Friday, November 15, 2013

Dawn, sunset, and a good book in all their glory

Dawn from my backyard deck in my new home a thousand miles from my old home.

Dawn. Such a literal as well as philosophical cusp—the shedding of darkness for light, a portal from past to present.

One of my favorite middle-grade classics, BELLE PRATER’S BOY by Ruth White has a theme based on this beautiful Rumi poem about dawn:

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!

I’ve always found dreams to be a chance to sort out problems and recharge, and dawn brings a golden opportunity to DO something, to take what I’ve discovered and run with it.

I realize I’ve never written a review of Belle Prater’s Boy, even though I’ve listened to the audio version countless times. I love the reading by Alison Elliott and the lyricism and authentic voice of Ruth White’s storytelling.

Here’s the opening line: “Around 5:00 a.m. on a warm Sunday morning in October 1953, my Aunt Belle left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth.” A few lines on: “Never before had anything like this happened in our county, and once the word got out, folks were fairly jolted out of their ruts.”

The story is told by 12-year-old Gypsy whose cousin Woodrow comes to live next-door in their grandparents’ home in Coal Station, Virginia. Gypsy is one of the more privileged in this mining town, living in a ranch house with new appliances, while Woodrow once showed up at a party in hand-me-down pants held up with a piece of rope. Like a junior Nancy Drew, Gypsy peppers Woodrow with questions about his mother, trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

But if Woodrow knows anything, he’s not talking, although he talks plenty about everything else. He’s a natural-born storyteller, who makes friends easily despite having a crossed eye. He is also adept at using his wit to deal with bullies and busybodies.

These two kids stole my heart. They are compassionate, smart, and tough, even though each suffered a terrible abandonment and has a bitter truth to face. They find real beauty and friendship as their story unfolds.

I’ve asked myself why I like to listen to this story again and again. I think it’s because I feel at home in the story, even if I didn’t grow up in Appalachia. That is one of the greatest gifts an author can give her readers.

That brings me back to my new home, where I actually live. It’s in north Seattle, nestled among towering pines and maples.

 This is my street a month ago.

This is that maple now that its leaves have fallen.

 I’ve always loved bare tree limbs against the sky.

It’s stark and structural.

And here, for old time’s sake, is one of my last sunset walks on Venice Beach before moving.

I still love it with a passion, even though I’m falling in love, too, with the Pacific Northwest.