Doodle #6. Pilgrimage





Posted by Kathy Waller


For the past few weeks, on my personal blog, I’ve posted doodles I’ve done from prompts taken from 365 Days of Doodling by Carin Channing.

Doodle #6.
Doodle a pilgrimage you’d like to take.


Doodle #6. A Pilgrimage
Doodle #6. House of the Seven Gables


In November, while in Salem, Massachusetts, for Writer Unboxed’s UnCon, I’ll make a pilgrimage to the House of the Seven Gables, which Nathaniel Hawthorne made famous in his novel of the same name.


Fortunately, it won’t look like my doodle. If I’d been sensible, I’d have chosen to travel to a two-dimensional setting, something flat,  with no corners or gables. I’d have planned the drawing more carefully, too. I was so wrapped up in keeping the gables from running off the page, I forgot the house would need a roof.

To help with identification, I numbered the gables.

I haven’t read The House of the Seven Gables since college. Hawthorne’s books have never been my favorites and I don’t read them for pleasure.

One year I read The Scarlet Letter aloud to a class of junior English students. Normally I would have assigned it as outside reading, but I was almost certain–no, I was certain–these students wouldn’t read it at all. If I read to them, they would hear the story and I would be able to translate from Hawthorne-ese to modern English. I didn’t look forward to the task, but it had to be done.

That was the year of the surprise. For fifty-five minutes every weekday, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl occupied a desk at the front of the classroom, her eyes fixed on the text as I read. It seemed as if she had entered the world of Hester Prynne. Sometimes I felt as if she had become Hester.

After preaching all those sermons about the importance of literature, I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw in her face. The novel mattered. Hester Prynne, who never existed, mattered. With words, Hawthorne fashioned a bridge that spanned three centuries, and a young girl crossed to meet a woman she would never forget.

As we read, an old book took hold of a girl and wouldn’t let go. Somehow, reading it changed her. As I watched, it changed me, too.

That’s when The Scarlet Letter became one of my favorite books.


MOW cover - amazon pixKathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers. Her short stories have been published in Austin Mystery Writers’ Murder on Wheels (Wildside, 2015) and in Mysterical-E.


19 thoughts on “Doodle #6. Pilgrimage

  1. That’s why I love teaching! When I hear from students that they loved a book I assigned or that they even have changed their minds about reading, it reminds me of why what we do is important.


    1. It does have its moments, doesn’t it? A senior English student once told me he’d really enjoyed Whitman the year before. I said, Why didn’t you TELL me then? We could have spent longer on Whitman. Another came home from college and told me he’d known all the English lit they threw at him because we’d covered it his senior year. Honestly, I’d thought he slept through the whole year. Like almost literally slept. That was a Big Day for me. Thanks for your comment, and keep loving teaching.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That was certainly inspiring! I would imagine it could be easy for a teacher to be discouraged by some students (as I am finding out) who are not interested in what you have to teach them, or maybe just in the way it is taught. Seeing a student such as you described, had to really be uplifting. I loved the Scarlet Letter when I was a teen, even though now I don’t remember any details, just the premise. I think that would be relevant in any century. Good job. Thanks for sharing.


    1. You’re right–interest is the key. The most challenging thing for me, aside from getting them through the unfamiliar language and style, was to make students understand why Hester had to wear the A. They thought what she’d done was no big deal, said it would have been okay for her to remarry even though her husband hadn’t been declared dead. They had no concept of the society she lived in. Only a few years before, my high school classmates and I had understood and accepted her situation without question. Thanks for your comment.


  3. I’ve not read that book, Kathy, but it’s a fantastic thing when the reading touches or calls to the audience. It’s been profound for you as well since your hunch was a good one.


  4. Wow, what a great story. I’ve always loved when the lightbulb went off in my students minds. It is so rewarding. Here’s to the House of Seven Gables and a great trip. Doris


    1. I guess the lightbulb is the reason we teach. I’m looking forward to the trip. I love roaming around New England, visiting literary landmarks, but I’ve never been farther east than Concord. I may have to rent a car and stay a few days after the conference. Thanks for your comment.


  5. Loved the bit about the 16-year-old girl… I’ve come across a few books and literary characters that have affected me in a similar manner. I’ve also had to struggle through thick verbiage of earlier eras, but it’s well worth it.


    1. I have to admit–I’ve neglected the early American novelists because of the verbiage. Don’t know why British novels are both easier and more pleasant to read. Of course, I couldn’t say that while I was teaching. I felt it important to present myself as perfect. (!). Except for Milton. I admitted to not loving Milton. And probably won myself some points for sympathizing with students. Thanks for your comment.


  6. I know I read Seven Gables as a kid, but can’t say I remember it. The Scarlet Letter is another matter. Isn’t it fascinating how much the world has changed. Like you, I had no problem understanding the context, but your students did. I’ve noticed that with many books and even movies. Hope your student continued to expand her perspective.
    Good post.


  7. Lovely post Kathy. I loved both The House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter, but haven’t read them lately. Your story made me remember my English Lit teacher reading Dickens to our class and how it was to listen to and feel the words and become the characters. It definitely fueled my love of the classics.


  8. Delightful post, Kathy, and how encouraging to know a story, classic or modern, can affect a reader/group of readers. I think that’s what many of us long for — that our words “click” with an audience. I admire you for doodling — I’m not that brave! 🙂


  9. I have been fortunate to see a shift in thinking when I talk to students about wildlife. They transform from bored, unwilling participants in the class to interested, awake and engaged. This is always a privilege.


  10. I love that story of your student. I love your doodle too! You’re very lucky to attend this conference in Salem. I’ve been wanting to go there for a while and my friend and I were just talking about it. I’m like you, Hawthorne was never one of my favorites in English Lit classes. But I bet now I’ll think of your story next time Hawthorne or one of his books is mentioned, and it’ll make me smile.


  11. I hadn’t heard about that conference. I have been to Salem, and to the House of 7 Gabels. I read part of the novel. I watched a series for some time that was on YouTube. We had a blast in Salem, we took our vacation there one year, and stayed at a B&B that actually came with a black cat in our room. Cher’ley


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