Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving Forward into Broad, Sunlit Uplands

I returned from my Thanksgiving festivities with a whopper of a cold.  Until last night, the main symptom of my cold was a severe sore throat.  I haven't had a sore throat by itself for years; usually I have a sore throat because my stressed, teacher's voice submitted to a cough, which made my throat sore.

My dad returned home with the same sore throat.  We spent the holiday with 5 children under the age of 6, one of whom had been sick, so we suspect one of them is the disease vector.

I keep thinking that I have a poem here--Thanksgiving and sickness, both my own and the Pilgrims'.  Probably been done to death.

A better poem might be to think about how my cousins, sister, and I spent our youth during family reunions at the beach:  we'd collect odds and ends of abandoned things on the sand and create an ice cream shop out of spent fireworks and shells and trash of all sorts.  And now we spend time talking about the European debt crisis which may become a U.S. crisis yet.

In these dark days, I'm finding the words of Winston Churchill, who was born on this day in 1874, to be comforting:  "The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

It's good to remember that no matter how dark our days may be, humanity has faced much worse.  I'm thinking of reading A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead.  It's a book about women of the French Resistance and how they survived or didn't survive the Nazis.  I'm not sure I'm up to the task.  But it would be a good way to restore my sense of perspective.

Today is also the birthday of Jonathan Swift, one of my favorite satirists.  I'm always amazed by how many students take his writing in "A Modest Proposal" completely seriously, even after I've cautioned them that he's not really advocating the literal eating of babies.  Many student brains are not built for satire.  Or maybe it's a testimony to Swift's skill that he makes such a compelling case that we take him seriously at face value.

Who will be today's satirists that we will study hundreds of years from now?

Today is also the birthday of Mark Twain, a satirist of a different time.  I remember the first time I taught The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in an American Lit survey class.  I was prepared for students to be shocked or outraged by Twain's use of the N word, but that didn't phase them.  They were upset by the way that Huck treated Jim, as was I.  It was a good leaping off point to discuss how our society shapes our behavior.

The Writer's Almanac website entry for today reminds us that today is also L. M. Montgomery's birthday.  I loved Anne of Green Gables, but I haven't returned to it as an adult.  I like an author who "divided her time between playing with dolls and engaging in tomboyish exploits like climbing trees and building forts with neighborhood boys."   I was surprised to read of her battles with loneliness and depression, but in retrospect, it makes sense to me.

It's an interesting collection of tidbits on The Writer's Almanac today:  writers who battled against both outer and inner demons in so many different ways:  Churchill, Swift, Twain, and Montgomery.  Of course, what would great writing be without conflict?  Boring, that's what.

So, today I'm battling my cold, and trying to be grateful for the good health that I usually enjoy.  I'm wondering when I will ever find the time to decorate the house for Christmas.  I have a variety of other wrinkles to my schedule, that I'll blog about later, but I'm trying to see the positive.

If you need help maintaining happiness, here's a great blog post with 11 tips.  You probably already knew about some of them, but this time of year, many of us can use a reminder of how we can move forward into broad, sunlit uplands (to use Churchill's phrase, in the hopes that I'm not trivializing it by using it in this way).


Kathleen said...

So sorry about your cold. So glad to hear how yours students handled Mark Twain, their own deep understanding. I hope they were glad Huck learned something!!

Jeannine said...

My secret sore throat gargle recipe is: liquid benadryl, liquid tylenol, and liquid Maalox, all swirled around in one cup. Use it three-five times a day, and it really speeds healing, reduces swelling, all that jazz. (This recipe was recommended by a doc years ago, and it is magic. Magic!)

Also, this may be terrible, but my secret code word for children in public is: vectors. As in "Isn't that little vector in the pink coat supercute? And her cough sounds like the plague!"

Wendy said...

Thanks for the L.M. Montgomery note. I didn't read Anne of Green Gables until I was an adult, and I find I do return to those books almost more often than many of the ones I loved as a child. Maybe because there's no fear of ruining a nostalgic/precious childhood experience by looking at them with Grown-up post-English-degree eyes...? I don't know.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Sending healing thoughts for your throat and thanks for your wonderful reflections.

Bess said...

Reading Anne of Green Gables now to my daughter, Harley, who has just turned 10. I've never been one to read a book a second time, but I am truly enjoying sharing Harley's first reading with her.
I must second the gargle recipe - it's a soothing's to a speedy recovery.

Kristin said...

Thanks for sharing your gargle recipes and L. M. Montgomery memories!

Tom (Dad) said...

Decided to look at your BLOG of Nov 30 after Pastor Andy Ballentine said at our Advent mid-week service that our throats were mentioned in your entry. Glad for the Rx suggestions. Hasn't kept me down yet. I also found that I need to be a more frequent visitor to munch on all the food-for-thought you provide.