Thursday, September 20, 2018

More from Elizabeth Goudge

I've read a good bit of Elizabeth Goudge now. Of her books I've read, two stick with me better than the others: Green Dolphin Street and The Scent of Water. As a reader, I look first and always for the author's voice and style; if I enjoy those it hardly matters what is written about, where it occurs, or who occupy the pages.

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Goudge has mastery of all elements of writing however, and since I read her with the certainty that her lively, innovative voice sparkles no matter the book, I then look for my second-favorite element, setting -- location. The two books I mention had settings I grew to love, so I remember them best. Characters, in fiction, become shadowy images to me after I've closed the final page. I am too busy exploring and inspecting my way through the author's setting myself, hand-in-hand with her, to bother with her characters much.
Goudge lived from 1900-1984. She published The Joy of the Snow in 1974, a short autobiography because friends demanded it of her. That's what I'm reading now. Delightful as ever, she now entertains me with personal family tales, and I feel I get to know my friend better with each page. Her grandparents hailed from Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands that I've been so interested in lately.
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Guernsey Island
 Goudge is humorous. She writes this book "to share, too, some of the conclusions I have come to about work and life. Neither will be in the least exciting and so my hope for this book is that it will be a good bedside book, and keep nobody awake." (2)

And this, about turning 70: "The Bible thinks you have about had it by then. And so you have. You have almost closed the circle and like a ship that has sailed round the world you see the last stretch of water narrowing at a startling pace. But the coast of the country to which you sail is obscured by the spray of breaking waves, and the rainbows in them show you the shapes and the colours of your own childhood. What the poets say is true. The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning."  I would add that the end feels like home.

She can begin with a light-hearted joke and seamlessly move into a most deep and meaningful metaphor. Does life feel like an adventure? Is it also a circle? Do you feel the familiarity of an old home as you come near your end? What are those "spray and breaking waves" of the final shore that obscure your return to home? How many people have feared that landing, only to find at the end that they are right where they have wanted to be? Goudge does all of that by the end of page 2.
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Perhaps I identify with this confession she makes: "As I look back on my life I realise that together with the beauty of the world that holds them, I have loved places too much and people not enough." (5) I know this in myself and fight against it. It's good to hear it admitted by another.

I have many more Goudge books to go, and how thankful I am that she worked to hard so keep us all happily reading!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Do We Say in Suffering?

It's a week of suffering. Friends in our state and our county are emerging from the ravages of a hurricane -- a Category 1 storm with Category 4 storm surge, we're told. Some neighbors have lost everything they own. When you don't have money for next week's groceries, how do you rebuild? Where do you live while you rebuild? Who will help you?
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This is the restaurant where Anna and Gramm had their rehearsal dinner.
Those are supposed to be roads all around.
(photo credit: Larry Summers)
But I'm in Mississippi, helping Anna. She and Gramm are tenderly caring for a beloved family member who is ill. They're both working too. I came to clean their home, do their laundry, clean out the refrigerator, feed them, love them. 

These are only two kinds of suffering; turn on the news and find more. You have your own suffering too. What do we say when we suffer?

We say, "Why?" Or if you're a person of faith, "Why God?" Or if you're a Christian, "Why, Jesus?" We may scream, "Help me!" or "Save me!" "Take me out of this horrible place in my life!"

I was up about 4:00 this morning. I've slept in five different beds in the past week, away from home. The morning's peaceful routine of reading my Bible is so calming, so I turned to today's chapter, John 12 ~~

Jesus knows He's about to be crucified, a horrific, degrading death in itself. On top of that, He'll have mountains of our sins piled onto Him, to bear into Hell on His shoulders so He can get rid of them once and for all. What a thing for a God to do! 

"Now My soul is troubled," He says. Of course.
"What shall I say?" Jesus asks.  In His suffering, what does He say?  What should we say when we suffer?

"Father, save Me from this hour"?
"Father, save me from this flooding and destruction."
"Father, save me from losing my home."
"Father, save me from cancer."
"Father, save me from watching my loved one die."

Jesus says no. In suffering, He refused to say, "Save me, Father," because He knew the Father would do it. Then we would all have been lost forever, banned from heaven. 

Instead, Jesus said, "Father, glorify Thy Name." 

It is so very hard to say anything other than "Save me!!" when we're going under. Peter yelled it, and Jesus saved him. Sometimes "Save me, Father!!" is the automatic distress call; we can't help it. But if we have time to think, it can be better to say, "Father, glorify yourself in my suffering. Use it to show who You are and what you can do. Use it to show other people your love. Use it to show how You can transform the human soul. Use it to show your power. Use it in ways I can't even imagine yet." 

Or like Jesus, "Use my suffering to save others into heaven."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Deep in the Mountains

When I arrived at my brother's apple orchard, I told him that it makes "the back end of nowhere" look urban. We spent several hours that afternoon riding around backwoods paths on his 4x4. He told me this is about the most remote area in West Virginia, and as a land surveyor for 30 years, he would know.
 Above is the house, an old structure with rooms added on the back. It was very comfortable and relaxing there. No wifi. No cell reception. It felt blissfully like I was 25 again.
 Gently curving dirt paths, grassy pastures, leaning wood fences.
My brother has quite a selection of apple varieties. They're nearly ripe this time of year.
 I love the front door of the house - isn't this gorgeous?
 This is the view of one fenced-in orchard plot from the house porch. The orchard property lies nestled in a narrow valley next to a stream with hills sheltering on either side.
 A few grape vines drape near the house.
 A previous owner built this covered bridge, which is so quaint! It does cross the creek, but it doesn't lead anywhere.

 An old barn that's falling down:

 The creek has a rock bottom.
 This is the building where the picked apples are kept cool. The deep porch is so pretty.
 The view back down the valley:
 They cleared trees from this hillside to provide more sunlight to the apple trees.
 Marshall took me for a long 4x4 ride, and we saw some lovely sites. Here's an old mill next to a creek.
 Outcroppings like this are not rare in West Virginia. We were deep in Webster County and wandered into Braxton County.
 We came upon a down tree. Marshall piled stones on either side, and at last he just gunned it really hard to bound over the tree. We didn't want to walk, way out in the middle of nowhere!
 They're putting in a big new natural gas pipeline through the middle of this area. Hardly anyone lives there. 

 Another cabin is on the property too, very cute.
 I had to share this picture too, a church with two tidy outhouses in the side yard -- men's and women's.

Marshall and I had a wonderful time together, riding the 4x4, looking at the orchard, but mostly talking and talking. We had a lot to catch up on! I'm so grateful he shared this beautiful place with me. I feel very at peace in West Virginia, and the more deeply into the rural mountain valleys I go, the more peace I feel. His orchard is a truly peaceful place indeed.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Greenbrier at White Sulfur Springs

 Somehow I failed to get a photo of the front of The Greenbrier. This is the back of the main building. They also have stunning, immaculately-kept grounds.
 The existing building replaced an earlier grand white resort, "The Old White." This occurred around 1913. In 1948 interior designer Dorothy Draper was hired to completely redo the interior. In the photos below you see she favored bold colors and modern styles.
 Room and archway lead into room and archway.

 The chandeliers were awe-inspiring.
In spite of the (to me) sometimes garish colors and modernity, elegance and beauty remain in many corners of the building.
The Princess Grace room holds her portrait. 
Look at these draperies with their voluminous bows!
The main dining room was very green. The room is huge enough to handle all that green. Again -- the chandeliers.
This feather fan was used by Mae West in a movie. It hangs in a ladies restroom.
The indoor pool -- the lifeguard on duty appeared quite bored. In fact, the entire facility seemed nearly deserted, and I wondered how they paid their bills! Then I realized we'd come after check-out time, and before check-in time. By 3:00 new arrivals were brisk.
Even the individual towels in the restrooms were very nice.
This hallway is dominated by these gargantuan light fixtures -- not to my taste, but interesting to view.
The Greenbrier has about 20 restaurants. My mother treated me and my sister-in-law to lunch, which was lovely. 
They hire many international young people, and Mother loves to ask them what nation they hail from and what their plans are. Apparently The Greenbrier is a good place to work; they have two employees who've been there 50 years, and quite a few who have worked 40 years, 25 years, and 10 years. They display their photos in the hallways.
 Our lunch: reuben sandwich with sweet potato fries (above) and fried green tomato sandwich (below)

Into the Misty Mountains

My family has ensured that I have some fun this past week while waiting out the hurricane in West Virginia. On Thursday, my mother treated me and my sister-in-law, Ann, to lunch at The Greenbrier, a resort vacation destination since 1778. (Picture pre-Civil War wealthy debutantes visiting for the summer months to match-make for a beau.) I'll devote a whole post to that delightful time ... later. 

But here are some photos I snapped of our drive along hwy. 219, which runs north from Lewisburg, down and up -- but when it's up, it lifts you along a spine of the mountains, or perhaps it's along an elevated plateau above the Greenbrier River, with engaging views.

Lastly, a friend sent us three photos of our farm at 3:00 Friday, after Hurricane Florence had passed.

We are relieved -- it looks like our house did not have water damage, and even the house lot, if it flooded, had already receded. Considering the extensive flooding elsewhere in the county, we are amazed at this and thankful for your prayers and God's mercy to spare our property. Adam returned yesterday to inspect the house and begin to help neighbors who were not so spared as we were.

Yesterday, I drove to my brother's apple orchard in Hacker Valley, WVa. I'd never been there but heard it's a remote, magical place -- and it is. I spent the night there. Marshall and I couldn't think of a time ever, when we'd spent an undisturbed 24 hours together talking. It was great -- more on that visit later. Tomorrow I drive to Chattanooga, and then on to Mississippi to see Anna. When Adam gives me the "all clear" from home, I'll start planning my return to the coast of North Carolina.