Reading Lessons

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~ Charles W. Eliot

Reading grasped me when I was a senior in high school. We studied British Literature that year. I was enamored with A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, and Shakespeare. Everything we read opened up my perspective on history, and how the different characters lived. I knew I didn’t want to be like Miss Haversham in Great Expectations. On the other hand I very much liked Jane Eyre’s self-confidence, and A Tale of Two Cities immersed me in the horrors of The French Revolution.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t been a reader before, but we didn’t have access to libraries, except for the school libraries, in the small towns in which I grew up. The Scholastic Book Fair was always a treat and I did buy books that I enjoyed reading. But those were held only once or twice a year, and so it was often months between reading the books I wanted to read, and the ones I had to read for school.

But senior year I became a real reader. What I mean by that is that a real reader is always on the lookout for the next book they are going to read. And now that I’m semi-retired, and have more time for reading, I feel uneasy if I have to wait even a day to find the next book to sink into. That rarely happens, though, because most of the time, I have a list of two or three possibilities waiting in line.

The advent of social media groups like Goodreads has helped me up my reading game with their yearly reading challenge. For the last few years I’ve pledged to read 50 books a year. I know for some people that’s not a lot, but I like to read a book slowly, savoring and living within the lives of the characters.

I’ve tried to understand why I feel this need to sink into other people’s lives. I do it with movies and TV too. Maybe I’m a voyeur, but I think it’s because I’m just one person and I can’t possibly experience every aspect of life. Yet I have this need to understand the world from different perspectives. And when I talk or listen to other readers, they say similar things about why they read.

I secretly wanted to be a writer for many years. When I finally acknowledged that fact, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write effectively. After all my degrees are not in English. But when I read a quote I believe was by Stephen King, “You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read,” that made me feel better. I am learning how to be a good writer by reading both good and bad books. A poorly written book can sometimes teach me more than great ones because they show me in glaring detail the mistakes I make, or ones I need to avoid.

On the other hand there are great books that I still think about many years after I first read them. And maybe that’s the highest praise I can give an author, to continue to contemplate their work and how it affected me. And then try to write as powerfully as they did, only using my personal experiences and point of view.

I’m grateful to be a reader. It’s hard for me to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t read. I think it would be lots smaller and maybe even sadder. Reading about characters who experience terrible things, then grow, and even flourish as a result, gives me great hope.

Welcome to my new followers. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fabulous weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Only Jenna’s life is shattered. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, instead of traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dehumanization in A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It’s a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” ~ Brené Brown

I can’t stop thinking of that interview Marie Forleo did with Brené Brown about her book Braving the Wilderness. When Brené was talking about the process by which we dehumanize other human beings, I thought of A Tale of Two Cities. There are many examples of how this process happens both in literature and in history, but the thing that Dickens does in his book is to make the process personal and devastating.

This story is so timeless that there are four film versions of it. My favorite is the 1938 version with Ronald Coleman, but every version I’ve seen is compelling.

The story takes place during the French Revolution. At the beginning of the story, Dr. Manette has been in prison for many years. He was imprisoned by aristocrats because he wouldn’t pledge to keep a secret they wanted buried. Since much of his work was with the poor of Paris, the De Farges, who had worked for Dr. Manette, try to get him released. In fact, that’s how the book begins, with Dr. Manette’s release. His wife and daughter had fled to England when he was taken, and now his grown daughter meets her father for the first time in many years. He’s a broken man.

Meanwhile, back in Paris, the De Farge’s are prominent members of the festering discontent that leads to the revolution. A single incident shows the callousness of the French aristocrats and sets the stage for the blood bath that is to follow. The Marquis St. Evrémonde, orders his coachman to speed through the poor part of the city. A child is crushed under the wheels of his carriage and he doesn’t care. Meanwhile St. Evrémonde’s nephew is packing to leave his title and his uncle behind. He can’t stand to see the way the people in his class are so callous toward the poor. And that’s the crux of the story. First the aristocrats devalue the lives of the poor, then the poor, having gained power, do the same to the aristocrats and those who work for them. Many innocent people end up dying at the guillotine.

The thing that has stuck with me since I first read the book when I was in high school was how quickly noble causes can be changed to bloody rampages. The De Farge’s have a just cause, but as they gain power they are seduced by blood lust. Their desire to right the wrongs their class has suffered turns against Dr. Manette and his family. Lucy Manette has married Charles Darnay, St. Evrémond’s nephew and the De Farge’s want to kill every last member of the family as if that would bring back the child who got trampled so many years before. It’s shocking how blind the De Farge’s and their cohorts become to the suffering they are causing.

My father used to say that wounded people, wound other people thinking it will ease their own pain. Pain, of course, is never eased by harming someone else. The only way to ease our pain is to forgive ourselves and others.

Sometimes life throws curve balls at us. Directing this play has been one of those situations for me. I have at times been sucked into the drama of situations with students, but getting upset and angry doesn’t help anything. I’ve had to take a step back and look at why I’ve drawn this into my life. The answer is, I have more guck to clear out so that I can be free of anger and blame.

It seems to me that stories like A Tale of Two Cities are examples of how tragic things can become if we fail to heal our own wounds. Trying to control things on the outside never makes us feel better. All the work must be done on the inside, in our own minds and hearts.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I hope the rest of your week is lovely.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times

Cover art for A Tale of Two Cities
Cover art for A Tale of Two Cities

“The truth is, we are all one connected thing.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” ~ Albert Camus

“Countless scientific studies show that steeling yourself against the negative, preparing for the worst, actually puts you on a trajectory heading straight for the very thing you’re hoping to escape.” ~ Pam Grout, Thank and Grow Rich

I don’t believe in coincidence, so when Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey recently offered a new meditation series and it was titled “Creating Peace from the Inside Out”, I knew it was just what I needed to ease my frazzled nerves from the din of the election noise. The meditations went right along with the Pam Grout books I’ve been reading, E Squared, E Cubed, and Thank and Grow Rich. They are all about changing our focus from always seeing the negative things around us, to finding the abundant beauty that most of us miss everyday.

Here is an example: As I began this post, the sun was just coming up. I love to watch the sunrises and sunsets here in Arizona. I can’t get enough of them, and my photos file proves it. I love them because, you see, I lived in Portland, Oregon for fifteen years prior to moving here. As my father used to say of living on the western side of the Cascade Mountains, “It just get’s light, then it gets dark.” There is almost constant cloud cover. Okay, I haven’t been back in twenty years since global warming has changed climates everywhere. They may see the sun more often now, but while living there I never saw the lavender tinge to the sky on the opposite horizon when the sun was rising or setting. It’s just one of the pleasures of living where the sun shines almost every day.

Another pleasure of living in the desert is the night sky. Every night that I drive home from teaching my class, I stop outside my car before going into the house and look at the abundance of stars. We’re lucky to live in the country where there is little light pollution.

I have to say I do miss the proliferation of flowers in Portland in the spring, and how the gorgeous colors make up for the gray skies. I especially miss the pink dogwood tree that my husband gave me for my birthday. I loved watching it bloom as I worked in the kitchen. I must now keep the beauty of that tree in my mind.

Since doing the twenty-two meditations and reading Pam Grout’s books, I now wake up grateful for a new day and all the blessings it will bring. When I’m feeling down, I listen to “Happy” by Pharell Williams, (Right after the election I listened to it about twenty times one day when I was feeling particularly off balance.) or some other happy song. I watch happy movies and TV shows and I’ve decided to stay away from negative posts on social media. Thankfully, I gave up watching the news years ago. In short, I’ve decided to follow my inclinations to spread, and feel as much joy as I can.

To this end, I’m focusing on my latest fun creative project, my video series, “Loving Literature.” It’s so much fun learning to create and edit the videos. (It’s much more work than you might think watching the finished products.)

Originally the series was going to focus mostly on tutorials, but lately I’ve been thinking of books I’ve read that have inspired me, and I want to include them in the series as well. The first of these books was A Tale of Two Cities. I read it and Jane Eyre in senior English class many years ago. They ignited my love of British literature. As I was thinking of A Tale of Two Cities, it struck me that we could use that title for the times in which we are living.

If we focus on just the negative, it is the worst of times. But if we turn our attention slightly it can also be said to be the best of times. In the two weeks since the election, I’ve read of people being attacked and then others coming to their rescue, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and other such organizations are enjoying an increase in donations and memberships. I choose to be grateful for those and so many other blessings big and small. It’s amazing how many blessings I’ve found since I decided to look for them.

Yesterday I was thinking about how in the end of A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton gives his life so that Lucy’s husband Charles Darnay may live. He does it out of love for her. On the night before his execution, he imagines the joy that his death will bring the couple as they raise their children and honor him for what he did for them. He imagines the good they and their children will bring to the world. In fact, that was the thing that grasped me about the book, how love can change people. Amidst all the chaos and violence of the French Revolution, Sydney Carton was redeemed.

Though it sometimes feels odd to do so, I have begun sending love to Mr. Trump, his cronies, the KKK and any other people and places where strife is happening. My prayers join with those of others doing the same thing. It becomes an invisible force for good and hopefully more and more people will join in and accelerate the change which is already happening.

I didn’t mean to get so preachy. It’s difficult to express how deeply I’m affected by current events, and how I gain comfort from what I’ve read, the guidance I receive during meditation, and from the beauty around me. I share my thoughts with all of you in the hope that maybe you too will find the kindness, love, and beauty that can be found everywhere we look.

Thanks to my new followers for joining me, and thanks to you all for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016