Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember Before Words

I was in my crib. We must have still been living in Freeport because I was not speaking yet, probably less than a year old.

I was looking around at the light, of which there wasn’t much since the sun was not up yet. I don’t recall any sounds, just the room which was mostly empty except for me and my crib. The crib was made of wood and painted white.

MarilynApr1948

I stood there. Waiting. I don’t remember thinking anything. Just being. Too young to think.

After a few minutes standing, holding onto the crib’s railing, I started to cry. I remember crying, but I don’t remember any reason why. Maybe it was all I knew how to do before speech, before words.

My mother came, turned the light on in the room, then lifted me from the crib. She said something to me, but the words were nothing but comforting noise with no special meaning. What mattered was she was there.

I stopped crying then. I had gotten what I wanted. Mommy was there.

And there, the memory ends.

(6 Minutes, including finding the picture and a quick spell check.)

Till the Cows Come Home

Always like taking pictures of the kids. The furry kids. This little guy was just so cute. I was glad she was going to grow up to be a happy Elsie and not hamburger.

Calf

You know that old expression “till the cows come home?” Well, here they are. Coming home. Full of milk. The farmer and his daughter talk to them as they move them into the barn. These are very happy cows. They don’t live on feed lots. They hang out in the fields along the creek.

Happy cows

If you look past the fence, you can see the Blackstone River … or maybe it’s one of the tributaries. It’s less than half a mile from our house and there’s an Aldrich Street Creek, so maybe this is it. Or not. There are a lot of waterways in the neighborhood.

cows come home

The farmer sells unhomogenized, unpasteurized milk. Not to my taste, but we live in an organic valley. Organic eggs, too. Next, the chickens will be coming home to roost.

Woven of Myth: The Plantagenets

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

By Dan Jones

PENGUIN GROUP Viking – 560 pages

Publication Date:   April 18, 2013

This is a highly readable book. Although it is pure history, it’s so beautifully written, so lyrical it feels like a novel. Rarely has any book about this remarkable family given me the sense of destiny and the full impact of their influence and the romance of England’s premier ruling family. To a large extent, the Plantagenets defined England — perhaps even created it. This view of the Plantagenets was unique concept for me. As soon as I read it, it made complete sense. That the more than 200 year reign of this remarkable family, with its peaks and its depths continues to define British identity was something I’d never considered. Now it seems obvious, but like so many obvious things, I never noticed it until the author pointed it out.

It was wonderful to read history where the author appreciates not just the facts, but the drama, romance, story and myth. The imprint left by this ruling family on Great Britain is deep, pervasive and affects every aspect of England’s identity, even in the 21st century long after the family has — technically — disappeared. On many levels, this family can never disappear. They are part of the soil, the air, the heart of the island kingdom they ruled.

From its opening words, the book grabbed me and pulled me in. It “had” me before I had finished the preface, much less the first chapter.

The Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling the English/N...

The Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling the English/Norman battle in 1066

Although I was predisposed to enjoy it, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. This is a book that greatly and delightfully exceeded my expectations. I have read many books about the Plantagenets, both straight history and as literary “docudrama.” I am very familiar with the stories of each of the monarchs, the wars, the scandals, the affairs, the treachery. It could have been old news for me, but instead, it was like reading it for the first time. What a wonderful fresh voice the author brings to material that has been written about — one might think — to the point where you could reasonably question whether or not yet another tome on the subject serves any purpose.

Was anything new uncovered? Not really new information, but in many cases, a new way of looking at history I have read in many other books. Whether or not the information is new to you will depend on how much else you’ve read. There was no news in it for me, but I’ve been fascinated by the Plantagenets and the British Crown since I was a kid.

The debunking of characters like Simon de Montfort that seem to have surprised some readers wasn’t news to me. I have read sufficient French history of the period to thoroughly detest the man and didn’t need any more help. The same goes for most of these characters. It wasn’t new information that made the book so much fun for me, but the presentation and the obvious relish the author took in the stories and characters. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Richard_I

As you might expect, the book includes maps, lineage charts, all the family connections of the Plantagenets. The story covers that period from Empress Mathilda through Richard II’s loss to Bolingbroke. It stops in 1399, rather before the ascent of the Tudors. The author chose to end his narrative before the War of the Roses, leaving that long and ugly battle for England’s throne for the next volume. I look forward to reading that too.

At 560 pages, it is a long book. I had no trouble with its length other than finding enough time to read the entire thing. It wasn’t hard to become engrossed in each of its sections. Nor does it require any prior knowledge of the period, although prior knowledge certainly doesn’t hurt. You could hardly grow up an English-speaker and not have heard of most of the prominent people that strut, gallop or crawl across the pages. If you’ve read any English history at all, you have surely encountered these Kings, Queens, counselors, courtiers, ministers and more.

If you’ve read Shakespeare, you may feel you know this material well, but anything written by Shakespeare is strongly prejudiced in favor the usurping Tudors. It is untrustworthy as fact. Shakespeare is literature, not history and should be enjoyed as such.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a pleasure to read, whether you are a scholar, history buff,  Anglophone or Anglophile, lover of historical novels … or innocently searching for a great read.

It’s available in hard cover, paperback, Kindle and audio. I don’t believe you could go wrong no matter what version you choose.

How sweetly they sing …

From Wild for Wildlife and Nature.

Our fur kids like to sing along with “Amazing Grace.” And it seems so appropriate for them!