Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Challenges Observed

Jane Robinson gave a presentation on "Challenges Observed" at R.E.A.D. Book Group on November 4th. She read from her own journals and shared excerpts from books that have helped bring perspective to the challenges in life. Sandra Cullimore and Judy Allen helped with the presentation.

Jane read from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, an informal essay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes.  The excerpt she used can be found in Out of the Best Books: An Anthology of Literature Volume 5 by Bruce B. Clark and Robert K. Thomas

In 1964 Bruce B. Clark and Robert K. Thomas,  professors of English at Brigham Young University, prepared and published Out of the Best Books Volume 1 for use in the literature program of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They eventually published 4 more volumes. The principal idea behind the books was that the best way to study literature is to read it - that the world of literature itself is more important than anything that can be said about it. Bruce B. Clark felt that much could be accomplished if the women of the Relief Society would individually read selections of literature and then in a group discuss them rather than be lectured to about them. He knew that literature is vivid and exciting and provocative - but only when it is actually read. With this in mind, he set out to collect great literature, short stories, poems, essays, novels and even some paintings to compile in the books. Although the books were intended to be primarily used in the Relief Society literature program, many families found them to be a great addition to their home library as well. The standards set for selections in the books are (a) that it be literature of high quality; (b) that it explore subject matter and convey a theme of value to the women of the Church and their families; (c) that it be written in such a way as to be understandable and meaningful to most of the readers for whom intended.  The selections are mostly from non-LDS authors, drawn from the "literature of the world."  The selections are not limited to conform in every detail to LDS doctrines and practices but in a larger sense work to harmonize with and enrich the ideals of gospel living. 

Even though these wonderful books are now out of print they can still be checked out from the Pleasant Grove Library and enjoyed by individuals and families.

Jane shared many of her own writings with the group.  She read a delightful story from her personal journal about buying a sweet, lifelike baby doll that "breathes" for her granddaughter. Her experience went from the joy this gift brought to the quandry she found herself in when the beloved doll "stopped breathing."  It involved switching the old doll for a new one and not being able to convince the "mama" that it was truly her baby and the eventual resolution of accepting twins.

Jane also read of how challenges can tarnish our lives but there are ways that we can come through the difficult times realizing that those experiences that cause the tarnish are often the refiner's fire which eventually polishes and improves who we are. There is hope in knowing that tarnish can always be polished.

She also shared thoughts on motherhood, hedges, hills and history.  She brought along newspaper and magazine articles which have inspired her to write over the years.

Sandra Cullimore shared her love for America and read from one of her favorite picture books titled Liberty's Journey by Kelly Dipucchio and Richard Egielski.

Lady Liberty has welcomed immigrants to New York for more than one hundred years-but she's never traveled beyond her island. She's curious to see the country that has become home to the millions who have passed beneath her torch. She wants to go on an old-fashioned road trip! So one foggy morning, the giant Lady tiptoes off her pedestal and begins her journey. Down alleyways, along railroad tracks, through cities and small towns, across deserts, and over mountains, she greets surprised and delighted Americans. The country is as captivating, as Lady Liberty knew it would be, but New Yorkers miss her terribly. How can they persuade her to come home, where she belongs?

Sandra also brought some yummy "American" chocolates to share with the group.

Judy Allen shared personal experiences about loss and she read a touching excerpt about grief and missing those we love from A Continual Feast: Words of Comfort and Celebration, Collected by Father Tim by Jan Karon.

For years, Mitford's Father Tim Kavanagh has transcribed into his dog-eared journals words of wisdom, faith, and encouragement gleaned from favorite thinkers. Indeed, A Continual Feast contains lively ideas, common sense, profound wisdom, and plain good humor from the likes of C. S. Lewis, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Helen Keller, G. K. Chesterton, and Will Rogers, to name but a few." This book is an entertaining and useful handbook for all those who relish a good "aha!" - including fans of the Mitford novels, clergy, speechmakers, dog lovers, and anyone who enjoys insight into everything from the righteous to the ridiculous.

Jane and Judy both feel that A Continuous Feast by Jan Karon should be in every home library. They have both found comfort from the inspirational thoughts in the book.

Walden and Gwen Johnson brought a very special book to share with the group.  Their granddaughter, Stephanie J. Johnson, compiled the love letters Walden wrote to Gwen while he served during World War II and published them in a book titled A Time to Love, World War II Letters: February 9, 1942 - August 12, 1945.  It was such a joy to read some of the letters and everyone looks forward to enjoying more excerpts in the future. This beloved couple is truly a delight and they contribute so much to the group. Walden keeps everyone laughing with his fun quips and sayings.

Jane finished her beautiful presentation with the following poem -

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The R.E.A.D. Book Group will meet again on Thursday, December 2 at 10:00 a.m. There will be a short discussion on books being made into movies. Those attending will then watch 84, Charing Cross Road in the Little Theater at the library. Everyone is invited to attend. If you would like, you can also bring a Christmas treat to share.

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