Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thoughts on the Sarah Trilogy

For whatever reason, my family always enjoyed a good 19th century film. The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Black Beauty, Little Women, and Oliver Twist, for instance. I think we were all discovering them together and that we all had an innate interest in that time period. One of our other favorites took place just after the turn of the century: the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy.

These are old Hallmark films--that is, they're from the 90's, which makes them old in comparison to the newer movies that play on their channel nowadays. And while most of those newer movies are trite to the point that I can't even watch most of them, Sarah, Plain and Tall is quite beautiful in its straightforward simplicity (granted, it was part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series, so its production received more attention than that of a standard TV movie). Of course, it also helps that the movies are based on a wonderful set of books by Patricia MacLachlan, who helped write the film scripts.

There is a specific and recognizable tone to this story, in both book and movie form. At first it's pleasant and enjoyable, the story of a family on a farm--and then you begin to see so many more layers. The depth that I begin to see in this trilogy is so powerful, even more so because it's essentially just a simple children's or family story. For all the discoveries that you make along the way, you always know why there is the feeling of depth: it is because this story displays life.

In particular, the second installment, Skylark, speaks to me. As Sarah questions the choice she made to leave her home by the ocean to live on the prairie and comes to realize how much love she has for her new family, she reminds us of all sorts of life choices. Moving, not moving, relationships in the past and in the present, career changes, personal quests--and the seeking or finding of meaning. I suppose the question is, what fulfills you? What will make you wake up in the morning and be glad? What tasks will you be ready and willing to start on? What do you want to choose to spend your days doing? And why? How will that make you feel at the end of the day? Daily life--it is daily life that holds the power.

It is daily life that is the most difficult and the most wonderful. And it is through daily life that changes small and great, good and bad, come. So let's remember to focus on building our daily lives--in the many ways in which you can interpret that phrase.

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