Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moving at the Speed of Wendell

"Time doesn't stop. Your life doesn't stop and wait until you get ready to start living it. Those years of the war were not a blank, and yet during all that time I was waiting. We all were waiting."

Your life doesn't stop and wait until you get ready to start living it.

One of the profound joys of reading is hearing someone outside yourself speak something that is true, something that you recognize is true. I get a tingly feeling moving up my leg when that happens.

This passage is found in Chapter Six (does it bug you that I jump around?) and Hannah is describing life in Port William during the war. I think it's a brilliant description of what people do when they know perfectly well that, if allowed, naming their griefs and fears could render them useless and paralyzed. Not naming them doesn't make them go away but it does allow them to move through space and time, through a daily existence of purpose and work. And this is how the folks in Port William live through the war years: they don't talk about their fears and griefs, they just keep going about their lives, fully aware that everyone is acquainted with the elephant in the room, large and pink.

There is waiting. Waiting for the war to be over and in the midst of waiting, a life has to be lived. And pleasures come whether you invite them or not, because God made us to enjoy His goodness and to feel His pleasure in good things. Wendell doesn't come out and say this, but I think it's what he means when he says:
"And yet pleasures came. It was a pleasure-giving house and place, a place we were glad to be. Farming went on, housekeeping went on, cooking went on, eating and sleeping went on."
(Apart from the farming, this sounds like my life: housekeeping, cooking, eating and sleeping. Hey, Hannah! Are you talking to me?)

I love the list of pleasures that follow. Who among us has not experienced the goodness represented in this list?

suppers in Hargrave with Auntie Ora, followed by games of rummy

reading books and discussing them ("a dependable pleasure")

summertime visits with energetic, adventurous, fearless little boys

long summer evenings spent on front porches

The older I get the more I appreciate living the life I've been given, taking joy and finding satisfaction in my daily work and noticing the pleasures when they come. I love Wendell for validating lives lived this way...not specifically in a place like Port William...but in an awareness that every day is a gift and there is pleasure to be found in the ordinary and a satisfaction to be gained in appreciating the pleasures, no matter the form in which they come.

I think we call them simple pleasures. Maybe a better term would be ordinary pleasures.

And I don't think you need to be a farmer or a housewife to experience them. :)

Do you?


My apologies for letting this blog go unfed for a few days. Instead, I was feeding my family and essentially being held in the vortex of daily living. Tammy calls it the spin cycle.

I'd love to know, in addition to your thoughts on simple pleasures and living the life you've been given, where are you in the book? We don't want to move ahead too quickly if folks are still enjoying the goodness that is Part One.

Thanks for being here, even when I'm not.

:) Lynn


  1. I have read through chapter 18. I must admit after reading about each child and then reading about them leaving and about Margaret's problems, I started getting a little depressed with the book. The only happy part seemed to be at the end of chapter 17. "It was the old happiness of nobody looking." I am glad at least for a chance to smile again. I hope this gets happier before it ends. Because the story continues all the way into the 80's at this point, I can't get the grasp of the way they feel about their children leaving home and going on to other lives. I know it is all about the "membership" but that is a foreign concept to me. I do appreciate all that it involves and it means that people will care and remember you even after you are gone. Times do change and not always for the better, but there seems to be no stopping it.

  2. I love your post today.

    I've somehow changed from a "waiting for the next big thing" kind of gal to a living in the moment kind of gal over the past few years. God has worked on my heart a lot and shown me how many blessings I have right here in front of me.

    Not only do we not need to worry about tomorrow, we don't need to look to tomorrow for the pleasure it will bring. Today has plenty of both. To miss out on today - on either the sorrows or the blessings it carries - because we are too busy waiting for tomorrow's troubles and blessings is to live a life that is less than God has given us.

    So today I am not worrying about the income we no longer have, but enjoying the people we have been placed with to live through this uncertain time in our lives. I'm enjoying the Saturday night potlucks and the shared garden plans and watching our children play with no idea that times are going to get tough (nor will they probably notice when they are tough!) Because the pleasures come and I don't want to miss them!

  3. Oh Lynn... First, because I'm me, it should bother me that you jump around. However, because it's you, I'm finding it perfectly acceptable... and actually quite fitting for this book. So carry on. You are doing a wonderful job.

    I am nearing the end of Part Two and, like Junebug, am finding it depressing at times. I'm glad to know it's not just me. Julie was kind enough to explain to me that what seemed to me as the author's wordiness was a well-done effort to be sentimental. A-ha, see I don't do sentimental. I avoid sentimental. And I must admit that at this point I'm a bit annoyed because I read a chapter last night that the author actually drew me into and brought out in me a very fond sentimental memory of my own.

    Then he squashed it with a depressing chapter ending. Wendell and I have some issues to work out at this point.

    However, to attempt to stay on topic, I want to address the quote you started today's post with. I remember that, but didn't think much about it... but Wendell does have an ability to wonderfully express truths we should embrace.

    I can honestly say that, for many reasons, I have been waiting to start living my life. So now I will forgive Wendell for letting me down last night and I will go to bed and have a little quiet time and prayer over these words... and count my list of pleasures. ;)

  4. Lovely capitalization on the feeling Mr Berry has created for living in Port William. Surely you read Magistramater's entry about simple pleasures?

    I agree that one doesnt have to be a farmer or a SAHM in order to experience such. It does, however, take mental and physical effort in our day and time to accomplish the task on a regular basis. I mean that it has to be a conscious decision. And it *costs* Lots of times we have to say *No*

    I've finished Section Two.

  5. Here are a few more of my thoughts on what I've read so far.


  6. Oh, this passage is one of my favorites, *particularly* the dependable pleasure.

    My favorite quote on waiting comes from the children's book The Trumpeter of Krakow:

    "Not until then did he seek comfort and counsel from his wife, who had always been his solace at such times; throwing himself down beside her on the wagon seat, he told her the story of his late discoveries, the absence of the king, the death of his kinsman.

    For a second the woman's heart quailed before the fresh difficulties, but she forgot self at the look in her husband's face. Her quiet reply, "We will wait, for God is in the waiting," filled him with courage again."

    A dear single friend has this quote on her fridge.

  7. I think in any phase of life we can be itchy for what is next or choose to be content with the everyday pleasures. Contentment has been my big lesson in mothering/home life. I would love to be on a plane, flying anywhere, and not have to clean the floor.... but friends who fly all the time for work say that they often wish they could be home, even if it means cleaning the floor. Contentment is a choice, but one that pays back ten-fold with joy and surprise blessings.

    Another thought: Wendell writes about people who do their work well. I think the times it has been easiest for me to give in to the itchy discontent are when I feel I am not doing my job well. Whether in making this place beautiful, or raising teenagers, or financial decisions...I have made a lot of mistakes. That's when it is easy to be unhappy.

    If we are talking about being self-sufficient, though...raising and growing what we eat, making clothes and linens, etc.... then our competence is essential. Our lives depend upon it. That might motivate even me (-: I guess I am back to what was mentioned before in the comments - those Wendell characters sure got a lot done in a day.

    Just my afternoon thoughts.

    Happy birthday for the fourth time, Lynn (-:


  8. Okay, I just re-read my first sentence and panicked. WHAT DID I WRITE? Then I realized it was okay....it said be itchy. There was an "e" and there was a space and THEN there was "itchy." Phew. We want to keep that "g" rating here in Hannah Land as long as possible. I'll do my best not to plunge the rating.

    Your humbled, closet sailor talking, book club friend,

  9. Bwwwhhahhhahahaha!!! DI! Di!

    You bust me up, girl.

    Oh you blue-talking sailor you!


    I'm good to go for several more hours.

    Nothing like a belly laugh...

  10. Don't forget, Carol, you were the first to mention sex here.


    I think Di has some catching up to do.

  11. Talk about double entendre!!

  12. oh Di, i just hurt myself laughing. Oh goodness.

    here's a pirate of something I posted over at QL and, since I think all of us have come from there, I'm making you read it twice. :)

    Donna - I'm almost done with Hannah. I'll post this at the other blog, but to be honest, I think I have a case of brilliant-turn-of-phrase fatigue. It's like almost every sentence is so lovely that it's become difficult for me to distinguish one from another.

    That said, those passages about her children really were heartbreaking. And I know this book is written in hindsight and all, but it's taking on SUCH a sad tone for me - everything has regret, everything requires a deep sigh after it... I'd love to hear Hannah laugh. I'd love to hear her tell a funny story about one of her kids instead of a deep, brooding one. And I think that deep, brooding tone has a lot to do with the way she anticipates her children's rare visits home, or the loss of them, or something. Maybe if they laughed more around her table, they'd come home more often!!

  13. Right now I'm midway through part two and I will agree with everyone here in that the tone of the book has changed as there is a sadness present.

    The most recent quote I could relate to was from chapter 10 - "What you won't see, but what I see always, is the pattern of our life here that made and kept it as you see it now, all the licks and steps and rounds of work, all the comings and goings, all the days and years. A lifetime's knowledge shimmers on the face of the land in the mind of a person who knows." It definitely reminded me of my own life in this house that I've lived in for almost thirty years. The house and the woods around it has stories as a family has been raised here. Inside or out, memories can so easily be triggered. I think of what a treasure it has been to be blessed in this way and I hope someday my children will realize it, too!

    Tammy ~@~

  14. I dont want to believe Hannah is sad or heartbroken because she's lived such a full life. From her upbringing one would think she would have a grip on the Biblical *leave and cleave* verse and all that entails.

    I had a wonderful visit with a former neighbor today. She's 85 and regaled me with stories about her youth, courtship, and marriage.

    One tidbit: her father was a banker and lost his job in 1929. While he was out of work for over two years, he picked up odd jobs here and there...whatever he could do.... and never fell behind on his mortgage payemts.

    Isnt that a far cry from what were hearing during this financial *crisis*??

  15. More about my friend... who is also a reader.

    Her suitor did come home from the War. He was on the Saratoga outside of Iwo Jimi. He sent her a telegram *Get your white dress ready* They married and then traveled immediately across country by train to Seattle.

    At any rate, I thought about sharing this book with her and hesitated.

    Do you think an older lady who lived during this same era but had a different viewpoint (not a country mouse) would like the book?

  16. Dana--I think if she's a reader, she'd appreciate this book, don't you? Maybe not as a mirror on her life but just for what it is.

    What a treasure to be able to have a conversation such as you describe. I'm glad you took the time. That's very Port Williams-ish of you. :)

  17. Amy--It's good to know Who holds tomorrow, isn't it? Thank you for sharing what you did. Your perspective is a daily gift to your family. I think you have always been well-equipped to appreciate the goodness all around you--whenever I see your name I can't help but think of biting into a homegrown tomato. See? You never know your impact. :) (((Hugs)))

  18. "Your life doesn't stop and wait until you get ready to start living it"

    Reading this makes me remember my 15 yrs of infertility, and having to make a conscious CHOICE to feel, to enjoy, to laugh, and to live.

    Humans have the peculiar ability to put a shell around the heart so as to shield it from pain. But the inevitable result of doing that is to become "wooden", unable also to fully love.

    Hannah Coulter made the choice to do the next thing--to move forward with living , but the pain tempered her and had its effect in maturing her. Remember when her Grandson showed up to live with her, she commented that if she was younger she would have cried. But as a mature woman, she skipped the crying and made him a bite to eat (I can't find the exact quote).

    She kept her heart soft enough for love by being fully engaged in life during the waiting season. She was able to avoid the poison of bitterness, yet this was where she lost the rose-colored glasses of youth.

  19. Poiema,
    I have not read to the end...but your comment gives me hope :o)

    I did think Hannah was doing the next thing.

    And I am so happy to hear her heart was soft in the end.