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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Always Something There to Remind Me.”

I was too young to remember it when my mum sang Amazing Grace and rocked me to sleep as a small baby, but I do remember the years of my dad singing me to sleep. My dad can’t hold a tune, but five year old me can’t tell, and his voice and his presence reassure me. He sings familiar songs: Kumbaya, Micheal Row Your Boat Ashore, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. When I grow older and I bustle around some nights tucking my sisters into bed, I will sing those songs too. But now, before Dad leaves me for the night, there is one more song I want to hear.

“Almost heaven/West Virginia/blue ridge mountains/Shenandoah river…” 

This song will always be calming to me, will always sound good in my dad’s voice. When I meet my uncle, the country singer, I will ask him if he knows this one. And now, it will put me to sleep.

“take me home/Country Roads” 

———-

“There’s a storm across the valley/the clouds are rolling in/the afternoon is heavy on your shoulders…”

Every time I hear this song, it’s like driving along a Saskatchewan highway in the winter. The heat in the van is on, my younger siblings are asleep, and the dark outside is not much deeper than the gloom inside. Frost has formed on my window and I trail a finger across it, then press my palm there hoping to cool down a bit. The slow melody lulls me and I curl up in my backseat, letting my eyes fall shut. The only sounds besides the music is the hum of the engine, and I can almost sleep. One song shifts into another for hours yet, until we pull up at my grandparents’ house in Saskatoon. But when we crawl into our beds and I do fall asleep, this song is the one still running through my head.

———–

Even in South Africa, this song makes me feel at home. I close my eyes and I smell spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove, I see the bright lights of our kitchen and hear my dad singing along tunelessly.

“…strangers, waiting/up and down the boulevard/their shadows searching in the night…”

I feel my sisters’ hands in mine as we dance, see their grinning faces as I spin them. My father is jumping up and down with a spoon in his hand, now. This is his favourite song. I like it because it is his.

————

To this day, Puff the Magic Dragon makes me think of Viva Puff cookies, and the couch in my grandparents’ sun room, warm light coming in through the windows, the sweetness of the marshmallow and jelly, and my Papa telling me I may have two.

————

“every time/I close my eyes/it’s you/and I know now/who I am/yeah yeah yeah/and I know now…”

This song somehow is a comfort though it feels so lonely. I listen to it and I feel my head rattling as it rests on the bus window. I hear it and I’m staring out over English countryside at herds of sheep. Somehow, along with it come the sounds of forty band students chattering and singing, and a feeling of anticipation: what will we see today? Where do we play? Who will we hear?

“You don’t know you’re beautiful!”

One Direction comes on next.

————

Any song by Shania Twain will do it, but Rock This Country is the strongest. I’m back in my grandparents’ basement, the Christmas my cousins got a karaoke machine. My oldest cousin got a Shania Twain CD to go along with it, and I’m certain this was our favourite song. We sing along as best we can and dance like maniacs, jumping around and laughing until our stomachs hurt. It’s just the two of us down there: the boys have wandered off and the little girls are still very little (if they’re born at all). But we are loud and excited and overflowing with energy; we don’t need anyone else to have fun. Just two cousins, rocking out, having a blast. But what I remember the most is that she is herself; loud and happy and energized and fully in that moment. And in that moment she is still alive.

*****

The song lyrics used in this little collection of memories, in order, are the following:
Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Back Home Again by John Denver
Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
Dream Catch Me by Newton Faulkner
You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful by One Direction

Memory Playback

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Posted by on July 22, 2015 in Blogging 101

 

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A Letter to Jack

I have never before written a fan letter. But the Blogging 101 assignment today was to write with someone in mind. This may not be what they had in mind, but I do think it still reaches out to my target audience as it is about reading and writing. 

To Mr. Lewis,
It has been a long time since I first discovered your books. They were my introduction to the world of fantasy, the first books I wished I could stay in forever. I still remember coming to the end of The Last Battle and laughing with delight, doing a cartwheel across the living room. Yes, it made me cartwheel. I read that particular book over and over, finding myself quoting along with Lucy to repel Tash as he stood in the barn glaring down at Tirian.
And I just want to thank you. Thank you so much for setting out the story of Narnia for the world to see. I hear it all started with a picture of a faun with an umbrella – and Tumnus remains an iconic figure of Narnia, representative of all the brave creatures we can encounter there. The world would be much poorer has Tumnus never encountered Lucy in that snowy wood.
I would be very different. For when did I first learn that a story can be more than idle amusement, if not when I read the Chronicles of Narnia? It was Lucy who taught me faith, she who always trusted Aslan, and who knew Him well enough to see Him when nobody else could. Do I have the integrity of Tirian, to confess my sins, and to stand strong for what is right, until the bitter end? Am I as brave as Peter, to follow even when I know nothing of how to begin? And how better to understand redemption and unconditional love than through Edmund’s eyes? In Edmund our own selfishness and temptations are brought to light, and when he is saved we too feel the price of our rescue. How profound, how terrible and yet wonderful was it for me, as a child, to see this comparison for the first time!
Just last night, my sister and I sat down to a new experience of an old story. We put on the Focus on the Family Radio Play of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and listened to it straight through, for two and a half hours. All these things came rushing back to me as I listened. When Beaver first told of Aslan, a thrill of hope and light shot through me. When Aslan revealed Himself, alive again, to Susan and Lucy at the Stone Table, I got a feeling like a building, laughing roar, the kind I imagine Aslan gave as the girls chased Him around the table. Your friend Tolkien speaks of the word eucatastrophe, and I think the ones in your books are some of the best ever (if we don’t include their real life counterparts, obviously).
While we’re here, I would like to express my admiration and appreciation of your other works as well. Mere Christianity, which I read this past year, gives such a clear picture of things that I before struggled to explain. Screwtape forces us to consider the war we are in. The Space Trilogy, which I have not yet finished, intrigues me and I look forward to reading more of it.
Mr Lewis, you cannot know what an impact you have had on me as a writer myself. You have challenged me to know the Truth, and to ensure that in everything I do I reflect it well. I am sure that my writing will not do half so well as yours, but I can at least do well by the small gifts that are given me.
So, thank you, so very much.
Yours,
Sarah

P.S. I would like to know what happened to Susan, in the end.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2015 in Blogging 101, On Media

 

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On Going Somewhere Else

I have always understood the desire to escape, to leave real life behind for a while. It’s not that my life is so bad that I need to get out. I’m thankful for my family and friends, for the roof over my head and the food I always have enough of. Despite my shyness and tendency to prefer books to people, I was rarely picked on. On the occasions I was picked on, it was usually because I didn’t get the joke, and once I did get it, I often felt more mature for not finding it very funny. So no, bullying didn’t scar me.

So why leave?

I don’t know.

And yet, I do. I love new places – I love the thrill of them, the beauty of them, the strangeness of them. France was never high on my destinations list, but I did an exchange there the summer before grade ten. Even stepping into the airport was fantastic, and seeing Paris was a delight. Imagine the joy, then, of a small town in Normandy, of a room on the top floor of the house next to the tall stone church, of the ruins of an abbey just down the street. What curiosity to get breakfast from the baker’s each morning, and to always have apéritif before supper. That month was when I knew I would have to see the world. With my family I saw France again, and Germany. South Africa was the latest step in this, and I loved that, too. None of this on its own satisfied me, though. I reached further away, always thinking about where else I could go, what else I could see.

I know, though, that escaping started even earlier. I can’t remember the first time I wished myself into a story, and I hardly stopped. Narnia, Middle-Earth, Malkier, Regency England, Hogwarts, A Galaxy Far, Far Away, the TARDIS… places that grew in my mind. I have a very vivid imagination, and stories never ended where the pages left off. There was more, and I could step into those lands and be a part of them. They were rich and bright and full of life. They were new and exotic, with hidden dangers and brilliant delights. I wanted to see them and they welcomed me in. When I really settled in, I found the darkness along with the delights. I saw monsters and terrible men. I felt an awful fear. Yet the joy always outweighed everything else, and at the end of all things I found myself in Aslan’s Country or in Valinor, where nothing terrible could last.

I found I loved the person that I was there. I was bolder and stronger. I have always been smart but here I learned what I wanted to and knew whatever was needed. My friends and family in real life were great, but few, and in my head I was recognized (though in real life I feared recognition – and still sometimes do). People sought my advice and let me into their lives. In short, I became a hero. But with that, I ‘grew up’. A hero knows that war is not glorious but something to hate, even when you are standing against creatures of pure evil. The fortunate friend and confidante knows what it is to have your heart cry for the pain of others.

I am sure this is the story of nearly everyone who reads good stories.

When I went away on outtatown this year, I found a place in the real world for the first time. I saw many new places and enjoyed everything about them that was good and amazing. I learned about their darkness, too, and knew to fear it. I found a place among friends where I was recognized for my gifts and taught to grow – what a blessing! My family grew enormously this past year, and I know better than I ever could have imagined what it feels like when your heart cries. For a while, I didn’t have to go into a story to be someone I loved. I was bold and strong and knowledgeable and ready to grow in all of those things.

Now I’m home, and I feel a bit out of place again. I can still see my place in this world quite clearly, and I can see that I have it in me to be everything I imagined I could be. But I often feel held down, and I reach out to the familiar places I have never seen, to the friends I never knew who know me inside out.

And so I will uphold the value of escaping, because without first running away, I would not ever have chosen my own adventures. I would never have imagined I could be more than a meek, geeky girl. And I would never have known that there was something more to reach for. This world can limit us to our hometown and the person everyone thinks we are. I think the Enemy would like us to stay right where we are and never reach for what could be. J. R. R. Tolkien said it better than I:

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Blogging 101

 

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Introduction

A bit late, I know. Blogging 101 wanted an introduction post, which I suppose is smart. Part of this is also on the page titled ‘Where am I?”

I am Sarah. I’m not much of a talker, but I think blogging will be a good communication method for me because a) I like to think before I speak on anything important and b) my thoughts sound much better written down. But this blog isn’t primarily for my thoughts, it’s for my stories and poems. I admit that the posts on here will be varied, because what I want to share varies, and I can’t be bothered to run more than one blog. That’s a lot of work for my little ideas.

I want to hear from readers and writers. There are people in my non-internet life who read my work sometimes, and they love me and tell me how great it is. This is very good for building my self-esteem but not for improving my writing. So I would really like to hear what people think I’m doing well, and what I could do better. It’s good to hear from readers who know what they like, and from writers who know what they’re doing.

As for what I want to accomplish, I’m not sure. I just want this to be a growing experience for me and for my writing.

So, you clicked on a link and it brought you here. Where are you?

You are Elsewhere. Why? Because I’m on a journey. Elsewhere could mean we’re encountering God in Africa or on the streets of Vancouver. It could mean we’re falling head-first off a bridge with only a bungee cord to catch us. It could mean we’re fighting dragons or evil overlords. It could mean we’re discovering what it is to live in an internet-connected world and what we do with the power of connection. Wherever this takes me, I’m sharing it with you.

I’ve always had a lot to say, but I’ve rarely shared it. I only started this blog because I was going on an adventure: to South Africa with the outtatown program. But I’m here, and I’ve decided I like this idea of blogging. So I guess you need to know what this blog is all about.

Writing is not only how I communicate, it’s how I understand the world. For me, writing is a process of exploration – looking into the world I’m creating in order to see not only something new, but a reflection or revelation of the world I live in. I don’t often share what I write, but for the most part, that’s what this blog will be about. Writing and reading, because words and stories are a big part of my life. If I have adventures, or something comes up that I want to talk about, I will. My posts from the past year are adventure-type posts, after all.

I don’t know if this will ever amount to much. I’ll be honest, here. I’m not that interesting, though I hope my writing is more interesting than my life. I just want to give little insights and make little impacts by going where God leads me. He gave me stories to tell, so here I am.

It’s nice to meet you,  by the way. I hope you hang around and leave me something to say hi. If you’re reading, I would like to hear back from you. Your thoughts might be more interesting than mine!

Sarah

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Blogging 101

 

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