Reading and Writing

My daughter is writing a short story for her English class. It is supposed to be historical fiction and she is writing about a girl who lives in a castle in Britain during the 1500s. I think it is simply an excuse for her to research knights, swords, and castles. Her main character runs away from home because she wants to be an artist instead of learning the usual womanly skills of the time. Celia is enjoying writing the story and I have been requested to regularly read the various drafts. She is doing a very good job on it, including a lot of description that gives a feeling of place and time. I commented on this last time I read it and she told me that she thinks it is easier to write if you are already a reader because then you know how a story works and what kind of details to include. She feels that if you don't like to read then you can't write well because you don't have the necessary knowledge.

Today I came across a quote by Stephen King. He said "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." My daughter would agree with him and so would I.

Often when we talk about our love of reading we mention our love of stories. We say that we like to learn about other people or that we like to escape into a different world. Maybe we insist we like to read simply for reasons of entertainment. However, in actuality, we are not only being entertained; we are being taught. By reading we learn how to format a story, we learn about conflict and resolution, we become better at using proper grammar and spelling. By reading we learn about building suspense, the need for secondary characters, and the perfection inherent in just the right combination of words.

This does not mean all of us are going to become best-selling authors. If it was that easy I would be rich and famous by now. However, it does mean that a reader can format a better report and write a better letter. A reader can probably more easily tell a story to their child. A reader can write. Of course, a non-reader can learn to do these things as well but, in all likelihood, it will take a bit more time, a bit more effort. For a reader, the knowledge of how words and language work comes a little more naturally because when we read we are not only taking in the story; we are taking in the mechanics of the story as well.

So, go, read a book. Fiction or non-fiction, fluff or serious tome, it is all educational. My daughter says so.

A Poem for a Thursday #3

When I was a child there was a fat, blue volume of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry on our bookshelves. I would dip in and out of it, caught by the language and the rhythm. I did not always care (and still don't) about exactly what the poems meant but she made words into music and that I loved. Millay wrote a huge amount of poetry. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. I have a biography of her on my shelves somewhere that I should read soon.  I was tempted to use a favorite poem of hers that I memorized as a child but I am saving that for another day. I also was tempted to use a very sad poem of hers that I read three times in a row when I just came across it but that is for another day as well. For today, we have a poem about love- a stereotypical topic but not a stereotypical poem.

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Trials and Tribulations

I don't write about my husband much. He is a man who values his privacy. He is also the best man I know. Last week he took the day off work, went for a motorcycle ride, and a deer jumped in front of him. The man who witnessed the accident said my husband didn't even have time to swerve. I got the phone call I have always dreaded.

He is going to be okay. He spent several days in intensive care, several more days in a regular room, and is now home. He has a months-long recovery in front of him but he will recover. It could have been so much worse. It almost was so much worse.

It is our anniversary in a week and a half. It won't be the celebration we were planning.  There are not going to be any romantic weekends away. However, we will have what I want the most--each other.

I started this post thinking I had so much to say but I really don't. That is it. He is going to be okay. I am sure we will have other trials and tribulations in the future because life is full of them. However, we have friends, family, and a congregation that will always support us. They have proven it in the last few days by their phone calls, meals, texts, visits, and willingness to be at the hospital at a moment's notice. The trials and tribulations are there but so are the blessings.

It has been a bad week. It has been a scary week. But I still have my husband, my kids still have their dad, and everything is going to be all right.

A Poem for a Thursday #2

I know Judith Viorst as the author of children's books. My kids loved Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I liked it too. It is a children's book that holds up to repeated reading and that has a lovely rhythm to the language. This is not surprising because Viorst is also known for her poetry. I particularly like The Pleasures of Ordinary Life. 

I've had my share of necessary losses,

Of dreams I know no longer can come true.
I'm done now with the whys and the becauses.
It's time to stop complaining and pursue
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

I used to rail against my compromises.
I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.
But happiness arrived in new disguises:
Sun lighting a child's hair. A friend's embrace.
Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

I'll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.
It seems the woman I've turned out to be
Is not the heroine of some grand story.
But I have learned to find the poetry
In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

Young fantasies of magic and of mystery
Are over. But they really can't compete
With all we've built together: A long history.
Connections that help render us complete.
Ties that hold and heal us. And the sweet,
Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

Autumn Days

Crisp mornings.

Blue skies.

Leaves of red, orange, and yellow.

Apples, pulled off the tree with a twist of the wrist, piled into a bag, and taken home to be turned into applesauce and apple pie.

Pumpkin pie.

Hikes through the state forest with the leaves drifting down around us and our feet scuffling through them, inches deep, on the ground.

The strong, earthy smell of chrysanthemums.

Sitting around the fire pit outside with the fire crackling, the sparks flying upward, and constant discussions about whether or not it is the right time and place to add another log.

Acorns and horse chestnuts and milkweed pods and pinecones and leaves again--always leaves--collected on walks and saved until they shrivel in pockets and crumble in piles on the counter.

Evenings spent on the couch with a cup of tea, a warm blanket, and a good book or two.

The vivid reds, oranges, pinks, and purples of autumn sunsets that take your breath away and are gone in only moments.

Warm bread dripping with butter eaten straight from the oven while standing at the counter.

Cozy sweaters, ankle boots, and warm scarves--all my favorite clothes.

October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put out the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in aftermaths.
 Anne reveled in the world of color about her.
"Oh Marilla," she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it? Look at these maple branches. Don't they give you a thrill--several thrills? I'm going to decorate my room with them. 

I agree with Anne. October, with all its assorted paraphernalia, gives me a thrill--several thrills.

A Poem for a Thursday

I don't read much poetry and I am not sure why. It might be pure laziness since poetry is frequently not as straight-forward as a novel and I like my words clear and incisive. However, I also like my words beautiful and lyrical and poems fit the bill there.  In a bid to read more poetry I am going to start posting a poem I like every Thursday. That is all it is going to be--a poem I like that caught my eye or my ear. I am not going to tear it apart and analyze it to death though I might occasionally have some random thoughts about it. If you have random thoughts as well then I would love to hear them in the comments. I also would love poetry recommendations. Do you have a favorite poem? A favorite poet? Tell me what I have been missing.

I have always thought of Robert Frost as a New England poet but I was fascinated to find out that, while he lived for many years in Massachusetts, his poetry was first published while he was living in England. Frost won the Pulitzer Prize four times, was made the poet laureate of Vermont in 1961, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature an amazing 31 times. I doubt there is a high school student in the U.S. who has not read and analyzed his "The Road Not Taken".  I wasn't familiar (what a surprise) with this poem but I stumbled across it while looking for quotes about autumn.

A tree's leaves may be ever so good,
So may its bar, so may its wood;
But unless you put the right thing to its root
It never will show much flower or fruit.

But I may be one who does not care
Ever to have tree bloom or bear.
Leaves for smooth and bark for rough,
Leaves and bark may be tree enough.

Some giant trees have bloom so small
They might as well have none at all.
Late in life I have come on fern.
Now lichens are due to have their turn.

I bade men tell me which in brief,
Which is fairer, flower or leaf.
They did not have the wit to say,
Leaves by night and flowers by day.

Leaves and bar, leaves and bark,
To lean against and hear in the dark.
Petals I may have once pursued.
Leaves are all my darker mood.

Leaves Compared With Flowers
Robert Frost

I wrote this whole post and then realized that, as with many things, this is not an original thought. The blog Girl With Her Head in a Book also posts a weekly poem. Go, read! Have a double-dose of weekly poetry.

Bookshop Visit//The Shire Book Shop

The Shire Book Shop

Second-hand bookshops are delightful. Hours can be lost in them and even amongst the most seemingly pedestrian selection of books treasures are waiting to be found. I discovered just such a bookshop a few weeks ago on a sunny Saturday afternoon. My husband and I went out to brunch and visited The Shire Book Shop in Franklin, Massachusetts. The bookshop is on the ground floor of a turn-of-the-century old mill building, it is large, and it most certainly does not contain a pedestrian selection of books.  I walked in, turned to my husband, and informed him that I might never leave.  I found it overwhelming at first because there are books and shelves and nooks and crannies and I didn't know where to start. I wandered aimlessly for a while simply admiring all the old books and then I got down to business.

the shire book shop

the shire book shop

My book budget is reasonably limited and if I spent $40.00 on a book then that was likely to be the only book I would buy for the day. I am only going to do that if I come across something I can't live without. For a while, I felt like every book  I pulled off the shelves was more than I wanted to spend but I decided to start with the paperback section at the rear of the store and I was more successful there.

the shire book shop

typewriters at the shire book shop

The shop is a jumble with boxes of books in front of shelves, stacked on chairs, and around every corner. I felt a bit as if all customers should be greeted at the door with a treasure map, preferably hand-drawn on brown paper, showing the location of all the different sections. However, it was equally fun to make discoveries on my own.

the shire book shop

the shire bookshop

the shire book shop

I had a lovely chat with the bookseller. I asked if she had any old Penguins and she said I would have to search for them, they were all mixed in with the other books. She told me about a couple of her regular customers who come in a few times a year to add to their Penguin collections. I simply like Penguin books and will pick one up if it is a book I want to read but she has several customers who are trying to complete collections.  We talked about Jane Austen and the yearly Jane Austen themed tea party she attends. She also made a few bookshop recommendations. She was a pleasure to talk to.

the shire book shop

the shire book shop

So, what did I buy? I ended up having to spend endless amounts of time debating and putting books in and out of my final pile of purchases but the books below are the ones I brought home with me. I thought I already owned the first volume of The Horseman Riding By trilogy but apparently, I don't so I will have to look out for a copy of that. I was pleased to find Patience. This has been reprinted by Persephone Books. Any book about Jane Austen is a good book to have. The Edna Ferber is because I just read her autobiography and now I am rereading her books. The two Pelicans are because I find books about social history fascinating.

I had a very enjoyable visit to The Shire Book Shop and I am sure I will be back sometime soon. It is a wonderful place to while away a Saturday afternoon. And did I mention that they offer a complimentary cup of tea?

The Shire Book Shop
305 Union Street
Franklin, MA 02038