Wednesdays with Words: We are

We are reading The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy during Whatchamacallit and I’m so invested in teh story.  It hits all my personal wheel-houses – beautiful writing, WWII, parenting.  I’m ready to cry almost every day it’s so amazing.

Nana, the nanny to Prince Michael, has the most poetic way of speaking the most homey truths. She surprises herself with her flights of fancy but they are always poignant and eloquent.

The night Prince Michael was born, she had a vision. There was a cake depicting the whole Chestry Valley precisely (and as one who occasionally decorates cakes, I stand in awe of the description of this one!) and Nana sees the valley differently than she ever has before:

My heart began to pound and swell as I stood there, thinking thoughts strange and new to me. Around me, people were laughing and talking, the great hall was crowded, but for a while it was as if I was blind and deaf to sights and sounds around me. My eyes were on that sweet image of Chestry Valley, but I felt as if I were indeed a giant looking down into our valley. I saw every stone of the castle, every adz-hewn timber, every tree that was ever felled and those still standing, every furrow on plowed fields, every grain of wheat and every blade of grass, every tree that ever bore fruit in the orchards. I saw more than human eyes can see, for I saw the roots of things and the fruit. And each and every thing I saw I also heard, for each and had a voice of its own. They were the voices of men and women of Chestry Valley, long gone and still living, and they said, “Look upon us and listen. We are the furrow and the harvest, we are the spring and the mighty ocean, we are the roots and the tree. We are the bedrock and the stones that made the castle; we are the vein of iron in thebowels of the earth and we are the sword, the plow, the cross upon the spire of the church. We are the earth.

It made me consider times when we see things from a different perspective and understand a deeper truth. It may not be as visceral as was Nana’s experience, but it may be just as jarring. Are we putting ourselves and our children in the way of seeing differently? That’s part of what I’m considering as I contemplate this gorgeous passage.

The picture I chose, of a valley, was a picture I took in Austria as we drove between Venice and Innsbruck 20 years ago. The view I had reminded me of Seredy’s words – of Nana’s view. But the perspective is a bit skewed.  Behind the words, is a bridge, a causway and we are stopped if you could look to the left – at a BP station. It always seemed to me so odd that this idyllic, scenic view was taken from a place that’s very existence was there to continue your journey away.

Nana’s speech is also forcing me to wonder where my place is as part of the earth, part of the valley. Where am I part of the “We are …” that repeats throughout the passage.



  1. What a lovely passage! And what a lovely photo. I've never read this book, but it sounds like one I need to add to my list. (I think Seredy won a Newbery for something? I'll have to keep her in mind as I make my way through the Newbery lists for the Newbery Through the Decades challenge!)

    1. Amy, you will love Seredy! She won the Newbery for The White Stag and an honor for the Good Master/Singing Tree books. This book is amazing so far, though.i can't recommend her books enough.

  2. I just checked to see if Chestry Oak is on the Ambleside curriculum. I see it is a year 6 book – so I'm excited that we'll see it in the future. We are in years 1 and 2 for parts of the curriculum. The passage is lovely, and I love the "story" behind your photo. Both do make me think… Don't you love exposure Ambleside gives us to such quality, living books? I feel like the curriculum is a treasure!

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