Monday, June 14, 2021

40

Our wedding anniversary was yesterday, and John and I have been married for 40 years. That sounds like a loonng time to me, but I've known John for at least 48 years. 

This is what we looked like on June 13, 1981

Like any marriage, there have been ups and downs, but we're lucky that there have been many more times on the upside. We've never been one of those couples that is joined at the hip, so we each do plenty of things on our own. Shockingly, John has little interest in reading and knitting, so those are solo pursuits for me. I'm not a big fan of hunting, so that's an activity he pursues by himself or with Justin. We've spent plenty of time apart; the summer after we got married, John was at Woods Hole and I stayed home and worked. A few years later, he took three months off from his graduate program and headed out west while I stayed in Syracuse and worked. He's been in MD for the past two weeks while I took care of things in NJ. I wonder if our time apart might help (and can you tell that I'm a bit nervous about him retiring next year and being around all the time)?

This is what we looked like on June 14, 1981.

Whatever the reason, my life is better with John than without him, and I hope he would say the same thing. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends, with a big thank you to Kat for hosting Unraveled Wednesday for us each week. I've been feeling a bit unmoored lately. My nephew's memorial service was last Saturday, so I've been thinking about him, my sister, and the rest of her family almost constantly. That has led me to think about the things that I do help me to feel a bit more stable, and Unraveled Wednesday is one of those things. There are many days when I struggle to find something to write about, and then struggle to write, but Kat makes it a pleasure to show up on Wednesdays to talk about knitting and reading. These have been important anchors during this unmoored time and I'm grateful to have these pastimes to fall back on, and to Kat for providing us with a place and space to talk about them. 


I'm still working on Hitchhiker stripes, and have just started the third (pink) one. The last one is orange, then a few more teeth in the Nervous Breakdown color and I'll finally be done. Margene said that the stripes give this Hitchhiker some happier pizzazz, and I agree.

There are a few ends to weave in, and there will be a few more, but they shouldn't be too big of a deal. I'll keep plugging along (and will maybe be done by next week).

I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time reading lately. There have been some unexpected surprises available via Overdrive (The Plot, Challenger Deep, and The Best of Me). You can read my humble opinions on these books by clicking on the links in the right-hand sidebar. My big book treat is a book that I have been looking for for several decades. I have always loved The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, and ever since I first read it back in 1990, I've been searching for something similar. There are authors similar to Rosamunde Pilcher, like Maeve Binchy and Marcia Willett, but I've never been able to find a book that captured me like The Shell Seekers. Until now. I stumbled upon Shake Down the Stars by Frances Donnelly and this just might be it. The first similarity was the requisite flowered cover, and now that I've received and started reading the used copy I ordered, the setting (WWII in England) is also similar. Neither The Shell Seekers nor Shake Down the Stars is great literature, but they are both feel-good, comforting books. Novels like that will always occupy a valued place on my bookshelf.


What are you making, reading, and thinking about this week?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Shuggie Bain

 Hello and welcome to the Read With Us Shuggie Bain discussion day!


I hope you've read this stellar book (my humble opinion, but you are welcome to disagree). Shuggie Bain is the story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Margaret Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but her alcoholism is a burden for him and his siblings. 

Douglas Stuart's mother in 1973

The book is titled Shuggie Bain, but it is really the story of his mother, Agnes. Shuggie's love for his mother is of such an intensity that, at times, it almost seems overwhelming. How do you feel about that?  Shuggie's two half-siblings manage to escape her influence, but Shuggie remains, always trying to save Agnes from herself. There were many times that I wondered why Shuggie didn't also leave, and I wonder if any of you have thoughts about why.

Agnes always takes pride in her appearance and values good manners. Maintaining her dignity is important to her, yet she frequently fails to do so. How do you feel about Agnes, as a mother, wife and woman? I think Agnes did the best she could, but sadly, her best was lacking in so many ways.

Feel free to leave your answers or thoughts in the comments, and I hope you'll join us tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to attend, and we'll make sure you get a link to the Zoom meeting. 

"I am always looking for tenderness in the hardest places," says Douglas Stuart, and he has certainly done that in Shuggie Bain, his portrayal of Shuggie's devotion to Agnes, and the dedication to his own mother who died of alcoholism. 


Monday, June 7, 2021

Don't Forget

This is just a reminder that tomorrow we'll have our discussion of Shuggie Bain

Author Douglas Stuart with his Booker Prize-winning novel

Kym, Carole and I will each pose a different question on our blogs. You are welcome to answer them if you would like to, or just comment with your thoughts about the book. Tomorrow night at 7:00 pm Eastern we'll be hosting a Zoom discussion of the book, live and in person. If you would like to participate, just leave a comment and we'll make sure to send you the Zoom link. I do hope you'll consider this as our previous Zoom meetings have been a lot of fun, and have added to my perceptions of the books. Shuggie Bain is no exception as this is a book that needs to be discussed. I hope your Monday is a good one and I hope to see you tomorrow!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

Last week I chose a poem (or it chose me) by William Stafford. Jane told me about his Methow River Poems, and I was fascinated. It's a series of poems located in scenic spots along the Methow River in Washington state. In 1992, the Methow Valley Ranger District asked William Stafford to write these poems to honor the landscapes of the North Cascades. They were looking for something more than the normal natural history signs that we often see, and hoped that poetry would serve as a way to connect visitors to these special places. In the year before his death in 1993, Stafford wrote the seven Methow River Poems. You can purchase a book containing these poems, but it's now a bucket list dream of mine to see and read them in situ.



A Valley Like This
William Stafford

Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this,
and suddenly the air is filled with snow.
That is the way the whole world happened—
there was nothing, and then…

But maybe some time you will look out and even
the mountains are gone, the world become nothing
again. What can a person do to help
bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully
save it, like a bubble that can disappear
if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.
Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is.


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Stafford, William. "A Valley Like This." Even in Quiet Places, Confluence Press, 2010. 

You can read more about the poet here


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I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, the ability to watch how your mornings and evenings open and close, and poetry as the week winds down.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Last weekend's rainy and chilly weather made it ideal to stay indoors and knit, read, and nap. I had thought that I was approaching the end of this lingering Hitchhiker, with maybe 10 or 20 rows to go. But then I pulled out the first one and was confronted with reality. 

I wrote down the stripes and number of rows on the purple post-it and was surprised to find that I still had 104 rows to go. I'm not sure how or why I had fooled myself into thinking I was almost done, but at least now I have an honest total. I've made some progress (14 rows) so there are now 90 rows to completion and weaving in a bunch of ends from the stripes. I have to mow the lawn later today but aside from that, I hope to be sitting and knitting. No more fooling myself!

Reading has been satisfying this past week, with two wonderful four-star finishes. Writers & Lovers was a good coming-of-age novel. My only small issue was that it wrapped up a bit too quickly with everything worked out perfectly. (Real life doesn't often work that way!) I felt lucky to find a copy of The Office of Historical Corrections on Overdrive, so I checked it out, downloaded it and was enthralled. I finished it in two days, and as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I should bump up my four stars to five. It was a unique and original collection of short stories, and I will be looking for Danielle Evans' first book of short stories, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. I stumbled across The Push while I was looking through Overdrive, and checked it out because I was curious. Ugh! This book was only 1.5 stars for me, and served as a reminder that I don't have to check out books just because they've received good reviews. I also don't have to finish them when it becomes clear just how bad the book is. But I've started Braiding Sweetgrass and Challenger Deep, so I've got plenty of good listening while I knit.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Brood X

Brood X cicadas have arrived in MD, and they are numerous and noisy. 

Beginning in mid-May, we noticed a few of their discarded carcasses on one sycamore tree along our walk. The birds were quite happy to see them, and we've seen the neighborhood sparrows and cardinals feasting on them. 

Then we started seeing more and more cicadas. I have to avoid them when I'm hanging laundry and John always has a few hit him in the chest when he goes out for a bike ride.

In real life, they are about an inch long with a four inch wingspan. They don't bite, sting, or harm humans or most plants. They lay their eggs in trees, so some small tree branches can be harmed if too many eggs have been laid on them, but plant damage isn't common. They should be active above ground until the end of June, when the young drop to the ground and burrow into the soil. There they'll molt four times over the next 17 years and then the cycle will start again. 

While they don't harm humans or most plants, they are the loudest insects on earth. Male cicadas use their wings and special organs called tymbals to create their "song" (and I use this term loosely). The chorus of male cicadas is about 100 decibels, or about as loud as a lawnmower. It seems to be at a frequency that hurts my ears and feels like its burrowing into my brain. But with cicadas estimated at a density as high as 1 million per acre, they win.

I took this short video to try and illustrate what it sounds like outside. These are on the ivy covering the trunk of the pine tree in our back yard, and hopefully you can get an idea of what their "song" sounds like. (My neighbors' poor dog feels compelled to bark at the cicadas whenever he's outdoors, so you'll hear him, too.)


I'm personally looking forward to the quiet that I hope is coming at the end of June!