Tell me all about it!
But unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.
What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint or clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter what our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts or having some kind of important career. Several women have written to me to complain about A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They feel that I should not have allowed Meg Murry to give up a career by marrying Calvin, having children, and quietly helping her husband with his work behind the scenes. But if women are to be free to choose to pursue a career as well as marriage, they must also be free to choose the making of a home and the nurture of a family as their vocation; that was Meg's choice, and a free one, and it was as creative a choice as if she had gone on to get a Ph.D. in quantum mechanics.
Our freedom to be creators is far less limited than some people would think.
Levi and I read Walt Whitman: Words for America, a beautiful picture book about an incredible American poet. The illustrator, Brian Selznick (of The Invention of Hugo Cabret), does not disappoint, and generous text offers a wonderful introduction to the poet. Much of the book focuses on Whitman's experiences during the Civil War, and I found myself choking back tears while trying to read through his letter to a soldier's family.
I have listened to or read 'O Captain! My Captain!' a time or two, but it is so much richer reading it in the context of the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's assasination.
'O Captain! My Captain!'
Leaves of Grass
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will.
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
We also read A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, one more American poet. It is illustrated by another favorite, Melissa Sweet, who also illustrated The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon. Speaking of connections, I just now realized that she illustrated the Charlotte in (Paris, Giverny, New York, London) books, as well! We have the first three on our shelves, and I just checked out Charlotte in London from the library this week. I'll review it soon!
Next week's Living. Lovely. challenge:
Speak Kind Words
Is there someone in particular (spouse, child, co-worker...) to whom you find yourself speaking unlovely words on a regular basis? Words of frustration or exasperation? Are you condescending? Annoyed? Irritated? Passive-aggressive? Do you nag or put down? Can this person ever do anything right? No throwing stones, here. I know what it is like to have my last nerve frayed, and I find myself, more often than I'd like to admit, saying things I regret. Or is it just me?
I'd like to encourage you (as well as myself) to pick a day (or an hour if a day seems impossible) to speak only words of encouragement or affirmation to that person. Find ways to honestly (the 'honestly' is very important) build them up. Notice when they do something right. Think of qualities you admire in them. Thank them for little things. If that isn't enough of a challenge, think of small acts of service you can do for this person.
Can we do it?