On Looking Back to See the Future, Pt. I

They say some of our best inspiration comes to us at times we can’t do anything about it: in the shower, driving, in the middle of a dull meeting. Our minds are left free to wander–and wonder–and “genius” is unleashed. Or, you know, just a half-decent idea that’s suddenly clear.

This morning’s shower “genius” came under the guise of looking back at our history in order to see our future more clearly. I realized it is a key theme in Beneath the Stars, and began formulating a blog post about just that. As I mulled, I scrolled through twitter and saw that today is the birthday of a.a. milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh series. What does one have to do with the other? Well, a little bit of everything. And so, today begins a three-part series–maybe four if readers will participate too–on the topic.

Whenever I am asked about favorite childhood books, I immediately go to the Winnie the Pooh series. I loved Pooh before Disney grabbed hold of it and made him round and a merchandising tool. I can’t tell you about specific stories or quote great lines, but I remember what those stories brought to me as a child. I remember sprawling across my bed every night before bed with my dad and listening to him read the tales to me. I remember the warmth of his body next to mine, the baritone of his voice soothing me so sleep would come easier. I remember the cushion of my own Winnie the Pooh under my chest. (Yep, that’s him. Three or four newly made shirts later, a limp nose and missing eyes. I loved the hell out of that doll. Also, thanks to my son for taking the photo.)

And beyond the memories of a father and daughter, I remember the lessons Winnie the Pooh taught me: loyalty, friendship, patience with people who might generally annoy you. I mean, come on, Tigger is amazing, but after about an hour, all that bouncing would do me in. Eeyore is depressed, Owl is a bit of an elitist. Rabbit is impatient and judgmental. Piglet has anxiety like whoa and Pooh, god love him, he’s not the brightest fluffy-headed creature in the forest. But Christopher Robin, he loved them all. And they loved each other. And that, I remember vividly.

I felt moved by the stories all over again as I visited the New York Public Library this fall and saw the display of the newly refurbished dolls that the real Christopher Robin loved and played with as his dad made up the stories we’ve all come to love.

This idea of friendship and loyalty hit even harder today as I watched video snippets and read reports of Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing. A confirmation for the position of our nation’s Education Secretary. This woman has no concept of children and their educational needs. She appears to hold no value to books, to the power of storytelling and imagination in helping our children feel secure, loved and empowered. It’s heartbreaking. It’s frightening. I don’t know if her confirmation will go through or not, but I do know this:

Those of us that hold these things dear and close can keep it alive regardless of what this new administration throws at us. Take a look back at the books and the stories that you not only enjoyed, but helped form who you are, and carry those lessons as we face the future.

What books have formed you? What can you look back on with fondness and certainty that that is where you came from?

The second in the series we’ll talk about the theme looking back in Beneath the Stars, and the third I’ll talk about some of the ways I still look back–or reach back–so I can see my own future more clearly.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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