Autumn Equinox on Saturday and other ramblings…

Rain is falling, concentric splatters on the puddles in my driveway. My mind is all-a-swirl as we are finishing up our second week of home education here at Hearth Ridge Farm. Yesterday afternoon, I snuggled down and read the book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, and was thoroughly delighted. Just what I needed at the moment. An escape to England, mysterious wolves, big, beautiful houses with hidden passageways, and endearing children to cheer along the way. The beauty of story. It made me think about the piles of scribbles I have laying all about my house, the discarded ideas, the dusty laptop. The brilliant purple morning glories are dripping wet, a fog and wetness hanging around these last few days. I can’t resist admiring the way their beauty and green tendrils sneak in and out, through and under, a lovely vein of happiness through the outside of my deck. How story and beauty keep us moving forward, their beauty splashing against the gray of dishes, discouragement, and ugly despair of our world. The poem, The Chairs That No One Sits In, a gentle, almost silent-sort-of plea for that elusive something that we often forget, that we drown by the incessant Sirens of our day. The cooling down the past couple of days, the the red tinges peeping out, my daughter exclaiming with delight over the leaves “following” our vehicle, the tinkling, crunching noise and movement swirling up around us, so very beautiful. Autumn is our guest arriving Saturday, and I’m warming up to its cool promise of sweaters and more afternoon teas. I was delighted as I drove through the changing countryside on Tuesday, listening to two kindred-spirit creatives talk on mystery, writing, and just general lovely bookishness. I notice another flower friend, my poor geranium is still hanging on, by the way, a mystery and delight to me, because it is long overdue for a re-potting and often gets neglected. Again, that splash of something that cuts through the piles and dust and smells of life. Reality doesn’t change, but I can make one step forward, parting the waters, one more song to carry me on my way, one more beautiful image, word, and thought that brings me and those around me hope.

~

July Reads

A8EE4D3E-5E27-4021-950F-D43F2A7A3C6E

Hello, Dear Readers,

It’s time for last months reading recap!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (****) – This is one of my Back to Classics picks for the year in the Author that’s New to Me category.  Wow! This was an amazing book and my first Steinbeck. The nature descriptions are wonderful and I enjoyed his rich prose and insightful, detailed observations. It started off very dark and depressing as we are introduced to Cathy, later known as Kate. She is one of more disturbing people I’ve read about in literature in a long time! Towards the end, I feel like I was able to feel a twinge of compassion towards her or at least a teeny bit of understanding. As we went along, I started to see some of the “retelling of the Genesis story/Cain and Abel” feeling, as our characters battle the internal good and evil in their lives and with their families. This follows two generations of two families and weaves in and out in a beautiful way as they struggle to survive their parents and as parents, their upbringing, and finding their purpose in life. They battle the question of is our tendency towards good or evil inherited or a choice? The weight of this question is felt heavily in each person’s life.  I felt like I got to know the characters deeply and that many of their questions were universal. I loved Lee, the Cantonese servant, and eventually friend and caretaker to Adam. I loved, loved Samuel, the dreamy, distracted friend of Lee and Adam. I realize this is a crazy, all over the place review, but it’s hard to describe. Beautiful, recommend with caveat that it does have a lot of darkness: prostitution, language, and suicide.

Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching by Richele Baburina (****) – This is a reference book for how Charlotte Mason approached maths and her words gathered together on mathematics and laid out in a very helpful way. I skimmed some of this, but found it very interesting and plan on referencing it in the future.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889 – 1910 by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I absolutely loved this look into Maud’s life as a young teenage girl, growing into a young engaged woman. The angst, temptations, and frustrations of the growing years were the same as many of us go through, but this was unique peek into a woman’s life at the turn of the century. Maud’s life with her grandparents was very rigid, so it was fascinating to see how she escaped into books and nature. I don’t care what Maud said, her own personality comes through in Anne and her other characters SO much! 😉 I can’t wait to read the next of these! I think there are five of them.

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a page turner! Mysterious, full of awesome creep, and I loved the Edgar Allen Poe vein throughout. I also loved the newspaper setting in Libby’s world and coffee shop in Annalise’s life. I felt very interested and connected to both Libby and Annalise, both in their respective mysteries and time periods. The growing affection between Libby and (well, I won’t spoil it) was done well, not too cheesy, but slower and more natural.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Interesting, dark story about the English Civil War and the wrestling with good and evil in all of our lives. How the love of God and others trumps darkness. Fascinating look at Royalists, Puritans, class divisions, and the Romani peoples. Gardens and herbs are prominent in this book which was beautiful and piqued my interest in it all the more. This took me a LONG time to get into, you have to be very patient with Goudge, but she will reward you many times over, if you hang on.

Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance by Iris Graville (*****) – I picked this up off my non-fiction library new shelf and I’m so glad I did. This is the memoir of a full-time nurse, who is burned out, and knows she and her family need a change from their fast paced lives. They end up moving to a small village in Washington State, North Cascades. They really begin living pretty primitively and work hard at odd jobs in the tourist season. Through it all, Graville journals, hikes, and just really searches her heart about what is important. I appreciated that her and her husband had a normal, yet good marriage. The only thing I didn’t like was once in awhile it felt a teeny bit whiny and I’m not a Quaker, so some of that was vague to me, but over all really enjoyed this story about her life and family.

The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them edited by Antonia Fraser and Victoria Gray (*****) –  That title says it all! Ha. It was just lovely (for the most part) essays from writers on their lives and reading. I read this pretty slow, but really enjoyed it. At the end of each chapter, each writer shares a list of a few favorites. I was surprised how many lists had Alice in Wonderland on their lists! I think it’s time for a reread.  🙂

Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin (***) – I really enjoy the first half of this book, just about fantasy writing and the importance of imagination. The second half was forwards she wrote for her books and she gets more defensive of some of her gender neutral writings etc. I found it to get a bit too whiny and possibly preachy?

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young (*****) – I read this on a road trip and was positively charmed by the recipes and memoir reflections of Miss Young’s life. One of reading and and feasting created to compliment her favorite stories. Many of the recipes were drool worthy and weren’t TOO difficult (except for a few) for the average home cook. Just LOVELY.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy  for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher (***) – I found the beginning of this book absolutely fascinating as Dreher gives us a snapshot of how Christianity has fallen apart through the ages and a view of it in the United States. Not super in depth, but accessible to the normal reader, I appreciated this part a lot. I found some of his ideas very idealistic, yet I loved his hopeful tone and encouragement about cultivating community. I was a bit skeptical because I don’t love a lot of what you might label as “Christian self-help etc” type books, but overall, I liked this one.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (*****) – I just loved this collection of poems, revisited ones from Picnic, Lightening and The Art of Drowning, both which I read earlier this year. His poems are so REAL and concrete and so very universal. You feel like what he just shared happened yesterday to you. Yet, he surprises you, too, by his close, minute observations. I really am enjoying Mr. Collins.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Psalms, digging into Proverbs, and read Matthew and Mark.

~

 

 

 

June Reads

Happy July, Readers! I’m catching up after being on holiday, so things are a little behind, but that’s ok. Here is what I finished up reading in June ~

1492117  Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason (*****) – It’s hard to review these as a whole, because each section is jammed packed with interesting and wise tidbits about educating children, parenting, and frankly, I learn a lot to meditate on about all of life. It takes me a LONG time to read these, unless I’m reading with a group. This volume of Miss Mason’s is unique, in that it gives chapters that serve as examples with problems one might face in different situations or children. I highly recommend. Be forewarned, once you finish, you may want to turn right back around and read it again, because there is SO much goodness in here.

35489103   The Landscapes of Annie of Green Gables by Catherine Reid (*****) – Gorgeous book of photos, quotes, and brief history on L.M. Montgomery and the island she loved so much. I highly recommend for an Anne of Green Gables or Montgomery fan!

35505416  Across the Blue by Carrie Turansky (***) – I won this on a blog, which was so nice, because I didn’t even know I was entered! Ha. In the end, I’d give this a 2.5-3 stars as the topic was interesting, a fictional story based around the first man to fly over the English Channel. I loved the different angles, including a mystery. The breaking societal norms for a upper class woman feels like it is been written about over and over, and the romance was predictable.

The Night Circus The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (****) – 3.5 – This was beautifully written, crazy, and unique. I loved the dark, yet twinkly feel to this book. I mostly felt sorrow for how badly Celia was treated by her father and Marco also by his adoptive guardian. It showed clearly that abuse can manifest itself in many different ways, through outright violence and anger or manipulation and careful, calculated control. (More of my review here if you are interested!) 

20170404 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (****) – Fascinating and intriguing look life after an epidemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? It isn’t because it’s told through the voice of a troupe of actors who travel around giving Shakespearean plays. Sobering and beautiful, sad yet strangely hopeful, I enjoyed the creative way St. John Mandel wrote this, wrapping up many veins well at the end.

The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1) The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (****) – This fantasy/sci-fi classic has been on my list for awhile and I was so enchanted by Discworld and the amazing characters that Pratchett created. Not sure if I will go on to read all the Discworld, as I think there are 40 or more of them! I’m tempted to try book two. If you want a crazy unique, light story, check this one out!

Serve It Forth Serve It Forth by MFK Fisher (****) – I’ve been wanting to read Fisher since I’ve enjoyed Julia Child’s and Peter Mayle’s foodie memoirs. This did not disappoint! Just random chatting about the history of food, stories about meals she shared, and delicious food descriptions. I will be reading more from her!

The Dark Is Rising (The Dark is Rising, #2) The Dark is Rising (Book 2 in The Dark Is Rising Sequence) by Susan Cooper (****) I love Middle Grade and Young Adult Classics and this is a fantasy classic that is underappreciated I think. This is a reread and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. I recently reread the first one, Over Sea, Under Stone, and am planning on slowly continuing through this series. If you enjoy English myths, fantastical battles between good and evil, and children on daring adventures, you will LOVE these. If you are giving these to children, I would say they are on the darker end of fantasy. Just FYI.

Smoky-House Smoky-House by Elizabeth Goudge (***) – Ahh! I love your stories so much, Elizabeth dear. This one was a sweet children’s story about a widower and his five children, and a mystery surrounding their inn, the Smoky-House. This one was sweet mixed with strange about Free Traders on an English coast. It was not my favorite of all Goudge’s, but I loved the three animals and how they were major characters of the story, and we were able to hear their conversations.

Discovering the Character of God Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald (*****) – I absolutely love Mr. MacDonald’s belief on who God is as our loving Father. There are a few things that are vague and a few things I may argue with him on, but overall, I was so encouraged and challenged by this wonderful book. It took me a very long time to read, because I wanted to go slow and it’s not something you can read quickly. This is set up with three part chapters: his poetry, commentary, and a section from his fiction – all tied together with a topic for the chapter.

Five on a Treasure Island (Famous Five, #1) Five on a Treasure Island (The Famous Five Series, Book 1) by Enid Blyton (*****) – I’ve been wanting to read this series and I really enjoyed this lovely story of three cousins who meet and stay the summer with their cousin and her dog. Full of adventures and lovely English sentiments, I can’t wait to read more and share them with my children, also.

The Divide (The Alliance #2) The Divide by Jolina Petersheim (****) – This was the sequel to The Alliance which I read last month and I enjoyed the conclusion to the story of a Mennonite community struggle for survival in a dystopian society. This one was a little darker and had a sad undertone to it, but overall I was enthralled and it raised a lot of questions on how far you would be willing to go when defending your love ones and battling starvation. Not a light read, but interesting!

Stillmeadow Seasons (Stillmeadow Series, #3) Stillmeadow Seasons by Gladys Taber (*****) – I finished my current Taber read, as I always have a little bit of her memoirs going. She is so lovely, simple, and hearkens back to the days of living off the land, following the seasons, and the beauty and value that can be found in homemaking. I don’t think I have any new Stillmeadow books to work on, so I might need to search around online for one. *ahem* 😉 I do have one about her father and one about her later years, living in Cape Cod.

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1) Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (*****) –  Don’t judge this one by it’s ugly cover! Another high fantasy classic that I just learned about. This was a wonderfully, full, richly constructed world and characters. I can’t wait to read the others in the series. This is written in older, beautiful language, feels like a mystery, adventure, within the confines of feudalism, and the intrigues of the court and common people.

Holy Bible: King James Version The Holy Bible (*****) – Isaiah and some of Psalms.

 

~

 

Gather Round {June 2nd}

IMG_3923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Want to catch up on what has been happening here at Hearth Ridge Farm?  Check out previous installments here.

Domesticity – My seedlings did so well and then one word: chickens. Yes, our chickens got most of them after I planted them in the front areas. I forgot about putting up some sort of little fence or something. My basil, oregano, and dill are the only things that are still doing alright. Bummer. I think I will have to stop by the Amish greenhouse and see if I can get some zinnia plants. I need flowers. I really was tempted to put in peonies, but alas at $20 a plant, I might have to save up for that, since I only want like 457 plants. Gardening is definitely a lesson in patience and fortitude. I will stay strong. I now have a huge area with nothing really to look forward except weeds.  Ha. Well, I guess I do have hollyhocks that I planted last year coming up (purplish black! Eeek!) and I’m hopeful about some cosmos I planted. In other news, my littlest son turned four this week and he was so precious and said,”Thank you for my birthday,” numerous times.  He loved his big floor puzzle and book. We have a large party of guests coming in the next few weeks, so we have plenty of work in the house and yard to keep us going. I need to figure out how to feed 14+ people for a week or so. Hmmm….weed salad sprinkled with dill, anyone? 

Education ~  SomeONE *cough – not mentioning any names* always picks way too many books to read each school year and so we are just trying to finish up those last few hanging around. We finished Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare today and we  generally enjoyed it, albeit it was weird, and all the disguises were nuts. Everybody’s names ended in “io” it seemed…Petruchio, Cambio, Grumio, Traino, Gremio, Lucentio, and so on so forth. Sheesh. What were you thinking Will?

Writing ~ I have some major reevaluating to do soon. I feeling stretched a bit too thin and getting bogged down by too many voices in this area. I’m praying about it and I talked to a good friend today more about it. I do know that I want to continue to write here, because I enjoy it so much and hope there is a small spark of something that inspires you, too.

Reading ~  I’m really looking forward to more free time with our formal learning set aside for a few months. I’m really enjoying getting into T.H. White’s The Once and Future King more, and I’m rereading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, which I really find so wonderful and deliciously creepy. There are so many wonderful possibilities staring at me from the shelves, I’m giddy with anticipation. I was able to get a box of mainly new picture books at a book sale today and we all enjoy poking through them so much this afternoon. One of our main family read-aloud times this holiday break is the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and we already started it and are enjoying it.

Sillies & Sundries ~  My friend passed this TED talk along to me and wow. What do you think? I’m finding that I’m really struggling with a full brain, exhaustion, and just tension. Yes, some of that is just normal for a busy mother, but I’m wondering if this gentleman is on to something? I’m going to be considering his thoughts closely. I’m looking forward to chasing down his book, Deep Work. I think he focuses more on productivity in your job (*snore*), but I think this could be applied to creativity and just relationships. Very compelling.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

May Reads

The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baumillustrated by W. W. Denslow and originally published by George M. Hill Company, Chicago (1900)

“I have always thought myself very big and terrible; yet such small things as flowers came near to killing me, and such small animals as mice have saved my life.” ~Cowardly Lion

 

 

 

How was your reading month? I got some good ones finished and I’ve started many titles that promise to be lovely. My stack is heavy on non-fiction right now for June, which is very unusual for me. I’m trying to find more fiction in the fantasy genre that is based more in myth, legends, and folklore. Please share if you have any good titles that fall in the description. Here’s what I read in May:

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp (****) I read this for my Back to Classics by a Woman Author category. I found it heart-warming and pretty funny at times. I especially loved Mrs. Trapp’s hilarious explanation on their attempts at learning English and also the lengths she would go to hide her pregnancies.  I was amazed at the Trapp family’s resourcefulness and determination. It dragged just a bit for me, but overall, a good story. By the way, the movie is only slightly inspired by the real Trapp family’s life, very little of it is true.

The Alliance by Jolina Petershiem (****) Amish/Mennonite dystopian, anyone? Ha. I’ve read my fair share of Amish inspirational novels in life, so I was bit skeptical about this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. The characters were interesting and multi-faceted and it had intriguing premise.  If something big happened to our power grid or our society’s basic structure (that heavily relies on technology and electricity), who would be more adapted to handle that type of world? This title didn’t shy away from the dark side to people when faced with desperate situations and it didn’t have pat answers or solutions for tough things. This is a page turner with well-drawn relationships, fast paced action, and hard questions.  Older teens and up as it has violence and other disturbing images.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint (***) – I really enjoyed this story, well-written, good characters, and beautiful settings, urban Canada into an Otherworld. I love Mr. de Lint’s ability to create intriguing, mysterious settings, memorable characters, and amazing creatures. He did extremely well with creep. I want to give this five stars as it was close to perfection in what I love about the fantasy genre. My only hesitation has to do with my Christian faith as this is heavy on occultism in a way that really is hard to reconcile. I also really disliked heavy swearing. I can usually read something that isn’t to my taste and just throw out anything I don’t agree with, but I can’t recommend this book without reservation.

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals
by Dinah Fried (****) – This was a lot of fun. A combination of photo art and sentiments by Fried about memories of food in fiction she has read. I really enjoyed this and also found some new books and authors to check out. This was short and sweet, a nice break from all my long books and huge stacks. I heard about this book on a lovely podcast called Tea & Tattle.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling (***) – This was a beautifully written book about Maggie Black, a writer, who inherits her mentor’s home in Arizona. She finds herself drawn to and inspired by the harsh, yet beautiful landscape around her. A mystery surrounds the death of the poet who’s home she now calls her own. Heavy on spirit-ism, Native Peoples religious beliefs, and occultism, so I recommend with reservation.

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie, & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen (****) – I enjoyed this short, inspiring book on writing and exploring the fantasy genre. There was one chapter I warmly disagreed with, but it wasn’t anything horrible, it was just a preference of mine. Over all, I really enjoyed this.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (****) – This is one I’ve wanted to read for a long time and a few online friends read it in the month of May and discussed it here. I found it sad and multi-layered. After reading his The Buried Giant, I feel like I walked away from both of these, with more questions then answers. Stevens is a faithful butler who is out on a long-over due holiday, thinking back over his long career and who he is as a person. Thought-provoking. I’m sure I will get more out of this on subsequent readings.

The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening by Billy Collins (****) – I immensely enjoyed these two books of poetry. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed. 

The Holy Bible (*****) – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Monday Ponderings {May 21st}

F6092647-42A7-49B4-A2D5-63DDB0F11BC8

“Folklore is a lively fossil that refuses to die.”

~ Charles Potter

 

“A child conversant with the old tales accepts them with an ease born of familiarity, fitting them into his own scheme of things, endowing them with new meaning. That old fossil, those old bones, walk again, and sing and dance and speak with a new tongue. The old stories bridge the centuries.”

~Jane Yolen

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

~

 

Gather Round {May 19th}

IMG_3923

{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

I skipped the May 5th Gather Round, but it couldn’t be helped.  Check out previous editions if you are interested in catching up round here.

Domesticity ~ Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and I had a lot of fun cooking meat and potatoes in different forms! Ha. It’s true. He loves plain, farm fare. The children helped me set the table nicely and we got a lot of farm/yard work done, as it was a gorgeous day. My seedlings are actually doing well. Just need to weed a bit more and transplant them out doors. I probably need some wood chips to help me keep the weeds down. I’m hoping to go to a nearby Amish greenhouse for a few flowers for my deck and maybe a couple perennials to plant, crossing fingers that one day Hearth Ridge will have a bower of flowers. I’m especially keen to plant peonies and lilacs. They might take a few years to really show up or bloom, but that’s alright. The anticipation will be worth it.

Education ~  We are continuing on for a few more weeks, working on finishing up our Civil War studies. We’ve been reading a few wonderful, thoughtful books together about Prudence Crandall, Abe Lincoln, and others.  My oldest has read Gone With the Wind and is finishing up Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  She also has read about Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee. It’s been a fascinating term, history wise. We will be getting into the World Wars in the autumn.  We have quite a few loose ends to tie up before we break for the summer.

Writing ~ I’m working on a poem about time and another essay piece I plan on submitting soon to a online journal. I’m hoping another poem I wrote will be included in a collection of local stories and poetry. I’m slowly moving forward on my fiction piece. I am basically character building and world building, muddling through the first draft with no clue what I’m doing. BUT I’m having fun, even though it’s extremely hard to craft. I was digging around online and found a lovely writer’s blog that I am inspired by deeply. I especially have been enjoying her essays on the Creative Process. Her photographs and collections of illustrations are beautiful. One thing that I find, is that I don’t write as much for here currently because all my brain power is turned to my other projects. I still LOVE writing here, my little home, so there’s that tension. However, all of life is a tension and a dance, right?

Reading ~ I’ve been mainly enjoying The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris and Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket. I have a huge stack of books that are essays about writing, writing fantasy, and writing for children, as well as nature lore and travelogue memoir types. I’m always way too ambitious with my reading piles. As long as I just determine not to let it me stress out, and weed it occasionally, that’s fine.

Sillies & Sundries ~  I found a fantastic lecture by author Susan Cooper that I very much enjoyed and wanted to pass it along to all of you. Brew a cup of tea and be prepared to be inspired, it’s about an hour long. Is anyone tuning into the Royal wedding today? I might peek onto social media, but for the most part, hope to read, grab a coffee with a friend, and garden with my daughter.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

Monday Ponderings {May 14th}

IMG_5815

 

” ‘True to life’ may not always be true enough, ” he said. “The difficulty is perhaps in confusing truth with objectivity. By its very nature, art can never be objective. Try as we might, we can’t ‘tell it like it is.’ We can only tell it the way it seems to us. And this, of course, is what we must do — in realism or in fantasy — if we hope to create anything of durable value. We have always needed good art to sustain us, to strengthen us, even to console us for being born human. Where better can we learn to see through the eyes of others, to gain compassion, to try to make sense of the world outside ourselves and the world within ourselves?

~ Lloyd Alexander

(I’ve been thinking about this quote this weekend, especially in relation to writing. I do believe my faith is objective truth, but I think I understand what Alexander is saying here, in that life can be seen so differently through the lens of art, because of the creators behind it. It gives a more complete picture of life, because it’s not just one viewpoint. I believe even subjective art can convey objective truths, but seen at a slant and with flavor, that doesn’t make their message any less true. I saw this bit online and I believe it comes from the book Innocence & Experience: Essays & Conversation on Children’s Literature, which I very much want to read. What do you think about this? Have you read this book?)

 

~

On Fairy Tales and Fantasy

Wodwo or Wild Man of the Woods by Martin Schongauer 15th century engraving

Wodwo or “Wild Man of the Forest” by Martin Schongauer, 15th Century Engraving

“What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air?”

(beginning of the haunting poem “Wodwo” by Ted Hughes)

     What inspires and moves you? What makes you feel most alive? For me, I find inspiration in all of life, in the little details of the salad my daughter and I are tossing, or even in the way the light shines on our book shelves. I find beauty in my faith, in nature, and mostly, dear literature. My favorite fiction being fairy tales and fantasy. Something about these stories, echoes the faith I have that this world is not my real home. There is something waiting that is better and perfect. Now for clarity, I’m referring to older fairy tales, folktales, and the writings of fantasy giants like J.R.R. Tolkien and his buddy, Mr. Lewis. While fantasy, and all the sub-genres, are more readily available these days, and in some ways a bit more accepted as literature, I’m afraid I haven’t found much that I love and find value in, as I have from the classics. There seems to be a key ingredient missing in most modern fantasy, but what that is, I’m not sure I can pinpoint one main thing. I’ve been thinking about another small funny thing about my love of the fantastical. It has mainly been cultivated in my young adult and not-so-young adult years. That’s right. I’ve grown to love fairy tales and fantasy as an adult.  What may seem like a waste of time and an odd choice for an adult to be reading, has, in reality, been water to the parched soil of my imagination. Recently, I pulled off the shelf one of my most favorite books on family culture and home education, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasures With Books by Annis Duff. This book was published in 1944, but I find much of it strangely relevant for my life today. While Duff and I differ in our beliefs, I can pull out so many gems of glorious beauty.

In Chapter Fourteen, Mrs. Duff lays out a defense for fairy tales, and I found it fascinating. She is referring to the idea that many look upon the ideas in fairy tales or fantasy with what Anatole France described as, “looking upon the imagination with mistrust.”

Children do not as a rule make this mistake; they are not so rigidly habituated to the distinctions that grown-ups make between what is probable and possible and what is inconceivable and contrary to reason.  They still possess the faculty of imagination that makes room for miracles, perhaps because the marvelous novelty of the world and of living has not yet worn off. The trouble with grown-ups is that they take things too seriously. Where children read fairy tales-and they do read them-just for fun, grown-ups often tend to theorize about ethical, social and cultural values until all the juice is squeezed out.

I just love that last line. “Until all the juice is squeezed out”, indeed. As an adult, working backward through the mystery of fairy tales and fantasy, I’m finding a world in which I can make sense of life. I can untangle just a small fraction of the ugliness of reality in this world and partake of beauty not of this world. It makes sense to some inner sensibility in me as a part of the wonderful creation of God. It’s the stark, brutal, horrible world with its insane pace, unreasonable standards, and true falsity that seems strange to me.

Duff goes on to say the importance of truths about darkness seen at a slant in fairy tale:

It is not a particularly healthy thing for children to read about killing. Killing is not a healthy business. But it goes on just the same, and I think that reading about the matter-of-fact way that people have of disposing of their adversaries in fairy tales has perhaps helped to “condition” my daughter to withstand the shock of hearing and reading about the impassioned massacre that men indulge in nowadays. Children, after all, are a part of this world, and however little we and they like some aspects of it, it will not help to draw the veil over the unpleasant things. I know that with my own daughter there is no danger of developing a calloused point of view. Accepting a situation that you cannot do anything about for the moment is quite a different thing from absolving yourself of responsibility for the future, and it is possible that the knowledge that men from time immemorial have killed each other may be the basis of a practical method of discovering how to stop it. 

Fairy tales teach us about ourselves and others:

My impression is that people in fairy tales behave pretty much as people do in real life. Some live by high principles, some are given over to evil ways; some are kindly in disposition, others practice meanness and persecution. Some go adventuring, some stay at home…And in fairy tales each type, with the action that represents it, is brought to life objectively, emphatically and consistently. Fairy tales do not “condone” behavior that is contrary to ethical principle. They simple recognize the fact that it occurs.

Let’s read that again, because I love it so much.

Fairy tales do not “condone” behavior that is contrary to ethical principle. They simple recognize the fact that it occurs.

Duff goes on to talk about how the characters presented in fairy tales often give her daughter something to draw on, saying so-and-so is like a certain character, for good or for evil. This helps us to turn from that which we dislike and see as wrong and turn toward the good, beautiful, and true. Fantasy generally doesn’t tell us wrong from right, but shows us both sides, leaving us to choose, an important part of life.

Here she discusses, specifically the fairy tales of Hans Andersen, and I think it’s worth thinking about:

… the great beauty and enduring value of Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales is that they show life as it is, birth at the beginning and death at the end, and a whimsical mixture of laughter and tears in between. I do not understand why it should be thought right or necessary to shield a child from the knowledge that death is the inevitable, the logical, the adventurous end to living…This idea must grow by slow and comfortable degrees, and I know of few things that show the way more simple and sweetly than Hans Anderson’s stories. He does not twist things away from their natural direction in order to bring about a happy ending, and I think that children feel the dignity and tranquility of his rounded episodes. Tragedy, in Andersen’s tales, is never shocking; he is gentle and patient in teaching children that life does not always have a happy face, and his sense of proportion is so delicate that he never overburdens his readers with sadness. The persuasive feeling of quiet confidence and conviction of the rightness of things as they happen flows steadily through Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and I know it is helping out daughter to form her philosophy of acceptance of the naturalness and inevitability of death and sorrow. 

Not all fairy tales and fantasy are created equal, as I touched on earlier, especially, unfortunately, the modern genre. However, even in the classics, my children and I have found stories that were too grim for us. Ironically, some of these were from Grimm’s fairy tales. Some of it might find its origins in myth and folktale that is contrary to our faith. Yet, beauty can be found everywhere. I might argue that true beauty is all from the same Source, no matter the conduit that it comes through. We use discernment, but we also don’t live by fear. All of it, everything we partake of, we hold lightly, snapping up the good, and setting aside what doesn’t resonate with us. As Duff says, the ideas in literature “must grow by slow and comfortable degrees”, and I can’t agree more.

What are you inspired by? Do you enjoy fairy tales and the fantasy genres in literature?

~