Friday, December 11, 2020

A Quote, a Tree, and Good-bye, 2020!

First of all--thank you, Carmela Martino for switching posting dates with me. In a year where everything that could go wrong, went wrong, my laptop expired the week I was originally supposed to post. Thank you for coming to the rescue...and for that wonderful video of Rebecca Howard singing "You'll Never Walk Alone." (Howard's sabbatical from the Alabama Shakes is one of the good things about this year.)

After all the posts in this topic of "Inspirational Quotes" by my fellow TA's, it's hard to find anything to say, that they haven't said already, and better than I could. So that leaves my "inspiring quote." Being the Eternal Librarian, I double-checked my sources before I wrote this. It appears my "quote" has a dubious history. Sigh. Leave it to me to find inspiration in a historical mystery.

You can tell when I'm stressed or troubled by looking at my Kindle reading queue. Tales of the Resistance movements during WWII. Heroic quests of people leaving a violent homeland, finding a new one. Stories of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times. 

My reading included more than one book about the Holocaust. In one of them, (I can't remember which one...there were so many) I thought I read this, by Anne Frank's father, Otto: "Even if I knew I would die tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today."

That really had an impact on me. Everyone has had the Year from Hell. My personal "mental hell" was being officially declared "elderly" by the CDC. I never think about age at all. I'm a life-long late bloomer--late to marry, give birth, publish--which means that my peers in those events were generally much younger than me. So I've spend most of my adult life with people ten to twenty years younger than me, while my actual "peer group" had moved on to being retired grandparents. But in one fell swoop, medicine declared people my age "elderly" and "at risk." Although I'm in better shape than ever, and my parents and grandparents lived impossibly long and healthy lives, I felt as if The End Was Near. That everything good and useful was being done by the young. I was elderly and "fragile" and should stay out of everyone's way.

I know this feeling doesn't make sense. Feelings rarely do. So Otto Frank's "quote" inspired me to re-engage with the world, crazy as it is right now.

Alas, Otto Frank did not say this. He didn't even say something sort of like this.

The actual quote is "Even if I knew the world would go to pieces tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree." 

The quote is attributed to Martin Luther. Ironic, because I was raised in the Lutheran Church, and outside of Luther's Small Catechism which I had to memorize, I don't recall anything memorable that Luther ever said. (Not memorable to me, at least.)

But wait...what is this asterisk next to the quote?  What? No! What does that mean,"allegedly attributed?" A little more digging and, I find this: No one knows who really said this. It seems to have first surface in Nazi-era Germany. It is believed to have been something the German Lutheran Church manufactured and attributed to Luther to "give people hope in a dark time."

Well-done, German Lutherans! Even if the quote was not authentic to Luther and his time, it certainly spoke to me in our current "dark time." So in honor of Martin Luther, fake quotes and the year 2020, I light my candle. But most of all, to my fellow Teaching Authors. You shine your light in all years and circumstances. I'm honored to be one of you. Here's to planting our apple trees in 2021.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Carmela Martino said...

MA, I found your digging into the history of your quote fascinating. I wasn't familiar with this quote before, but whatever it's origin, I like it!

Beverley Baird said...

I much prefer the first version you quoted. And it definitely gives hope. In less than a month I will be in my 70th year and I've been dreading it. But hey, age is but a number. I can plant trees and keep on plugging along.
All the best to you!

Linda Mitchell said...

Oh, my gosh I could hug you. I am a school librarian who first fell in love with historical fiction in 6th grade with 'The Endless Steppe.' I'm even an older mom. I get every word of this rings 110% true with me. Thanks for the sourcing, the smile and the message. This post is spot on for today.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I love your post, Mary Ann 💕 It reminds me of a quote that has been attributed to the Talmud, Proverbs, Kipling, Hemingway in many different versions:

Everyone should have a child, build a house, plant a tree, and write a book.

Not all of us can have children. Not everyone can build a house. Or write a book. But I'll bet most people could plant a tree.🌱
And how wonderful would that be?

Mary Ann Rodman said... many great comments. I apologize for not responding sooner. Carmela, I agree that whatever the origin, the quote had enough power to jolt me off the couch! Beverly Baird, I kind of liked the original version better, too. The "new" version sounded as if it were cobbled together by a committee of German pastors, trying to impersonate Luther's style. Linda Mitchell--sending you a virtual hug. I'm a former school librarian who loves, loves, LOVES (and writes) historical fiction. The Endless Steppe was a book I read over and over in junior high. (I still have my dog-eared Scholastic Book Club paperback copy!) April...thank you for your appreciation. I love your quote too!! And oh yeah, by the way...I published a book about planting a tree (A TREE FOR EMMY.) Thank you all again for taking the time to comment.

Bobbi Miller said...

Very interesting discussion! Thank you!