Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Roving Rabbits, Lost Boys and Small Animals with Sharp Swords

This is "production week" for Dear Daughter's play, so we've had three nights in a row of not getting home until 9 p.m. That doesn't sound like such a late hour, except she is only 11 and 6 a.m. comes awfully early. We have two more nights of rehearsal and preparation, and then...Showtime!

In other news, the Loved One departed Monday for the Great White North. Actually, he made a side trip to Portland and Bend, Oregon to see his mother, sister and brother. The Loved One is the original Road Warrior--he racks up more travel hours in a month that many people do in a year, but he seems to thrive on the sleep deprivation, airport coffee and Cinnabons. He called a few hours ago from the back of a school bus bumping along a narrow, one-lane company road meandering in a southeasterly direction between Fairbanks, AK and Absolutely the Middle of Nowhere. I love these phone calls -- although I do infinitely prefer our face-to-face conversations -- but talking to him while I'm in my office, or cooking dinner or knitting and while he's in a 10-seater airplane over the Alaskan Range or wondering if the bus is going to hit a moose (again) is pretty exciting. We're 4,000 miles and three time zones apart, but when we talk it's like he's sitting across our rather groovy kitchen table from one another. Plus, I get to live vicariously through his adventures and he always has some remarkable tale to tell in that deadpan, Sam Elliott kind of way he has about him.

It’s a good day for British literature enthusiasts. On this day, James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan was born in 1860. Today in 1920 marks the nativity of Richard Adams, who wrote the lovely and gentle (well, maybe not so gentle) Watership Down. Both of these books are great stories for children, and sadly are overlooked in these days of cartoon characters, mass merchandising and brand recognition. Most people know the Peter Pan story either through Mary Martin's laughable 1954 performance, the Walt Disney animated film or through the really-truly bad Hook, from the early 1990s, featuring Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and (gag me with the fairy dust, already) Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell. To truly get at the heart of what this story is about, you simply must read the book--take the time and savor the language and put it into the context of the Victorian tale.

Watership Down is perhaps lesser known, but is just as wonderful. The tale of a group of wild rabbits whose habitat is destroyed to make room for a housing development, Watership Down contains multiple themes and layers, including an entire mythology and language (Lapine). Dear Daughter received the book a couple of Christmases ago and devoured it. No big surprise, knowing her love for all things rabbit (except cage-cleaning). I went back and read it also, and then we rented the very excellent BBC animated production from 1978.

Continuing the theme of xenofiction, we're also currently revisiting the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. There are 13 novels in this series, detailing the lives and adventures of a group of small animals dwelling in an abbey and the surrounding forest. Certain species -- mice, squirrels, hares, badgers, otters and shrews -- tend to be kindly and peaceful; while the foxes, rats, stoats, ferrets and lizards are as nasty as they come. Like Watership Down, the characters of Redwall have their own history, literature and philosophy. I've been trying to spark Dear Daughter's interest in the books for a couple of years, but it's only recently that she's truly wanted to read them. Best Friend's younger brother is going through my shelf of them now. He's such a gentle and sweet fellow, but he also likes swords and animals. He's devouring the series, and it's a joy to talk about them with him.

I promised a photo or two, so here they are. The first is from tonight. The other is from at least two years ago. Both feature some of my very favorite people.

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