The kids and I brought home a book about Norman Rockwell on our last library trip. I learned a few new things about him: he was a skinny stick of a boy with a bigger, athletic brother. His father read books out loud to the family–books like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield by Dickens. And the compositions of his paintings and illustrations direct the viewer right to the point of the painting. Looking at this lovely Christmas painting, I’d say Rockwell is commenting on the joy and wonder of Christmas as seen on the expressions of the mother and child in the coach. And surrounding that joy and wonder? Lots of expectation, fun, noisiness, and grandeur.
May your Christmas coach plow through the season without getting stuck!
— from “Evening at a Country Inn” by Jane Kenyon, wife of Donald Hall
I’ve just discovered Jane Kenyon, though I’ve known about and admired her husband’s works for some time. What I like about Jane: she’s so dependent on seasons and weather and time of day. Her poem-worlds are firmly grounded in real places. Her insecurities, her depression, her relationship with her husband, her very thoughts while she writes and while she cleans the house all become her poetry, which is lovely and intimate, not at all boring. And she admires hay bales. As do I. What is more satisfying than a field of perfect round bales, each brightened by the sun on exactly the same spot?
I’m home from my first book reading, held at the Waupun Public Library. I prepared for this quite heavily because I know me. I know my heart is much braver than my brain. Sure enough, I started reading from “Master of Light” and my voice started shaking. I had to slow down, take a couple steadying breaths. My ears flamed red, and then my cheeks burned up. Probably my forehead and neck came next. I had to really give myself a pep talk… “No giving up, Amy. You can’t stop now.” I kept pushing through the sentences, and thankfully everything slowly got better.
After the talk I sold some books, signed my name quite a few times, and a friend took the money for me, which was a blessing because I was far too distracted to do mental math.
My kids came to hear me talk, and my three-year-old kept asking me afterward, “Why did you have to do the sermon?” 🙂 Well, I may not be a preacher, but I’m thanking God right now for getting me through this night. Now I can concentrate on Christmas for awhile!
Thus begins the children’s tale, Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen (copyright 1987). It’s a favorite story of my three little ones, who are all a little scared and very fascinated by what goes on in the dark outdoors. When we leave to go somewhere, and it is dark outside, before they get in the car they dash into the night and back again, “doing a brave,” as they call it. I notice they never do this quietly. In Owl Moon, being quiet gives the winter woods adventure more importance. My children do want to go owling, “but not until we’re a little older,” they say with a sideways glance out the dark window.
A friendly cat adopted our family this week. The kids and I are delighted. Watching a cat is so mood-lifting. This Franz Marc painting makes me smile, too, and I believe it’s in the attitude. The marks, the colors, the subject matter, the circular composition–they all work together to create a fun, loving attitude, not just toward cats, but also toward art. I enjoy looking at his paintings in about the same way I enjoy watching our new cat knead her paws on the kitchen rug.