November 19, 2009

Oh, the infinite wisdom of Theodore Geisel

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 12:03 am by letterstoelias

You know how popular Dr. Seuss has always been around here.  Ever since E fell in love with ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ two years ago, countless Suess stories have been read.  And read.  And read.  And . . . . read.  Fortunately, I think I actually like them even more than the girls do (I can recite so many of them off by heart after all), so I don’t mind at all.

I remember picking up ‘Fox in Socks’ from the library a while back.  I think you pretty much hated reading it, but I thought it was lots of fun.  Quite the tongue twister.  I love The Lorax, of course, for the message it sends about the environment and consumerism, just as so many of his books carry great messages (Green Eggs and Ham = just taste your dinner, you may like it!; The Sneetches = what you wear doesn’t matter – even the Cat in the Hat ‘always picks up all his playthings’).  They’re just such fun books.

The other night we picked up a few books at the library – half of them Seuss books, including ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’.  Some time ago I had heard this was a book typically given to graduating students, but had never read it.  I picked it up at breakfast the other day, and as I was reading it to the girls I realized that, though I can see where this would apply to graduating students, parts of the message are clearly applicable to many paths in life – including widowhood.

I’ve definitely gained a lot from other ‘grief’ reading I’ve done so far, don’t get me wrong.  I loved reading ‘The Alchemy of Loss’ as a book detailing one widow’s experience and feeling comfort in that much of what I was going through was by no means unusual.  I recently finished ‘Death is of Vital Importance’ by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who has worked with countless terminal patients and their families, and I appreciated the completely different perspective on death than what we are typically accustomed to.  But Seuss.  He too, hit home for me.  I had to choke back a few tears at the last page.

It’s about life – it’s ups and it’s downs, and the power of the individual to make a choice on how to handle what life brings.  I’d love to write it all, but here are a few of the passages that really caught my attention.  It starts out with his little character heading out on a new adventure, off to great places:

You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

 Things start out pretty exciting – ‘You’ start happening in the world, going right along being ‘footsy’ and ‘brainy’, flying high, until you suddenly hit a ‘lurch’ (because bang-ups and hang-ups can happen):

 You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. 
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they’re darked.

 Pretty accurate if I do say so myself . . . then he writes of getting confused, trying to figure it all out, running through ‘weirdish wild space’ straight toward ‘a most useless place.  The Waiting Place’, which he describes as a place where people are simply waiting for this or that to happen for their lives to get better – a string of pearls, a pair of pants, a better break, another chance, etc.  No one is striving to be the one to make a change.  But he encourages the reader that, NO! that’s not for you and you will escape and find great things once again.  But again, as life has it’s ups and downs, another turn takes you all alone:

 And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
You’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
That can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

 I can definitely relate to that.  But, in true Seussian fashion, he offers some encouragement:

 But on you will go though the weather be foul.
On you will go though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

He offers a little more advice about remembering that life’s a great balancing act and ends with this:

And will you succeed?
Yes!  You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So….get on your way!

 This is not all to say that I necessarily feel at this moment that I’m ‘off to great places’ or that ‘today is my day’ – but it’s a good reminder that good things still can lie ahead.  Maybe one day I’ll feel like today is my day again.  And it really does feel like I have to move a mountain – though not exactly in the same sense he is referring to here.  A mountain of grief is more like it.

Perhaps he so accurately relates life’s challenges to rowing up a frightening creek with sore arms and leaky sneakers because, many years before writing this book (which was the last book he published before he died), he tragically lost his wife of 40yrs.  He’d been here.  He got it.  At this point, moving my mountain doesn’t seem possible at all.  But, if Dr Seuss says so – it must be true.  Maybe.  It has to be.  It is.

“I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone.”  – Dr. Seuss


P.S.  I Love You



  1. Bridie said,

    Great post, Chels.

    Love, Bridie

  2. As a daughter to one recently widowed (in the last year), I can relate to much of what you’ve written. I’ve also lost a son -except there’s no ‘word’ for that- so I know the journey of grief all too well. We too own ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ and I find a strange comfort in it.

    P.S. I also love ‘The Lorax’. It’s probably my favorite Seuss.

    • letterstoelias said,

      Thanks for your comment Amy – and I’m sorry to hear of your losses. I read a bit of your blog and can’t imagine how difficult that must have been.

      The Lorax is fantastic – I tried convincing my eldest daughter to go as the Lorax for halloween, but it was a no. Maybe one year. . . .


  3. Christine said,

    That is so beautiful!!

    • letterstoelias said,

      Thanks Christine =)


  4. Shannon Bond said,

    Love it! I’m totally getting that book and I soooooooo needed to read those passages today.

    November has been quite the challenge: got sick, winter coat, wallet and all my keys stolen while I was volunteering (they bought booze and got cash on me), got a head cold, new locks on the house locked me IN so I couldn’t get out, pet became seriously ill and I had to make a three hour run to the nearest town for a vet but I had no ID and no way to pay for the vet so i was doing some fancy work racing around a city I don’t know looking for banks and internet cafes … I hadn’t slept in two days …then the other cat got ill … in all I think I missed three and half days of work … and was late the day I got locked in and then came across a dog chained to a tire dragging it down the street which you know I couldn’t let that go and had to go home to get help and someone with bolt cutters…I could fill a page with all that went haywire the last 2 weeks!!

    Makes you wonder what’s going on that it all happens at once!

    Thanks for sharing and making me smile. Suess rocked the world with his writing!!! we used to read/act out the Lorax at YM/YWCA Camp all time and then give the kids baby trees to plant on the camp island.

    Shannon 🙂

    • letterstoelias said,

      Thanks Shannon,

      It sounds like quite a couple of weeks – I hope it’s settled down now, and I’m glad the post and passages from the book gave a little smile to you!


  5. Joy said,

    When I had my first child, we decided to make Seuss our nursery theme. I was teaching 6-8 grade language arts at the time and the students decided to have a surprise baby shower for me with the theme of books. My 8th grades bought me Seuss books, the 7th graders got me classical children’s books, and the 6th graders got me activity books (pop-up, lift-a-flap, tactile, etc.). Those books (specially the Seuss books) have been the inspiration for many lessons in my 4-5 grade class room (we moved a year after my 1st son was born, and I’ve been teaching grades 4-5 ever since). The messages are timeless! Yes, I’ve often given Seuss books for graduation and baby shower gifts, but I love the idead of “Oh, The Place You Go” as a book for those in the grieving process. It is a book of hope after all.

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

    • letterstoelias said,

      Thanks for your comment Joy,

      I’ve often thought about converting my girls’ room to a Seuss theme, but my mom worked so hard on painting the beautiful garden/fairy theme that’s there now, I can’t imagine changing it right now. . . . I have a friend who painted the line ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small’ (Horton hears a Who)on their nursery wall, which I thought was just perfect. Seuss really is timeless, as you said. And I loved reading that he never ‘intended’ to add morals into his stories as he stated, ‘Kids can see a moral coming a mile off’, yet he managed to include them in such a fun, wonderful way.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. […] I know I’ve snapped out of these ‘lurches’ and ‘slumps’ before.  Maybe it’s time to read ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ again for a little more inspiration (I’ve written about my feelings on how this book relates to widowhood in the past . . . ) […]

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