Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writing our Childhoods

Child on Path

Today I had to speak on a verse from Ephesians 5, "therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." One of the stories I told in this talk, Beloved Child, gives a little more flesh to a hard incident I mention in Stone Crossings.

That's part of the beauty of writing for different times and places. We can move in at different angles, in different lights. We can take a story from our past and find new pieces to share.

So we find that Flannery O'Connor was right: anyone who survived his childhood has enough material to write about for a lifetime. We simply need to put a new twist on the old, old stories.


Child on the Path photo, by J Barkat. Used by permission. O'Connor reference is from Mystery and Manners, p.84. Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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16 Comments:

Blogger Charity Singleton said...

This reminds me of a story Madeline L'Engle tells in Walking on Water. She remembers as a child floating down the staircase. At this point in her life, she could assume the memory was mistaken and that she actually ran or walked down the staircase. But the child in her still tells the story as if were magic. That's the kind of stories I want to tell.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Gorgeous photo. i'm off to read the talk...

9:20 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

As usual you say so much in so few words. Wish I could have been there to hear you. Also look forward much to your book.

But what you say is so true. Sometimes I think we bury so much of it, due to pain we've all experineced. But it's better to get it out in the open, if we're to get God's redemptive healing in Christ in regard to it.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

You portray God's love so vividly I could cry for its unreality. I could understand how one might cling to that not caring if it were a dream or not. I could understand why those who lose belief in God so often grieve for the loss of a friend.

In unbelief and yet in sympathy, I curtsey.

11:50 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Charity... Memory is an interesting thing, as it is often crafted through the lens of time and circumstance. I think when I write I want to do both... to preserve the memories as they were, but also to examine them from other stances. In a way, I guess L'Engle is doing that. She wrote the "magic" incident, but in her later essay she examines the incident with a different eye. Somehow, bringing in all these perspectives is a way to find a deeper truth (in my opinion).

Andrea... Thanks! Can you see that little, little child running so far ahead of her parents?

Ted... Sometimes I wish you all could be there too. When I speak, I like to share with people I know. Writing is very relational for me. As for getting things out in the open, I think such effort rewards the writer not only personally, with potential insight and growth, but also more broadly by sharing with others who might also benefit.

Lynet... do you mean in the talk? I wasn't sure. I suppose you are saying I have a very vivid imagination; I'll grant you that I do. But do not feel sorry for me (I think that is what you are implying by sympathy?), for my relationship with God has truly brought solace and change (mind you, I did not want this from a god... I did not want to believe). And though I believe God is real and you don't, I'm guessing you could grant the beauty of true solace and change regardless (whether it comes from a real God as I think, or whether it comes from a fairty tale as you perhaps suppose). In a way this is neither here nor there. I wonder in what you find solace and comfort and change (especially the kind of change you'd rather not embark upon), and to what extent you believe these things that support and challenge you are Real and whether this matters. As always, I do love your honest answers here. And for that I think I shall venture beyond a curtsey to give you a grateful hug.

10:10 AM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

so beautiful, l.l. i have wet eyes! i mourn for your childhood experiences... that what should have been the most magical, care-free, and innocent time of one's life, wasn't for you. but i also celebrate that you have found the Father that will never disappoint, or shut you out and you have been able to come like a child and trust despite the negative first impression of a father.

you truly have a gift, laura....

11:30 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Blue... thank you for your compliments and your sorrow over what is past. To my mind, this is the power I must use as a writer... the power to tell what happened, in the way I want to tell it... with grace.

Lynet... Me again. I went to read Real Live Preacher today and found this. And I realized it is a perfect description of you and me, under the stars.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Llama Momma said...

The thread of grace woven through such unlovely fabric...well, that is a gift.

Thank you for sharing it with us.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

How do we love people we do not know? I have no answer except unity through the Holy Spirit, members of the same body. And while I know this to be theologically correct, I do not find it happens often - and yet I love you.

Thank you for sharing yourself with us all. We are all the richer for your outpouring of yourself.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

Yes, LL, I was referring to the talk. Sym-path: to feel with. I meant not sympathy for your sorrow, but sympathy for your joy! Painful for me, because it creates a certain dissonance to be able to see such love so vividly and yet not to believe it real. Not painful for you, though; or not primarily painful. And I meant not that you have a particularly vivid imagination, but rather that whether it is imagination or true sight that you have, you communicate it vividly. Indeed you had me on the edge of belief, I think, though virtuous doubt would always hold me back.

I find solace and comfort and change -- all three -- in stories and in poetry; solace and comfort and change in the people I speak to who challenge and support me; solace and comfort in music; and all three again in philosophy.

The stories and the poems are often not real, yet they hold the reality of human experience. The people I speak to are terrifyingly, miraculously real by contrast. Music is unfathomable. Philosophy seeks that which is real, yet sometimes it constructs important ideas that are not quite real such as justice and goodness -- ideas that are important for so long as they live in our minds.

I love that passage in Real Live Preacher. Let me say that I would like to be "one of those dreamy and courageous scientist types"!

10:08 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

Oh, and thank you for the hug. Forgot to say that. In real life (and perhaps also on the net, I don't know) I can be a little stand-off-ish sometimes, but I almost never mean it, and I'm usually grateful when people cut straight through it and hug me :-)

10:10 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Llama... and thank you for opening your hands to receive it.

Susan... I sit here blessed by your love. Thank you for expressing it.

Lynet... and so we are not that different. I too find solace in literature, in people, in thought, in music. I find each of these real and unreal in various ways. And music, yes, unfathomable! I suppose it is just that I see a personality, a thread behind these, a Creator, a Lover... so that I experience these things for themselves and for what lies behind them (you might smile to know that I tell my children things like, "Smell that flower? It is the scent of God's glory.") And isn't Real Live Preacher just so terrific? I could read him forever.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I love that it has a link and a page and a cover and a release date and everything. It looks great!

1:42 PM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

Laura, read the "beloved child" yet again and each time I am moved. I have heard that it is important to pay attention to the things that make you cry, so I am at attention, thanking the Lord for speaking to me through this.

The second read I noticed the contrast of winter pictures that were painted: the one of your childhood standing out in the snow, shut out—and the other of Sonia being folded into your arms out of the cold into warmth and parental delight.

I have a strong parental longing to love, protect and give to my children. I know much of it was not a learned thing from my folks, but His heart in me finding expression. I wonder how they will tell the stories of their lives.

When you say, "We can move in at different angles, in different lights. We can take a story from our past and find new pieces to share." it's almost like we are putting together a puzzle of why things happened the way they did. We are seeing with grownup and a Godly perspective events that we may have only kept processed as a child. Is this kind of the idea?

Great talk, my friend. Thank you.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Just thinking about you as I've spent several hours this week talking with a woman who shares some parts of our pasts. Your post encourages and strengthens me again as I tell her she can move forward knowing there is future with hope - for good and not evil, with peace and joy, irregardless of what was done to her for so many years.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for sharing yourself with us. you are one of the things I am thankful for!

8:46 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Jennifer... thanks! It is exciting to see it coming to light.

23 Degrees... yes, to pay attention to what makes us weep. I like that thought. I'm glad the talk touched you and is speaking to you. And isn't that funny about the snow? I didn't plan it that way, but I did notice it when I read it over. "Look at that," I thought. "What a great symbolic contrast between life with God and life without God." As far as telling the stories again, that is surely a good thing for a writer with limited experiences. But for the person within, yes, I think the retellings in new ways shed new light, and we can grow in grace.

Susan... that is the beautiful promise of God... to take what is ugly and make it oddly beautiful. Thank you for your presence here and your encouragements. And have a lovely holiday.

3:50 PM  

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