Friday, February 15, 2008

February Brunch

Susanna and I prepared a traditional Irish breakfast on Saturday a few weeks ago complete with scones, sausage links, fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and portobello mushrooms, cranberry juice, and tea. The only thing missing was the blood pudding, and I believe that is one dish we can all do without.

I also prepared Mills Inn Brown Soda Bread from The Irish Heritage Cookbook, but with all the food already on the table, we decided to roll the bread over to dinner.

We will content ourselves with Gaelic meals. Slán a fhágáil ag duine!
(That means to wish someone goodbye in Irish. I looked it up at

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Vinzi by Johanna Spyri

Vinzi hears the bells. The young boy's entire attention is grabbed by the beautiful sounds sweeping over the Swiss valley, and he remains entranced long after the music has subsided.

His family doesn't understand him. They don't understand why he wants piano lessons or why he enjoys making and playing his little pipes (similar to recorders). Vinzi's father, mother, and sister love him, but that doesn't make comprehending him any easier. Why can't Vinzi be a normal cow herder like all the other boys -- like his cousins up in the mountains?

Johanna Spyri created a beautiful world of music, natural beauty, and family love in Vinzi*, a story set in the Swiss Alps. This is one of my favorites of Spyri's works; she makes me feel as though I am almost there with her characters -- reveling in the beauty of a star filled sky or a mountainside of colorful flowers, mourning the loss of his dreams, or rejoicing in the renewed favor of his father and the realization of all his hopes.

Vinzi is a roller coaster (or mountain tumble) of changing emotions. Vinzi is in mental torment when he is sent away by his father to live with his relatives on the mountain. Mr. Lesa believes a heavy dose of hard work among other cow herding boys will drive all thoughts of music away.

Instead, Vinzi's cousins, aunt, and uncle are enthralled by the boy's gift of music, and they encourage him to sing and play his pipe for them often. A love for music overtakes the mountain when the large group of cow herders (the ones that are supposed to drive thoughts of music away) ask Vinzi to make musical pipes for them and teach them to play. A singing group is formed with Vinzi at its head, and the young boy meets many friends who recognize his talent and help him to develop it further.

Vinzi's father is not pleased when his son returns at the end of summer and reveals his dream to earn his livelihood as a musician. What happened to his well thought out plan?

If Vinzi were only the story of childhood rebellion or the disappointed hopes of a father, this story could not hold any charm for me. Gladly, this book is about so much more than a simple story outline; it is about trust.

Vinzi must learn to surrender his dreams to God and trust Him with his future. Full of doubt and fear, Mrs. Lesa finds that God's hands are more than capable to care for her son and provide for his future. Mr. Lesa learns to put away his manmade plans in favor of a plan put in place by the Perfect Father. Overall, Vinzi learns to praise God for the gift of music and use it in glorifying his Heavenly Father.

Johanna Spyri doesn't push a Christian message in her reader's faces, but her Biblical worldview is evident throughout the pages of her stories. This is illustrated well in this excerpt taken from the last few pages of Vinzi:

“Vinzi,” said the mother, “do you ever thank God for all the blessings He has heaped upon you. Do you realize that it is He who has given you everything?”

Yes, I do, mother,” he replied, looking frankly into her eyes. “I never forget how frightened and troubled I was. Sometimes we sing one of the songs you taught me in the evening, but I sing them quite differently now. I used only to enjoy the tune, but now I thank and praise God from the bottom of my heart.”

“If you should ever get into a difficult position, Vinzi,” the mother concluded, “you must remember that God often means to work out our good when we fear evil.” […]

When the mother left Vinzi’s chamber after a hearty good-night, her heart was filled with gratitude and bliss. Folding her hands she sent a heartfelt prayer of thanks to Heaven.

Vinzi is a wonderful book for adults and children alike. It stands strong after several readings, and it is a great pity that this classic of children’s literature has been virtually forgotten by today’s generation. It deserves to be lifted up next to its famous relative, Heidi, and recognized as a story just as precious and endearing. It is every bit as good.

*Vinzi was translated into English by Elisabeth P. Stork. The story also goes under the title The Little Alpine Musician translated by Helen B. Dole and A Little Swiss Boy translated by Clement W. Coumbe.