Julie Andrews

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.) 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 …

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Moving Forward — Open to Possibilities

As I said in my last blog post of 2013, I won’t be doing my month-end accountability posts this year. Instead, in keeping with my chosen theme for the year of moving forward, the last Monday of each month will feature a post designed to get us all thinking about some aspect of moving forward in our lives. This blog post was inspired when I recently started re-reading Julie Andrews Edwards’ wonder-filled middle grade novel, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Early in the book, the children meet a delightfully eccentric professor, who tells them of the amazing land of the Whangdoodle. When they ask him how to get to Whangdoodleland, his answer at first makes them scoff, but later makes them learn to think and see in an entirely new way.

She Shoulda Been a Contender!

Likely everyone has a film or two, and an actor or two, they think should have won an Oscar. No doubt some of that is cropping up in water cooler and coffee room conversations all over the United States and Canada today, as people talk about last night’s Academy Awards. I want to take you a little further back than last night’s award ceremony, to a film and a performance that I rate as Oscar worthy. The film was released in 1986. The Oscar ceremony for which it was not even a nominee — nor was its star — was held on March 30, 1987. (And I need to say now — sorry, Erik, but it’s a movie you won’t be able to watch for a few more years. You can keep reading this post, though!) Who was missing from the nominees that year?

Counting Down the Days to the Holidays — In Poetry

This isn’t the post I’d planned for today, but my friend Jan shared an idea with me that I am enjoying so much that I pre-empted my own schedule to share it with you. Many people — especially families — enjoy Advent calendars at this time of year, whether ones that have pictures or lines of the Christmas story under the daily flaps, or the ones I suspect kids like the best — the ones with a chocolate or candy under the flap. Christmas is not the only holiday at this time of year that lends itself to a countdown, though, and especially to the sort of countdown Jan suggested…

Dreams Really Do Come True — The Great American Mousical

In the wonderful new musical, The Great American Mousical, the young theatre intern mouse Pippin sings a song called “What Do You Think of That?” in which he expresses his excitement and awe at finally being on Broadway, realizing his dream. The verse that begins “What do you think of that? Dreams really do come true!” resonates so with me. Click for a snippet of the song from a preview reading. When I first learned that the book The Great American Mousical by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton was going to be produced as a stage musical, I yearned to travel to see it, but told myself it was totally out of the question. Then one morning, I awoke remembering how much my mother had loved Mousical, and decided that on the second anniversary of her death I would be in the audience at the Norma Terris Theatre… and I was. As I sat in the theatre, watching Pippin’s joy light the stage as he exulted in being where he’d always dreamed of being, tears filled my eyes, and I thought, “Mum — dreams really do come true. I’m here. And it’s wonderful.”

Looking Ahead to Opening Night (Looking Today at Winners!)

As you know, throughout October I ran posts about the upcoming production of the new musical The Great American Mousical at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Connecticut. I talked about many children’s books that have become successful stage (and screen) musicals on October 3, I talked about a quote from Katherine Anne Porter and how it features in Mousical on October 10, I was delighted to feature an interview with Mousical director Julie Andrews and author Emma Walton Hamilton on October 17, we discovered that Mousical teaches a great deal about theatre basics on October 24, and finally, we did some speculating on how costume designer Tony Walton will portray the mice, on October 31. As you also know, a feature of all those posts was the potential of winning one of three copies of the hardcover edition of The Great American Mousical, a giveaway that was open to all who commented on any of those posts before today. I’m delighted to be able to announce the winners, although as always with these giveaways, I wish I had a copy for each of you. So, Maestro Maraczek *, if we could have a drumroll and fanfare, please? Thank you. The winners are… (Yes, you’re going to have to click the magic words to make the winners names appear. There has to be at least a modicum of suspense, does there not?)

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