Tuesday, March 29, 2016

While I Was Reading...

While I was reading The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, which I am still reading, as it's a long novel, nature's first green, which is gold, appeared outside. Yes, the forsythia has bloomed! Many green things are pretty darn far up out of the ground. On the trail, bright blue scilla is blooming, as it is, in a very pale blue, almost white, in my mom's yard, where it is gently spreading.

Today I was out in my own yard raking--again!--the last of the fall leaves, which have been protecting one of the flowerbeds. I heard a wee bird with a big voice--it was a chickadee!

But the goldfinches will be back for the catmint. The catmint has not yet poked up from the ground, but an actual cat pokes around daily, eyeing the birds from a perch on the air conditioning unit behind a mugo pine, where cardinals nest annually. Nobody is safe out there!

Thanks to Wikipedia for The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius.

Don't tell me what happens. I already know not everybody likes the ending. But, yes, I am...chained.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Touchy Subjects

We've had a lovely Easter weekend with family, involving jelly beans, a car wash, ham, card playing, Jesus, chocolate in various shapes, got-your-nose eggs (filled with jelly beans), and a long walk into town and back, Saturday, before it rained, Sunday. I read through chapter 33 of We Make the Road By Walking, by Brian McLaren, before a class on it this morning, and I finished Touchy Subjects, by Emma Donoghue before everybody arrived for the holiday, so I wouldn't be pulled away from conversation and games by the need to read a short story! I remember reading a review of this one when it first came out, and sort of shrugging internally, but after reading Room I wanted to try another book by her. I appreciated the variety/focus on relationships & babies and "touchy subjects." Somehow this probably helped me stay away from touchy subjects at the gathering!

And here are two bunnies touching each other and some bagpipes.

Because bunnies.

Also, my son left his car top, newly washed, in his bedroom. Hard to explain. I guess that would have been the picture to show you.

Monday, March 21, 2016


I thought I had resisted temptation at the library book sale. But the last day is the free day. And I went back. For literature!* Poetry!** And, OK, a Mandy Patinkin CD.

He's singing, "Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along. How could I resist?

And last night we saw Youth, with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel--what a combo!***--at the Normal Theater. It's an art film and a wow film! It's about music, film, relationships, and being human. I laughed, I cried, and I sat there stunned and recovering all the way through the credits (in part to see all the music credits!!) Talk about more cowbell!

*Jose Saramago, Susan Sontag, May Sarton, William Styron

**Kay Ryan, Lisel Mueller, Tess Gallager, Richard Howard, Reginald Gibbons

***Plus Jane Fonda, Paul Dano, Rachel Weisz, and a fabulous array of other humans! Kudos to Sumi Jo and Paloma Faith for being themselves! And fearless!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

On Borrowed...Books

I have a lot of books. In my house. Some mine, some borrowed--some borrowed from friends, some from the library.* They are stacked here and there in every room, because I might need a book at any time, right? So in addition to reading This Old Man, by Roger Angell, borrowed from my mom, I am reading The Shell Collector, by Anthony Doerr, borrowed from a friend. It is eerily beautiful. As I looked at the cover, I realized, I have all these shells. Where?

I pictured them in a Betsy McCall's Travel Pac with a broken handle, where they used to be, but when I opened it up, I found little wooden trains and disassembled tracks from my son's toddlerhood. Then I pictured the shells in cookie tins, Mermaid and Riberhus Butter Cookie tins!** Yes!

**also from my son's toddlerhood, gifts from his babysitter!

This blog entry was going to be about something else altogether. I planned to quote Roger Angell, waxing patriotic about Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. "At ninety," he writes, "I belong to the generation that was called into service almost en masse, sixteen million of us, in 1942 and 1943, and went off to war." Because his was an "easy war" by comparison with fellow soldiers who died or were wounded or damaged, he says, "I've always felt a bit awkward with that Greatest Generation wreath that Tom Brokaw generously draped on us." Then he shares this insight: "yes, mine is the Greatest Generation, but despite the compliment, the people who are really feeling good about that aren't us old guys, I notice, but everybody else, anybody who's younger. If we're great, then they're a little great, and America itself is great all over again." Perhaps you see where I am headed.

Donald Trump recently came to town, and so did the Dump Trump and other peaceful protest groups, to voice their dismay with this candidate, mostly outside his rally. The few inside the rally were escorted peacefully out. I was struck by the fact that two of my acquaintances in town shared the same Dump Trump event post at Facebook, one in support of the protest, one criticizing the protest as being against free speech. Then a local newspaper columnist posted a funny picture about cheese, the Wallingford sign, that, to me, seemed to be anti-Trump in a good-natured way. So I "Liked" it, with the suddenly old-fashioned plain old thumbs-up Like button, not a fancy new emoticon, but so did the sincerely pro-Trump thumpers. The truth is I don't know how to read the world anymore! 

I guess this makes me This Old Woman. The kind of person who loves this sentence by Angell: "Art waits for us to catch up, and never goes out of date." He's discussing New Yorker cartoons, growing up with them, loving them even before he "got" them. "A contributor friend of mine once announced that there should be no more cartoons in the magazine. 'That time is over,' she said firmly." That time is indeed over, for many publications, a fact bemoaned by cartoonist and comics columnist Phil Maish over at  Escape Into Life, but Angell is glad still to have them, as am I. Even when I don't "get" them.

But now I "get" this, the Mermaid Butter Cookie brand from Denmark. Because my son has been to Denmark and seen the Mermaid. She's "The Little Mermaid" of Hans Christian Andersen, and my childhood is washing over me again, and I've found my shell collection. Oh, this! Go see this beautiful shell art by Shell Rummel, also at EIL!

Oh, it's a Random Coinciday in the blog, and, if I don't get this posted before midnight, also/almost a Slattern Day!

**Today (or yesterday) I almost resisted temptation at the library book sale. But I didn't. I bought a rocking chair! To read in.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beginner's Goodbye

Since I last posted here, I have read two more books and Marco Rubio has said goodbye. The temperature went up to 74 and down to 47. I took a long, peaceful walk in the sunshine on the local hiking trail but in the middle of it had to listen to a local crazy guy's, um, "trail rage"? Random angry comments and curses. The books I read were quite different but had something important in common, saying goodbye. One was tender, one was hilarious and Swedish.

Mother Teresa is going to be a saint! (I am not.) (And neither is the crazy guy on the trail, I bet.) Meanwhile, as I recently told my son, "the world is going to hell in a handbasket," a curmudgeonly phrase I never thought I'd use, but Donald Trump keeps winning primaries. The man called Ove is a lovable curmudgeon. I can aspire to that, if not sainthood. And tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. The Chicago River is already bright green. I don't have any beer in the house. Or corned beef, or cabbage. But I do have some shamrocks.

Now I am reading Roger Angell, in bits and pieces gathered up from The New Yorker.  I read them while I sip coffee and eat bits and pieces of breakfast.

Today, I can offer you some Lucky Charms, over at Escape Into Life--bits and pieces of wisdom, beauty, magic, wonder, and color. Don't forget to wear your green tomorrow!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ladder of Years

I just finished Ladders of Years, by Anne Tyler, an author I love. I feel great loyalty to certain authors, and if busy years go by when I lose track of them, I do like to go back and catch up. This one was published in 1995, when I was busy with a five-year-old and a baby, but I'm glad to have read it now. The title phrase connects to this picture of life uttered by Nat, lovable grandfather of lovable Noah: "See, I've always pictured life as one of those ladders you find on playground sliding boards--a sort of ladder of years where you climb higher and higher, and then, oops!, you fall over the edge and others move up behind you."

Ladder of Years is the story of a woman who walks away from her life one day. I won't say more about that, as you'll want to read the book to find out how that turns out. I will say that I identified with her and have also walked away!--out the back door and around the block to blow off steam! Nearly literal steam...as the walkout was occasioned by fixing dinner (boiling water for rice, etc.) while two grown men in the dining room could not manage to keep the then two-year-old out of the dangerous kitchen. I kept him out, finished dinner preparation, and left it ready on the stove during my little escapade. Sigh.... (We're all still alive and love each other.)

Thanks to Vintage Johnstown for the Cambria City Playground sliding board. Thanks to Anne Tyler for being such a wonderful writer. And thanks to my family wamily for all the love, acceptance, forgiveness, and loyalty. It goes both ways.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Amy & Isabelle

Over the weekend (train ride), I read Amy & Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout, who wrote Olive Kitteridge. I loved Olive Kitteridge, book and mini-series (with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins), for how it helps you get to know difficult people, and get over your own tendencies to judge and dislike people, even if they don't! Ha! I have also read The Burgess Boys and Abide With Me, so now I yearn to read My Name is Lucy Barton, but I will have to wait till it becomes available at the library! Amy & Isabelle is a lovely, realistic mother-daughter story. I just learned, tonight, that there's a tv movie of this, but surely there's nothing Hallmark about it, is there?! (Though I'm a sucker for Hallmark.) What I admire about this book, and her others, is how people change, over time, how people learn to face or tell the truth. In life, perhaps, some people never learn this. In art, we learn how much courage it takes. How gradual or how sudden it can be. How human. As always, art teaches me how to be human.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Found in the Street

I am reading Found in the Street, by Patricia Highsmith, because 1) I finished Room (in 2 days) and took it back to the library and 2) The Price of Salt (aka Carol) is still checked out of the library. No surprise. I remember what a big deal Room was when it first came out, and the both the hype and the basic plot description kept me away. But, oddly, it, too, was "surprisingly upbeat," despite the horrific situation and its realistic aftermath. My paperback copy had an interview with the author, Emma Donoghue, who stressed that it was about mother love--yes!--but without sentimentality. Indeed. (I note that the DVD cover, just out yesterday, provides spoilers, as none of the early readers did. Just read it, they said, in essence. Finally, I did. So I could watch the movie without guilt.) Now I am hooked on Highsmith.Why haven't I read her before?