“If you ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it... But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.

~Frank Lloyd Wright

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Concerning Hobbits and Growing Up

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy small, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”



Imagine this: a person starts reading The Hobbit, gets as far as the end of the first chapter, is completely disgusted that Bilbo is going to leave his lovely, comfortable, wonderful home to go on a supposed “adventure” with some silly dwarves, and puts the book down, not to pick it up again for years and years.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Well let me tell you something ­– that person who did that was me.  Really and truly. 

Let’s just say, because it’s true, that when I started to read the Hobbit many years ago, I was a vastly different person than I am now. 

I liked homey sorts of things, and the idea of staying in one place, in a comfortable delightful house like Bad End, with lots of food and simple happy living, really struck a chord with me.  I liked the descriptions of the hobbits and fell in love with their way of living and the Shire. (Not ot say that I don't like these things now, I love them dearly, but I've learned how important it is to leave your comfort zone and endure hardships too.)

I was the kind of girl who at that time had created an imaginary world – a world consisting of an island in the Altantic Ocean, with slightly primitive yet very civilzed people who lived simply and in close conjunction with nature.  No electricity or modern machines, but just the simple beautiful life.  That sort of thing was very dear to my heart. 

And so now imagine me reading The Hobbit, and how I must have felt when I discovered that Bilbo was going to leave all the gloriousness of the Shire and comfy hobbit holes and go off into the unknown to help some dwarves get back their good-for-nothing gold from a wicked dragon.  I was, well, disappointed... and decided I just didn't want to read any more of that book just then. 


When I finally did come back to The Hobbit, it was after the first of its three-part movie adaptions came out.  With all the fuss raging about this story, and the fact that my mom doesn’t let me see movies of really good books unless I’ve read the book first, I decided it was time to read that thing.  So I did.  And I thought it was great, loved it, and was definitely glad that Bilbo hadn’t stayed at home because that would have made a very uninteresting story.  But I didn’t spend a lot of time pondering meanings behind things in the book, or really discussing it in depth with anyone. 

Until one day, a book sitting on our kitchen counter caught my attention.

Bilbo’s Journey: discovering the hidden meaning of the hobbit by Joseph Pearce

I picked it up and flipped to the first chapter: Bilbo’s Pilgrimage. 
“At its deepest level of meaning…The Hobbit is a pilgrimage of grace, in which its protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, becomes grown-up in the most important sense, which is the growth in wisdom and virtue.  Throughout the course of his adventure – and every pilgrimage is an adventure – the hobbit develops the habit of virtue and grows in sanctity.  Thus The Hobbit illustrates the priceless truth that we only become wise men when we realize that we are pilgrims on a purposeful journey through life.” 
Suffice it to say that my interest was very much awakened.
“…The Hobbit parallels The Lord of the Rings in the mystical suggestiveness of its treatment of Divine Providence, and serves as moral commentary on the words of Christ that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  In these… aspects, it can truly be said of The Hobbit, as Tolkien said of The Lord of the Rings, that it is “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work. 
“On one level, Bilbo’s journey from the homely comfort of the Shire to the uncomfortable lessons learned on the Lonely Mountain, in parallel with Frodo’s journey from the Shire to Mount Doom, is a mirror of Everyman’s journey through life… We are meant to see ourselves reflected in the character of Bilbo Baggins and our lives reflected in his journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.”

I was completely struck.  I had never thought of The Hobbit in this way before. That Bilbo’s journey was like the journey of life, the journey that everyone must make.  I immediately thought of how silly it had been for me to be mad at Bilbo for leaving his home!  The adventure was necessary for him, it enabled to grow up and become a much better person.  It was extremely selfish to want him to just be occupied with his own affairs and not care about the dwarves’ business at all.  In fact, that is what the book went on to say:
“The Hobbit begins with Bilbo’s desire for comfort and his unwillingness to sacrifice himself for others.  His heart is essentially self-centered, surrounding itself with the treasure of his own home, an ironic and symbolic prefiguring of Smaug’s surrounding himself with treasure in his “home” in the Lonely Mountain.  Bilbo, on a microcosmic scale, is, therefore, nothing less than a figure and prefigurement of Smaug the dragon.  He is a afflicted with the dragon sickness.  His pilgrimage to the Lonely Mountain is the means by which he will be cured of this materialist malady.  It is a via dolorosa, a path of suffering, the following of which will heal him of his self-centeredness and teach him to give himself self-sacrificially to others.”
Wow.  Bilbo was actually afflicted with the dragon sickness, and when I was little I had wanted him to just stay at home and suffer from it.  That sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? :P  I was now awakened to the foolishness of a lot of those earlier day-dreams and could see a glimpse of the truth, beauty, and meaning behind Tolkien’s writing. 

The little bit of this book that I was able to read before my brother took it back to college with him opened my eyes to some very important truths.  I had some “reality” thrown into my dreamland.  I begin to see, more clearly than before, how important suffering was. How it was necessary to have obstacles in your life so you could overcome them on your way to eternity, and how good those things actually are.  So this commentary on The Hobbit planted the seed, but then what really strengthened it and caused the seed to blossom was reading The Lord of the Rings. 

The Lord of the Rings taught me to really grow up.  It showed me courage and bravery in a whole new light. It showed me Sam and Frodo, struggling against incredible odds to accomplish a deed that seemed impossible. It showed me how “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  It showed me the rewards for perseverance and not giving up.     It showed me incredible characters that I could imitate. It called me step out of myself and start taking risks.  To leave my comfort zone. “To become who you were born to be.”  It urged me to stand up for what's right. “There’s a lot of good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
"We all face our daily dragons and we must all defend ourselves from them and hopefully slay them.  The sobering reality is that we must either fight the dragons that we encounter in life or become dragons ourselves.  There is no "comfortable" alternative."   ~ Bilbo's Journey

I owe a lot to J.R.R. Tolkien.  And Joseph Pearce.  They have both shown me so much, and helped me to grow in ways I could never have imagined before.  Courage and trials inspire me so, so much now.  I have a stronger appreciation for the deeper things of life – the real things.  Like when I was watching The Scarlet and the Black the other night for the second time. Man, all those WWII stories just blow you away. When you find out at the end, that Colonel Kappler, the Nazi Gestapo, actually converted to the Catholic faith after Fr. O'Flaherty was his only visiter in prison... It's amazing.  I love being inspired by those kinds of things now, and I have Tolkien to thank for opening up the doors for me.  For showing me how important it is to leave your comfort zone and get out and do things.
"The wizard's unexpected arrival is connected to his desire to wake Bilbo up from his cozy slumbers.  In doing so, he also wakes us up from ours. It is for this reason that he wishes to send Bilbo on an adventure, which, he informs the hobbit, will be "very good for you–and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it." Bilbo is not convinced.  He has "no use for adventures," which are "uncomfortable things."  Little does he know it, but the fact that adventures are uncomfortable is the very reason for their usefulness. Gandalf wants to remove Bilbo from his comfort zone so that the hobbit can experience reality in its full and expansive richness.  Bilbo needs to venture beyond his home, which is an extension of his self, in order to experience the truth that is beyond himself and grow in the space that it provides.  In short, the purpose of Gandalf's visit is to help Bilbo grow-up."   (Bilbo's Journey) 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Making Memories (vol. 1)

I really think that is what summer should be for.  Memories of good times with the people we love, of new places traveled to, of inspiring beauty, of joyous laughter, of hard work well done.  And I've been incredibly blessed to be able to make a lot of these kind of memories so far this summer.

It makes me think of when Frodo told Sam, "You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do." That's what I felt like, going into summer. I really do have so much to enjoy and to be and to do.

So I'm sorry that my blog has been pushed to the background, but that has to happen every once in a while and I really feel like that break was very good for me. Now I'm popping up out of my hole, back into the blogging world again. And so much has happened I don't even know where to start.

I've gone to two different (very different) summer camps, and the one at Christendom College was probably the best week of my life.

That summer program was absolutely amazing. Peregrin wrote a fantastic post about the week that you should all hop over and read if you haven't yet.  She just knows how to word things perfectly. ♥♥  And it was so lovely to meet her and have fun together at Christendom. :)

There were so many things about that week that I just want to treasure for the rest of my life. 

I'll always remember...

- the fantastically amazing and super fun counselors 
- the wonderful people I got to meet
- the bowling fun our first night, and the ice cream
- discussing the philosophical question: Can a dog be happy? with the most amazing professor ever
- winning $5 from said professor for identifying a nighthawk swooping through the air at a barn dance
- jamming to Lotr music along Skyline Dr. in a crowded van with Peregrin 
- hiking to the top of a mountain for some astounding views
- trading and sharing clothes with fellow girls right and left -– coming from a girl with no sisters, let me just say that living with a bunch of girls for a week was just so delightful :)
- singing the beautiful Prayer of St. Augustine for the talent show with my three lovely friends from Michigan 
- canoeing on the Shenandoah river
- swing dancing in an 1800's barn to jolly Irish tunes
- THE VIRGINIA REEL...it does not deserved anything less than caps... most fun thing ever
- daily Mass and adoration in the chapel
- choir practice every day, and the chance to sing such beautiful hymns in the chapel for our last Mass
- amazing classes with amazing professors: literature, history, philosophy, theology – I can't even say which was my favorite
- late night conversations with my awesome roommates
- listening to the coolest debate ever, put on by the Chester-Belloc debate society one night, with everything reminding me of Chesterton's time and just blown away by the awesomeness of it all
- having SO much fun at the talent show, laughing oh so hard – that was one of the best nights, and it even ending with dancing before we went and crashed into bed
- and then the Friday night dance in the Commons that was even decked out with lights, where everyone knew how to dance so much better than earlier in the week
- having a Rosary-candlelight procession late at night
-sitting around the bonfire the last night, toasting marshmallows and listening to touching spiels from counselors
- staying up till 3:30 a.m., signing dog-books and savoring some of the last moments we would have together

The Irish sing-alongs we had were totally fantastic: these songs below bring back so many fond memories. And singing them in a barn with fiddles and a real Irish dancer, and swaying together in lines as we belt out the chorus... I'm missing those times so much now.  Do I need to say that I've become really, really in love with Irish music?

This is the awesomely-hilarious head counselor we all enjoyed so much. :)

And look who's here!  It's the promised picture of Peregrin and I (with one other friend, Rose, on the left. :))

As a skit for the talent show, I performed John Branyan's Shakespearean three little pigs, which was a lot of fun.

thank you to Peregrin for these last two pictures :)

The Friday night swing dance, view from the balcony of the Commons.  Isn't it just gorgeous? 

The whole thing was truly an experience I'll never forget.  Ever. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ramblings on things I love

Back in May, Iris and Rachel were so kind as to nominate me for some more Liebster questions.  I was fully meaning to respond to them, but then one thing happened after another, and the time just slipped away.  I've been so busy this June, and will continue to be busy (as I get ready to go to VA in a few days!), so I wasn't able to answer all the questions but I did really want to address this one of them.  I always have so much to say about books. :)    

What movie/book has impacted you the most, and why?  

- Currently, for books, it definitely would be A Tale of Two Cities.  (*Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't read it!*)  That ending just shows such powerful self-sacrifice and love… it just blew my mind.  The guy who was drinking and wasting his life away, actually turned around and sacrificed himself so a loving family wouldn’t be broken up by the guillotine.  It really, really touched me, and just the love manifested in so many parts of the book, like between Charles and Lucie.  But there was also that underlying belief at the end that what would make a life worth living, would be one where you left people who actually cared about you.  That you’ve done something worthwhile so that they love you, and will always hold you in fond remembrance. 
“If you could say, with truth, to your own solitary heart, tonight, “I have secured to myself the love and attachment, the gratitude or respect, of no human creature; I have won myself a tender place in no regard; I have done nothing good or serviceable to be remembered by!” your seventy-eight years would be seventy-eight curses; would they not?’ 
‘You say truly, Mr. Carton;  I think they would be.’ 
Sidney Carton comes to realize how important and rewarding is service of others, and while he despairs in himself and believes he can never depart from his path of waste and gluttony, he still wants to do something that will be remembered.  This leads him to perform the supreme sacrifice: that of laying down his life for a friend.  
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’
Man, I just cried buckets of tears over this ending.  It was both happy and sad, and so so inspiring.  Just amazing. ♥♥♥♥♥

*  *  *
 “They said of him, about the city that night, that it was the peacefullest man’s face ever beheld there.  Many added that he looked sublime and prophetic.  One of the most remarkable sufferers by the same axe – a woman – had asked at the foot of the same scaffold, not long before, to be allowed to write down the thoughts that were inspiring her.  If he had given an utterance to his, and they were prophetic,, they would have been these:

‘I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use.  I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out. 

I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more.  I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name.  I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace.  I see the good old man, so long their friends, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward. 

I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence.  I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day.  I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honoured and held sacred in the other’s soul, than I was in the souls of both. 

‘I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine.  I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his.  I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away.  I see him, foremost of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place – then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day’s disfigurement – and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice. 

‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’  
~ A Tale of Two Cities


- For movies, the one that has impacted me a lot lately is Lord of the Rings.  I finally got to watch all three of those!!! And wow, there is just too much to say about them.  Aragorn is really, really fantastic, and I love Samwise too, and Legolas, and Eowyn, and just everybody. ;)  They bring the books to life so well, making it totally feel like you're in Middle Earth.  The New Zealand landscape is mind-blowing... The snow-covered peaks, Rivendell, Hobbiton...  Now I really really want to go to New Zealand some day! 

The story behind how they made the film is fascinating too, and how the actors had to go through many hardships and difficulties.  It was like they were truly on the quest through Middle Earth with the Fellowship in real life! 

Man, there are just so many things you can take away from those movies.  One of my favorite lines is when Elrond gives Aragorn the sword of Isildur and says, "Put aside the ranger.  Become who you were born to be."

Each one of us can really take that to heart.  We each have a purpose God is calling us to fulfill; we each have the responsibility of becoming who God meant us to be.  And the whole story is just such a testimony of how individuals have big roles to play and they can make a difference.  I love when Galadriel tells Frodo, "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."  

There's SO much you could say about these movies, so much to take away from them and learn from and be inspired by.

"There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for." ~ Samwise Gamgee


Of course I have been inspired by many, many other books and movies, but these two stand out in what I have read and watched recently.  So now I want to ask you, What movie/book has impacted you the most recently, and why? :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summertime: Plans

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


I am so, so delighted that June has come.  This time of year does kind of feel like we're starting out afresh, with life just beginning, doesn't it?  The whole season of warm sunny days seems laid out at our feet, ready for what we will.  And planning what to do in summer is just one of my favorite things. :)

This summer holds so much excitement for me, guys, it's really going to be crazy.  And I mean crazy.  But crazy in a very fun way. ;)  My grandma from the West coast arrived tonight for a visit and stays till Tuesday... my uncle, aunt, and cousins from Washington State fly in a few days after for the next weekend... Oh and I've got the ACT that Saturday...  And then I have a space of three days before I depart with a car load of girls from my area heading to the Christendom summer program in Virginia. (AND Peregrin will be there too. :D  Isn't that just awesome!?!  I am soooooo excited for that week that all the exclamation points in the world couldn't express it, so I'll contain myself. xP)

But it doesn't stop there.  Once the second week of July rolls around I'll be off for a week of SSI summer camp at Michigan's capital - Media track this time! :)  (I got accepted!)

After that, the list of planned things on the calendar slows down.  Then it will really be time to pull out that summer to-do list, and reading list, and get started.  Although I'll definitely find time to read before this too. ;)


That's one of my big goals for this summer: to read lots and lots of books.  

- First up will be Brideshead Revisited!  I even have the book checked out from the library, and it currently has been residing on my dresser.  I am so excited to get started! :)


- I got this lovely Jane Austen set for my birthday back in May, and I've already read four out of the six, but this summer it'll be time to dig into Mansfield Park and Northhanger Abbey.  (Yay for Austen! :D Gotta love her books.)


- Les Miserables.  That's my big summer project.  Probably won't start it till July, but that'll still leave me with plenty of time.  Big books daunt me a little, sometimes, but I really need to get this one under my belt.  Wish me luck!

- The Chronicles of Narnia.  Of course I've read them all before, but it's been awhile so I'd like to go through 'em again.  Especially I want to re-read The Last Battle.  

- There are billions of other books I need to read too... Yeah, I know I've said that before. :P  Once I get the ones I just mentioned finished, I'l probably start on Great Expectations.  But I'm going to leave the rest of my summertime books free and open to whatever whim I have at that time.  Whatever I feel like reading. :)

So, so many books, and so little time.  But that's partly what summer's for, right? ;)


Don't get the idea that my summer will be entirely books, books, books though.  It won't be at all.  No matter how long a reading list I make, my summers are never very occupied by that.  There are too many other important things to be done.  

This summer is going to be for making new friends, and growing closer to old ones... 
for playing ultimate frisbee and laughing around bonfires...
for roaming the woods and photographing flowers...
for watching the kittens grow and training the goats...
for tending the garden and harvesting its fruits...
for enjoying time with family members I haven't seen in years...
for a taste of college classes and the Shenandoah mountains...
for baking lots of cookies and trying something new...
for going to the beach and lying in the sun...
for spending time with my brothers and joking together...
for drawing lots of pictures and writing down my thoughts...
for having friends over and watching movies...
for pulling out the sewing machine and seeing what I can do...
for early morning runs and afternoon canoe rides...
for smiles and fun with the people I love...

for making memories.

It won't be perfect of course, but I'm ready to welcome summer with open arms.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Life Lately and Inspirations

The spring is really just flying by.  I cannot believe June is nearly upon us!

May has been such a busy time here at the farm.  Goats, chicks, kittens, planting the garden – definitely a lot going on!  (And two hot air balloons sailing over one day.  I LOVE the reflection in the pond that I captured. ♥) (And yes, I know this has nothing to do with busyness.  It was just one of those awesome little moments.)

Isn't all that green just so, so lovely too?  I am so excited that summer is practically here. :D  I got to go on a fun shopping excursion with my mom the other day, buying some lovely new summer skirts and blouses. 


Right now I wanted to take the time to share links to some wonderful posts from this past week that really inspired me.

Clare over at Come Further Up wrote a beautiful reflection on what the perfect life really is: My Life is Perfect (and I Bet Yours is Too)

Rachel shared some extremely motivating words on getting away from the technology and living our lives to the fullest for God:  life is either a great adventure, or nothing

Samantha Joan wrote a wonderful piece on stepping away from all the emptiness that the world offers and listening to God.  Just beautiful. ♥ : thoughts come naturally at the sea 

And Peregrin had a lovely, summery post with an awesome list for the warm days that we can all take inspiration from: these happy golden days


And I'll leave you with some adorable pictures of the fast-growing kittens. 

starting to wrestle!  Can you believe it?

I love, love, love the little grey one's face...

Aren't they all just so sweet...

And now tomorrow it'll be time to go buy lots of flowers and plant my Mary Garden!   Have a wonderful weekend, lovely people. :)