Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley, California Office
Weather: Rain from the remnants of a Pacific hurricane
There is nothing like loving a book or an author and finding a way to make that passion personal.
My mother’s favorite author was the naturalist/novelist Gene Stratton Porter. Mom saved all her books and gave them to me when I turned twelve. Some of the books, like Keeper of the Bees and Michael O’Halloran, we read together. Porter became a favorite of mine as well and I fell in love with her setting, the beautiful Limberlost wetlands of Eastern Indiana. I remember feeling a deep sense of loss to discover that the Limberlost was no more. It had been drained to make arable farmland. During my years of doll designing I created a portrait of Elnora, the Girl of the Limberlost. It was through this doll that I connected with the Friends of the Limberlost and their project of reclamation, Limberlost Swamp Remembered. That began a literary pilgrimage I will treasure forever.
The Friends and I decided I would create a one-of-a-kind doll, The Swamp Angel, also from Girl of the Limberlost and from Freckles, and auction it to help with the reclamation project. I was invited to come to the Limberlost to kick off the project. In the end, the doll raised more than a thousand dollars but for me, the best part was my trip to the Limberlost. I brought my octogenarian mother and we stayed in an Amish bed & breakfast in Berne, Indiana. Each morning we awoke to the clip clop of horse’s hooves as the Amish farmers drove their wives into town to cook and clean for the B & B guests.
My friend, Crystal Miller, joined us for the trip to the Limberlost which made it even more fun. We sidetracked to visit the covered bridges on the way. When we finally stood in the cabin at Limberlost it was if we stepped inside the books we had loved. My mother couldn’t stop smiling to realize we were honored guests that day. I was presented a “Golden Acre of Swamp” and two books—one the beautiful Morning Face, the other a special edition of only 300 copies of the Bird Woman. (For a book collector like me, this is heady stuff I tell you.) Perhaps the most precious of all were the pressed flowers sent to me afterward from the successfully reclaimed Limberlost.
This literary pilgrimage was a rare treat for me. First, it was a never-to-be-forgotten experience I could share with my mother who inspired my love of story. But even more, it allowed me to “own” the setting I had come to love in a small way.
If we are book people, we know that we all somehow personalize the books and the authors we love. You may not have been gifted with an acre of land from your favorite setting, but what book (or author) is undeniably yours? Like Judy Gann, getting to do a book signing in Tacy’s house (from the Betsy, Tacy and Tib books). Or my friend LeAnne who studies C. S. Lewis in his own stomping grounds.
Confession time: Which book is more yours than anyone else’s? Why?