A Review of Ruminate 6
Flannery O’Connor wrote that the Christian writer must “feel life from the standpoint of the central Christian mystery: that it has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for. But this should enlarge not narrow his field of vision.” Just such an enlarged vision is exactly what a reader will find in the sixth issue of Ruminate: Faith in Literature and Art. Rather than collecting sanitized moral tales or mere devotional pieces as one might expect of a Christian literary magazine, the editors of Ruminate have in this issue gathered prose, poems, and visual art under the common theme of epiphany–both in the sense of realization and the Christian feast–and given us an issue that looks at ordinary and extraordinary things from varying degrees of faith, writing that contemplates the mysteries underlying human spirituality and the philosophical difficulties of faith.
What makes the work in Ruminate stand out is the way it stares at “what-is” unflinchingly, not changing reality to suit the needs of a particular creed. These works consider life by the light of Christian dogma, and, at the same time, Christian dogma itself, through the lens of common life.
Joy Deann Carson’s painting titled “she spent all she had and was not helped at all” recalls the old woman from the Gospel of Mark who gave two coins to the temple treasury–the woman huddles with her knees against her chest, her face half-hidden by her hair and veil, a gray background behind her. Surely this woman, who “out of her poverty . . . put in everything she had,” is one of the blessed Christ spoke of in the Beatitudes, and yet we see in the painting that, instead of receiving an instant reward for her sufferings, she must wait.
In the poem “Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother,” Lenore Wilson sees the sufferings of Mary through the eyes of Christ–a Mary who will only later understand what her son came to do, who watches in bewilderment as he passes by on the Via Dolorosa, “penned and raised and bound for slaughter.”
Perhaps the centerpiece of this issue is “Klara’s Boy,” by Stephanie Dickinson. Nothing explicitly religious here, but the story asks one of the hardest questions anyone – Christian or otherwise – can ask: Can anyone be redeemed? Anyone? I had to lock myself away and read this one aloud; it’s a real gem.
But these works will appeal to readers of all creeds and none mostly because of their awareness of something much larger than the individuals who populate the artwork, poems and stories. In Barbara Adams’ poem, “Abiding,” the speaker, the wife of a farmer who watches her husband put a new metal barn in place of the old wooden building his father built, feels the weight and vastness of a world in which the “land wears us like a pair of old shoes.” In “Simple Science,” Bethany Carlson finds the “white bursts of lighting in a summer storm . . . the neutrons splitting isotopes the way a jackhammer might crack open a geode” somehow smaller and less mysterious than “simple science: the weight of gravity, the definition of matter, the pull of magnets. God. The power to make it all stay put.” Everywhere these individuals find themselves surrounded by dogma, and the art they inhabit, the world in which they live, is made larger by it.