Have you noticed a change in the tone of public media lately? Several months in, after attending to each report, each analysis, and each prediction of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a collective yearning for something more. We know the challenge, and we are in it for the long haul, but to make the journey, we could use a lift.
In separate publications this week, I read,
“… people need more than virus news right now. We need comfort, insights, laughter, music, friendship, literature, escape. We need nourishment, stories, connection, one another.”
“… a gift basket of nourishment, good news, and sharings from the heart to help keep you grounded and connected during these challenging times.”
“The comforting path leads to the garden, if you are lucky enough to have one in any form.”
One columnist wrote, “I cannot remember a time when the world stopped like this…”
But of course, it has. Every generation has its world-stopping challenges, its urgent calls to action.
Each time, two forces emerge: the will to face down the challenge and a spontaneous reconnection with those things that nourish us best–kindness, nature, optimism, family, creativity, community, beauty…
Authors respond in corresponding ways. Some sound the warning bell, record wrongs, struggles, despair, and injustices, and cry out for action. Others, like Emilie Loring, provide needed respite and the courage to face another day of striving.
“If, when they reach ‘the end’ they forget to go back for their problems and march blithely toward the day’s work pepped up and refreshed, refreshed—it’s a great word, isn’t it—I shall feel that I have achieved something. Wasn’t it Emily Dickinson who said; ‘If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not have lived in vain?’ That’s the way I feel about my writing.” Give Me One Summer
Readers sidelined by the flu pandemic–and then the Great Depression–identified with “Prue of Prosperity Farm,” which was a 1919 serial story and became the 1933 novel, Hilltops Clear. Prue’s parents and sister had died, her brother was ill, and money problems weighed on her.
Since the warning tap on her brother’s shoulder, little hot, salty springs seemed in constant commotion behind her eyes.
Once she had expected life to hand her the crystal ball of Happiness. Now she would consider herself lucky if she found enough shining pieces as she went along to enable her to visualize the perfect sphere.
She feels a change in herself.
For her, living had taken on a new importance; she had revalued problems and experiences, had dug deep under the surface for the realities.
With enthusiasm, she launches into a host of positive activities: reading, gardening, home projects, crafts, and cooking.
After all, there was nothing like an absorbing interest to make one vitally alive from head to feet.
Prudence laughed. “I discontented!” Somebody once said, ‘Tragedy is chic but discontent is dowdy.’ Now, I ask you, can you think of me as being dowdy?”
We could all use an absorbing interest these days, and Emilie has some ideas for us.
Thank heaven for the Emilie Loring books on our shelves that stand reading and re-reading! If yours is an incomplete collection, the list of Emilie Loring e-books is up-to-date (marked **) on our Bookshelf.
Her short stories are quick, fun reads, too. See links here: Short Stories by Emilie Loring
But maybe you’d like to try something new?
“Bret Harte said that the only sure thing about luck is that it will change. Remember that? Of course you don’t. Who reads Bret Harte now?” We Ride the Gale!
You can read him, right now. Bret Harte’s are the sorts of stories you could read around a campfire–high drama, romance and danger, enough mystery to keep you reading and enough humor to allow you a good night’s sleep. Some of his humorous short stories are provided by Project Gutenberg, here.
When was the last time you memorized a poem? With my new granddaughter, I’ve amazed myself with the old nursery rhymes and songs that pop out of my memory with nary a snag. There’s something comforting about a poem you know by heart; it seems especially yours.
“Memory stores are wonderful props in time of worry and anxiety.”
The Mother in the Home
Emilie Loring quotes Malone’s “Opportunity” in Hilltops Clear. I like its can-do attitude, and without Emilie, I might never have run across it. Here is the full poem:
by: Walter Malone (1866-1915)
They do me wrong who say I come no more
When once I knock and fail to find you in;
For every day I stand outside your door
And bid you wake, and rise to fight and win.
Wail not for precious chances passed away!
Weep not for golden ages on the wane!
Each night I burn the records of the day–
At sunrise every soul is born again!
Dost thou behold thy lost youth all aghast?
Dost reel from righteous Retribution’s blow?
Then turn from blotted archives of the past
And find the future’s pages white as snow.
Art thou a mourner? Rouse thee from thy spell;
Art thou a sinner? Sins may be forgiven;
Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell,
Each night a star to guide thy feet to heaven.
Laugh like a boy at splendors that have sped,
To vanished joys be blind and deaf and dumb;
My judgments seal the dead past with its dead,
But never bind a moment yet to come.
Though deep in mire, wring not your hands and weep;
I lend my arm to all who say “I can!”
No shame-faced outcast ever sank so deep
But yet might rise and be again a man!
Travel – Virtual, for now
Here is an effort where Emilie Loring shines. Her descriptions transport us to settings far from our living rooms–Alaska, Maine, Wyoming, New York City, Boston, Cape Cod…
Far off, sportive whales sent sparkling jets of water high in air. Great bergs of green ice, surmounted by flocks of lavender and white gulls, floated oceanward. Quite near were snow-crowned mountains whose sides, striped in vivid and dull green, reminded him of the slashed sleeve of a troubadour. Lighted Windows
Pick a place, pick a book, and you’re off!
In times of uncertain food supplies, making use of everything is a smart strategy.
Every week has its day of reckoning; the day when I realize that I must slow up or the week’s appropriation will be spent before its time; ’tis then that I play that absorbingly interesting game, “Use What You Have.”
For the Comfort of the Family
Here are a couple of easy dishes from Emilie Loring’s kitchen:
Cut cold, leftover meat into uniform squares and layer in a baking dish with cooked macaroni and tomato sauce. Top the final layer with buttered bread crumbs and bake until it bubbles at the edges.
Cold fish can be layered with sliced potatoes, sliced boiled eggs, and a cream sauce. Top with buttered bread crumbs and bake until the top is light brown.
See more recipes here: Keep a Little Caviar in the Cupboard and don’t forget the “Recipes” section in the blog’s category index. (If you’re reading on a smart phone or tablet, you’ll have to scroll way down; on a large screen, it will appear in the sidebar.)
Having the courage to dare and try new combinations lifts cooking out of the slough of monotony. For the Comfort of the Family
Plant new flowers
I’ve taken this one to heart and created an all-new flower bed and a vegetable garden at my daughter’s house. Luckily, I had ordered seeds ahead of time, because my friends have had a tough time finding all of their favorites. One creative solution is to alert gardening friends who have either extra seeds or plants they are ready to divide, and on an appointed day, put the extras out at the front of your homes to share while maintaining social distancing–a gardening version of the mini-library. Maybe you’ll find what you need to Plant an Emilie Loring Garden This Year!
Write a letter
I know. Pretty old-school. But now that we have the time, writing real-life letters that recipients can hold in their hands is a special treat and perhaps a lasting reminder of this strange season of living.
Emilie Loring ordered her stationery from Boston’s M T Bird & Co., “social stationers and engravers since 1885.” She even had her own adhesive “stamps” made with which to seal her envelopes, in lieu of wax.
While summering in Maine, she wrote on postcards that bore a sketch of Stone House. The Slavens, who bought the property from the Lorings, continued the practice with custom-printed stationery and envelopes.
“Leg over leg, the dog went to Dover.”
We may be living these altered lives quite a bit longer. Like Emilie, I see it as an opportunity knocking.
“To me the most interesting thing in life is trying to do what I have to do superlatively well. Get a tremendous kick out of it.” Gay Courage
Take care of yourselves, and do the things that matter most. When stories are written about our generations, we’ll want them to be good ones.