I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Tom (TA) Delmore’s reflection taken from the introduction to his book Crossing up River.
A children’s story which is only enjoyed
By children is a bad children’s story. ~ C. S. Lewis
I have been a shy searcher for a relationship with God most of my life. Different paths have taught me much. This is God and I walking together.
St Ignatius of Loyola taught me something about story. He said: “put yourself in the gospel story, imagine what it must be like.” I took this to heart and began to enter other stories, children’s picture book became a way to enter into my story. I was looking for my Wounded Child, Tommy, and finding the healing I needed.
I came to write Crossing up River from my life experience of being a detention worker in a juvenile institution, preschool teacher, parent, spiritual director and an abused child.
Why should adults read and observe the art in children’s picture books? That’s a great question! If you have children you probably already do. If you are a teacher of young children you would and hopefully, read to them on a daily basis, and if you have a Wounded Inner Child in you, and most of us do, then it’s a good time to reconnect with that child. Oh, and if you think about it, most children’s books are written by adults!
These stories are meant for the child to wonder at and through, for parents to live vicariously through their young child’s emotions. And yes, grow into the adult you are meant to be. I believe that we are sometimes narrow our view of children’s picture books. In Crossing up River I have seen the narrow expand into a healing ocean! My imagination cries for more. Leap into Amos and Boris by William Steig where a mouse can do amazing things for a whale and vice versa. Join Al in Hey Al by Arthur Yorinks, Richard Egielski as he wakes up to read the signs around him before he turns into a sleepy bird i.e. a lotus eater. Tub Grandfather By Pam Conrad, Richard Egielski who disappears but is too important to ever forget.
As a preschool teacher, I watched the literal/imaginative minds of three and four-year-olds take in stories in a very satisfying way. These stories are a perfect example of how as children we read the story as a child. One day reading the wonderful story of The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Bishop and Kurt Wiese, I came to the part in the book where one of the brothers takes the whole ocean into his mouth so that a boy who has been pestering a Chinese brother can pick treasures up off the ocean floor. I asked myself what the ocean signifies in my life. The little boy is told to keep an eye on the Chinese brother for a signal to return so the ocean can go back to its rightful place. The boy does not follow directions, and the book says the boy disappears. I asked the children what happened to the boy, without hesitation they said he died. A very literal response and a correct one for a child, but it did not say that in the book. On this day, a shift occurred in me the boy disappeared but I sensed he could return (a trickster character possibly) and cause more mischief later on. I began to change the metaphor not the story for myself, to a place of healing. Where had my boy Tommy gone? From then on I read children’s books with a different ear and eye. My leap and belief is that these books are postmodern fairytales for adults! The Jesuits would also say we need to stretch, and I believe that is what I am doing in reading and interpreting these books for adult healing.
I ask myself these questions: Who am I in the story? How does this book affect me as an adult? And, do I have the ability to go beyond the literal and to imagine in ways I never could? What is the truth for me in these stories?
I was raised with rules and beliefs that are not so relevant today. Here is a chance to look at books we loved as a children and see the healing that is available for us as adults! Here is a chance to see books for the first time again and marvel into a new way of seeing and hearing into healing and wholeness. If I can feel these stories in me I have faith you can as well. I was ready for the shift on the inside when the preschoolers told me their answer and mine was different. Not wrong, different. I gave you a few titles in this article of books to enter into but you might have favorites of your own. Read boldly onward!
By Tom (TA) Delmore copyright 2020 unpublished
Tom A (TA) Delmore lives in Bellevue, Washington. His books of poetry include Eclipsing F Crow Poems (Little Letterhead Press, 1996); Child is working to Capacity (Moon Pie Press, 2006); A Poultice for Belief (March Street Press, 2009); Tell them that you saw me but didn’t see me saw (Moon Pie Press, 2011). Individual poems have been published in Raven Chronicles and Seattle M.E.N. Magazine. His latest Poem appears in; Take a Stand Art Against Hate. A Raven Chronicles Anthology. Titled: Homeless Vet. 2020 Visit him at CrowsPerch.blogspot.com
A forthcoming poem In America Magazine a Jesuit Weekly.