Christmas in the Country

December 16, 2008

I had the privilege to attend a two day conference with Penny Kittle culminating today.  Penny shared her passion and experiences with reading and writing workshop.  For two days, I sponged her stories and strategies and ideas, learning and reflecting and agreeing.  One idea Penny uses often with her students is spring-boarding a quick write with a poem.  One such poem she shared is called “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.  Here’s a taste of the beginning of this poem:

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.”

The sensory detail comes alive in the lines of the poem.

Stacked in the books I want to write about, I read Christmas in the Country last night.  As I was rereading and savoring lines, I realized I connected this book to the poem I had read.    When I read this book, I feel as if I’m reading a “Where I Am From” story about the author.  Cynthia Rylant creates a sensory-detailed narrative essay that alerts my attention to detail and sparks memories of my past Christmases.  The weather weaves its way into the story.  The cold winter outside changes to the warmth with a home inside.

During the savorings of lines and books, I sometimes daydream what the author might say to me if we were talking.  If I had the opportunity to ask Cynthia to write a poem from her book , I wonder if it might sound like this:

I am from my grandparents’ country home,

from wool and mothballs.

I am from foam balls glued with green glitter,

soft angels

ornaments reminding me of my whole life.

Cynthia did not compose the above poem; it’s just my mythical envision as I read her lyrical words.  The story’s countryside breathes beauty through the white, smooth snow.  “Everyone is ready for something really special.”  Somehow, the holidays allow us to remember, to reflect – and savor the moment.  Take a moment and read Cynthia Rylant’s book and enjoy her memory of a Christmas long ago.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Christmas in the Country:

  • One sentence paragraphs – highlights for emphasis
  • Description with small moment examples to support
  • Compare/contrast
  • Symbolism – family warms the heart and protects
  • Threadback – “But in that closet of wool and mothballs, there would be boxes of old ornaments, waiting.”