After the rush of the holidays, winter is a time to slow down, to get still, to sit by a fire in a quiet place where we can listen to longings and hear our hearts speak. For many of us, this requires getting away. We need a respite to reflect, recharge, reset. And if there’s been a stirring in our souls, if we’re seeking something different, a place to consider new possibilities. A place to ask, “What if?”
In mid-December, I drove into a town that had inspired the book I was reading. It looked like the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie and the community described sounded Hallmark-close and friendly, too. I couldn’t wait to meet the author who has created a one-of-a-kind experience. I did. After the weekend I drove out of town feeling rested and inspired to take on whatever the new year brings.
In a new year when we try to focus on the positive,she inspires us to see problems as possibilities, to create something for our souls and others, to remember what matters most, and to embrace our roots and spread our wings.
We met in Stanford, Kentucky where she lives on a farm with her husband, Jess. The novels of her May Hollow trilogy – Grounded, Guarded, and Granted– are based largely on life in this small town with a big heart. She and Jess are the creators of the Wilderness Road Hospitality Group that has built a stronger sense of community here. In Part 1 of the interview she explains how they went from milking goats to saving and renovating historic homes. How they built two restaurants, an Inn, and are building another. Angela talks about the importance of close community not only in Kentucky but in a Tuscan village, Montefollonico, where she and Jess have a home and are renovating rentals for retreats and vacations.
Like Annie and Jake in her trilogy, Angela and Jess have quite the love story. Their travel experiences are the stuff of fairytales, and they enjoy the best of all worlds with homes in Kentucky and Tuscany. What I love most is that while she was still a single woman who lived in Lexington with good friends and a job that provided amazing travel experiences, she felt a pull toward another life. She wanted to live on a farm. She knew that nature feeds her soul. She says she knew God was turning her in a new direction, but had no idea how she’d get there. God fulfilled the desires of her heart in ways she didn’t expect.
Lisa, our mutual friend who is also a writer and Italophile, introduced us by email because she though we had a lot in common. Angela and I both went to The University of Kentucky, lived in Lexington, and lived on farms. Our grandfathers were farmers. We grew up in small Kentucky towns. For her, it was Danville. For me, Hopkinsville. She strives to write about the “good, true, and beautiful” for a mainstream audience. No matter how much we love travel and exploring other countries, we recognize our native language — SouthernSpeak.
Angela’s books have been adapted to the stage for sold-out performances at the Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theater. Their themes — navigating family, romantic love, purpose and passion, our need for community— are universal. Like Thornton Wilder’s classic, Our Town or Jan Karon’s Mitford series, her books are timeless.
We’re not super easy to get to. We’re an hour south of Lexington’s small airport but we think that’s part of the charm. When you come you’re going to pull away from everything. You can let your blood pressure drop, be fully present, and receive peace. –Angela Correll
I finished Grounded while I was on her stomping ground. Spending time with her characters felt like Old Home Week (a southern church tradition of my childhood that meant dinner on the ground or potluck in the fellowship hall). I recognized some of Annie’s grandmother in both of mine – one that fried country ham, then simmered it in water to make it tender every Christmas morning. Another who watched Billy Graham specials and tucked me in under quilts. I recognized generational struggles over the need for dishwashers, cable, and the internet. Over expressions like “You can’t expect a man to buy the cow if he is getting the milk for free.”
Her grandmother’s farmhouse with its creaking floors took me back to the homes in the country of 3 great-aunts. They, too, gathered eggs from ornery hens and didn’t lock their doors. Stripping tobacco, guns and gardens, Blue Willow China, Bluegills and the Farmers’ Almanac. “Widow Women,” “young folk,” “up North,” “down South”… all reminders of my childhood. The comfort food sent me back to Nashville on a mission to make break green beans, cook them with new potatoes, fry up some crappie, bake a chess pie, and chase it all with sweet tea.
Her reference to Genuine Risk, the 1980 Derby winner the year I married, took me back to Lexington when I lived on a horse farm. So did this description of Wildcat Mania.
The restaurant walls were covered with black and white pictures of local celebrities. Featured prominently were the University of Kentucky basketball and football coaches, and some of the players, both past and present. Even Hollywood stars like Ashley Judd, George Clooney and Johnny Depp were proudly featured Kentuckians. The fare was fine Angus steak, grass-finished and locally grown, served in an atmosphere of dark paneled walls and white table linens.
A romantic, I cried and was satisfied at the end of her first book, but I appreciate that the story didn’t stop there. She wrote a trilogy as if to ask, “What if … a fairytale ending of boy gets girl isn’t the end of the story? Aren’t relationships more complicated?”
Career struggles, abandonment issues, financial troubles, gossips, family secrets, depression… it’s all here. But there’s something about this place that is so familiar and comforting that I listen to the Audible versions as bedtime stories. Maybe because I spent a weekend in the world of the novel where people care for each other, stop and talk on the street, remembered my name. Maybe because in a world of troubles and negativity, I need to stay grateful and focused on the positive this year.
The Stanford Inn includes the cottages but in the works are additional lodging spaces including more hotel rooms (larger than the current Inn rooms) on Main Street.
If you need to finish an artistic project– book, painting, documentary–on your own or want the direction/support of a group, listen to Part 2 of the interview where Angela discusses her writing journey and options for retreats and creative community in Stanford and Italy.
Disclosure: SouthernGirlGoneGlobal has an affiliate relationship with Amazon. If you make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links in this post, I will receive a small commission which does not affect your cost. Amazon is my first go-to for videos and books, whether shipped with Prime or downloaded for Kindle or Audible, but I have included links to Netflix and other sources as well. More on what’s available on Prime Reading–including what’s free–here.
So we’re on global lockdown. Whether you’re in the trenches working even longer hours in healthcare facilities; at home all day with restless children; one of my English students bored that campus is closed, and/or anxious about when or how this will all end… cue “Come and Run Away with Me” by my Nashville singer/songwriter friend, Carole Earls and check out the list below.
These works are by authors and screenwriters who are the best escape artists I know. Books, movies, and television series have the power to transport us now to dream locations and inspire us to go there for real one day. Helping me with this list are pro travel bloggers who were moved…literally…to explore a place abroad they’d experienced on the page or screen. Some of us were supposed to be in Catania, Sicily at the Travel Bloggers Exchange last week. Though grounded, we’re finding ways to make the best of staying home. Here’s hoping these suggestions take you away for awhile from stress and cabin fever. Please add to the list in comments below. Whether mysteries, memoirs, romances, comedies, or classics…what books, films, or tv series sweep you beyond borders to a happy place? (The US travel book, movie, and television list is coming soon…stay tuned.)
The BBC series Death in Paradise is a murder mystery set on a tropical island, filmed in Guadeloupe. Watching it, I was so mesmerized by the setting that I often stopped even following the story, just enjoying the view. That’s why I chose to go to Guadeloupe a few years ago: to visit this stunning place, which, it turns out, really is as beautiful as on the show!–Rachel of Rachel’s Ruminations
I’ve been harboring a secret desire to walk the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) which starts in the Pyrenees of southern France and then traverses northwestern Spain before reaching the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella in the Spanish province of Galicia. The cathedral is a shrine said to be the burial place of St. James, the patron saint of Spain. I’m worried Mr. Excitement might notice that it’s a mere 476.8 miles longer than the Milford Track —- and we’re 14 years older. To subtly introduce the idea, I cajoled invited him to join me in watching the film, The Way –Suzanne Fluhr of Boomeresque.
Two friends on a trip to Spain fall in love with the same painter (no wonder, it was Javier Bardem). LOVED the entire cast of this film, which includes Penelope Cruz, and the city that inspired Woody Allen to direct it. The year it came out my friend, Kim, and I did a girls’ getaway in Barcelona.
Oh how I love the wit of British Comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as they banter (on this trip they are Don Quixote and Sancho Panza) taking us on a journey through beautiful landscapes, hotels, and food.
This was the first movie that made me fall in love with Venice and want to live an expat life. I love the main character and her desire for something different–simpler, sweeter. She inspired me to wander, so full of questions about my future, too. Here are the secrets Venice shared. Currently it’s available on Youtube movies in Italian with English subtitles.
My friend, Sara, is not a fan of this book because after reading it, I spent our trip to Italy almost twenty years ago dragging her about in hopes of finding a love interest of my own. Laura Fraser is one of my favorite writers (see the other work of hers recommended below). She coached me on the first chapter of my Morocco memoir and attending her publishing retreat in the artist colony of San Miguel de Allende is top of my Bucket List though the writing retreat in Tuscany would be amazing, too.
Frances Mayes is another one of my all-time favorites. See another book of hers I recommend below. Finding out she is a southern girl and reading about her childhood was an unexpected surprise. More on that book and other southern favorites coming soon…
Johnny Depp plays a math teacher/bumbling tourist who meets a mysterious fashionista (Angelina Jolie), in this romance- action film. The even bigger star here is Venice providing escapism at its finest.
Before anyone used the terms “girl’s getaway” or “journey of self-discovery,” Elizabeth von Arnim wrote a best-selling 1922 novel about frustrated English housewives who travel to Portofino, Italy. The film adaptation, a period film about rejuvenation and reinvention, is timeless.
This adaptation of Frances Mayes’ memoir with Diane Lane has launched many-a-divorced woman on an expat life abroad. My first night after moving to Marrakesh solo, I unpacked my DVD and watched it under a Moroccan moon.
20. Only You— A romantic comedy with Robert Downey, Jr., Marisa Tomei, and Bonnie Hunt that will make you fall in love with Rome, Tuscany, Venice. The shots of Positano on the Amalfi Coast in this movie and Under the Tuscan Sun make the city Top of my Bucket List.
A sociopath (Matt Damon) charms his way into the life of an heir (Jude Law). Though a dark thriller, performances by actors, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Blanchett, are as stunning as the scenes of Italy.
One of my favorite films, the story of a forbidden love in northern Africa unfolds in the ruins of an Italian monastery in Tuscany during World War II. I was thrilled to visit the set on a girls’ getaway to Italy.
My favourite Netflix show and books transport me to the place I can’t stop traveling to: France. They provide some of the best stories about the culture, food, and sights of this beautiful country.– Janice Chung of Francetraveltips
I asked my Canadian friend, Janice Chung, who is. guru of all things France for her list. She has been to her heart’s home 34 times. She said the film that made her want to travel to and through Paris for the first time was Two for the Road.
In this collection of personal essays, the one for which the book is titled is a must-read for anyone who has struggled in a language class. Sedaris’s description of moving to Paris and taking a course in French is hilarious. My university students who have struggled with learning foreign languages as I have enjoy this.
Though his novels are more popular (my Moroccan students enjoyed The Sun Also Rises set in Paris and Spain, and my Dominican Republic students loved For Whom the Bell Tolls about the Spanish Civil War), this memoir, A Moveable Feast, is my favorite Hemingway work. It’s a sensual portrait of 1920s Paris that inspired a successful journalist risking everything to write his first novel to fulfill that dream.
A comparison of cultural differences between American and French women, the book begins with this:
It’s not the shoes, the scarves, or the lipstick that gives French women their allure. It’s this: French women don’t give a damn. They don’t expect men to understand them. They don’t care about being liked or being like everyone else. They generally reject notions of packaged beauty. They accept the passage of time, celebrate the immediacy of pleasure, like to break rules, embrace ambiguity and imperfection; and prefer having a life to making a living. They are, in other works, completely unlike us.
With magical realism Harris paints a French village of colorful characters who become chosen family thanks to pirates and a single mom with a gypsy soul. My interview with the author who is as fascinating as her works is here.
I mention here a binge-worthy trilogy about cross-cultural romance starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy because the 2nd film, Before Sunset, which is set in Paris, is my favorite. The first film, Before Sunrise, was filmed in 1995 when the young couple met in Vienna the night before she must return home to Paris and he to the US. The third film, Before Midnight, was released in 2013 and set in Greece. All are character-driven– smart dialogue against backdrops of some of the most beautiful places on earth. The soundtracks are cool, too.
A Romantic comedy about American sisters navigating love in Paris, starring Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson.
39. French Kiss–Ok, I can’t find this anywhere. If someone does, please let me know. It’s an all-time favorite. Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline star in this romantic comedy set in Nice, Paris, and the vineyards of France.
Based on naturalist Gerald Durrell’s novels, a financially strapped English widow takes her children to live on a Greek island in the 1930s. Seasons 1-3 are available with Amazon Prime. Season 4 or the entire season is available through PBS Masterpiece.
Oscar-winning film set on a Kenyan coffee plantation where Meryl Streep is an aristocrat who moved to Africa with an unfaithful husband. There she falls in love with an adventurer played by Robert Redford. This film is a favorite of my friend, Sally, a nurse and jewelry designer who lived in Africa over 20 years.
Based on the memoir of 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would become revolutionary Che Guevara, and his 1952 trek across South America with his friend Alberto Granado, the film is a coming-of-age story that shaped his future politics and the world.
On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, to celebrate her fortieth birthday, Laura meets The Professor (from An Italian Affair) and realizes she’s ready for a home and family. In her gut-honest memoir travel journalist Laura Fraser seeks answers across Argentina, Peru, Naples, Paris, and the South Pacific.
She describes the art, architecture, history, and culinary delights of Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, and to the Mediterranean world of Turkey, Greece, the South of Italy, and North Africa as only a now-retired university professor and lifelong student of other cultures can be.
Your heart knows the way. Run in that Direction.–Rumi
Write what should not be forgotten.–Isabel Allende
Travel to have more to remember.–Cindy McCain
Have you vowed that writing will be a priority in the new year? Do you have travel tales you would like to tell? Are you ready to make new memories and create the ultimate souvenir–remembrance–of a time and place you never want to forget?
Whether you are just starting to write or a pro honing your craft…wanting to journal your journey in a an exotic land or transport others with a travel narrative piece… this writing retreat is for you.
Though I’ve journeyed across 27 countries, nowhere like magical Morocco provides me with as much rest, adventure, and inspiration. While living there 2014-16, I fell in love with diverse landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and wonderful people. I returned Summer 2018 to some of my favorite writing spaces to prepare this retreat to share them with you. I hope you’ll join me for a Beauty Break for the Soul.
Journaling beside mosaic courtyard fountains, writing in the salon and outdoor terraces of a private riad, and reading your work on the rooftop overlooking the medina.
Truly, Morocco has been a creative hub for generations of artists, each meeting his or her respective Muse there. Edith Wharton, Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles… Josephine Baker, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens … Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas. Here Laurence of Arabia, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, and Game of Thrones came to life. Teaching, writing, and wandering there, my life felt epic, too.
Join me in Morocco for my favorite local experiences from the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh to the African coast. Choose what your soul needs:
photo walks with a community of explorers
prompts for journaling your journey
beautiful spaces to recharge, relax, reflect, create on your own
study of the craft of travel writing, analyzing works of master storytellers inspired by Morocco who infused elements of journalism, personal essay, narrative, and poetic prose.
workshop and instructor feedback
a rooftop/salon reading
5 Sessions: Craft/Prompts/Workshop with Feedback
One-On-One Session with Instructor
Rooftop or Salon Reading of Your Work on Final Night of Retreat
7 Nights in Private Suites (5 in Marrakech in Private Riad and 2 in Essaouira
Private Transportation to Essaouira and Berber home near Toubkal, largest mountain in northern Africa, for mule trek, class, and lunch on terrace
4 Dinners (one in the former palace of “Lord of the Atlas,” Pasha of Marrakech from 1912-1956)
Spots are limited. Contact me at email@example.com to reserve a place or ask questions.
Not Included in Package/Paid by Participant:
Proof of Travel Insurance
4 Lunches, 4 Dinners, Tours/Activities during Free Time
Local hotel tourist tax collected by riad and villa
*Signifies lunches and dinners not included in package price
Arrive in Marrakech by Noon
Transport to Private Riad/Welcome with Moroccan Tea and Pastries
Lunch together at Amal Women’s Center
Neighborhood walk (We are located near some of the best spas, shops, and restaurants in the Medina.)
Dinner Together at Riad
Breakfast at Riad
Guided Medina Tour/Photo Walk
Lunch Together at my Favorite Rooftop Lunch Spot near Koutoubia Mosque and Jemma el Fna Square
Dinner in the Former Palace of the “Lord of the Atlas”
Resort Pool Day with Lunch—Palais Namaskar or La Maison Arabe Cooking School/Country Club
*Dinner on own (May be ordered at our riad for 20 Euros. Many other options including fresh produce, local bakeries, groceries, mall food court, and restaurants/cafes at all price points. Next to our riad is the iconic La Maison Arabe and its jazz bar.)
Private transfer to Berber Village near Toubkal, highest point in Atlas Mountains and Northern Africa. We’ll mule trek to a Berber home where lunch and class will be held on the terrace.
Medina and ramparts walk (*Lunch on your own—many cafes and fresh seafood served at port stalls)
Dinner on Rooftop above the Sea
*Lunch and *Dinner on Own
Return to Marrakesh
Free day to write or explore/*Lunch on Own
Suggestions: Shopping, Yoga, Hammam/massage, Pool Day (resort or near riad near Medina), Jardin Marjorelle. Contact me prior to trip if interested in volunteer opportunities in Marrakesh, such as Project SOAR or Mule and Donkey Rescue .
Dinner together at Riad—Salon or Rooftop Readings of Your Work
Transfer to Airport
About Your Instructor:
I live in Nashville, Tennessee where I’m a writer and have taught university writing and literature courses for thirteen years. I’ve led educational trips abroad for over two decades, and my Travel Tales course at The Porch, an independent writing center for adults, has been a best-seller. Please see my portfolio for links to freelance publications and Southern Girl Gone Global collaborations with travel brands and tourism boards. Southern Girl Gone Global was named a Top 50 Travel Blog of 2016 in the UK and has been featured by Yahoo! Travel, US News and World Report, Expedia and Orbitz.
When not on the road or in the classroom, I’m spending time with my grown kids, the loves of my life; dancing salsa with friends; storytelling about my travels ; and writing my No-Mom-Left-Behind memoir, Roses in the Desert. More of my story here.
Know someone who may be interested in joining? Please share this post and brochure below.
The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life… The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in Lonesome Dove and had nightmares about slavery in Beloved and walked the streets of Dublin in Ulysses and made up a hundred stories in The Arabian Nights…–Pat Conroy, author and former teacher
Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, William Golding…writers who were also teachers. The latter based his classic, Lord of the Flies, on his classroom experience. The Harry Potter creator began her saga as an English teacher in my now-neighboring country, Portugal. (So almost did a legendary songwriter from my home in Nashville, Kris Kristofferson, who after studying literature at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, took an English position at West Point. Though he resigned to move to Music City it’s a fun fact for me to remember that he and Conray have Southern accents, too. I first worried about having the only drawl on staff until some of my new coworkers told me they like it.)
I have to remind myself that despite the demands of teaching, there is no excuse not to keep up with blog posts. As Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat told me in an interview when I asked how she managed to teach and write: “The way anyone finds time to do what they most want to do. The time is there. It’s just a matter of priority.” By the way, she taught at the school of one of two of my brilliant new English department colleagues, who, like the rest of the faculty, work really hard daily and care deeply about our students. One of the many firsts this new school year is being the only female and non-Brit of the department.
I’ve been teaching as long as I’ve been writing. After elementary school each day, I’d run from the bus to play teacher to my sole pupil, Granddaddy Ladd. My grandmother, Mama Lou, had taught in a one-room schoolhouse before she married, at a home for special needs children after my grandfather died, and in an elementary school until she was eighty. She gave me my father’s book, The Arabian Nights, from which I’ll teach a story this year alongside The Alchemist, a book that inspired my move to Marrakesh. Although I’ve been at this teaching-thing more than thirty years, the first day of inservice I felt like a kid again. Like a first grader, I had little idea of what to expect, and not since a ninth grader had I boarded a bus for school. Most of the teachers live in the same complex and ride the bus into work daily. Our stop is just around the corner. Since our school doesn’t have a cafeteria, teachers who don’t pack lunches pop into the hanuts to grab fresh baked bread or snacks for the day on the walk to the bus stop. I either take leftovers or, more often, though I’ve never been much of a bread eater I find myself stuffing a loaf into my backpack and pinching off pieces throughout the day; that, a Fanta, and a 1.5 liter bottle of water are plenty for me in summer heat.
My thirty-minute commute has rendered many firsts–passing a neighborhood mosque, posses of pigeons in parks, donkey-drawn carts of chickens, weary workers gathered around tea in an alley before work (we leave for school at 7:15 AM–an American school schedule that lasts till 4:30–atypical of Morocco where families eat dinner/sleep/open shops later). Terra cotta apartments topped with satellite saucers give way to suburban living– villas and turnoffs into spas and luxury hotels along a boulevard lined with bushes trimmed into poodle tails, palm trees, olive groves, and walls laden with cascading bougainvillea. As we turn off the now -country highway, the guards swing open the huge wooden gates. Our bus driver parks, we gather briefcases and bags and walk through the school’s orchard. After two weeks I still marvel at the beautiful building and massive grounds– the arched doorways, long stone hallways, private alcoves, scrolled iron balconies, and olive trees on the playground tempting children to pelt each other with olives. On Day One new teachers meet off the courtyard for inservice where most of the children eat lunch. Our headmaster reminds us we’re one of only five schools in Morocco recognized by the US State Department. We discuss the Mission Statement which begins, “The American School of Marrakesh is a multicultural community of learners.” True. My colleagues from Morocco, France, England, Scotland, Singapore, the Philippines, Russia, India, Canada, and many US states and assorted countries do work and life together, whether interpreting for the French and Arab teachers at faculty meetings; discussing curriculum on the bus or movies or vacations together at our Friday night rooftop gatherings; cheering on a colleague’s son who rides his bike without training wheels for the first time in our complex courtyard; or taking a coworker’s daughter home so Daddy can play Friday afternoon soccer after school with the faculty and staff. Like many 21st century schools, ASM strives to “foster excellence through critical thinking and creativity; build resilience and character; promote responsible, global citizenship, and encourage lifelong learning.” But unlike most international schools, students are expected to not only master English and their native language but also become fluent in French and classical Arab (different from Darija, the local language). My room, which I now affectionately call “the annex” has its own private entrance. It’s beside the basketball courts and has its own rose garden at its doorstep. Last summer I made posters for “windows to the world” using my travel pictures to entice students to read world literature and embrace global citizenship. They want to know where I’ll take them and when, and I’ve assured them class trips are being discussed. My students are high energy–most movers and shakers (kinesthetic learners and/or highly motivated), social and warm–and they all greet me each period with a “Good Morning/Afternoon/Hello, Miss!” and bid adieu with a, “Thank you and have a nice day, Miss!” I really like them. I have 15 in my 9th Grade Advanced, and a dozen in my 10th Grade Standard, 11th Grade AP, 12th Grade Standard. I also teach an elective, Journalism.
And though my first couple of days the temperature was 108 degrees and I wondered how we’d ever manage without AC, the weather has dropped to the mid-90s and become bearable. In fact, the mornings have been 70 degrees and I love preparing for my day, windows open to nothing-but-green– soccer field in the front, flowers in the back– as my daily visitors, wee birds, fly in, land on the floor, and say hello. It also helps in a new place to be surrounded by not only new friends…but old ones, like Bronte and the crew, as well. The library is full of classics and other interesting reads. Teachers check out books regularly for pleasure. During inservice we were treated to hot mint tea, pancakes, and pastries, and catered lunches of traditonal Berber tagines served on china. Yesterday we celebrated our first week of teaching with a high tea–mint tea, chilled strawberry and avocado drinks, pastries, and assorted almonds and other local nuts.
As students and teachers we get two new starts each year–one in January, the other now. Then again, we all can learn something new everyday for the rest of our lives. From the land of oranges, pomegranates, and figs, here’s to a fruitful year.
He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.
I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. —A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
A highlight of celebrating this Yuletide Season was Franklin’s “Dickens of a Christmas.” Until last week, my sister, brother-in-law, and I had not done the annual event since first moving to Nashville. Walking Main Street took me back to many-an-afternoon on Hoptown sidewalks spent window-shopping with Mama Lou–a time before Internet Wish Lists and a place when it was ok to spend a day “just looking.” We’d stop in to see Mama Sargeant, Bookkeeper at J. C. Penney, have a banana split at the soda counter, and then head home to launch other adventures by way of Christmas classics.
Both grandmothers loved books, so I met Mr. Dickens early in life. I loved Mama Lou’s Christmas Ideals (the book and her lifelong wonder found in simple things). Brimming like a stuffed stocking, its pictures fed my imagination with conversations between Santa and Mrs. Claus; carolers in velvet, hooded capes; and children and dogs dallying in the snow.
On December 15, as cold as the Decembers of our childhoods, Penny, Jeff, and I met Kim and Andy, Franklin residents and newlyweds, in the Franklin Square. On our Sunday stroll I felt fully alive, proven by our breath misting in the streets. Inside stores twinkled with lights and all-things-pretty–cozy bedding and tulle gowns worthy of wearing by the Sugar Plum Fairy and waiting for Santa himself. Though we bought only kettle corn and sugared pecans, we savored sweet Christmas past and present. I don’t know what Christmas Future holds, but I am confident in the One who holds it. All is calm, all is bright because as Dickens said:
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” —A Christmas Carol
Last weekend was full. Saturday at lunch I caught up with Andrew, a former student who graduated almost a decade ago and wants me to read Replay by Ken Grimwood. That night I danced with friends at Jonathan and Pablo’s, the guys who invited Kim and me into the salsa world in March of 2008. Sunday night I ended the weekend with the usual suspects at Las Cazuela’s. But that was after I rekindled an old love…
In 2000 and again in 2004 I fell in lust with Italy–the food, the beauty, the romance and history of Venice, Rome, Pompeii. But when I taught English in the summer of 2005 to adults from Torino and Milan, I fell in love with people who would become life long friends. At Le Due Cascine I was taught the meaning of La Dolce Vita by Italian pals. I’ve sustained it not only in their homes on return visits but also in Italian classes and events in Nashville, often thanks to Patti Franklin Nelson of Italian for Fun. Last Sunday was such an event.
My friend April invited me to Nashville’s first Italian Lights Festival where we listened to live music, checked out the bocce court, and found jewelry that spoke to and from my heart. Apparently designer Shelbi Lavendar shares my determination to “Live, Laugh, Love…and never forget what made you smile.” And then there was a new adventure… Ernesto, former owner of the The Italian Market, insisted I enter the grape-stomping contest. I did. As I stepped into the tub I romantically remembered the wine-making scene from A Walk in the Clouds though I’ll admit fellow Examiner Kathryn Darden was closer to the truth when she wrote: “In a scene straight out of “I Love Lucy,” there was also a grape stomping competition with fresh grapes and bare feet..”
Not to sound all teacherly, but as a girl who has literally put her money where her mouth is with Classic Coup I believe in promoting the classics. Great books should be read again when we are adults and have life experiences to bring to the reading table. Like gourmet chocolate, a Chanel suit, fine food, or vintage wine, top-shelf classics are the crème de la crème of book fashion. They are evergreen…never out of style because they are all about substance. They provide high protein rather than empty carbs for our inner nerd. They move our heads and hearts. Lit is life because classics are about issues we all face…like what to do with family, friends, career, freedom, injustice. They move us to critical thinking and compassionate living. Lit is Life.
Light beach reads are great, but finally reading or revisiting a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, a national treasure, can be fun in the sun…and more rewarding. Whether you attend Davis Kidd’s celebration of the novel’s 50th birthday July 11 and hear writers read their favorite passages from Harper Lee’s masterpiece…or climb solo into Maycomb, Alabama from your hammock or couch, you’ll be glad you did.
So why do I love TKMB? Rather than count the ways, here’s just one reason published on my Classic Coup blog…
I find the excerpt below link from Maria Puentes’ article encouraging considering that I, too, must write, then store, vignettes and interviews for a book I’m working on . And how inspiring that Lee’s gift to the world began as a gift from her friends:
Although it may read as if it just spooled out of the storyteller, Lee actually struggled with the novel for years in the 1950s while working at menial jobs (airline reservation clerk) in New York. Then some Alabama friends in town gave her a Christmas gift of enough money to quit her job and work full time on the book for a year. A skilled editor helped her turn a series of stories and vignettes into a seamless whole.
Whatever classic you choose, enjoy. And if you put off TKMB for another day, at least watch the Gregory Peck movie. Just sayin’.
Across the Universe of time and place…TKMB isn’t just a Southern thing or meant for people “of a certain age.” On right above is my son, Cole. Below is friend and Public Defender, Greg.
It’s Father’s Day and dads love bargains. Whether Pop secretly yearns for the James Bond DVD collection, the Complete History of WWII or The Best of Three Dog Night–on vinyl no less–take him on a shopping spree to McKay Bookstore. They are open Monday-Thursday 9-9, Friday-Saturday 9-10, and on Sundays 11-7. http://mckaybooks.com
My friend, former-student-then-English- teacher Sara, got hooked on McKay when living in Knoxville. We met at the Nashville store recently where I bought three books from my son’s school’s required reading list and four more for me…travel memoirs of course…for the total price of $7. Many of their books are like new, and those slightly used can cost as little as twenty-five cents. They also buy books, even college texts, DVDs, CDs and videos. Whether you beat a path there today or not, Ms. McCain assigns McKay as a way to beat the heat and catch up on your summer reading.
Thanks to Tori and Mary Emily who both submitted this e. e. cummings poem. It’s one of my favorites, too. If you haven’t sent your favorite poem yet, it’s not too late.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Here are my favorite sonnets by Shakespeare. The first could be given as a party favor if you’re having a Valentine’s Day party and watching Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The poem is used in the movie twice.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
I also love these:
When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
Love Song by Ranier Maria Rilke
How shall I hold on to my soul, so that
it does not touch yours? How shall I lift
it gently up over you on to other things?
I would so very much like to tuck it away
among long lost objects in the dark
in some quiet unknown place, somewhere
which remains motionless when your depths resound.
And yet everything which touches us, you and me,
takes us together like a single bow,
drawing out from two strings but one voice.
On which instrument are we strung?
And which violinist holds us in the hand?
O sweetest of songs.
Yesterday I posted 3 of my favorite love poems. I invited guys to use them or write their own for their girls for Valentine’s Day. My friend, Jesse, posted a comment that included one of his favorite poems. I like it so much I want to share it with you here. Please send your favorite love poem (penned by you or by a favorite author) by way of a Comment on this blog. If you include your permission, I may post it here. Thanks again, Jesse, for this poem by Frank O’Hara!
Having a Coke with You
is even more fun than going to San Sebastain, Irun, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluoresent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasently definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the “Polish Rider” occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the “Nude Descending a Staircase” or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michaelangleo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it
And another added by me frome. e. cummings:
since feeling is first
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for eachother: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph