Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

When you were young, do you remember envisioning your life? Like where you’d go, what you’d accomplish? I don’t think I’ve ever had a specific calling like some friends of mine. I know people who would positively die if they weren’t able to do what they do- writing, teaching, painting, playing music or working with animals. When I was a little girl, I think I felt much more vague about my future. I figured I would create. What exactly, I didn’t know, but I knew I’d go forth and make something out of my future. And what have I done thus far? Not much, but I’m not done yet. I’m certainly not an artist, I can barely draw a straight line. I used to play music, but not in a long while. I’ve traveled a fair bit, and I have this little blog, and of course I have co-created two awesome little beings, but I have yet to create what I feel I’m intended to. And that concept brings me to my next book profile.
Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney- from www.ameliesbookshelf.com

Miss Rumphius is the story of a life well-lived. I mean really, ideally, beautifully lived.

Alice Rumphius lived with her grandfather by the sea. He was an artist who had sailed there years before. She would paint alongside him in his shop, and she loved to hear tales of his travels.

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”
“What is that?” asked Alice.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.
“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

Isn’t that the most wonderful advice? So Alice eventually grew up and set out to do those three things. She left home and moved to a city far from the sea and became a librarian. She would visit a conservatory in the middle of the park in the wintertime and feel as though she were being transported to a tropical island. Almost. It was time to see the world.IMG_4680

So she set out, met kind and interesting people, kept traveling, and eventually as she grew old, returned to the sea.
IMG_4683But she hadn’t yet followed her grandfather’s third piece of advice. She thought about this as she planted seeds around her little house. The following spring she was surprised to find the lupine she had planted not only around her home, but on the other side of the hill as well, where the wind and birds had carried the seeds and spread the beauty.
IMG_4684Well, there she had it. Old Miss Rumphius had found her purpose, her way to create beauty after everything she had already accomplished. She ordered 5 barrels of lupine seeds and carried mounds in her pockets as she would walk around town. She flung handfuls of beauty everywhere she went until the whole town bloomed with lupine. And as the story is told from the point of view of Alice’s grand niece, she perpetuates the notion that everyone must do their part to make the world more beautiful, even if it is already very nice how it is. The sweet young narrator tells her great aunt, “When I grow up…I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.”

“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing you must do.”
“What is that?” I ask.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right,” I say. IMG_4681

I think Miss Rumphius is one of my greatest role models. She laid out her goals, followed them around the world, and then created something beautiful after all. It is a noble task, and one I aspire to do as well. Someday. When I figure out what it might be.

In the meantime, I’ll share two of my very favorite pictures from my travels.Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo New ZealandThese are from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. When my husband and I first met, we almost immediately embarked on a 6 month journey around the South Pacific, spending the first 3 months living in a 1979 Toyota LiteAce van criss-crossing NZ. Now in retrospect, I can see how that plan could have gone drastically wrong, but here we are 13 years and two kids later, so good call on my part! I remember being so bowled over by the view that day, isn’t that shock of lupine just breathtaking?

Also worth mentioning is that this gorgeous book is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children, sailors, and maidens.

13 thoughts on “Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

  1. If I had a Top Ten Favorite Picture Books List (I don’t because I can’t bring myself to choose only 10!!!), “Miss Rumphius” would be in it. It’s one of those stories that stays with you. And I’m so excited that you mentioned the dedication to St. Nicholas – I’d forgotten that!


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