Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Review and Lessons: The Woman and the Wheat

In the weeks before Christmas, it was very common to hear the gentle roar of the UPS or FedEx truck zooming up the driveway and around to the back of the house.

One white padded parcel carried a surprise: a book we didn't have to wrap or wait to read. The Woman and the Wheat by Jane G. Meyer! I am grateful for the opportunity to review another of her books.

The Woman and the Wheat is a follow-up to The Man and the Vine, both tracing the elements that will make up the Eucharist, along with the people who nurture them. I encourage you to read the story behind the story, and you might want to listen to the audio recording of the Man and the Vine.

This review will be divided into 2 sections: The Illustrations, and The Rhythm.

The Illustrations
Ned Gannon's vision of the woman is warm and strong. I can't help but veer from the review here: And she lives in my dream home. Oh, to have that wood-burning oven! Oh, to have those huge skylights! To be a farmer and a baker!

In an interview with the illustrator, Gannon shares that his favorite image is the one of the woman in the wheat field, because it envelops many childhood memories in Kansas. He paints with a sense of authenticity, which richly portrays Meyer's story.

Let's get to that story.

The Rhythm

My high school students and I happened to be reviewing metrical feet before the Christmas break. We were learning how to scan a poem, which you can learn about with this nice Powerpoint presentation (not mine) and see more examples of words marked up here.

As I was standing in the front of the gray classroom, clapping my hands and inflecting my voice to emphasize the stressed and unstressed syllables of a word, Jane G. Meyers' words started playing across my brain.

The "a ha!" moment cleared up for me why her writing seems so poetic even though it doesn't rhyme - she uses metrical rhythm. I wonder if she mathematically plans it that way - substituting this word for another that fits the meter - or if the words just come to her head already packaged in a rhythm? (Jane - are you reading? Can you comment?)

If you teach middle or high school students, I don't know why you wouldn't watch that slide presentation (or do your own research), define and learn the different types of feet, and then scan The Woman and the Wheat as an exercise in analyzing literature.

Well, I can think of one reason why. You might rather read it for enjoyment or for theology. The lyrical words portray the most awesome truth about our Lord Jesus Christ. My favorite lines are not my favorite for the meter, but for the meaning: they describe the woman as she approaches the chalice:

She opened wide and the love filled her mouth and she thought of the wheat and she thought of the love. She kissed the cup and she prayed a prayer, and the joy grew loud in her soul.

Love filled her mouth.

A few weeks ago my priest encouraged me, "if God loves us, then there is no reason to feel despondent."

That LOVE is something I often seem to overlook. I get too caught up in all the things that must be done, or in the details of following our Faith, and I pridefully try to accomplish everything myself, which is bad theology. I can do nothing without Christ.

Then, blinded to the truth, I begin to believe that God is not going to take care of things and meanwhile it becomes increasingly clear that I certainly fail at taking care of everything. Despondency. Unnecessary despondency. Unnecessary because God does love us. If the Invincible One - who has all power over all things and can do not only the impossible, but also the mundane - if He who has the power to do loves us, then all that is needed will be done.

Our most loving God offers us a rhythm to receive His love. The rhythm of the feasts and fasts, of names-days, of Gospel readings and hymns carrying us through each year. The rhythm of morning and evening prayers and the prayers of the Hours. Moments of stressed importance to draw us back to Him when we would get too wrapped up in the unimportant.

The rhythm of Communion. Each time we approach the blessed sacrament of Communion, we mystically share intimacy with Christ who is Love.

Love filled her mouth.

Thank you, Jane G. Meyer, for two lovely books that are joyful children books, that trace the life cycle of nature and connect it to man's co-work with God, and that remind me of the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ.


  1. Very Beautiful post, Monica. And an always needed reminder of the Love that is too good to be true, yet IS true!

    And yes, I would have enjoyed discovering the meter, just as you did, and posting about it!

    Happy New Year!

  2. sounds like a wonderful lesson plan for our homeschool! Thanks!

    If this is the sort of love for learning and life you instill in all your students, you're inclusion students are well-served, believe me!

  3. Monica--blessings to you and all your readers this New Year. I love your thoughts regarding God's love, which is so immense, so enormous, so beyond our comprehension... May we join you in trying to remind ourselves more often of His ever-present love and to follow that path for us that is uniquely ours.

    Regarding the book! Fun that you were playing with the meter. I wish I could peek into your classroom for a day or two--I'm sure I'd learn some good stuff from you!

    No, I don't mathematically plan out my texts, though unconsciously I certainly lean toward infusing music (which is certainly a sort of math) into the sound of the texts that I write. One of the key things I work with when I write is how the sound of the words tumble off my tongue and feel as they float around in the air. I think we respond more intimately with texts that have a sort of lyricism and order to them, so I work hard to trim my words so that just the essence of my thoughts are expressed, and hopefully they are expressed beautifully, and musically... I actually struggled with The Woman and the Wheat much more than I did with The Man and the Vine, simply because the word "woman" is bulkier and more difficult to manipulate. It ended up creating a text that is a bit longer than The Man and the Vine, but in the end I think the whole of the story came together well--hopefully as God intended it...

    Warmly, and fun to be here with you on your inspiring blog :)

  4. I love this review (and eeek! Jane commented on it, how awesome is that?) I feel like you did a much more scholarly job, you are awesome!

    Happy New Year and Christ is Born!

  5. What a great review!! have a blessed new year!

  6. Thank you all for responding. You are so kind. Praise be to God!