…it is well to remind ourselves before we begin of the way in which metaphorical language—that is to say, all language—is properly used. It is an expression of experience and of the relation of one experience to the other. Further, its meaning is realized only in experience. We frequently say, “Until I had that experience, I never knew what the word fear (or love, or anger, or whatever it is) meant.” The language, which had been merely pictorial, is transmuted into experience and we then have immediate knowledge of the reality behind the picture.
—Dorothy Sayers, Mind of the Maker, p26, emphasis mine
I need to get on the stick and pick my sharing-poems for my upcoming Glen Workshop poetry class. We don’t gather until the first week containing August, but my intuition is that I need to square this away sooner rather than later. No doubt because my summer thus far has been like an inverse colloid: the harder I try to grab, the less I’ve held on to things.
Glen is a Christianity-friendly space, however, so I already have my eye on a few targets. There’s my Job poem and my Jeremiah one—I think of them as a pair, though they may not land that way for others—the new one about torture and resurrection (!), the one where I draw a picture of a parent/toddler’s hide-and-seek and extend the metaphor to God.
I haven’t even typed the resurrection one, so it may have to wait. And it could be interesting to see whether the hide-and-seek one seems as polished to others as it feels to me.
Parenting has been the largest “Ohhhh, I get it” experience in my faith life. And the one that feels most solid to me in metaphor. I mean, I’ve done parenting for a while, and with more than one person. I have a lot of experiences to draw on.
Oddly, when I look way back, I hadn’t thought I was unclear on the key points prior to child-life. I felt connected, like I had a handle on grace, and was on my way to coping with the space-time conundrums inherent in predestination. And yet the unfolding of my girls’ young lives has presented moment after moment of illumination. And humbling apologies to God alongside the ones to my own parents: “Did I do that? I know I did that. It is amazing you put up with me; your love is beyond understanding.”
Wordsworth, in the preface to his Lyrical Ballads, wrote:
[P]oetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.
I am not a Wordsworth fan, but this captures the link for me between Sayers’ description of experience’s metaphors and the grit of what I strive for in my poems.
So I’m grateful that I can re-member my parenting experiences, pare them down to their bones, and then try to connect them to their larger versions. Maybe that way I can spark others to say, “Ohhhh, I get it,” too.