Thursday, August 27, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Lately, I've been thinking about E. B. White and how he might have written about the pandemic. He wrote some really thoughtful pieces, collected in One Man's Meat, and I feel sure that he would have some honest, gentle, yet truthful words to share if he was alive today.

Since we're not able to read White's words about Covid-19, I'm sharing another one of his poems.

Amelia Givin Free Library Reading Room, Mt. Holly Springs, PA

Reading Room
E. B. White

Sadness and languor along the oak tables
Steady the minds of the sitters and readers;
Sleep and despair, and the stealth of the hunters,
And (in the man at the end of the row) anger.

Books are the door of escape from the forest,
Books are the wilderness, too, for the scholar;
Walled in the past, drowning in fables,
Out of the weather we sit, steady in languor.

Which are the ones that belong, properly?
Which are the hunters, which the harried?
Break not the hush that surrounds this miracle —
Mind against mind, coupling in splendor —
Step on no twig, disturbing the forest.
Enter the aisles of despair. Sit down and be quiet.

White, E.B. "Reading Room". Poems and Sketches of E.B. White, Harper & Row, 1981.

E. B. White was a man who knew fear, anxiety, and self-doubt, like so many of us today, but he still reveled in life. As this week winds down, I wish that all of you might be guided and inspired by someone as wise as E.B. White. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some monogamous knitting. I've talked to my nephew's wife and she's only got three more weeks until the baby is born. It's nerve-wracking enough to think about delivering a baby, but to do it in the time of coronavirus seems especially worrisome. I'm knitting lots of extra love into each row. 

I haven't finished any books this week, but I'm currently listening to Hamnet and How the Penguins Saved Veronica. Hamnet is superb and I don't want it to end, but I'm still not sure about Veronica and the penguins. I'll know by next week if it's worth continuing. I've been thinking about E.B. White and how he might have written about the pandemic, so it may be time for me to re-listen to him reading Charlotte's Web

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is random.

A lesson that I've finally learned about blogging is that it pays to take photos whenever the opportunity arises. Sometimes these photos can inspire a post on their own and other times I end up with a folder full of random pictures. Today is the result of cleaning out that folder.

'Tis the season for fungi popping up all over the lawn, and for the squirrels to nibble on them. Squirrels high on mushrooms are quite a sight.

My lime tree had six limes on it a month ago, but the squirrels have chewed on five of them. I have the vodka and tonic at the ready for this last one.

Does your family bring home interesting rocks and broken glass pieces they've found? Mine does. 

I was so happy to see that this clematis was still alive and blooming even better than before. It belonged to John's grandmother, and my best estimate is that it's probably 50-60 years old. It's been slowly dying and I had been holding my breath after last winter. I was thrilled to see a new sprout this spring and now look at it showing off!

 One lovely rose that hasn't been gnawed on by Japanese beetles.

It's also been a good year for hydrangeas. This one is three years old and has never bloomed before.

And these are part of the second round of blossoms for this hydrangea. I believe benign neglect may be paying off.

In one of the best social distance moments I've experienced, my neighbor and I performed a Jefferson Airplane duet. Jane is on my mowing playlist and I was outdoors singing along (probably a bit too loudly) while I filled the mower with gas. I looked over when I saw my neighbor come out of his garage and he yelled, "Turn it up!" Ordinarily, this man is fairly straight-laced and buttoned-up, but I removed the earbuds and cranked up the volume. He performed on air drums while I provided vocals, and it was a stirring rendition. When the song was over he gave me a thumbs up and headed back to his garage.

And contrary to what my father always said, it looks like money does grow on trees!

I hope your Monday is a good one and your week is off to a great start!

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Mother's Advice

Alice Paul unfurling the ratification banner with its new 36th star after Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.

Earlier this week, Kym told us about a good reason to celebrate and loads of great information about women's suffrage; I'd like to share an interesting story about the ratification of the 19th Amendment. I heard this on NPR and it was a compelling driveway moment for me. 

After the women's suffrage movement was launched in 1848, suffragists fought long and hard, marching, picketing, being arrested, imprisoned, and staging hunger strikes for over seven decades. Congress had finally passed the amendment in June of 1919 and 35 states had ratified it. In August of 1920, just one more state was needed, and Tennesse was the best hope. 

There was plenty of resistance, racial arguments, lobbying, fistfights, and dirty tricks. In the Jack Daniel's Suite at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, liquor was served (despite Prohibition) to get legislators drunk and make sure they voted against suffrage.  

Women were out in force trying to convince legislators to join their side, and when they did they pinned a yellow rose to his jacket. Those against wore red roses so it was clear how people were going to vote. 

Harry T. Burn

One of those people was 24-year-old Harry Burn, a freshman delegate to the Tennessee House of Representatives. He walked into the Capitol with a red rose on his lapel and voted to table the amendment (kill it by not voting on it) twice that day, with the votes ending in a 48-48 tie. But then the moment of truth arrived, a vote on whether to ratify the amendment itself. When Harry Burn was called he voted, "Aye". The tie was broken and the 19th Amendment was ratified. 

The envelope that contained the letter from Harry Burn's mother, Febb

Harry Burn had received a letter from his mother, Febb, a strong woman who ran the family farm and was a strong supporter of suffrage. She thought that her son might need a little nudge so she wrote to him, "Hurrah and vote for suffrage and don't keep them in doubt."

Burn told his fellow delegates, "I knew that a mother's advice is always safest for a boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification." Years later he said, "I think it was morally right. I thought it then; I still think it." I love this story and the fact that a young son did the right thing and listened to his mother (as all sons should :-)). You can read the whole exciting piece here or in the book The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss 

One hundred years after women won the right to vote they are underrepresented in politics, our basic rights still seem to be debated by men, and females are labeled as "Nasty" if they dare to express opinions. The president pardoned Susan B. Anthony on Tuesday for the crime of casting a ballot, but during the same event he continued to undermine the voting rights of millions of Americans. I know I don't need to say this to any of you reading this, but please make sure you vote on November 3rd (or whenever you return your mail-in ballot) like our lives and democracy depend on it because they do. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Searching for a poem always does my heart good, and I especially like how Allison Joseph uses unforced and repetitive rhyming in this one. I think it sounds wonderful read aloud.

Allison Joseph

what anger in defiance
what sympathy in doubt
emotions steady try us
demanding every shout
what sympathy in doubt
what pleasure in our pain
demanding are our shouts
such hazardous terrain
what pleasure in our pain
mere thinness to our skin
such hazardous terrain
such unrelenting din
sheer thinness of our skin
the ruptures and the breaks
such unrelenting din
mistake after mistake
we rupture and we break
we stagger and we shine
mistake after mistake
inhabiting our minds
we stagger and we shine
we live our lives on spin
inhabiting our minds
and undermining limbs
we live our lives on spin
and thrive until we grieve
we undermine our limbs
then get the strength to leave
we thrive until we grieve
emotions steady try us
we get the strength. we leave.
what anger in defiance.
Copyright © 2020 by Allison Joseph. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
You can read more about Allison Joseph here
I wish you mindfulness, peace, presence, strength, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Time For a Break

Cross section of a blade of marram grass

It's time for a little break and I'll be back in a few days!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Today's poem found me when I heard just the title and was intrigued. After searching out the poem I was quietly in love and wanted to share it with everyone. (I haven't handed out copies of it at the grocery store, but I did consider it.) It reminds me to wake up, pay attention, and not simply wait for time to show me some better thoughts (even during a pandemic). I'll stop blathering and let you (hopefully) enjoy the poet's words. 

You Reading This, Be Ready
William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this 
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Stafford, William. "You Reading This, Be Ready". The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems by William Stafford, Graywolf Press, 1998. 

You can read more about William Stafford here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, presence, sunlight creeping along your floor, better thoughts, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Wild Game: Time to Discuss!

We have introduced Wild Game, promoted it, and talked about it several times over the past few months — now it's YOUR turn!  CaroleKym, and I have each posed a different question on our blogs and we hope you'll answer our questions in the comments. And don't let the questions constrain you. If there is something you want to say about the book that isn't an answer to a discussion question, please feel free.

Even though Wild Game was a memoir I think it read very much like a novel, in a stranger-than-fiction way for me. I was amazed that Malabar would ensnare her daughter in her extramarital affair with Ben, and things got even stranger when Adrienne married Ben's son Chris. Eventually, Chris and Adrienne divorced, but Malabar and Ben had married, so the author's ex-husband was her stepbrother. Eww!

My main question was the same one that Adrienne's boyfriend Adam asked, "What kind of person would do that to her daughter?" But that's not my discussion question. Even though parts of this book repulsed me, after finishing it, I always came back to the fact that the author had finally matured, set boundaries, and become her own person (even if decades late) and managed to tell her story in a way that showed compassion and maybe even forgiveness for her mother. I wondered how and why she managed this and found an answer in a Psychology Today interview.

Becoming a mother made all of the events of my past resurface. Even though I had done a lot of work on myself, I was terrified of repeating some of the destructive behaviors I grew up with. Part of my family’s past for generations was that we carried a lot of secrets. I was worried about inadvertently harming my children if I didn’t fully address what had happened to me.

Adrienne Brodeur's mother, Malabar

My own parents were rigid, strict, and authoritative, with no room for discussion. When I would ask questions about their seemingly random rules and arbitrary reasons, my father would decree, "Do as I say, not as I do!" This made me angry and I swore to never say that to my own kids (and I never have). In many ways, I've tried to make conscious efforts not to parent my own children that way, but only Ryan and Justin can say if I've been at all successful. But as I get older, I do see glimpses of my parents in myself and wonder:

Are we all destined to become our parents in some way, shape, or form?

I'm very much looking forward to reading what you have to say. Please be sure to visit Kym and Carole and let us know what you think about their questions.

But wait, there's more! Once again we have a book lover's surprise package thoughtfully and generously provided by Kym, to be awarded to one lucky reader. Your name will be placed in a hat EACH time you make a comment on each of our book discussion posts and we will then choose a winner. Thank you for participating — our book group wouldn't be much of a group if you didn't read and offer your opinions. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day for More Mantis!

I shared this one from my neighbor's porch a couple of weeks ago, and last weekend was lucky enough to have one pose for a friendly portrait on my own porch. 

I hope your week is off to a good start (and continues that way). Be sure to visit Carole, Kym, and me tomorrow when we'll each be posing different discussion questions for Wild Game. We want to know what you think!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

E. B. White is one of my favorite authors, from his children's books to his essays written for adults. It's no surprise that he also wrote poetry. In true E.B. White fashion, he writes this introduction to his book of poetry:

This is a fraudulent book. Here I am presented as a poet, when it is common knowledge that I have never received my accreditation papers admitting me to the ranks of American poets. Having lived happily all my life as a non-poet who occasionally breaks into song, I have no wish at this late hour to change either my status or my habits even if I were capable of doing so, and I clearly am not. The life of a non-poet is an agreeable one: he feels no obligation to mingle with other writers of verse to exchange sensitivities, no compulsion to visit the “Y” to read from his own works, no need to travel the wine and cheese circuit, where the word “poet” carries the aroma of magic and ladies creep up from behind carrying ballpoint pens and sprigs of asphodel.

But even as a "non-poet" he wrote some lovely poems, like this one that he sent in a letter to his wife Katherine. 

Natural History
E.B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of her devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From which she started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning

White, E.B. "Natural History". Poems and Sketches of E.B. White, Harper & Row, 1981. 

I wish you mindfulness, peace, presence, time spent in and with nature, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. My knitting looks much the same (ready to bind off the Hitchhiker, plugging along slowly on the baby blanket, stalled on Ryan and Justin's fingerless gloves) so I'm going to show you some making of a different kind. It's a common sight on blogs during this season, and I've joined the pickle-making brigade.

John went out to the garden for a "couple of cucumbers" and came back with an almost full five-gallon bucket. After distributing some to neighbors, it was time to make the pickles. I'm not a fan of canning, so that limits my pickle-making to refrigerator pickles, which in turn is limited by refrigerator space.

This swampy-looking stuff is dill pickle brine.

And this is 9 quarts of dill pickle slices.

We'll keep some here in MD, take some home to NJ, and give plenty to my dill-pickle-loving BiL. I'm also done making pickles!

But I have been reading. I've been checking Overdrive for what audiobooks are available now and downloading several if they sound interesting. I listened to Whitethorn Woods (or maybe it's a re-read as I'm fairly sure I read this years ago) and The Shape of Family. They were both three-star books (but just barely) so now I'm on the lookout for something really good to read. Suggestions welcome!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

First Wild Game, Then a Wild Ride

I hadn't planned a second post today, but Isaias changed things a bit. I had some medical things scheduled, but the hospital has some flooding and is on emergency power so they are only treating emergencies. I'll reschedule and try again tomorrow.

There were two tornadoes in the area, eight inches of rain, and now we've got 40 mph winds. Here are some photos of what I came home to, but we were very lucky indeed. 

The corn is blown over, sunflowers are snapped and uprooted and even a couple of my blue bottle support sticks were snapped. All minor, just a surprise to see. I did salvage a couple of sunflowers for the dining room table.

I hope you have all fared well, your basements aren't flooded, your gutters are still attached, and you still have power. It was a tiny bit of a wild ride!

Wild Game: Just A Reminder

This is just a reminder that we'll be discussing Wild Game a week from today on Tuesday, August 11. Carole, Kym, and I will each be asking a different question on our blogs, and we hope that you'll join in the discussion and contribute your thoughts. Some of you grew up with similar mothers, but for many of us, it was wild to read about a mother that behaved this way. I know many of you have read the book, and several of you found that it was not the book for you. Whatever your mother was like, your relationship with her, whether you liked the book and gained something from it, or just couldn't finish it, we'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to admire a doe and her (three or four) fawns!

They weren't munching on my landscaping, so seeing all of them was pretty much the highlight of my weekend. Hope your week is off to a good start!