Literary Pilgrimages

I am a pilgrim, a wayfarer, an adventurer.  I am a sojourner, making my way through lands real and imagined.  I travel by multiple mediums.  My feet carry me across continents familiar and strange.  My imagination soars through the minds and hearts of people who have gone before, ferried by the pages of a book.

 

I am a reader.  I am an explorer.  Sometimes, the two combine and I become a pilgrim.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim as “one who journeys in foreign lands”.  Traditionally, pilgrims journey towards a sacred, often religious place.  One of the most famous pilgrimages in literature is Chaucer’s band of characters telling tales on the road to the cathedral in Canterbury.

I am a lover of pilgrimages.  My journeys, however, are literary in nature.  In them, I travel to a place that holds bookish significance–the house or grave of a writer, the location of a beloved text, the place that inspired a famous text. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday centers on recommendations.  This is a tricky subject because of times when people recommend books to me, interest ends with the conversation.  I either forget to follow through or know it’s not something I would like.

Nevertheless, I do follow through every once in a while and here is a list of some my favorites.  (Interestingly enough, a high number of books on this list are fairly progressive Christian nonfiction.) Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share: Camping & Old Books

If we were having coffee, I would first tell you that I’ve been pretty absent from the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks and that I have missed you.  Things have been pretty busy in Amelia land–I’ve barely opened my laptop in the past few weeks.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I went camping last weekend with my friend, Maddie.  We spent two nights camping on the North Shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.  Well, I say camping… we actually stayed in my great-uncle’s secluded cabin in the woods.  We had a roof over our heads, but it was fairly primitive.  We cooked over a fire, had to walk for water, use a biffy, and there were no other residences in sight.  It was an introvert’s paradise! Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Giftcard Me Up

Ten Books You’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card

  1. Hermione Granger Saves the World–Essays on the Feminist Heroine of Hogwarts  edited by Christopher E. Bell
  2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  3. This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems by Wendall Berry
  4. God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?
    by David T. Lamb
  5. Are Women Human? Penetrating, Sensible, and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society by Dorothy L. Sayers
  6. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
  7. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  8. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
  9. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

Poetry Friday: Orlando’s Poor Love Verses from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”

Because I’m going to a Shakespeare-themed music in the park tonight, I thought it fitting to share the Bard this week.  Instead of going for one of the sonnets or eloquent, poetic soliloquies, I have chosen a selection from “As You Like It”–one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.  The following comes from Act 3, Scene 2 where Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone find Orlando’s poorly written love verses pinned to trees.  I wish I could share the entire scene–it is so full of puns and plays on words that it never fails to make me laugh. Continue reading

Poetry Friday: There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale was one of the first poets I truly fell in love with.  I discovered her work when I was in high school while doing unrelated research on the internet and liked what I found so much that I asked for her complete works for Christmas.  I’ve read the book cover to cover.  Most of her poems are short and sweet and many are dear to my heart.  This one got stuck in my head the other day.  (Fun fact: Ray Bradbury enjoyed it too–he wrote a short story bearing the same name.)

There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

——————–

What is Poetry Friday?  Years ago, when I was in high school, we did poetry lessons every Friday.  I’ve always loved this idea and will continue the tradition by sharing poems on my blog.

Poetry Friday: God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I recently discovered Gerard Manley Hopkins and… dang.  His poems are sometimes difficult to understand, but such a pleasure to read aloud.  I love the sounds and interplay between words–they fill my mouth like rich food and I slowly chew the sounds, savoring each bite.  I find certain lines getting caught in my head and, as the day goes on, I repeat them to myself over and over again.
Here is one of my favorites:

Continue reading

November in Review

Because I was a bad blogger and skipped out on October… here is my November Month in Review!

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

November has been a good month.  Although I haven’t been writing like a maniac like my NaNoWriMo and NaNoBloPoMo friends, I definitely have been hanging out with my words.  The past few weeks have been filled with meaningful posts that I’m really proud of.  Be sure to read my comparison between apple farming and writing, my frustration at American responses to the refugee crisis, and musings from the shore of Lake Superior.  I also posted a poem that’s been sitting in my archives for over two years.  Be sure to check it out and let me know if I should put on my poet hat more often.

Looking ahead, I have an exciting December planned!  I hope to start posting book reviews again.  I also have a fun holiday-themed series coming up that I am going to need your help for!  Stay tuned for more details.

II. Books

This month, I was a literary fiend, tearing through books at an alarming rate.  I keep track of how many books I read each year on Goodreads.  In the past week, my count has exceeded 100–a personal record!

I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past two weeks binge-reading fluffy YA novels.  Rainbow Rowell is SO GOOD.  Marissa Meyer’s conclusion to her Lunar Chronicles series was incredibly satisfying (review coming soon!).  And, despite my love/hate relationship with Stephanie Perkins, I managed to eat up one of her novels in less than 24 hours.  (Oh, the beauty of Thanksgiving Break.)

Here’s a list of some of my reads:

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon
  • Fangirl/Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Seven Words of Power by James Maxwell
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler

III. Life

November was filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Things at work went from awful to not-so-bad.  Of course, once I finally get a firm grip on the job, it’s time to hand it off to someone else.  We managed to find a stellar candidate for the Executive Director position.  The hiring decision isn’t official yet, but will be in a week or so.  This means that my brief stint into Chamber of Commerce life is nearly over.  No tears are being shed over this.

Orchard season also came to a close.  We’ve been going strong since August, but finally reached the end.  It was a season for the record books–biggest crowds, biggest crops, biggest sales.  It was an exhausting, rewarding ride and I am happy to be done.  I do miss the physical work.  Hauling around 40 lb crates of fruit helped me stay in shape and I liked the monotony.  Still, having actual weekends is an absolute dream!

This month, I celebrated my twenty third birthday by enjoying a shopping spree with my mom at the Mall of America.  I spent WAY too much money, but have worn my purchases (a sweater, new pants, some scarves) enough times to make it more than worthwhile.

I hung out with friends quite a bit.  My high school buddies and I had a movie night, where they introduced me to The Sandlot.  Now whenever my mom exasperates me, I can knowingly retort, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”  My friend, Kassandra, and I had a delightful brunch at a cafe in St. Paul a few weeks back and I was reunited with my long-time friend, Holly, who made the trip from Washington D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with her family.  My study abroad friend, Maddie, came up from her now-home Minneapolis and we spent a memorable afternoon closing up the orchard, wandering around Taylors Falls, and discussing music, politics, and spirituality.

I managed to escape home for a night by accompanying my mom and brother to Duluth, where they had work meetings.  While there, I had some quality me-time strolling along the lakeshore.  That afternoon, we went to a press conference and I got to shake hands with a U.S. Congressman, which was pretty cool.

Finally, the most unexpected thing of all happened in the form of an opening to live and study at a ministry in England.  If you had told me a month ago that I’d be returning to the U.K., I would have laughed in your face.  It’s amazing what a few short weeks can do!  I’m not really sure what to expect from this adventure, but I’m having a lot of fun dreaming about it.  Who knows if I’ll ever come home?

That wraps up my Month in Review!  As always, thanks for reading.

On the Shelf: Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

This week I’ll be discussing the novel Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Goodreads | Amazon

SummaryGeorge Bowling, the hero of this comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed beyond recognition, and the principal event of his holiday is an accidental bombing by the RAF.

My Thoughts:

Whenever I encounter George Orwell, my immediate reaction is almost always a groan.  He doesn’t write happy stories and, whenever I am assigned his work, I can’t shake the dread as I open to the first page.  Every time, though, I’m blown away at how my assumptions are completely wrong.  No, Orwell isn’t a happy writer, but DANG.  That man can write!

This was my second time through Coming Up For Air.  We first crossed paths in one of my literature classes while studying abroad.  It’s one of Orwell’s lesser known novels–paling in the popularity of 1984 and Animal Farm.  I, however, have come to the conclusion that it’s my favorite.

The book, as you can see in the summary, centers around George Bowling–a mediocre man with a mediocre life.  The plot is simple: he’s deeply unhappy, reminisces about his childhood, and eventually decides to go back and revisit his home town.  To his shock, his hometown is unrecognizable.  He returns home and life continues.  End of story.

What get’s me about the narrative, however, is that Orwell perfectly captures the essence of nostalgia.  I’ve been told that we as humans are the most nostalgic during periods of incredible change–personal or social.  Orwell sets his story at the cusp of World War II–just before Great Britain enters the fighting.  Everything in society, in this moment, is changing.  George, a veteran of World War I, is painfully aware of this.  He knows exactly what is coming and what it will do to the world.  Nothing will ever be the same.

Orwell puts words to the deep longings we all have for something that never existed.  Every time he begins reminiscing of his childhood, George makes a statement assuring that what he remembers isn’t the whole of it.  He tells us that, in his memory, it’s always summer.  He knows this isn’t the case, but he remembers it anyway.

The most heartbreaking part of the novel is that even though he is painfully aware that he over-idealizes his childhood, George still convinces himself that he can go back.  And go back he does.  Or, at least, he tries.  He visits all his old haunts–his father’s shop, the old church, his favorite fishing holes.  And none of it is the same.  All has been altered and no one recognizes him.

It’s a bleak novel, but a wonderful one.  My timing on re-reading was perfect.  I’m in an enormous transition stage at the moment and while looking at everything that is changing, it’s important to remember not to idealize the past or long for things I never actually had.

Favorite Quote:

“The past is a curious thing. It’s with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passes without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it’s got no reality, it’s just a set of facts that you’ve learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book. Then some chance sight or sound or smell, especially smell, sets you going, and the past doesn’t merely come back to you, you’re actually IN the past. It was like that at this moment.”

More book-related news…

Every summer, I listen to the Lord of the Rings trilogy on audiobook.  When you do manual labor all day, it really helps pass the time.  I started Fellowship of the Ring yesterday and, believe it or not, am already halfway through the book!  (This is what happens when you work all the time.)

I’m breaking ground in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  I have yet to breach the fifty page mark, so may not get to discussing it by next week.  I’ll get to it eventually!

Come back next Tuesday for another book discussion!  Before that, though, I’d LOVE to get some feedback for this feature.  Yes, it’s the first week, but I want to find a format that works best for the enjoyment of all.  What aspects do you like?  What would you change?  Any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading!