“Nativity” by Brian Kershisnik. Used by permission.
This Advent I’m instructed and cheered by “Nativity,” a painting by Brian Kershisnik. A detail of the painting, framing Mary and Joseph and child, appeared on the cover of The Christian Century and I was immediately struck by the curious crowding-in angels and then by Joseph. Oh my, yes, Joseph with his hand to his face and a “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” look. At least that’s what I see in the gesture. I recognize that look, that question. It’s one I’ve had rather too often in the last while about things I’m “into.” Such as this stage of life –getting older, that is– and the current writing project and the book-juror assignment I’ve committed to for the months ahead. Anguished hand to face for matters one can’t change, and for matters to which one has said Yes. Continue reading
H. and I saw a remarkable documentary at Canadian Mennonite University last evening. Besa: The Promise told a story I’d not known, of Muslims in Albania taking in and saving Jews during World War II. It seemed unexpected, surprising actually, that this would have happened–Muslims and Jews are enemies, aren’t they?–and the more inspiring because of it.
Besa refers to an Albanian honor code: one opens the door to a knock, one offers safety to refugees, one keeps one’s word. Several stories played within the larger story: the narrative of the German invasion and hunt for Jews with commentary from elderly survivors and their Muslim hosts; a Jewish photographer’s quest to honor via portraits the Albanians who’d responded so nobly and at great danger to themselves in those evil times; and most compellingly, a Muslim man’s attempt to fulfill a promise made between his late father and his wartime Jewish guest. Since I hope others will see the film, I won’t say more about that particular promise. Continue reading
Christmas was spent in Toronto. We had a wonderful time with Second Son and family; just the granddaughters’ expressive joy over their gifts alone was worth the airfare. The four-year-old’s top wish was an Elsa doll, of the Frozen movie franchise, which she duly received from her parents, as well as the Anna doll. We’d gone to see Frozen after it came out, on account of our grandchildren’s interest, and it had seemed to me that Anna, with her act of sisterly love, was the heroine of the story. I noticed that the girls of my acquaintance were more strongly attracted to Elsa, the princess who turns the kingdom into snow and ice, however. When I puzzled aloud about this, my daughter-in-law explained (and the four-year-old confirmed), “It’s because Elsa has the power.” Hmm; interesting.
While in Toronto, H. and I also went to see the Alex Colville exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I’m intrigued by Colville’s paintings for several reasons, not the least of which is the way they suggest stories, though not telling them as much as demanding I create them myself from what’s set in the frame. What happened? one wonders. What’s going to happen next? And why this moment? Continue reading