Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Secret Flower

The Secret Flower: And Other Stories

"And so I travel homeward, though I have never seen that city- yet I will know it, and its fair meadows are even now green with winter wheat before my eyes, and I hear its children singing in the streets, and its quiet bell proclaiming God's love."  
~The Secret Flower

Jane Tyson Clement's volume of poetry "No One Can Stem the Tide" overflows with both reflection and contentment. 
Her verse convinced me to read her prose, as collected in "The Secret Flower: And other Short Stories." 

This book is made of six tales, five short and one lengthy. The first five are beautifully mythic, according to the old definition of myth... a fable that seems to be from an imagined world, but tells us truth about our world. 

One tells of three brothers who each take shelter during a night of terrible storms, stoking their fire and supping alone.
Each brother locks out the weather and the cold, only to hear a child's cry through the wind and rain. 
And each man must decide whether he will risk his life and venture out into the wild darkness to rescue the child. 

One tells of a King who rules a land where there is always abundance and never rebellion, where a sophomoric peace lies over everyone. He and his people never feel pain or suffer, but they never feel joy or celebrate either. Work has no satisfying meaning, and there is no true need to serve anyone. 
All is lukewarm and acceptable each day... there is no variation to make you more glad or more regretful. 
The veil is torn away from the King's eyes the day a young traveler arrives, coming from a land in famine, and the King burns himself on his coffee. 

One tells of a troop of schoolboys who love a robin that is pure white but tease a boy whose skin is deep black. When a fire rages through the village, will the test of heart bind them together as brothers?

The final tale, The Secret Flower itself, is the longest, and it is a story that sings and grows and overflows in joy. 
Her writing is so pure and precise in her descriptions of the created world and the converted heart. Whether she's telling us about a great beech tree losing its leaves in a wind, or describing the tears of a man who realizes that love is all around him, her word pictures remind us what language gives us when we use it right. The Secret Flower is like a small version of the Narnia stories. In a way, it is the story of every soul that God ever entered. 

I am... "fit for nothing but to serve the beggars or be one. But over the years I have found it a grace to serve the poor for I count no man, neither myself, better than they, and we are all poor in God's sight, those who sleep on silk or on the cobbles of the street. And I will help thee all I can, if thou wilt send back to me, if thou findest that city, God's city, for such there must be! Surely Christ came to earth to change this miserable earth, as well as promise the hereafter!" 

I hope more people discover this book. Unlike so much "moral literature" that used to be produced for children, these are not short stories with a lesson hidden in them. They are little snippets of fable and tale, that say something genuine and real. 
They remind me to look at everyone the way Jesus did, and he often told people they were "not far from the Kingdom of Heaven," and then he bid them follow to him there.

Thank you to The Plough publishing for giving me a review copy. 

Jane Tyson ClementPoet and writer Jane Tyson Clement (1917 – 2000) grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But she always preferred Bay Head, New Jersey where her family owned a summer house. “There was something eternal about it that was always a rock and an anchor for me.” Jane earn an English degree at Smith College and married Robert Clement, a Quaker attorney. Together they sought for meaning in life and an answer to social injustice. They eventually joined the Bruderhof, a Christian community. Jane taught school and raised a family, but her unquenchable thirst for justice, and for the wonders and mysteries that lie hidden in nature, kept her restless. Her poetry and short stories mirror this lifelong quest for truth and wholeness.

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