December 2014 FEATURES

Book Quiz 2014

Here's a trio of questions related to some of books that have been the subject of Blue River Monthly reviews this year! Click the button below for the answers.

  1. In the book Quietauthor Susan Cain discusses
    a) libraries 
    b) introverts and extroverts
    c) peace and tranquility
    d) turning off electronic devices 
  2. Who wrote the book, A Religion of One's Own?
    a) Thomas Matthews
    b) Thomas Merton
    c) Thomas Moore
    d) Thomas Moser
  3. The subtitle of Pema Chödrön's book, How to Meditate, is
    a) Giving Meditation a Chance Even if You Think It's Too Hard
    b) Five Easy Steps
    c) Dharma in the 21st Century
    d) A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind

PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Illuminated Arch

Light and stone can interact in extraordinary ways. In this photograph, a glowing arch announces itself from amidst the shadows….

  The Louvre, Paris, France, May 2008.     (Photograph by Michael Riddle.  )

The Louvre, Paris, France, May 2008. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)


Clara and Mr. Tiffany, which was written by Susan Vreeland, is an intriguing historical novel that is based on the life of Clara Driscoll. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Clara headed up the Women’s Department at Tiffany Studios. The workers in her department carefully selected the pieces of glass used for leaded-glass lampshades and windows and they precisely cut those pieces to the exact sizes that were required. There is evidence that Clara herself came up with design ideas for some of the famous Tiffany lampshades (such as the dragonfly lampshades and the wisteria lampshades).

The “Mr. Tiffany” in the title is Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the founder of the Tiffany & Co. jewelry store. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s business was separate from Tiffany & Co. until his father passed away in 1902 and the book makes reference to the rivalry that existed between the father and son. Though the title might hint at it, there is no indication that there was a romantic relationship between Clara and Louis. Rather, it seems that they had a complex, creative collaboration that resulted in items of extraordinary beauty.

For those of us who are enchanted by Tiffany lampshades and windows, this book provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what went into creating these functional works of art. It also gives a sense of what life was like in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. In particular, the author portrays what it was like then for a woman who was trying to have her own career. The book, which is written with Clara as the narrator, covers her personal life as well, including friendship and romance. 

And this historical novel captures the excitement of being in New York City during a very dynamic period in its history. For example, Vreeland writes the following when Clara sees the completed Flatiron Building for the first time: “Coming down through Madison Square Park, I saw the building thrusting skyward above the trees. At a certain angle, only one of its long sides was visible, so it looked like a completely flat building, a mere façade without any width at all, like a giant piece of cardboard balanced on end and painted with windows. It was both disconcerting and thrilling.”

Over a hundred years ago, Clara and the workers in her department demonstrated to the men at Tiffany Studios that women can perform challenging jobs. Susan Vreeland’s book brings to light their talents and accomplishments in an entertaining fashion.

Top 12 Words

During each month of 2014 a reflection on a particular word has been published on this website. In a sense, these are Blue River Monthly’s Top 12 Words for 2014! Here’s a list of all of the words, with links to the corresponding reflections, in case you missed any:

           1) Courage

           2) Compassion

           3) Wisdom

           4) Authenticity

           5) Patience

           6) Integrity

 The number 12

           7) Independence

           8) Humility 

           9) Persistence

         10) Reliability

         11) Kindness

         12) Generosity


In addition to being generous with material things, we can be generous with things such as time, attention, information and goodwill. All of these types of generosity involve opening our heart. The Buddhist meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, wrote, “Whether it is generosity with our time, our possessions, our money, or our love, the principles are the same. True generosity grows in us as our heart opens, grows along with the integrity and health of our inner life.”

Also, true generosity occurs when we give without expectations. If we’re giving something in the hope of obtaining a particular outcome as a result, then that’s more of an attempt at manipulation than it is a genuine act of generosity. And genuine generosity typically takes into account the recipient’s preferences, needs and/or desires; we don’t just give what we ourselves would like to receive or what we think the recipient should want.

Lastly, true generosity is joyful. At the end of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge embodies joyful generosity. He happily sends a turkey to Bob Cratchit, makes a sizeable pledge to help the poor and shares his time and attention by going to his nephew’s house for dinner. Each holiday season, when the film adaptations of A Christmas Carol are shown, he serves as a wonderful reminder of the joy of giving. 

See December 2014 article

Back to top