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Passion: Under Water

By Jennie LaFortune


I’m teaching Hemingway in class.  A Farewell to Arms- where war, love, food, nature, and alcohol litter the pages.  Selling the plot to a bunch of 17- year- olds was quite easy. Like I said, war, love (or let’s be honest, sex), food, and alcohol. But I know, and hopefully they will too, it contains more.  Nuances, often unspoken, unseen, but felt. Maybe their young hearts are too fresh to grasp or understand it in its entirety, but, maybe not. Hemingway’s sentences are short, brave, and true. Then there are long parts of serene scenes of nature and of leaves falling and of clear water and it is usually crisp and clean and followed by a manly scene with shrapnel and blood (and of course a lot of the conjunction and thrown in for good measure). I’m drawn to his lack of explanation at this time in my life.

A few days ago I put Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” on the board for the class to discuss:

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.” – Ernest Hemingway

The dignity of movement.

That phrase held me captive.

Movement and stillness.  I have been on the move and felt as if I have not had a moment to breathe, to dive deep; to just be still lately.  And ironically, because of the reliable tide and current of the days I’ve felt stagnant.

Some critics say that Hemingway’s omissions created distance from the characters, and lacked a sufficient amount of action. Distance and insufficient action is one way to put life lately –it’s easy to live on the surface.  But I think the depth is there. Sometimes forgotten, but there.

It’s made me think that to stop and get to know a new person, or unearth new scriptural meaning,(or to even take time to read them at all), or to take the time to ask new and refreshing questions to friends and our Heavenly Father is to believe in the dignity of the underneath.  The underbelly.  And sometimes searching requires ugly dive gear and sacrifice.

I’ve begun to see that though it is simple, to exist solely on one-eighth of potential and possibilities without believing more exists, depletes passion and gratitude.

The dignity for me also comes in believing the movement below awaits discovery – directing the course of the visible.  While not always seen or acknowledged, it exists.

Later, that day I found some waves drawn on the board with the words “go under water”.

I am going to try and take that advice, while marveling at the dignity of the seen and unseen.



About Jennie LaFortune

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Figuring life out one book, beach, road trip, museum, and front porch conversation at a time. Perpetually on the search for the best dark chocolate, finest pen, and greenest field. When she's not teaching high school, she loves to spend time with friends and family, the shore of any ocean, holding her friends' babies, or taking long neighborhood walks.

10 thoughts on “Passion: Under Water”

  1. this was so beautiful. sometimes i read things and wonder if, in my entire life, i will ever have the kind of wise, new insights and ideas that others seem to have. and then to have the ability to share them and edify others with them. it feels unlikly as i don't believe it's ever happened to me. but i loved these thoughts you shared. i'm so grateful there are people like you who DO have that ability, and for the grace to at least be able to receive them from others. ♥

  2. "And sometimes searching requires ugly dive gear and sacrifice." Loved this Jennie, and the whole post.

    I also love that someone added to your words, and I hope to also go under the water. I've always wanted to be majestic, so now I'm picturing an iceberg…

  3. Lovely piece–makes me want to run to the library and snatch up some Hemingway. I'm a fascinated tourist in life–loved the idea of exploring beneath the visible surface. "Of course!!," I thought–"Why wouldn't I?"

  4. Blue- You DO have the ability, and I have been touched too many times to count by your writing. Plus that amazing comment says way more about you than me 🙂

    Kel- Thanks! I'm trying to remember the ugly dive gear part myself. And you are very majestic.

    Jenny- I love that a "tourist in life" – that is a great idea and perspective.

  5. "Movement and stillness. I have been on the move and felt as if I have not had a moment to breathe, to dive deep; to just be still lately. And ironically, because of the reliable tide and current of the days I’ve felt stagnant."

    This really struck me. I have lots of thoughts but many moving young children here with me right now so I will try to get my thoughts out. First thought: 1000 Gifts by Ann Voscamp talks about how to really be in the moment, to sink down in the stream of time rather than just letting it rush past you. She says the secret is naming our blessings–noticing them rather than letting them go past. Second thought: a friend and I talked about George MacDonald and taking Christ's yoke upon us and getting peace from that and that if we are feeling anxious, worried or afraid those are good feelings to have because it indicates something is wrong, that we aren't really yoked up to Christ, at least not as well as we could/should so when we feel those feelings it is like an invitation to take a look at our lives and find out what is going on–are we REALLY yoked to Christ? MacDonald said the ONLY burden Christ ever took on was the one the Father wanted Him to so we also need to make sure we are pulling that burden–what God wants. The only way we can really know what that is, is to ask Him. We talked about giving service and good/better/best, that spending our days in the good would not bring the level of peace we seek, that we need to be cautious that we are REALLy doing God's work and not all the peripheral stuff around it (like trying to keep immaculate houses and have control over every aspect of our existences) or being prayerful about the invitations others give us to serve, that there is no magic bullet–we can't automatically say yes to everything and think to survive the onslaught (we just don't have the time and energy) because we would end up neglecting what God really sent us here for and yet if we say no to every opportunity to serve, we will die. Third thought: I struggle to have time (often) to think (and WRITE!) because my children need me (to the tune of every five seconds when they are all awake–one after the other) and so it seems sometimes like I am not getting the peace and rest I want. But that is one level. The other level is slowing down and accepting the invitations they are giving me to serve them, to go into those opportunities willingly and remember that this is God's work for me right now and it won't always be here and if I give myself wholely to it now, while I have the chance, it WILL renew and rest me in ways that resisting it won't. (And I can jot notes for lengthier writing when they are sleeping. 🙂 )

    Sorry if that was disjointed–more like notes than a complete thought. I CRAVE the quiet time to think but am learning that just because that kind of peace is not always available does not mean there is NO peace. The children (and God) can teach me great truths about stillness and love and joy if I let them. There will be other times for different types of learning and peace.

  6. One more thought–to myself, not to counsel you. 🙂 To feel rested I just have to stop. I rush and rush and rush and have discovered something–rushing does not rest you, but a free stolen moments from a frenetically busy day CAN. My kids walk to the bus stop each morning and I have made it a practice to sit on my porch and watch them until the bus comes. We live in the country so there are wide open fields in front of my porch where I sit and look at the mountains, see bounding deer and waving grasses and spend two or three minutes to think (or pray.) I am amazed at the restorative power contained in these few minutes each day. They seem to have a cumulative restful effect which in some ways is counterintuitive. Wouldn't leaping to get more done on my crazy-long to-do list make more sense? Apparently not.

  7. I appreciated this post and the comments. I too want to go underwater, to be majestic (the small book "The Majesty of Calmness" by William George Jordan anyone? Is it grrrreat!).
    And I especiallu appreciate your notes Ana, I am living with five wonderful littles right now and so I get it! Thank you Jennie, Ana and everyone!

  8. Ana, yes, thank you! You have enriched my perspective to be sure. I want to look into 1000 Gifts by Ann Voscamp – I love the thought of "how to really be in the moment, to sink down in the stream of time rather than just letting it rush past you." Sign me up!

    Emily- I haven't heard of your suggestion either! It sounds like a winner just from the title. It's going on my Goodreads list right now.


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