Book review of The Sojourner by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

If you had offered me a book with a rather off-putting cover drawing about a family who endured the hardships of trying to make a living on a farm in the late 1800’s, I’d have probably declined. That’s been done in various scenarios, and sounds depressing. I’d have preferred something with more pizzazz and originality.

But when I found this book on the shelf of a thrift store, I discovered some key information to change my mind. It was published in 1953, the author’s name was familiar, she had won a Pulitzer Prize, and it was $2.50 that would go toward a good cause. Seemed like a good bet, and a good book to bring home. And was it ever.

The story centers around Ase, whose brother Ben is the apple of his mother’s eye. After his father dies, Ben leaves the farm to seek fortune and adventure. Their mother grieves his loss, and will not believe that he went on his own volition. She never pretends to have any affection for Ase, but he nevertheless devotes himself to her care and making a success of their farm. He marries energetic trickster Nellie and they start a family. He is a thoughtful philosophical dreamer, yet too responsible to let his own longings interfere with his duties.

Ase is wise, yet timid and unable to articulate what is in his huge heart and his keen mind, so others find him an easy target, including his own children. He opens his home to those down on their luck, and finds true friendship in unlikely places. Through hopeful and sad events, despite all the years that go by without any word of  him, Ase never stops hoping for the return of his brother.

From page one The Sojourner was too gripping to put down, and I didn’t want to miss one single word. Each character in turn was introduced in a few pages to make you feel as if you had known them for a lifetime. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures. The intense commitment of the farming community to their livelihood and to one another show the stoicism and dedication that built the powerful American society of the early twentieth century.

Reading it was a quiet experience. I don’t just mean that I read it in silence; it also calmed my mind. The longer I read, the more I joined this family miles away from the nearest neighbor, and enjoyed the restful evenings without electricity, as though I could hear the silent breeze rustling the grass in their distant field. All of these combined to make a quality story of depth, common yet uncommon humanity, spiritual truth, and a satisfying outcome.

Following the motivations, decisions and outcomes in each of their journeys was illuminating. It makes me feel like I understand those in my little circle, and people all around the world, even more. It is the kind of book I keep hoping to discover in contemporary fiction and rarely seem to find. (Please enlighten me if you have found otherwise, I’d love to find some great contemporary fiction!) And the wonderful thing is that in learning more about her, I have discovered nine more novels of hers to read.

Marjorie Rawlings’ classic novel is a great example of why I comb the vintage book sections and why I trust the classic authors of fifty or more years ago. Tell me: where else can you get a heartwarming, inspiring experience every evening for three weeks…all for the grand total of two-and-a-half dollars?

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Sustainability Alberta Style

Alberta was formally declared a province of Canada on September 1, 1905. To celebrate the 112th birthday tomorrow of my province, and to celebrate the publication this month of my book, Respect Our World: Sustainability, I thought I’d share some of the ways that Albertans work toward sustainability. I admire the leadership Alberta has taken with innovative steps to a better environment for Canada.

Micro-generation

Micro-generation is the production of electricity on a small scale by individual home owners and small businesses, using renewable and alternative energy sources. They typically use solar and wind energy, but may use other sources of energy including biomass, microcogeneration, geothermal sources, and fuel cells.

The micro­generation regulation was recently revised to make it easier for Albertans to generate electricity for their own electricity needs.

The Climate Leadership Plan

The Climate Leadership Plan is a made-in-Alberta strategy to reduce carbon emissions while diversifying the economy and creating jobs. The Canadian government announced that provinces must enact an emissions reduction plan or pay a carbon tax in 2018, and this is a launch of a strategy designed specifically for Alberta’s own unique economy.

Innovation

Alberta is taking a leading role in promoting energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental measures through the growth of Alberta Green Building Technologies and Products industry, with the hope that one day many of these green technologies and products will be mandatory in the construction of new buildings.

Four corporations—Bio Solutions, Energy and Environment Solutions, Health Solutions and Technology Futures – were consolidated into one innovation powerhouse, Alberta Innovates. Through it, ideas and technologies created by Albertans receive support, and innovators, businesses and researchers can now easily tap into their collective assets – cross sectoral knowledge and expertise, funding, networks and research facilities.

The Book

I found a lot of inspiration in these initiatives and many more that I ran across while writing the book. If you have kids or are a teacher, I hope you’ll check out Respect Our World: Sustainability!

Goodnight Poems of Eugene Field

A while back I was browsing the shelves of antiquarian books at Fair’s Fair on 9th Avenue, and ran across a beautiful set of books, The Works of Eugene Field. Two volumes particularly caught my eye, A Little Book of Profitable Tales and A Little Book of Western Verse, and I perused wonderful pieces such as “The First Christmas Tree”, “Winken Blinken and Nod” and “Little Boy Blue”.

These were only being sold as a set, and I wasn’t interested in paying the asking price of one hundred dollars, so I went home to see if I could find them in electronic form.

 

Sure enough, I could read some of A Little Book of Western Verse on the Internet Archive BookReader, and download many of Eugene Field’s beautiful works for free from Gutenberg.org. I have been reading Western Verse today on my Kindle.

How have I missed this author up until now? Eugene Field started publishing poetry in 1789. He wrote imaginative, gentle rhyming verses for children and adults, perfect for a peaceful bedtime read. “Mother and Child” is about a rose, falling in love with the dewdrop that lands on its petals. “The Divine Lullaby” is about hearing God’s voice in the ocean, the wind, snow and bells, saying “Sleep well, my child.”

This world needs these beautiful words, and I hope many rediscover Eugene Field’s remarkable talent. Here are a few lines from several more.

From “Winken, Blinken and Nod”, one of his most well-known works:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe —

Sailed on a river of crystal light,

Into a sea of dew.

From the peaceful poem “In the Firelight”:

The firelight shadows fluttering go.

And as the shadows round me creep,

A childish treble breaks the gloom,

And softly from a further room

Comes, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

One of Field’s most well-known poems is “Little Boy Blue”, but it’s not the one that I learned as a child. Here is the first verse:

The little toy dog is covered with dust,

But sturdy and stanch he stands;

And the little toy soldier is red with rust,

And his musket molds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new

And the soldier was passing fair,

And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue

Kissed them and put them there.

 

Statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod in Washington Park, Denver, Colorado. Assumed to be by Matt Wright.

Statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod in Washington Park, Denver, Colorado, by Matt Wright.

In “Christmas Treasure” a father asks his beloved little son what he would like from Santa Claus:

And then he named this little toy,

while in his round and mournful eyes

there came a look of sweet surprise,

that spake his quiet, trustful joy…

he lisped his evening prayer

…with childish grace;

Then, toddling to the chimney-place,

he hung this little stocking there.

From “Norse Lullaby”:

The sky is dark and the hills are white

As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night,

And this is the song the storm-king sings,

As over the world his cloak he flings:

“Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;”

From “The Twenty-Third Psalm”:

My Shepherd is the Lord my God,—

There is no want I know;

His flock He leads in verdant meads,

Where tranquil waters flow.

This next one shares memories of a carefree childhood wandering among nature’s tranquil creatures and greenery, from “Long Ago”:

I once knew all the birds that came

And nested in our orchard trees;

For every flower I had a name—

My friends were woodchucks, toads, and bees;

I knew where thrived in yonder glen

What plants would soothe a stone-bruised toe—

Oh, I was very learned then;

But that was very long ago!

The love of a parent, from “Some Time”:

Last night, my darling, as you slept,

I thought I heard you sigh,

And to your little crib I crept,

And watched a space thereby;

And then I stooped and kissed your brow,

For oh! I love you so—

You are too young to know it now,

But some time you shall know!

Here is the sweetest little story poem of a father, finally resting after a long day with a book, from “At The Door”:

I thought myself indeed secure,

So fast the door, so firm the lock;

But, lo! he toddling comes to lure

My parent ear with timorous knock.

…then as the father takes his laughing darling in his arms, he ponders the end of his own life, when he is knocking on heaven’s gate. He hopes his heavenly father will unlock that door in the same way, and welcome him with the same joy!

And although not a lullaby, I had to include this humorous little ditty, from his poem “The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer”:

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom’s way

That I may truths eternal seek;

I need protecting care to-day,—

My purse is light, my flesh is weak…

Let my temptation be a book,

Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,

Whereon when other men shall look,

They’ll wail to know I got it cheap.

(I guess that means I’m a bibliomaniac!  Any others out there?  You?)

Spending an hour reading his poetry was such a calming experience because Field’s word pictures take you into the sweet, quiet experiences he writes about. I will keep these handy for the end of a hectic day!

Thank you, Eugene Field!

 

[And thank you to these who generously provided images: TheVintagePrincipal for the image of The Works of Eugene Field, Keri S. Hathaway for the image of the statue , Wikimedia/Internet Archive Book Images for the image from The Golden Staircase-Poems and Verses for Children , Sue Clark on Flickr for the image of Teeny Weeny , and Wikimedia for the image of Eugene Field ]

August 1st publishing date for my book Respect Our World: Sustainabililty!

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

What a surprise I had yesterday, when I noticed stores are posting my children’s educational book for pre-order!

It all started last summer…

  • I received my usual copy of the Children’s Writer newsletter, produced by the Institute of Children’s Literature (see my post about ICL here)
  • The newsletter mentioned a book producer looking for authors to work on projects.
  • Since I’d been planning to check out non-traditional publishing opportunities, I looked into it.
  • I sent my writing resume to Red Line Editorial.
  • In early December I received an email from Red Line, inviting me to work on a project, their series of books called To Be Canadian.
  • I accepted, and said I’d like to work on the one about Sustainability.
  • I spent most of my school’s Christmas holiday researching and contacting experts.
  • It was a VERY tight schedule, rather exhausting, but I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having!
  • I wrote evenings and weekends during January, and edited and rewrote during February.
  • They accepted my manuscript, noting that they planned to publish the series in the fall.
  • I proceeded to wonder for the next few months if they were really going to publish it the way I wrote it, if it will say my name anywhere, what it will look like.
  • I couldn’t really believe I’d be the author of a children’s book.

But it’s true!

Here are a couple websites that show the series, Beech Street Books (the publisher), and McNalley-Robinson.

And yes, my name is on the cover. Whew.

If you have an inkling to pursue this kind of work-for-hire educational writing opportunity, I recommend checking out Red Line’s website , and Evelyn Christenson’s website, which lists many other educational publishers.

YA-HOO!

 

Thank you publicdomainpictures.net for the HAPPY image!

Oceanside Poetry

Art begets art.

I usually try to escape the long, cold Calgary winter when I have time off for spring break, and if I’m not exploring I like to write. The warm relaxing climate and the inspiration of the ocean brings out the creativity in me, and judging from the freely-offered art and writing that I see around beach towns, it’s clear I’m not the only one inspired.

I’m so glad the locals in some places consider this form of art worthy of permanent all-weather plaques.  Here are several I’ve run across in my past few trips.

Shell Beach Symphony

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is Pismo Beach, California. I’d heard of Pismo Beach (most recently on an episode of I Love Lucy!), but never been there, so I skipped my usual southern California spots in favor of this more central area. I stayed in a residential neighborhood called Shell Beach.

Wandering around the small neighborhood and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I discovered a little park. Running around the park’s perimeter alongside the cliffs is a sidewalk that passes a plaque on the ground. The lovely words on it share sentiments that perfectly describe my feelings toward the ocean.

 

The symphonic

Ever rising ever falling

Sound of surf

Sings its song to the eternal

Winds and man they come and go

But the rising falling crawling sea

Always was always is

Always free   B.B.

Bayard Bloom

December 12, 1974

 

Nearby on the sandy beach, I enjoyed warm-hearted greetings written daily in the sand by some unknown but obviously beautiful people. The longer I stayed there, the more I found the neighbors to be friendly and welcoming. Thank you Shell Beach!

 

“Don’t worry ‘bout a thing”

“Warm and fuzzy”

 

Pelican Pete

I lived in San Diego for a while and my favorite place there is Pacific Beach near the Crystal Pier.

This past April I noticed a large statue named “Pelican Pete” near the PB lifeguard station. On a plaque is the story of Pelican Pete in rhyme.

“The Ballad of P.B.

Pelican Brown was in search of a home
where he could have fun and relax
he looked for a beach that was pretty
and a sea that was swimming with snacks.

He flew up and down the long coastline
looking both far and quite near
then one day he knew he had found it
when his eyes saw the great Crystal Pier.

On the end was a big crystal ballroom
dancers came from all over the west
and since Pelican Brown loved to tango
he dressed up in his best velvet vest.

He fit right in with the others
tangoed many a night until dawn
Pelican Brown loved the beat of the music
and danced until the others were gone.

Then he’d fly out and find him some breakfast
the happiest bird all around
and everyone loved when they looked up
and caught sight of Pelican Brown.

The dancing bird soon became famous
people came from all over to see
the great crystal ballroom and dance hall
and the pelican known as P.B.

(Poem by Jan Phillips copyright Jan Phillips, Concept and sculpture by T.J. Dixon & James Nelson)

 

And here is one of many San Diego murals I ran across, on the outside wall of a business:

 

La Jolla Lifeguard Box

There is a pathway that goes along the shore in La Jolla, not too far north of Pacific Beach. If you take it past the sea lions and seals at Children’s Pool Beach (Casa Beach) and keep walking along the shore pathway, just before you get to La Jolla Cove you will see a lifeguard box which has a phone in it for emergencies (unlocked during the summer).

 

Lifeguard box and La Jolla Cove

Engraved on the box is this text:

TRANQUILITY

BOOMER

FRESH DEEP SOUL PURITY

SPRAY GENTLE BREEZE

WAVES BREEZE REEFS

SPIRITUAL HEALING

BODY SURF RESPECT ROCK

WORMS FINS ENDLESS

PELICANS UNPREDICTABLE

FRIENDS RIPTIDE

A FREE SPIRIT PALM TREE

ADRENALINE RUSH

FUN EEL GRASS MAGIC

ETERNAL CALM PICNIC

BOOMER CAMARADERIE

BUNGALOWS YIN YANG

CHANGES COMMUNITY

I searched around for the story of this lifeguard box with all the interesting words, and found this account    :

High on a craggy bluff overlooking the churning surf in La Jolla stands this weathered sea-green box, a proud, life-affirming icon dedicated to lifeguards everywhere, embossed with transcendent words and phrases that evoke the heart and soul of the brave men and women who save lives on this rugged coast. Take a closer look, and you’ll see how beautifully these words connect us with the creed that draws lifeguards and surfers to the Pacific: “spray, waves, eel grass, tranquility, spirit, adrenaline.” The box demonstrates the power of primal engagement with the forces of nature in all sorts of fields and pursuits, in taking the time and effort to carve out our unique and vital code.

…The long summer days remind us to pause and reflect and experience life anew. This box is more than just a box. It’s about life and death, a memorial to a legendary body surfer and lifeguard who drowned here at Boomer Beach. During the summer the box is unlocked and contains a phone to contact the lifeguards during an emergency. Read downwards starting under the “E” of LIFEGUARD, and you will find his name spelled out in an acrostic puzzle: DAVID C FREEMAN.

What a lovely surprise to discover Beach Literature, and the fond memories of those who live there, adding to the enjoyment of already idyllic spots!  I hope you enjoyed these gems, and you’ll share similar discoveries of your own!

2 Huge Used Book Sales in Calgary – May 2017 – CBC Calgary READS


Here is my second favorite Calgary event, and it is “second” only by calendar date. Its impact on Calgary’s children is enormous, as it provides help for increasing literacy through proceeds raised by selling huge quantities of joy: reading books!

Calgary Reads is committed to working with parents, educators, corporate partners and the community at large to foster a joyful relationship with reading in all children in Calgary and beyond. Last year, through the generosity of Calgarians and their amazing volunteers, they received, sorted and sold over 100,000 gently used books and raised over $300,000 for Calgary Reads.

CBC Calgary Reads Big Book Sale
May 12th -14th, 2017

Friday, May 12 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m

Saturday May 13 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sunday, May 14 – 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Calgary Curling Club – 720 3 St NW

On Saturday evening from 6:00 to 8:30 local band, Midnight Blue, entertains shoppers with great jazz music. Join book lovers and take a turn on the dance floor, sip a glass of wine and shop for books!

I HOPE YOU CAN JOIN IN THE FUN

AND HELP CALGARY’S CHILDREN FIND THE JOY OF READING!

Here are links with information about donating, volunteering, the sale, and a fascinating initiative of doctors giving books to babies. Below are FAQ’s from the website.

                        

Here are Frequently Asked Questions from their website:

Is there an entrance fee?  Yes. $2.00 for adults. Children under 16 are free of charge.

Do you take credit cards? Yes. Credit cards, debit and cash.

What types of books can I find at the Book Sale? All types! We sort the books into three main categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Children’s. We also have a Collectibles section.  There are over 100,000 books ranging from Cooking to Classics, Health & Fitness to Horror, Tots and Teens to Transportation.

What is the price of the books? The majority of our adult books are $4.00 and children’s books are $2.00. Books that are current or just a year old are $6.00 and there are some more expensive, individually priced books.

Where can I park during the sale?  There  is limited parking at the Calgary Curling Club, some 2-hour street parking west of the Calgary Curling Club in the Community of Sunnyside and there is parking at the City of Calgary parking lot #59 at 200 Memorial Drive N.W. just east of the Curling Club (with a convenient pathway connecting the two). The City of Calgary lot is a pay lot and costs $.50 per hour with a maximum stay of 3 hours.  On Saturdays, the maximum fee is $2.00.

 

What is the Big Book Sale? It is the biggest sale of gently used books in Calgary and the biggest recycle/reuse event in the city! In 2016 through the generosity of Calgarians and 5000 hours of work by our amazing volunteers, over 100,000 books were sorted and sold, earning over $300,000.

Who receives the proceeds of the sale? The proceeds go to Calgary Reads to support our literacy programs.  Calgary Reads is a Calgary-based non-profit organization that was incorporated in 2001 as an early-literacy initiative.  Today, we are a multifaceted reading movement focused on childhood literacy in Calgary and throughout Alberta.

Are all of the books used and sold or are they thrown out? We are grateful for the books we receive and we pride ourselves on offering high quality used books at a fair price to Calgarians during our sale.  Some of the books we receive are not up to the standard we set for our sale. We are fortunate to have Progressive Waste as a corporate partner. They supply recycling bins to the Book Sale and pick up the bins periodically throughout the event.  Books not used for the sale are recycled, not sent to the landfill.

What happens to the books left over after the sale? We invite over 50 community partners and Little Free Library stewards to our “Unsold” event, which is held after the Book Sale. These groups are welcome to take as many books as they like at no charge.  So, as well as funding our literacy programs, we are able to provide books to agencies that also provide literacy opportunities in Calgary.

 

2 Huge Used Book Sales in Calgary – May 2017 – SAS Crossroads Market

Yay! It’s that time of year: spring, when the severe cold goes away and two of my favorite events of the whole year happen.  Two huge book sales are held, both of which offer participants the opportunity to support worthwhile causes.

 

Servants Anonymous Society of Calgary

SAS of Calgary is having its 15th Anniversary Book Drive and Sale on May 5-7 and May 12-14, 2017, at the Outpost Tent at Crossroads Market. You can donate books up to May 1st.

From April 10 to May 1, from 10 AM to 5 PM, you can donate books at the Outpost Tent at Crossroads Market, 1235 26 Ave SE, Calgary (at the Junction of Blackfoot Trail and Ogden Road SE).

 

Best sale for vintage books!

From my perspective, this is the better of the two sales to find vintage book treasures!  They have loads of them in a special spot in the back right corner, and Dave and the other volunteers are there to help.  Here are some of the vintage gems I found in previous years at the SAS Crossroads Market sale. (My posts for them are here and here.)
                                    

 

Here is a map of where Crossroads Market is, just southeast of downtown Calgary:


The proceeds from this book sale help SAS provide great supports for vulnerable women and their children. Visit their website to find more information about their compassionate work, programs and impact on at-risk women.

For more information about the sale, email Servants Anonymous at sasbookdrive@gmail.com

 

MORE INFO TO COME SOON

about the CBC Calgary READS sale May 12-14!

Positive, uplifting, and humorous reads

I’ve just realized how much time I spend looking for good, upbeat, contemporary fiction.

My friend said she doesn’t want to read depressing books and did I have any to recommend, so I browsed my yearly lists of books read for happy fiction. I was surprised at how many serious titles were on there and how few cheery.

Pilcher and Heyer

I am always game to check out older books, as you know, and I find most fiction between about 1950 and 2000–women’s fiction, romance, mainstream–usually cheerful and positive enough to enjoy. Rosamunde Pilcher, a U.K. author of women’s fiction, and Georgette Heyer, who wrote humorous Victorian romances, are two authors that never let me down.

I think I’ve read every one of Pilcher’s books, except some of her volumes of short stories. The first one I read was Under Gemini, and I was hooked with the location and the warm, intricate treatment of characters’ relationships. The Shell Seekers and September are my favorites, and they are nice and long. Click here to read my review of Winter Solstice.

Here are my three posts about my favorite Georgette Heyer books (so far!), Cotillion, Arabella and The Convenient Marriage.

New books

I do like to keep in touch with the new books, too. There are so many books to choose from, where do you begin? It can be overwhelming. I browse the categories on GoodReads and Amazon. But I like to hold a book and flip through it, so I browse bookstores and sometimes take snap shots of shelves with my cell phone, then try to find them at the library (it amazes me how many new books are in the library system!). The library, too, has its “New and Notable” shelves and racks of recommended reading, so I check out a lot of those.

Sometimes the new books I read are considered “important”. I certainly want to expand my mind and experience the lives and cultures of many of the contemporary authors. HOWEVER. What is with all the dark, negative fiction these days? Books or movies, I don’t know what has made it so popular, but it’s not popular with me.

I can get an important impression or message from a book without reeling at all the explicit details and closing the book feeling like I’ve gone through the wringer. I do wish authors would go back to being more subtle!

Contemporary books that bring a smile

When I want to clear my head, to do a re-set, I look for something intelligent, sunny, optimistic, and relaxing to read. But finding that is a challenge. I do a lot of searching shelves and online for good humorous fiction. Here are some of the fiction books I’ve read lately that have brought a smile, and provided an enjoyable, relaxed read.

Falling for June by Ryan Winfield

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Fanny Bower Puts herself out There by Julia Ariss (ebook)

Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn

What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck

The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne

 

While browsing my library’s humor and other sections, I ran across plenty of funny non-fiction. Here are some that I thoroughly enjoyed.

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry

I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron

Reasons My Kid is Crying by Greg Pembrooke

Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox

Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (Nobel prize-winning physicist)

Contemporary books that are uplifting

And here are some more books on my recent Books Read lists that are not necessarily humorous, but are uplifting, intelligent and calming. All are fascinating accounts or stories of neighbors, family, goodness, kindness, and life-changes, without the cringe-factor.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas (here’s my review–the author left a comment!)

Suncatchers and By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner

Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Poems for a Good and Happy Life compiled by Myrna Reid Grant

 

What have you found?

Most importantly, if you’ve FOUND good upbeat contemporary fiction or non-fiction, PLEASE do share! I am sure that many people will appreciate it!

 

Photo credits: Pixabay and unsplash at Pexel.com

Review of God’s Good Man: A Simple Love Story, by Marie Corelli

“It was May-time in England. The last breath of a long winter had blown its final farewell across the hills,—the last frost had melted from the broad, low-lying fields, relaxing its iron grip from the clods of rich, red-brown earth which, now, soft and broken, were sprouting thick with the young corn’s tender green.”

I finally found it! This is exactly the kind of a gem I always hope to find, as I browse and browse and browse in the vintage section at used book stores and book sales.

20170304_102124

A novel—at least a hundred years old—with some wonderful characters, a can’t-put-it-down plot, a spiritual element, a bit of romance, the joy of nature, an educational element, all put together with excellent writing. 523 pages with not a single picture, and I couldn’t bear for it to end. I am still amazed that a 1904 novel can do that.

The story is set in England. Pastor John Walden, the forty-something ‘man of worship’, is introduced as having a cheerful, sanguine disposition, athletic looking, strong of character. He is the owner of one of the smallest ‘livings’ in England, an old relic of a church of medieval days, which he’d bought and renovated to the point where it was a tourist interest in the woodland village of St. Rest. A thirteenth-century sarcophagus was discovered during the renovations, which apparently houses a great saint. One window remains incomplete, for which Walden continues to slowly gather pieces of genuine, authentic stained glass, bit by bit, to fill a circular rose carving.

“He was a great lover of books and, to a moderate extent, a collector of rare editions; …He loved antiquarian research and all such scientific problems as involved abstruse study and complex calculations, but equally he loved the simplest flower and the most ordinary village tale of sorrow or mirth recounted to him by any one of his parishioners. He gave himself such change of air and scene as he thought he required, by taking long swinging walks around the country, and found sufficient relaxation in gardening, a science in which he displayed considerable skill…For the rest, he was physically sound and morally healthy and moved as it were on the straight line from Earth to Heaven beginning each day as if it were his first life opportunity and ending it soberly and with prayer as though it were his last.”

The story begins during the May-time celebration. The children parade through town singing, and arrive at Parson John’s place with the Maypole. He’d planned to give an appropriately spiritual message for the day. But with the little two-year-old Ipsy calling to her beloved friend, “Passon! Tum ‘ere! Passon! Tum ‘ere!”, he puts the child on his shoulders and joins their parade and songs.

We meet various townspeople, including old Josie who seems to be the only one left with common sense and convictions. Sinister, conscious-less Mr. Leach has his own agenda to further his interests at others’ expense, which includes chopping down the Five Sisters, a four-hundred-year old grove of trees that are the town’s pride and joy. Wealthy Sir Martin Pippett unofficially runs the town and its main businesses, but resents the reality that soft spoken Parson John Walden actually stands quietly over him in authority and influence.

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One day Mrs. Spruce, his housekeeper, shows the parson a letter from Miss Maryllia Vancourt, the property owner, about her upcoming arrival. Mrs. Spruce is in a tizzy because she has a lot of cleaning to do in this house that has been abandoned for 10 years. This also disturbs John because for years he has been walking on Miss Vancourt’s forested property with his dog Nebbie (short for Nebuchadnezzar) and has even been using the library inside her house. He dreads the return of this modern Squiress, expecting that she most likely will bring modern ways with her, and will hunt, shoot, smoke, and perhaps swear.

Maryllia does in a sense bring modern ways to the village in the form of her friends and acquaintances, who exude wealth and privilege, living lives of bored gossip, fashions, food and obsessed with status. She, however, has little interest in such a lifestyle, nor is she interested in the wealthy male version of the same, Lord Rocksmith, who considers himself engaged to her. In herself, she presents a modern independence of intelligence, thought and strength, of poise and vision, of integrity and compassion, unusual for a woman in that small community of simple folk.

Maryllia and John clash, especially as he disapproves of her worldliness and the society that she keeps. Yet each encounter shows their true colors, pleasing colors. They are actually cut from the same cloth in their common qualities of humility, strength of character, goodness and faith. Eventually, they begin to see past their first impressions and develop an affectionate friendship, which leads to love. The ending is not predictable, and keeps the tension high until the last words.

Often throughout the book, literary geniuses are quoted, such as Chaucer, Spenser, Herrick and Longfellow. Here is a quote of Epictetus, which John is pondering:

“Had we understanding thereof, would any other thing better beseem us than to hymn the Divine Being and laud Him and rehearse His gracious deeds? These things it were fitting every man should sing, and to chant the greatest and divinest hymns for this, that He has given us the power to observe and consider His works, and a Way wherein to walk. If I were a nightingale, I would do after the manner of a nightingale; if a swan, after that of a swan. But now I am a reasoning creature, and it behooves me to sing the praise of God; this is my task, and this I do, nor as long as it is granted me, will I ever abandon this post.  And you, too, I summon to join me in the same song.”

“A wonderfully advanced’ Christian way of looking at life, for a pagan slave of the time of Nero!” thought Walden… “With all our teaching and preaching, we can hardly do better.” Amen!

I can’t say enough good about this book! Highly recommended for all ages!

Give this book to a young reader to introduce them to top quality, wholesome literature.

This lovely book is available through Amazon and other online booksellers. You can read it for free at Online books, Project Gutenberg, Public Bookshelf and other sites. You can learn more about the author at this U.K. website.

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Buy books and support those in need at these great thrift stores in Calgary

Yes, there are still MANY places to buy books in Calgary!  Although many book stores have gone out of business, there are still many places where we can get books to hold in our hands.

Of course you can buy new books, but don’t forget the “gently used” option!  And best of all, buying from these “brick-and-mortar” stores (actual physical buildings, as opposed to online book stores) can have a double joy of supporting the less fortunate.  Woo-hoo!

Here are the thrift stores that I shop at that have a great selection of books, including some books that are practically brand new.  Most of these have a good selection of Christian books, and amazing prices!

West Calgary

Women in Need Thrift Stores – W.I.N.S Bowness: 6432 Bowness Road NW, Calgary, AB T3B 0E7, 403-288-4825. Revenues from W.I.N. stores fund women in poverty and their families through their Free Goods Referral Program and their Family Resource Centres.

 

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The Good Samaritan Thrift Store: 4628 Bowness Rd NW Calgary, AB T3B 0B3, 403- 288-4404. This store supports the Mustard Seed Ministry and other local Calgary charities.

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Mission Thrift Store – formerly Bibles for Missions –3423 – 26th Ave S.W., Calgary, AB, T3E 0N3, Phone number (403) 246-7298 (they also have stores in Lethbridge, Okotoks and Red Deer) – Free Bibles, low prices! Mission Thrift stores support the International Bible League and the Bible League of Canada.

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W.I.N.S. Richmond/Killarney:  2907 Richmond Rd SW, Calgary, AB T3E 2J5, 403-242-4969

 

Central Calgary

“58th Avenue Thrift Store Row”

Goodwill on MacLeod Trail (just north of 58th Avenue): 5707 MacLeod Trail SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0J7, 403-252-1514 – “The largest Goodwill store in Alberta”.  Goodwill Industries of Alberta is committed to providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enhance their lives through meaningful employment.

Salvation Army Store – 121 58th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB. All Salvation Army Thrift Stores, are 100 per cent charity-based and exist to generate funds to support Salvation Army programs and services that help residents in the areas in which they operate, including food banks, shelters, children’s camps, addiction treatment facilities and many other community programs. According to their website, the Salvation Army is Canada’s largest non-governmental provider of social programs.

World Serve Thrift Store – 105 58th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0N7, Phone number (403) 474-4766.  World Serve exists to advance the Gospel, and impact nations. Learn more about them here.

Value Village – 104-58 Avenue SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0N7, Phone number (403) 255-5501.  Click here to see which organizations Value Village supports.

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W.I.N.S Fisher Park: [a small store, not on 58th Avenue, but a bit south on MacLeod Trail then east on 71st Ave] 134 71 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0R9, 403-255-7514

 

Northeast Calgary

A cluster of great thrift stores near 32nd Ave and 34th Street NE

MCC Thrift Shop – Mennonite Central Committee – 2946 32 Street NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J7, Phone number (403) 272-0282.  AMAZING PRICES! Proceeds from sales go directly to developing countries for AIDS projects, education and water projects. They also have some projects right here in Alberta including services for our First Nations people.

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Salvation Army Store – 3508 32 Ave NE #416, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J2, Phone number (403) 250-2110

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Value Village – 3405-34th Street NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J6, Phone number (403) 291-3323

Books between Friends – #14 – 3434 34th Street NE, Calgary T1Y 6X3, 403-291-3855, www.booksbetweenfriends.com – another book shopper I met at a thrift store raved about this one, I haven’t visited yet. They have been raising money for Calgary charities since 2003.

Urban Thrift Store – 3434 34 Avenue NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6X3, Phone number(403) 769-1934, a small store with a boutique feel, Urban Thrift Store supports Haiti Arises, and a classroom in Haiti.

Southeast Calgary

(Not close together – they are all over the S.E. quadrant)

W.I.N.S Dover: 3525 – 26 Ave. SE, Calgary, AB T2B 2M9, 403-235-6448 – this location has their furniture warehouse!

Goodwill 10426 Macleod Trail SE Calgary 403-225-2258, daily sales!  More Goodwill Stores and a map can be found here.

Value Village Shawnessy: Unit #1, 240 Midpark Way SE, Calgary, AB T2X 1N4, (403) 201-5350 – One of my favorites! More Value Village Stores and a map can be found here.

Others

Calgary’s Fair’s Fair Bookstores are also a fantastic source of books of all kinds, plenty of near-new used books, and a huge selection among its several stores around Calgary.  You can get more information about them in my post here.

Better Books and Bibles on 16th Avenue NW is a wonderful store with new and used books.  See my post here.

And I just want to give another reminder of my recent post about Used Book Treasures, an organization that has beautiful new and used Christian books, especially many for children and youth.  Their sale at the church is over, but you can still contact them by email mgild@shaw.ca or call (403) 254-2686.

Also check the Christian newspaper City Light News for more locations of some of these stores, as well as loads of other news and great information.

Did I miss any?  Leave a comment and I’ll update this post with more stores.  Thanks!