Monday, August 31, 2009

That Gaggle of Friends I've Been Craving on Guernsey

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.


InkMom said...

I have a book that I use as a resource when choosing reading material for my children: "Some of My Best Friends are Books"

I would alter it: some of my best friends are blogs. I should have known that's how it would be. When my husband and I were engaged, we lived in our respective home towns where we both already had good jobs and places to live. We saw each other only on the weekends, and in the days before cell phones, we couldn't afford the long distance charges to talk each day, so we e-mailed. I still have all those e-letters and I am amazed at what we learned about each other through that exchange of the written word (and at what we didn't know about each other yet even though we were already engaged -- scary!).

I think that with blog writing, it goes one of two ways: either you are your most authentic self or you are a completely fictitious character, and it's not too difficult to find the ring of truth in an author's compositions.

That's what I love about you, and about every single one of the blog authors you listed in this post: Authenticity. Reality. Sincerity. Truth. And that's why some of my best friends are blogs!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I need to read that book.

And you, "Charette," are high on my list of best friends I've never met. It's an odd list to have, but I love it, and I'm so glad to know you.

Sandy M. said...

(I love the first photo caption :)

I really enjoyed reading 'TGLAPPPS' too. And felt as you did: how nice it would be to write to them all myself! And agree with you that blog-land is our present-day version of that. I'm very happy and honoured to be one of the quirky characters to have crossed your path and to enjoy your friendship in Cyberspace :) My life is more blessed because I have you, as a friend, 'out there.'

It's wonderful too, that the enjoyment of my friendship with you can be multiplied almost endlessly when I read about your other friends.

It's especially wonderful to me that I can learn about the unique beauty of so many, through this medium, that I would otherwise never come to know.

I'm very glad to know that so many special individuals people the wide world out there! From my little corner - I'm glad to know that 'you' are where you are: living, loving, laughing and striving, just as I am!

Jana, I think that you would make a very beautiful painting from any of these scenes!

Melanie J said...

That was my favorite book last year. LOVED it for all the reasons you mentioned. I loved too that there wasn't this tendency to fall into absolutes in characterizing the goodness or evil of the people fighting on each side of the war. I found that fascinating.

And as for the shout out....awwwwww. Thanks. I think I read just about everyone you included in your list and I think your assessments are spot on.

val of the south said...

I read that book on your recommendation and I LOVED it.

I also love how you compare it to the blog-world. I feel the same way.

My daughter has a friend she left behind in San Diego that she emails. They decided to become real "pen pals" too. Now they email to tell each other that they sent a letter! Too cute!

Miss Brecken said...

It made my heart happy to be mentioned as one of the likes of those letter writing Guernsey friends. I did love that book, and even bought it in hopes that I convince Justin to read it. I find myself lucky to live in a time where my reaching out to become friends with total strangers is something within my comfort zone. :)

Kristina P. said...

I do consider you dear friend, Jana. Some of my deepest friendships have been made over the Internet. Thank you for your kind words. My cover as an uncaring person is blown!

Luisa Perkins said...

Ach, yer sech a love.

(That was my imitation of a Guernsey accent.)

DeNae said...

You sweet lady. I love these women, too. And now I have to come back to your house and see your paintings of Guernsey! This lady spoke in sacrament meeting on Sunday, and was talking about internet relationships. And she said, "THEY'RE NOT REAL, PEOPLE!!"

And while I understood that she was talking about gamers' chat rooms and things like that, I couldn't help but mutter, "Uh-HUH! They are TOO real!"

Kazzy said...

Great book, C. And thanks for the comparison to a Guernsey lady!

I love the way we get to know people through blogging. It is still shocking to me how it works!

Jennifer said...

After reading you post about this book twice, I actually went to the BYU bookstore and bought it. I'll let you know what I think. As always I love your thoughtful writing and am so glad you have such wonderful friends.

Kimberly said...

You know, while I was in hospital last week there was a small handful of blogging friends I missed and thought about often. You and a few other gals who are that lovely, blush-inspiring list of yours stood out in my mind. Like InkMom said. Authenticity, reality, sincerity, truth. I missed the women who are real to me.

And I can't believe I haven't read that book yet...

L.T. Elliot said...

I am so honored I haven't the words. You are "friend" in the same definition as "home." So very unique for me. I cannot begin to express my love for you.

Heather of the EO said...

Somehow I missed this post.

And I had to skim it a little because I'm in the middle of convincing my book club that we have to read it and I don't want to know anything about it before-hand.

But I did get to read through all your kudos so firstly, thank you! And I love what you said about each of these friends. You're such a special lady, friend.

Tammy Lorna said...

Hi Jana,
I really loved the book too - I haven't managed yo squeeze Good Reads into my life yet, but as luck would have it, Mum is firmly implanted in both GR and my life, so she gives me wonderful new suggestions (as well as reiterations of all the classics I still haven't read) so I'm lucky :)
would love to visit the beauty of the channel islands, and am greatful for blog world as well. I font get to visit as often as I would like, but I love it when I do, and your blog is one of my very favourites.
Thanks for your visits to mine as well :)
xo Tammy

deb said...

I'm half way through , I bought in on our trip having seen a shout out from another trusted blogger. It is amazing that I am coming to trust and think about some of these on line friends. It is reassuring to see your mention of it here. I love love love the book so far..

Jessica said...

I love this post! I read the book, after you recommended it on your blog, and LOVED it! Now that you've reviewed it again, I too, want to go back and read it again . . . that is the kind of book that is probably worth a second reading.

And it's so wonderful to compare the letters they wrote to blogging!! After I read it, I was nostalgic for the days when people wrote heartfelt letters . . . but now that I think about it, you are SO right! It is exactly like blogging! Oh blog world I've missed you!!

An Ordinary Mom said...

This book is on my to read list ... I can't wait to get to it! And I also can't wait to visit many of the people you listed in this post!

Heidi Ashworth said...

So sweet! I'm touched! I have been putting off coming to your blog for so long b/c I knew I would have a lot to catch up on and I didn't want to miss a single one. Today I had some quiet time and so I came here--and I'm so glad I did!

Mrs4444 said...

How wonderful. Thank you for including me in such a stellar list, and thank you for letting me know via email, which i am just now getting to (sorry).

I miss you, but in part, knowing you are around (in spirit, if not physically) helps me not feel to bummed about being so busy. I'll be back eventually... :)