Beautiful People - Aikaterine

"I could not get on without her - or Tabby.  
I dare say they are my two hands together."
Plenilune,  Skander Rime

I had a deuce of a time trying to pick a character to do Beautiful People for this time.  I feel I've rather done Margaret in; since she is the main character of Plenilune, naturally she should get the lion's share of the Beautiful People posts.  All the same, it gets dull using the same character over and over, so I decided to dig out the incomparable, invisible Aikaterine instead.  While Aikaterine is only a maidservant, and a young one at that, she plays a vital role in story: there may be a front seat and a back seat and a window in between, but I dare say those in the back seat wouldn't get very far without the driver in the front.  So Aikaterine, while only a maid, is a very important figure in the workings of life in Lookinglass.


1. What is her favourite type of shoe?

A calfskin boot of fawn-colour brown, turned over at the top and with a two-inch heel.  They are well-padded so as to be comfortable, as Aikaterine walks miles from the beginning of the day to the end of it, pretty yet demure, and the heel gives her a mark of class without attempting to be pretentious, and also a firm grip on a stirrup.

2. Does she journal? 

Aikaterine’s life is too busy to journal; even if she did have the time it would be dull reading, for her days are fairly similar, and as she is a key figure in her master’s life she would consider it a breach of faith to write about her master’s business.

3. What is her favourite animal? 

Anything that does not shed.  She is a pretty good hand with any animal—be it a pet or a meal—but she is not ardently fond of them.  She does have a little chestnut palfrey which Skander Rime gave her especially, but it is not part of her duties to care for it.

4. What does her average day look like?

Her morning begins promptly with a bath and cup of tea, after which she goes into Skander Rime’s study to clear up from the night before.  An hour before Skander rises she sets the kettle on and begins mixing the oatmeal which forms the main dish of his breakfast.  Like clockwork she adds an egg (over easy) and seasonal fruit to the tea and oatmeal and then goes up with the breakfast to wake her master.  While he is eating she goes down and has her own breakfast (the "blue-jay man" runs the bath and lays out Skander’s clothing), and then sets Skander’s coffee on before taking it through into the study.  Unless Skander is very busy she usually spends the rest of the morning tidying or cleaning his chambers and overseeing the list for supper.  At eleven promptly she makes up Skander’s lunch and takes it up to him at noon sharp.  If he means to go out she goes up to lay out boots, crop, and cloak while the blue-jay man tends to the horse.  She has a little time in the afternoon for a sit-down and some reading, and afterwards spends time running over lists for Skander and writing off messages to friends, merchants, and those in fief to him.  Her handwriting is, unfortunately for Skander, rather better than his.  She makes Skander’s tea with unflagging punctuality and often takes her own with him while he gives her updates and bounces ideas off her between bites.  Between tea and supper Aikaterine makes a tour of the whole house, including the grounds if the weather is fine, and then oversees supper and the preparation of the dining room.  She takes her own supper in the servants’ hall and then goes up with the blue-jay man to make sure the study and bedchamber are ready for the evening.  Her last act of the day is to pop in on the pantry and make sure there is fresh fruit for tomorrow morning.

5. Night owl or morning person? (Optional: What time does she usually wake up? Go to bed?) 

Aikaterine wakes up every morning at five o’clock sharp and doesn’t lie down again until 9:30 in the evening.  She is always on the go when she is awake, so as soon as she hits the pillow she is out like a light. 

6. Does she have a sweet tooth?

She is passing fond of bread pudding, which she will eat as often as she can get it; her high metabolism and active life allow her this indulgence.  Otherwise she is content with fruits and tends to have a very healthy diet. 
7. What colours are in her bedroom? 

It is almost embarrassing that Aikaterine’s room at Lookinglass is fancier than the room Margaret is put up in.  But Skander is very fond of Aikaterine and has a habit of absent-mindedly lavishing her with this and that fine thing.  Aikaterine has a room on the ground floor in the northeast section of the house near the Ilex Lawn; it has only one window overlooking the walk, but it is smoothly stuccoed and panelled in cherry with a fresco-work of wine-country on the far wall.  She keeps a cherry four-poster and a matching set of drawers and an enormous, violently colourful rug on the hardwood floor which Skander Rime took as spoil from a war with the Carmarthen.  The prints on the bedclothes and curtains are of heavy purple and beige, which draw out the more subtle hues in the carpet and make it a little less overpowering.

8. Can she cook? 

“…But the meals were nicer, and as for the sweets, I won’t tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain.”  Aikaterine is an excellent cook; Skander jokes a little that she uses witchcraft, but her food is generally so good that he seriously wonders from time to time if there isn’t something unnatural about it… 

9. What is her favourite household chore? 

Setting out her master’s riding things.  Nothing looks so smart to her as to see the two polished boots standing side by side on the hearth rug with their spurs shining, the long leather crop lying longwise across the carved arms of his bog-oak chair, and the heavy, weather-stained folds of his leather doublet hung on the tear-drop corner of the chair’s back.

10. Favourite kind of tea?

When Aikaterine pulls out the tea-ball she most frequently fills it with a kind of black chai, which brews strong and is very invigorating.  Its lingering scents are always appealing to anyone who catches them on her, too, which is an added advantage since it is Aikaterine’s goal to be both invisible and charming to those “upstairs.” 

"Does Tabby not also go? I am my Lord's maid and I go with my Lord. Now stand aside, or I will knock you down!"
Plenilune, Aikaterine

Sun Horse, Moon Horse, Mostly Moon Horse

Great Scott, a post full of pictures.  It would be pretty poor sport to do a Beautiful People post on horses, because as interesting and expressive as they can be, there just isn't enough back-story to plain, straight up horses.  Horses like Bree, for instance, or Black Beauty, may have interesting tales to tell; but in general your typical dumb horse, be he as grand and triumphant a beast as possible, would make for a rummy interview.  So rather than give you something like Beautiful People, I'll take you briefly through some of the major horses of Plenilune - because a Plenilune fellow is nothing without his horse.  Think of it as a sort of dramatis personae, but with horses.

Note: Plenilune folk don't measure by "hands," they measure by "hedges."  Most horses are at least a "hedge" high, usually more.  "Hedges" are about five feet high; after a single "hedge" horses are measured in tenths.  Example: a horse is "a hedge and one" high which is approximately five feet one inch.  Anything below a "hedge" is counted backwardly: a horse standing at four feet eight inches is "a hedge mark two."

Witching Hour

An amber champagne courser stallion, owned by Rupert de la Mare and used as his primary mount.  Witching Hour stands at a hedge and three, is currently a little over five years old, and he has a fairly temperate nature.  While he has almost no "native" hill-pony blood in his veins he is extremely sure-footed and can show a pretty pair of heels when his master requires speed.

Hanging Tree

Another of Rupert de la Mare's horses, Hanging Tree is a dark dapple-grey palfrey mare of some seven years, well-set and good-tempered, standing at exactly one hedge.  She has been trained as a lady's mount, for walks or hunting or Maying, and is the horse most used by Margaret.

Blue-bottle Glass

As Margaret stepped into the courtyard and to one side Skander’s courser, a big-boned blue dun with a mind of its own, was being brought out of its stall... As I have mentioned before, Skander has quite a pick of horses in his stables, but Blue-bottle Glass, intemperate and feisty as he is, is the gem of Skander's heart.  Not only is he a beautiful show, he is powerful, responsive, and exquisitely trained.  Though nearly ten years old, he gives his handlers plenty of fuss and usually gets his way by throwing his massive weight about as he pleases.


Altai-tek is a pure-blooded Carmarthen horse, bred on the Plenilune steppes with thunder for feed and spice in his veins.  He is owned by Mark Roy, king of Orzelon-gang, and was a gift from the sovereign's nomadic father-in-law.  He is only five years old, really newly broken, but he rivals Witching Hour at a hedge and five for height and carries the elaborate trappings customary to Orzelon-gang horses with poise and style.


Like his master Lord FitzDraco, this dun-coloured gelding courser is not much to look at, but Boy is extremely sweet, unassuming, and unflaggingly loyal to his master.  He is thirteen years old, stands at a hedge and two (which is just a little too short for FitzDraco), and, though he has no remarkable parentage, remains one of the unsung heroes of horse-kind.  His ordinarily severe master coddles him like a dog and, like a dog, Boy devotes all his love and attention to FitzDraco.

Chanticleer Down

Chanticleer Down, sired by Down Six (of a long and famous line of Downs), is a chestnut hedge-and-two courser stallion owned by the young lord Centurion of Darkling.  Chanticleer Down is only four years old and quite untried, having never ventured very far from his home paddocks around Darkling-law.  He is trained for combat, but as wars have been scarce in the past ten years the young buck hasn't had the chance to test his mettle.


As her name suggests, this flea-bitten mare has a powerful bad temper, as short as her neck is long, and she came out of the womb running.  She is a little, sprightly thing, a hedge mark one in height, and her ten years of existence have not dulled the edge of her attitude.  She is a Thrasymene horse, Woodbird Swan-neck's primary mount, and is not trained to do anything.  She will do anything at all - fight, race, or hunt - if she feels like it, regardless of training.  She is stuck inexorably in the terrible, rebellious teenage years, flaunts her precocious nature and natural beauty, has a wicked bite, and will put up with no one but Woodbird herself.


Chrysostom is an old resident of Talus Perey, a manor of the Mares owned by Malbrey, a friend of Rupert de la Mare.  Chrysostom is a palomino gelding of some sixteen years, a haggard but friendly individual, still rather handsome and very stately at a hedge and three.  He is no longer used as a charger but still makes for a comfortable, leisurely ride about the manor or surrounding countryside. 


Benedictine's owner, Aikin Ironside, is a bit of a dark horse himself...  This heavy-set black mare, just too light to be an official destrier, makes for an odd picture when juxtaposed with her tall, lean-built master.  She stands at a hedge and nine and is looking forward to her sixth birthday.  She is a placid, amiable girl; she and her master share an almost telepathic understanding of each other which makes her invaluable as a horse, and them both deadly as a unit in battle.


Her name and visage are sweet, but Pearl is the rather jaded mare courser of the Lord of Hol.  Her sire was Gold Bit, her dam Spoils of War; she is quick and light-boned, but strong, and stands at a hedge and two.  She is eight years old and has already seen two violent brushes with neighbours.  Her disposition is naturally quiet, but her treatment has inclined her to be skittish and wary.

Fond Farewell

A bay courser three-year-old owned by Aikin Ironside's brother Brand.  Fond Farewell was originally meant to be a racehorse, but he fell under Brand's eye and was quickly bought off the track.  He is a leggy, skittish, but promising youngster, and will hopefully settle down into a formidable war-horse after his training.

The Odd-Job Pony

The odd-job pony, which is entirely hill pony in breeding, is possibly twenty years old (everyone has lost track).  It rattles about Marenove Manor doing this and that, hauling brush or carrying one of the household servants about the country lanes.  The grizzled old thing stands at only a hedge mark four, which makes for awkward riding.


Rubico is a tough seal-brown agouti war-horse, standing at a hedge and one high with a raw handsomeness and a no-nonsense personality.  He is nine years old and has seen several full-blown conflicts in foreign parts.  Since the death of his master Dammerung War-wolf he has gone into forced retirement which, since he is still in his prime, makes him irritable and snappish.

"It's a rummy long way to Thwitandrake...  Anyone got a horse?"

Literacy Is Power

My nephew recently starred in one of Abigail's posts as the charming space-cadet that he is; now it's time for my niece to come into the spotlight as an example of an old truth renewed.  My niece is now six years old - six and a half - and is due to wrap up her first year in school.  She is extremely precocious and started schooling a year early: it's hard to believe that the cute twig of a girl capering around as a horse is going into second grade soon.  But the other day I had the satisfaction of seeing her step out of the car at the grocery store toting a copy of one of the Boxcar Children books, intent on reading it in the lulls between shopping just as I do (though, naturally, I've long since graduated from Boxcar Children status).  She has read nearly every Boxcar Children book out there (sometimes reading as many as four a day), she chews through Marguerite Henry's famous horse novels, and devours this and that odd book that she can get her hands on.  On occasion I catch her peering at condiments labels, bravely pronouncing "Heinz," which is more than I can do.  The girl can read.  Her handwriting is a little wobbly, and sometimes the letters get out of place; her math is yet elementary; but she can read.  Gone are the days when we can discuss her birthday presents by spelling at each other over her head.  The girl holds a skill whose power she does not yet comprehend.  She has grasped a key to the world, but I look into those big soulful blue eyes and see that she does not yet know what lies at her fingertips.

I know I am preaching to the choir on this.  I think everyone who reads this blog is an avid reader with a varied, edifying list of books to read and that have been read.  But I look back on history and the dark eras in which learning, writing, reading, and communication were at their lowest ebb or even prohibited, how coarse and backward life was then, and how men's minds were so easily overrun and oppressed.  Juxtaposed to that, I see the resurgences of education, thought, writing, and an accurate understanding and fear of God, and men's shackles break.  It has been a long, long time since we were told by authorities what to read and what to think, a long time since we broke free of such oppression.  But the truth of the matter is that such oppression is not gone out of the world, nor even our own country.  I hope to be the last to advocate an ornery or offensive attitude as regards learning, but don't take the freedom that you have lightly: you have a mind that you are able to use with reference to your own conscience and the power to glean wisdom from the written accounts of our ancestors and our contemporaries.  Don't take this lightly.  Many years and much blood was shed to put this power into the hands of people such as ourselves.  Appreciate this power and use it wisely.

When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.
2 Timothy 4:13

"I Call All Times Soon"

Listen!  This is the beginning; 
And when we get to the end 
We shall know more than we do now.  

At least, I hope those words of Hans Christian Andersen will be true of this post today.  I meant, after my post "The Knowledge of the Holy," to move into the subjects of Damnation and Salvation, but we are taking a brief detour and dealing, not with Heaven and Hell, but with Time and Eternity.  Once again I hope Bethany does not mind me using her comments as a spring-board into this discussion: I feel her comments are not particular to herself, but characteristic of myself and probably many other Christians.  I also hope that I come to this topic humbly, because, while I have "mused a little space" on it, I do not imagine to have exhausted it.  So bear with me, and stay with me, and hopefully we will make a little sense of these two realities.

Bethany:  I can only speak from my own experience - at the moment, I don't look forward to eternal life, because I can't look forward to what I don't understand. I am currently too obedient to the material world, too reluctant to make myself totally vulnerable, to know the eternity of worship that is (I hope) in store for me...I can't comprehend what will actually occur. "Eternity"? I'm not an empiricist, but nevertheless I can't comprehend being outside of time.  The reason that I cannot logically understand such attributes of God, like eternity, is because I have never come into contact with it. In an incorporate sense, I am eternal, but like I said, I'm too familiar with the material world - even the ocean began, and it'll come to its cessation. I've never witnessed eternity, but of course that is exactly what faith is, believing that it is there even though I haven't seen it. But this isn't a question of belief, just understanding. I believe that Jesus turned water into wine, but logically I don't know how that transition happened.

The first point made is a very good point.  It is very hard, almost impossible, to think critically and accurately about something we have never experienced.  As a writer, I find this difficulty looming over me nearly every way I turn.  To get around it, I read extensively about people who have experienced the topics I might be dealing with, hoping that their own writing is vivid enough to make me feel almost as though I, too, were experiencing it.  But you might be surprised to learn that the topic of eternity is not so difficult, nor so far off, as you might think at first.  The trick is to ask this question: do you understand your own experience?  Are you really getting out of it all it has to offer?  You can only speak from what you know, but what if you only think you know what you know?  What if the truth were happening to you so closely that you completely mistook it because you overlooked it? 

Bear that question in mind.  Because the overwhelming mass of thought handles eternity and time separately, I, too, will define them separately here.  We will first define eternity.  We are told that God inhabits it; we are told that from everlasting to everlasting he is.  We understand that eternity is not mere endless time, but, to put it better though still inadequately, it is timelessness.  When we say "timelessness," of course, we think of a moment that drags on through all other moments forever, so at this juncture even "timelessness" is a concept that we cannot grasp.  I feel "timelessness" is itself a word which brings the wrong image to a mind thinking about eternity.  It is not moments going on forever, it is not a moment superseding and surpassing all other moments.  It is itself a Moment.  It is Now.  It is the Everlasting Now.  Grasp that if you can: I have grasped it only slightly, but grasp it I do nonetheless.  But this concept of the Divine Moment, the Everlasting Now, opens the door for the concept of Jesus being slain before the foundation of the world, of our sins being forgiven before ever they were committed - before ever we were born; it even opens the door on predestination and election.

Eternity may very well go under the heading of "a hard saying," but they say Providence has a sense of humour and I had to laugh when I found an answer to this Now was not far off.  We will now dissect time.  Time is marked by successive change.  It is marked by movement, whether physically or mentally: the moment something has beginning it has moved from Naught to Being, and so you can say in time-terms "It was not and now it is."  When we learn a language we unwittingly set ourselves to the task of studying time: we study past tense and present tense and future tense.  We cannot speak without time pervading everything we say and do.  We can't think without it.  This is why we all wrestle with the idea of eternity: we can't cope with the idea of no past or future.  We can't cope with this Always Now.  We are creatures of beginning and movement and progressive thought, we are made to move deeper and higher and further into the mind of God.  We are made to be infinitely changing, conforming to the Unchangeable.

What is not always seen is that these two things are perfectly compatible.  They were made to be.  Now, no matter how extensively we may think about the past, nor how sceptically we may dream about the future, what we cannot avoid is that whenever we are, we are always in the now.  We ourselves are locked into an ever-progressing Now which, by virtue of its being created, has a beginning and so cannot compare to God's uncreated Now, and therefore must change, but nevertheless bears a marked similarity to the Everlasting Now.  I ask you to think about it: is it not sensible that the creature made in the image of God should also live in a medium made in the image of that which God himself inhabits?  His is a Now Unchanging - we must leave Nows behind and move on to new ones, never escaping them, always exchanging them for the next moment to come.

Frankly, of course you can't comprehend being outside of time.  We can't be.  We are all created, we all have beginning: we are immortal, not eternal.  We cannot trade our temporal existence with an eternal one.  It is simply impossible.  Please unburden your mind of that: we cannot become God, and even if we could become God we could not be eternal, because there would have been a time when we had not been he.  When we have been revealed in reconciled perfection with God we will not somehow be absorbed into his eternal being as though he were Nirvana.  We will always remain beings with a beginning, beings moving forward, beings changing and, so, beings marking out past Nows and present Nows and Nows still yet to come.  But as we are the image of God so we live the image of Eternity.  The struggle with the attachment to this present world is real, and terrible, and, Bethany, you are not alone in that fight; but in the matter of time and eternity I don't feel that it should offer a hindrance to our understanding.  Eternity is not something I think we can experience, but I do believe it is something we can appreciate.  Time and eternity are not so far apart as you might initially think: they are Shadow and Figure, Type and Archetype.  Time was not made to oppose eternity, it was made to imitate it; in light of our own task of discovering God, I hope it will be clear that change (and so time) is a good and necessary reality for man.

I know I have thought about this for a while and I hope that by now I have managed to make my thoughts coherent.  I hope, too, that this helps settle or at least organize questions that others may have - quite a number of things hinge upon the concepts of time and eternity.

For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he predestined, these he also called; whom he called, these he also justified; and whom he justified, these he also glorified.
Romans 8:29, 30

Introverted But Not Unfriendly

It's kind of a funny story.  I don't have many of those, but this one so quirkily describes my nature so that even I was surprised by its honesty that I felt compelled to share it between my more intellectual posts on God, Man, Heaven, and Hell. 

I had to go to the doctor.  I almost never have to go to the doctor, but this particular practitioner has been my physician since I was born, so I know the ropes of the office tolerably.  The whole building is set up in such a way that you make a sort of horseshore circuit of it as you pass through.  In order to get back into the lobby, and therefore to the exit, you must pass through a small separate room barred from the rest of the world by two solid wooden doors, one on either end of its little, odd-shaped space.  It is a cosy, dark wood-paneled enclosure, very familiar to me - I finally stand tall enough to see well over the receptionist's desk, but I remember the days of having to stretch on the tippiest of my toes to see the top of the lady's head.  Now, on this occasion, while my mother and I were on our way out, the receptionist remarked that she only had one more copy of The Shadow Things left.  Since the doctor knows us so well, the office has graciously been displaying copies of both The Soldier's Cross (Abigail Hartman) and The Shadow Things.  We told her that we had more copies in the Jeep and that I would be back with fresh reserves.

There is nothing like a doctor's office, however familiar, to make one feel insecure and small.  For twenty-one years I have been going to this single practice but I had to ask my mother all the same if it was acceptable for me to go in through the exit.  To this day I bore a foreboding feeling that there was some invisible Do Not Enter, One Way Only sign on that blank, solid wood door.  She told me that it was perfectly acceptable, so back I traipsed with my books in hand.  I was the only soul in the lobby, but habitual tip-toeing and reverential hush lay over me as I went in and opened the Exit. 

There was a woman there before me (behind me?), leaning on the counter, waiting to get her credit card back from the receptionist.  I think it must be rather bizarre for people to come popping back in by way of the Exit, so naturally the woman looked round as I came in.  Like Justin of The Silver Branch, I am naturally friendly to strangers, but always appreciate a show of friendliness in return.  In this instance - the space of a split second - I doubted I would get such a smiling reception, so I took the bull by the horns.  And the first words out of my mouth were


Thus I made my grand debut into that complete stranger's life.  I did get a smile out of her, a sincere one; as I arranged my books on the counter with Abigail's and chatted benedictorily with the receptionist, I can only imagine what that woman must have been thinking about the weird little brunette who uses Exits as Entrances.  Whatever it was, it was probably accurate.

The Knowledge of the Holy

Dear Bethany,

I choose to address your comment in two parts because, in making your comment, you raised another point which I thought we ought to attend to first before moving on to the topic of Hell.  I also choose to address it in an open letter format because addresses on blogs, I feel, tend to be too vague.  I want to address you, but I don't mind if others listen in.

The point you raised was that you had "come to realise that [you] can't understand God logically."  This was in the context of Hell and Damnation, but I feel the notion has wider ramifications that I can't move on from without addressing.  You talked in your comment about logicality and illogicality.  A student of the rational mind of course is acquainted with sensibility and credibility, and insensibility and incredibility.  We live in a very ordered, lawful world; because of this, we are able to study the world around us, and ourselves, and draw conclusions of theory and fact based on these laws built into the system.  The point I wish to make is that there is a tertium quid - there is a "third thing."  You have irrationality and rationality; I submit that there is also the supra-rational.  This is a thing beyond normal reason, but this does not make it a thing unreasonable.  I do not think it is too much to say that God, being eternal, incomprehensible, "the only wise God," is supra-rational

I want to point out, to your credit, that you don't appear to make the mistake of hubris that I think a lot of people make, and that is that you don't demand that God always make sense to you in your own terms.  The mistake I don't want you to make is to think that, merely because, at first glance - or second, or third, or a lifetime of glances - God's actions do not appear to fit with your paradigm, that means he cannot be, and does not allow himself to be, understood.  If he cannot be understood, there is no point in Creation.  If he cannot be understood, there is no point in our own rationality.  If he cannot be understood, there is no point in the revelation of himself through centuries of human history.  There is no point, if he cannot be understood, in the Cross.

Let me give you first a broad sketch and then a more specific testimony, both in the positive.  In the beginning, we are told, God walked with Man in the Garden.  There was unhindered communication between them, an open, Academic inquiry of the Created with the Creator.  Man was free to ask of his God all he wished to know, and God was free to communicate the communicable to Man.  It pleased God to make Man in his image, a lesser being by virtue of being created, but capable of being drawn up from the rational into the supra-rational.  Through the severance of that fellowship God was able to communicate something new to Man, something which, apart from the existence of sin, Man would not have known.  This was the concepts of justice and justification, which I only mention now: we will address those at another time.  But all down history we see God setting apart a people for himself, a people who will know him, a people to whom he spoke, until at last we come to the last prophet and the Son of God, the Word of God, himself.  Francis Thompson wrote of the Hound of Heaven: I see God hunting, not merely me, but mankind with a vengeance.  He will have his people, he will have men that know him.  He will turn the hearts of men from stone into flesh.  He will write his law upon their hearts and fill them with the fullness of himself.  In reading the revelation of himself, I see a God with his face set like flint to make himself known to Man.

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air -
Do we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars! -
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places; -
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But when so sad thou canst not sadder
Cry - and upon they so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross

Yes, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry - clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesaret, but Thames!

The above poem, written also by Francis Thompson, I feel adequately captures the union of rational and supra-rational.  That which we cannot know is made known to us.  That which we cannot touch we grasp with both hands.  I cannot believe, and the overwhelming weight of redemptive history denies, that the God who gave us logic is incapable of being understood in his self-disclosure through that very same rational capacity.  The trick, the difficulty, is that he is above logic, and we must be taught and moved to a higher comprehension.  It sounds impossible.  In a sense, it is.  But "with God all things are possible," and based on the soul of Thompson and his poem, and the souls of countless others like him, I think it is not so very hard as sceptics would have us believe, for "he is not far from any of us."  I am told that Nietzsche went looking for God and did not find him.  I sometimes wonder if he was not looking soft enough.

I want to move now from the fact of God's supra-rationality to the perfection of it, and from there, I hope, to the desirability of it.  By definition deity is qualitatively and quantitatively greater than creation.  Deity is eternal, deity is boundless, deity is the quintessential existence of all that is splendid and worthy of praise.  God, by the very nature of his being, cannot be composed of any thought or action which is unworthy of holiness.  Two of the revelations of his nature are his mercy and grace: two attributes about God which we would never have understood apart from sin.  Another attribute, which we will have occasion to go into much later, is his justice.  But whatever the attribute, communicable or incommunicable, I think it must follow logically by the very nature of Deity that it must be perfect.  Anything less is less than holiness.

It does not necessarily follow that a soul confronted with the glory of holiness will immediately want to emulate it.  Some souls, though they may not know that God is what they grope for all their lives, are not able, and are not allowed, to see the desirability of God.  Uncle Andrew of The Magician's Nephew is a fictional example of this real-life phenomena.  The fact is that some people find God while others only grope after they know not what - so what draws some to God and not others? what opens the rational mind to the language and higher planes of thought of the supra-rational? what makes the impossible possible? what causes us to catch the many-splendoured thing?  The answers given could be "Jesus," "the Holy Spirit," "the Love of God," and all those answers would be right: taken together, they give a more perfect picture of the means by which God works.  I have not the time now to talk about what the saints for two thousand years before me have discussed about these splendid means.  Suffice it for this letter to say that an individual, having been justified in Christ, having been saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is no longer operating under his former mode of consciousness.  There is now, as Paul said, a new law at work in him.  He is convicted of sin, has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and is moved by a renewal of the spirit to emulate his God.  This, in the context of faith, is perfectly rational, and hopefully we will have occasion to touch upon the rationality of justice and justification later.  Who would not consider it ingratitude that a soul, redeemed of God, preserved in faith by the Holy Spirit, should desire to live still according to the flesh?  Herein is the supra-rational: that a human soul, having believed on Jesus, has his mind attuned to the highest reason of all, the reason from which all reason comes.  He is not taught to think illogically, but to understand above his own natural reason.

I submit to you that, if God is incomprehensible through the use of logic (though not merely the use of logic), he would not have made a logical creature in his image.  If God is illogical, then it is a kind of idolatry to rationalize as we cannot help doing.  We must be brought up into the rationality of a personal God, not surrender without understanding to a God who is insensible. Perhaps the logic of God is only supra-rational to man as a result of human sin, and the logic of the redeemed will once again commune without hindrance or confusion when we finally are 'clothed with immortality.'

In the meantime, one may assume that a man indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a man who has already seen the desirability of God.  But not all knowledge comes at once, and some understandings are easier than others.  I desire God's mercy, I desire his grace, I desire his preserving Spirit to keep me in the path of holiness.  I desire him to teach me to turn from evil and to will and to do what is good.  Because holiness is excellent (is it not?), and if God is holy then it follows logically that he is the uttermost of excellence.  What man, what soul, stirred by the Holy Spirit, would not desire to emulate all aspects possible of such a God?  But at the beginning of the road those are but words clutched piteously by the heart. Man, bearer of the Imago Dei, has the logical rational capacity to grow in his understanding of the supre-rational God. The Holy Spirit undertakes the task of teaching the soul the language of Heaven: the study of the magnitude of evil and the uttermost excellence of God is a hard one, but it is not one, thank God, which we have been banned from learning.

O Go You Onward

O go you onward; where you are
Shall honour and laughter be,
Past purple forest and pearled foam,
God's winged pavilion free to roam,
Your face, that is a wandering home,
A flying home for me.
The Ballad of the White Horse, G.K. Chesterton

Travel has been on my mind.  In a series of events connected only by John Carterian leaps I've been thinking about travel, about places I've been and places I'm slotted to be at some point in the future.  I'm not a great traveller; I'm very easily cowed by the hugeness of the world, the noise of it, the emptiness of it.  The taste of our time's air is the taste of frantic despair.  I don't like it.  I would rather not go out in it.

Turning together, they looked up beyond the wharf to the rising buildings and cold winter sky, their eyes narrowed against the driving rain.  Everything was foreign.  They did not even have Rhodri there to make them feel safe.
"I wish I could kill it all,"  rasped Eikin.
Adamant clung to his arm.  "I - I know what you mean."

But I have always been a sort of traveller.   When people read my writing, they frequently tell me, "It's as if I was there!"  If you are a writer yourself you can imagine the magnitude of this compliment.  People often want to know how I manage to do that, and I suppose a simple answer (it isn't as if I actually know what I am doing) is that I've travelled extensively myself.  I have the ninth century and Wessex sitting next to me at this very moment.  I've seen Rome during years of her eternal reign.  I've rambled expansively through northwest India.  I've swished my feet in the Nile (which is not exactly advisable due to Lord Crocodile).  I've yanked an oar through the North Sea.  I've seen France under English rule.  I've wiggled bare toes among the primroses of a Kentish meadow.  I've been to Wales.  I've been to the Baltic.  Somewhere along the way I got lost in the Scandinavia of The Snow Queen.  I've been to Mercury.  I've been to Venus.  I've been to Mars.  I've taken up residence on the Moon.  I've even seen Saturn from a distance.  "You've been to England, haven't you?" someone asked me after reading a piece of my work.  Not strictly speaking.  I just read a lot. 

And there's the rub.  I'm a poor little pygmy that doesn't like to stray from her fire.  I'll gladly sail the frigate of a book, which costs far less and doesn't make me sea-sick; the worlds are all but just as vivid in their pages, the possibilities of adventure far greater.  I can pop into the kitchen any time I want for a cup of tea or a snack, which one can't do some thousand feet in the air on a jet that probably has never heard of "Twinings" and would confiscate all my tea thinking it was a type of drug.  I'm the policeman on the beat on the Path of Least Resistance.  I have shelves of doors into other times and places.  I have the key to each of them.  I don't have to pay fare to pass through any of them.  The white feather in me asks in very eloquent prose why I should be made to pay, to fly, to endure jet-lag and culture-shock to go to foreign places.  Apparently some people don't mind it.  I'm reading a book by the world-renowned Ravi Zacharias: anyone remotely acquainted with him knows that he has travelled extensively for years and, I think, enjoys it.  I can only sit in a blank sort of awe and wonder, respectfully, why.  Beyond the monologue-ing white feather is an even whiter feather adding background vocals that sound a lot like agonized screaming.

This is the place to which I have come in my ponderings on travel.  Despot-like, I don't feel particularly inclined to stir from my couch if all other places and peoples can come to me.   I am perfectly aware that this is smooth, gilt, self-possessed cowardice.  I am perfectly aware that I'll have to get over it and enjoy myself.  I have a friend on Mercury who somehow managed to combine both...

And you?  Where have you been, and do you like travel?  Have we been to the same places, you and I?  We may have passed like two ships in the night.

Of Cabbages and Kings

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax -
Of cabbages and kings..."
The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll

Once again it's time for Katiebug's monthly scribble fest.  I had a slow end half of March.  Let's see what peeks I have to offer you.

April Snip-Whippets

Through the lattice shone diamonds of light, which turned the stairway into a freckled grouse's wing, and up from the bottom of the stairway came the murmur of many voices.

After that she wandered oddly, composed of two or more parts and feeling of colours: a part of her, an ashen-coloured part, was still weary as if it had been beaten.  And it had, had it not?  Dreamy, sometimes nightmarish images of the evening's festivities sprang through her mind as she wandered down the empty passageways of Lookinglass.  Each one struck at her like Rupert's hand.  But another part of her was cool and golden, sleepy-fierce and defiant - was it only the lamplight, or was it something greater?  Yet another part of her, a far, back part which seemed to tag after her like a shadow, and seemed at other times to spring on ahead and look back at her from beyond the rim of lamplight, was the colour of a fox's coat.

There was a pregnant silence for a few minutes - neither woman moved - and in that time Margaret was able to place her as the fur-enshrouded woman who had ridden up with Lord Bloodburn from Hol.  How different the two were!  Brother and sister or man and wife, whichever they were, she could not have imagined them more different.  The fierceness in the woman's eyes was very small, and was there only because of the small bundle of a thing which she held in her arms.  All else had been quenched.
There sit I should Rupert ever conquer me.

"What, Lady Spitcat?  She is my shoulder-to-shoulder man."

"Ding dong dell, kitty's in the well!"

Eikin looked up from his side of the fire where he squatted, burnishing his weapons.  Andor lay beside him, lost in sleep and oblivious.  Glancing from Adamant to Rhodri, the Catti dropped his eyes again and rumbled, "How deep did I go?"
Rhodri, too, looked up, faintly surprised, and seemed to hang a moment on the silence.  "Not deep enough to kill me, I'm afraid."

Rhodri half coughed, half vomited the water out and sat leaning shakily over his knees, running his fingers through his hair.  [Adamant] thought she heard him groan, "Oh, my legs..." before he looked up at her and blinked away the brine in his eyelashes.  "This will be the death of me," he said, surprisingly good-naturedly.

"Yes."  There was a squeak on the floor as [he] turned.  A brief sparkle of light-off-silver flickered on the pane.  "A bad servant never likes being whipped."

To his ears the sound was like swallowing glass.