There are things, for all of us, that we love and may not readily admit that we love, may even be a little embarrassed that we love it as much as we do. But we can't help it. We love it anyway. Everyone has an album or two in their iTunes library that you'd rather not share on Facebook - you listen to it (loudly) when no one else is home and you're still in your pajamas. No one needs to know.
Well, I love Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Always have. I also, strangely, love the 1994 film version with Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder. I watch it every Christmas. Susan Sarandon is exactly how I imagine Marmee. This may have something to do with the fact that I feel I can relate to Jo March. We are kindred spirits. I had my annual viewing of Little Women the other night, while baking shortbread cookies, and I was struck as I always am by Marmee's wisdom and insight.
One of my favorite lines from the film is when Jo is struggling to sort out who she is and where she's headed, Marmee says to Jo, "You have so many extraordinary talents, how can you expect to lead an ordinary life?"
How can you.
I keep thinking about this as I wrestle with my own sense of who I am and where I'm headed. I don't presume to think I have the "extraordinary talents" of Jo March, but sometimes I do fight with my own self over the desire/fear of leading an ordinary life. Sometimes I want ordinary so badly, because it is easy to live and explain and put on a resume and your grandparents understand it. But most of the time, my out-of-the-ordinary self fears the colorless life. Even if it means heartache and struggle, endless explanation, an unorthodox resume, and grandparents who will never get what you do.
I have this book that I always pull out right about now. It's a collection of readings for Advent and Christmas called "Watch for the Light." There are some really amazing poems and stories and excerpts from some really amazing writers. I love this one from Sylvia Plath, Black Rook in Rainy Weather (it's a little long, bear with me).
On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Out of the kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then -
Thus hallowing an interval
By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical
Yet politic; ignorant
Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant
A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content
Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For the rare, random descent.
I love how she finds light on the wing of a rook, enough to capture her attention and offer respite from fear of the unremarkable. Miracles occur. I love the waiting and anticipation of the season of Advent. I think it parallels so much of what we've experienced in our own stories, as we watch for the light. You, me, Sylvia Plath, Jo March, Scout Finch, Asher Lev.
Sending you love and light in this season.
Peace on earth, goodwill toward men, as they say.
I hope you will return the kindness, in some way.