Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Happiness Pursued Was Never Caught

I hold these two.  Contentment comes when sought,
While Happiness pursued was never caught.
   But, sudden, storms the heart with mighty throes
   Whenceforth, mild eyed Content affrighted goes,
To seek some calmer heart, less danger fraught.

Bold Happiness knows but one rival—Fear;
   Who follows ever on his footsteps, sent
   By jealous Fate who calls great joy a crime.
While in far ways ’mong leaves just turning sere,
With gaze serene and placid, walks Content.
   No heart ere held these two guests at one time.

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

What makes you happy?

Are you happy right now? Am I? Is happiness even the goal? Are we sure it even should be. What would make you happy right now? What would be your second choice?

What is happiness? What do you call happy, and when is it? Can it truly be found this side of heaven, and if so, where and how? Is happiness absolute, or on a spectrum? Does it grow because of circumstances or in spite of them? Is it a choice, or serendipity? What causes it? Do we deserve it? Is it selfish any time we pursue our own happiness at the expense of others? Is there a reward for pursuing the happiness of others at our own expense?

Is it better to be easily pleased, or should one derive greater meaning? How much happiness does it take before its pursuit produces diminishing returns, or diminishes the cause of the kingdom?

Good evening Darling, and yes, another fusillade of futility tonight, an inquisition into the depths of inquiry long since probed and plumbed out. If you’d rather find answers than more questions, stay with me, there are some here towards the end.

In asking these questions, one looks to the people around to see what their answer is, and how it is. Of course, it is seldom easy to discover “happy” people in a job dealing with suffering. The slow and grinding years of absorbing pain and sadness do seem to take a toll on people — there’s a lot of talk of burn-out, and I believe it. And I’ve told you before how different it is from than the lives of the people I see around me. The mid-30’s, buying houses and rings and bassinets.

I recently helped a friend move, finding it encouraging to see so many people set aside their evening to help. But it seemed strange to see a single woman who has lived with her parents rent-free for years move into a house with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, as we carried a plethora of couches, exercise equipment and a massage chair into her house. One person who helped worked at an “experiential center” and conducted “horse yoga.” Yoga. On horseback.

I try not to let envy take root Darling, and I’ve no use for a massage chair. Rather, it’s peculiar to see people self-absorbed with their own amusements and pleasures. They’re far up the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, flirting with self-actualization and esteem, while I’m spending more time in life just trying to get by with safety and productivity, with employment and bills and my studies. People buying houses with more rooms or space than they need and customizing their dwellings, like their lives, to suit their whims, is just a little out of reach. It’s anathema to me. I’m a knight at heart. My dwellings are humble right now. As much as I’d like a nice house, a very nice house, I don’t know that I find great satisfaction in a customization of opulence.  I do see these conditions as temporary. And given that these types of people are several years older than me, it’s still easily believable I’ll overtake them, if one were to draw the comparison.

And aren’t we commanded to have joy? Is it happiness we seek, or peace? Contentment or fulfillment? Ease or Purpose?

Well Darling, being as how I’ve been a bit glum of late, perhaps it will serve you well to hear some of the things that please your Beren’s heart.

What makes me happy? The smell of leather. A cool winter wind, with hints of smoke and snow. The first winter’s fire or the smell of lilac on the first mild spring night. Turning the heat on for the first time, and the first time you grab a jacket for a nippy autumn evening. Driving with the windows down, the wind blowing, and the perfect music playing. Finding a perfect new song or poem that describes exactly how I feel.

I’m happy with live jazz and nature. With bookstores and quiet churches or chapels. A busy but fulfilling night at work.  Classic rock songs, or a perfectly wistful melody on a melancholy evening. A deep, intellectual conversation filled with thoughtful reflection, mutual listening and agreement. A gentle nap on a sleepy afternoon. Weekends. Paydays. The satisfaction of nailing a perfect photograph. A glass of orange juice in the mornings. That moment at the end of your workout when you feel the satisfied fatigue of aches and exertion; catching sight of yourself in the mirror and recognizing progress.

A tune played through adequately on piano. Those rare times when someone actually seems to understand, and offers wisdom that actually applies. Timid wild animals that are unafraid. Black and white movies, and old songs. A long walk. A passage of scripture that reaches out and touches you. Walking with Christ in the Bible. Actually finding the words you want to use in prayer.

Making a dinner. Making a difference. Every piece of equipment I buy, skill I learn, or training I receive to be more prepared against calamity and trouble. And, the times when having it on hand actually makes a difference. An achievement or triumph; an article finished, an interview snagged, a debate won. The kind, unrepayable gratitude of patients or the weak.

I don’t think man was ever meant to be naturally happy absent his better half; I don’t know that I’ll ever be content or fulfilled or at peace until we’re together. But if you ask me whether or not there are times when I am happy, yes.

And so, I hope and trust that you too can find happiness without me. It may be that our time together, as sweet as it is, will be short, and one of us must learn how to be happy again without the other. If that’s so, we’re on great training grounds now, are we not?

Live, and pray and laugh, my love. Let not all of these years of absence be years of silence and famine.

Yours,
Beren

Advertisements

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dead to Hopes of Future Joy

The River
Matthew Arnold

Still glides the stream, slow drops the boat
Under the rustling poplars’ shade;
Silent the swans beside us float
None speaks, none heeds—ah, turn thy head.

Let those arch eyes now softly shine,
That mocking mouth grow sweetly bland:
Ah, let them rest, those eyes, on mine;
On mine let rest that lovely hand.

My pent-up tears oppress my brain,
My heart is swoln with love unsaid:
Ah, let me weep, and tell my pain,
And on thy shoulder rest my head.

Before I die, before the soul,
Which now is mine, must re-attain
Immunity from my control,
And wander round the world again:

Before this teas’d o’erlabour’d heart
For ever leaves its vain employ,
Dead to its deep habitual smart,
And dead to hopes of future joy.

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Passion Grand and Vast

A Man’s Last Love
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Like the tenth wave, that offers to the shore
Accumulated opulence and force,
So does my heart, which thought it loved of yore,
Carry increasing passion down the course
Of time to proffer thee.
Oh! not the faint
First ripple of the sea should be its pride,
But the great climax of its unrestraint,
Which culminates in one commanding tide.

The lesser billows of each crude emotion
Break on life’s strand, recede, and then unite
With love’s large sea; and to some late devotion
Unrecognised, they bring their lost delight.
So all the vanished fancies of my past
Live yet in this one passion, grand and vast.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Message in a Bottle

26.034208 -80.113754

To the waves I committed this letter
Set adrift like my heart on the sea
As my heart and its thoughts are in fetters
May your love one day set them both free

Take heed, dearest one and be clever
It won’t take long if you engage
The hints to this piece of forever
Can be found here concealed on this page.

 

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , | Leave a comment

No Comfort

No Comfort
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

O mad with mirth are the birds to-day
That over my head are winging.
There is nothing but glee in the roundelay
That I hear them singing, singing.
On wings of light, up, out of sight—
I watch them airily flying.
What do they know of the world below,
And the hopes that are dying, dying?

The roses turn to the sun’s warm sky,
Their sweet lips red and tender;
Oh! life to them is a dream of bliss,
Of love, and passion, and splendour.
What know they of the world to-day,
Of hearts that are silently breaking;
Of the human breast, and its great unrest,
And its pitiless aching, aching?

They send me out into Nature’s heart
For help to bear my sorrow,
Nothing of strength can she impart,
No peace from her can I borrow.
Her rose-red June and her billing tune,
Her birds and blossoms only,
Mocked at the grief that seeks relief,
And leave me lonely—lonely.
If I might stand on the treacherous sand,
And know I was sinking, sinking,
While the moaning sea sang a dirge for me,—
Why, that were comfort, I’m thinking.

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Late It’s Early

TheBridge

“But always and ever when high and far
The old moon hideth her troubled face,
I think how the light like a falling star
Lit all my world with a new strange grace.
The passionate glow of your splendid eyes
Shines into my heart as it shone that night,
And its slumberous billows surge and rise
As the ocean is stirred by the tempest’s might.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

It’s the brightest moon of the year tonight. A “honey moon” they call it. It’s directly opposite the sun tonight, and lowest in the sky. Having one this close on a Friday the 13th won’t happen again for another 84 years, if you didn’t know. So enclosed you’ll find a picture of the old bridge I keep talking about. It isn’t much to look at; no testament to architectural art or tribute to an era gone by. Just a simple old bridge that does the job so no one has to ford the creek.

Now that I’m back home, it’s so late that it’s early. Adjusting back to days is always a bit of a hassle after working nights, and often leaves me a bit down, especially with no one to talk to on nights.

Tonight I’m somewhere on neutral ground between felicity and futility. What did I call my lifestyle? Binge and purge. This week on my way to work, I felt myself infused with an energy, eager even to lift many times the panel of patients I would care for that night. Brief periods of rest and relaxation often give me that surge.

On to the news before I cash in for the night.

I adopted a child this week. Not physically of course; I decided it was high time to give a little more of myself than I have been, so I’m now the sponsor of a young girl on the coast of east Africa. Now this led me to an interesting ponderance, Darling, and on this I must solicit your opinion. Where do we draw the line between letting our light shine before men, and not doing our good deeds to be praised by them? In sponsoring this child, I wished to urge others to join me in the act. But then I questioned whether I was doing so to garner the praise and attention of others. Our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us. But I also believe good deeds are easier done in tandem. I gambled against my own pride and haven’t told anyone, except a coworker or two. (I met one young co-worker who reminds me a little of you; her soul smells of Jesus, though her language sometimes stank of hell. She has a heart and passion for overseas missions, and her position as a nurse allows her that luxury.)

Now I will brag just a little. I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been going to the gym since the beginning of the year. We gym monkeys sometimes do deadlifts and obviously want to do our best. This week, my new personal best was 270 pounds. This too leads to another question. I’ve been working on the concept of doing my best for my own sake, not because it will make a good story to tell others, or because it proves something to them. But, we like to share personal triumphs with others, and heaven knows our friends and their albums are full of them. So I found myself again asking, would I be showboating if I were to have documented this moment? Again, I hedged my bets against pride. If in doubt.

A patient of mine was featured on the Today show. One thing about being with a nurse my dear, you’ll never lack for good stories!

I’ve also been (tentatively) invited to speak at a convention overseas. The expenses would be covered, but the times and dates are up in the air. I’m hopeful. You know I do love to travel…and if God is willing, I will go to the beach, the mountains of Appalachia,  the jungles of South America, the orient, and India all in the next six to eight months.

Tomorrow begins the first journey, and hopefully one of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll write as often as I can, but if you don’t find any further letters here, look for one or two bottles afloat in the Atlantic ocean addressed to you.

Goodnight, my dear, and Godspeed.

-Beren

June 14, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness, Nights Like These, Poems | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heartbreak at Last

Lines to an Indian Air
Percy Shelley

I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low
And the stars are shining bright—
I arise from dreams of thee,
And a spirit in my feet
Hath led me—who knows how?
To thy chamber-window, Sweet!

The wandering airs they faint
On the dark, the silent stream;
The champak odours fail
Like sweet thoughts in a dream;
The nightingale’s complaint
It dies upon her heart,
As I must die on thine,
O belovèd, as thou art!

O lift me from the grass!
I die, I faint, I fail!
Let thy love in kisses rain
On my lips and eyelids pale.
My cheek is cold and white, alas!
My heart beats loud and fast;
O press it close to thine again
Where it will break at last!

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , | Leave a comment

In Which We Burn

burning-time

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
Delmore Schwartz

What will become of you and me
Besides the photo and the memory? …
Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Severed Selves

LoveApart

Severed Selves
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Two separate divided silences,
Which, brought together, would find loving voice;
Two glances which together would rejoice
In love, now lost like stars beyond dark trees;
Two hands apart whose touch alone gives ease;
Two bosoms which, heart-shrined with mutual flame,
Would, meeting in one clasp, be made the same;
Two souls, the shore wave-mocked of sundering seas:-
Such are we now. Ah! may our hope forecast
Indeed one hour again, when on this stream
Of darkened love once more the light shall gleam? —
An hour how slow to come, how quickly past,–
Which blooms and fades, and only leaves at last,
Faint as shed flowers, the attenuated dream.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Birthday

On My Birthday
Matthew Prior

I, my dear, was born to-day—
So all my jolly comrades say:
They bring me music, wreaths, and mirth,
And ask to celebrate my birth:
Little, alas! my comrades know
That I was born to pain and woe;
I, my dear, was born to-day:
Shall I salute the rising ray,
Well-spring of all my joy and woe?
My dearest, thou alone dost know.
Shall the wreath surround my hair?
Or shall the music please my ear?
Shall I my comrades’ mirth receive,
And bless my birth, and wish to live?
Then let me see great Venus chase
Imperious anger from thy face;
Then let me hear thee smiling say—
‘Thou, my dear, wert born to-day.’

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , | 2 Comments