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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What is faith?

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It's there, hiding, across the Red Cedar River,
under trees, behind the couple walking


Professor Ellison looked even older than he was. He was tall, like Ichabod Crane, lanky, bony, with disheveled gray hair, goatee, and always with enthusiastic drool at the corners of his mouth as he talked fast, but his spirit and enthusiasm were as youthful as any of the college students he taught freshman composition.

His office was next to mine all the way at the end of the long corridor in Wonders Hall. His department had moved him to our wing from his secluded corner of an old building, because they were afraid he might die and no one would find him for days.

But they couldn’t have known him as I came to know him. Seven years in the 1990s I worked as an administrative assistant (secretary) next door to Professor Ellison. His bountiful and energetic joy radiated to all of us who encountered him while he came in for his brief office hours twice a week. What a relief from the stony, dour insolence of some professors. Some students and colleagues found him merely laughable when he rode his old English bicycle with a makeshift basket to campus and to class from his office, wiry gray hair splayed from under his helmet, and even more so on the days he strapped on roller blades. Even I didn’t know whether to laugh in glee, weep in poignancy, or cheer Whoopeee! when I saw him teeter-walk like a toddler plodding, not gliding, on those roller blades down the carpeted hall after dousing his hair under the stream of water from the drinking fountain and mopping it from his head with his sleeves. “Hellooo, Ruuuth!” he crooned as he cautiously leaned on, felt and stepped his hands along the wall, supporting himself all the way to me at our end of the hall as if I were his female trapeze artist partner waiting for him, urging him on, while drool or drinking fountain water ran down his cheeks and chin. His eyes flickered and twinkled like blinking lights at the county fair on those wild and spider-leggy rides. His smile never disappeared, a foul word never dropped from his lips.

It just so happened that it was in those days that I began taking classes to finish my BA via the generous educational assistance offered at my university to secretaries and other union members. I got to take fourteen credits a year for free. I began with two American Lit classes, reading Hawthorne, Irving, Cooper. On I waded deep across the Atlantic into Brit Lit and Conrad, Joyce and Woolf. Finally I came to poetry writing and five classes with Diane Wakoski. I worked on poems on my lunch hour and off and on through the workday tweaking a word here and there, surrounded by inspirational poems from Bishop, Blake, Williams and Bukowski I’d printed and taped on the wall in front of my desk and on the file cabinet. It was a time in my life journey of great spiritual searching and angst, which got written into my poems, a time of losing faith, and hoping to find it again. The writing was the door I went through, the room where I could light altar candles in front of old statues of the past, and whisper chilled prayers for my nearly hollow soul.

Professor Ellison was ceaselessly interested in my class work. We were very fond of each other, plus I was a nontraditional (older) student, unlike his first year freshmen he taught writing, and he eagerly asked first thing every morning about the critical analysis papers I was writing for English classes. He taught me to stop writing I think . . . and just write my thoughts directly. What I write is obviously what I think! As I moved into poetry writing, he was my main reader besides Don, and what a help he was. He didn’t know my story as Don did, and so he was the objective reader every writer needs, to tell you if they “get it” just from your words on the page.

One day, I sat at my desk doing something or other, and Prof. Ellison poked his head in the door with his bright, moist cheer, “Ruth! Have you seen the aconite?!”

“The wha?

“Aconite, winter aconite! It’s blooming over by the river!”

After his pleasant dismay that I had never heard of nor witnessed this precious secret, Professor Ellison educated me about the tiny yellow flower that grows on vines close to the ground under a tree over by the Red Cedar River, in the Beal garden created and named for the famous botanist Professor William J. Beal. It first pokes its yellow blooms up through snow in February. I promised him I would check it out.

This photo was taken
two years ago in February,
when rain had melted the snow

I did, and there it was, a yellow and green surprise alive in the snow, first sign of spring. It inspired a poem, a little haiku, which I turned in for class, and happily Professor Wakoski thought it was successful. For me, this haiku and its title “Faith,” symbolizes an important turning point in my life, from leaving the religious faith of my past that had darkened into a long winter of confining and frustrating emptiness. As I learned to write, with the generous contributions of three professors, something eternal began to sprout.

Yesterday I walked over from my office (in the English department where I graduated) to the river to find aconite again, and there it was, the same small answer, like my poem.


Faith

Faith is aconite
rising in February
warm in the snow bed.




These photos were taken yesterday.


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87 comments:

Patricia said...

Thank you for this warm and gentle posting on the first day of Lent. No I am not religious but my past still haunts me. The bright yellow and greens remind me of Mardi Gras colors, sans purple.
So good of you to have cherished this aged scholar. Thanks for the memories.

Maureen said...

A beautiful remembrance and potrait of your friend, Ruth. Your haiku is lovely.

May peace be with you in the Lenten season.

Bruce Barone said...

Thank You for sharing.

I am reminded of the last few lines of a poem I wrote years ago:

a dream of one
peacock singing
slow and beautiful
to me
songs in moonlight
in a field she
sings a short way
it is turn left
cross the bridge
the castle is
close the castle
is always
just down the road

~BB

Bonnie said...

Hi there, my sister in the quest for meaning,understanding, hope and acceptance ...
I posted today too and on my blog roll I see my post listed as:
"...faith..."
and then yours listed as:
"What is Faith?"

I love how you ask questions as an invitation to explore and discover rather than as a suggestion that you hold the answer (in accord with therapeutic and philosophic modes of thought). Faith is surely one realm where the answer cannot be given, but must be found ... by each of us ... alone. Then we can come together to explore and support each other's discoveries and development.

Sweet memories of your professor and the undeniable implications of buds we can count on to show their tender, unflinching, reliable faces in Spring.

So much here that I would love to discuss with you Ruth.

Loring Wirbel said...

I have been reading haiku out the wazoo in the last month, but this lovely piece trumps all.

Faith is something I constantly have trouble with, along the old works-grace-faith axis. As a militant Enlightenment-ist, I always want to say that knowledge through rational analysis always trumps knowledge through faith or authority, when the two collide or converge. But that can lead to its own set of troubles, as you well know. I guess part of the problem is that most 21st-century humans who rely foremost on faith, only know of the blind variety.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Lovely.
All.

Babs-beetle said...

What a lovely story! Sounds like he was a very interesting man!

Barb said...

Those tiny flowers are like faith, Ruth - blooming in a cold stillness to offer a glimmer of hope (that spring will finally come). Here is a line I love from your story: "writing was the door I went through"
Your Professor Ellison was one of a kind.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

It is funny, I just came over from Bonnie's after leaving a comment on her post "Faith", and find this thoroughly captivating and enchanting description of Prof. Ellison and where you were in your life when he came into it. Ah, faith, how we learn it, leave it, question, seek, despair over, embrace and cherish it. As I just commented at Bonnie's, I so very long ago concluded that I am a deep believer, but have no idea in what. Faith? So much to say on that, all wrapped up with the huge questions we ask ourselves. Your special gift, Ruth, is that you somehow know how to look for little blosssming answers to those big rumbling questions and find them in unexpected places, like the aconite and the lovely haiku it inspired in you.

who said...

what is behind them, a shark, a bench, an atrium, or irregular V-arena greater than 15 degrees off Angel

deb colarossi said...

You are a wonder.

I thank you . once again.


( and I love your shoes )

deb colarossi said...

just a few sentences into the post prior...
caught the word wonder .

I love when that happens.

Char said...

what a beautiful story from your experiences - i loved it and wished for a professor too. i've never seen those sweet little flowers - i wonder if they grow this far south.

George said...

Lovely, Ruth. How I would have liked to have known Professor Ellison! I am contented, however, in knowing you as I do. For those of us who are sometimes fixated on the light snow burden that seems to render the world opaque and incomprehensible, you are the aconite, your words always breaking through with yellow reminders that life is always in a process of renewal. Death and resurrection is not an isolated moment assigned to a single person representing a single religion; it is the pulsating nature of every moment of every life — mine, yours, that of the exquisite flower that inspired this post.

Evelyn said...

Wonderful story and wonderful pictures.
Just wonderful.

Cait O'Connor said...

The haiku was all the more poignant because of what you had written above it. Thank you.

Lilith said...

He sounds like an amazing man who was alive. Love the flowers.

Ruth said...

Patricia, it seems that many of us are in the "not religious by my past still haunts me" club, at least I have met quite a few here.

Prof. Ellison was a rare bird, and I'm fortunate to have known him.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Maureen. Peace to you also. It's a time of growing light!

Ruth said...

Beautiful, Bruce. Maybe it is the interior castle?

Ruth said...

Bonnie, our timing and thoughts are nothing short of synch-ro-nous. :-) Your posting of David Whyte's poem beautifully expresses my feeling for so long. I sat in the wilderness for a long, long time, keeping just a sliver of possibility open. Since then (sometime after discovering aconite) my faith has expanded beyond even the window of the sky, it's that big. My faith in human spirit, to what I think of as god within, has grown immense. And my faith in Life, and our capacity to live within it, and it live within us, is growing every day. This dear Professor is one of the reasons I have this strong faith in something beyond us that we participate in. Oh yes, wouldn't it be wonderful to sit and chat.

Ruth said...

Loring, that's awfully nice to say about my haiku! Thank you.

I guess anything blind is not a good idea, if it can be helped, blind faith, or blind reason. Keeping an open heart and mind is far more important than being right.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Pamela. I had a good time reminiscing about the professor.

Ruth said...

Babs, you'da loved him. You should have heard him tell stories.

Ruth said...

Barb, I thought it was quite extraordinary when I found out that flowers would come up in February, long before crocus. The ground isn't even thawed yet. Finding their warm yellow in the snow is some sort of lesson that I'm still contemplating. Thank you for your kind visit.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, it felt like a sweet yellow aconite sprouting on my sidebar when I posted this and immediately saw Bonnie's "faith" title there. As you described the in and out and up and down of faith, I could see my life before my eyes. When a person gets as attached to forms as I did, it takes great effort to peel them away to the root that I always felt was there. Maybe being free of those forms lets me see Life in just about anything. In fact, I prefer seeing it in ordinary things. I am very grateful for the way you welcome my expressions of that.

Ruth said...

Dusti, they are walking right between the river and Beal gardens. You'd love Beal gardens. It's fascinating to walk through and see the plant specimens in different seasons. There's even a saguaro that has a padlock on it to hold it together, so it doesn't split (into a V). :-)

Ruth said...

Deb, see? That's what you do. You make things happen. And that is a wonder too.

Ruth said...

Char, I believe winter aconite (eranthus) is mostly in northern North American and Northern Europe, so maybe not. All parts of them are poisonous, Media tried to kill Theseus by putting aconite in his wine. But they are sweet to look at, aren't they. And your comment is very sweet too.

Ruth said...

George, there is much around us to jade and blind us. I find that I just can't live without some sliver of hope and inspiration. Within just a couple of days I find my spirits lag without it. I am inspired by friends like you, by Nature, by all things that carry Life. What you wrote at Lorenzo's sweet post about Isabel's music, and all art, that it provides "the repair and regeneration of life" struck me powerfully, and gave me reason to keep looking for beauty to share. Your appreciation means so very much to me.

Ruth said...

Thank you and welcome, Evelyn. I just love these memories.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Cait. I so appreciate you reading here today.

Ruth said...

Hi, Lilith, yes, "alive" describes him perfectly. He wanted everyone to know the wonders of the world.

The Bug said...

I already loved the story, but I laughed in delight when he poked his head in your door & asked if you'd seen the aconite. I posted a picture of aconite on my blog on Saturday & someone asked what it was (pretty yellow flower was all I knew) - so Dr. M researched it & found its name. And now here it is again on Wednesday. Cool!

erin said...

Faith is also Professor Ellison on roller blades
and you too
with a poem.

His kind of beauty - I remember it and never got close enough to it. Imagine being it one day. Oh, that would be a good life.

Absolutely enjoyed this. And what a journey you've been on!

xo
erin

Shari Sunday said...

I liked reading this. You provided a lot of insight into a part of your life I haven't heard about and I felt I really knew you as you were then. And created a great characterization of a real life character. It must seem like a little miracle when the whole word seems seems frozen and white, to brush back the snow and see that bright little yellow flower bursting through the dirt. It makes me think of hope as well as faith.

Dan Gurney said...

Being a teacher, I am an easy mark for teacher stories. Yours is wonderful, wonderful.

I left a comment on Bonnie's blog about faith. We have a whole lot more faith than we realize, especially if we've just "lost" faith in Christianity, as I did, gee, 47 years ago.

But even when we lose that specific instance of faith, we still have a lot of faith: we swim in faith like fish in water.

Who among us does not have faith that the sun will appear over the horizon tomorrow morning?

Oliag said...

I just have to plant some winter aconite somewhere!

I am speechless in love with your poem and your story of faith and friendship...

Margaret said...

I glimpsed this post this morning and had to come back. I'm really busy, but this really touched my heart. I have memories as well of people who heavily influenced me and I treasure that feeling tucked inside me that is, well part of who I am now. Faith is a funny thing as people seem to want to define it, but it is different for each person, really. How it is understood and applied to their lives. And it changes, as it should as we grow older - Some people scoff at it, but I think it is because they have narrowly defined it... Very interesting post and I love your haiku.

ds said...

I love your Professor Ellison.I can see him with his "enthusiastic drool"--priceless phrase. If you had only given us that, we would have recognized him, but you gave so much more. As you always do. The aconite and faith; your beautiful haiku.

I picture you in your office, covering your walls, your files, your self in poems. So many different kinds of faith, Ruth. So few Professor Ellisons.

All that, and blue shoes :D

Ruth said...

Dana, I went back and saw your aconite, somehow I missed it! It's easy to do, so tiny. :-) I just don't know how it pushes up through the frozen ground. But every year, there it is. I have great faith in aconite.

Ruth said...

erin, you have a wonderful mind-heart. Yes, Professor Ellison is faith, and joy, and love, and hope, and great intelligence, and curiosity for everything. If I had not had an office next to his, I wouldn't have had the chance to know him. Thank you, my friend.

Ruth said...

Shari, thank you for reading this story, about me and Professor Ellison. I wish I could pull up every conversation with him, because there was a lot of insight and wisdom from him, and I'm sure some of it got lot on me. I'd like to rewind. Yes, there is much hope in those tiny flowers, bumping up through frozen ground. The sobering thing is, what do they get when they break through? Cold and snow! I keep thinking about that.

Ruth said...

Dan, I think you are right, that some of us who have left behind the forms of Christianity have found intense faith within and without us. I love how you put it: we swim in faith like fish in water. That's really it. I said to Bonnie here that my faith is as big as the sky now, but reading your comment I am realizing it is because I am in faith, not the other way around! Thank you for that sight! All around is faithfulness, and faith, and that is the world I want to participate in, choose, express, and revel in.

Ruth said...

Oliag, always, you welcome me like this, and I you. What a gift you are.

Ruth said...

Margaret, how wonderful that you came and read in your busyness! Thank you.

I have so enjoyed our conversations at the Rilke blog, we of many different "faiths" -- some with faith in they know not what. When I left the church, I did not turn my face away from God. I just turned away from the forms I had known. Faith is bigger than I ever imagined, as you and others here have attested. Turning our faces to Light and Love and Light, believing there is something better than the pain and suffering (and I don't mean the kind in Nature), a reason to move on, and live.

It's beautiful that you treasure those who have shaped your life. No doubt you are raising your children to appreciate their people treasures too.

Ruth said...

ds, you are there with me, aren't you? That is a gift you give. I wish I had known you then. I would have had a friend to talk about books with, all those books I read then and somehow didn't keep up the practice like I'd wish.

Oh you should have seen my walls. :-) My work colleagues seemed entertained by it all. I was fortunate to be in the kind of office where we didn't have to pretend to be busy with work when there wasn't any. And my boss, wow, she's another great story maybe I'll tell one day . . . she gave me release time for classes, because she so thoroughly believed in bettering ourselves and giving women, everyone really, every chance possible to do that. She knew I would leave her, and she pushed me on like a little bird.

Pauline said...

haiku as lovely as its subject!

Susan said...

Your story of Professor Ellison, your writing mentor, is forever embedded in my mind. What richness we sometimes miss if we don't take the time to listen to eccentric souls such as your friend. I love that he (seemingly) paid no mind to those who might have thought him foolish or crazy. What a zest for life he has!

I have always seen that vine in the woods, but have never seen the flower, except in your posts! I really have to get outside more in February. Want to take a walk with me? :)

Ruth said...

Thank you for your short, sweet comment, in kind Pauline. :-)

Ruth said...

Susie, my dear friend, your comment made me thing that it's probably encounters with the eccentric people and things that arrest our attention and make a greater impact, although the long, sustained presence of a warm, loving friend can be equally powerful. I'd love to take a walk with you, even in a March rain.

Dutchbaby said...

I have no doubt that Professor Ellison treasured your unconditional love. My mother's eccentricity has served as a fine filter over the years. We know that those who love her without judgment are the real deal and genuine in their friendship. You are the Real Deal, Ruth.

In turn, Ellison rewarded you with his aconite. I appreciate that you now share it with us in this magical fashion. Your words and photos give me faith in the kindness in people, even if sometimes one has to wait a long time for the snow to melt.

Dutchbaby said...

I spent a long time yesterday drinking in your Fantin-Latour post. The iPad I borrowed from my husband not only cropped the painting in a most unfortunate fashion, deleting the lemons and most of the rhododendron - leaving the white tablecloth impossibly unbalanced, it also ate my lengthy response. I'm so happy your poem led me to click and find the rest of the painting.

blueoran said...

What a wonderful, warm memoir and bildungrsoman and witness to a faith arising from snow. I was an older student as I finished my BA in English (over 8 years of night school), old enough to enjoy the sort of conversation you mention above (my Ellison was a Chaucerian named Phelan who was and is a fierce protector of the Wekiva River) and enjoy numerous rounds of The Fight Club with others (the department chair, an arrogant Irish prick, thought Spencer and Shakespeare were poor cousins to Ben Jonson -- boy did we have it out ... You're luck to have studied poetry with Wakowski ... in "Faith", "aconite" makes me think of "anchorite," finding youth and faith even in winter -- like your friend and mentor Ellison). Fine, fine write. And the lead pic is halcyon, so saturated with blue. -- Brendan

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, how nice you are.

I tend to warm up to people quickly. Too quickly often. This sometimes results in having to avert my attentions elsewhere when I should have been more cautious. But in Prof. Ellison's case, he only got better upon closer inspection.

Have you noticed how much better looking people get when you grow to love them more? First impressions can be unimpressive, or impress you the wrong way. But when a person's genuine beauty comes forth, how they look or act or present themselves becomes endearing.

Yes, that painting of Fantin-Latour's I had loaded "original size" but in Internet Explorer it was cut off. I have reduced it to "extra large" now. He is the perfect artist for you, with all those flower arrangements. I could see you arranging flowers inspired by his paintings then photographing them . . .

Ruth said...

Brendan, they say youth is wasted on the young, and I think college is in many cases too.

I annoyed a lot of traditional students with my eagerness and occasional insights that came out of experience. Aren't English professors just a hoot? Some take themselves awfully seriously and become caricatures of themselves, fitting for much of the literature they teach, yet they never see it.

Prof. Wakoski is teaching her last semester now, and we are sending her off in a big way. She really shaped my life in more ways than writing.

Thank you for your lovely feedback.

Friko said...

It is amazing, we know nothing of each other, we have never met and we will never meet.

Yet a whole world connects us.

I finished answering a questionnaire on my personal beliefs yesterday and so much of what you say here went through my head while I was doing so.

My woodland garden is full of aconites at the moment. I hadn't thought of seeing them as 'faith' but of course they are. Faith in the continuation of life, the annual rebirth, the tiny golden light in the drab carpet of brown leaves left after last summer's death.

So many times I want to stop blogging and get down to serious writing and reading again, so many hours are wasted reading meaningless posts, and worse, commenting on them, and then there are you, writing a post with which I can identify on a level I would never have thought possible in blogland.

Blogging is bad for me. You are bad for me, you are a reason for staying here, in the virtual world.

Jeanie said...

Well, first -- what an amazing experience to know this wonderful man. We all need someone like Professor Ellison in our lives, a joyful spirit, a cheerleader, a friend. You were so very blessed to have had him in your life.

I have never heard of aconite and I'm not even sure I've seen it. But I'm thinking a walk across the river might be in the future during the next few days. A sign of spring, I think. And I need that now so very much.

J.G. said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. How apt that you met him in Wonders Hall.

Ruth said...

Friko, maybe what we know of each other is something very essential. Our points of connection are whole worlds in themselves. What this opens up is tremendous.

For some time I felt guilty about blogging, about the time it takes, about doing my writing for it and not submitting it all around. Somewhere along the line I have realized that, for me, this is where I write, this is my sitting room and parlor and salon and front porch where I chat with friends. Maybe the bliss of these connections is a very special gift, without dirty dishes and toilet seats left up (not that you would do that). We get to enjoy one another's minds and hearts and the surprising expressions of them that take us new places but also bond us with each other. I believe how we think of these virtual connections is shifting. I mean, the revolution in Egypt would not have happened without Facebook and Twitter.

We are friends. Different sort of friends. "Good" friends in a new world.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, you never know who you'll be paired with in these spaces of your life, who will be next door. I had him for seven years!

I hope you'll let me know if you find the aconite. And you and I need to start planning a spring picnic at the Hort Gardens.

Ruth said...

J.G., I'm glad you noticed that. :-)

Thank you.

Friko said...

Thank you for your comments, Ruth, both here and over at my 'house'.

Perhaps writing here answers a need which could not be answered in the physical world. I would not, for instance, ever have told anyone about the loneliness I felt at a recent visit to the Ballet whereas writing a post about it felt the most natural thing to do. The many replies I had showed that a great number of us feel very similar.

It is possible that the bloggers whose writing gives me the most pleasure are kindred souls and that the only place we can be honest about ourselves and with each other is here.

I have started to have an occasional conversation by email, by telephone and skype with a (very) few virtual friends and have been surprised to see how closely they resemble their blog writings.

Please give my regards to Inge, if you feel like it. I hope she is well.

Marcie said...

Such a lovely tribute - both to the eternally blooming aconite and your professor.

Louise Gallagher said...

Faith is knowing that in this ethereal land of cyberspace, I will find words here that awaken me to belief beyond words.

I so appreciate you and your beautiful offerings of light and love and wisdom.

Pat said...

What a great story and a beautiful little flower. Somehow, no matter how harsh the winter, it warms my heart to know this little yellow flower survives and will bloom no matter what!

freefalling said...

I dunno what it is about you Ruth - you always make me feel like crying.
No one else does that.
Sometimes I put off reading your posts coz I'm just not ready for the emotional wrench.
What a wonderful friend you had in Professor Ellison.
Do you know the poet Bruce Dawe?
He was a lecturer at my university.
He used to eat garlic sandwiches.
He was a wonderful eccentric.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Dawe

Peter said...

I can see from the comments that you are aware that aconites are poisonous. Why are often things which are attractive, nice..., dangerous?

(I can see that you obviously bought some new shoes.) :-)

I don't think that I have really faith in anything but I believe that I have still a positive attitude to most hings and to people (including some of my old professors). Maybe I'm not even trying to find "faith". What is it really? Do we need it?

Anna said...

Ruth I don't know how much of a comment I can write here, but to tell you - this is beautiful, and deep. I enjoyed it very much, and at the same time it became very inspirational - and can be applied in our daily lives. PS 'because they were afraid he might die and no one would find him for days.' this made me laugh, but you know things happen like that, it happen to my uncle. Anna :)

Arti said...

Ruth,

My dear friend, I've been mulling over this beautiful post for days now, trying to crystalize my thoughts in an attempt to respond. Those little yellow flowers sprouting out through the winter snow look courageous and defying. Your haiku says it well, these small lives embody faith and resilience. Ruth, I deeply feel for you about discarding the faith tradition that you had 'inherited'. Yes, the practice and packaging, which are man-made, could be confining and frustrating, yet the essence and spirit could still be true and up-lifting, for that part is divine. These yellow flowers sprouting up against the odds are testimony to that. I wish you all the best in your spiritual journey. Thank you for a very personal and deeply shared post.

Julie said...

Ruth, your poem is beautiful, and I love your story of Professor Ellison. Have you ever considered writing a memoir? Yours would be way better than one I recently read. Your style is so lively and immediate. But most of all, you made me LOVE Professor Ellison!! What a joy to know people who are unique and light up every room they enter. I can just picture him on the roller blades. He also reminds me of one of my favorite professors, who always wore a crooked bow tie.

I love that your professor noticed the aconite and passed that wonder along to you. That is a true element of faith. The noticing. The appreciation. And like your poem, it is a symbol of hope, rising through the snow. Wonderful!

rauf said...

We have been boxed from childhood Ruth. i mean put in a box. i think i came out of it but believe me i have not, knowing fully well that i have been lied to. That boxed faith is still alive somewhere in me. It keeps failing me but it is still alive. This is stupidity. and i am very stupid Ruth.

Other matters of faith come and go. they are not constant. Suddenly you lose faith in something you were sure of. It hurts most when that happens. Nature is the best teacher. Nature keeps reminding you, please don't have any faith in me.

Vagabonde said...

I really enjoyed your story about Professor Ellison. He reminded me so much of an elderly southern gentleman I knew here, but he was a colonel. Wonderful person.

Now you made me work again Ruth. I tried to find the translation for “faith” because I think you use the word in a variety of ways that I don’t. In French “la foi” means that you believe in what is taught in religion (foi: Le fait de croire en Dieu, en un dogme; doctrine religieuse, adhésion à une religion.) We say in French “she is devout, she has the faith” elle est dévote, elle a la foi. So how can you have faith in the poisonous aconite ? You see my dilemma. I think that when you say ”faith” you mean “belief” or “confidence” then I can see how you can believe in flowers, in renewal by nature and flowers, but not by faith because if you pray over the aconite will it grow again or will it turn benevolent and nonpoisonous (aconitum the “queen” of poison)? No, it will need soil, nutrients and sun. Language is so interesting, so complicated and so hard to explain. You can “believe” something and it may not be so, but if you have “la foi” then no one can change your mind because la foi means you are 100% sure of it, well at least in the French meaning. I like your posts and I enjoy researching on them.

Ruth said...

Friko, thank you for returning with your further comments. I feel everything you say myself too. We are able to find and connect with people who are kindred souls, yes, which is more difficult in the physical world, I find. The friendships I maintain with those I have met in the blog community are as rich and deep, if not more so, than any friendships I have had in the physical world.

I did give Inge your regards, and she returns them. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Marcie, thank you. Both are precious to me.

Ruth said...

Louise, oh your enthusiastic response means so much to me. I in turn so appreciate how you engage with what I have written. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Pat, it really has been a harsh winter this year, all over. It is quite amazing how quickly and easily our faith can be restored by this simple beauty, isn't it.

Ruth said...

Letty, I hope that is a good thing, that I make you cry. I feel honored, and I also feel a little sheepish. But mostly I feel honored.

I did not know about Bruce Dawe. He sounds like a character. Anyone who would write "The Corn Flake Poem" must have been a treat. I tried to find a link to it. I wonder if you have any poems of his to share?

Ruth said...

Peter, yes I did learn that winter aconite is poisonous. And the shoes are not new in time but in wearing yes. :-)

Perhaps we don't need faith in the sense that many of us grew up with, but I feel we do sorely need faith in something, a life force, to not feel sad getting up in the morning, given the state of things.

Ruth said...

Anna, I have heard of other people being found like that too, after days. It's quite awful, really. But writing it here made me laugh too, because he wasn't dead and it didn't happen to him.

Thank you for your kind comment. Kiss to Matthew.

Ruth said...

Arti, your heartfelt comment means a great deal to me. That you gave it the time and attention you did, and to me, attests to the spirit we share that does still abide for me. How I feel about the forms has changed, but the longing for union with what is Love, Light and Life has never left, and is here in full force now. Thank you for your sincere good wishes for me in my journey, even as it looks a bit different than your own.

Ruth said...

Julie, thank you for your warm enthusiasm for this writing and for my friend Professor Ellison as I've presented him. You keep inspiring me with your attention to individuals who color your world. I've learned a lot from you and follow you in that regard and others. Big Barbie is vivid and vibrant, as are many, many others who I can still see in my mind's picture from what you magically stamped there through your poems. Thank you for sharing your gift so that I can be enriched and also learn from you.

Ruth said...

Oh, rauf, Inge and I talked a lot about those boxes the last two days. Our stories, hers and mine, are as different as they could be, one religious and one secular. But she had boxes too. It's so hard to unlearn them.

It's hard to have faith in human constructions, but I think you have faith in Nature, rauf. Yes, it's terrifying and it devastates, but you have faith that it will continue on with its life force. It will be harsh to humans, and to its other creatures though.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, it is in your nature to research, and I feel honored that something I write prompts you to do it. You're a constant learner, and that inspires me.

You're right, I don't picture this faith I wrote of being a prayer over the flower. It's a reliance on the steadiness of the flower, faith that it will rise. But also, it is giving the flower personification, and seeing it as having faith itself. To rise through frozen ground, into the cold winter air and snow, what does it have faith in? It symbolizes for me faith in something even when the odds are against you.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and attention to what I write!

Stratoz said...

Thank you for sharing this moment in your life. I think spring bulbs deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ginnie said...

You have reminded me of what it is that I love about Mother Nature, Sister. If we cannot lie on her bosom and find faith, where else can we find it? Has Prof. Ellison yet become one with her, I wonder?

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

What a grand story about a great character. The first photo with you comment below is a great hook. Of course I wanted to know what was behind the couple.

Then to discover a peek into your life.

Great writing, Ruth. Thank you.