The gentleness of Heaven broods o'er the sea—Listen, the mighty being is awake.
I rarely take the time to reread anything. I'm far too much of a plodder and ponderer for that to be at all practical. And yet I've been rereading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to present to a book group from my church today. What delightful fun to revisit those wonderful characters, who, by the end of the book almost felt like friends. As I wrote here,
At some point I was drawn into their world so completely I could not put the book down. The characters came to life, inhabiting my subconscious. One night I actually had a dream that I went to Guernsey to hang out with them. I was a little sad when I woke up and realized it was just a dream. I love these people. I love their simple way of life. I love that they founded their whole book club in an effort to make a harmless lie become rock-solid truth. I love their silly quirks and antics, and their acceptance of the same in each other. I love the humanity that rises to the surface.This second time around, I liked it even more. I found the letters in Part One more enjoyable, partly because it was so much easier to keep all the characters straight now. I also noticed all kinds of things—from subtle nuances to wry hilarity—that I somehow missed the first time around. The most salient themes emerged as integrity, kindness and courage.
I found a bit of the fiery Juliet, witty author and teapot-hurler, in myself today when I fired off this email to my husband (after a vexing and unproductive phone call to a creditor):
I responded very quickly and calmly and saccharine-sweetly (but seething venom), "Okay, well I'm going to blow a gasket very soon so I need to get off the phone right now, but I'll have him get back to you. Bye." Then it took everything within my power not to throw the phone through the closed window, shattering glass and phone parts from here to kingdom come. Somehow I managed to set it back down on the desk. :)I also found a deep resonant empathy for the Islanders when I read that the most difficult part of the war for them was sending their children away (as evacuees) in order to keep them safe. Having recently sent our son away (to a boarding school) in order to keep him safe, I completely identify with the love, courage and raw emotion associated with that choice.
I visited a friend this week who actually grew up on one of the Channel Islands and spent hours poring over scrapbooks, newspaper articles, and photos of Jersey and Guernsey. Photos that would blow you away, they're so beautiful. Big, rocky cliffs covered with cascading greens, rising up out of sandy beaches. Quaint villages and crowded seaports. I fell in love all over again. (And cannot resist the urge to paint it.)
So of course I'm still pining away for a chance to go there and visit in person—a chance to befriend such wonderful, quirky, and unpretentious people. We talked this morning about how blogging today is similar to the collection of letters in the novel, weaving lives together through so many individual voices. And then I had an epiphany: I don't need to fly around the world for that. I have a whole cadre of equally delightful characters right here at my fingertips:
There's Heidi, a witty romance writer and mother to an adult child with highly special needs
There's Heather of the EO, who warms her way into everyone's hearts with just a handful of well-chosen words, and reveals such faith through her mothering.
There's Kimberly, a wry Canadian whose self-awareness and personal growth are both amusing and inspiring.
There's Brillig, who grew up all over the world, bubbles with enthusiasm, and is so down to earth you can't help but love her immediately. She parents four children, including a toddler with autism.
There's Mrs. 4444, who comes from a huge, FUNctional family, works with Special Ed teens and has the most contagiously positive outlook on life (probably necessary for that career).
There's Jessica, whose faith is a pillar and whose beautiful writing runs so deep.
There's Eowyn, who is a natural nurturer and a brilliant editor. And she makes a mean loaf of bread. With homemade jam. Yeah.
There's DeNae, who literally makes me laugh out loud with every post. And knows the scriptures inside-out. (Go figure) She gets it. Big time.
There's Melanie J, who is talented and funny, and astounds me with her inner strength. (Did I mention that she looks like a supermodel?)
There's Kazzy, who writes like poetry and finds so much meaning in everyday wonders, including her special-needs kindergarten.
There's InkMom, who won me over from her sidebar alone...and who has the coolest curly hair.
There's Steph @ D&D, who always stays on target, seeking the divinity in motherhood.
There's Novembrance, who is beyond brilliant, and published a killer cookbook which I use almost daily.
There's Kristina P, who visits everyone in the blogosphere, making us all laugh, and sometimes makes us blush with her outrageous mockery. Yet there is such caring beneath all the snarkiness.
There's LT Elliott, who astonishes me with her unerring kindness and generosity of heart.
There's Breckster, filling a tiny NYC apartment with music and knitting and literature and cooking...and soon another baby on the way.
There's Allison, hilarious diva from California on an adventure in North Carolina...almost like a reverse Beverly Hillbilly!
There's the fabulous Munro family, in Queensland, Australia, so full of enthusiasm and zest for life, coupled with deep faith: Sandy, thoughtful mother of eight and voracious reader; and Tammy, perpetually jovial filmmaker and brilliant pianist.
Ditto the deep faith for LisAway, in Poland. There is something about this girl that just draws people to her like a magnet.
And there are many more friends here I'm just beginning to discover.
To quote Juliet, "I began writing letters to strangers in Guernsey, now friends, whom I would indeed like to come and see." and later, "Guernsey is beautiful and my new friends have welcomed me so generously, so warmly, that I haven't doubted I've done right to come here —." I echo Juliet's every word, merely replacing Guernsey with Cyberspace. Most of these "strangers" I've now met in person. And they are even better in person than their wonderful words can convey.
There is also a menagerie of characters right here in my very own neighborhood. I can't possibly list them all, but I promise you, some of their idiosyncrasies amuse me no end, while their pure goodness blows me away. And I left behind an entire surrogate family in California, all of whom I dearly love.
So I guess I don't need to travel to Guernsey to find those kinds of friends. In fact, in some ways the book helped me appreciate even more the ones I have right here.