Friday, January 30, 2009
“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.”
What is it about castles? The word alone conjures up images and feelings that seize my imagination. Mysterious and immense, they’re full of fragments of history and myth. How lasting, how permanent these structures of stone arches, marble chambers, great halls, secret passageways and dungeons; this realm of kings and queens, maidens and knights, giants and gods, dwarves and faeries, heroes and bards.
The drama of old tales seems close at hand while these structures remain standing, as though the structures themselves strain to share all that went on and all who went before. They seem to hold out a beckoning promise of ancient wonder to me. Still so filled with the past, still so saturated with history and myth, I could almost be transported back to the age of fantasy, romance and myth. I’d step in to find myself in the midst of daily bustling life within those enclosed outer walls. What a lovely dream come true for a girl who never gave up dreaming of a long-past time, real or imagined, when castles and dreams were born of rock and took shape in my heart and imagination.
Illustrations by Alan Lee, concept artist for The Lord of the Rings movies.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Throughout history, handwritten letters have recorded moments big and small, feelings high and low, things mundane, tragic, poetic, romantic. This used to be such an important part of people’s lives. Today these letters are links to the past, echoing of hurts, disappointments, joys, loves, excitements and experiences, pulling us into the writer’s life, if only for a few moments, as we realize they cared enough to put it on the page. They are gifts of the writer’s time and energy.
I’ve had some remarkable letters in my life: A letter my father wrote to his four young children. A flurry of letters between my twin brother and me while he was stationed in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm 18 years ago. A collection of letters my cousin wrote to a French nurse before being shot down over France in 1917 at 30 years of age. I treasure these gift-wrapped memories—powerful and palpable signs of love and life constructed one word at a time—and I reread them often.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I don’t remember when I first heard or came into contact with Worry Dolls, or Trouble Dolls, but the whole concept delights me. Originally from Guatemala, they’re made for children and come in boxes or bags of six. According to folklore, a child can express his worries to a doll and place it under his pillow before going to sleep at night. The doll is thought to worry in the child’s place, thereby permitting him to sleep peacefully. The child is given one worry doll each night and instructed to tell one trouble or fear to the doll. The next morning when the child wakes up, the worry doll is gone from the bed (I’ve got to remember to do this part!), taking that worry with it. To introduce Corban to this whole concept, I read him Trouble Dolls, a wonderful book for children by Jimmy Buffett.
Monday, January 26, 2009
He isn’t glued to me as though he’s too frightened to step away. It’s as though he’s lost his own center of gravity and is drawn by my apparent gravitational pull. He’s always been a mover, a boy with an abundance of energy spilling over into impatience; a pure intoxication of motion. Nothing has changed there. Now, though, it’s manifesting as this circling thing. I’ve become the hub with this young life revolving around me, trying to calm and comfort himself by wrapping me with this new energy. It was intriguing at first, then worrisome, then annoying (especially while making dinner). Now it’s just interesting.
But just as I have to go to my own sources to keep myself centered and balanced, I must now help Corban re-find his center of gravity. In the world around us, there are a lot of things that can impact a child, leaving him feeling unsettled and unsure, so I know this is not the last time I’ll have to help him through making sense of his world. And even though life often gets better all by itself, I’m going to give Corban a special gift to help him in this so we can return from our foray into this valley of curious behavior. I’ll write about that in my next post.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
So it was, when I was 14 years old, that I found history all wrapped up in a wonderful novel about the American Civil War. I was hooked. Enthralled, I read about places I'd heard about and studied in other, drier contexts. With sudden clarity of mind and heart, I finally grasped that history is not made up merely of facts and events, but of people whose lives and decisions are shaped, impacted, affected by all that happens around them. I was seeing history-in-the-making through the eyes of those to whom it mattered deeply. Because my beloved characters cared deeply, I began to care deeply, as well.
There is a weight and comfort and substance I feel when reading/studying history. What has gone before shapes us all in large and small ways; it is our constant shadow. The significance of history deserves a poem, and so here I share my hands-down favorite.
snoring heavily on the couch,
I took down his overcoat from the rack
and placed its weight over my shoulder blades.
It would protect me on the cold walk
into the village for milk and the paper
and I figured he would not mind,
not after our long conversation the night before.
How unexpected his blustering anger
when I returned covered with icicles,
the way he rummaged through the huge pockets
making sure no major battle or English queen
had fallen out and become lost in the deep snow.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Daily, I'm intrigued, enlightened and entertained by the creativity and perspectives of others who've crossed my path in this wonderful world of blogging. And I thank them for allowing me to see the world through their eyes, and sometimes giving me a creative well to draw on. In that spirit, I, in turn, pass this award on to a few friends who, through their writing, have told my heart things it knows are true and who have given me a taste for possibilites that aren't found on the everyday menus of life.
Barry @ An Explorer's View of Life -- A wonderful storyteller, handling even heavy subjects with a light hand and an ever-faithful canine at his side.
Joanne @ Whole Latte Life -- Her posts are written to encourage thought and dialogue, but they go so much deeper. I'm shocked into truthfulness for a few minutes each day at her site.
Bee @ From the Desk of Bee Drunken -- A Texan in England, she makes the place she lives the place she loves and shares it generously with us through her thoughtful writing style.
Larkspur @ Garden Mother -- She shares her love of beauty, wrapping even the mundane in inspiration that is a delight to read.
If you choose to accept this award, here are those pesky rules:
- Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
- Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
- Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to Scholastic-Scribe, which explains The Award.
- Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
- Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Each time I see this movie (or read the book with my children), I laugh, I cry, and I’m filled again with the impossible joy of being a child. What a beautiful and hopeful lesson this is about believing in dreams and avoiding those who would puncture them. At the end, as the balloons lift Pascal above the gray ordinariness into the air, they seem to ask him, “How high?”
"And all the balloons of Paris came down to Pascal, dancing around him, twisting their strings into one strong one and lifting him up into the sky.”
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Broken Oar
Once upon Iceland's solitary strand
A poet wandered with his book and pen,
Seeking some final word, some sweet Amen,
Wherewith to close the volume in his hand.
The billows rolled and plunged upon the sand,
The circling sea-gulls swept beyond his ken,
And from the parting cloud-rack now and then
Flashed the red sunset over sea and land.
Then by the billows at his feet was tossed
A broken oar; and carved thereon he read,
"Oft was I weary, when I toiled at thee";
And like a man, who findeth what was lost,
He wrote the words, then lifted up his head,
And flung his useless pen into the sea.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The ceaseless rain is falling fast,
And yonder gilded vane,
Immovable for three days past,
Points to the misty main,
It drives me in upon myself
And to the fireside gleams,
To pleasant books that crowd my shelf,
And still more pleasant dreams,
I read whatever bards have sung
Of lands beyond the sea,
And the bright days when I was young
Come thronging back to me.
In fancy I can hear again
The Alpine torrent's roar,
The mule-bells on the hills of Spain,
The sea at Elsinore.
I see the convent's gleaming wall
Rise from its groves of pine,
And towers of old cathedrals tall,
And castles by the Rhine.
I journey on by park and spire,
Beneath centennial trees,
Through fields with poppies all on fire,
And gleams of distant seas.
I fear no more the dust and heat,
No more I feel fatigue,
While journeying with another's feet
O'er many a lengthening league.
Let others traverse sea and land,
And toil through various climes,
I turn the world round with my hand
Reading these poets' rhymes.
From them I learn whatever lies
Beneath each changing zone,
And see, when looking with their eyes,
Better than with mine own.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Friday, January 16, 2009
Since her newspaper “debut” in December, the story has been picked up by MSNBC and a number of regional/local newspapers, including The Indianapolis Star and The Grand Rapids Press. She completed an internship in London (England) this last summer, and has been invited to participate in another in Malawi (Africa) this summer. She's found the river and is saying yes to its flow!
There is no question we're proud of Lindsey. We've been her faithful audience for years and years, enjoying this child full of passion and enthusiasm who is following her dreams and finding the art in the everyday. She's found a way all her own to make the world a more beautiful place.
Lindsey is third from the right. If you want to follow her story, here's her blog.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
My problem has never been putting words to paper; my issue has been sharing it with others, actually letting people read what I've written (a throwback to a mean-spirited grade-school teacher). Facing my “monster,” I decided to brave it and post my thoughts on a blog as a daily exercise. Initially, it was only going to be for me; then I expanded that to family, which was my second reason for starting it. Spread all over the country, this has become a way of staying connected with my far-flung family and of re-tying the threads that time and distance keep trying to unravel.
What began as an exercise soon took on a life of its own as I've met friends in Blogdom—those who have similar passions and interests, as well as those I don't have as much in common with but who intrigue and enlighten me daily with their viewpoints and perceptions of the world.
My three children are each eight years apart. (I know! What was I thinking?!) Lindsey was in high school before Corban was born. Because of that age span, it's hard to choose one favorite memory that incorporates all three of them. Of all the places we've gone, things we've seen, adventures we've enjoyed, and family time we’ve shared, there is one thing I've enjoyed with all of them—read-aloud time.
This has been a constant in our family from the beginning, an undercurrent, a continuous cadence. As a young mom, armed with Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook, I set out to pass on my love of books, reading, and words to my children. This might seem a tame choice to an observer. After all, there are no fireworks to report; no ribbons, parades, applause. There is only that soft and lovely time spent close to my children imparting a love of books. My fondest memory? It’s when my children are with me, all at ease on a down comforter of well-being, opening a book together.
Having said that, I’d love to visit Scotland and Ireland. I not only have genealogical roots there, but enjoy immensely novels and historical fiction set in these locales. The history, lore, castles and myths all intrigue me. They seem the perfect destination for someone, like me, who is drawn to wild, remote places of extraordinary beauty.
This is a cruel question to ask a serious reader! Only one book? I can't do it. I gave this a lot of thought, and I just can't do it. Like in Fahrenheit 451, my air vents are big enough for at least three books, so here are the three I would risk saving:
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – Reading Shakespeare aloud, giving voice to his words, is, as Frank McCourt so well put it, “like having jewels in my mouth.” I would save this book for the sheer beauty and expression of language.
The American Heritage Dictionary – Ever the optimist, we’d need a plan to rebuild from a book ban of that magnitude. With a dictionary in hand, we'd have a sure source of words, meanings, definitions, pronunciations—all things we'd need to turn people back into readers and writers. Before we can have readers and writers, though, we need thinkers. And for people to use their minds in this way, they’d first have to stock them. This would be my re-stocking tool of choice.
Bible – Unlike the downriver vagabonds in Fahrenheit 451, I could not memorize this book, so I would risk hiding and saving it. It includes so many of the things I enjoy—poetry, history, genealogy, wise quotations, prophecy—and I can read it over and over and always get something more out of it. But mostly I’d choose it because it has a power to show people who they are, what they've become, and what they can be (a true mirror, which fans of F-451 will understand).
Although worthy of contemplation, I don't want to go back and have to repeat anything, and I certainly can't go back to remake decisions without irreparably altering my present, which I would never want to do. I love my life and adore my family. Over the last two years, some pieces of my life have come together in interesting ways, resulting in a happier and more complete me; more content and appreciative. It’s taken years to accomplish what Thoreau calls ‘making a whole of the parts’. I’ll stay, hopefully with more wisdom and grace, right here at 47.
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
I will post a list of those who have agreed to an interview so everyone can follow along.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
...And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Monday, January 12, 2009
When I couldn't get enough of him on NPR, I bought the recordings of his stories. I needed more frequent installments of his 'News From Lake Wobegon' than he was providing. His stories of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota were full of small incident, ever about family—the Bunsens, the Tolleruds and the Tollefsons—and always moderated with passion. I followed their sagas faithfully. My favorite stories were 'Tomato Butt', 'Ronnie and the Winnebago', and 'Thanksgiving'.
Garrison Keillor is also an author and, although I've tried to read his books, something gets lost in the translation from audio to print. It's a rare book I prefer to hear on tape or CD, but Mr. Keillor's books fit this bill. His stories need his distinctive voice. He brings life to old places and makes them lovely to pass through.
One more spring in Minnesota,
To come upon Lake Wobegon.
Old town, I smell the coffee,
If I could see you one more time.
That long, long time is always on my mind,
I'm just a stranger with memories of days of long ago.
Could it have been forty years since then?
What happened to us? I'd like to know.
That yard, that tree—you climbed it once with me;
We talked of cities we'd live in someday.
I left, old friend, and now I'm back again.
Please say you missed me since I went away.
One more time, this dance together,
Just you and I, now don't be shy.
This time, I know I'll hear the music,
If you would hold me one more time.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
His homely tale this very day;
His voice was buried among the trees,
Yet to be come at by the breeze;
He did not cease, but cooed and cooed;
And somewhat pensively he wooed;
He sang of love with quiet blending,
Slow to begin and never ending;
Of serious faith and inward glee;
That was the song—the song for me!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
‘O, pooh! Boating!' interrupted the Toad, in great disgust. ‘Silly boyish amusement. I've given that up long ago. Sheer waste of time, that's what it is. It makes me downright sorry to see you fellows, who ought to know better, spending all your energies in that aimless manner. No, I've discovered the real thing, the only genuine occupation for a life time. I propose to devote the remainder of mine to it, and can only regret the wasted years that lie behind me, squandered in trivialities. Come with me, dear Ratty, just as far as the stable-yard, and you shall see what you shall see!'
He led the way to the stable-yard accordingly, the Rat following with a most mistrustful expression; and there, drawn out of the coach house into the open, they saw a gypsy caravan, shining with newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red wheels.
Wind in the Willows--The Open Road, Kenneth Grahame
Artwork by Tre Zieman
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
We know conversation is central to our relationships. It involves discussing things of consequence, thoughtful listening, honest exchanges. It can enlarge our understanding and sweeten our imagination. It engages the mind and the heart, and can leave both participants satisfied and even enlightened afterwards.
There are those with whom I have ambling, relaxed conversations, and there are those with whom I communicate in staccato-like bursts of energy, packing so much into so little time. Good communication can be as stimulating as a cup of full-octane coffee to me (and just as hard to sleep after!). But mostly, I love the fact that good conversations start in one place and move us on to other fabulous places we would never go on our own. How lovely is that? Care to sit a spell?
Monday, January 5, 2009
Painting until about 1960 (six years before he died), Parrish left behind a prolific body of work. His distinctive and original style helped shape the Golden Age of Illustration. His work even resulted in new art terms. Fans of Parrish's work will recognize the phrase "Parrish blue,” as well as references to his famous mountainous
Through the years, spending a few minutes with his images has served to refill my creative well, spark my imagination, and fire my inspiration. It's hard for me to describe exactly what Parrish's art does for and to me. His colors caress. His images tug at my senses and leave me with something that feels like yearning. When I look at them, I cannot put a name to what they make me wish for. With his fantastical settings—some even featuring literary characters—it's like looking through a window to another world. Maxfield Parrish has become my master of make-believe. And in his images, lullabies linger for me in that special place between asleep and awake where dreams are born.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Visual Thesaurus is an online thesaurus and dictionary that uses an interactive map. It’s a great tool for those who, like me, think visually. They even add (drum roll, please!) a Word of the Day!
OneLook Dictionary is an amazing compilation of 973 dictionaries. It’s a one-stop shop for your word-search needs. It even offers reverse and wildcard searches on words.
Time & Chaos is a supremely easy and effective time management software. There is a free downloadable trial version for anyone who wants to check it out.
LibraryThing is an online tool for cataloguing your books, and it allows you to share your titles with others.
MyBookList is an online reading journal for library patrons. Check with your local library to see if they offer this. It’s free, and it has replaced my handwritten book journal, which lists all the books I’ve read, along with short notes on what the book was about and if I would recommend it to others.
Simpleology is a free online multimedia course and workshop designed to teach people to set and reach goals. There are great tools to plan and organize your day, as well as terrific desktop features that I continue to use long after I’ve completed the course.
My definition of a timesaving online tool is something that doesn’t take me long, but takes me far. These six things have had a positive impact on my life and productivity, and I share them with you in that spirit, looking forward to a wonderful and productive year.
Please feel free to share what’s in your toolkit for 2009!