Saturday, December 18, 2010

Some Thoughts from the Other Me

So a little remembered part of me is that I was an English major in college.  This sometimes gets lost because for most of my teaching career (can you call it a career when it lasted only 4 years?) I taught History.  If you were to ask my students, they would tell you I force feed them a whole lot of literature in the midst of their history classes.  Sometimes they would roll their eyes at me when I would pull out the primary source book (primary sources, for those of you who don't know, are documents or artifacts that were created during the period  you are studying.  ie, the Declaration of Independence.  What?  You haven't read that?  Do.  Please.  It isn't that long, and I promise you can do it.  Really.)

You can't separate the literature of a period from everything else that was happening.  You need to read it in order to get a better sense of what was happening.  Everything from the diaries and journals of people, to newspapers articles, to novels, to short stories.  They all are influenced by the culture, politics, and religious ideas and in turn influence these things.  And really, this applies to all the arts.  There is no way to separate the art be it visual, performing, or written from the time period it was created in.  Think anti war music of the Vietnam era (que Edwin Starr with War).  Not only would I make them read stuff, but we would look at the visual arts and listen to the music of the times.

Wow.  That was sorta a rabbit trail.  Ok, so that wasn't really what I was going to tell you this morning.  Just consider it bonus I guess.

Now on to what I was really trying to say.
I have been reminded lately how important it is to take time to digest the arts.  This is something that has fallen by the wayside for me.  It might have a little something to do with these darling little creatures that have invaded my body, home, and heart.  I was just telling Noah the other day that I am just now feeling like I have some energy to read and study some again.

I have been reading a whole lot of Willa Cather lately.  My English teacher friend rolls her eyes at me and says, "of course you would like Willa Cather."  Without getting too nerdy English major on you, Cather is a early 20th century writer in the vein of Henry James. 

Right now I am reading The Song of the Lark, about the development of an musical artist.  In one of the sections, the main character spends some time at the Art Institute of Chicago and Cather mentions several pieces that impact Thea.  Curious about one in particular , I googled "The song of the lark" and found this at the Art Institute of Chicago's website. 

As I looked at this painting this morning here in McDonald's, I got a little more of this character that Cather created.  Thea made just a bit more sense.  And the feelings that Cather was trying to convey resonated a little bit more with me.

It's good to digest the arts, and feel the impact.  God has made us creative, and it's so good to take a moment or seven and revel in that.  Even if all you have is an image on a screen in a north woods McDonald's.


  1. Oh Liz. I completely understand. Coming out the chaos of babyhood we rediscover things we loved and treasured in our previous life. I've been reading too. the middle of To Kill a Mockingbird. I haven't read Cather in ages...I'll add her to my list.

  2. I bet you were a GREAT history teacher. I would have learned a lot. As it was, I didn't. Actually, my parents had us travel much of the US during summer vacations and we always visited historical spots and they read to us quite a bit, so I was fortunate to have them fill in major gaps left from my formal education.
    While I love to read, historical fiction, and fiction of any kind is usually my favorite. But I'm with you...I rarely get to do any reading that isn't children's literature. Good thing I LOVE that too.
    Thanks for the Christmas came today. I had been wondering what crazy thing you would come up with this year for your picture, and you did NOT disappoint!!!!!

  3. Laura- yes indeed! And re reading is so very good too! I reread TKAM last year. And it's been good to read so much of Cather all at once. I just finished One of Ours and just before that I reread My Antiona. I love O! Pioneer too. When you read that much of one author, you sure do get a better sense of them and what they are saying. Love it!

  4. This is so funny- I am reading My Antonia right now!!!!!! I did a book report on it in high school, and I remember that I loved it. So when I saw it at a garage sale I snatched it up. I went to the library to get O Pioneers, but it wasn't on the shelf. I guess I'll have to request it!


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