Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Mysterious Arc of Time . . . And Love


In the school year 1972-73, six years after leaving the convent, I taught high school juniors in Claremont, New Hampshire. Their syllabus included Look to the Mountain, a historical novel written by LeGrand Cannon, Jr. It is an engrossing story about Whit—a taciturn pioneer with great good sense, strength of mind and body, and a tenacity bred by a hardscrabble upbringing.

Entering the wilderness with him is Melissa. Together, they canoe far up river to claim land near Sandwich. The novel, which takes place between 1769 and 1777, captures the background in which these two—Whit and Melissa—settle and raise a family as a revolution begins to brew in far-off Boston.  


I enjoyed the book, which was new to me, as much as the students did. We were thunderstruck by the paucity of “things” on the frontier. We empathized with Melissa as she longed for the companionship of another woman; we were impressed by Whit’s know-how. A few students had seen that area of New Hampshire so they could describe the differences two hundred years had made on the landscape.

That summer, while visiting Dad here in Missouri, I told him about the book. “Your mom always enjoyed a good historical,” he said when I’d finished my long-winded summary.
He got up, left the room, and came back carrying two of Mom’s books: The Spider King, a historical novel about Louis XI and . . . you guessed it! . . . Look to the Mountain. I’d had no idea my mom had read it.

“Here, you take them,” Dad said. “You enjoy a good read just like your mother did.”

For thirty-eight years the two novels sat on a bookshelf in Stillwater, Minnesota. When I moved back to Missouri, I shelved them again. I’d read neither since the day Dad gave them to me. To be truthful, I didn’t even think about the fact that Mom had handled and read both of them.

Then this past Monday I wanted to read something about the Revolutionary War. All these years—forty-one—since I left Claremont, I’d remembered two scenes from Look to the Mountain: the mowing contest and Whit going off to war, carrying his prized rifle.


So I removed Mom’s copy from the bookshelf and began, once again, to read the words that so compellingly brought to life the inhabitants of Kettleford and Sandwich, New Hampshire. After all these years, they sprang forth from the pages to greet me as an old friend.

In the quiet after midnight, as I entered Whit and Melissa’s world, I idly looked at the copyright page to see when the book had been published. 1942. Then it was that realization unfolded within me: My mom must have bought the book brand new in Parsons, Kansas, where she lived in a refurbished chicken coop with my little brother while Dad worked at the nearby munitions factory. I was in Kansas City, attending kindergarten.

Last night I saw my mother—my brother and Dad asleep while she read late in the night, missing me, I believe, and hoping that my asthma wasn’t acting up.

She had turned the pages of that book just as I was turning them. Both of us—night owls—found solace and retreat in a historical novel. Both of us felt the heft both of the story and the hardbound book with the mountain on the cover. That mountain encouraged Whit to venture into the wilderness.


Seventy-two years ago my mother completed that book and sat within its story. She, too, had left her home and entrusted her life to another.  

Early this morning, seventy-two years later, I laid the book aside with a deep sigh of satisfaction. Partly from the story and partly because I knew that Mom had reached out across a vast space of time with its arc of love and had spoken to me of the ties that bind us together as One. She spoke; I listened.

There is much to be grateful for as we age. This is one of those things. Peace.

All photographs from Wikipedia except for book cover, which is from Amazon. 

49 comments:

  1. A gorgeous post - and I can feel your mother hugging you across the years.

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    1. Dear Sue, I"m glad you liked the posting. I was so unsure of it when I posted it. The words didn't come easily or well and I think that was because I hadn't really formulated what I wanted to say. Normally, I let the words just flow as they wish to, but this time I found myself unsure of the ending. So I'm glad you feel the posting worked. Peace.

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  2. Sharing a book with another generation impresses the minds of all. My mom and I each loved historical novels, and she read Georgette Heyer right along with me, years ago. I recommend books to my fifteen year old granddaughter and she to me. It's another way of communicating.

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    1. Dear Joanne, like my mom, I read historical novels when I was young. I began reading Frank Yerby in the 6th grade and then I went on to other historical novelists. It seems to me that historical novels were more popular in the '40s and '50 then they are today.

      Like you, I read all of Georgette Heyer and learned so much about early 19th century England. I'm glad yo and your granddaughter share a love of reading. Peace.

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  3. I loved this post. So warm, so touching. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Cheryl, thank you for stopping by and for your kind words. I went to your blog, only to discover that you haven't been posting. I hope all is well in your life. Peace.

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  4. Wow, I would have never thought of it like that. But so true, enjoyed by both of you and bridging the gap of time

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    1. Dear Pat, you are such a treat for me! You have so many readers who comment on your blog and you respond to all those comments and yet you still have time to stop by here and leave me an encouraging note. Thank you. Peace.

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  5. Dee, you touched me so with this post. Years apart, but always in your heart.

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    1. Dear Arleen, yes, Mom and I are still connected. Almost every night as I lie in my bed, awaiting sleep, I think of her and thank her for the blessings of the day. I know that she continues to love me deeply. Peace.

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  6. Wonderfully written, a story within a story. Your mother visited you across time and space. Lovely, Dee. I'm always glad to see you have given me the gift of a post. :-)

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    1. Dear DJan, I'm so glad you enjoyed this posting. Your Sunday blog always makes me stop and consider and explore my own response to something that you've contemplated. You are such a person of thought--a thoughtful person. Your musing always enrich my life. Peace.

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  7. I loved this beautiful post. I love books and love sharing them with those I love, and my students in past years. I have not read this book and will be looking for it. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Dear Cynthia, thanks so much for stopping by. I'll visit your blog today. I so remember Sister Miriam and Sister Aquinas who read to us when I was in 8th grade and a sophomore in high school. I still remember the 8th grade book and I've reread it several times: "Snow Treasure." It takes place in Norway in World War II. Marie McSwigan wrote it and it's my favorite book from childhood. Peace.

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    2. I love Snow Treasure! I've read it many times, but not recently. Maybe it's time to visit again. :-)

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    3. Dear Cynthia, I revisited it last November when I introduced the book to a young friend who just turned eight. We read it together. So maybe it is time for you too! Peace.

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  8. Dear Dee,
    What a lovely post: so full of memories. My father was a great book collector. I guess that the fact that I am a Librarian has something to do with the love of both books, and reading, that he passed on to us, his children. I was thirty-one when he died and I inherited his books. Many I passed on to those I knew would like that particular type more than I would. Others I gave to a jumble sale (my father was a great one for works of charity) but the rest I kept. Sometimes, if I am reading one of them I will find a strand of tobacco pressed between the pages, from the time when he smoked. At other times I might find a note that he has written in the book (he was well read on the Napoleonic Wars and if he disagreed with what an author wrote, he would write about it in the page margin), When I read these books and see these things I am linked to him. It makes my smile and I feel as if he is not far away.
    Kirk

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  9. Dear Kirk, as I've been reading "Look to the Mountain," I've experienced exactly the feeling you describe at the end of your comment. I wish I could have said in my posting what you did here. Thank you.

    My mom died when I was 32. She had few books because there was never money for them except that one year when Dad worked in the munitions factory during WWII from September 1941 to May 1942. So the two books that Dad gave me were both from 1942. After that, she used the library in Independence where we moved after they returned from Parsons. Every week, she'd take the bus into town--we had only one car and Dad drove it to week--and get off up at the Square in Independence and walk two blocks to the library where she'd checked out a stack of books.

    I can't remember that she read about a certain historical period as your dad did, but she was so interesting to talk to because she knew so much and she thought so deeply and she had--and this was something I appreciated as a child--a fine sense of humor. She smiled often.

    I'm so pleased that you found my blog a week or so ago and left a comment. Peace.

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  10. So beautifully told, Dee. What a great connection with your mother.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Dear Janie, thank you. I was blessed by having been known and loved by my mom. Peace.

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  11. What a beautiful post and one a lot of us can relate to. Those times when our departed loved ones sit beside us once more in comfort as we share the same passion.
    My mother and I shared a love for reading but also baseball. Sometimes while watching a game, I smile as a familiar phrase or play brings her beside me once more. It is brief but wonderful.

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    1. Dear Arkansas Patti, I'm glad that so many readers can relate to this story. Glad because it means that we all have connections with those who have gone before us into life beyond life.

      My mom also liked baseball, but it was my dad who taught me a lot about it. Mom kept score for St. Mary's baseball team after my brother took up the sport. He had a great pitching arm! Peace.

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    1. Dear Fishducky, oh, it's so good to find a comment from you here! I so hope this means that your arm is better. That the pain is less. Peace.

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  13. You so beautifully put into words something that is beyond them. Like time traveling back to read along with your mom. Wow! Perspective is everything, isn't it? This touched my heart, sweet lady. :)

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  14. How wonderful that you returned to the book all these years later and found it speaking to you in so many ways. A beautifully written post. Peace.

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    1. Dear Bill, yes, I think the book and all its layers spoke to me in a way it wouldn't have back in the summer of 1973 when Dad gave it to me. Peace.

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  15. Found you - from comment on Practicing Resurrection

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    1. Dear Robert, thanks for stopping by. I clicked on your name above and it took me to a Google Plus page. I don't know how to comment on that. Do you have a blog??? Peace.

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  16. This is such a rich post, Dee. I can almost feel the book in hand, that 7+ decade hold from mother to daughter. I think Look to the Mountain was waiting for just the right night to visit you and evoke all the memories.
    Lovely post, Dee. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Penny, I thought of you as I wrote this posting because of your great love for the "Little House" series. I think you would truly enjoy this book, Penny, as the author writes so well. He took me back to another time and I felt as if I walked with Whit and Melissa. The book is on Amazon if you have some interest. Peace.

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  17. Dear Dee, what a beautiful post. I felt my mother too as I read your words, touching my sad heart right now. What a special person you are and how you can write........

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    1. Dear Inger, thank you for your kind words. I'm so happy that you felt your mother with you as you read. And I hope that her presence will comfort your sad heart. Peace.

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  18. A very heart-warming story, Dee. I think of how lucky people in our time (well, you are not quite my time....Ha) are when they had parents who liked to read. My mother rarely read .... in fact, the only book I remember in our home was the bible. I got my love of books from a librarian I met when I was very young. I feel grateful that I met her. Your story is a real treasure.

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    1. Dear Manzanita, I'm so glad you liked this story of Mom and her books and of a novel that connected the two of us 46 years after she died. And I'm glad also that you met that librarian who introduced you to books. They are such a solace and such a way to meet a wide-range of people/characters we never would have encountered in our lives. And . . . I think we're pretty close in age. I just celebrated my 78th birthday in April. And think you are just a very few years older than that. Peace.

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  19. I have to say thank you as this was one post I couldn't stop reading once I started it

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    1. Dear Jo-Anne, thank you for telling me this. Peace.

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  20. Dee, I have a lump in my throat reading your words tonight. How lovely to have discovered that you and your mother shared this special book, and I think the memories that were stirred in you are particularly beautiful. I'm so touched. I have books that belonged my grandmother and I can still picture them on her bookshelves and how I, as a child, would read them in her bedroom. You've brought some pleasant memories back to me, too. I loved reading this, Dee. Your writing is delicious!

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    1. Dear Debra, thank you for sharing with me the memory of what this posting brought back to you. Isn't it quite wonderful that our writing/our postings can touch the lives of others? There's a Oneness there that awes me. Peace.

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  21. Oh, my...this post left me with a lump in my throat. I am so glad you pulled that book out again, to experience the wonderfulness of your mom and of the story itself. I'm headed to my bookshelf now to pull out some long unread books of my grandma's and to enjoy them just as you did. Thank you~

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    1. Dear Shelly, I'm so pleased that this posting inspired you to read some of your grandma's book. I had only two books from my mom--the one I wrote about and the one I mentioned--"The Spider King." and I can't find the 2nd one. I hope I didn't give it away in a burst of letting go of books because my shelves were full. I tend to give things away as I don't like to amass a lots of things and then later I look for them, only to discover they're gone! A find state of affairs! Peace.

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  22. Dear Dee, Beautiful post. I do hear my mother's voice so often, though she has been gone over twenty years. I'm not sure about whether Pink Pig Press is taking any new books. But Vell, who I met at BookExpo is lovely and I'm sure would respond to an email. Take good care!

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    1. Dear Carol, I'm glad you liked the posting. My mom died in May 1968 at the age of 58. So she's been gone for 46 years. But I miss her still and so wish I'd asked her more questions about her life when I could have. I'm explore the Pink Pig Press and see what I discover. Thank you. Peace.

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  23. What a lovely story and good memories.

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    1. Dear LadyFi, yes, good memories just as you have good memories about the African vegetarian curry you recently cooked! Peace.

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  24. Such a loving, touching and beautifully-written post, Dee. As a bone-deep book-lover, I can identify so strongly with the way reading your mother's copy of this novel brought back such vivid memories of her. In my case it was my father who was the fiction-reader and I still have his copies of Damon Runyan and O Henry's short stories. Just picking them up brings him back so clearly. Like you, I find this a true gift.

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    1. Dear Perpetua, I'm so glad you were able to find time to read this posting because as I was writing it, I thought of you--knowing ou love books--and wondered if you, too, had experienced this connection with your parents. I feel I know a little more about my mom because of realizing what she liked to read. And yes, having these books that bring your dad and my mom within our heart's presence is truly a gift. Peace.

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  25. It is so nice to read of some love you felt for your mom. Our parents had issues and we misread them at times and we hang on to the sad stuff but clearly in this post even your dad appears in a loving way both toward you and your mom.
    My baking is linked to my mom through Buddy's senses.
    It tastes like Omi's cake

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