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Burdens, Roads, and Longings

“Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City.” – Marmee, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, chapter 1.

Such plain and simple terms Marmee puts life into. The March sisters’ burdens have been given to them. They know exactly what they need to do with the circumstances they find themselves in, as far as daily tasks and duties are concerned. Perhaps not all the minute details are obvious, but the general work needing to be done is plain as day. The road stretched out before them, one of monotonous war and sacrifice, is clear and straightforward.

We all know the daily duties we also must face. The monotonous tasks, the everyday grind before us. Even if the future is uncertain, we still have the duties right in front of us that need doing. So we just need to do them. Without complaining, without dragging our feet. Walk firmly and steadily over all the rocks and ruts, and we’ll get to our destination in good time.

“…The longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes…” We all long for goodness in our lives. We all long for happiness. We all long for dreams to come true. When we scamper across quick sand, wade through a murky pond, or get lost in a forest of tall trees, this longing in our souls for goodness and happiness is what pulls us out of the quicksand, gets us to the other side of the pond, directs us through that close, dark forest. It draws us back to a path of hope, life and love. Goodness and happiness are inherent desires in our human nature. So it is natural and right that we should strive for both. This desire, this longing for goodness and happiness is exactly what we need to stay on the path to heaven.

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St. Bernadette – quick & humorous

Lourdes, Santa Bernadette
I am currently reading a very detailed biography of one of my patrons, Bernadette Soubirous. There are several things that have popped out at me as being oddly familiar and similar (disclaimer: not comparing her sainthood with my attempts at it), but her response to persons of authority behaving unreasonably has to be the most comical I’ve come across yet. While I do my best not to be disrespectful, the humour in me can’t help but have a quick and somewhat sassy tongue. It is sometimes a vice, but sometimes just an imperfection. I find many things in life humorous, and it sometimes jumps out of my mouth before I can check it. The more I read of saints, the more I learn how human they really were, and the more I realize I, too, can become a saint, despite my sassy quips. I had a good laugh at the following scene, condensed for the

reader’s benefit:

Between the 11th and 12th apparitions at Lourdes, Constable Latapie was sent by Monsieur Rives, the Examining Magistrate, to bring Bernadette in for questioning and intimidation. Constable Latapie waited after High Mass, and asked the Sister accompanying the class of school girls who Bernadette was. When Bernadette came out of the church, he took her gently by the arm.

 
“Why are you taking her away?” asked the Sister, quickly becoming upset.

 
“I have orders.” the Constable replied.

 
“What do you want me for?” Bernadette asked.

 
“Little girl, you must come with us.” Constable Latapie replied.

 
Bernadette started to laugh and replied, “Hold me tight or I shall escape.”

 
Constable Latapie took Bernadette to Monsieur Rives’ (the Magistrate’s) house, and when they entered, M. Rives called out “are you there, you little rascal?” To which Bernadette replied, “Yes, sir, I am here.”

 
Monsieur Rives tried to intimidate Bernadette into answering questions “truthfully” and keep her from continuing to go to the grotto. “We are going to lock you up. What are you after at the grotto? Why do you make everybody run after you like this? There is somebody behind you driving you on to act like this. We are going to put you in prison.”
Bernadette replied: “I’m ready. Put me in there and make it solid and well fastened, or else I shall escape.”

 
❤ ❤ ❤

 
I absolutely love how little she was concerned by what they said or how they treated her. She knew she was doing right, and that’s all that mattered. No form of imprisonment or unjust accusations affected her in the least. She remained so calm in this entire scene (which is longer then what I’ve given you). And, despite her peace, she keeps her quick tongue flying in a way that throws her antagonists off, with humour.

 

Thrift Store Thrills

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I mean look at them.. Could you have resisted these!?

Red and I were out to dinner in an unfamiliar area a ways from our ridge, and popped into a thrift store I spotted a few doors before the restaurant. “Thrift” is such an alluring signage word, one never knows what treasures lie amid the piles of discarded items. I can’t help myself. And I don’t try to. It’s an innocent and lovely thrill. I must enter, and browse the shelves of old items that each have an history and story to tell of their own.

This was a very small shop, and (fortunately, for my wallet) scanty on the gold findings. There was a very small book section on a very small shelf, and took a very small amount of time to scan through. But in very small crisp black font on a very small orange spine, I read the word “Tennyson”. Before I knew what was happening, my arm had reached out, and pulled the small book off the small shelf – my heart slightly fluttering as my fingers flipped through it’s small pages and my eyes lay hold of the dainty illustrations surrounding the very small pages of poetry. I turned to the back cover and saw a small price tag marked $1.00. So I didn’t put it back on the shelf.

Continueing my scanning, another title popped out: “The Secret Garden.” I pulled it down, flipped through the pages with one quick sweep. The forest green spine was mint, not a single crease – an indication of its unread life. Having been sitting on a bookshelf, untouched, since the 90s (yes, I recognized the publishing era of my childhood on a classic novel), it was only right that it be given the opportunity of a proper life. I already have a copy of The Secret Garden. Fairy also already has a copy.

Reader, I bought it anyways. For the cost of $1.00.

This copy will sit on one of my bookshelves, awaiting its new home comfortably between two other beloved novels, until the person comes along whom this book has been waiting for, to enjoy its tale of friendship, adventure, learning and love, and rest easy on said persons bookshelf, knowing it is finally fulfilling its purpose, and waiting eagerly to be read again and again and again by hearts it deserves to be loved by.

Ahh the thrills that only a thrift or antique store can provide…

A Mere Passing: on living life for death

Photos“…Don’t be afraid, Ruby.”

“I can’t help it,” said Ruby pitifully. “Even if what you say about heaven is true – and you can’t be sure – it may be only that imagination of yours – it won’t be just the same. It can’t be. I want to go on living here. I’m so young, Anne. I haven’t had my life. I’ve fought so hard to live – and it isn’t any use – I have to go – and leave everything I care for.”

“Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life – the things that pass – forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other – from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there – Anne believes – she would learn – but now it was no wonder her soul clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved.”

– on the death of Ruby, Chapter 14, Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery

We all certainly have our own vision and idea of heaven, no doubt to be put to shame upon arriving there. But those imaginings are something we really all should have, in helping us to make heaven more real and kept at the forefront of our mind and heart through this life. If we don’t live for the higher things, what is there when we die? Ruby “laid up her treasures on earth only”, she never gave a thought to what lies ahead after death, or put effort into cultivating prayer and virtue in the hope of moving closer to heaven while still on earth. Naturally she was terrified to leave the only thing she knew. By striving to put our hearts, minds, intentions and acts a little bit closer to Our Lord everyday, we bring ourselves a little bit closer to heaven, so when the time does come to die, it doesn’t seem like such a far off, unfamiliar place. If we pray, ponder, and live for what comes after death, surely death will come as a welcomed friend – like waking from a dream to finally enter the reality we were made for: heaven.

 

2017 Review & 2018 Goals

2017 was a good year. Looking over my goals…

  1. Write/keep track of every novel I read this year. Success, in part. I have written about 13 books I read this past year. I didn’t keep track of every novel, for shame, since now I can’t remember all of them. I have a habit of being side-tracked by beloved novels and re-reading them during times I am trying to get through novels I can’t seem to get into, or (in Tess of the D’Uberville’s case) when the novel is too dark and depressing to continue before I take a breath of fresh air. My excuse to myself was that I’d read the novels before, so no need to write about them. But in truth it was mostly because I was so eager to get to the next one, I didn’t make the time to sit down and write. This year I shall write about each and every book I read. And I will read more books then last year. 
  2. Write more faithfully in my journal, as I’ve lacked the past few months. Unsuccessful. It was sporadic, and mostly not done. But I miss this habit. 
  3. No binge-watching. There were no long shows I’ve binge watched this past year. I slowly made my way through one long series, and enjoyed it more because it was spread out over several months. I did, however, binge-watch BBC’s ‘The Muskateers’ with Library (because she’d never seen it, and it’s a very entertaining series!)  
  4. Attend more social events. Friday nights are sometimes so hard to be social on, after a long work week – and I’m a social, adventurous extrovert! (Introverts, you have my sympathies on this, truly). Mind over exhaustion and be social before becoming squirrely. This goal became more about knowing my ability & my limits. Pushing through when necessary, but also allowing myself down time when deemed necessary. Sometimes it’s ok to skip out on something after three or four weeks of a busy schedule without down-time, and no need to feel guilty for it, even if I have been lacking purely social times. 
  5. Hike more in hiking season. Put other things aside and go out in nature, because that’s where I am happiest. This definitely did not happen. I think I went on a short morning hike once, early in the year, because of a very busy work schedule and my spring/summer/fall weekends being so busy with commitments. 
  6. Go shooting more. Unsuccessful. See #5 above. 
  7. Travel somewhere I want to go to. Success! In fact, more then a success. This past summer I travelled to PEI & Nova Scotia (a dream trip since I was old enough to read & watch Anne of Green Gables), and I also went to Australia for a pilgrimage, which was very last minute and whirlwind but an amazing experience and worth it! 

 

2018 goals: 

  1. Read more novels then last year.
  2. Write about every novel I read this year, including beloved re-reads. Attempt to keep the re-reads at bay, since there are countless new novels I want to read.
  3. Follow my work out/nutrition/cheat routine.
  4. Build back my habit of journal writing.
  5. Keep weekends more free from commitments, for recreational/personal time.

 

 

2017 Book 12: Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

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It had been such a very long time since I’d read this book, I thought it should count as part of my book reviews for 2017. It was such a good time reading this one again, I wonder I haven’t picked it up in so long. I had forgotten how I like Lizzy. (Warning: Austen man-loving about to ensue…) I had also forgotten how well I like Mr. Darcy. Although, let’s talk real here, Mr. Knightly will always be my favourite. Now that that Darcy-Knightly proclamation has been made, let’s appreciate a few character traits in the heroine & hero.

Lizzy’s humourous and positive approach. She is able to see most everything from a lighter perspective, not taking anything so seriously that it affects her in a negative way. I would actually go so far as to say she isn’t actually “offended” by Darcy’s insult at the Meryton assembly, but rather she is so taken aback by such a negative and self-important pride that she decides Mr. Darcy’s opinion is meaningless to her, and she would rather avoid his company then be exposed to such negative arrogance. She is a person who finds joy wherever possible, and these types of people are repelled by anything seeming like a negative vortex. I can fully appreciate this trait. She is strong-willed, but not stubborn, since she will listen to another side of a story (ie. Darcy’s side of the Darcy-Wickham story, as well as Charlotte’s reasoning for marrying the ridiculous Mr.Collins) openly, despite thinking she already knew all that was necessary. She knows herself and her own mind well, and isn’t afraid to speak it when prompted. Lizzy also fosters good and healthy relationships with those she trusts and admires, namely her sister Jane, her Father, aunt & uncle Gardiner, as well as her aunt Phillips. She is patient with her trying mother, despite often being the bud of said mother’s vexation. She is far from perfect – she can get haughty in her sass, her second chances only come to those who first prove they deserve it, and her wit is occasionally uncharitable in it’s sarcasm and pointedness. But she is also very real, she doesn’t mince words (and yet she isn’t abrupt or rude) and what you see is what she is. She isn’t manipulative or over-sensitive. And I especially love her relationship with her father.

Mr. Darcy’s genuine masculinity. Darcy is in no way effeminate. It’s refreshing to read about male characters that possess such virtuous qualities in a time when women are wrapped up with effeminate, disturbing male characters in the latest “New York Times Best Sellers”. Darcy is a good brother, he loves and care for his younger sister with such attention, somewhat making up for the lack of their father’s presence. Despite being wrong in his judgement, I can’t fault him for persuading Charles away from Jane. He took care to observe Jane for the sake of his friends happiness, found her attachment lacking (as it appeared to him) and then took action to keep his friend from a match that Darcy was convinced would not bring Charles happiness. Of course we all know Darcy was wrong in his conclusion of Jane’s feelings, but the fact that he went through efforts to watch out for his friend in this way proves that he is a good and trustworthy friend to have. This is certainly one of the reasons Charles and he are such good friends. (More men could use friends like Darcy, in my opinion!) Jane is also not a very open person, and therefore the way she comes across to others can be vastly different then what goes on in her head. Ergo, Darcy wins, despite being wrong. I will admit he’s pretty arrogant once we come to Elizabeth, or rather, her family. But honestly, once he realizes he really does love her, and isn’t just infatuated with her, I respect the fact that he wanted to marry her despite her ridiculous relations – even if his wording and tactic weren’t stellar. But come on, what guy really does have perfect wording and tactics? Hallmark men are not real men. I much prefer the Darcy’s to the Hallmark men.

I will most likely not be waiting so long to read this book again.

Side note: I love that Mr. Bennett is so supportive of Lizzy’s wish to marry Darcy. Lizzy & her father have a great relationship. Lizzy is his sanity in a world of silly women. The fact that he trusts her judgement enough to give his blessing on a match he thought bizarre and out-of-the-blue to a man he thought wasn’t good enough for her, shows how strongly he trusts her judgement. A real tribute to their strong bond.

 

 

2017 Book 10: Sense & Sensibility, by Jane Austen

 

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2008 BBC version. Arguably the most beautiful “finally!” on screen love moment

Confession: I had never actually read S&S before now. Shocking, I know. But now I have.

Since I’ve seen both versions of the movie countless times, I initially visualized certain characters as the different actors portrayed (which is always a con of watching movies before reading the books – your imagination is stumped by the movie). But I found the further in I read, the more my own imagination took over the various characters and now it’s basically a separate story from the movie, which I am happy about.

Let’s talk characters, since we pretty much all know the story and I don’t feel the need to give a plot outline.

Miss Lucy Steele: Ugh. She’s awful. The movies portray her as a slyly friendly and somewhat bratty young woman. But she’s actually so much worse. She is manipulative and nasty, with the façade of being sweet and innocent. She is probably what many good men fear – a beautiful woman being more focused on his money and her own desires then truly loving him. Lucy uses Edward very badly – they rashly become engaged at a young age, and despite his obvious indifference now, she holds him to it, feigning ignorance to his indifference, and in fact playing up their “deep love”. She treats Elinor with contempt, layered in a thick coat of familiarity and friendship. Yet ever-good Elinor is nothing but patient and accepting of this.

Mrs. Jenkins & Sir John: Austen does love her ridiculous characters. But what I do appreciate in these two (along with Miss Bates in “Emma”) is their utter and complete desire to treat their friends kindly and do everything they can for said friends. Yes they try Elinor & Mariann’e patience at times, embarrass them, and have a jolly laugh at their expense when it comes to teasing about men. But they always mean well, even if they don’t perceive how they are trying their friends. There is no reason to dislike these two characters, save for their being overly accommodating to the point of frustration (which is in fact NOT a reason to dislike someone).

Mrs. Dashwood: Oh that more of the world had mothers like Mrs. Dashwood! She is all feminine tenderness, motherly affection, and earnest love for her family. She has her faults, which include allowing her sensibilities too much freedom. But she loved and relied on her husband, who, based on references toward him, I gather, was her counter-balance in that regard. She does all she can by her daughters in kindness, love and concern.

John Willoughby: Scoundrel. (Ever so slightly comforting that he did fall in love with Marianne during the time he was simply amusing himself with her, which he wasn’t expecting. It doesn’t change that he’s a scoundrel, but at least he is the worse off between the two, since he knew he would long for her years after she’d forgotten about him).

John Dashwood: Pathetic excuse for a brother and man. I’d sock him a good one if he were my brother. Thankfully my brothers are men. The only redeeming quality about him is that he has a genuine concern for his sister’s well-being – even if he’s incapable of doing anything worth while to make it come about, or man-up against his wife.

Fanny Farrars Dashwood: Worst sister-in-law ever. Selfish, snobby, the sister-in-law equivalent to an evil-stepmother.

Marianne: Sensibility. Marianne wears her heart on her sleeve, takes and gives everything as it is. She is innocent, if naïve, and assumes the world is the beautiful, perfect place she assumes it to be. She lacks prudence in discerning the characters of others, and follows Willoughby’s lead in being uncharitable in thought and word against Colonol Brandon, whom she finds boring and stiff. (I would note that Willoughby finds fault in Colonol Brandon only on account of Brandon’s over-all goodness and seeming severity. Hardly things to be considered faults in such a virtuous character – might Willoughby feel animosity towards Colonol Brandon because of the inferiority he feels when around the Colonol?). Marianne means well in all she does, though she lacks the sense and discernment that Elinor has.

As a side note, in Austen’s day, “sensibility” meant something quite different then it’s current meaning today. In Austen’s writings it refers to one being strongly affected or lead by one’s emotions, or one’s actions being emotionally influenced. “Sensitivity” would be the world we use nowadays in place of “sensibility”.

Colonol Brandon: Ahh, what a man. Perhaps he is seemingly severe in his quiet and strength. But his genuine care, attention, and kindness to his friends (and even friends of his friends he has never met) is an humble and unassuming virtue. He has loved and lost, but holds true to love as it expanded to a child in need of him. He is upright, thoughtful, generous, and unshakable in his character. Would that any Marianne’s of the world be given a man such as Brandon.

Edward Ferrars: Oh Edward, you dear, you. The poor man was badly done by, at the hand of everyone who should have been caring for him. The kind, genuine and uncomplicated young man spent so much time in Plymouth because he found a tutor and friends who appreciated him, and whose company he enjoyed more then his own dreadfully stuck-up family. Naturally, with a mother and sister such as his, he would be starved for female affection, and easily fell for the steely Lucy (please take a moment to appreciate my witty pun, for puns are not my forte). But alas, his young age quickly matured and he realized his mistake. For he had, in fact, engaged himself to a dame just as cold as his mother and sister. Elinor’s friendship is precisely the female companionship his gentle, honourable self was in need of. But, his honour, or rather, attention to Lucy’s honour, holds him to his engagement. As awful as Lucy is, it’s the same awful in her we dislike that brings her to transfer her “affection” from Edward to his brother Robert, and she breaks off the engagement with Edward herself. Bravo! Our hero will finally be free to marry the one woman he adores for her virtue. The two are so well suited.

Elinor: Sense. I gathered that Elinor’s character was similar to her deceased father. She was “her father’s daughter” it would seem. After his death, she is the strength of the family. She holds her mother and sisters up, she is the sense and leadership in a family of women desperately in need of their patriarchal leader. (That’s right, I just used the words ‘need’ and ‘patriarch’ in the same sentence.) Her wise, sensible, balanced, and kind approach to life helps her mother to make more balanced decisions, encourages her sister to higher virtue, is the draw of a friendship with kindred spirit Colonol Brandon. These are also the very virtues that enkindle such a true love from our virtuous hero Edward. I appreciated that the book contains a less perfect Elinor, we read her faults – her personal anxiety and frustration with Lucy Steele – but we also read her unshakable kindness and patience with Lucy in public and when speaking of her to others, even during the most trying social times. Elinor must be one of the most virtuous fictional female characters who’s story I’ve read.

And now that I’ve finally read Sense & Sensibility, my mind is slightly more at ease in the classic literature department. And doubtless, I’ll read it many more times in future. But seriously, Colonol Brandon though.