Saturday, January 28, 2023

Squint your eyes just right and hold your head just so

The book in question
Back in the day I wrote a ton of blog posts… if you keep scrolling down and go to “older posts,” you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about my quirky view of God and life and art. And I’d like to jump back into that… reflecting and opining and just generally sharing my low-key life with you. I have stuff to say… is it worth your time? Only you know that, my friend. 

Anyway, I’m kicking this clambake off with a quasi book review. “Quasi” because it’s not so much a review as—“I’ll talk about the book a bit then chew on some other stuff that it stirs up in my crazy brain.” The book in question is All in a Garden Green, by Paul J. Willis. It falls smack dab in the middle of the Young Adult (YA) genre—and although I can’t really guess exactly what age reader it targets, I, an adult, was there for it. 

All in a Garden Green focuses on a young girl called Erica who goes with her family to stay in a manor house in England for a summer and finds herself slipping in and out between her time and 1578. A number of coincidences occur (weirdly, she just happens to be the spitting image of the girl who lives in the house in the past), music is played on a virginal, and things get a little dicey because she doesn't really know how to act.
If you're wondering what a
virginal is—it's a forerunner
of the piano.

It’s far-fetched, but a fun, well-written story with a lot of things I’m a sucker for… 
  1. YA lit - I’m a proud binger of YA stuff like the Twilight and The Hunger Games series… Call it a guilty pleasure, call me immature… Maybe my inner teenager demands an easy, engrossing read every now and then. 
  2. Cameos - I love a famous person dropping in! Like in Doctor Who when they meet Shakespeare or Nikola Tesla? A cool story about a time traveling teenager trying not to be discovered out of time is doubly awesome with Good Queen Bess stopping by. 
  3. England.  
  4. Time Travel - and this is where I’m going to veer off down my own garden path… 
Yeah, I love me some Outlander

There’s a whole slew of fiction that spins yarns about time travel, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve had periods of obsession with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The “science” that it offers is that there are particular places—in this case, a stone circle—where the veil between time periods is thin, and people can go back and forth into different times. In this case, a lady from the 1940s stumbles into it and ends up in Scotland in 1745. All sorts of adventures ensue, including lots of love and sex and war and treachery and so forth. 

All hallows eve...
a time for haints?
Because I’m slightly obsessed with what it was actually like the past, the idea that there would be places where the veil between time periods is thin fascinates me. Obviously this manor house that Erica summers at in All in a Garden Green is just such a place. She’s loitering in the hall in the present day, then turns a door knob and *poof*—she's in the 16th century, where she struggles to avoid being outed as a time traveler. It's like the premise of the British show Torchwood where there’s a “rift” in time and space at a particular place in Wales where creatures and objects from other times and worlds would come through and the protagonists have to deal with it. 

Pure T creepy!

It’s also a bit like the spooky idea that Halloween is a time when the veil between the spirit world and the physical world is thin and that’s why there might be ghosts about. For ancient Scandinavians, winter solstice was another time with a skimpy veil… and that's why the Brits tell ghost stories at Christmas. Charles Dickens really played it up, and now it’s a tradition that lives on over the pond. He did so much for the season, our Charles. Tom and I spent some time this year watching a series called A Ghost Story for Christmas on BritboxTV. Some of these creepy little vignettes will make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up! Like the one about the man whose wife is in a dementia ward but also haunting him at a lonely seaside hotel. PURE T creepy!! 

Where time and space bleed together
“Thin” places and seasons where other worlds and times bleed through are, of course, firmly in the realm of fantasy and superstition. I know that. But… then again... isn’t church ACTUALLY just such a place? A scene where both time and the spiritual world bleed through? Hear me out: the Sacraments—like Baptism and Holy Communion—are meant to “impart divine grace.” So… they’re conduits of the spiritual world into the physical. And the old songs we sing... and the ancient God we worship... People have being doing these things since church was a thing. Occasionally, when I’m in church… if I squint my eyes just right and hold my head just so, I can almost see backward and forward through time, as Christians of all the ages that ever were and ever will be invite God into their midst by performing the rites and liturgy of the ancient church. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m 100% there for it… this meeting of worlds and times… this place of magic and coincidence. 

Anyhoo… now we get to the part of the blog where I have a hard time wrapping it up… If you’re new here, you might be thinking, “Wow, she needs an editor!” Or “She didn’t end anywhere near where she started!” And you’d be right! I mean, what happened to Erica in the garden green? Did she get away with it? Did Queen Elizabeth I call her on her bullsh*t? As we used to say in our 4th grade oral book reports: “Read the book to find out!”