Speech Fully Flowered as a Nut or Apple

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I am back from an extraordinary visit to England where I: spent a few days writing at the Kilns, home of CS Lewis; visited Dublin’s Abbey Theatre celebrating it’s 100th anniversary and reprising their presentation of John Synge’s “The Playboy of the Western World,” controversial in 1907 and plain old delightful in 2004; boarded the Sea Cloud II, a 384 foot tall ship with 29,687 square feet of sails for a trip organized by the CS Lewis Foundation led by Stan Mattson.

We departed from Dublin, making stops in Waterford, The Pembrokeshire Peninsula in Wales (where we visited St. David’s, a church founded in 462 AD! John Stott preached the Sunday we visited!) Douglas Gresham, CS Lewis’ son-in-law shared stories about CS Lewis each afternoon and read “The Voyage of the Dawntreader” to prepare us for sleep each night; our next stop was Cobh, the Irish port where Titanic boarded her final passengers; Tresco, Scilly Islands for beach time and gardens; final stop in Portland where I disembarked with Nigel and Gillian Goodwin for a memorable visit on the Isle of Wight where they live in a stunning 1810 home, complete with 3 acres of lovingly tended gardens; my final stop was London where I stayed at the modestly appointed Foreign Missions Club before leaving for home.

Once home I was greeted by son Joshua and daughter-in-law Bonnie, two grandchildren AND my wife and other three daughters. We were off to a performance by Heidi in Music Man where she played the Mayor’s wife imaginatively and hilariously.

Alas, my exotic travels and entertainments have drawn to a close and I am back to reality: a lawn to mow, weeds to pull, two clogged drains, a broken clothes dryer, a book to finish writing and decisions to make about a myriad of projects. I am also back to American politics, where on the eve of the Republican Convention you’d think the party is dead-in-the-water based on news coverage I read upon my return home: moderates bemoan religious right/evangelicals, gays upset at Cheney’s lesbian daughter for not being more vocal, large anti-Bush protests on the streets of New York. You’d never know Kerry is slipping in the polls! It was nice to be out of the country and out of the loop!

I am not by nature an escapist, and were it not for the good graces of others I would not have been part of the exotic tall-masted cruise, but I take delight that the richest gifts are not the exclusive possession of a select few, but are available to each of us: family, conversation over tea or coffee with friends, good poetry and language that flows from an enriched life.

J.M. Synge found such inspiration in Irish culture and said in the preface to “The Playboy of the Western World,” “On the stage one must have reality, and one must have joy; and that is why the intellectual modern drama has failed, and people have grown sick of the false joy of the musical comedy, that has given them in place of the rich joy found only in what is superb and wild in reality¢â‚¬¦ In a good play every speech should be as fully flowered as a nut or apple, and such speeches cannot be written by any one who works among people who have shut their lips on poetry. In Ireland, for a few years more, we have a popular imagination that is fiery, and magnificent, and tender; so that those of us who wish to write start with a chance that is not given to writers in places where the springtime of the local life has been forgotten, and the harvest is a memory only, and the straw has been turned to bricks.”

It is my contention that deep spiritual experience should enrich our lilfe and then our art, like Irish folk-culture did Synge’s, and I believe such faith can be found wherever you find God’s people, on sea or land, in accommodations luxurious or plain.

Today may imagination and hope burn bright and may our “speech be as fully flowered as a nut or apple.”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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