“If it weren’t for the church towers”
Old villagers would say
“the sky would crumble upon us
With none of in-betweens
But all the far-a-ways”
“Who are you”, asks the shadow,
“to claim the ownership of me as your right?”
The light kept silent
As the shadow grew louder and longer
Towards the night.
The pastures and the waters,
The sky in starry night.
Oh, mountains of amazing,
Oh, rivers of delight!…
Goodbye, balcony, rampart of mine,
And you, flocks of limousines
Grazing the asphalt on my soul!
Somewhere a trail writes its testament
On the back of a run-away sheep.
…And the moon, up there, solemn and bright
Like an Easter sermon.
Reading: Psalm 78
But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High;
they did not keep his statutes.
Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.
They angered him with their high places;
they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
When God heard them, he was furious;
he rejected Israel completely.
He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent he had set up among humans.
He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
He gave his people over to the sword;
he was furious with his inheritance.
Fire consumed their young men,
and their young women had no wedding songs;
their priests were put to the sword,
and their widows could not weep (NIV).
Canmore, Alberta — photo by David Kitz
Sin has consequences. We can pretend it isn’t so, but we’re fooling…
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You un-spoke me into silence
you un-saw me by the sea
As I sigh beneath the thunder
Bound to be or not to be.
Never mind my painful rumblings,
My sleepwalking to who cares,
You unborn me, let me vanish
To my heres, to your no-wheres.
Though you see the whole is missing
Missing limbs or missing chains
By me being or not being
Your the sames are not the sames.
It’s me alone as worthless sob
Lost in crowd, this lynching mob!
Not once, but it was almost a thought set that I learned to leave with or tortured by in my long struggle to define the today assembly or disassembly of whatever amounts to that allusive word humanity. By simply admitting that there is a struggle in that direction I am setting myself to a never ending road of searching for one, the one, answer that will finally reconcile what I see and experience to what my definition of reality establishes as a rule. I never ventured in recording my restlessness of thought in; let’s call it, journals of a restless and discontent mind. I shout to myself the question: “Quo Vadis?”. But that question makes no sense since I admitted that the road I set myself on is endless. How would you assign finality to something that you will never reach? For some human fellows, I am one of them, this venture, the venture of hair splitting will have a personal and deep impact upon the inner self by birthing attitudes that are supposed to fit in and harmonize with the society within our own time of existence. There is a risk that the fruit of our thought struggles will be bitter as we fall into the trap of cynicism or apathy. At the same time we face a huge opportunity that will give us the state of awe and wonder, of hope and joy. I chose the second option therefore the second kind of fruit, as you already guessed.
You see, many of our kind fantasize about a “planet with no borders”, about a “human race” with no distinction bestowed on each individual by our Creator, the heavenly Father. This somehow perceived “romantic, revolutionary thinking” is a decay process, I believe, of human thinking. It is a collapsing of whatever once made us great, made us each a universe within ourselves so uniquely conceived! This uniqueness made love between creature and Creator possible and intimate.
On a larger scale, the nations and kingdoms are unique by God’s design, unique and somehow human like through character traits and purpose. God addresses them specifically by name, God blesses them and God curses them. This planet would be an earth bound hell if it weren’t for nations and borders. Many of us trying to escape persecution of all kinds would have no place to hide, no refuge. What would WWII Europe be without neutral Switzerland, without independent and well-protected England, without a powerful USA and so on? Maybe the whole world “without borders” would become a global Hitler-made “paradise” or a Stalinist “idyllic”, borderless, to-dream-about state? Or maybe a combination of the two? How about little us? Well, let us think it over a little bit! I did not catch WWII but I know a thing or two about the Lenin/Stalin/Ceausescu/Mao/Etc paradigms. I intentionally wrote “paradigms” with bold letters since we use a pre-set number of thinking patterns. We are either born in them or gradually grow in these patterns. Ceausescu had been drumming the slogan “creation of a new man” because, in his mind, it was the cornerstone of communism’s triumph. This “new man” envisioned by this ruthless dictator was just a brick, one of the 25 million bricks of Romania conveniently “created” by Bucharest propaganda, meant to be no more than some nodding zombies, a quiet tax payer and “enthusiastic” communist elite worshiper. I was right there; I know it to be true! Trying to “create” a “new man” was in fact usurping God and empowering the agents of darkness. Creating a “new man” meant destruction of the old man. Every free thinker or everyone who tried to think for himself was a “counter-revolutionary power” and had to be annihilated. The jails of communist countries were full not with criminals but with priests, pastors, well-to-do individuals, philosophers, historians, poets, novelists, musicians and pre-revolution politicians. At the same time, the West was refreshed by the incoming asylum seekers who did their best to make the world aware of the horrors of the systems where being unique was a crime, where the freedom to think was an unaffordable luxury and an unpardonable sin, where dreaming big had been forgotten.
What am I saying? Praise God for nations with borders, unique in culture and history, unique in the divine purpose of their existence. Praise God for each of my fellow humans, for their input in shaping the unique me. No, we are not bricks, mere bricks in somebody else’s towers. Yes, we are rocks; uniquely shaped rocks placed in temples of beauty and harmony by the marvelous skill of the Great Builder, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For now I wish to agree with my follow poet William Wordsworth…
“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
(I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud – BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH)
With this “Journals of Loneliness” series I will focus on the terror of spiritual destruction of human beings and their communities that once made this world of ours an oasis of all opportunities and all possibilities.
I hope you will be with me as I so often feel like the poet of the Russian prairies, Sergey Yesenin:
“Whom shall I call on? Who will share with me The wretched happiness of staying alive?”
If we conform to the market place or editors’ demands before we conform to who we are and meant to be, all our struggles with creative writing will be nothing more than a petty rewriting of old and stale talking points.
YesterCanada – Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure
Review by Slavomir Almajan
It deserves five-star rating indeed! It is also a must-read book for readers of any age, any gender, any culture…
Elma Schemenauer invaded my searching heart with a new level of curiosity, way beyond “let’s see what else is new” realm. She captured my full attention with Consider the Sunflowers, a captivating novel, deeply entrenched in Canada’s prairie culture with all the harmonies and disharmonies of life in a real world.
YesterCanada comes, at least for me, as a surprise that shattered all my reservations regarding short fictionalized history stories. Sometimes this kind of stories come as a cover up for poorly researched facts. YesterCanada is a real deal! It is not a mere attempt to fill the pages with nicely crafted words, although there is a lot of that in this book, but rather a heart’s response to so many old stories and legends of this land.
It is a master’s touch throughout every story and legend that brings to life the characters and the things that you never thought could breathe again. But they did and they did it with the author’s life.
Tom Sukanan is one of the most beautiful and complex characters in the book and the circumstances surrounding his life and shaping his destiny were, to say the least, not less complex. The restlessness he carried within drove him toward unleashing the best of him to the service of others. “It wasn’t that he didn’t care about other people. When new homesteaders arrived in the area, Tom offered to lend them a hand in building their houses. He also turned his inventive and mechanical abilities to projects that benefitted the whole community. It was Tom Sukanan who built the area’s first grain-threshing machine. It was also Tom who constructed a homemade sewing machine so that the women of the district wouldn’t need to do all their mending by hand.” The homesickness that hit him later on morphed into one of the most intense dramas that could hit the human soul. The creator became almost one with his creation. They both became an unsung song, victims of aging without legacy, of dying with unfulfilled dreams.
The British Columbia Ship That Wouldn’t Die is a symbol, a Thing that survived its creator, carrying his restlessness that built it across the oceans…
Lillian Alling was more than a mere mortal woman. She was a heroine, a pursuer of her dream. Nothing could stand against it. Somehow a part of New York City and every place that her feeble feet touched became better and more alive. The obstacles sometimes would be simple acts of kindness or even apparent hostile actions driven by pure intentions. Wow! I dare you to read this story without falling in love with its main character!
By the author’s touch even the dead come to life, not necessarily through living but through animating the bored world by a mysterious and almost unbelievable story. Yes, I said to myself, love survives the mortal being and frees enough territory to accommodate an absolutely beautiful story.
Elma Schemenauer grew to know intimately the world around her and made it more beautiful through her outstanding way of being restless for the sake of carrying the light of Christ through what He made her to be.
Thank you, Elma, for your beautiful work!
YesterCanada is a 248-page paperback including 30 illustrations and a bibliography, $19.95. Ask for it in a store or library. Or order online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo, or Borealis Press. E-book coming later.
“How long you live” is better said “how much”
But in conclusion, this life is nothing but
A totally unprepared speech, in a new tongue,
Started from scratch…
Your tears, darling, resemble a sea,
A shore less sea, if I may say so…
There is nothing to hang your dreams on,
Nothing beyond, nowhere to go…
As you cry or whisper your will
I can see some timelessness here and there,
Don’t dilute those live particles of love
Don’t waste their touchlessness just everywhere….
You see, one plus one seem to equal two
In this betrayed loneliness of your eyesight…
Where is my place in your cry, darling?
Whose darkness is flowing through this night?
Listen, this silence is melting on some sandy shore…
I see more in your tears, a lot more!
I feel like I carry a burden and a sigh from I don’t know where, strong enough, painful enough and lavishly clear. The wings of beauty will show up, I think, with their irresistible joy in the flow of peace and beauty of this moment. My heart melts in some unspoken words, in a silent prayer. Maybe what drives me to Him in this moment is the pain I never felt before from someone’s darkness of loneliness and despair. I have been there and so often my own darkness devoured my rest. I cried it out just to hear it coming back to me, multiplied by the echoes of my own emptiness.
This morning is different – so much different! The raw sand of this Mexican beach, its wetness and coolness after the scorching heat of yesterday seem to connect me again with the distant shore of peace and tranquility that my soul has been searching for. Just within the last couple of days I developed a somehow more than a “how are you” friendship with Scott and Samantha, Keith and Melissa, the French Fabian and Kate, Heidi and Anna, mother and daughter … We even know each other by name.
This morning, on this sandy shore of Mexico as the ocean caresses my feet in the quiet hour of the morning and the waves send towards me this craved-for mist of coolness, my loneliness has morphed into blessed moments of serenity and a quiet conversation with my Creator. It is this display of beauty that talks to me from Him, the cool ocean spray that touches me from Him, it is the mighty rush of waves that reassures me from Him… Every drop, every vapor particle is here for me, for my restless soul to finally hang the hat of futility on His outstretched hand of love. It is He all around, in the deepest of the sea, in the clearest of the sky or in the grayest of the clouds…
Then Melissa and Scott, Samantha and Keith, and Kate and Fabian came to my mind. Their loud laughter and colorful language animated the over-hearers with curiosity. I was happy I could call them by their first names. When I saw Scott and Melissa the other day, that loud laughter and colorful talking were not there anymore. I used to see them as God’s treasure boxes buried in a deep illusion of happiness. Hmm, I wish could dig them out and bring them here to this serene Mexican ocean shore and soak them in this majestic display of love. Will I see them laughing again? Will I ever see a smile of tranquility on their faces? As I last saw them, they rather looked like jars of hidden and unspoken sorrow.
“Then sings my soul, my Savior Lord to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art…” Right there, right then, a humble wave gently surrendered at my hot feet, and a soft, cool breeze enveloped me like a mantle of royal silk. “Yours, I am totally yours, my Lord!”
These moments of serenity deeply engraved in my heart the truth that He is here and everywhere. He is to be found as our hearts take the time that would otherwise be wasted on our egos to lay it down at His feet and quietly watch the display of His creation.
There must be more, I think, a lot more from Him this morning at the feast set before me in the prospect of all my future worries and day-to-day struggles. I spotted two little black stones close to one another among a multitude of shaped or shapeless stones. They, the two stones I picked, were beautiful. Black and beautiful. One of them was thin and perfectly round like a coin; the other one was almost perfectly spherical. Hmm, my mind suddenly went into overdrive mode. Oh, I know, the ocean, its waves, rocks colliding with each other, a storm, an earthquake here and there, a tsunami, a meteor and who knows what else, worked together to bring these two rocks to this shape, at this shore, for this moment. Then I smiled amused by a new thought: do they, the rocks that is, talk to each other? “You’re so thin! How did you do that?” The other one seems to answer: “But you are too chubby! Will you lose some weight anytime soon?” This brought another smile on my face as I remembered yesterday’s dialog between Melissa and Samantha. But, looking at the two rocks in the palm of my hand, my smile vanished. Where did these rocks come from? Then, like in a fast tracked movie I saw a rocky mountain crushing some ocean’s waves. All of a sudden, in the background of mist, white foam and the powerful wave-crushing noise, something cataclysmic, another infinitely more powerful noise broke the common sense of nature, the earth shook, the sky darkened… then I watched all this chaos dimming down and the sun shining above a totally new horizon. A whole left side of the mountain was gone. “Are you it?”, I said looking at the two beautifully-shaped rocks in my hand. I knew then that I was holding in my hand a mountain or two from long ago. I am holding in my hand thousands of years of history of a mountain tumbled through present and former oceans, from a far shore to another far shore to here and now. If these rocks could think of self, would they know their true self? Will I ever know who I am? Will you?
Maybe we will never know who we are until we see and know the empty space we caused behind us at the shore we left. In the heart of the Father we once left a big and painful void. Ever since we were born, the cry of the void within our heart has been deafening the universe.
Maybe I am like one of these stones, socially shaped, polished by doctrines and dogmas, reduced to a socially accepted roundness, not knowing more of myself than what that roundness contains as matter and color. Maybe the stones around me and the sand, and the colors, and the saltiness will one day find their true selves, filling again the empty space.
We are loved by God and that should be the core of understanding who we really are. The love we cherish for our wives or husbands is originating in an unparalleled attraction towards a sole and most significant other. Each of us is that unique someone for whom the heart of God is longing. We left that happy shore of Eden on the day we first sinned, leaving behind us a void as vast as God’s love. We will, one day, fill that void through the glorious reunion with Him.
Then, I believe, only then the cry of emptiness that is deafening the universe now will become a symphony of beauty and completeness.
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28)
A Melody in Minor Keys
Yes, Consider the Sunflowers is like a melody in minor keys. It is a melody that rises above the quietness of the prairie about the souls and simple lives of the ordinary people in and ordinary landscape with destinies that are all but ordinary. The story of Consider the Sunflower had grown thin and tall lake a white birch.
I like to see and talk about a written story like about a living entity with all the attributes that life comes with. What’s happening to it after the author leaves it with the reader must look like a life cycle in the context of a forest that is about to grow after the reader sets it aside and continue minding his daily business or go to the desk and grow his own trees and so on. A story, every good story in itself must leave behind it a legacy of thought and emotion that will ultimately bare fruits. According to these criteria, Consider the Sunflowers by Elma Schemenauer passes the test and I solemnly declare it alive!
I read it enthusiastically, I read it quickly. This is not to say that I viewed it as pure entertainment but rather like a mind and heart capturing story. Of course, as a writer and poet I would probably structure it differently but, again, that’s the beauty of a well written novel: it multiplies in the mind and heart of the reader. I would envision my story rather like a rich leafy and shadowy linden tree with flowers coming to blossom in June, with multitudes of birds singing and bees collecting the nectar and the sadness of leafs coming down in the fall. But that would be my story, a story of a guy familiar not with the prairie but rather with a mountainous landscape with springs and creeks, with green meadows and the charm of nightingales.
Most of the reviews that I read on Consider the Sunflowers gravitate around love, marriage and the challenges of life. And, yes, there is plenty of meat to satisfy the interest of many who prefer this kind of ingredients of a story. I like them too but with so many novels written around these themes many of the stories become more like variations of the same. What sets this story apart? Let’s see!
The plot has a straight line shape that grows in colour and intensity. The author proves that the plot is not all that there is but rather it gives debt and nuances to the characters and to the larger context of the community. Not necessarily what characters say in the dialogs is what defines them but rather how they respond to the basic challenges of life. Sometimes through the process of reading I felt like being immersed a beautiful breeze of sound, a melody in minor tunes. The drama is more like something we all go through in our everyday life but Elma’s characters’ response is unique. A rather acrimonious co-existence of Roland and Frank within the same community evolves in a rare fruit of mutual acceptance. Frank and Victor outgrow their mutual disregard for each other, Frank, the half gipsy and, half Christian young man is ultimately accepted in a community with strong prejudices and strict moral dogmas.
Tina is a center pillar of the whole structure. She is a victim of loneliness in a place that was, according to her dreams, meant to be a paradise. She is a living example of what destructive power loneliness can unleash on a human soul. There, in the realm of loneliness, the time seems to be painfully slow and the mind excruciatingly hasty in building an almost alternate reality so much so that even the absolutes are being questioned and moral boundaries blur up to become a heavy fog of uncertainty.
The author leaves plenty open doors or just slightly cracked throughout the story. I can foresee a whole series of follow up novels like: “Consider the Laughter” with Dorrie and Roland devouring life with an astronomical hunger, “Consider Coming Home” with Frank’s surrender to the Almighty and his ultimate new birth, “Consider the Colours” with Tina surrendering to the beauty of the prairie and her artistic inclinations past on Klara or Morgan, etc.
There is also a door just slightly ajar towards the beauty of concurring fears and prejudices, towards growing trough the spirit of wisdom and revelation, towards finally seeing the big picture that God kept displaying before our eyes for ages. Maybe there is also a door towards a novel addressing a conflict between the old and the young…
Elma Schemenauer proves to be a resourceful story teller and Consider the Sunflower is just one piece of a puzzle that she is called to put together.