Thursday, May 1, 2014

City of Tranquil Light

Confession time:  I would be a terrible missionary. Mostly because I really like my own bathroom.  I would have been an especially whiny missionary in 1906 China, but many MUCH more selfless souls than I gave up their creature comforts to do just that, and that is where our story begins in City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell.

Will Kiehn is the son of Mennonite farmers in Oklahoma, but he feels the call to be a missionary in China. Without any real idea of what he's about to get into, he joins a group of fellow Mennonites led by Edward Geisler, an old family friend. As fate would have it, Edward's nurse-sister-in-law Katherine is also in the group, and Will falls hopelessly in love. From the Mandarin they learn to read, speak and write, the customs they must understand, and the ever-changing dangerous political climate, there is much to learn on their long journey. They somehow find a way through the distrust of their Chinese hosts, and find a place with the people of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng-City of Tranquil Light.  Will and Katherine spend the next 36 years on the North China Plain, experiencing extreme hardship and joy in an alien land they would come to think of as home.

Will and Katherine are based on the true-life missionary story of Bo Caldwell's grandparents. The hardships they faced are astonishing, and the fact that they lived to tell the story even more so. Just the lack of hygiene alone would have killed most people! And wait until you read about the local remedy for stomach pains. I say "ick".  Anyway...City of Tranquil Light is a fascinating and inspiring book, and I hope you ALL read it.


The Snow Child

When a childless couple build a snow girl with cranberry-red lips and yellow straw for hair, they hardly expect her to come alive, but that seems to be what magically occurs in The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Jack and Mabel have come to Alaska in 1920 to homestead a farm. They have come to escape the sorrow of their stillborn child, and with dreams of starting over in the pristine wilderness, but they never expected the harsh reality of the immense physical struggles they would face. During the first snowstorm of winter, they put aside their worries and build a snow girl, giving her a beautiful face and hair, a red wool scarf for her neck and matching mittens for her tree-branch hands. The next morning she is gone, but so are the scarf and mittens. Soon they start seeing a little girl with yellow hair and red scarf flitting noiselessly through the trees, and their lives are changed forever.

Based on a traditional Russian fairy tale, The Snow Child is an extraordinary tale of magic meeting reality, at once enchanted and brutally honest. I loved it. (By the way, it was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist.)


Some Thoughts About Procrastination

I swing between procrastination and being really thorough so either way things aren't getting done quickly.
My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry 'til a more convenient season.
One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we're idling in front of our computer screens.
think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.
Yup, this is me today.