The Fairy Tale

The Fairy Tale, Sir Walter Firle, 1890
The Fairy Tale, Sir Walter Firle, 1890

Children should have the best of everything, don’t you think? Give them great art to look at and good books to read, and they will appreciate it. They aren’t pre-programmed for cartoonish drawings and short, boring stories. Their minds have great potential, and their imaginations can get lots of ideas from beautiful things.

Click here to read the poem I wrote about this painting.

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A Shakespearean Sonnet

LII.
So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and rare,
Since, seldom coming, in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.
So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest,
By new unfolding his imprison’d pride.

Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope,
Being had, to triumph, being lack’d, to hope.

At first, I thought, Come on… is it really good to be apart from the one you love? Isn’t this a bit unrealistic? But then, I thought, At least he’s not whining. There are some situations in life when two people in love are forced apart for periods of time. Those must be trying times. It is good to keep such a positive outlook. It is good to keep your hope up.

Then, I went further and thought about applying this poem to other things besides two lovers. How about the ability to write well? And to be published? If I was published often and constantly, would that be better than the state of limbo between the far-between publications? I had a book published last year, and I do not have anything written now that even resembles a new manuscript. But I am writing. (Check out my NaPoWriMo website!) And, yes, I am hopeful, not stressed out, not depressed, not giving up. Just happy to have my good writing imprisoned by the chest of time, and knowing that someone will eventually find a key to open it.

The Dance Class

The Dance Class, Edgar Degas, 1873-76
The Dance Class, Edgar Degas, 1873-76

This month, since I am writing a poem a day, my art posts will have poetry to accompany them. It’s rather like having music to accompany a dance–it enriches the experience without taking away from the masterful work. And I’m only saying that because I’m sure it’s something this old dance instructor might have said. Here is my poem about him.

The Red Garden

Yesterday was my birthday, and in the tradition of my elementary school years, I am offering you a treat to celebrate the special day. It has food in it, but it’s more magical than edible. It is a short quote from a novel I’m reading, The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman (2011). I enjoy Hoffman’s magical stories very much, and I’d love to write as well as her someday. This quote is only a small taste of what she can do with words, the natural world, and strange and lovely people fulfilling her fairy tale plots.

They had reached the garden, ignored for many years. It was a wild tangle filled mostly with thistle. A clutch of larks and sparrows took flight when the women approached.

“It must have been lovely,” Emily said.

There was still some scarlet amaranth and a stray crimson larkspur, nearly six feet tall, the likes of which Emily had never seen. There was a scraggly row of ruby lettuce and some bright radishes that Olive had put in, which she now pulled from the ground to have with their dinner. The family lore insisted that only red plants would grow in this stretch of ground. Even those blooms that went in as white or pink or blue turned in a matter of weeks. Emily took a bite of a small, muddy radish. The juice in her mouth was red.

The Reader

The Reader, Jean-Honore Fragonard, circa 1770-1772
The Reader, Jean-Honore Fragonard, circa 1770-1772

Such a tiny book! Maybe it’s poetry. Whatever it is, she seems immersed in it.

I find myself reading more and more. I don’t read fast, but lately I devour the written word at every spare moment of my day. Other than my devotional books (which are placed at strategic places around the house), I have bookmarks in The Best American Short Stories 2013 edited by Elizabeth Strout, The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman, The Frederick Manfred Reader, Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes, Towards a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason, and Rush Revere and the First Patriots: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans by Rush Limbaugh. That last one I’m reading to my six-year-old (and my husband when he’s in his chair pretending to read the newspaper). And now I’m looking at my list and thinking I really ought to add a book of poetry to round things out. I wish 18th century paintings had zoom so I could see what she’s reading!

Where Fiction Fails, Revisited

Some of you might remember my post entitled Where Fiction Fails. I expressed a concern about a lack of strong, beautiful-on-the-inside female characters in fiction. Someone like the Proverbs 31 woman. Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility came up as a possibility, but her spiritual character might not fit my profile.

I attend a Charlotte Mason book study (Miss Mason was a gentle, wise educator in England around the time of Charles Dickens), and a quote from her book Towards a Philosophy of Education posed an answer to my problem. Listen to this:

Perhaps we are so made that the heroic which is all heroic, the good which is all virtuous, palls upon us, whereas we preach little sermons to ourselves on the text of the failings and weaknesses of those great ones with whom we become acquainted in our reading.

The reason fiction fails to produce a perfect lady is because we readers would despise her. Who is my favorite female literary character? Probably Jane Eyre. Is she perfect? No. She’s a little stubborn, becomes too attached to certain people, does things which might not be wise. Hmmm. Those things could describe myself. Perhaps I can conclude that fiction fails to produce a woman of very high standards because so few of us reach such high standards. How could an author make it seem real? And how could a reader sympathize with such a woman? It’s not the answer I was originally looking for, but it is the best answer I can come up with.