Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December Literary Meetings 2008: GK Chesterton, the Toy Theater and Christmas Poetry

I will present in the post just after this one a quick description of the second of our two December book club gatherings, the meeting of the Notting Hill Napoleons and our discussion of the short stories of O. Henry.

But earlier in that same week, we had a terrific time with our beloved little group of Chestertonians at the annual Christmas party of the Omaha Chesterton Society. Indeed, the OCS affair, complete with a toy theater production, carols performed on a dulcimer, the reading of Advent-themed poetry, and the coolest Christmas tree cake ever, was definitely the more festive of the two.

The group was small (Dick and Mary Ann, Kathy, Sister Rita Jane, Quint and Carol, Bill and Karin, Chet, and Claire and I) but perhaps that added to the intimate warmth of the evening. So did the beautiful decorations put up by the retired nuns there at Mercy Villa.

The "official program" for the evening began with a presentation for our toy theater, "A Tale of Three Trees." Carol had suggested the idea, found a basic copy of the story (which I reworked pretty extensively), made the figures for the story and gave us our respective duties in the production. It went well -- a minimalist "cast" and actions, clever sound effects and flashlight lighting, a gentle musical accompaniment, and a simple but moving story of God's sovereignty and grace.

(By the way, you can read our version of the story right here.)

Bill then played a couple of extra numbers on his dulcimer (a great Christmasy instrument, isn't it?) and Chet shared insights about the Latin traditions of Las Posadas. Then we got down to the literary gems. They included Quint reading Pasternak's "Christmas Star;" Kathy reading poems and prose selections from a really neat book, Advent and Christmas: Wisdom From G. K. Chesterton; and Sister Rita Jane reciting from memory a couple of poems she used with the elementary school kids she used to teach. Those two were "A Prayer for Little Things" (I think by Eleanor Farjeon) and "Hiding" by Dorothy Keeley Aldis.

There was also Bill's reading of Gerald Manley Hopkins' "May Magnificat" and Karin's reading of Bill's own poem, "Christmas Star." Claire read GKC's "House of Christmas" and I read a couple by Leslie Norris, "The Shepherd's Dog" and "Camels of the Kings."

It was a gentle, profound and thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Christmastime evening. And I sincerely wish that all of our Book Den visitors have at least a couple of like-spirited experiences in their celebrations this year.