So: Happy New Year, Everybody!
The Cubs took the Reds 12-4 in a game liberally decorated with doubles, and which was made more fun this year by the girls being a year older and not so distracting with their sheer cuteness and antics in being utterly unaware of the game. Grace understood some of what was going on from T-Ball, and was more than willing to climb up me for a view of the action when the crowd stood during some exciting moment. She listened and looked intently during any explanations and that understanding seemed to make it all the more fun for her. She was also very enthusiastic in making a huge mess with me as we chomped our way through a bag of peanuts, scattering the shells on the ground with a determined carelessness very different from the way we treat our homes, and she went out of her way with great gusto to mash the shells to powder. Haley was, naturally, a little less attentive at 3 than Grace could be at 5 with her extra years of experience, but rallied from time to time in sheer natural playfulness. And Sophia even managed to go the whole game without any real fuss. So with the nieces on one side of me and Dad on the other, I was much entertained. I kept catching Leslie's eye where she sat on the other side of the girls with Jim and we just kept grinning at one another with the fun of it all. A great day, and great generosity on my brother-in-law for springing for the tickets.
I scored the picture on the last entry from the blog of the photographer who did J.P. and Sheila's wedding, Dave Mason, with whom I had a chance to talk for a few snatches of time during the madness of the day. He gave, in the blog entry linked above, a bit of a preview of what is to come, which was fun to see. My own chance to shoot was pretty limited and I quickly decided to lean on him for most of the event, which will surely be the wiser course. A few other choice photographs, however, such as Mark running around in his Langers, were definitely reserved for the "insider's" view. Much of our time was public and well-documented, but a few smaller occasions were so absorbing and intimate that photography wasn't something I was able to think of. In what effectively became J.P.'s "bachelor party," the groomsmen gathered in the small piano bar that topped the hotel and took over the piano, with J.P. playing requests on the baby grand, especially his inspired Beethoven renderings. I called for the "Pathétique" and the genius was able to just pull it out of the air. We were joined here by Joe and Sarah, a bridesmaid and her doctor husband who were actually from Milwaukee. I got to talking with them and figuring them out some, and we might hang sometime in the near future. He's out at Froedtert and she's a consultant for non-profit organizations, and I think that they'd click famously with the Lloyds and the Harrises, especially as they also have a three year-old daughter (the flowergirl) and a two year-old son. We'll see if anything comes of that chance meeting. While those of us who had long known each other naturally tried to grab all the time we could out of this reunion, it was impressive to see the natural coolness with which this couple easily slipped into this circle that night, having met J.P. only once before, if I recall correctly. So, anyway, I'm still thinking of that whole event of the wedding, and I blundered around today, trying to convey some of it to Leslie or Dad when the conversation went in that direction, and why the spirituality of the ritual was so particularly powerful in the way Sheila and Jon-Paul executed this liturgy, both in its mandated, traditional forms, and in what ritual they innovated.
I've now gone a week of travel without any work on my dissertation, and it feels strange. To highlight the strangeness, I've dived into the difficult but rewarding novels of Charles Williams again, after tackling several of them during my Master's, but abandoning Descent Into Hell halfway through. This time, I poked through The Place of the Lion during various bathroom breaks of the trips, and found that some of my later coursework certainly helped in being able to read it. I don't know that it's necessary to have some background in medieval and ancient philosophy to read it, as well as in Pseudo-Dionysius's Celestial Hierarchy or the ancient Gnostics (both orthodox and heretical), but it helped me read it as I did. (And a goodly amount of Plato.) Imagine the plot of a novel where the Platonic "Forms" or "Ideas" (or maybe Jungian archetypes) start breaking into the real world! As one quote on a paperback cover put it, there really seems to be nothing like these novels anywhere else in English literature. (Anyone have any thoughts on that thesis?) I'm going back to re-read the fun 1930s Grail quest of War In Heaven before continuing on into uncharted territory with The Greater Trumps. I abandoned the better version I found of this at Downtown Books for a crappier copy in the Fantasy/SciFi section that included a Foreword written by William Lindsay Gresham, who Inklings readers and scholars would remember as being Joy Davidman Gresham's first husband, prior to her late marriage to C.S. Lewis. This tickled my interest enough to go with the spotty copy....