Seven Quick Takes—Life’s a Whirlwind

Seven Quick Takes—Life’s a Whirlwind

Life has been crazy in the past week. Too busy for blogging—or I’ve been too tired. So I’m going to cram a lot of things that could be full length posts into a quick takes and call it a day.


My clever wrapping paper was sheets of the kids’ paintings. All I had on hand was Christmas paper.

Last Friday was Bella’s 6th birthday. We were too busy celebrating for me to write about it. But my first baby is a tall, skinny girl whose most burning existential question is which order of religious sisters God will one day call her to join. I’m sad that I didn’t get around to writing a retrospective birthday post—I can’t believe how six years have flown!


We had lemon cupcakes with chocolate icing per Bella’s request. The knight and princess were highly prized presents.


Dom and I might love this book, Amy Welborn’s Friendship with Jesus, even more than Bella does.



One of Bella’s birthday presents was a Target gift card from Grandma B. So on this week’s routine trip to Target she bought herself a little baby doll. Then she bought Sophie a little notepad and Ben a little matchbox car. What a sweet, generous girl she is!



No photo of Sophie with her gift. She was mad at me for buying pizza and chicken fingers instead of treats from Starbucks. Mean mommy!


The girls cozy up with the story of Queen Esther. I found hamentashen pastries at the grocery store and we just had to try them because they are mentioned in our book. Then we had to read the book again.

Last Saturday I went to to New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference. Anthony went with me, which mostly explains why I didn’t get any pictures. He was very, very good; but you know he is a bit of a handful. I had a wonderful day, a sort of mini-retreat. (One of the moms I met said she felt almost guilty for how lovely it was to have just one child.) I thought it was very wise of the organizers to say only teens and nursing infants were allowed. It freed us moms (and some dads too, of course) to really get the most out of the day. I met many wonderful women, most of whose names I no longer remember. One I’ll never forget, though—I finally got to meet The Philosopher Mom! We’ve been virtual friends for a long time now and it was so very lovely to finally get to meet in person. I also got to reconnect with our former pastor, who is now the official diocesan spiritual director for homeschoolers, which is really wonderful since I’ve heard that many dioceses refuse to acknowledge homeschoolers and even view them with hostility. I got to see Danielle Bean again, to catch up briefly with my sister-in-law, to have a nice visit with frequent commenter scotch meg, to chat with Leticia of Cause of Our Joy, who I’m always happy to see again, and who told me the wonderful story of her header photo. And of course I didn’t get away without buying some books. Oh what a joyous whirlwind day it was!


Bella drew a picture based on a scene in Little House on the Prairie where Pa takes Laura and Mary to an Indian camp. She drew in a rabbit and Jack the bulldog and the beads Laura and Mary collected are all over the ground.

One of the fruits of going to the conference was finding out that there really are some Catholic homeschoolers who are in my immediate area. The two big official groups that I know about are both rather too far away for us to really do anything with. I’ve joined the group my sister-in-law belongs to and they are a lovely group of ladies who I always enjoy spending time with. But all their activities are on the north side of Boston and really it’s too far away. Until Saturday I hadn’t been able to make contact with the southern group of homeschoolers, though they are also a bit too far away. But when I did chat with the very nice lady who was manning their table, she told me there were a handful of women who were in neighboring towns. So I gave her my contact information to pass on to one of them. And she emailed me! And t turns out there is a small, unofficial group of families who all live in towns adjacent to mine. We’re going to meet up with them next week. But in the meantime I’ve been having a lovely email correspondence. Wouldn’t you know it but the nearest Catholic homeschooler also does a Charlotte Mason/classical approach? I can’t wait to meet in person.


On the playground after Adoration. My kids look like they’re ready to rumble.

The other fruit of the conference was that Fr. Riley, our former pastor, introduced me to a woman who organizes a monthly adoration for homeschoolers in the Boston area. It isn’t very close—an hour away. But it is closer than the North Shore adoration. So today we went and we had the most marvelous time. First, we got to drive through Boston, which wouldn’t be a selling point for most people but it sort of completed last week’s Make Way for Ducklings tour because Bella got to see the Charles river and the bridge and the island in the river. And oh how she chortled when I told her that the road we were driving on was the highway the ducks crossed in the story, when policeman Michael stopped the cars for them.

Adoration was a perfectly designed half hour, just long enough for the bigger kids to really get into it and not so long that the littles were unable to handle it. We sat up close near the altar rather than in the pews so that the children could really see what was going on. Father Harrington, who was filling in for Fr Riley, did a great job at catechesis, really explaining and guiding the children through the whole thing. I loved that while we did some very simple “Jesus I love you, Jesus I adore you” praise songs, we also balanced them with O Salutaris Hostia, Tantum Ergo, and Holy God We Praise Thy Name. The formal prayers that the children were less familiar like the Divine Praises were balanced by the simple Hail Mary which almost everyone knew. Bella answered several questions during the brief catechesis session and Sophie was very proud of herself for kneeling with the big kids. After adoration and benediction, there was an easy craft, making a Holy Spirit dove. And then we all went to the playground where the children ran off all their energy and had a picnic lunch on the go. We are definitely going back next month.


The children decorated the recliner as a Christmas tree and then played Christmas. Here Bella is the mother taking pictures. (Her camera is a block.)

Sadly, it was a long morning and Anthony slept all the way home and then woke up as soon as we pulled into the driveway. Then he and the girls needed so much attention all afternoon. I didn’t get even a little rest. So by dinner time I was feeling really queasy for the first time. Fortunately we had enough leftovers from last night that I didn’t have to cook. Still, not happy about this harbinger of days to come.



Bella and I have started studying mushrooms and fungi. We are beginning with identifying specimens from our yard. We have a couple of guidebooks and though we weren’t able to make a positive identification, we have both learned a lot about what to look for. We have been drawing our specimens in our nature notebooks.


Hey, I actually did a quick takes on a Friday and can participate in the link up!!! You can head over to Conversion Diary where Jen has a roundup of more quick takes.

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  • I don’t feel like I have all the pieces that go with this one yet.  I am not familiar with Parsifal, nor with Tristan and Isolde, nor as much with the Arthurian legends as I would like.  But here are a few thoughts based on what you have said about them.

    —The wind must be blowing towards home, not from home, because otherwise how could the knight be sailing there?

    —Yes, there is a movement toward the east, also identified with “home.”  This time it is duty (and wind) that drives the speaker toward the east—the knight’s duty to deliver a bride to a marriage.  At the same time there is temptation pulling him toward the west—some Irish lass he is singing about here, but it’s foreshadowing, right?  Because he’s going to fall in love with and be tempted by Isolde, correct?  And she represents the foreigner, the west.

    So:  East = duty, wind, home, marriage
        West= temptation, illicit love, “lingering”

    This isn’t quite the same as the eastern motion in the previous part, stilled by crawling under a rock.  I will be interested to see if the two will be tied together more neatly.

    One thing I notice is that while you might characterize Tristan/Isolde/Mark as a “love triangle” in which a woman, Isolde, is caught between two men, Tristan and Mark, what I feel is emphasized more here is Tristan in the middle:  drawn in one direction toward his duty to his kinsman, in the other direction towards Isolde and the abdication of his duty, the betrayal of his kinsman.  Which makes it not a “love” triangle but a different kind.

  • I have read (a version of) Tristan and Iseult, so I think I can provide some insight here. The love potion was given to Iseult’s maid by Iseult’s mother in order to ensure that Iseult and Mark had a happy marriage. That would be helpful, as she isn’t feeling very kindly towards anyone right now because 1) she’s leaving home, 2) Mark’s nephew Tristan killed her uncle, and then 3) Tristan killed a dragon to gain her hand and then decides to pass her on to his uncle who’s looking for a wife. An impressive trifecta of emotions, hmm? Anyway, Iseult and Tristan accidentally drank the potion that they thought was just wine (much to the chagrin of her maid).

    One of the big questions of the tale is actually whether or not Tristan and Iseult acted on their impulses. (Side note: I’m not sure if it can be called adulterous if there is no sex involved. Adulterous in thought perhaps.) Iseult desires to be virtuous and is grateful to Mark for his kindness, and Tristan loves his uncle, so they certainly do not want to hurt Mark, but they also have no control over their amorous feelings towards each other. There is a beautiful scene where Mark is hunting in the woods for the pair (who have run away together) and finds them sleeping, limbs entwined, but with Tristan’s sword lying between their bodies. Mark is overcome by this (obvious?) display of chasteness and manages to switch out Tristan’s sword for his own (just to make sure they knew he was there) before leaving the scene.

    My overall impression of the tale was deep sadness. Their love was nothing they could have prevented, and although they could not bear to be separated from each other, they would not break the vows they had made to Mark (as both wife and vassal).

    As for the German translation, “zu” definitely means “to” or “towards.” I think people can get confused because in rare circumstances it can mean “at” (as in “at my expense”). This doesn’t seem to be one of those circumstances though.

    I’m not sure how all of this information affects your understanding “The Wasteland,” but I hope some of it was helpful. (BTW: Don’t watch the movie “Tristan and Isolde”; it ruined the tale for me and I wish I could blot it from my memory.)

  • It has taken me so long to respond to these comments. I plead first trimester exhaustion and hay fever. The pine pollen has been dreadful the last week.

    By the way the full libretto for Tristan and Isolde is here. That may help to clarify Eliot’s precise source.


    One clarification: the singer is not Tristan but an unknown sailor (“audible from above as if from the mast,” is the stage direction).

    Isolde reacts to the song: “Who dares to mock me?” Is this because the song refers to Cornwall as the homeland and she rebels against being taken from her native land and transplanted there? Her immediate resolve upon hearing the song is to poison Tristan.

    However, maybe I’m complicating things too much in wondering about the speaker and the intended audience. Certainly you are right and the song is foreshadowing.

    About the triangle having Tristan in the middle as well as Isolde being in the middle—that’s exactly what I meant about how it echoes the “triangle” of Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere. What has always fascinated me about that story is that the relationships pull equally in all directions so that both Guinevere and Lancelot are torn between romantic “love” and duty. Lancelot owes Arthur loyalty as his king and friend and so is pulled between friendship and duty on the one hand and betrayal and “love” on the other. The relationship isn’t merely a private matter of adultery either but is what destroys the fellowship of the Round Table and the entire kingdom then falls into ruin.

    The main difference between the Tristan and Isolde story and the Lancelot and Guinevere story is the element of the love potion in the former, which does suggest that the passions are not under the lovers’ control.


    The many versions of the Tristan and Isolde story vary widely in details. Although Wagner is drawing from the Medieval and Renaissance tradition, he spins the story in his own way. In Wagner’s version, which is what Eliot is quoting, Isolde’s maid, Brangane switches the potions, delivering a love potion instead of the death potion that Isolde demands she bring. Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde both think they are drinking poison.

    I don’t think Wagner has anything about Tristan having killed the dragon or the scene of the lovers sleeping with the sword between them. I think the operatic form demands a great deal of simplicity and trims down a lot of the details from the more elaborate romances.

  • I don’t know Tristan and Isolde any more than I know the Wasteland, so, please feel free to disregard it sounds like I’ve lost it. smile

    These are only four lines, but they seem to suggest that unlike Isolde, the winds are blowing us towards our homeland, whereas her wind was blowing her away from hers. The wind might very well be the Holy Spirit blowing us towards our ultimate destination and the question about our lingering might be asking us just what is holding us back from His urging.

    In the context of the original story though, the song is mocking Isolde. It is throwing salt in the open wound. So I cannot help but wonder if it is a bit of a tease here as well. I mean, we’re in this parched, desperate desert faced with our own mortality and the song is like, “Hey, what’s the delay?” almost mocking our difficulty.

    The repeated references to love triangles is interesting. I’m sure I’m spring boarding off the fact it is Trinity Sunday, but it seems to me that the “love triangle” might be the “anti-Trinity.” I mean, the husband-wife-child is the human relationship image of the trinity, so maybe the references to “love triangles” is again a reference to our inability to reflect the divine on our own and how awful it can be when we try?

  • Katherine, Oh I like the reading of the lines as heavenly homeland and the Holy Spirit as the wind blowing us homeward. We can cooperate with grace or resist it, clinging to our passions.

    I hadn’t thought of the song as mocking the reader, but that’s certainly there.

    All the instances of love and romance in the poem seem to be sterile and disordered. I like the idea of an anti-Trinity. Certainly the adulterous relationship is anti-marriage and anti-family and thus if the family images the Trinity, then in must be anti-Trinitarian. I’m not sure how far you can push that reading; but it’s an interesting insight into the classic literary figure of the love triangle.

  • I think you’re right here about the disorder in human affairs. In every respect – including the potion – there is something out of sorts in the narrative. And looking back to when I read it I think there is a quality of the wasteland in the different journeys across the Irish Sea. Things have to be put right. Healing is the motif of the Grail stories and Eliot brilliantly captured the agony of our times by alluding to the suffering of the Fisher King. I don’t have the answer but it seems to me that the disorder and pain in question are calling out for a sacrament – something of great healing.
    I enjoy the fact that you’re writing about these things. Greetings from Ireland!

  • That’s great! I know next to nothing about Eliot’s chronology/development—I just love the sound of his words and the depth and breadth. This sort of overview of his development is one reason why I really wanted to watch you finish the commentary. wink

    It makes more sense for it to be simple at this stage in his writing—and it doesn’t do to try to find the subtle, “hidden” message or to write ourselves or “later Eliot” into The Waste Land.

  • “The wind blows toward home or from the homeland? The translations I’ve looked at differ and that seems to be a big difference, and one that would make for very different interpretations. Any German speakers want to give me a hand here?”

    Couldn’t Eliot mean both? As in “Burnt Norton”‘s the beginning is the return, etc…?

  • Ah Erika, I was so caught up in the translation and just wanted the correct answer. But of course if it were both that would be very Eliot. “In my end is my beginning” “To arrive where you started and to know the place for the first time”.

    Although I wonder how much that sentiment fits with the Waste Land… it is much more a later, more mature Eliot who was able to see “the still point of the turning world”. I think the poet of The Waste Land is very much being whirled around in the tempest and hasn’t yet found the stillness, though of course it is what he’s seeking.

    I’ve always read Eliot’s poetry in a very chronological way, dividing his work into eras that align with Dante’s Divine Comedy. I think of The Waste Land as being at the end of his infernal period and then Ash Wednesday marking his ascent onto the mountain of purgatory. But that does mean I tend to over compartmentalize, which maybe makes me miss more subtle readings.

  • Hi Jay, Thanks for stopping by. I think you are right about the need for a sacrament of healing. My reading of the Grail Legends is that they are essentially Eucharistic. Have you read The Grail Code by Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey? So good!


    That’s awesome! I didn’t know much about the history of the swan boats. I love the tie-in with Wagner!

  • Melanie, are you okay?  You haven’t posted a new blog entry in several weeks—so unlike you.  Just hope you are feeling okay in this first trimester!

  • Hi Mary, Yeah I’m just tired. Getting the kids to bed by 9. Anthony wakes up at 5. Not enough time for sleeping much less writing. I’ve been working on a post about why I’ve been too tired to post and even that has taken days.

    Thanks for checking up on me.

  • My thought here is that not only is it an illicit love affair, but it serves as a contrast to the prostitution and abortion discussion of an affair later on in the poem at the pub.  We see a movement from nobility to a low gutter culture as we move toward modernity.

  • Definitely a great contrast between this and the later, “modern” affair. There is such a sense of what has been lost, a very Prufrockian despair.