Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

The Refreshment of books   Leave a comment

Libraries.  Good novels.  Fiction.  Bookshelves.  Plays.  Poems.  Writing.  Creating another world.  A door into another place, which creates an hour of life inside another world, and allows you to return to your own better for it–refreshed.

I recently read that studies have proven that an hour of screen time, even if it’s reading something, isn’t the same as an hour of a book.

I didn’t need a study to tell me that, and probably, neither did you.

I find that screen time–whether it is reading fascinating articles, doing research, shopping, or catching up with friends on social media–does not leave me refreshed and relaxed.

I find that a good book, however, does.

It removes me entirely, usually, from my life.  It’s a vacation between two covers, or at least a trip into someone else’s life and trials.  It gives me ideas to reflect on.  It gives me peace.  It’s like a drink at a deeper well.

I need to go: must open a cover.

Posted March 2, 2018 by swanatbagend in literature

Why We Love Stories   Leave a comment

I went to the Word and Words conference two weeks ago.  Before I went, I did some thinking about the questions the conference description provided. Why do we love stories?  Why do we tell them?  And how do stories inform our lives as Christian believers?

I wanted to brainstorm first to see if I was resonating with the speakers’ thoughts already.  But I wouldn’t say these questions got directly asked or answered by any of them.

Why do I love stories?  and why does it matter?

I have always loved books.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love a book–the smell, the feel of the paper under my fingers, the varied fonts on the pages.  The rush when entering a bookstore.  The peaceful must of the basement stacks of a library. The glorious realization: a great author has a new book I have not read.

I read to my stuffed animals in the living room. They encircled me and the book of the day.  One of my early memories is the view of a book, wrapped as a present for me, on top of the dresser in my parents’ bedroom.  At summer sunup on my fifth birthday, I was begging for my book.  I can still see my mother’s head rising sleepily from her pillow.

And now I read throughout the day to my children.  It’s probably one of the main reasons I keep homeschooling them.  I just love to read, and we’ve found some fantastic books to enjoy together.  I read the Bible and one other book at dinner.  And I read at bedtime.  Right now the four of us still at home are taking turns with the demigod characters of Rick Riordan’s The Blood of Olympus.  Yeah, there’s a whole lot of stories going on at our house, and that’s how it’s always been.

So, why do I love stories and storytelling?

As I made my way downtown the first night of the conference, these were my speculations:  Maybe we could better steward our time and energy if we didn’t spend them on something as simple as storytelling.  Maybe we should only meet needs, share the Gospel and work to change the world.  Wouldn’t that be more direct?  In a world so painful, wouldn’t that ease more wounds?

And what if storytelling is dangerous?  Stories can lead us to the wrong source; they can propel people toward empty cisterns.

At the conference, however, I was plunged into a gathering in which all loved words, stories, fairy tales.  Nobody appeared to feel the need to defend storytelling.

Aside from a religious pitch or a moral fable or a lecture on what we should do, it seems we can hear stories better.

I think we were made that way.








Posted November 25, 2014 by swanatbagend in literature, writing

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Laura and Me   3 comments

When I listened to my weather radio this morning I learned that the record low for our city was set in 1876.  Laura was nine years old when that record was set.

Why do I even know that?

I happen to have been born 100 years after she was, and so in any given year I can easily remember her age.

When I discovered I was almost exactly 100 years younger than Laura Ingalls Wilder, it added to the kinship I felt with her and her family.

For one thing, my father also looked like Abe Lincoln, was born in a log cabin, and had itchy feet.  And to me it appeared that he could either fix or make anything we needed.  A child of the Great Depression, he knew how to make do. The best illustration of this came on our move from Colorado to Oklahoma.  The engine of our bright red VW camper died and left us on the side of the road in hot, empty eastern Colorado.  It appeared some small part in the engine had broken.  My father had a package of Black Cat firecrackers stowed in the glove box (why no idea), and he inserted one into the gap, and got the van running again.  We’d drive anywhere from two to ten miles and the firecracker would burn up.  Stop.  Open engine compartment.  Insert new firecracker.  Repeat.

My family moved all over the west when I was a child, in search of I’m not sure what, but this helped give the four of us the bond that can only come from helping each other walk through being the new people in a new place multiple times.  My brother and I lived with a father who was ever ready for a new adventure in a new part of the country, while his wife would have been more inclined to stay where society (musical, literary, church and political) was established.  Ma Ingalls only put her foot down one time when Pa wished to go further west again,  but my mother expressed her frustration in a different way.

We had recently moved to Colorado, where my father had started work at the Denver Service Center for the National Park Service.  My parents were in the process of buying the first house that was their own, not government issue, when my father saw a posting for a Coast Guard job in Juneau, Alaska.  Doubting he would be properly qualified, he applied anyway.  We had been in our lovely new house with blue wall to wall carpet and a pool table in the basement for merely weeks, when he called my mother with the fantastic news.

He had the job!

Mom was so mad, she hung up on him.  That did not stop us from moving to Alaska, however.

Another way in which I identified with Laura was in the love of words and books we shared.  I liked the way she thought through difficulties and questions.  I resonated with her fear of being the new girl at school and all those unknowns.

It goes without saying that I read her books innumerable times.  Which is my favorite?  Hard to say.

I read The Long Winter and emerge with Laura once again into spring, lettuce and new peas in the garden, after twisting hay to burn for fuel most of the winter.  I read On the Banks of Plum Creek and rejoice when Nellie gets her comeuppance via leeches.   I read Little House in the Big Woods and hear “Now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” It sets the strings of the past reverberating in my heart.

But my past or hers?  Somehow, a bit of both.


Why Else Do We Live?   Leave a comment

When I find myself grumping internally about someone who needs something from me, these words recur.  I read them two years ago when my oldest son and I were reading Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country.

As I remember, the words were the response of a woman when she was profusely thanked for an act of love.  The character she was helping was in need of housing, and was grateful to find a place to stay in the city.  She took him in indefinitely while he pursued his goal of helping someone else.  I’m sure it was somewhat of an inconvenience to her, yet her response was simply, “Why else do we live?”

I’m not sure why it is that I can comprehend this truth perfectly within the scope of a novel , but within my own life I so quickly lose sight of it.

If I had my way, what would I be living for?  The Usual Suspects: fame, love, wealth, comfort, adulation, intimacy.  But why after all these years do I honestly think these things are a. achievable and b. ultimately satisfying?

There are always demands (on my time, I like to think, but this is an error).  My children need food, shelter, teaching, all of which take time.  The cats make a mess–often at a point when we’re just heading out the door.  It’s rarely convenient to clean up someone else’s messes.  Or to help someone with a project, or perhaps just listen.

But it’s good.  And every time lately my grump-meter tries to argue with God, and fight the next act of love that needs to be done–I get this message.

“Why else do we live?”

Posted November 9, 2014 by swanatbagend in literature, reality

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