Literature, Love Letters and a Panoramic View {A Less Digital Life…Day 4}

As I celebrate my 10th anniversary with my husband today, I’m sharing a Literary Date based on Charlotte’s Web. He and I have been reading some classics aloud lately, and the time spent in a book (and away from our computer, TV and smart phones) and experiencing its themes on a date has been invigorating for our relationship. I plan to put together more Literary Date posts based around other books in the months to come, so stay tuned.

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Eleven years ago, this time of year, my future husband and I came out from a little brick building on the edge of the grounds, where contestants glistened under a spotlight hoping for ribbons and crowns, for someone to call them “Sweetheart” there in the sweetcorn capital of the world. Craig’s little sister was one of them. It stinks to have a brother in politics, because you get questions about bioterrorism instead of ones about your platform.

No matter who won the Miss Sweetheart title that night, I knew he was sweet on me. He wore his starched white dress shirt and I wore a dress. Crunching my flats over dry grass on the path to the midway, my arm barely brushing against his, I was like Fern at the fair.

“Well, they’ve got to grow up some time,” said Mr. Arable. “And a fair is a good place to start, I guess.”

I didn’t take a picture that night, not with a camera anyway. But my mind plays the super 8, how I wanted him to kiss me and how he didn’t know if he should try, the wind blowing over hot skin and swaying us in the car at the top of the Ferris wheel, bulbs glowing on the rinky dink coaster below and tiny lampposts shimmering in the distance over flat farmland.

“The most fun there is,” retorted Fern, “is when the Ferris wheel stops and Henry and I are in the top car and Henry makes the car swing and we can see everything for miles and miles.”

The ride circles us from solid ground to windy heights. Up from the whir of carnival attractions, the smell of roasted corn cobs and the swarm of locals, there is a quiet piece of sky and an unobstructed view of the wide open spaces below. Our fingers touch. We feel the tickle in our stomachs. Up and around and down, up and around and down, we watch it all, hear it all, feel it all together.

This year, all these years later, we mill around at our own state fair, this gathering of crops and livestock and locals, celebrating the fruit of hard labor at the end of a season.

The sweet corn is a must, its husk curled down to look like a square dancing skirt. The soda jerks are alive and well at Hook’s Drug Store making black cows like they did for my parents decades ago. There’s the striped tent where they slice the Indiana ribeye thin as a kettle chip. I can never quite stomach the pork, though. In the swine barn, where the blue ribbon hangs, I cheer on the smallest piglet as it roots around for milk.

Wilbur loved his milk, and he was never happier than when Fern was warming up a bottle for him. He would stand and gaze up at her with adoring eyes. 

literarydatecharlottesweb2I look down at my own little one not yet weaned (the one who tags along on all of our date nights) and think of all that has changed in the years since her dad and I sat at the top of that Ferris wheel alone. Now, with a decade of marriage under our belt buckles, we see the world both ways, close up in moments and days, and also in a panorama of seasons.

Our stream of day-to-day text messages boils down to the need of the moment: “Can you pick up laundry detergent and fab softener? Lose your poker game and come home to bed. No cheese on mine…and lemonade with light ice. Let’s walk to town for dinner. Found Farah under her under her covers watching cartoons on my iPad. Did u get to the bank? Taking a nap–exhausted. What do you think of the kids getting a flouride treatment? Bring out a bunch of towels–one of the kids knocked over your root beer and it’s all over the car floor. Elliot broke the pocket hose.”

There is a lot of ordinary, informational communication in living together day in and day out, quite different than the sweeping prose of the emails we used to send. And while stage of parenting has to do with it, the digital life plays its part as well. The more technology advances, the more staccato our culture’s sentiments become. I’ve even heard talk recently of a text or Twitter-type media in which the messages disappear after four seconds (you can imagine why this would appeal to the most unsavory of folks).

When we get a real pen in hand, that seems to be when the defining moments gather into words worth keeping. Anniversaries and other special occasions are one of the few forces able to draw us back to seeing the whole landscape once again. We pull our scattered words into fresh, coherent thoughts, writing one long letter or card, the way Charlotte hunted for that one word and worked tirelessly at her lettering to say just what she felt about Wilbur.

On foggy mornings, Charlotte’s web was truly a thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The web glistened in the light and made a pattern of loveliness and mystery, like a delicate veil…. There, in the center of the web, neatly woven in block letters, was a message. 

Lately, my husband and I have been reading Charlotte’s Web together, experiencing the close-up detail of the farm scene and soaking in the bird’s eye view that E.B. White gives when he describes the seasons and years.

When Craig sat down to write out a card for our anniversary, he ended up grabbing a whole sheet of paper instead. He spun me a string of words, the highlights and lowlights in a stream of consciousness not a chronology, for who has the paper and ink it would take to detail a decade?

As I’ve walked the world hand in hand with this one man for ten years of seasons, E.B. White’s words resonate, “All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy…this lovely world, these precious days…”

All the ordinary and the extraordinary, the daily slop and the miraculous web, it all makes up a meaningful life. And while technology may be a necessary tool or backdrop, it does not deliver the heartiest of things such as “…night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days…. this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.” 

The glory of everything. I find it in God’s creation and man’s cultivation of it. I find it in literature and love letters. I find it when I shift my eyes up from the narrow focus of the screen to see for miles around.

lessdigitalHere’s a little Internet break for you. Right now, before you do anything else online….
Read one chapter of a novel out loud, preferably with the one you love.

 

 

{I’m linking up with Nester for her annual 31 Days blog get together. Don’t want to miss this series? Be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box on the homepage sidebar. Find all posts in the series here.}

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