Caryl Houselander: The Dry Wood
A Couple of Things After the Triduum

A Couple of Things Before the Triduum

A few things I meant to say about The Dry Wood:

I'm not sure exactly what the title means. It's an allusion to Luke 23:31: 

For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?

That's the Douay-Rheims translation, which is the one Houselander uses, not surprisingly. I admit that I've never been entirely sure what it means. It's part of the warning Jesus gives to the people as he is about to be led away to his crucifixion, a warning that very bad things are coming for everyone. Flammability is one obvious difference between green and dry wood, so maybe "They're trying to burn green wood, so what will they do with dry wood?" is meant.  Anyway the general idea is that bad things are happening now and worse ones are coming. 

Here's what the editors of this edition say about it:

When a perfectly good green tree is burned (that is, when Christ sacrifices himself on the cross), what can the dry wood of fallen and broken humanity expect to find when it meets with fire? Fallen humanity can follow Christ to new life, but only at a price.

Well, that's obviously true, and the novel is very much about suffering, but I'm not totally convinced either that it's the correct interpretation of the words themselves or what Houselander had in mind in using them. I wonder if she meant something a little more specific: that her story describes the kindling of a fire in the dry wood of the people of Riverside. The plot supports that interpretation.

I mentioned the character of Solly Lee, a Jewish businessman who cynically tries to cash in on the popular devotion to Fr. Malone. That is obviously a somewhat stereotypical scenario, though probably, like most stereotypes, having some grounding in reality. But if that sounds like it might be heading toward anti-Semitism, it most definitely is not. The portrait of Solly is rich, sympathetic, and deeply and seriously engaged with his situation as a secularized Jew. To say much more than that I'd have to give away more of the story than I want to.  Suffice to say that it is not a hostile portrait.


The Trump indictment is a disaster for the nation. I say that with no sympathy at all for Trump himself. I think I've made my low opinion of him sufficiently clear over the years; search for his name on this blog if you want verification. If this involved a serious crime I would support it. But it's transparently contrived for political purposes, as the basic offenses are not only misdemeanors but misdemeanors for which the statute of limitations has expired, turned into felonies by the charge that they were committed in pursuit of another and so far unspecified crime. Even the vigorously anti-Trump David Frum thinks it's a bad case: 

From the moment rumors swirled that the Manhattan district attorney would move against Trump, many of us felt an inward worry: Did Alvin Bragg have a case that would justify his actions? The early reports were not encouraging. Many Trump-unfriendly commentators published their qualms. Over a week of speculation, though, it seemed wise to withhold judgment until the actual indictment was available to read. Now the document has been published. The worriers were right.

That's from The Atlantic, and I can't read the whole piece because I'm not a subscriber, so I don't know where he goes from there. I am a subscriber to Bari Weiss's Free Press, which has this analysis from Eli Lake; maybe you can read it. After explaining how thin the case is, he says:

All of this raises a question—not just for Bragg, but for the Democratic Party, the online resistance, and the media ecosystem that seems to exist simply to stoke outrage about Donald Trump for its overstimulated, progressive base: Is it worth it? Is the catharsis of seeing Trump indicted worth the damage a politicized prosecution of the former president will do?

Trump is bad, but it's the Democrats' reaction to him that is doing the most to tear this nation apart. Are they willing to do it because they know that Trump's supporters will be enraged enough to make him the Republican nominee next year, and believe they can defeat him? Or is it just the blood lust, the pleasure of humiliating the man they hate so much? (I was very surprised a while back to hear a progressive friend deny that she and others hate Trump. It confirmed my impression that zealous progressives are remarkably unaware of the demeanor which they present to those not of their faith.)

Either way, they are enlarging, possibly beyond repair, the rip in the fabric of our society. They are feeding the divisions that led to Trump's election in the first place. And they don't care. There are tens of millions of decent people who support Trump and believe that the ruling class of this country despises them and wants to render them powerless, or worse. Now you're encouraging them to believe that the law will not protect them if the progressive establishment goes after them. I suppose the Democrats think they can control the outcome, permanently defeating their enemies. And they may be right. But what will be the cost? 

One day, if history is told with any accuracy, they will be held in deserved contempt (along, probably, with Trump himself). But it will be too late to heal the nation. 

On that grim note, I'll sign off till after Easter. 


On second thought, I won't leave it on that note. Something reminded me of this picture, taken last fall at a state park in north Alabama. The light was extraordinary and though my phone didn't really capture it, it's still rather pretty.



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Gorgeous photo. :)

Re "dry wood" -- N.T. Wright in his book "Luke for Everyone" says this:

“The contrast between 'green' and 'dry' wood supplied Jesus with one of his darkest sayings. But if we find our way to the heart of it we will learn a lot about what he, and Luke as well, thought the cross was all about. 'If they do this,' he said, 'when the wood is green, what will happen when it's dry?'

Jesus wasn't a rebel leader; he wasn't 'dry wood,' timber ready for burning. On the contrary, he was 'green wood': his mission was about peace and repentance, about God's reconciling kingdom for Israel and the nations. But, he is saying, if they are even doing this to him, what will they do when Jerusalem is filled with young hotheads, firebrands eager to do anything they can to create violence and mayhem? If the Romans crucify the prince of peace, what will they do to genuine warlords?

Jesus, we must realize, knows that he is dying the death of the brigand, the holy revolutionary. That is part of the point. He is bearing in himself the fate he had predicted so often for the warlike nation; the woes he had pronounced on Jerusalem and its inhabitants were coming true in him. The One was bearing the sins of the many. But if the many refuse, even now, to turn and follow him, to repent of their violence, then the fate in store for them will make his crucifixion seem mild by comparison. The judgment that Rome will mete out on them will be so severe that people will beg the earth to open and swallow them up, as the prophets had warned.”

I think it's achingly beautiful. Literally.


That's interesting because I've been finding that spring is making me ache.

When I saw the scene in that photo, I was just startled more than anything, and at first found myself wondering what kind of lighting or other artificial effect was being used. But of course it was 100% natural.

Thanks for the Wright quote, Marianne. It fits roughly with what the editors say. Rome did indeed mete out a fearsome judgment on Jerusalem.

Here's something somewhat hopeful about the Trump indictment: apparently even some on the left think it's a really bad case.

Back in 2020 a liberal woman writer, I forget who, said that while the progressive's desire to "take Trump down" may be a good thing in and of itself, what's equally important is how it's done. Namely, it should not cause bigger problems or set a bad precedent. Others, both left and right, have occasionally echoed this sentiment since then. Team D has apparently chosen to ignore it. The reason is clear -- gaining/maintaining political power -- but the ramifications are not anywhere near as apparent, other than it appears there will be a rough ride ahead.

Spring won't be as enjoyable for me this year because our winter was so strange. So much fluctuation of temperature that cabin fever never really had a chance to set in. It used to be that once we were past Thanksgiving you could expect temperatures seldom if ever to hit 40 degrees until the end of March. Now we have frequent oddities that make it all unpredictable, with days in January and February in the 60's and even the 70's. Most people up here seem to like it, but I don't.

Have a Happy Easter, Mac!

Thank you, Stu, and same to you.

Wild fluctuations in winter temperatures are normal in the South, and even more so down here near the Gulf. Twenty degrees or more within 24 hours is not unusual. We had a hard freeze that lasted long enough to freeze pipes, then a few days later it hit 70 again.

Yeah, that's common in Denver too, where my daughter lives. Definitely a new thing in our neck of the woods though.

Interesting coincidence: when I read your comments about Spring this morning a book came to mind that I was going to mention but then didn't -- Edward Thomas's (author of "Adlestrop") In Pursuit of Spring. I haven't read it, so couldn't recommend it, but thought to myself that maybe I'd pick it up in the next day or two (I've owned a copy for several years). Well, lo and behold, an hour or so ago I get an email from the publisher which mentions, among other things, that very book. I will take that as a sign.

The email says that this was his last prose work, as he turned exclusively to poetry after it was published. They also mention a BBC Radio Four production in which a fellow named Matthew Oates follows Thomas's journey in 2013 and documents what he sees now, 100 years later.

That sounds fascinating.

A good Good Friday meditation from Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review:

Though I agree that black vestments would be appropriate for this day, red as the color of blood is also fitting, with an implication of joy to come later.

I voted for Trump-and supported him financially also. The main reason is because I saw him as the only one who gave me a sliver of hope....for...anything.... good. I knew he was our only hope to obtain the crown jewel-the Supreme Court. I was absolutely stunned when his policies exceeded my expectations.. I kept expecting him to compromise(Like the "nice guys" we voted for before)
I had hoped to apply "Love thy neighbor as thyself" to the unborn babies I hoped would be saved through the overturning of Roe.
Abortion is illegal in Alabama now. Murder is now illegal in Alabama.
Thank you President Trump. I bet those little babies who survived as a result of his actions will thank God for him one day also..
He is bitterly hated (and feared) not because he is an obnoxious *%## but because he was the greatest defender of life and liberty in the White House since probably before Reagan.

I think you're extremely naive about the kind of man Trump is. I can appreciate the good things he did while recognizing that he actually is pretty much the jerk that people say he is.

Some of the credit for the Roe reversal goes to the establishment or at least non-Trumpist Republicans. If Mitch McConnel hadn't blocked Merrick Garland--who we can now see would have been a truly massive disaster--and the Federalist Society hadn't been ready with a list of solid judges, things would have been very different.

In the Orthodox Church we don't have black vestments. Those for Lent and Holy Week are dark purple, while red is used for martyr's days. I get what Daugherty is saying though, and mostly agree with him.

A blessed Pascha to all of you who will celebrate tomorrow! Ours will be next Sunday.

And likewise to you.

Purple is the Latin color for Lent and Holy Week as well, also for Advent, and red for martyr's days.

I wish we had a term like Pascha for Easter. The latter is just an Anglo-German (I think) historical accident and is used to support bad history. I had an argument on Facebook with someone who was putting out that tired stuff about the dates of Christmas and Easter being chosen because they were pagan festivals, and appropriate to the seasons. I granted that there was room for argument about Christmas, but that Easter was based on Passover, not on the greening of leaves or anything of that sort, because in a sense it *is* Passover. My argument would have been stronger if I'd been able to point to the name.

Whether I am naive about Trump...or very naive about Trump...or not naive at all I don't honestly know.
What I do know is that the actions of those who supported him resulted in him getting elected and Trump putting a more conservative court in place and babies being saved .
That was the crown jewel I was seeking.
That is what I got from president Trump.
In a few years there will be a whole host of young children that will thank president Trump and others for voting for L I F E.

Whatever one thinks of Trump, it's a fact that many millions of people detest him and would never vote for him or anyone he supports. Most informed commentators seem to believe that he bears a lot of responsibility for recent Republican losses. There's a real possibility that the reversal of Roe v Wade is going to be itself reversed by federal law. The Democrats are jumping up and down to do that. Trump may very well help them by his egotism and refusal to get off the stage.

But we may be arguing trivialities here. Personally I think it's very unlikely that this country can stop its slow collapse.

Turns out that Orthodox vestments for Good Friday are black after all. I either never noticed or simply forgot.

About spring making you ache-our weather has been such that ache we may, but not for beauty. However, frequently when I am scrolling through Facebook, I see a beautiful picture the causes me to catch my breath, and have a little pain in my chest. If this is part of being old, it's a good part.

Today, btw, was really beautiful. I hope you all had a nice day.


I did. Hope everybody else did.

The ache can't be old age in your case. You're too young. :-)

My husband always tells people I am older than he is, so that would make me a good bit older than you.


Probably nobody believes him.

I await the "A Couple of things After the Triduum" post, Mac!

I started writing one but I didn't call it that. I've changed the title now. :-)

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