Category Archives: Books

Thinning the Home Library

One by one.
Book after book after book.
Pull off the shelf.
Read the title.
Check for an inscription.

Haven’t read it?  Give it away.  (A very small pile.)

A textbook?  Have I used it since taking the class?
Can I imagine turning to it for any reason?
Keep?  Give away?

An old favorite?
Remember the story.
Remember the person who gave it to me.
Remember why I bought it.
Remember how it made me feel or gave me hope or challenged my world view.
Remember.

Keep? Give away?
Have I re-read it?
Will I read it again?
Have I quoted from it?
Was it a gift?
Does it make me smile?
Is it a connection to someone I love?
Keep?  Give away?

One by one.
Book after book after beloved book.


 

We have to have our floor replaced (it’s become a safety hazard).  Every piece of furniture, including all the bookcases, will be moved at least twice.  So we’re clearing the bookshelves, packing books into boxes, and taking the opportunity to thin the ever growing collection of books.  – Teressa

Tell Me the Old, Old Story

“Tell me the old, old story … of Jesus and his love.”  – Hymn by Katherine Hankey, 1866

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I’ve been clearing bookshelves, packing up books.  Every piece of furniture – including the bookcases and their contents – must be moved so the floor can be replaced.  We’re using it as an opportunity to thin our library.

The three books pictured came to me from my mother.  Two clearly belonged to her stepfather.  The inscription in Bible Picture ABC Book suggests it was a Christmas gift to him when he was three years old.

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A page from Bible Picture ABC Book by Elsie e. Egermeier.  Illustrated by Charles B. Millar and Ruthven H. Byrum.   Anderson, Indiana: Gospel Trumpet Company, 1924.

The Story of Jesus was also a gift:  “To Arthur for Ideas to Paint  – Mother -“.  Based on the copyright date (MCMXXXIX), the man I knew as Grandpa Art would have been a teenager.  He grew up to be a High School Art Teacher who painted, carved, made pottery and pursued other artistic endeavors.

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A page from The Story of Jesus.  Akron, Ohio: The Saalfield Pub. Co., 1939.

The third book does not have an inscription but considering the topic and the copyright date, I imagine it also came from the Lenz family.  Knowing they lived on a ranch in eastern Montana, I called Mom to ask if they could have afforded books.  Her reply was along the lines of “Oh, yes, Grandpa Lenz came from money.”  She also said that Grandma Lenz was a teacher so having books in their house made sense.

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Title page from Wee Folks Stories from the New Testament in Words of one Syllable by Elisabeth Robinson Scovil.  Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company.  Copyright 1921 by Howard E. Altemus.

Wee Folks Stories is a wee-sized book that is about the size of my hand – 4.25″ wide by 5.5″ tall.  True to its title, nearly every word in the book is only one syllable!

Rather than keep these books, I think I’ll send them to my Aunt Clara.  She’s just the sort who would enjoy having Bible story books that were used by her father.

Three books I won’t have reshelve!  (Is that three fewer or three less?  I’d look it up, but I’ve already packed the reference book and I don’t want to search the web.)

May you have time to read today!

Monday Musing: Ascension

Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hand, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  – Luke 24:50-51 NRSV

Ascension.  Another weird story in Christian scriptures that I’d rather ignore.  Jesus – the risen Christ – carried into heaven.  Forty days after Easter.  A Christian holy day.  My guess is many Protestants don’t realize it’s come and gone.

So when looking up a quilt fabric store on the internet the other day I was surprised to discover the following announcement in large, yellow letters at their top of their web page:

Store is CLOSED Thur. May 30th for Ascension Day  

Really?  Here in Iowa?!!  I’ll try to remember to ask about it when (if) I get there.

Ascension was not acknowledged in any way, shape, or form by my home congregation this year.  If I’d been preaching last week, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it either.

But our local Roman Catholic church marked the day at weekend masses.
And the priest did something I like to do when preaching.
He quoted from a contemporary text.
Not a commentary.  Not an overtly Christian or specifically religious book.
A work of fiction published in my lifetime:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story by Richard Bach.

They came in the evening, then, and found Jonathan gliding peaceful and alone through his beloved sky.  The two gulls that appeared at his wings were pure as starlight, and the glow from them was gentle and friendly in the high night air.  But most lovely of all was the skill with which they flew, their wingtips moving a precise and constant inch from his own.

Without a word, Jonathan put them to his test a test that no gull had ever passed.  He twisted his wings, slowed to a single mile per hour above stall.  The two radiant birds slowed with him, smoothly, locked in position.  They knew about slow flying.

He folded his wings, rolled and dropped in a dive to a hundred ninety miles per hour.  They dropped with him, streaking down in flawless formation.

At last he turned that speed straight up into a long vertical slow-roll.  They rolled with him, smiling.

He recovered to level flight and was quiet for a time before he spoke. “Very well,” he said, “who are you?

“We’re from your Flock, Jonathan. We are your brothers.”  The words were strong and calm.  “We’ve come to take you higher, to take you home.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story, (c) 1970

Do you know the story?  Jonathan, a seagull, had been cast off from the flock.  He didn’t fly simply to find food and eat.  He flew for the shear joy of flying.  And that was unthinkable, unacceptable, intolerable.  So he was alone.

And now he is not.

That’s not where the priest went with the story.  But it is what has caught my imagination after re-reading the book on Sunday.  Though physically alone in a particular time and place, Jonathan was not alone in pursuing a dream of perfect flight.  He had kindred out there somewhere.  One day, they found him.

When you’re feeling cast off from the crowd (whether a little or lot),
may you know you are not alone.
May your kindred find you – or you find them –
and together pursue a dream that brings beauty and joy into the world.

Monday Musing: Alpha and Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
who is and who was and who is to come,
the Almighty.
– Revelation 1:8 New Revised Standard Version

Sometimes, in the space where I’m drifting off to sleep,
texts I’ve heard recently,
words I’ve just read,
and songs I’ve sung in the past
meet up in my mind.
They’re a bit shy, a little nervous,
not sure they should be in the same place at the same time.

That summer was a new beginning, a new end.
When I look back, I remember my slippery
hands of paint and the sound of Papa’s feet
on Munich Street, and I know that small
piece of the summer of 1942 belonged to only
one man.  Who else would do some painting for
the price of half a cigarette?  That was Papa,
that was typical, and I loved him.
– Markus Zusak, in The Book Thief

Alpha and Omega.
First and Last.
Before the beginning and beyond the end.
Always there.  Always here.
Always now.
Past.  Present.  Future.

Yet we measure time in discrete bits, distinct seasons.
That was then.
A new beginning.  A new end.
This is now.
Also a new beginning and a new end.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
– Natalie Sleeth, “In the Bulb There Is a Flower,” verse 3

Linear.  One thing after another.  Never to go back.
Circular.  One thing after another.  Back at the beginning again.
Timeless with God.

Everybody

“Tigger is all right really,” said Piglet lazily.
“Of course he is,” said Christopher Robin.
“Everybody is really,” said Pooh.  “That’s what I think,” said Pooh.  “But I don’t suppose I’m right,” he said.
“Of course you are,” said Christopher Robin.

A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Copyright, 1928, by E.P. Dutton
Copyright Renewal, 1956, by A.A. Milne

In the world of Winnie-the-Pooh everybody is all right really.  “All right” as in we recognize their worth:  from overly-enthusiastic bouncy Tigger to somberly staid Eeyore to Owl and Rabbit, Kanga and Roo, Piglet, Pooh and Christopher Robin.

We know people just like them in our world – friends, neighbors, family, colleagues.  And they, too, are (mostly) “all right really.” 

But what about the people we don’t know?  The other ones, known only by rumor or stereotype or prejudice or social media?  Or the ones we just don’t want to hear from or about ever again and the ones we wish would just go away? Are they “all right really”?

I want to be with Pooh and Christopher Robin.  Really.  Some days I am.  Some days it’s tough.

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A.A.Milne: The Island

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Cape Meares State Park, Oregon Coast. Photo: TLClark, October 2011.

“If I had a ship,” the poem “The Island” by A.A.Milne begins.  The first stanzas describe sailing the ship through the seas to a beach and leaving the ship to climb up the steep white sand to the trees.  It concludes:

And there would I rest, and lie,
My chin in my hands, and gaze
At the dazzle of sand below,
And the green waves curling slow,
And the grey-blue distant haze
Where the sea goes up to the sky . . . .

And I’d say to myself as I looked so lazily down at the sea;
“There’s nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me.”

A. A. Milne, “The Island,” in When We Were Very Young, Copyright, 1924, by E. P. Dutton, Copyright Renewal, 1952, by A. A. Milne.

On one hand, the last line seems selfishly self-centered.
On the other hand, it reminds me that we all do well to take time away in nature, to spend time alone, to rest, to gaze about, and to wonder.

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Green waves, Pacific Ocean, Oregon Coast. Photo: TLClark, October 2011.

I didn’t (and don’t) have a ship, the pictures are not from or of an island, and the weather was too chilly to stay still long!  Nevertheless they are what I remembered when I read A. A. Milne’s poem.

Wherever you are and whatever the weather, may you take time to rest and to wonder!

Blessings,
Teressa

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Astoria Bridge over the Columbia River, Astoria, OR. Photo: TLCLark, May 2010.

Birthday Book

As soon as I read about it in November, I knew I wanted it.

I suggested it as a Christmas gift.  But the book wasn’t officially available until December.

So I ordered A Velocity of  Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick for my birthday.  It arrived Friday – along with four other books in three packages.

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Birthday Books 2019.   To share with my beloved.  Photo: TLClark.

I’m the sort of person who likes books about books.  A Velocity of Being is not quite that.  It’s better:  letters about reading from authors and artists, musicians and scientists, actors and others.  Each was asked to “write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny.” (Maria Popova, “Introduction,” A Velocity of Being). 

As if that were not enough, every letter is accompanied by a work of art created in response to that particular message.  The works by illustrators, graphic designers and other artists are exquisite, adding a rich layer of interpretation to the letter.

Just a few examples:

  1. In the first letter Jacqueline Woodson writes of reading to her young son and impulsively kissing “the top of my son’s mohawked head.” (p. 16)  Lara Hawthorne captures the moment beautifully.
  2. Leonard Marcus encourages us to pack books carefully when moving. “Not many things in life can be counted as ‘permanent possessions.’  But a few things can, and our favorite books are among them.” (p. 158)  Julia Rothman’s illustration shows the chaos of boxes being packed to move with one carefully marked “PERMANENT POSSESSIONS.”
  3. “The world itself is all beautiful” Andrew Solomon writes, “but sometimes it can be hard to see that, and books let you understand moments of beauty you might otherwise miss.” (p. 100) He writes about loneliness, justice, kindness, sadness, happiness and more, two sentences at a time.  Catarina Sobral used bright, bold, primary colors to portray a child whose world is upended by reading a book.

I haven’t read every letter – yet.  Nor have I spent time musing over every illustration – yet.  A Velocity of Being will take some time to absorb and to enjoy – one letter, one picture at a time.

Read about Maria Popova’s creative vision for the book and see some of the many exquisite illustrations by visiting her blog:  A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read.