Avetts in October #7: Confluence

In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I am writing a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors. Today I give a nod to Eudora Welty and Rohinton Mistry.

sky birds

March, 2013 – Fruit Cove, Florida

 

Confluence: a flowing together ; a coming together of people

 

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March, 2013 – Fruit Cove, Florida

“All they could see was sky, water, birds, light,and confluence. It was the whole morning world. And they themselves were part of the confluence.” Eudora Welty

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June, 2012 – Astor, Florida

I love this idea of confluence, of a flowing together. In it I see the purposeful way God deals with His children. We can’t, often don’t, see it. We don’t see how the bad things lead to our good. But, I hear it in the Avett Brothers’ song All My Mistakes.

But I can’t go back

And I don’t want to

‘Cause all my mistakes

They brought me to you

 

 “Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.”  – lawyer on the train – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

 

Avetts in October #4: Swept Away – One

In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I am attempting a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors.

I didn’t discover Eudora Welty until  around 2015. There is a lot that can be learned from her writing, especially One Writer’s Beginnings.  She talks about how we change as we move through life, bumping up against others.

“Each of us is moving, changing, with respect to others.  As we discover, we remember, remembering, we discover and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge.”

Sometimes it’s life that changes around us and the special people in our lives help us to stay grounded. I hear this in Swept Away.

 

Life is ever changing but I will always

find a constant and comfort in your love

 

 

 

Adventures in Subbing #1

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I am in my fourth year of substitute teaching here in Alabama and I’ve come to look at it as more than just a job. When  I was a full-time teacher, I had so much on my plate and so much on my mind that many days I was too exhausted to think much past the next set of papers I had to grade. Now I’m looking at things from a little different perspective.

Some days I just sit and don’t do much more than take roll and pass out an assignment. Other days might be jammed packed with instruction and discipline. The variety is usually enjoyable. I have learned to be an observer and I try to make connections with students when I can.

From time to time I’ll be sharing my thoughts, observances, and tidbits from the classroom.

“A circle was ugly without you.” -from Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

 

Being on the outside of a circle, looking in, is a lonely place to be. I’ve felt that way over the years, but fortunately not too often. It hurts, no matter how old you are. But, the middle school years are the hardest. If you aren’t in a circle, your outsideness really shows.

One day I saw a pretty young girl sitting all alone in a room full of kids who were talking to each other and laughing while they sat together. I didn’t know her or her story, but I wondered. Did she choose to sit alone? Did she just not have a friend in this particular class, but when the bell rang would she meet up with her BFF as she headed for her next class? I sure hoped so. That’s what I wished for. I wish everyone had a BFF waiting somewhere for them. A person who was interested, a person who cared. But, I know that isn’t always the case. So, all the more reason to be kind. And to remember how ugly that circle can be when you are on the outside.

(edited/reprinted from April, 2016)

Pulses

 

ew (1)“Childhood’s learning is made of moments. It isn’t steady. It’s a pulse.”

~ Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

 

 

 

I can remember random moments from childhood and now wonder, were they learning moments?

I remember when I was five being frightened of the man next door, the father of an older girl I played with, who pushed his wife down as she was ironing. She already had a cast on her leg. He knelt down to try to comfort me, to tell me it was okay. I knew not to trust him.

When my older brother and I got in trouble and were banished to our separate bedrooms, we got our little brother to be a messenger, passing notes between us. These notes consisted of stick figures doing silly things. I learned my brothers would be my friends for life, though not without a few rough patches.

Fast forward to fourth grade and the learning didn’t feel like a pulse. Long division felt like a long, slow drip-drip-drip in a bucket. A bucket with a hole in it; for just when I thought I was finished with a problem, I’d discover my numbers weren’t lined up properly and I would have to start all over again. Recently I think some of my students have feeling this as they have become friends with the seam-ripper in their efforts to make pillowcases and aprons.

Many of my learning moments came through books. The horrors of the Holocaust came through the eyes and words of Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom; the horrors of child abuse from A Child Called It and Sybil. But before these books, there was Little Women, where I first got the idea that I’d like to write. I wanted to be Jo. That desire has waxed and waned over the years, as motherhood and making ends meet took precedence. I know many have been able to work, mother, and write concurrently, and I did to some extent, in pulses like my childhood learning.

But now the writing flame has been fanned and I need it more than ever. I don’t want it to go out.

The Cadence of Scripture

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“How many of us, the South’s writers-to-be of my generation, were blessed in one way or another, if not blessed alike, in not having gone deprived of the King James Version of the Bible. Its cadence entered into our ears and our memories for good. The evidence, or the ghost of it, lingers in all our books. ‘In the beginning was the Word’. “  ~ Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

 

While her understanding of John 1:1 is flawed, I find it interesting and sad that this cadence is no longer a part of the lives of children in our country. According to the Shelby Baptist Association, Shelby County is the most unchurched county in Alabama. David Olsen, in his book The American Church in Crisis , states that only 16.4 percent  of the population in Shelby County attends church on a regular basis.

Though I grew up in church and became a Christian at an early age, I am ashamed at how sorely lacking I am in having memorized scripture. Or in having memorized much of anything. I have snatches of verses in my heart and in my head, but I can’t tell you the reference for the majority of them. Growing up in public schools for the most part, I didn’t memorize scripture until seventh grade when, at a Christian school, we were required to recite chapters. Fortunately we were given numerous chances, reciting in chunks, until we got through the entire passage. Sadly, I was always one of the last to complete the requirement. Years later, after listening to the Guess Who’s song, Hang On To Your Life, numerous times throughout my teens,  I read Psalms 22:13-15  as an adult and made the connection between the words spoken in the song and the verse in the Bible:

 

They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

This is all just food for thought – I don’t really have a conclusion.

 

 

Book Treasures

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I love opening up a book and finding a surprise. I found three in the past two days. Yesterday, I found the sticker seen above. I googled it, and came up with three things

  1. A Greek vehicle manufacturer
  2. A German beer
  3. The Pakistani Elvis

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I think it is really LOVE, scrambled.

So, today I found two more unexpected things. First, a sad one, a card from a funeral.

Using my googling/detective skills, I found the memorial for this man on Find a Grave and posted the picture there. I’d like to think one of his friends left the card in my book. I got the book in either Florida or Alabama, I don’t remember, but Mr. Canavan was buried in Massachusetts.

My most exciting find was an autograph I’d completely overlooked. My copy of  The Bride of Innisfallen by Eudora Welty is actually SIGNED!! It’s inscribed to a Mrs. George Barrett. There is a copy online that is inscribed to someone and signed and it’s selling for $120. Think I’ll keep the book to myself a while;  just knowing she signed it makes me feel connected to her.

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A few years ago I found a baptismal certificate and photograph in a book. Using those skills of mine, I’m pretty sure I found the owner’s brother on facebook, but he never responded to me. I don’t think he was very active online. Now, however, I may pursue it once more. I’d love to be able to return the items.

There is a book  and blog called Forgotten Bookmarks that is about just these type of finds. I hope to get a copy of the book soon. In the meanwhile, I think it would be fun to write stories about the items I find.  If I do, I’ll post some here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biographical Picks

 

Looking back on 2016, I was surprised at the number of biographical books I’d read. Here is my list with a brief review of each.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Written after his wife died, I would recommend this to anyone grieving. Lewis is brutally honest with his feelings and gives a true window into the soul of someone who loved deeply.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
This is the third out of four of her Crosswick Journals. It takes the reader through the liturgical year, addressing questions of faith and facing old age. Her writing style is lovely. Those of you who read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid must read this series, also.

The Confessions of St. Augustine
Parts were helpful, but some parts were difficult to comprehend. I had to read it very slowly. I enjoyed the biographical parts the best.

More Than Petticoats – Remarkable Georgia Women by Sara Martin
These stories were impressive, and one was of particular interest to me. That was the chapter on Leila Denmark. She is my cousin’s aunt (on her father’s side) and an exceptional woman. She was a pediatrician until the age of 103, and she lived to be 114.

One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty.
In this autobiography, Mississippi native Welty shares the details of her childhood and influences on her writing.

Dispatches From Pluto : Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant
British-born Grant writes about the south in such a charming way. I really loved his narrative of life in the delta as seen by an outsider.

There is a lot of variety in these selections. Written from 400-2015, there is something here for everyone.

Gleanings From Other Writers #1

 

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In talking about a music box at her grandparents’ house, Eudora Welty compares the sound  to spoons in such a way that I could fully sense what she meant.

 

“….rather as if the spoons in the spoon holder started a quiet fretting among themselves.” ~ from One Writer’s Beginnings

This is a fantastic combination of simile and personification. After (as an adult) I read The Indian in the Cupboard, I thought  often about things in cabinets as having a personality. Maybe I should not admit to this childish working of my mind. Maybe I should funnel this imagination into a picture book.