Archive for December, 2009

My Pooh Christmas

Winnie-the-Pooh, you could say, came home for Christmas. I caught up with the classic and beloved character the happiest possible way — serendipitously, in of all places — Walmart and Safeway.

The breakthrough came with Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. This is the new Pooh tale written “in the tradition of A.A.Milne and Ernest H. Shepard,” the original author and illustrator of the Pooh saga. One David Benedictus wrote this follow-up and Mark Burgess illustrated in the manner of Shepard, the whole thing beautifully produced with color illustrations, legible typeface which even I can read without glasses; with generous space and layout, and in hard cover — a joy to have and to hold.

The volume turned up at the first supermarket and, two days later, I stumbled upon Milne’s immortal originals, The House at Pooh Corner and Winnie-the-Pooh, at the other emporium, in more modest, soft cover Puffin books

I seemed to have missed out on certain books in my early childhood and offerings such as Wind in the Willows had to be imbibed in adulthood: same thing with Pooh. I finally got to know Pooh in an unlikely, third person sort of way. First it was Pooh and the Philosophers, by John Tyerman Williams.

Williams is a lecturer from Cornwall, England, teaching theater, English literature and English history. He believes, tongue very much in cheek, that “all of Western philosophy is merely a prelude to Winnie-the-Pooh.” And he sets out to illustrate this, in an erudite treatise, which is both engaging and funny. Going through that first Williams book made me want, almost desperately, to read the original Pooh books, from whence it all came.

Meanwhile, I managed to find another Williams treatment, this time, Pooh and the Psychologists, another treasure. Fatally,  I loaned it to a friend who thereupon left Trinidad, taking my Pooh with her.

Pooh later showed up in two books by a Canadian named Benjamin Hoff. Hoff was aiming, through the Pooh character, to illustrate the ancient ways of Taoism. I still enjoy The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet.

All this time, while vicariously associating with Pooh, I was still to encounter the fount itself, until, memorably, a few days ago.

I have to admit not waiting for Christmas to delve into the Hundred Acre Forest, and I don’t mind getting to the Pooh sequel before, at last, coming to terms with the character, and the author, who started it all.

And I know, some day, I will run into Frederick Crews and his interpretations of the immortal Pooh. Until then — comfort and joy!


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The Red Shovel

Out in the yard at 6:45 this morning, after the Obama Oslo speech, I was trying to shovel  a path to the car so we could keep a 7:30 date with the eye surgery center. The snowfall two days before had made it tricky from the garage, up the incline, to the road so last night I parked outside for an easier getaway.

Suddenly, unbidden, there was Ricky, a neighbor, with her red shovel.

“Just back from the gym,” she said, “and I saw your lights. I figured you guys were going someplace — then I saw you out here so…”

Together we made a path to the car, the two shovels making fairly easy work displacing the entrapment of snow. Ricky brushed aside my thanks, and the ease she had rendered to my snow-sore back. “Hey, I’m happy to help out.”

This, too, I thought, is the American way.

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