Monday, April 30, 2012

Star Girl: Thanks for the Reminder!

I have been invited to participate in a Blog Carnival sponsored by the charming blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. As the subject is The Book That Changed My Life, I immediately accepted the challenge to narrow down a very long list.  Here is a look back at one of my favorites.

I think I had forgotten. I think I had let it go too long. Had I become afraid? Had I become lazy, or busy, or trying to be selfless, or what? I don't know. I believe sometimes we neglect old friends, friends who have been by our side for years just waiting for our attention, and it is difficult to identify exactly why we have neglected them. I have spent my life reading. It is what I do. There is no greater source for learning and expanding one's mind. But for some reason, I had neglected reading for reading's sake. I had neglected fiction. I have immersed myself in the scriptures. I have immersed myself in non-fiction and don't regret a minute of it. But that needn't be all there is. How had I forgotten?

I am finally remembering the joy that comes from being so deeply within a story that one temporarily leaves behind reality. At the recommendation of my sweet daughter, I have picked up a book, not to learn (and yet I have); not to explore (and yet I have); not to expand my mind (and yet I have). I have gotten back in touch with the dream world of living life through another's eyes, through another's footsteps, through another's thoughts.

I have come to know another person who isn't even real, and yet who I wish so desperately that she was. Maybe I wish she was real because I, in some way, wish that I were more like her. I want to not be encumbered with worry and insecurity. I want to live my life freely without keeping in check every personal expression, fearing that others may not understand or approve. I want to befriend the friendless. I want to show expressions of kindness just for the sake of brightening someone's day. And if I want to wear a long dress, strum a ukelele, and sing as if nobody were listening, then maybe, just maybe, I will.

Sometimes something will come along that changes us. Often it comes in an unassuming way, unexpectedly, and with no great fanfare. Such was my introduction to Star Girl. I read this little gem by Jerry Spinelli in one afternoon, unable to put down this tender, triumphant, heartbreaking story. Something about it spoke to my soul. It called out to me in a very real, very personal way, and I became apart of it, just as it became apart of me. Star Girl is filled with beauty, with truth, with reality; it is also filled with heartache, unkindness and the best and worst parts of humanity.

Having only briefly satisified my thirst for fiction, I immediately turned to the sequel. It is entitled Love, Star Girl. It is quite different from the first one. Among the many memorable parts, the following was the most important for me, the one that woke me up, the one that slapped me upside the head:

     "Where are you going?" he said.
     "Porch. Check the snow."
     The way he said it, I stopped. I sat back down.
     He looked at me across the table. "Silly worries don't become you."

Fiction will never replace the scriptures. That's okay. I have the scriptures, too. But I don't know of anything that can replace the suspending of belief which enables one to enter into a world of the storyteller's creation, being invited to see inside someone else's thoughts and to walk in someone else's shoes. And perhaps learn things that are just as important.

Hello again, my old friend, fiction. I have missed you.

To read a little more about Star Girl's effect on me, see also this post entitled Mud Frogs: Beginning to See One Another.

Monday, April 23, 2012

All Are Needed By Each One

When is one at their best? Why, when they are in their element, of course.

What does it mean, then, to be in one's element?  When are you in your element?  When am I in mine?

What brings out the best in you?  What would you describe as your ultimate circumstances, your most favorable light, your best accoutrements?

Have you ever filled your pockets with treasures, beautiful rocks that sparkled in a river bed, or iridescent seashells found glimmering among the seaweed, only to bring them home and find that they have somehow lost their charm? When no longer in their element, their value appears to have fled.

I often feel like that drab little pebble which was beautiful amid the interplay of sunlight and water, yet quickly becomes dreary and common and no more worthy than to be cast aside.

Ralph Waldo Emerson discusses this theme in a poem, entitled Each and All.  The following is an excerpt:

All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone.
The delicate shells lay on the shore;
The bubbles of the latest wave
Fresh pearls to their enamel gave,
And the bellowing of the savage sea
Greeted their safe escape to me.
I wiped away the weeds and foam,
I fetched my sea-born treasures home;
But the poor, unsightly, noisome things
Had left their beauty on the shore
With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar.

I think I am in my element when I am in active roles as mother and grandmother. That is when I shine. I delight in delighting those around me, in meeting their needs, in bringing smiles and happy tummies and comfort and contentment. To paraphrase Browning, Children in the House, All's right with the World.

My personal challenge lies in finding other times and ways to sparkle.  Perhaps being in our element isn't possible all the time, and indeed, may become old and weathered if it is too commonplace. 

In looking toward our Savior, Jesus Christ for an example, we find that He was always in His element.  He showed love and forgiveness and hope and encouragement and patience and kindness, and while doing so, radiated a heavenly light that never dimmed, never faded, never became dull nor drab nor dreary.

I know my independent, adult children really are living their lives as outstanding, productive young people, making good decisions and working hard to become educated and to support themselves.  I couldn't be more proud.  But I am also thankful that in some way, I believe, they will always need me. 

As I will always need them.

They make me sparkle.

"All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone."