Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Julia Paints Again

Julia hasn't been doing much art for the past six months or so -- too much stress. (Do I use that word too much?) I'd never considered that stress kept her from drawing/painting, but I know it keeps me from writing. Makes sense. But her life has calmed down just enough that she decided to do a little 'bad art,' as she calls it. Bad art will get her painting again, king of jump-start her creative juices. Here's her bad art:
This quote comes originally from Shakespeare's The Tempest.
It's a little booklet of some of her favorite quotes with accompanying art. The quote above comes from a book I read as a young girl called The Ghost Next Door, and I passed it on to Julia. It's a silly junior high book, but I dearly loved it. It became the 'first summer reading' for me, several years in a row -- that magical book you read that helps you flip from your 'school self' to your 'summer self.' If you're an introverted, creative, magically-minded child, this transition each summer is quite important. You become your real self again for a couple of months.
And a little quote from Peanuts, above.
The quote below is P.S. Shelley, from his poem "Ozymandias." This one stuck in Julia's brain quite nicely. This stickiness of poetry is one of the reasons I had my students memorize and recite so much poetry.
They didn't always appreciate it, but I was surgically attaching wonderful literature to their brains that could not be easily removed.
The next quote comes from Homer's Odyssey; I presented it to Julia as the epic's theme: "Our minds are as the days are, dark or bright, blown over by the father of gods and men."
This began as a black/white pen drawing, a dark root maze with one dangling light bulb. Julia showed it to friends and asked, "How does this make you feel?" She called it her psychology test. Some people found it adventurous, mysterious, exciting. Some found it scary and depressing. In this booklet she colored the right side.
I asked her to draw a mouse. I'm (trying to) write a short mouse story for little children. Keeping the text simple and minimal is hard. He's a cute little fellow.
Of course, I'm writing this story because we've been doing a bit of THIS lately:
With the harvesting of the big corn fields around us, and the onset of cool weather, the mice are looking for cozier winter quarters. They will not find it with us!
I'm glad Julia's doing art again; it makes me happy. I don't pressure her to draw or paint, but I do try to encourage her occasionally, reminding her that she loves it. She spouts her creativity as I do -- in fits and starts, with long breaks in between. I'm no good example for her. I can put off writing a book or story for years, waiting for that right time. Shame on me!
What brings out YOUR creative juices? What do you do to make sure you create whatever art you do? Are you scheduled or spontaneous? Do you procrastinate or do it often?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Jane Eyre

Last night I finished reading Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece. I read it in high school, I'm certain, and perhaps college, but have not examined it since except to view several movie versions of the story.

I cannot speak for the audience of 1847 when the book was published -- what appealed to them? The horror and gothic effect? The descriptions of stern, depressing Lowood School, or lush, lovely Thornfield estate, or the stark, barren moors where the Riverses live? Modern audiences are all about plot, and Jane Eyre has an unusual plot structure, one that readers struggle with. Why does Bronte spend so long wallowing in Jane's childhood before we arrive at Thornfield? And why-oh-why must we slog through this tiresome detour to Morton and St. John Rivers and his sisters? 'When will we get back to Mr. Rochester?' we ask. We want a story of romance and no other.

I feel Bronte's strongest skill is characterization, and I feel her most complex, fascinating character is St. John Rivers. What a task she set for herself in depicting such a man! He is much more than a classic Christian hypocrite; Jane makes this clear. He is a thoroughly good man, a noble man. He's extraordinarily gifted and devoted to self-sacrifice. He has a fierce will that he applies to his own deprivation for the sake of doing God's work. He's the opposite of a hypocrite; there is no saying one thing and doing another with St. John. His greatest flaw is requiring others to be as he is -- as committed, as sacrificing, as zealous -- and zealous for his cause. But if a man truly believed his cause to be the only best goal, wouldn't he also with equal zeal try to enlist others in its work? Wouldn't he use all his formidable powers of persuasion to do so? He does with Jane, unknowingly using guilt, manipulation, and intimidation, and he nearly wins her over.

St. John Rivers is essential to the story because Bronte must give Jane an alternative to Rochester, a true challenge, a man of equally forceful personality. And considering Rochester, that is no small task. Bronte devotes chapters 27-34 to Jane's absence from Rochester; that is more than a mere diversion. In spite of her deep love for Rochester, her unshakable attachment to him, she nearly goes to India with St. John. She is on the verge of accepting his proposal. "Were I but convinced that it is God's will I should marry you, I could vow to marry you here and now -- come afterwards what would!" The sheer force of St. John's personality and his ability to control and coerce Jane achieve this. She admires him, yes, but she also realizes she has not the strength to refuse him indefinitely; he will wear her down. He is relentless. He is not knowingly cruel and recoils at the idea. He believes absolutely that he is doing Jane great good by taking her to India. He is certain he is right.

I found myself fascinated at the study of this man. He is rare, but there are zealots like him in the world. They support every type of cause. A cause, a campaign, will succeed if such a man is at its head. As military leaders, they are quite effective. They pull others with them like a magnet.

St. John is a foil for Rochester. In presenting such a fierce, righteous, powerful contender -- who loses! -- Bronte is showing Rochester's attractions more sharply. And what are those attractions? Jane has already acknowledged Rochester to be ugly, sometimes bullying, enigmatic, demanding, morally loose. When she returns to him he is also blind and a cripple. Why does she choose him? It is not Rochester that is superior to St. John Rivers; it is love. Jane chooses the man she loves and who loves her. There is no simpler tale, but this is no simple telling. Again, the task Bronte sets for herself is nearly insurmountable! How can an arrogant, annoying, wealthy, ugly 40-year-old man truly fall in love with a homely, orphaned, poor governess who is quiet, lacks confidence, hides in corners, and gives quick, terse replies and only when demanded of them? Why does either man prefer Jane? Both men have lovely alternatives, other women ready to marry them.

Jane's personality is often misrepresented on film. She is not confident and quite plain. She doesn't aspire to greatness. She is not a prude. She is a tiny teenage girl with a will to live who fundamentally believes that she is alone in the world and often finds herself in a solitary struggle for survival. She has a little inner strength and a crumb of pride, but she is not a forceful character. The traits Rochester seems to value in her are kindness and blunt honesty when she does speak. The traits St. John values are hard work and pliability. Factor all this into your picture of the heroine.

Hollywood finds it impossible to give us ugly heroes and heroines. Here are a few pairings: Orson Welles and Jane Fontaine; George C. Scott and Susannah York; William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg; Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton; Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. I won't go into the TV adaptations, in one of which Timothy Dalton plays Rochester. Ugly? I think not. None of these people are ugly. Ciaran Hinds makes a passable Rochester, but I challenge the film industry to make a version where both Rochester and Jane are as unappealing physically as Bronte insists they are. Why do I harp on about it? Because Bronte does. It's important to her that this love story be about the heart only-- St. John Rivers is handsome as an Apollo, a god of a man, but with a heart of stone. He is ice, but oh-so beautiful. His looks do not lure Jane. Rupert Penry-Jones made a pretty St. John, but he was neither icy nor calculating enough. I think it is a difficult role to play.

Movie versions that focus on inexplicable, infatuated love between two beautiful people do not reflect Bronte's book. Bronte paints a heroine whipped by adversity and deprivation but longing for deep affection and attachment. In spite of poverty, she doesn't value possessions. And more than deep love, she values her own character, which she will not sully. But marriage for love (and only love) is one principle she holds -- don't we love it when these 19th century female writers hold fast to that theme? How many marriages without love must have been happening back then, for this theme to cry out in literature so loudly?

Jane Eyre is a classic, and if you've somehow missed reading it, you should correct that omission immediately.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tossing Things, Keeping Memories

In an effort to get more storage space in my small house, I've been sorting through old things and getting rid of stuff. Well, some stuff.
Not this blanket. It was made for me when I was a little girl. Perhaps I posted about it before? It's beautifully hand-stitched.

It's in such pretty shape because (honestly) it wasn't my favorite blanket, so I didn't use it much. But because of its handmade beauty, I kept it.
Then there's my Kitty-Cat Blanket, also hand-made. My mother could tell you who made both of these. I can't remember ... some dear old ladies in Charleston, West Virginia, either family members or precious friends.

It's a wee bit tattered and stained, but not in bad shape for over 50 years old. Of course, I'd never part with this one either.
However, there's another blanket, a store-bought blanket. I'm embarrassed to show it. I remember my parents taking me to the store to pick it out. I was three years old. Oh, how I loved the fake quilted pattern! I slept with it every night until it had its own special smell. (haha!)
I slept with it till I wore a big hole right in the middle!
It's a full-sized double blanket, but I kept it (didn't use it, mind you) for FORTY-NINE years, in a little trunk, hauling it from house to house. Eighteen moves in twenty-six years.
Well, at last, it was time to say good-bye to the blanket. First, I cut off a good-sized square from one corner. I'll hem it and make a small doll blanket with it. It has almost no holes (heehee!!)
I'm such a sap. But really, folks, these items have some kind of emotional, spiritual significance to me that perhaps some people don't understand. I identify with the whole Velveteen Rabbit mentality, even though I know it's ridiculous ... that personal items that a child (especially) sleeps with and attaches herself to, and loves, have real significance, there is almost relationship there. So, yes, I kept part of the blanket -- shoot me :) The other 80% of the blanket went into the trash dumpster with my Baby Secret doll and the bag of hairless, limbless Madame Alexander dolls. Each time I walk by the dumpster, I pat it gently and tell them I do still love them. I gave them the blanket remains to help them through the ordeal of transitioning to a life in the landfill. Goodness, that sounds heartless!

I must know ... are there any other 50-something women out there who understand this silliness? Am I the only one?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Walk to the Watery Regions

[Monday]  When we lived in Oriental we often walked down the street to Smith Creek, or took a bike ride to see the Neuse River. Now we live in Bayboro, quite near a different river -- the Bay River. The Bay River runs out of the Pamlico Sound just like the Neuse, just a few miles further north. The Bay is neither as wide nor as long as the Neuse. Today we took a family walk down the road to see the swollen Bay River.
Adam and I donned our Gill coats and wore boots. The girls put on hoodies and went barefoot. ((sigh)) I have tried, I promise you, I have doggedly tried to force them to wear shoes -- shoes, I tell you!  -- but to no avail.
 Drizzly and floody:
 Little drowned crayfish:
About a quarter mile down the road we came to the river, flooded well over its banks. This narrow road simply wanders into it.
 Does that spot look familiar? I posted a photo of it last week. Here it is, today:
 Here it was, last week:
Notice anything missing? Yeah ... the house! I don't know where it went .... floated down the river? Removed by some devoted owner? (hardly!) Did those cranes lift it to safety?
The doggies were happy. See them grin?
 You should understand that in moving from Oriental to Bayboro, we have leapt from one world to another. A mere 15 minute drive. But Oriental is populated by many retired people from New England. They are used to a very ordered, tidy, attractive, upper-class way of life. It's a lovely little village, a bit out of place in the rural South -- a clean, sparkling jewel. Oriental has a few derelict buildings, a few run-down fisherman cabins. But generally ... it's trending up. To us who are used to living in the true rural South, it sometimes felt a little artificial. I quite liked it :)
Bayboro is a real Southern town in the back end of nowhere. Here are some buildings we passed Monday on our half-mile walk to the river.
I find them interesting, appealing, forlorn.

See those big ole trunks on the porch? What are they? Below is the house from afar.
 And yes, people live in that house.
As we neared the river the large fish-processing buildings dominated the road. They were flooded all around.
Not nearly so many shrimp boats as in Oriental, and more of those in the Bay are small and junky. But the "Karah D." is lovely.
They're replacing the bridge near us and have been working on it for months. This causes an annoying detour every time we go anywhere. Since the river is swollen we thought it would be a good time to walk to the bridge, see the work, and view the river.
 Here's the north prong of the Bay River as it flows up toward Aurora.
I don't know that we'll walk this as often as we did in Oriental. Traffic is faster and thicker. Lots of people do walk our road though, all day long -- lots of poor people without vehicles. They walk to Bayboro and walk back home. The detour is even more onerous for them. Adam has met and chatted with many of our rural neighbors because of this. It's a good thing. We are quite happy to be on our farm.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Wringing Out the Sogginess!

Hi, everybody! Yes, we're still here and fine in the middle of soggy Pamlico County. Yes, we are a county that floods badly. No, our house/farm is not flooded. Hooray!

Everything has been canceled today -- schools, work, Bible study, prayer time. I'm not leaving the house. The one road (which is a detour already) that takes us from home to the dryer world has water over it. Last night a driver hit that water, lost control, and his car ended up in the creek.
photo lifted from the county sheriff's office
Poor person! Adam and I had just driven over that patch of road, coming back from New Bern. I knew there was water standing on that road because I'd seen it earlier in the day, so I told Adam to slow down, and he drove in the other lane. In the dark ... there's no way to see it.

All that to say, we're fine. We received much less rain that was forecast, which is such a blessing. No more roof leaks right now, although the damage to plaster and paint is significant, and will need to be redone. (Boohoohoohoo -- I HATE that!)

For those interested, the flooding elsewhere in the county isn't due to rain (although heavy rain exacerbates it). It's due to "wind tide," an unusual feature of living here. A strong, prolonged northeast wind will blow the water from the Pamlico Sound straight into the Neuse River. It shoves the river water up into the creeks, and then into the canals, and around here everybody either lives on a creek/canal or has to drive over several to get anywhere. After days of a stiff northeast wind, the county floods, roads submerge, sink holes develop. Your house might be high-and-dry, but you can't go anywhere.

I'm looking forward to that today! Let the knitting and hot tea commence! God must have listened to my last whiny blog post :)

Love to all. Adam will spend the morning shoveling manure.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Different Autumn

You know me. I love autumn. Usually by early October I'm crowing about pumpkin bread and loads of knitting and scarves and various kinds of tea. I might share a Victoria magazine or a Robert Frost poem. I've done posts like that, oh yes I have! Last year, Julia and I had an October Party, remember?
I painted a tea party:
In 2013, I blogged about yarn and leaves and temperatures dropping. And mums!!
Let's see, how 'bout 2012? I usually write at least one weird autumn poem.

Enough of that. What about 2015? Why am I not waxing eloquent about strolls in sweaters, visits to garden stores, knitting mittens, painting dead leaves, or sipping tea in long afternoons while watching Tasha Tudor videos?

Because that's not my life right now. Some years are luxurious, and I've had three or four of those. But life changed this year. My homeschooling days are over. The mornings of sitting on the couch with a daughter reading Homer or Chaucer, sipping chai, and planning a walk to the park ... those days are over :(   Kinda sad about that. But life must plow on.

We're rather hurried and scurried this year. Without meaning to, I changed too many things in my life at the same time. I changed my residence, my daughter went off to school, I got a job (and not an easy one), went through some stressors at church, my son got married. Some of those are quite good, some are not, but all are changes.

I look around my house now:
*Boxes. Lots of old, unpacked, damp boxes of keepsakes (junk), treasures (junk), and things not worth hauling into the attic yet again. I'm throwing long-defunct Madame Alexander dolls into the trash can.
*A five-gallon bucket strategically placed to receive rain leaking through the roof.
*Black plastic bags full of coats, blankets, winter scarves and gloves. And no place to put them.
 There's that girl! There's that bucket.
So, life isn't perfect this year. Who can craft a perfect autumn each year? Should I expect that? No. Some periods of life are more chaotic ... even less attractive ... than others. Otherwise, it wouldn't be life.
My sweet Adam, however, persistently tries to brighten my life. He brought me these.
 And he made this for dinner -- Honey-puffed Pancake with bacon and fruit. Delectable!
What a doll he is.
And busy or not, I will knit!!
 We'll see what October offers this year. There may be no time for poems, dry leaves, strolls in sweaters, or certainly watercolor painting. I may only have a moment for reading old Victoria magazines while in the ladies' room. So be it. May October bring pellucid blue skies, repaired roofs, and at least a few spare minutes to enjoy a wisp of yarn or a scrap of poem. Just a scrap :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beauty Above and Below

Saturday evening at twilight we gathered in the field, anticipating the full lunar eclipse.
Adam built a fire in the fire pit. We ate smores. He and Julia sat there for hours, nibbled by insects, enjoying an event he's been longing to see all his life.

Don't get your hopes up. My phone camera was not up to the task of capturing any decent pictures of the eclipsing moon. It was fascinating to see, especially the first half of the partial eclipse when the moon was clearly not any shape it is normally supposed to be.

Beside my front porch are a few rose bushes, including one yellow. It's still blooming.

And some truly impressive rose hips! Years ago in Statesville I tried making rose hip tea from the hips of my Rugosa rose bushes. (I still miss them so much!) You can read about that disappointing adventure here.