Posts Tagged ‘books’

The door of the dugout was wide open while they ate Thanksgiving dinner. Laura could see across the bare willow-tops, far over the prairie to the place where the sun would go down. There was not one speck of snow. The prairie was like soft yellow fur. the line where it met the sky was not sharp now; it was smudged and blurry.

Thanksgiving dinner was good. Pa had shot a wild goose for it. Ma had to stew the goose because there was no fireplace, and no oven in the little stove. But she made dumplings in the gravy. There were corn dodgers and mashed potatoes. There were butter, and milk, and stewed dried plums. And three grains of parched corn lay beside each tin plate.

At the first Thanksgiving dinner the poor Pilgrims had had nothing to eat but three parched grains of corn. Then the Indian came and brought them turkeys, so the Pilgrims were thankful.

Now, after they had eaten their good, big Thanksgiving dinner, Laura and Mary could eat their grains of corn and remember the Pilgrims. Parched corn was good. It crackled and crunched, and its taste was sweet and brown.

– from On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder


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Singing “en Jungfru fodde ett barn i dag – Today the Virgin has borne a Child,” they drove to church, in darkness and in cold; sleigh bells were cymbals; hooves against the frosty ground and snow, were snare drums. The horses pranced to the tune of high voices, low voices, mature voices, and thin piping voices of children.

Could they be blamed if, when they reached home again, they had to search for memory of the sermon? Could they be blamed if shining bright in their memories were the sleigh-ride, the hand-clasps of friends, the visits to the homesteads of the Alvardssons’ and the Nilssons’ and the Perssons’ – and the cookies and juldricka – and the glogg for the grown folk? Something to eat and drink at every home there must be, for each host knew that he who came would “take away the Yule” from that homestead, if he did not partake.

They were still hungry as they sat down to the Christmas ham dressed with a red and white paper frill and garnished with creamed butter, and the boar’s head with its eyes closed and long lashes coyly sweeping pickled cheeks and a large red apple in its mouth, and green peas newly come from France.

Day of worship, visiting, eating, and resting. Christmas Day. The day of joy, the birth of Jesus, and of [family member] Herman Nikodemus.

– from April Snow (a novel), by Lillian Budd

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Then came December the thirteenth, Santa Lucia’s Day, the beginning of the Christmas season, with all of the traditional ceremony and festivity – part of the anceint folklore concerning the disappearing sun.

Sigrid bent over her eldest daughter.

“Lissie, wake up! Lissie, my dear, you are to be the first to be up on this morning so you can be dressed, and ready to serve the morning coffee.”

Elisabet rose and came before the fire to dress. These winter days were dark; the sun hardly rose above the horizon all day, and the moon and stars shone all day long. Only from noon until three o’clock did the darkness thin – but the moon and stars still shone at noon – sickly and pale.

“Light the candles on the window sill, Lissie. This is a lonely spot, but the candles must burn bright for the wayfarer. Two in each window, Lissie.”

“Yes, mama. It is true, isn’t it, that all the things we do on this day help to bring the sun back to us?”

She lighted the tall off-white candles, and affectionately touched the paper bobeches they had improvised from circles of colored paper, bright red and green. They had scalloped the edges of the circles before snipping them fringe-like, and laid four layers, alternating colors, over the cup of the candlestick, so that when they pushed the candle into the cup, the paper circles fluted and made a fancy ruff about the case of the candle – to catch the tallow if it dripped.

“Here, see how you look in your white dress.” Sigrid gathered up the full skirt of fine white wool in her two hands and lifted the dress over Elisabet’s head. It fell around her as she slipped her arms into the sleeves, and Sigrid pulled the bodice up close and started buttoning it down the back.

“Lissie, you are beautiful!”

…Sigrid arranged the crown of whortleberry leaves…

“Dear Lissi, never was there a sweeter Santa Lucia. We will set the candles in the crown as soon as we can get the others awakened and the coffee made.”

They opened the table long and wide and spread it with a linen cloth. The table centerpiece turned out to be the Lucia Gingersnaps.

There in the center of the table stood a miniature house, with cut-out windows and a door. Sigrid had baked the sides separately and joined them at the corners by dipping the edges in sugar melted in a saucepan before assembling them, so that as the syrup cooled, they stuck together. The gabled roof was marked off in little squares, and in the very center of the roof rose a large chimney. Sitting astraddle on the peak of the roof was a little Tomte gubbe [little troll]. The door, on which she had traced a sugar heart, stood open. Rising from one corner of the house was a slim twig, and on the top of it was set a cookie crescent moon with the profile of the Man in the Moon smiling down on all.

Around the houseyard was a fence of peppermint candy sticks, and an open gate. Gingersnap fir trees with boughs outlined in sugar snow, a horse with Hjarta written on his side, and girls and boys completed the scene.

Sigrid fastened seven tallow candles among the leaves in the crown, as she asked Johann to light them as she said seven prayers for the happiness and good health of her children, and seven times prayed for the sun’s return.

Johann stood back and looked at Elisabet. Her fine white wool dress clung tightly to the immature body from neck to waist and then fell, in gathers, to the floor. Her yellow hair shone like gold in the light of the candles in her crown.

He stretched his arms out toward her and laid a hand on each of her shoulders, and looked down into her blue eyes,

“Elisabet, you look like your mother.”

Her eyes sparkled. No more beautiful compliment could he have paid her.

“You are a lovely, lovely handmaiden of Santa Lucia,” and turning to Sigrid, “May I, Fru Kristiansson?”

Without realizing fully what he meant, or what she meant, Sigrid nodded, “Yes.”

“A beggar’s kiss for the beautiful Santa Lucia.” And Johann stooped and kissed her on the lips.

He took one hand and Georg took the other and they tripped from bed to bed singing the song of Lucia, waking up the members of the family.

A flush of happiness shone under the light of the seven candles as Elisabet, in this ancient poetical tradition, carried her large tray from one to the other, serving them hot coffee and crusty festival cakes. And on the tray was saffron bread and the seasonal pastry, Lussekaka.

They ate and drank, and the candles flickered, and the fire glowed, and the coffee pot was filled and boiled up again and yet again. With “oh’s” and “ah’s” they marveled at the gingersnap house and the moon! With “oh’s” and “ah’s” they ate the gingersnap house and girls and boys, and the moon with the man in it.

Then they sat Elisabet on her throne – the little three-legged stood with a heart-shaped hand hold on the back – far enough away from the wall in the festive corner, so they could dance around her chair. And according to tradition, they presented her with a necklace. This one was not of precious stones or rare metals. But to Elisabet, this little necklace of orange-red berries from the mountain ash, strung by her mother’s fingers, was more beautiful and more rare than any owned by a queen.

All joined hands. Johann and Georg each took a hand of Peter’s [her lazy father] and pulled him up to join the circle which danced and skipped around their Queen and sang again the song of Santa Lucia.

– from April Snow (a novel), by Lillian Budd

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I met Leyn when I was 12, roughly 15 years ago. Actually, it was his future wife, “Krys”, whom I saw first. She had a wolf pup in her arms, and seemed about ready to set off on a voyage to somewhere. The ship was in the bay behind her, and she was dressed in white fox fur, with an Arctic wind pulling whisps of hair from her glossy black braid. I knew she was 16.

That was all I saw of her, or Leyn, for the next two years. Suddenly, he showed up again. It was in Wyoming, and he was out in the hills somewhere, on a piebald horse, with his teeth clenched in fury, for reasons I could not then guess. Suddenly, Krys showed up, in a flash of light from an opening in the air, with a white dragon at her side. Leyn seemed to be surprised, then changed his attitude, and made it clear he had expected her…though perhaps not the dragon.

Krys hadn’t expected the dragon, either. But that’s not important, just now.

What is important is that after Leyn invited me to write his story, he (and others) have led me a chase, in and out, from world to world and thought to thought… and I haven’t had a breather yet.

At times, it’s been horrible. I used to think of the line from “The Princess Bride” as a blurb for the story. And, I paraphrase (since I don’t have the movie here to check my quote): “Well, is there any sports?” “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge…true love…miracles!” So far, it’s been overflowing with everything a richly lived life brings…the good with the bad, the miserable with the mundane with the ecstatic.

All that aside, the story has been on hold for a few months, as I had a computer mishap, and, in the process of upgrading my equipment, had my old hard-drive refuse the move. It is still sitting mum in the computer, forbidding access, like some government vault. So, when I get that information back (I have a friend who is willing to go in and get it, maybe even today), I’ll get to see what comes next.

Meanwhile, Leyn (and others) have been dropping in occasionally, telling me bits and pieces of this incident or that, and letting me know the politics in their homelands are in a mess, perhaps worse than they are here. Leyn also says some things are better than they were last time I was up his way…especially with the Hillmen across Broken Bow Strait. They seem to have come to some kind of truce, or agreement.

Anyhow, Leyn says he doesn’t object to my showing you a picture I got of him. He says it’s not accurate enough to matter. (He’s right.)

He can be a nervous fellow, and wouldn't sit still for his portrait. I had to sketch on the fly, in bits and pieces, putting together a composite of attitudes and times.

He can be a nervous fellow, and wouldn’t sit still for his portrait. I had to sketch on the fly, making a composite of attitudes, at different times. Yes, he’s had his nose broken, and a number of other mishaps. Nevertheless, he keeps a smile.

He insisted I honor Krys, as well, though my scanner isn’t working, and I can’t seem to get a decent picture of her picture.

This was several years ago, anyway. She's matured, while keeping her serenity. She's a great wife, soft as silk, tough as nails.

This was several years ago, anyway. She’s a great wife – soft as silk, tough as nails… and a praying woman.

Until we meet again…know that God has you engraven on the palm of His hand.

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Edward dreams he is home again.

Edward dreams he is home again.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, is a story about love. It is unusual in that it focuses on a large, china rabbit – a china rabbit with feelings and thoughts, and velvet suits…but who is so full of himself that he finds those who love him a bore. After a long, difficult, sometimes painful journey, he learns to love, and be loved. He learns from an old fisherman and his wife; from a hobo and his dog, Lucy; and from a homeless boy and his little, sick sister. At last, he winds up in the arms of a little girl, very much like the one who loved him originally, and he loves her back, without regret.

If you love already, it will inspire you to greater depths of care for others. If you do not love, it may inspire you to start. At the least, you and your little ones will enjoy its well-penned prose and lovely, true-to-life pictures, and it will be a constant reminder of beauty and truth. Its presence in your home will add a spot of light to a bookshelf.

Click here for a fuller review of the story. Click here to see a copy for puchase.

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