Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gallery of Tulips: Photos

This always seems a joyous time of year -- when the wintry world has made way for the entrance of color!!  Daffodils, forsythia, and then tulips in that order!  Not only are they glorious when young and perky, but some hang around longer than others, their petals turning tissue paper thin with maturity as they assume dancing poses.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Eight Children's Books

Late in 2011, after writing a posting about re-reading nine children's classics, I promised to re-read the other six I still owned and write about them.  When a friend sent me two of her favorites, I read those as well for the first time.  Here they all are.

1.  Margaret Sidney:  Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.  This is a late 19th century children's classic--the story of the five Pepper children, all of whom (nowadays) seem way older than they are, more imaginative, responsible, and creative in their activities.  In fact, for a modern audience, I found it a bit goody-goody.  But sweet.

2.  Robert Louis Stevenson:  Treasure Island.  I had read this as a child but admit to totally forgetting much of it.  I found it a highly rousing tale, rightfully a classic.

3.  Eric Knight:  Lassie Come Home.  This still made me weep, even as it did when I read it years ago.  It's the tale of faithful Lassie who can no longer be kept because the family finances won't allow it.  So she is sold and eventually taken up to northern Scotland where she manages to escape and make her way home, crawling back, barely alive, to be at her old 4:00 post when her young master gets out of school.  Hurrah!

4.  The Brothers Grimm:  Grimms' Fairy Tales.  Unlike the H. C. Andersen tales, I found these much more rousing and generally engaging.

5.  Lewis Carroll:  Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  This, of course, is his writing down of the tale he told the real Alice and her sisters on a day's boating trip together.  It's made up of a lot of literary nonsense, word plays, puns, etc.  I felt it should have held up for me now as an adult but found it simply too silly for the most part.  Though I did love the poems, such as Soup of the Evening, and the wonderful assortment of strange characters.  But I also found it deeply nonsensical and rambling.  In Through the Looking Glass, things, of course, are backwards, as they would appear in a mirror, a looking glass.  The characters are all a bunch of scolds. And the theme and setting are that of a chess board.  Sorry to say, I found it very tedious to re-read.

6. Howard Pyle:  The Wonder Clock, or four & twenty marvelous Tales, being one for each hour of the day.  Twenty-four tales, each with several beautifully executed drawings by the author.  About tomfoolery, good luck, greed, three of everything (mostly brothers, the youngest always being the cleverest) and, of course, the most beautiful princess with a father who puts strict conditions on the man who marries her.  Since he's writer and illustrator both, you know that the drawings absolutely represent the author's vision.

7.  Frances Hodgson Burnett:  The Secret Garden.  This was my first reading of this classic which I had viewed at least twice as a film.  It's a splendid book which incorporates the power of positive thinking, aka "the Magic" which heals the bed-ridden lad and opens his father (and the house) to health instead of grief.

8.  Elizabeth Enright:  The Saturdays.  This, too, was my first reading.  In 1939, faced with their usual Saturday boredom, four New York City siblings come up with interesting activities.  A trip to the opera, the ballet, a museum.  By pooling their allowance, each goes alone, seeking out that special activity that matches his/her particular interest.  Imaginative and fun.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Well Said

Every so often I write down something I particularly like that I've just read.  Here is part of my current collection.

  • Of his gorgeous, remote, and mountainous principality in northwestern Pakistan, The Mir of Hunza once called it "The happy land of just enough."  He also spoke of one's "young, middle, and rich years."
  • This lovely line, "...the noise of failure growing beautiful," describes the wind trying to blow leaves off an aspen tree a month too early.  From the poem, August in Waterton, Alberta, by Bill Holm.
  • Apparently Franz Liszt described composer John Field's nocturnes as "dissolving into delicious melancholy."  Field (who died in 1837) wrote the first nocturnes.  Everyone else, including Chopin, copied the form. 
  • From Robert Higgs, Truncating the Antecedents:  "Unvarnished truth is to our rulers as holy water is to vampires."
  • Here's one from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa that captured me because it reflects my love of places that are a few thousand feet above sea level.  "Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart.  In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought:  Here I am, where I ought to be."
  • I pulled this out of Alexander McCall Smith's The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection:  "Every life needs spells of calm, every life needs expanses of time when nothing much occurs, when one may sit for several hours in the same place and gaze upon static things, upon some waxen-leafed desert plant, perhaps, or a path of dry grass.  Or a group of cattle standing under a tree for the shade, the slow, flicking movement of their tails the only indication that they are animate beasts, not rocks; or a sky across which no clouds, or perhaps only the merest wisp of white, move."
This spot, overlooking St-Remy, France, would count as my family's most memorable "spell of calm" spot.  After a picnic, we sat upon this hill, listened to the wind, wished we lived in St-Remy, and let the sun warm us as the scene filled us with its silence.
  • A young couple (family members) recently put themselves on a 30-day restricted health regimen (no grains, dairy, legumes, processed oils and only certain veggies and meats) and said, on Day 17, "Lately we've been feeling OK I think.  Today at dinnertime we were dancing around the kitchen improvising a song about pickles in Ethel Merman voices until the children begged us to stop."
  • Two from Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs.  "Yes'm, old friends is always best, 'less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of."  And, "... the days flew by like a handful of flowers flung to the sea wind."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Writing "April"

Crocuses in my front lawn

I can't tell you what a relief it is to be able to write "April."  To have this lovely word, this lovely month now part of our experience.  To have beaten the winds of winter with its cold, icy, grey days.  Winter (for me, anyway) always brings a built-in tension.  Will there be so much snow on the roof that I'll need to hire someone to shovel it off?  Will I have an appointment just when a storm comes up both icing and whiting-out the road?  Will the power go out and, with it, the heat?

But with April, when I take my snow shovel back inside for another six months, I find that I can existentially relax.  I can look out, not to a white landscape (as beautiful as that can be) but to one that is sprouting a healthy, rejuvenating green!!  (Well, not quite yet, but soon.)  The sunshine is strong enough now that I can sit on my front step and soak it in or lie on my sofa when the sun angles through the window there.

Even before the crocuses, the snowdrops appear.

Of course, spring and summer bring on the ticks, midges, black flies, mosquitoes, even unbearable heat and humidity to say nothing of construction season with the sound of back-up beeps, road work, bridge repair, plus the neighbor's barking dog because my windows are now open. 

But just writing the word "April" somehow loosens a lot inside me.  I sometimes think I should return to my old haunts on the California coast.  But family is here now and so am I, appreciating a month that stirs the juices!

Pansies and violas are always the garden center's first flowers.

As an aside ... this first week of April also marks the second anniversary of my posting this blog.