Last November, I told you about the kindness I received from a blogging "stranger". That particular week, as a way to show kindness, Sharon at Good, True and Beautiful offered to create blog headers for any of her readers who asked. I was blown away by her offer -- no strings attached.
This past week, I had the nerve to contact Sharon again and ask her to edit the tagline in my header. Since the beginning of this year I've been waffling on the purpose for this blog. What am I trying to say if it's not just any old thing that enters my head on any given day? The updated tagline -- like the changes I've made to the weekly monday mixtape post -- is one step more toward clarity.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the Romantics, authored the phrase I've chosen for the tagline, earth's crammed with heaven. I clipped the four words out of 65 lines excerpted from her nine book, blank verse epic, Aurora Leigh. In book seven, the fictional Aurora -- an aspiring writer, wondering about the quality of her work -- gives a stunning exhortation to those of us who would try to separate the sacred and the secular, the physical and the spiritual.
TRUTH, so far, in my book;—the truth which draws Through all things upwards,—that a twofold world Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural things And spiritual,—who separates those two In art, in morals, or the social drift Tears up the bond of nature and brings death, Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse, Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men, Is wrong, in short, at all points.
If there were a common thread in all that has inspired me enough to create posts here for the last four years, it could be a repentance, of sorts, of my own vulgar days of separating natural things and spiritual. Of mindlessly consuming futile pictures and unreal verse and missing the whole perfect beauty of all that draws us upward. Like any truly repentant soul, I wish to convert as many other wayward souls with me as possible. And so I think and meditate and ponder and struggle and rant and make a fool of myself and, hopefully on occasion, draw our attention upward.
But man, the twofold creature, apprehends The twofold manner, in and outwardly, And nothing in the world comes single to him, A mere itself,—cup, column, or candlestick, All patterns of what shall be in the Mount; The whole temporal show related royally, And built up to eterne significance Through the open arms of God. ‘There’s nothing great Nor small’, has said a poet of our day, Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve And not be thrown out by the matin’s bell: And truly, I reiterate, nothing’s small! No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee, But finds some coupling with the spinning stars; No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere; No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim; And (glancing on my own thin, veinèd wrist), In such a little tremor of the blood The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul Doth utter itself distinct.
I strongly considered my tagline to be "the whole strong clamour of a vehement soul", but thought better of it. Instead I chose the next line in Aurora's closing thoughts:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.
Won't you take off your shoes and join me?
* A picture of my younger brother and me getting rolled around in a "missionary barrel" when I was about three or four. This image has come to symbolize so much of the true Tamara God intends to restore, the adoring, wondering, exclaiming self underneath adult layers of sin, wounds and plain old disappointment with the world. This is the reason I chose the snapshot for my blog header.*