A Story of Dutch Resistance

Judging by the cover, this looked self-published (it’s not); my expectations were minimal. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing, and found the story of Everett De Boer’s family’s work with the Dutch Resistance compelling. Journey Through the Night is four volumes (written in Dutch 1951-1958, translated in 1960) published as one.

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The De Boer family is likeable. The architect father has pluck, the mother is kind-hearted, oldest son John is capable but inclined to hesitate, and impetuous Fritz can’t keep out of trouble; the other siblings have cameo roles. They are Christian — the winsome kind whose faith is more acted upon than spoken of, not off-putting.

What impressed me most in a world of checkpoints, false IDs, and fascist occupation was the advantage of being relaxed and calm, casual and nonchalant. Terror is perilous.

The De Boers had recently read Isaiah 16:3 Hide the outcast, don’t betray the fugitive, when a young man knocks on their door, seeking refuge. A procession of Jewish families and resistance fighters are hidden and helped. Such a small thing, and yet it changed the course of war: simple courageous people opening their homes and risking their lives for all kinds of strangers.

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What I discovered while reading this book:

DKW cars (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen = steam-driven car) photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The Dutch National Anthem —another example of music bolstering courage

“OSO!” (Orange Shall Overcome) the slogan of the Dutch Resistance (here’s a link to learn more about the Dutch Resistance)

The Dutch writer Anne de Vries is a male. (Rainer Maria Rilke comes to mind as another writer with a conventionally female name.)

Favorite quotes:

No one could stop the course of the sun,
and no one could stop the course of God’s justice – not even Hitler.
 

True during war or peace:

Don’t let impatience make life miserable for you.

 

I highly recommend this to readers who liked Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place and Anne Frank’s Diary.

Between Ewe and Me

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“Nothing’s happening with the sheep right now” were the parting words from the parents. Allrighty then, just make sure the regular chores get done, I thought. We were doing a grandparent gig out at our kids’ mini-farm. Just in case, I had the Lambing Crash Course stuck to the front of the fridge. Gulp.

I’m a suburban girl–the kind who gets squeamish about picking up dog doo. The plastic bag and steaming stuff…?? No, no, no, no, no. <gag> Not in my skill set. When I told my husband about the Crash Course, he chuckled. As if anyone thinks moi will be in the pen, let alone “pulling” a lamb.  I loved all the James Herriot books from the warmth of my pillow and down comforter. I just never imagined needing to use the word pulled in conjunction with any animal.

It was inevitable: Gavin (our remarkable pre-teen farmer/grandson) busted into the house and announced that things were happening. Of course, my husband was at work. I was the lone adult on site. We called the closest neighbor: gone. We called another neighbor (who, in this small-town-world happens to be my boss): gone. But beautiful Sue and her three girls came over to help. We failed to get Mama penned. She galloped across the pasture two or three times. Funny, I never could run like that right before giving birth. Finally, we formed a human fence and coaxed Mama into the lambing pen.

Our next job was to wait. Gavin monitored Mama every thirty minutes. The third time the timer buzzed, he wondered how necessary it was to check this time. I’ll go with you, I said. Solidarity, I thought. A younger brother joined us. As we approached the pens, Gavin started yelling, There’s two lambs!

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We were unprepared. No towels on hand to *Clean mouth & nose first. Gavin hiked off his hoodie, whipped his tee shirt off, put his hoodie back on and began wiping goojies from their faces.

DSC_0728Brother and sister bringing supplies.

Even I knew we needed to get the baby lambs nursing. This was, um, complicated. Mama must have been the winner of Miss Woolly Oregon. And little Luke and Leia (as Gavin named the babies) couldn’t locate the teats.

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Gavin reached his hand in the nether-parts trying to find the udder and help the lamb attach. You are way too far back, I said, helpfully. You need to be closer to the front legs.

No, Nana, Gavin said with a firmness that belied his age. We held eye contact for a second. Then I looked pointedly at my chest and raised my eyebrows. I shrugged. We’re both mammals, n’est ce pas?

No, Nana, Gavin repeated with conviction.

And, it turns out, that 4H boy knows his anatomy. The udder of sheep, in case you didn’t know, is close to the groin.

I got in the pen (while wondering What is the etymological connection between pen and open?) and dried one of the little darlings with a towel.

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When nature was working, we left the pen and walked back to the house. As we approached the door, Gavin threw his arm around my shoulder and said, Good job, Nana! Praise I will treasure to my last breath.

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What’s on Your Nightstand, March 24

DSC_3970Although I love the concept of What’s on Your Nightstand, a monthly overview of one’s reading, I have only participated a few times. In a rare and wonderful synchronicity, I  deep cleaned my nightstand area yesterday.

My husband had surgery two weeks ago (he’s fine, thank you) that allowed me seven hours of reading in the waiting room. There was a huge flat-screen TV that looped through Travels in Europe with Rick Steves for 4.5 hours. Eventually, a penguin documentary came on. Occasionally I glanced up, but it wasn’t bad background sound.

Keeping my mind occupied was A Pianist’s Landscape, a book of essays about playing, learning, performing and teaching the piano. This was a book sale find. The cover and title drew me in. Carol Montparker is a Steinway Artist; her essays have been in the New York Times. Delightful!

I’m working on consistently reading poetry. It’s one of those things that takes an effort, but offers rich rewards. I found Wis£awa Szymborska (w sounds like /v/, £ sounds like /w/; thus, Vees WAH vah shin BORE skuh) funny, dark, random, full of irony, beauty and profundity. Many poems didn’t strike a chord in me. But some did. When asked why she didn’t write more poems, her answer was “because I have a trash can at home.” I kept forgetting that these poems had been translated from Polish. The translations are magnificent!

“Disappointing” — two historical novels. Widow of the South centers on the Carnton Plantation near Franklin, TN. I didn’t like that a major part of the plot centered on a contrived and fictitious relationship between Carrie McGavock and one soldier/patient. It was a weird Jayber Crow-ish intimacy.

A Separate Country tells the story of defeated Confederate General John Bell Hood’s life after the war in New Orleans. He marries Anna Maria Hennen, a young society belle, and they have 11 children in 10 years, including three sets of twins. The author uses a scaffolding of facts but most of the story is fanciful. The tone and language is a bit salty for my taste.

I made small progress on my goal to read through Shakespeare’s canon with Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2. Before I read these, I had thought Falstaff was witty and clever. No, sirrah! His self-aggrandizing, manipulative, lying behavior erased any gladsome thoughts of this main Shakespearean character.

My Kindle read – did you know if you have Amazon Prime you can borrow a book a month on your Kindle? I’m a junkie for books on how to write. To say I have dozens would be only a minor stretch. I love to read them, to re-read them, and to promise myself that someday I will do what they say.

I was reminded to slash away at adverbs and adjectives. Yes. But I really enjoyed Rosenblatt’s comments on education: “Teaching takes a lot of wheedling and grappling but basically it is the art of seduction. Observing a teacher who is lost in the mystery of the material can be oddly seductive.”

Audiobook  This long audio book was mostly tedious, but I was so glad I finished this life of Anna Leonowens. I was reminded how powerful a teacher can be. Prince Chulalongkorn attributed to Anna the decision he made to abolish slavery (without war!) in Siam (Thailand).

For Fun   I love Jane Austen, but I don’t consider myself a Janeite. Among the Janeites was an entertaining read. What struck me was how many ways there are to read Austen. People see virtue, wisdom, feminism, eroticism, autism, therapy, and more in her books.

DSC_3968Reading in preparation for Easter: Silence, by Shushaku Endo and Nikki Grime’s At Jerusalem’s Gate, Poems of Easter.

The Boys in the Boat

1936-team-on-waterThe Boys in the Boat consumed me while I consumed it. I blew dry my thick mop on the low setting so I could read more of it each morning. For a two week stretch I managed to work the book into every casual conversation.

In short, the book is about rowing, about the University of Washington crew who took the gold at the 1936 OIympics. Daniel James Brown tells the story with skill, weaving the personal and team history of the crew, the craft of boat building, the Nazi propaganda guru, Leni Riefenstahl, together in so spell-binding a way that, even though you know the outcome of the final race, you have to turn the page to find out.

Certain elements of the story were bound to draw me in: Nazi Germany, a motherless child, boating, work ethic, craftsmanship, athleticism. But what captured me the most was the harmony, the heartfelt cooperation, required between the boys in the boat. If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him. The combination of humility and confidence, requisite to a good crew, fascinated me. My husband has built and rowed several duck hunting scull boats in his time. By default (and by interest—his nightly question is ‘what are you reading?’) Curt gets the first feedback from my reading. But there was no way I could simply tell him about the chapter on the art of boat building. I read it aloud and reveled in his comments and appreciation.

Reading in the age of YouTube means that the scenes recreated on page are available to watch on a screen. This short book trailer shows the stunning end of the Olympic finals. (I’m glad that I saw this after I read the book; knowing the back story helped me appreciate the significance that is hard to grasp in the few seconds of the footage.) What a thrill!

As I read I bumped into “old friends”: The Suzzallo Library, Grand Coulee Dam, Fritz Kreisler(how does a world-class violinist get into a book on crew?), Louis Zamperini of Unbroken fame, and Hugh Laurie. Yeah, that Hugh Laurie! If you loved Unbroken, odds are you will like The Boys in the Boat.

It’s called “swing.” It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at precisely the same instant. Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action—each subtle turning of wrists—must be mirrored exactly by each oarsmen, from one end of the boat to the other.  160

Ode to Toe

DSC_1693A month ago, I broke my toe.
The one most dinky, my little left pinkie.

It made me *YOWL!* tilt back and howl,
The searing pain refused to wane.

The toe, it grew, turned black and blue,
Those near it blushed like a tattoo.

But hey! today—this sumptuous day—
My husband-coach, who knows my way,
Mapped out ONE mile for my assay.

“And then,” he warned, brooking no scorn,
“Put it on ice.” I did. But, yikes!
This coldness is not paradise.

I’m not inclined to sittin’ and mopin’,
Just glad to take some ibuprofen.
The dried-off toe is elevated,
May healing thus be accelerated.

Thank you for hearing my tale of woe.
I hope you will be quick to know
The main moral, most apropos:
Try never, NEVER, to break your toe.

Sister Monica Joan’s Books

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Catching up on the new season of Call the Midwife, I was captured by Sister Monica Joan’s compulsion to get her books in order. The Nonnatus House moves to a new location; she is fixated on her boxes of hardbound books, her board and brick shelves. And I watch with abounding empathy.  I. get. her.

I snort when she says, “I have put Plato here, next to Mr. Freud, so they can be companions in their ignorance.”

Like Violet, the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey, Sister Monica Joan gets the best lines. The community of Nonnatus House are patient and proprietary as SMJ toggles between dementia and a sound mind.

In a moment full of poignancy, Sister Monica Joan admits, “Sister, I cannot deny that my memory is in need of — — refreshment.”

Fullscreen capture 4242014 61237 PMThis exchange had me talking aloud to the computer screen:

Sister Monica Joan: I am not brought down now!
I am well….and filled with purpose.
[
Yes, I cheer. Yes! Yes! Yes! Organizing bookshelves is replete with purpose!]

Sister Evangelina: I can see that.
Never been a reader, always a doer.
Books passed me by when I was young
.
[It’s not too late, I plead with a character on a TV show.
I know I could find a good book for you to read.]

Sister Monica Joan: Oh, books have been my friends!
I do not intend to forget what they have taught me
.
[No, I nod, we can’t forget. Well, we try hard not to forget.]

Fullscreen capture 4242014 61455 PMSister Monica Joan, I love you.

(I conducted a long and fruitless search for pictures from that scene, and settled on a few screen shots.)

The most economical deal I found ($5.87) on the books (which we—the royal we—must read) is Tales from a Midwife: True Stories of the East End in the 1950s, which binds the three books (992 pages!) by Jennifer Worth about midwifery together. I purchased mine from a UK seller and received it in seven days.

I’m highly interested in Jennifer Worth’s book about end-of-life care.

Flannery O’Connor and Downton Abbey

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We hear many complaints about the prevalence of violence in modern fiction, and it is always assumed that this violence is a bad thing and meant to be an end in itself. It is the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially, and I believe these are times when writers are more interested in what we are essentially than in the tenor of our daily lives.      — Flannery O’Connor

I am working through Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories this month. The stories aren’t enjoyable and they aren’t light reading. But I trust the folks who have urged me to read her and I get occasional glimpses of the glory that is Flannery.

Clearly, her stories are deep and infused with meaning. O’Connor explains a few things in Mystery and Manners. I came across this quote about violence; it immediately brought to mind the bad thing that happened to Anna in a recent episode of Downton Abbey.

What do you think? I’m mulling this over, differentiating violence in print—where you imagine what happens— and on screen, where an image is deposited in your brain vault.