Celebrating Three Special People

Cue the herald trumpets!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time will know that October 1 is a special day of celebration for me. It is the birthday of three people whom I admire, who have directly or indirectly provided guidance, example, wisdom, and strength. As is my custom when October 1 falls on or near a blogging day, today I want to celebrate those three very special people.

(Parts of this tribute were originally posted on October 1, 2012, but the post has been revised and expanded for today’s tribute.)

Photo of Beverley (Stilborn) Brenna from Beverley’s personal collection. All rights reserved.

This delightful little girl reading a story to her doll has grown up to be a delightful woman who still has that lovely smile, and who now not only reads books but also writes them (she’s also an oral storyteller, poet, all-round wordsmith). It is as a writer that most of you know her.

Her name is Beverley Brenna, and I’m privileged to know her as a dearly loved cousin as well as one of my favorite authors. I’ve blogged about her writing often, and will include a few links at the end of this post. Today, though, I want to focus on another aspect of her life — her love of nature. In fact, it is that aspect that I will focus on as I reflect on each of the three people I’m honoring today.

Bev’s parents, who also had a great influence on my life, loved to go out and ramble in the countryside, searching for wildflowers (including rare wild orchids in Waskesiu — it is one of Uncle Arthur’s wonderful wild orchid photographs that adorns the cover of Wild Orchid); canoeing across Waskesiu Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin; and through their own enthusiasm and example, teaching their three children (and their nieces) to share their love of the natural world.

This love of nature shines through in all Bev’s writing, since there is always an undercurrent of taking joy in nature and of environmental concern in her writings. Just one example from many I could have chosen is taken from the short story Finding Your Voice from Bev’s anthology of varied stories, Something to Hang On To. “Janine remembers how it felt to shout across the water and listen to her voice as it swept all the way to the sunrise and back.” Mmmmmm… that is so evocative and real.

*    *    *

October 1st is also the birth date of Julie Andrews, a woman whom I have long admired for her innate optimism, her resilience, her work ethic, her love of family, her imagination, as well as for her writing and her dramatic and musical talents. When she was growing up, her dad, Ted Wells, imparted to her his deep love for nature, and for noticing the amazing detail in the natural world around us. From her autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, “Throughout our childhood, he exposed us to the wonders of nature. One of my earliest memories was his taking me outside to view a large ants’ nest, which he had discovered under a stone while gardening. … we pored over this nest for a good hour or more.”

The book in which this early influence is most evident is The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, in which the children are urged to look closely, to notice every detail of what is around them, to really see beyond a surface glance. I have celebrated that way of seeing in my blog post about this book, which you may find here.

Ted Wells’ nurturing led to a lifelong love of, and delight in, the natural world for Julie Andrews. In one of the introductory passages in Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies, she mentions a game she played with her own children. It sounds much like the Look and Listen Walks I often exhort people to do, and would be a great way to get children to really notice and celebrate our world. She says, “When I became a parent, I would take my children into the garden and we would play games of ‘discovery’ — what colors, even in the winter, could we spot? What sounds? What smells?” What might you discover if you went into your back garden today?

*    *    *

The third person in this triumvirate of October 1 birthdays is former US President Jimmy Carter, who is 94 today. I first became aware of Mr. Carter when he was running for President back in the mid 1970s. (In a happy coincidence, I learned years later that he had announced his candidacy on my birthday in 1974!) I admired him from the get-go, but came to understand and admire him much more deeply when I began reading his books in the 1990s.

Most of his books, of course, are focused on politics or diplomacy, or on the Christian faith, but he has also written about his love of, and experiences in, the natural world. Many people know of his diplomatic efforts, his election monitoring around the globe, and his hands-on work with Habitat for Humanity.

Fewer are likely aware that he has climbed mountains such as Kilimanjaro in Africa; as a former farmer, he is still keenly interested in agriculture; and he and his wife Rosalynn are avid birders, often building in time in their international travels to go out with an experienced local birder to search for birds to add to their life lists. Reading his book Sharing Good Times opens one’s eyes to the many facets of this vibrantly active man’s life. It is from a poem in his poetry collection Always A Reckoning that I wish to quote, however. From his poem Light Comes in Turkey Country:

I know the forest on my farm
best at breaking day
when birdcalls seem to draw
the darkness back
that cages me.

Can’t you just feel that cage of darkness and the joy of being released from it by the songs of birds heralding the morning?

*    *    *

All three of these people have touched my life in a myriad of ways. One is our shared love of the world around us, in all its beauty and its potential. Through their writing and their way of being in this world, they have taught me more about how to be, how to care, how to be curious and eager to learn, how to live. I am grateful to each of them.

As promised, here are links to some of my blog posts about books written by Bev, and by Julie Andrews, and to interviews with them. I haven’t posted as much about Jimmy Carter, but I will share a few of my favorite titles, and urge you to discover his writing for yourself.

Fox Magic by Beverley Brenna

Interview with Beverley Brenna after she won a Printz Honor for her YA book, The White Bicycle.

The Bug House Family Restaurant by Beverley Brenna

Wild Orchid and Waiting for No One by Beverley Brenna


Dragon, Hound of Honor by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton

Julie’s Greenroom (Netflix series) featuring Julie Andrews

The Very Fairy Princess Takes the Stage by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Interview with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton about their novel-to-musical project, The Great American Mousical


And now a few links outside my blog, for books by Jimmy Carter

Everything to Gain by Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter

Keeping Faith by Jimmy Carter

The Virtues of Aging by Jimmy Carter

An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter

Happy birthday to all three — and many more!


As a bonus for those readers who love Bev’s young adult novel Wild Orchid, which is set in Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, a photo of Bev, aged 9, dipping her toes into Waskesiu Lake.

Photo of Beverley (Stilborn) Brenna from Beverley’s private collection. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Celebrating Three Special People”

  1. Charlotte Dixon

    Beautiful tribute to people who influenced you. Nature is sometimes left out of today’s busy world. It does the soul good to stop and breathe the sweetness held in each fold of nature’s charm. Thank you for sharing, Beth.

    1. Thank you, Charlotte. Nature is so healing — and after a week like last week, many people are in need of healing. Thank you for your words “stop and breathe the sweetness held in each fold of nature’s charm.” Beautiful.

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