Archives For Tolkien

Nutmeg and Spice

October 4, 2013 — 2 Comments

I decided to stay home today, to get some rest and try and get over this thing. Chest was pretty congested when I woke up, and I thought about going to the doctor, but so far I haven’t made it past my reading chair.

Of course I have a reading chair. Which is different than the one where I watch films and the televised programs of broadcast and cable. It’s one of those¬†PO√ĄNG¬†chairs from IKEA. Cheap, but comfortable, and perfect for reading books. A chair that almost helps you not nod off to sleep.

Since I’ve been ill so much of the past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time in that chair working through a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read. So much of the past year was spent reading plays and theatre theory and the stack of “other” books to read has gotten rather high. So this is what I’ve been reading lately:

I started James Joyce’s Dubliners unofficially as part of my theatre reading last fall. The Corn Exchange in Dublin was premiering a new production based on the famed short stories and it was a highlight of the 2012 Dublin theatre fest. I never found the time to get them read, unfortunately, and I wish I had, as it would have deepened my appreciation for the Corn Exchange’s play. Anyway, I finished them a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed them quite a bit. I don’t think I’m quite ready to tackle Ulysses, though. Someday.

Another volume I’ve been slowly working through is a collection of Tolkien’s short stories, mostly centered around the theme of wandering into the realm of Faerie. Tales from the Perilous Realm includes all those stories with lovely titles I never got around to reading when I first fell in love with his works: Smith of Wooton Major, Farmer Giles of Ham, and Leaf by Niggle.¬†There’s also the haunting poem “The Sea-Bell”, and his essay “On Fairy Stories”, which I’m about halfway through. Once I complete this book, there won’t be much left of him for me to read.


2013-10-04 13.24.33

After meeting Bill Kelso I read his book on the Jamestown archeological dig, and I wish I could do more with it in class, but 4th grade handles early American history now. I tried dipping into it
in class, but no one was biting.

I’ve tried to work through Ken Robinson’s The Element, thinking that it might have something interesting to say about education and the arts, but it’s mostly self-help nonsense. Best to stick to his TED talks I guess.

A bit of comfort reading has been necessary as well (if Tolkien doesn’t already count), and so I picked up some X-Men comics for old times’ sake. It’s one of those multi-issue crossover things that I usually don’t care for, but so far this one has been decent.

Books that stare out at me waiting to be read include Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, and Savage Continent, a new book about the aftermath of World War II in Europe. Not really anything that relates to fifth grade, but I haven’t had much interest in reading kid lit these days. I think about all the books and stories I haven’t read, and wonder how I’ll ever find the time to fit them all in, so my reading time has been devoted to books just for me. I can’t keep up with the latest “hot” books for elementary students, nor have I much interest in books on whatever trendy educational models people are reading. No Daily Five for me. Though, Summerhill School, by A.S. Neill recently wound up in my Amazon cart. Certainly not a trendy or recent book, but one that keeps niggling away at the corners of my brain.

Advertisements

There and Back Again

December 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

2012-10-31 13.02.47

Of course I’d finish this with a Tolkien reference.

To know me is to know my long love of The Lord of the Rings and my ability to connect any and all parts of my life to moments from Tolkien’s works. It’s been almost 30 years now since we were assigned The Hobbit in school, which I tore through in a matter of days and was halfway through The Two Towers by the time the class finished the book. I suppose I’ve outgrown certain parts of the story: the magic and the monsters, mostly, although I still dream of owning my own Hobbit-hole someday.

What stays with me are the small moments, mostly about travel: Bilbo quietly slipping away into the night after laying down his burdens; Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin on the road, heading out of the Shire; the weather-stained clothes and long legs of Strider appearing in a corner of the Prancing Pony. And of course, the idea of regular, small-town folk finding themselves forever changed after going on a great journey.

I’ve traveled quite extensively over the past ten years or so, but after the wandering was done I always came back the same person, to the same town, to the same job. A friend of mine would always say she hoped I would find what I was looking for, after heading out on another one of my solo journeys. I don’t think I ever did, because I was never really sure what I was supposed to find. I was always happy to return home to my friends and family and familiarity.

He lived alone, as Bilbo had done; but he had a good many friends, especially among the younger hobbits.¬†Frodo went tramping over the Shire with them; but more often he wandered by himself, and to the amazement of sensible folk he was sometimes seen far from home walking in the hills and woods under the starlight. He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. He began to say to himself: ‘Perhaps I shall cross the River myself one day.’ To which the other half of his mind always replied: ‘Not yet.’

It took me a long time to finally cross the River myself. And the last six months certainly weren’t as dramatic or traumatic as Frodo’s journey, and there are others out there that have seen and done far more than I ever did while in Dublin. But it is no small thing to pack up your entire life and start over in a faraway place. For a while I thought I was heading over there for good, but reality and practicality have brought me back home once again. In my last post, I wondered what that would be like, and after being home for a week or so, I think I’ve answered my own question.

In the book, the four hobbits return to a Shire badly scarred by the War of the Ring, something the movie altered for a simpler ending. While I prefer the book’s version of events, the idea that Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to a place completely unchanged has a different resonance now with me. They sit in the Green Dragon and toast each other and no one else has any idea what they’ve been through and how it’s forever changed them. And try as he might, Sam will never be able to convince the people of the Shire that he’s seen an Oliphaunt.

rotk2438

*   *   *

This is the 40th post, and the last of the tales of my adventures there and back again. Tomorrow I turn 41. Normally I gather together friends and family at a local establishment and we eat and drink in honor of myself. Tomorrow I will probably just go for a long walk. But if I had my way, I would throw some essentials into a pack, grab a good walking stick, and quietly disappear into the night, in search of wild lands and mountains I have never seen. Or perhaps even head back to Dublin. A fine place, it is, full of people I am proud to call my dear friends. “Merry be the greenwood, while the world is yet young! And merry be all your folk!”

wicklow wear

*   *   *

Before I close, I thought I would add a little something for everyone’s enjoyment, if they like this sort of thing. One of the first posts I wrote on this site was called “Passengers.” A reference to a Lisa Hannigan song that ran constantly through my head while I was in Ireland, and also to those that I left behind: my friends and family, and especially my students. This blog was written primarily for them, and if they are still reading it, I hope that they enjoyed following along on my adventures. They, and everyone else back home, were passengers with me, and I thought of them often. So here’s a little something that sums up my time over there, in video form. Hopefully people don’t mind me using these clips of them. I imagine I’ll have more people upset that they weren’t included. Strange to see who and what I don’t have recorded; I could have used a lot more of my friends and family on here, and some students from way back, but hopefully I was able to capture a small slice of my life.

*   *   *

Okay, one more thing. While the farewells in Dublin were sad, and the drive to the airport was just a horrible day all-around, I have to say that it was very heart-warming to have my mother (and fellow world traveler) meet me at the airport.

2012-12-19 15.33.07

Okay, I’ve ended this thing enough times already. Thanks to all my readers, and please stay tuned: these are just the first 40 posts of the 4-T Tales. Even though I have just returned home, I think I am quite ready to go on another journey.