Friday, January 16, 2015

The Demon of Hunga Ha'apai

"A curse be upon you, people of Heimaey!
Woe befall you, citizens of Nuku'alofa!
I have spread burning rock over your lands,
Your seas I will boil dry!"

The Volcano-Demon rejoices at the sight of an eruption.
He rubs his hands with glee as he sees the pastures in flames.
He yelps in joy as the lava tumbles into the waters,
And luscious reefs disappear into balls of steam.

A great monolith of dark, loose ash rises in the ocean.
The waves mobilise themselves to wear it away, but they fail.
The Volcano-Demon plants his heels at the caldera triumphantly.
With his left hand he spreads ejecta over the sea,
With his right hand he casts plumes of ash to mock the heavens.

But when the Demon turns his back, the birds arrive to rest,
They have brought with them seeds from faraway lands.
In the rich dark earth born of fire, the seeds sprout greedily;
In the shallow seas around the island, the reefs revive.
And the Almighty has crowned his newest land with life again.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Adventures of Péter Bartók's Father

Book Review: My Father by Péter Bartók
Dedication: To Hope (Hope Kellman, who did the final editing)

The son of Bartók, the great Hungarian composer and scientist, remembers his father almost sixty years after his (the father's) passing. He tells of the adventures of a sympathetic person, not at all larger-than-life, nor too small, but at about the right size for life. Péter Bartók's father is of a scientific mind. Péter Bartók's father loves hiking, and loves the songs that the peasants sing wherever he travels. He has a messy table but is fussy at work. He tells silly jokes about National Socialists. And then etc., etc., etc.

I only wonder how Péter feels inside when he goes back through all the letters that his father has written for him in life, especially this second one (translated from the Magyar):

Amsterdam, 9 Nov. 1928

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Shortened Testimony

In the morning (7 a.m.) of the last day of the previous year, I woke up to a great view. The weather was clear and Gunung Arjuna was visible on the horizon to the south. Later in the day, according to the routine dictates of the local climate, the white clouds would roll in and obscure the mountain again.

This is Surabaya, a city as beautiful as her name.

Tina, who I had been with for some years, is lost at sea. I had come with the gentle prompting of my parents, who did so out of empathy for hers. I gathered prayer intentions and well-wishes from those who knew her and some who did not. By noontime all the preparations were complete; by evening I had arrived.

Who have I seen there? No, I did not find sobbing wrecks and people who have taken leave of their senses. I met people who were strong in the Lord, people who were filled with grace and compassion for those around us. Love, peace and joy in the air, in defiance of every dismal piece of news. Each sheds their fair share of tears; such a gesture was not out of the question, and even I was not spared, but the mood has been largely calm.

We listened to and trusted the facts. We did not heed rumours and baseless speculation. Probabilities were meaningless to us; the media, who do not try very hard to appear sympathetic, are shut out of the door. We prayed. Day and night, alone or with the company of family and friends, in any number of languages.

We prayed for the Lord's mercy and protection, and he has heeded us. We prayed for strength and grace, and he has heeded us. We prayed for progress in the search and rescue, and he has heeded us. We prayed for hope, and he has given us reasons for hope. The Lord is good and he has answered these prayers of ours. We send in petitions for the safe return of his beloved daughter Tina. We enlist the help of Mother Mary, St Jude, St Florentinus and many others.

If she is in God's hands now, as I have thus submitted, then that is where I shall put myself as well. And why not? It is a good place to be in.

People who do not know us have sought to take our story and then to lace it with melodramatic embellishments. I only wonder what they will say when they open the box of my thoughts, expecting to find grief and hurt and regret, but instead find praises sung to the Lord's glory and goodness. I only pray that this box never be closed again.

Lord, have mercy on us; shower us with abundant grace, lead us to salvation; let all our lives be lived in your praise; with your helping hand we shall brave all difficulties. Amen, Alleluia.