Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A perspective.   “In the morning sow your seed betimes, and do not stop work until evening, for you do not know whether this or that sowing will be successful, or whether both alike will do well.”  (The New English Bible,  Ecclesiastes)

When I wonder about my life in the near or distant past and whether it were successful or not, when I think about my present or future endeavors, I remember the wisdom of the writer of Ecclesiastes.  We don’t know.  We focus on the present, without expectations.

Of the sixty-six books in the Holy Bible Ecclesiastes is the only one I love.

Grandmothers and white irises.  Both of my grandmothers were good gardeners.  My paternal grandmother could afford to buy plants from mail order houses and nurseries, and they thrived in her care.  My maternal grandmother was equally a good gardener, but she received plants only when others shared; she could not afford to spend money on plants.  My paternal grandmothers ordered a beautiful white iris, which my maternal grandmother admired.  She would not ask for one, for she knew my paternal grandmother was not inclined to share.  But my Aunt Estelle, visiting my paternal grandmother and not fearful of her (“Pshosh, all she can do is say no.), asked for and received a planting and gave it to my maternal grandmother.  When my paternal grandmother died, her garden was forsaken and eventually turned into lawn.  My maternal grandmother, and in turn relatives, treasured and cared for the white irises, and now decades later they bloom this week in my yard, a gift from a cousin, a remembrance of two grandmothers.

Reading.  John Steinbeck, The Long Valley (1938).  Each of the thirteen stories is well-crafted.  It is one of these stories which serve as an introduction for students to the works of Steinbeck.  “Flight” continues to be anthologized in high school textbooks, and as I re-read the story this time, I remembered how I asked the teacher about other works of Steinbeck.  I have often taught it.  Some years it was replaced by “The Leader of the People,” chosen, I think, to illustrate the theme approach of the text.  Often younger students read “The Red Pony,” sometimes published as a novella.  Favorites:  “The Chrysanthemums,” a story concerning strength and vulnerability.  “The White Quail” and “The Harness,” concerning martial relationships.  “The Murder” and “The Vigilante,” harrowing looks at bigotry, cruelty, self-righteousness.  “Breakfast,” a beautiful sketch of sharing and fellowship.  “The Red Pony” is as good a coming-of-age story I know.

A guide.  When I read “Flight” in eleventh grade, I asked my teacher about Steinbeck.  She encouraged me to read more, especially The Grapes of Wrath.  First, she said, read books by Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.  I did so, and talked about them with her before and after school.  She served as a good, reliable guide for my early reading.

What determines how we choose those who serve as guides?  Nobody else can choose for us.  I was told that a certain piano teacher would be best for me, and she was not, it turned out.  We are fortunate when we find those who contribute to our lives, our guides and friends.

The only explanation that makes sense to me is that of Emily Dickinson:  “The Soul selects her own Society– / Then–shuts the Door– ”   (Poem 303, c. 1862)

Green.  Now the leaves are solid, summer green.  Weather is cooler than usual.  It has been nice to have a wet, cool spring.

Thank you for reading.  I hope your week will be good.



About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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