Wednesday, February 23

The Good Earth

Someone asked me recently if I like reading. I told her that I am not a good reader but if I have time, I do enjoy reading if the book is well written or is about something that interests me. But try and find a book about dragons that is poorly written, I dare you.

A lot of the things Ma has had me read lately I have not enjoyed even though they were well written, because they were about things that nobody enjoys. Things like Russian work camps. Stuff that sends chills up your spine. And so as I picked up The Good Earth, I was cautious and did not expect to enjoy it. But I dove right in anyway.

It didn't take long for me to recognize the story. I had not finished the first chapter before I knew the basic plot. The man gets married, treats his wife like crap, his wife is still loyal, he becomes wealthy and falls in love with a young woman and marries her, the first wife dies, young chick gets the first wife's pearl earrings. You can even ask Lynae if I didn't tell her all those things would happen.

I don't know how long ago it was, but I knew I had seen a movie of this story sometime a very long time ago. I remembered the young man at the beginning of the story was getting married that day, and he was so excited that he was even going to wash his whole body. I think I was eight or possibly younger when I saw it. But I remembered it.

The book is believable, and could very easily be a true story. It is about humans who act and think like humans. Nobody reads it and wishes they had a similar life to any of the characters, but I think everyone sees a little of themselves in it if they are honest.

The first part of the book is enjoyable. The young family is poor and they work very hard, O-lan working in the fields with her husband until she must take a break for a few hours to give birth, and then coming back out to help him for the rest of the day. Wang Lung treats his wife fairly and he trusts her. We also see that he is honest, when even though they haven't eaten meat in months he refuses to eat meat that his son stole.

The high point of the story is brief. Wang Lung acquires a bag of silver and his wife finds a handful of jewels, which allows them to purchase three hundred acres of the finest rice fields and makes them wealthy. But a bad year comes and Wang Lung, having nothing to do but wait, goes into town and spends his time with another woman. Over and over again he tells himself that because he owns so much land and has so much money, it is okay for him to spend time with other women besides his wife, because everyone who has as much land or money as he does so. And then he tells himself that it's okay for him to marry this woman because everyone with as much land or money as he has does so.

That's where the story starts heading to its low point. Wang Lung keeps getting richer and buying things that should make him happy, but they don't help. Anything he buys is like a band aid. He sends his sons to school, but the oldest son skips school and gets into mischief with his cousin, and his youngest son won't be content until he becomes a soldier. His middle son is thrifty and brings him joy, but even he fails his father by the end of the story, ignoring his father's counsel to not sell the land. As he gets older, Wang Lung realizes that everything is backwards. His daughters make him happier than his sons, and of them all the one that brings him the most joy is retarded. The book doesn't really say what the child's problem was, but she is always referred to as the "poor fool" who couldn't speak or understand anything that was happening. The young new wife is constantly demanding things, and by the end of the story he goes out of his way to annoy her.

The story closes with Wang Lung leaving his palace to live in his old earthen hut, and to be near the land where he was born and where he was content with O-lan. "Out of the land we came, and into it we must go," he says, reminding us of Genesis 3:19, "For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

Saturday, February 19

It must be February again

Wow, am I feeling dark. Of all my outlets, there aren't really any where I'm truly free to express myself. At least that's my current perception. Maybe it's better that way.

February in Minnesota is somewhat like transition in childbirth.

Tuesday, February 8

Grace's Blouse

This year, I have been taking a sewing course from one of the ladies in our church for high school. Mom drew up a list of things she wanted me to know how to do by the time the course was over. One of the things Mom wanted me to learn was how to smock. Well, when I first read that, I had no clue what smocking was. Thankfully, my teacher, Mrs. B., knows all about that stuff. That's why Mom wanted her to teach me.
Anyway, Mrs. B. got out some books and found a pattern that included smocking that she thought I might be interested in making. It was for a girls blouse that looked absolutely darling. Right away I could envision Grace skipping around in it on Christmas morning with a big smile on her face because I had made something specially for her. I said sure, and we started cutting out pattern copies and fabric.
Fast forward about a month and a half. Christmas morning. The blouse was finished, wrapped, and waiting under the tree. With my camera on and in hand, I watched as Grace unwrapped it.
Isn't she cute?
Look at those eyes! You think she likes it?! Me too. :)
Here's what the front looks like.

A close-up of the front smocking. Note that I used three different colors; starting with the boldest and ending with the lightest to give the appearance, from far away, that the smocking gradually disappears into the lower front.

The inside of the front smocking. That smocked row at the top helps hold all the pleats in place.

The outside of one of the sleeves. I used the same pattern and colors for the sleeves as with the front.

And the inside of the sleeve. Here I did three rows on the inside because there are no seams to help hold the pleats together. This also gives that smocked area on the sleeve some elasticity.

So what do you think? Does it look daunting to you? Well, stay tuned; I'll be posting about my second smocking project with more pictures and more in-depth descriptions soon. :)