One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Red Shoe in a White Landscape

I am feeling the need to shake things up today. So I’m going to begin in reverse. I’m going to begin with my book choice and then conclude with a bit of observation about my landscape.

The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky is a lyrical, haunting story about six-year old Matilda who lives in Sydney, Australia during the Cold War. Mostly told from Matilda’s point of view—with occasional insertions from her two sisters—the story explores the intense feelings that children carry as they try to make their way in the world, especially in a world that is fraught with distrust and threat. It also explores the only-partial meaning that children can make of the world. And it is this combination—the intensity of emotion and partial meaning-making—that resonates so strongly for me. Ursula Dubosarsky creates a stark, realistic portrait of children trying to survive. They are curious, while they are also afraid. They are full of questions, while they are equally full of answers. They are sure of themselves, and at the same time they are very confused. And they nail the truth right on the head, even while they are making up stories to fill in the gaps.

There is no Cold War going on around me, of course, but there sure is Cold. White, Relentless, Monotonous, Cold. And that, coupled with some personal struggles I am facing, has made me feel a Matilda-like intensity of emotion. And, like Matilda, I can only make some sense of it all.

In some ways it is good to be reminded that this is often how a child feels. It is freeing somehow. And it makes me realize that I am in good company as I journey through this time. That my children—all children—can be my guide.

Tam Smith

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