Title: The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (Crosswicks Journal Book Two)
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
I’ve been reading The Summer of the Great-Grandmother for nearly a month now. I read pieces and snippets in particular moods – moods when I need it: L’Engle’s wisdom and a bit of the outdoors.
But finally, last night, I turned the last page.
I finished and sat there a moment. My journal open, the book closed, my pen ready and not ready at the same time. Ready because I had a vision to capture in the ink. Not ready because it didn’t seem to me like a book review at all, but it’s what I have – my thoughts regarding this book.
I cannot help but think of Sandy Smith while I am reading it. L’Engle tells tales of her home life and mentally, for some reason or another, I picture Smith’s face rather than L’Engle’s. Perhaps it is because I’ve met Sandy, but L’Engle is a series of disjointed pictures from different decades that I have plucked from the internet. Sandy is flesh and blood to me, and L’Engle deserves to seem like flesh and blood in my mind. Flat internet images glowing with the unnatural light of an LED background do not do her justice. I hope Sandy doesn’t mind me stealing her image and loaning it to another in my mind.
It’s just that – in my mind, they belong together. They are joined by associations I may never be able to clearly express, but might be able to feebly make a fraction of sense of them here.
They are each writers and humans in their own right, but L’Engle’s writing seems to have the same aura of loveliness that I find in Sandy when talking to her in person. When I think of her, this soft spoken writer who traveled all the way from Oregon to Texas for a book signing tour, you’d think I’d remember the hours I spent with her in bookstores hanging out around tables of her young adult series Seed Savers. But I don’t.
Instead, I specifically recall looking back at her while walking on a trail – her face lit up by the sun and a full smile as she looked back her husband entertaining my daughter with flora and fauna and a delightful hat. (The picture on the left is not long after that moment that is ingrained in my mind forever.)
As in every moment with her, she had a twinkle in her eye. I’d call it a spark, even. She’s someone you meet and instantly want to be her friend, or little sister, or niece, or daughter. It doesn’t matter, you just long to matter to her because she is wonderful and wise and everything about being around her feels enriching.
I do not know Madeleine L’Engle other than by her books, and I would not presume to say that I really know Sandy Smith either – I’ve just had the pleasure of her company, the joy of promoting her books, we’ve chattered back and forth in emails to plan signings and blog tours, and I adore her. But in my mind, I imagine L’Engle and Smith as kindred spirits that belong to the same whisper of a thought.
Perhaps this is one of those things I’m meant to keep to myself. I’m not sure. I have forgotten, until recently when back in the store full time, how awkward I can be. I say things at odd times, like tonight when I commented on a girl’s freckles. I really love freckles. But I’ve read The Summer of the Great-Grandmother and I’m grasping to “review” it. I can’t. I can only tell you about a feeling, and that feeling was a memory of sunshine and a respect for life and nature on an Easter Weekend in the woods near my old home. Ultimately, I can only choose one word that describes it all… this book, the ladies in question, the woods, that moment…
Title: A Thousand Days in Venice
Author: Marlena de Blasi
Genre: Travel/ Memoir
Length: 272 pages
“1000 Days in Venice,” I wrote in my journal, “I want Venice without Fernando. Venice sounds lovely. Fernando, annoying.”
I suppose I feel this way because I am happily married to a man who is nothing like Fernando. But my love, or lack thereof, for the man who swept de Blasi off her feet has nothing to do with my enjoyment of the book. The book is lovely. And what follows are my journal entries from my reading, quotes that moved me and so on:
To fall in love with a face is ridiculous – at least a face with no personality. It would be as though I were to declare myself in love with Jamie Campbell Bower off his side profile. I cannot stand that mentality. A face can only be so lovely.
“full of tears and crumbs”
“I cry for how life intoxicates.” – pg. 29
In love for the first time? But she had babies…
She laments that so many people are trying to save her from a man they don’t know. Then admits repeatedly that she doesn’t know him either. I want to save her too, no matter how terribly romantic I find it that she’s sold her house, auctioned belongings off in the airport and arrived to see her fiance whom she has never seen in summer before.
Then again, arranged marriages work – why not a marriage between people who have met a few times and spent a week together?
“Living as a couple never means that each gets half. You must take turns at giving more than getting. It’s not the same as bow to the other whether to dine out rather than in, or which one gets massaged that evening with oil of calendula; there are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch. One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other can work at something. Usually that something is sinewy and full of spines. One goes inside the dark place while the other stays outside, holding up the moon.” – pg. 147
Such a beautiful sentiment. So much truth to it. Despite the fact that she married a stranger – even calls him that, stranger – she knows marriage.
Transfer? Why? I don’t want to live another version of this life. I want to do something totally different, but together. Perhaps my dislike for Fernando is that he reminds me of myself. In this moment, I love him, he lives what I want.
I give lots of memoirs away once I’m done reading them. But this one is a keeper – there are recipes. Besides the recipes, it is beautiful. I will probably read it again one day.
Title:A Circle of Quiet
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Memoir/ Spirituality
Length: 229 pages
A Circle of Quiet is powerful. So powerful it inspired me to write nearly 10,000 useable words, to writers you may note the awe I have when I say useable.
Some were used for the sequel to my novella, a novel that is supposed to come out in the fall of this year – fingers crossed. But most of the words were for a new book, stories about my trails in the woods that are itching to be told but I’ve not known how to tell them because it’s all still happening, my trails are still real.
What is most impressive to me about A Circle of Quiet is not how many beautifully quotable quotes there are, but how completely relevant L’Engle’s story is to me. So relevant, I didn’t noticed until 3/4 of the way through the book that it was published in 1972 and the things she writes about occurred in the early seventies if not the late sixties.
I was baffled to discover this. A Wrinkle in Time and the rest of her children’s books are as fresh to me as the Harry Potter series. I read them as I child without the impression that they were old. In my mind, L’Engle has been an author of the 80’s who would be around as long as C.S. Lewis once the years had passed. I did not realize that the books were much older than that and that the years had already passed. A Wrinkle in Time was first published in 1962.
How is this possible that every moment, every ache, every joy (aside from winning the Newberry of course, as I’ve won nothing) is one I feel in every fiber of my being as a thirty year old in 2014? When she was born in 1918. What struck me most is that A Circle of Quiet is timeless.
Madeleine L’Engle is timeless.
This is a must read for any mother, any writer or creative, any soul searching for God, any person trying to balance their introversion with their extroversion, and ultimately any person.
She published these from her journals, which she admits were written for publication, but still I am honored to have been allowed a peek into the window of her thoughts.
At Half Price Books Humble
Don’t forget, we also do Book Club on the first Monday of the month, Poetry Night on the first Thursday of the month, and Journaling on the second Thursday of the month.
One of my favorite shops put out a short film. The shop is called Good Books in the Woods, I credit them for inspiration in the bio on the back of my first novella which will be coming out soon. Recently, I planned to write a When We’re Not Reading segment on the release party for the film as well as on Journaling Night for HPB Humble. The post never occurred as I had so much fun at both events, I forgot to take pictures.
Luckily, I don’t have to spend too much time what an incredible evening it was… coffee, wine, cookies, fruit trays, book browsing, film viewing… all in the cozy living room of Good Books in the Woods, because the film is available for you to see too.
I hope you enjoy it!
As for Journaling… the second Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm, I sit myself at the table in the Metaphysics and Health section at Half Price Books Humble with journals, pens, prisma pencils, clip art, and a whole lot of creative energy. Inevitably, one or two customers always join me. It’s really relaxing and offers a chance to really kick all your cares from the day out of your mind.
Needless to say, despite the fact that the segments are called When We’re Not Reading, there’s generally a bookish theme to every aspect of our lives.
Read Across America Day
Each year, young and old alike celebrate Read Across America Day on March 2 in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Join your fellow bookworms at Half Price Books for a special Dr. Seuss Story Time on Saturday, March 2, at 3 pm. The Humble location will be reading Horton Hears a Who and crafting clover pinwheels. Regular story time is every Wednesday at 10:30 am.
HPB Humble Book Club
Looking to expand your reading pleasure? Join the discussion at our HPB Humble Book Club. We meet the first Monday of each month from 7:30 to 9 pm.
March – Lords of Finance
April – On Chesil Beach
Author & Illustrator: Susan Pearson and Kevin O’Malley
Join Herbie and MaryLou, two slugs on a farm, in their quest to find each other and true love. They write poetry and love letters back and forth on garden hoes and barn doors, leave messages in strawberry patches and on tomato vines. It’s really cute and a household favorite of ours year round, but is especially wonderful when celebrating Valentine’s Day with small children.
As it is the second Thursday of the month, we’ll be journaling at the table in Metaphysics and Health from 7-9 pm. Bring your love or come alone, either way it should be fun to journal with art together.
Featured on the right is a Valentine’s piece from a journaling/art blog I found today.
If you’re not into journaling, you should still come into HPB Humble before the Valentine’s display comes down. The Store Inventory Merchandiser did a pretty rockin’ job on it:
See you there!
Also, we will be journaling together February 14th from 7pm-9pm.
Title: If These Walls Had Ears
Author: James Morgan
Publisher: Warner Books
Length: 275 pages
“A house is man’s attempt to stave off the anarchy of nature. Ripping up that floor had allowed a disturbing glimpse into the house’s secret life. It’s more comfortable not to know about such things.” – pg. 88
James Morgan may have been speaking about Billie Murphree’s floor rot from undercover water, but no words used in description of a house have ever hit me harder or rung so true.
Barely two years into owning our own home, my husband ripped up our living room carpet. We had lofty ambitions of laying tile or hardwood floors. We had tiled the living room of a town home once and it had turned out quite nicely for the low cost of $400. Those were the days when we thought home repair and renovation fun. Now, it’s just a necessity. No sooner had the carpet been pulled up, we discovered what we un-lovingly refer to as The Grand Canyon in our foundation.
Upon further inspection, the enormous crack ran from one end of the house to the other, from the outer wall where my rose and herb garden touches our driveway, through the kitchen, under the bar, across the living room, down the hallway, into the bathroom, and right out the outer wall against the side yard where I hope to make a courtyard one day.
We were devastated. We had bought our dream home, except for the master bathroom which will forever irritate and haunt my poor husband, only to find that it wasn’t a dream at all. Our dream home was a wreck, a fixer upper, a money pitt – it kind of still is.
We had $15k worth of foundation repair done at a discounted price – the company is run by a saint – literally, he’s a Gideon, and I’m quite certain he felt sorry for us. He even gave us plenty of time to pay him off and didn’t charge us interest. No sooner had we paid our bill in full, we discovered the breakfast room was now sliding into our back yard and had to have more foundation repair. Our back fence, our back door, my daughter’s window, nothing in this house is safe. It’s fragile, it’s old, it’s exhausting. We had to dig up our front yard and repair plumbing ourselves, we’ve had work done by professionals under both bathrooms.
Oh, and our insurance company is worthless, they paid for exactly nothing.
Yes, Mr. Morgan, a home is man’s attempt to stave off the anarchy of nature. Nature riots in many ways: mud sliding our from under our apparently unstable foundation, a shake slithering up through the crack in our living room, the rain rotting our fence, the winds of Hurricane Ike displacing our other fence and blowing out a window pane in our back door. Our sidewalk to our mail box sunk into our front yard, a storm took down our light post. It never ends. It’s never over.
Despite the issues, despite the debt, despite it possibly being the biggest mistake of our married lives, I’m in love with this house. We’ve been through ups and downs, trials and errors, hell and we’re not quite back, but it’s my home. Technically, it belongs to the bank, but we live under the illusion that it’s ours, and the illusion has a safe feeling to it, until the next time something breaks…
“In a house you never can tell where the next trouble will erupt. A door knob will suddenly come off in your hand. A heating duct in the belly of the house will lose a screw and pop out of its fitting. Even if you think you know the trouble spots, you’ll be taken by surprise. A piece of upstairs trim will swell up and warp, and the next thing you know, the rain will be leaking in downstairs and two walls away.” – pg. 109
Still, for whatever reason, everyone loves old houses. I remember when we were house hunting I specifically asked for a house in an older neighborhood surrounded by trees. “Nothing newer than the ’80’s,” I told my realtor, “No cookie cutter neighborhoods.” “Why, oh Why?!” I inevitably cursed later when we had to shave down parts of our interior doors so we could open and close them because the house had shifted yet again. “Why?!” we yelled when a brick just came out of our stoop, just slipped right out from under our door and lay across the porch where a welcome mat should have been. “Why?!” we screamed when a board from our deck in front of the garage door collapsed.
Because like Morgan says,
“Old houses look like home to us. They appeal not to our practical side but to whatever romantic part of us traffics in hopes and dreams, or wallows in nostalgia. They’re flirts, old houses. They get painted up real pretty – the way this house was when I first saw it – and they show off a lot of front porch and invite you in for a little French dooring, and the next thing you know, they’ve snared another sucker.” – pg. 180
Morgan’s book is endearing, nostalgic, and beautiful. It speaks to home owners, future home owners, and anyone who has ever fallen in love with a building of any kind. If These Walls Had Ears really speaks to my heart. There’s even an Andi that shows up briefly and takes part in 501 Holly’s biography. It makes you hope that in another fifty or so years someone will write a sequel to this old house’s life story.
The only part I didn’t like, despite a very beautiful quote in it, was the epilogue which summed up the lives (or the divorces and deaths, rather) of all the people who once lived in 501 Holly. It was depressing to say the least.
January 10th, 2013, I sat down for the very first journaling night at Half Price Books in Humble. My customers weren’t exactly sure what to expect, and honestly, neither was I. I brought my prisma colors, glue sticks, some fancy pens, and scrapbooking scissors. We had magazines, scrapbooking paper, free unlined journals for all who attended, and a whole lot of untapped creativity.
Hanging out with others while they drew, doodled, wrote, glued and pasted, was kind of awesome. It’s relaxing to be creative with others, pool your resources, and brainstorm techniques. Relaxing and stimulating, actually; so much so that we plan to gather monthly.
2nd Thursday of the Month from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, plan to sit around a table and really tackle the art of journaling with art. This first meeting was a bit of an experimental night, but in the future I hope to incorporate some of those fabulous Pinterested projects that are floating around the web, possibly even start binding our own journals.
There are just so many things we could do at these gatherings and I can’t wait to dive in and pursue every avenue of this hobby.
Come be crafty with me.
Also, check this out: http://artsyville.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-village-in-my-mind-full-color-friday.html