Monday, June 20, 2016

The first day of summer

In my current station in life, I've rare need to know the date of the year, so today's "first day of summer" announcement was a surprise. And what better place to live the first day of summer but on a beautiful beach with full sun and calm tides. 

After my morning walk, I cooled down in my beach chair with an icy water and my current daily provender book, Wonder O' the Wind by W. Phillip Keller. I will have to take a picture of the front of the book because I can find it no where else, and since the book is Keller's autobiography, his picture - a man of kindly face, thoughtful mind, and gracious heart - is on the cover. Other editions have a picture of what looks like sea oats against the ocean. Nice picture, but that not what the book is about. I've read other Keller books and love his prose. This one is no different, and it's nice to read about the circumstances into which he was born and lived. His focus on and about the natural world and his walk in this natural world seemed to prompt my thinking in a direction my beach days often provide.

Always when I'm at the beach for a week or ten days, I find an unexplainable clarity of focus. Maybe that is because most of the daily duties of life are left behind for a period of time. Whatever it is, I am able to think through the upcoming months. I think through books I want to read, tasks I need and want to complete, goals I want to reach. This time gives me an opportunity to renew my vigor.

I love the beach. I love everything it brings to my senses. I love the sight of the rolling waves that have never ceased from the beginning of time. I love the sound of those waves crashing on the sand. I love the smell of salt water in the air. I love the feel of damp, cool sand on my feet and the warm sun on my skin. I've said before that I think I could be quite content to live right here on the shore with this as my landscape every minute. And I would hope that one day I will have the opportunity to live here. Not as a forever home, but for a month or so. For a long enough time to feel I belonged here and wasn't just visiting. 

For now, though, I'm just visiting. And on this first day of summer, I hope every day brings as much joy and appreciation of life as this one does.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Around and busy, but obviously not here!

Looks like I'm guilty of neglect. Of this blog, at least. My time consumers for the past few months are pictured. 

I write little posts in my head all the time but have nor take time to put them down. Four drafts are yet to complete since May 1 and only twenty-seven since the first of the year! :)

I do have intentions though. When the grass stops growing, when I read a few more pages, and. . . .

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day: Dominion and Care

 I've never gotten into the whole Earth Day observance or celebration, but I believe that we are to be good stewards of the place we have been positioned as sojourners during our earthly lives. We need to recognize this place isn't ours, yet we are to have dominion - not destruction - over it.

And I really like Wendell Minor's artwork for this day, which to me represents the fifth day of creation
"And God said, 
'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, 
and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.' 
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, 
with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, 
and every winged bird according to its kind. 
And God 
saw that it was 


Saturday, April 09, 2016

My Reading Life: The Name of the Rose (Eco)

The Name of the Rose started out slowly.  I'm not a swift reader, and this one would take some time -- long sentences, some over 2/3s of a page long with more than 100 words -- and more erudite than I usually read. His descriptions are well-crafted and thoughtful. 

I lost momentum about halfway through. I was more interested in the threads of solving the murders than the long erudite detours which seemed to become more frequent and caused my eyes to glaze. 

However, I did mark several lines that I favor and emphasized them below.

"When our eyes had finally grown accustomed to the gloom, the silent speech of the carved stone, accessible as it immediately was to the gaze and the imagination of anyone (for images are the literature of the layman), dazzled my eyes and plunged me into a vision that even today my tongue can hardly describe."  Here, the carvings of the church facade was described. My mind's eye recalled my overwhelming smallness when I first saw in person the intricate detailed portal of the cathedral of Notre Dame.

 ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 

"The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis." Two things in this line:  First, a list. Yes, lists. I love lists. I keep lists. And lists of lists. They are my daily map that keeps me going. So when I read this line, I nearly shouted with joyful surprise.  And second, the word hypotyposis. I have no particular fondness with or association at all with the word (although it snaps around in your mouth as its pronounced); it was completely new to me. But it was the first word from the book I actually wrote down and tried to look up in my bedside electronic dictionary (which did not contain it). It was the first word of many that I had never, ever heard of and began to wonder "Is it a real word?" After so many reading interruptions to write down words, I stopped; there were just too many I did not know. But here are a few starters and their meanings.

hypotyposis - lifelike description of a thing or scene

palimpsest - a document, such as a page from a manuscript written on parchment, that had been rubbed smooth so it could be used again, with traces of the original writing showing through

spoor - the trail left by a person or an animal 

 cicatrize - to form a scar after an injury

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

"I woke when it was almost tolling the hour for the evening meal. I felt dull and somnolent, for daytime sleep is like the sin of the flesh: the more you have the more you want, and yet you feel unhappy, sated and unsated at the same time."  Though I love an occasional Sunday afternoon nap, I wake feeling exactly like that description. 

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

And this last quote about the protagonist from the early pages perfectly sums up my take-away from entire the book: ". . . William . . . was too much of a philosopher for my adolescent mind."

Friday, March 25, 2016

My Reading Life: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Schmidt)

Because I'm a Gary Schmidt fan, I read Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, another of his juvenile fictions. Each of my previous Schmidt books -- The Wednesday Wars, Okay for Now, Trouble, and Orbiting Jupiter -- have hooked me up for the next one.

Schmidt is a wordsmith for young people. His sentence-crafting is much like the thought train of kids -- and maybe of many of us -- how your mind constructs a multitude of thoughts in silence at the snap of your fingers. To appreciate these thought-trains requires a bit closer reading; in other words, scanning often misses those jewels in which thinking is lightning fast but reading is combing slow. Many of them are laugh-out-loud funny simply because of the nature of children. And ourselves.

Schimidt's simple but visual descriptions have always fascinated me with appreciation for his craft. 
"In late September,
the sea breeze stole the gold from the maples,
the silver from the aspens.
The oaks browned; the beeches paled.
And in a general disheartening,
the leaves let go,
twirled and somersaulted,
and finally settled down to sleep."
Books can ignite fires in your mind,
because they carry ideas for kindling,
and art for matches."
I love that quote. In the story, it refers to a statement by the protagonist's father regarding his impression of The Origin of Species by Darwin. The protagonist Turner is schooled at home by his father who introduces him to Darwin's writings. Origin was written about half century prior to the setting of Lizzie Bright, and I haven't quite figured out Schmidt's positive positioning of Darwin's book in this story for young people. Schmidt has been on the faculty of Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids (MI), for twenty-five years which adds another little element of confusion to the mix.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a historical fiction first published in 2004, is one of Schmidt's earlier books. Schmidt, who has an academic interest in New England cultural history, brings together historical fact, youthful innocence, and human sinfulness to create powerful human emotions in both his characters and his readers. This story would be a good tool to begin a conversation with juvenile readers about human worth.

When I decided to sandwich Lizzie Bright as a quick little jaunt between two heavy tomes, I never expected to become so emotional because of it. I can tolerate (but not condone) a lot of injustice, but the injustice in this book plain infuriates me. I was angry, and still am when I allow myself to go there. I wanted to hit and harm the mean, hateful, and haughty people in this story and at the same time hug and protect those to whom the hate was directed.

I never expected it to haunt me like it has. And this haunting has derailed much of several days for me as I did my typical follow-up. As usual when I get interested in the subject, I pursue an aggressive online search for more information, historical documentation, and pictures, particularly if it is based on some fact. Rather than divulge any possible spoilers, I will only list these links (which are in no particular order) that you may pursue, but be warned that some will reveal certain aspects of the story.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Landmark Books

Recently, I was catching up on the last few months of "By the Book," a column in the Sunday New York Times which interviews an author each week.

Bill Bryson was asked, "Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?"

He answers, "I was completely devoted to an imprint called Landmark Books when I was growing up. I don’t know whether anyone remembers this series anymore, but they were nonfiction hardback books, on historical subjects, written for children or adapted from adult books. They made you feel that you were taking part in a grown-up activity but at a level that you could handle. A good deal of what I know about American history came from Landmark Books. I used to spend nearly all my pocket money on either Landmark Books or, if I was feeling rakish, Hardy Boys books. I am hugely indebted to both."

This made me smile and say "Yes!" I love Landmark books and have a few over one hundred, so it's gratifying to hear that an accomplished author was a Landmarker too!

Check out this list of the Landmarks in chronological order.

Friday, March 04, 2016

My Reading Life: The Old Man and the Boy (Ruark)

The draw to read The Old Man and The Boy came to me by way of a mention of it in Pat Conroy's My Reading Life. (After I read Conroy's book, I went back and listed all the books he had mentioned with the intention to seek those out and read.) When I got about twenty-five pages into the book, I began to wonder if, indeed, Conroy had mentioned this, so I went back through MRL for confirmation. Yes, he had mentioned it, but not that he had read it. The mention of it was made by a used book dealer in a discussion about the condition of collectible books. My mistake:  It wasn't a book that Conroy had read. (I have this quasi-quest to read the books Conroy has loved.) But since I had this pristine and apparently unread copy secured through PaperBackSwap, I would read it anyway. 

The Old Man is the boy's grandfather who he calls "the Old Man." This grandfather takes it upon himself to teach his grandson all about fishing and hunting, life in the fields and woods, dispensing measures of sound advice and direction along the way. Set in coastal North Carolina during the early part of the twentieth century, The Old Man and The Boy is a memoir of author Robert Ruark's boyhood. 

The grandfather sprinkles his life experiences and wisdom to his grandson in most every activity they attempt.
"A fish, which you can't see, deep down in the water, is a kind of symbol of peace on earth, good will to yourself. Fishing gives a man some time to think. It gives him some time to collect his thoughts and rearrange them kind of neat, in an orderly fashion."

I laughed at the accurateness of this one:
"One thing you will learn. . . is that you must never be lazy in front of anybody. Loafing is fine, but energetic people get mad at you if you take it easy in front of them. That's one of the troubles with women. They got a dynamo in them, and they run on energy. It pure riles a woman to see a man having any fun that doesn't involve work. That's why fishing was invented, really."
After I was about one hundred pages into the book, I looked up Robert Ruark online. I wondered what other books he had written, eager to possibly add those to my longer-than-I-can-live-to-read list. Ruark had penned some other books, in fact, a sequel The Old Man's Boy Grows Older. But, as I read a summary of his life, I was disheartened that it seemed he had chosen a loose and hard path -- an abundance of alcohol and women. 

In The Old Man and The Boy, Ruark writes of his introduction of whiskey, the sips he was allowed by the grandfather on the fishing trips, and as he got older, the allowance of drinks as part of a reward of manhood. Evidently, the taste stuck and drove him to his grave through cirrhosis of the liver brought on through alcoholism. After learning this, I really didn't want to finish the book. But I did. I'm saddened at the burden the grandfather would have carried had he lived to learn the end of his grandson. 

Anyway, some the Old Man's wisdom in quote snippets:

"Now, then, son, . . . we ain't goin' to talk any, because fishin' is a silent sport and a lot of conversation scares the fish and wrecks the mood. What I want you to do is set there and fish, and when the fish ain't bitin' I want you to listen and look and think. Think about heaven and hell and just how long is hereafter. Look around you and don't take nothing for granted. Look at everything you see and listen to everything you hear, just like you were brand-new come from another world, and think about all those things and how they got there."
"It was main late when we hit the landing. The stars had crept out bright now, and a little wedge of moon was slipping sneaky-like up over the trees. The frogs, the bugs, the night birds, and the animals were making a din. I got to thinking about eternity, and how long something that never ended would be, and I got to thinking about how much trouble Somebody went to, to make things like cocoons that butterflies come out of, and seasons and rain and moss on trees, and frogs and fish and possums and coons and quail and flowers and ferns and water and moons and suns and stars and winds. . . .I feel awful little and unimportant, somehow, and a little bit scared."
"Knowledge is an accumulation, like a pack rat hides things. Things you never knew you knew have a way of popping up later. You're supposed to fill your skull with a lot of things, against the day you might need one of them."
"Then a strange and wonderful thing happened to me in the schoolroom.I discovered reading. Real reading." And he goes on to mention Shakespeare, Walter Scott and Ivanhoe, Ernest Thompson Seton, Gibbon, Defoe, Wyss, and Chaucer.
And within a dozen pages of the end:
"I sipped slowly on my first legal drink of illegal whiskey. . . I grinned and smacked my lips. The Old Man looked stern. "You hold in your hand," he said, "man's best friend and worst enemy, depending on how you use him. He's been a firm friend of mine for over fifty years, but I never saw too much of him. Any friendship goes sour if you overdo it."

I think this is where I became so sad. Evidently, the friendship soured, and one overcame the other. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

My Reading Life: Winter Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

Real-paper books:
***Beach Music (Conroy) 
*Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes (Niequist)
**Come Rain or Come Shine (Karon)
Crusade (Laird)
***Orbiting Jupiter (Schmidt)
**Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (D’Antonio)
**The Light Between Oceans (Stedman)
**The Old Man and the Boy (Ruark)
**Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore (Goldstone) 
*My Own Cape Cod (Taber) 

***Brooklyn (Tóibín) Easy-listening story. 
*The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain (Bryson) 
*Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Sloan)
***Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines (Ritland) -- Still listening to this one, but I know I'll not change my rating. Fascinating.

Abandoned audio: The Little Paris Bookshop (George)
*** I liked these the most.
**   They were really interesting.
*     Endured. 

It is my plan to review a few more from this list as time allows.