The Eternal Spring

Flash Fiction Challenge fro Terrible Minds: Write a story about gods or goddesses.

             “Hurry, Caril, it isn’t much farther.”

            Ceridwen tugged at her companion’s arm, a boy ten years of age, red-faced and sweating. In spite of her pulling, Caril stopped and shaded his eyes from the sun.

            “This had better be worth it,” he groused.

            “Just wait; you’ll see.”

            Ceridwen resumed her hike up the gentle slope with Caril trudging behind her. After twenty minutes, Ceridwen halted and pointed triumphantly to a rock by the path. In front of the rock was a small lawn; Caril could hear the sound of water. On one side of the rock was a tiny spring that trickled into a small basin. The basin was obviously man made. Curious, Caril edged closer to the rock as Ceridwen pushed back an overhanging growth of fern. There was a niche carved into the rock above the basin and resting in the niche was a figure about a hand span in height.

            “Don’t touch it!” Ceridwen said, as Caril stretched his hand toward the figure. “The goddess does not wish to be disturbed.”

            “How do you know what the goddess wants?” Caril asked.

            “Well, if you were a goddess would you want to be handled by a grubby boy?”

            Caril started to protest but Ceridwen grabbed him by the shoulders and looked into his face with eyes glowing.

            “Isn’t this an exciting discovery? Just think of how long she has resided in this rock, year after year, holding court by her spring!”

            “How do you know it’s a goddess?”

            Ceridwen looked at Caril primly.

            “It’s because she has breasts,” she said. “See?”

            Ceridwen pointed at the figure.

            “Now we must give her an offering for trespassing in her sacred place.” Ceridwen reached for something on the other side of the spring and pulled out a wooden cup. She filled the cup with water from the basin, poured out a small amount, and then offered it to Caril. When he had drunk from the cup, she refilled it and drank of it herself, and then shook the remaining drops on the ground. Then they both lay down on the lawn hand in hand and watched the leaves flutter overhead. Presently Ceridwen broke the silence.

            “It’s a wonder that Father Paul didn’t find this altar and tear it down,” she said. “You know how he feels about idol worship.”

            “What if Mother discovered it!” replied Caril. He and Ceridwen looked at each other aghast. Caril’s mother, Lady Irmtraud, was a battle-scarred warrior in the fight against all things non-Christian.

            “Well, then, we will have to cover our tracks especially well and hide the altar so that the goddess may rest in peace,” said Ceridwen. “We must protect her from those who know just enough of God to be dangerous but not enough to be kind.”


Amalia strolled leisurely among the trees. Her two companions romped on either side of her; all three of them rejoiced in the mild warmth of the weather. Amalia lifted to head to watch the passing clouds.

“AMALIA!” Mole shouted. “Watch out!”

“Too late!” Skunk groaned.

Amalia plowed into a figure kneeling in front of her. She tumbled head over heels and landed on the ground.

“OOMPH!” she gasped. “What happened?”

“I’m afraid that would be me,” said a young woman sitting next to her. “I happened to you–or rather my hindquarters did while I was poking about in this bush. Are you hurt? I did not hear you coming else I would have moved out of your way.”

“I’m quite well,” said Amalia. “It’s my fault for not watching where I was walking. Although I must confess I did not expect to find…Oh!”

While Amalia was talking, the woman rose to her feet. She was tall and beautiful. Though dressed in a simple tunic, she radiated the aura of a queen.

Amalia scrambled to her feet.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, with a curtsy. “My name is Amalia and these are my friends, Skunk and Mole.”

“Well met,” said the young woman. “I am the goddess of the spring–or at least I was. At the moment I am rather springless. I have lost my spring.”

“What!” Skunk exclaimed. “How could you lose your spring? (Don’t shush me, Mole.) I mean, being a goddess and all, isn’t that rather unusual?”

The goddess smiled.

“Not at all. Life escapes, you know.”

“Well, we will be happy to help you look for it,” said Mole. “Especially Skunk.”

“Thank you. That is most kind of you.”

“So, what does your spring look like?” asked Amalia.

“Wait, let me guess–it’s wet,” said Skunk.

Mole rolled her eyes and shook her head. But the goddess nodded.

“Skunk is quite right,” she said. “My spring is wet; it’s about eight feet tall and two feet across at its widest point. It was around here somewhere.”

The goddess got back down on her knees and began feeling along the ground; Amalia, Mole, and Skunk joined her.

For the better part of an hour, the four carefully searched the area for some sign of a spring. Skunk, who had wandered away from the others, spied something in the bushes and pounced on it. Suddenly the goddess sat upright and sniffed the air.

“My spring is close by–I can smell it!”

She rose to her feet.

“And I can hear it!” She looked around and spotted Skunk.

“Skunk, dear, what do you have in your hand?” she asked, running over to him.

Skunk held up a small object. It appeared to be made of wood. He handed it to the goddess.

“Oh, thank you!” she said. “You’ve found it!”

Then she walked over to a rock over hung with ferns. She parted the ferns to expose a small niche and basin carved into the rock. She gently placed the object into the niche; immediately a stream of water burst forth from the top of the rock and trickled into the basin before cascading down the side of the path. The others crowded around.

“What is that?” asked Amalia. “It looks some sort of figure.”

“I am the goddess of the spring, and this is my image.”

Amalia looked more closely at the image and then at the goddess.

“I beg your pardon, Goddess, but this doesn’t look anything like you. I mean, you are beautiful while this image is… well… it’s rather… ‘unfinished,’ to put it nicely.”

The goddess caressed the figure.

“You see me as beautiful; that is because one’s character is revealed by the gods they create. My creator was a person of boundless joy and great integrity.”

She turned to the others, her eyes shining.

“I wish you could have know him, the young man that made this image and carved this resting place for it. But that was centuries ago. He was still a youth then, newly arrived to this country. He was no artist, but his hands did what they could to express his love and gratitude. He knew this figure was merely a symbol. Like all creators, he fashioned his imaginary world out of his inner self, but he did not make the error of mistaking his imaginary world for the real one.”

“You’ve been here for centuries?” asked Mole.

“Over seven hundred years.”

“And in all that time, you’ve never lost your spring?”

The goddess shook her head.

“Unfortunately, it has happened a few times. There are those who see the image as a symbol for something else, something that offends them. When they discover my resting place, they tear down the image and destroy the spring.”

“Then we must keep you safe,” said Amalia. We must find a way to hide you better so that you and your spring are protected.”

“No, my dear, that will not do. I am not meant to be safe.”

“But someone else might destroy your image, and then you would lose your spring.”

The goddess embraced Amalia and smiled.

“Wherever there are thoughts of joy and thanksgiving, I will always find the Eternal spring.”


map-monsterThe last few weeks have unraveled me; I have been gathering my thoughts in an attempt to get raveled again. Like any self-respecting Five, I have been asking the Great Why. This is the result, thus far, of my inquiry.

I recently realized that I been cast in a supporting role in other people’s plays. And you know what that means–lines to memorize, rehearsals to attend, costumes to fit, and choreography to stumble over. No wonder I’m tired! Moreover, these are all dramas.

I recently read that sales of dystopian novels about dysfunctional societies have increased since the 2016 election. 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, etc. are all in demand right now. Politicians have, unfortunately, cast the American people in supporting roles for their dramas. No wonder people say they are sick and tired.

I see that many of the books promoted on social websites are dystopian in setting and content. Their authors will probably do well in sales because people can relate to a dysfunctional world.

We all write our own story about ourselves. We build a world and populate it with characters. We create the setting and the background, the terrain over which we travel. We write the laws and determine the consequences of breaking them. And, boy oh boy, do we have conflict!

Based on my inquiry, I have concluded that my book–The Book of Rhino–will probably not be very popular. I don’t do dystopia; I don’t even do datopia. The fact is that Rhino is Untopia. It’s my own little play about humanity. It’s not a drama; it’s not technically a comedy. It’s just my own hymn of joy to Life.


George Orwell ~ “The English Language”


George OrwellGeorge Orwell (1903 – 1950) was the pseudonym of Eric Blair, who was born in India, the son of Richard Blair and Ida Limouzin Blair. His father was a British civil servant. In 1904, Ida Blair moved with the children to England; Eric did not see his father for eight years. He was educated at Eton but did not attend university. Instead he served as an imperial policeman in Burma from 1922 to 1927. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933, is an account of his life in poverty, an experience he undertook in sympathy with the poor. He wrote Animal Farm as a fable depicting the perversion of socialism.

The following excerpt is from “Politics and the English Language”

Most people who bother with the matter al all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilisation is decadent, and our language–so the argument runs–must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purpose.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  3. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  4. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  5. Break any of the rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase–some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse–into the dustbin where it belongs.

1946, 1947

This Rough Beast

Flash Fiction Challenge from Terrible Minds

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

~ William Butler Yeats, The Second ComingWaterhouse-Trevor

Trevor dreamed he was on top of a hill overlooking a large city. It was Rome. In the distance he could just make out the outline of the coliseum. The next instant he was inside its arena; the place was filled to capacity. He was on an elevated platform looking down on the crowd. He stood still, mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the throng. There were shouts, cries, laughter, and whistles intermingled with the smell of smoke, food, perfume, and sweat. The crowd lay below him like a restless beast that occasionally raised its great head and bellowed for the sheer pleasure of it. Suddenly its roar intensified as a lone figure stepped onto a stage in the center of the area. It was a young man. He raised one hand and the place fell silent. He hoisted a harp in his arms, plucked a string or two, and began to sing.

Trevor watched in amazement as the singer played the crowd as deftly as he played his instrument. Everyone around him listened in rapturous silence. Their faces were masks of worship, and their bodies vibrated with devotion. The beast lay belly up before the hand of its god. Suddenly the singer waved his arms and yelled and the throng of people went wild. Women began screaming and weeping, waving their arms and dancing ecstatically. Men joined them, leaping and twisting in frenzy. Trevor stared in awe and envy at the singer. His blood pounded in his head, his throat, and his chest. He cried aloud in response to the surging power around him.

Suddenly the singer leaped into the air and was caught by a group of women. They jostled him over their heads, and they tore his clothes. His naked body lay spread-eagle above the crowd. Trevor watched in horror as the women began tearing the hair from the singer’s head. They scratched out his eyes, they raked long claws down his bare chest, and finally, in an orgiastic frenzy, they tore his limbs and his head from his body. With a look of triumph, one of the women tossed the singer’s bloodied head at Trevor’s feet. Its few remaining wisps of hair were long golden waves…

Trevor awoke gasping for air. He rose and staggered over to the window, breathing deeply, trying to calm his racing heart. A mild breeze cooled his forehead.

Knowledge enormous has made a Dionysus of me, he thought. And I am responsible for the monster I create.



Writing Exercises

Wyeth-Amalia“The grey cells, they still function – the order, the method – it is still there.”

Hercule Poirot

I do writing exercises to develop my proficiency in writing. The following is a description of each exercise in term of physical exercise and a key cognitive strategy it addresses. When I was teaching, I had my students do some of these exercises as a way to develop their mathematics proficiency and conceptual understanding.

Objects in a Bag

Connect a concept or story to a set of objects, such as a social compact, text structures, stages of faith, or Bloom’s taxonomy.

This is like a weight bearing exercise because it forces your brain to work against conventional thinking, which helps strengthen your framework.

Key Cognitive Strategy: Research 

Map of the Journey

Describe a process or an experience, such as teaching or writing, as a journey.

This is like a muscle strengthening exercise because it uses the writing process to understand real world phenomena.

Key Cognitive Strategy: Problem Formulation

Mobius Trip

Participate in another perspective of a concept.

This is like a balance exercise because it develops the ability to see multiple sides of an issue.

Key Cognitive Strategy: Precision and Accuracy

Sailing to Byzantium

Analyze observations of the world from a Five perspective.

This is like an aerobic exercise because it expands the capacity for sympathy and empathy.

Key Cognitive Strategy: Communication

Writing to Prompt

Write a story based on a given prompt. R. A. F. T.

This is like a flexibility exercise because it stretches the creative vision and keeps vocabulary limber.

Key Cognitive Strategy: Interpretation

I love doing these exercises. I try to do at least one exercise every day. Whenever I get stuck writing for my book, I set the book aside and do a writing exercise. Often the exercise reveals what I was trying to say in my story.

A few months ago, I was unsuccessfully trying to write a back cover blurb for my book. I decided to treat it as a writing exercise; I pretended I was writing to a prompt. It worked! I managed to write a halfway decent introduction for Rhino.

I highly recommend doing some sort of writing exercise–one that works best for you.

Virginia Woolf ~ “The Mark” Part I

Virginia WoolfVirginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) was born in London, the daughter of Leslie Stephens, a critic, biographer, and philosopher. She was largely self-educated, having access to her father’s extensive library. After her father’s death in 1904, Virginia, her sister, and two brothers moved to the Bloomsbury district of London. There they associated with a group of writers, scientists, and artists, which later became known as the “Bloomsbury group.” This group included Lytton Strachey, J. M. Keynes, Roger Fry, and E. M. Forster. Woolf’s first completely successful novel was Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925. She also wrote a great many reviews and critical essays; A Room of One’s Own is one her best-known works.

The following excerpt is from “The Mark on the Wall.” Part 1

Perhaps it was the middle of January in the present year that I first looked up and saw the mark on the wall. In order to fix a date it is necessary to remember what one saw. So now I think of the fire; the steady film of yellow light upon the page of my book; the three chrysanthemums in the round glass bowl on the mantelpiece.

Yes, it must have been the winter time, and we had just finished our tea, for I remember that I was smoking a cigarette when I looked up and saw the mark on the wall for the first time. I looked up through the smoke of my cigarette and my eye lodged for a moment upon the burning coals, and that old fancy of the crimson flag flapping from the castle tower came into my mind, and I thought of the cavalcade of red knights riding up the side of the black rock. Rather to my relief the sight of the mark interrupted the fancy, for it is an old fancy, an automatic fancy, made as a child perhaps. The mark was a small round mark, black upon the white wall, about six or seven inches above the mantelpiece.

How readily our thoughts swarm upon a new object, lifting it a little way, as ants carry a blade of straw so feverishly, and then leave it… If that mark was made by a nail, it can’t have been for a picture, it must have been for a miniature–the miniature of a lady with white powdered curls, powder-dusted cheeks, and lips like red carnations. A fraud of course, for the people who had this house before us would have chosen pictures in that way–an old picture for an old room. That is the sort of people they were–very interesting people, and I think of them so often, in such queer places, because one will never see them again, never know what happened next.

They wanted to leave this house because they wanted to change their style of furniture, so he said, and he was in process of saying that in his opinion art should have ideas behind it when we were torn asunder, as one is torn from the old lady about to pour out tea and the young man was about to hit the tennis ball in the back garden of the suburban villa as one rushes past in the train.

But for that mark, I’m not sure about it.

The Road to Helicon

Flash Fiction challenge from Terrible Minds.

Good Intentions.

It happened last Saturday. My husband had business on Helicon and asked me if I would like to go with him and take our daughter to the beach. Helicon is not my favorite planet, but its beaches are nice so I agreed to go.

When we arrived at the spaceport, we rented a ground vehicle for the day. I dropped my husband off at the factory and then drove to Shetle Beach. My daughter, Amalia, had a great time dodging waves, chasing beach birds, and building sand castles. She even made friends with a cute little beast that made Amalia laugh.JennyNelly

The trouble started when we returned to our vehicle. As soon as I opened the door for Amalia, the animal jumped in first. I tried to shoo it out and, when that failed, tried to push it out. That beast would not budge. I finally decided to pick it up and discovered that the little creature weighed a ton! Okay, probably not a ton, but it weighed more than I could lift. A passing patrol officer noticed my struggles and stopped to ask what was the problem. I explained the situation to him and asked for his help. He smiled and informed me that there are strict rules regarding dumping animals on Helicon and that I must follow the appropriate procedure.

“Well, then, what do I do?” I asked. “I need to get to the Varret factory by 5:00 GST to pick up my husband.”

“This won’t take long,” said the officer, pulling a capsule from his pocket. “Just fill out this Temporary Host form, indicating you have an animal in your vehicle. This will allow you to transport the animal while you are here on Helicon.”

“But I don’t want to transport the animal! I want to remove it.”

“And so you shall. But first you need a permit to have it in your vehicle before you can get the proper permit to get it out.”

This was annoying, but I had no choice. I opened the capsule, unrolled the film, and signed my name at the bottom. I gave it back to the officer, who shook his head.

“Take this with you to any patrol station and obtain an Emergency Removal Order. This will allow you to request a disposal unit to remove the animal.”

“You mean I have to drive around with this thing?”

“Yes, ma’am” said the officer. “That’s why I gave you the TH form. Now you are free to go anywhere on Helicon with the animal for the duration of your visit.”

I thanked him for his assistance and turned to put Amalia in the vehicle. She was already inside sitting next to the beast; she was thrilled.

“Amalia, “ I said, “we are not keeping this thing.” I looked at the animal.

“Don’t get too cute.”

The beastie responded by licking my hand.

“Tasting me, are you?” I muttered.

The onboard map showed the nearest patrol station was only 6.3 kilometers away.

Good! I thought. Let’s get this done.

When I entered the parking port, I pulled up to the information kiosk and explained my problem to the information officer. She only smiled and shook her head.

“But I have here the TH form from the beach officer which he said would get me the ERO form,” I said, holding out the capsule.

“That’s true, dear,” she said. “But first the animal needs an Anti Disease Test clearance. Without that, it cannot be removed from the vehicle.” She looked more closely at Amalia. “Has that child been in close contact with the animal? If so, she will also need an ADT clearance.”

Alarmed, I pulled Amalia onto my lap.

“No, she will not need an ADT clearance. How do I get one for the animal?”

The information officer tut-tutted as she handed me another capsule.

“Take this around the corner to the Operational Hazard office. Someone there will test the animal–and your daughter, if you wish.”

What could I do? I drove to the OH office where they inspected the capsule, inspected the animal, and tried to inspect my daughter. The look on my face–which I inherited from mothers everywhere–unnerved them. In the end, they gave the animal–which they said was a lylen–the ADT clearance; and gave me another document to sign. This one was an OH affidavit stating that I did not knowingly with malicious intent lure the animal into my vehicle. Then they issued me an Entry Level License. This would allow me to take the animal to a shelter where a team of technicians would remove it from the vehicle.

Thanks to the onboard map, I found the “Indigenous Species Shelter and Recreation Area” in record time. The lylen grew agitated as I pulled into the parking port. It started bouncing up and down on the seat, which made the whole car vibrate. I exited the vehicle, taking Amalia with me. By now the vehicle was bucking so wildly I could barely touch the door panel. Once the door opened, the lylen sprang outside. It immediately ran to a large pen holding several other lylens doing whatever it is lylens do when they are not charming small children. A man in a green jumpsuit hurried over.

“Hey!” he shouted. “You can’t dump animals on Helicon!”

“But I was told to come here,” I said. “I have all the necessary forms.”

“Hmm,” he said, looking distressed. “Do you have the TH?”


“The ERO?”


“The ADT and the OH?”

“Yes, and I even have the ELL. What more do I have to do?”

The officer opened and read all the capsules I had given him. Then he smiled and waved me off.

“Have a nice day.”

That evening, as we were leaving the spaceport, I noticed a large sign flashing overhead. “Leaving Helicon, the Planet of Best Intentions.”

Why I Write

I recently read an article in which the author stated that the exceptional writers are those who knew from childhood that they wanted to write. How did they know that?

When I was a child, I did not think about what I wanted to be; I just wanted to play and have fun. My sister and I wrote all sorts of stories about Skunk and Mole, about Mountain Horse (the trio), and, of course, about Rhino. But that wasn’t writing–that was fun. If I practiced anything when I was young that was indicative of my career as an adult, it was playing. I wanted to be a player.

I always received top grades in writing throughout elementary and high school, but I thought it was because I was a good student. Whether it was for English, French, history, or sociology, I always did well on writing assignments. In my senior year in high school, my English teacher submitted a story I wrote to a magazine that published student work. My story was published, but I never got a copy of the magazine. I was too busy doing other things (playing) to bother. Besides, I thought the reason my story got published was because An Authority–an English teacher–submitted it.

I did not realize I could write until I was in college. In college, I was a Liberal Studies major and took courses in the humanities. Again, I earned top grades in writing but did not think I was a writer. Once my philosophy professor told me how surprised he was reading one of my papers. He said I had such a sunny disposition, he didn’t think I could think deeply. Comments like that did not inspire me to write or to think of myself as a writer.

Then one day, I went to an English professor for help with a rough draft of an essay. He read my paper and marked it with an “A”. He told me I could make further revisions if I wanted to but the grade would remain the same. He said I was a gifted writer. I left his office relieved that I was done with that assignment and pleased that he thought I could write. That was the first time I thought of myself as a writer.

The following semester was terrible; I was in an upper division writing class with another English professor who happened to be a misogynist. He gave me an Incomplete for my final grade. When I called him to find out why, he said he could not tell me over the phone; I had to come to his office. I was not at all keen on going to see him, but I needed to know why the Incomplete grade. It turned out that I had no missing assignments; he told me he was going to give me a “B” in the class. He had only given me an Incomplete in order to get me into his office where he could tell me how much I reminded him of a “significant other.” I changed my major to mathematics.

Mathematics was great because it was so challenging (and the professors were objective and rational.) I loved teaching mathematics because it, too, was challenging, but, more than that, it was fun.

I still love mathematics because it is challenging and engaging. But what is most interesting to me is that mathematics brought me back to writing and story telling. Mathematics put the element of play back into writing. I find that strange but very satisfying.

I still do not think of myself as a writer; I am an observer who writes. And in doing so, I am fulfilling my childhood dream of playing. I write because it’s fun.

Kurt Vonnegut ~ “The Noodle Factory”



Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the great-grandson of German immigrants who were part of the vast migration of Germans to the Midwest from 1820 to 1870. At his father’s insistence, he studied chemistry at Cornell University from 1940 to 1942. In 1944, he enlisted in the army, was deployed Europe, and was captured after the Battle of the Bulge. He and other prisoners of war were interned in a slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany; during the Allied firebombing of that city, he took shelter in a meat locker. Vonnegut later wrote about the experience in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, which was a critical and commercial success. His other novels include Player Piano, Cat’s Cradle, and Galapagos.

The following is from Palm Sunday, a collection of some of Kurt Vonnegut’s reviews, speeches, and essays that he called “an autobiographical collage”. This excerpt is from a speech he gave in 1976 at the dedication of a new library at Connecticut College, New London.


“The name of this speech is ‘The Noodle Factory.’ Ten percent of you may be wondering by now why I called this speech ‘The Noodle Factory.’ One hundred percent of me is delighted to explain: It is very simple. The title is an acknowledgment of the fact that most people can’t read, or, in any event, don’t enjoy it much.

“Reading is such a difficult thing to do that most of our time in school is spent learning how to do that alone. If we had spent as much time at ice skating as we have with reading, we would all be stars with the Hollywood Ice Capades instead of bookworms now.

“As you know, it isn’t enough for a reader to pick up the little symbols from a page with his eyes, or, as is the case with a blind person, with his fingertips. Once we get those symbols inside our heads and in the proper order, then we must clothe them in gloom or joy or apathy, in love or hate, in anger or peacefulness, or however the author intended them to be clothed. In order to be good readers, we must even recognize irony—which is when a writer says one thing and really means another, contradicting himself in what he believes to be a beguiling cause.

“We even have to get jokes! God help us if we miss a joke.

“So most people give up on reading.

“So—for all the jubilation this new library will generate in the community at large, this building might as well be a noodle factory. Noodles are okay. Libraries are okay. They are rather neutral good news.

“This noble stone-and-steel bookmobile is no bland noodle factory to us, of course, to this band of readers—we few, we happy few. Because we love books so much, this has to be one of the most buxom, hilarious days of our lives.

“Are we foolish to be so elated by books in an age of movies and television? Not in the least, for our ability to read, when combined with libraries like this one, makes us the freest of women and men—and children.

“Anyway—because we are readers, we don’t have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next—and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis—at any time of night or day.

“Even more magically, perhaps, we readers can communicate with each other across space and time so cheaply. Ink and paper are as cheap as sand or water, almost. No board of directors has to convene in order to decide whether we can afford to write down this or that. I myself once staged the end of the world on two pieces of paper—at a cost of less than a penny, including wear and tear on my typewriter ribbon and the seat of my pants.

“Film is a hideously expensive way to tell anybody anything— and I include television and all that. What is more: Healthy people exposed to too many actors and too much scenery may wake up some morning to find their own imaginations dead.

“The only cure I know of is a library—and the ability to read. Reading exercises the imagination—tempts it to go from strength to strength. So much for that.

“It would surely be shapely on an occasion like this if something holy were said. Unfortunately, the speaker you have hired is a Unitarian. I know almost nothing about holy things.

“The language is holy to me, which again shows how little I know about holiness. Literature is holy to me, which again shows how little I know about holiness.   Our freedom to say or write whatever we please in this country is holy to me. It is a rare privilege not only on this planet, but throughout the universe, I suspect. And it is not something somebody gave us. It is a thing we give to ourselves.

“Meditation is holy to me, for I believe that all the secrets of existence and nonexistence are somewhere in our heads— or in other people’s heads. And I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well.

“This to me is a miracle. The motto of this noble library is the motto of all meditators throughout all time: ‘Quiet, please.’ Thus ends my speech. I thank you for your attention.”

C. S. Lewis ~ “Poetry”


c-s-lewisClive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was born in Belfast, Ireland, the son of a solicitor and a clergyman’s daughter. He taught medieval literature at Oxford University and at Cambridge University and was a prolific writer. C. S. Lewis’ better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in his space trilogy.

The following is an excerpt from Out of the Silent Planet.

It is a conversation between Ransom, an earthman and Hyoi, a Martian. Hyoi is speaking.

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory is another. It is all one thing. The seroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem.

“What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly; it was nothing. Now it is growing (into) something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?”

“Perhaps some of them do,” said Ransom. “But even in a poem does a hross never long to hear one splendid line over again?”

Hyoi’s reply unfortunately turned on one of those points in their language, which Ransom had not mastered. There were two verbs which both, as far as he could see, meant to long or yearn; but the hrossa drew a sharp distinction, even an opposition, between them. Hyoi seemed to him merely to be saying that everyone would long for it (wondelone) but no one in his senses could long for it (hlutheline).

“And indeed,” he continued, “the poem is a good example. For the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only be means of all the lines after it; if you went back to it you would find it less splendid than you thought. You would kill it. I mean in a good poem.”

“But in a bent poem, Hyoi?”

“A bent poem is not listened to, Hman.”


As I grow older, I see that the human I am at this moment is the result of all the years that I have lived. Sometimes I ask myself whether I would forego the hard times I have been through if it meant giving up the lessons I have learned. Would I trade knowledge for ease and comfort? The answer is no. As the old song says, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.”