined to marry a stranger. He perceives quickly that Aeneas is the answer to that prophecy, so he welcomes Aeneas and the Trojans to his realm, with these words:

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Mama’s Must-Read Periodicals

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My always-brimming periodicals tray!

Any time I’m up against a writing deadline, I suddenly experience an irresistible, imperative urge to read — preferably periodicals. This is not — I repeat, not! — procrastination. No, no, it’s very much a part of “my process.”

To read other, freshly-published articles reminds me that it is possible to put words to the page — and, further, to do it in a way that actually inspires, refines and elevates the thoughts of others. (Not that do that! The other writers I read do that!) In other words, reading stokes my own writing ambitions.

It also allows new words to percolate in my mind as I prepare to write — or reminds me of old ones just waiting to be dusted off and displayed again “on the shelf” of a new lede sentence (see what I did there?). Lacrimae rerum. Apotheosis. Intransigent. Probity. Koan. “Slyly seditious.” Felicitous words and phrases that might serendipitously suit a purpose of my own someday …

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RIP, Father Jacques Hamel

IMG_0002In my last post, I cynically observed that we ought to expect ongoing attacks from ISIS soldiers. Nevertheless, last night, when the Oilman told me of the brutal murder of Father Jacques Hamel at the hands of an adolescent ISIS terrorist, I couldn’t breathe for a moment. This felt the closest to home yet.

At least a couple of times a week, Sweet Potato, Mint Julep and I attend a sparsely populated daily Mass in a Catholic Church. We went today, in fact. We go because we cannot be anything more nor less than what we are — creatures of the Creator — and because we long to be creatures who acknowledge Him, who love Him, who accept gratefully all that He so freely gives us.

In the Mass, He gives us His very self — body, blood, soul and divinity — and we receive Him hungrily, like the beggars we are. It’s a banquet to which all are invited, an exchange of gifts, and the simplest, sublimest celebration we could possibly attend — so why not go more than once a week?

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Americans, Prepare!

FullSizeRender (11)Yesterday, my mom told me about the report that French officials suppressed evidence that ISIS terrorists tortured victims during the Paris attacks. It was the first I’d heard of it (given my newfound commitment to disconnect from social media, I’m not up-to-the-minute on news!), and I’ve been shaken ever since.

The details are gory and horrific, and their suppression by government authorities and the media worrisome and disturbing. What else don’t we know?

On the one hand, I can understand the decision not to disclose such jubilant cruelty. Rather than stiffen the resolve of freedom-loving peoples to resist ISIS terrorism, triumphant evil like that might actually weaken our resolve. I think of the test that suggested 90 percent of 13-year-old Italians would readily cave to terrorist demands if an ISIS member showed up at the door and demanded conversion to Islam.

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IMG_4333Last night, I wrapped up a very protracted and belabored attempt to write a “think piece” about the canard that women don’t receive equal pay for equal work (one of just two freelance assignments I’ve accepted since Mint Julep was born!). It was the sort of piece that I would have churned out in an hour or two at most in the past — but, in my current circumstances, it absorbed nearly every naptime for at least a week.

It occurred to me that I am a fitting illustration of the very subject I aimed to address: Among many other explanations for the persistent pay gap, women are more likely to pause their career to care for children and adults — and such career interruptions often cause professional skills to atrophy. Atrophied skills, in turn, diminish a person’s career capital if and when he or she does return to the workforce.

All of which is to say: I’d voluntarily exit the workforce again and again and again to care for Sweet Potato and Mint Julep, but I do miss writing. Then, I remembered that I established this space as a way “to practice writing regularly again.” Surely, something is better than nothing — even if no one reads it.

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UPDATED: {dusting the shelves}

IMG_3992Half a dozen blog posts percolate in my mind, but this space lies dormant as I tackle more urgent to-dos. (Those diapers just don’t change themselves!) Hence, a new feature of the blog — {dusting the shelves} — to be published whenever I need to quickly clear my head and fill a little gap in the admittedly spotty narrative of “On This Shelf.” So, here goes, in no particular order of importance: Continue reading

Not Trump, Not Trump, Please Not Trump!

FullSizeRender (8)Count me among the many horrified spectators of the Donald Trump campaign for the presidency. (Also, color me embarrassed that, after the first two debates, I praised Chris Christie, the shameless opportunist! Then again, he did deliver during those debates and, at that time, he deemed Trump temperamentally unfit for president, an opinion with which I wholeheartedly agree.)

It’s not just that Trump is crass, narcissistic, egomaniacal, inexperienced, uninformed and unprincipled; it’s precisely that he taps into our most shameful impulses as humans, from anger to lust to greed to envy to baseless suspicion of “the other” to the unchecked will to power. For all that his slogan is “Make America Great Again,” he appeals to nothing that is good or great in Americans; he makes no reference to virtue.

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