Sunday, December 18, 2022


I love the whole idea of Iceland's "book flood" on Christmas Eve, Jólabókaflóð, where everybody stays in and hunkers down with books and chocolate. Is it enough to get me to move to Iceland? Hmmm. I also love the articles on Best Books of 2022 that crop up this time of year, as well as people's blog posts on their reading. I don't have a best books list, as I wouldn't presume to judge these books, but I did cull from my year's reading 10 books that stood out for me for various reasons.

In Love, by Amy Bloom, is on my list and on this cover of BookPage. Subtitled A Memoir of Love and Loss, this is her account of her husband's accompanied suicide in Switzerland. It hits home for many reasons.

I read several memoirs this year, and another that stood out was Shy, by Mary Rodgers. Funny, theatre-related, and enlightening, with a background family connection.

On Tyranny, the graphic novel version by Timothy Snyder and Nora Krug, a Christmas gift, was exactly what I needed to be reading last January, and I recommended it to my sister, along with passports and magazine subscriptions (Snyder's advice, which I am also following, not with a passport but with a Real ID).

My book group read and loved The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles.

I read and loved Horse, by Geraldine Brooks.

And also Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney.

A book I'd often heard about but never read, I finally read and loved: Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Wow!

King Dork by Frank Portman led me to Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. More wow! I was struck by how the unlikable main character is moved to tears by music.

I re-read and loved all over again The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and recommend it any time it seems appopriate. The Devil comes to Moscow + Yeshua and Pontius Pilate converse.

I also re-read Heidi by Johanna Spyri and wept as my childhood rolled over me.

Wait! Is that already 10? er, 11? (See math-challenged Friday in the blog.) But what about my favorite of all, the non-fiction The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson?

Happy Jólabókaflóð!!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Anniversary in Dressember

I'm still wearing dresses for Dressember. Really, to raise awareness and protest human trafficking, I should be posting pictures of myself in dresses and starting a campaign page to encourage donations, but I am not good at those things. I am better at supporting people and causes through words, human contact, and moral support. I am pretty good at wearing dresses, too. They have patiently waited for me in the closet, and tolerate my winter layering--long sweaters, scarves, multiple slips, tights, boots--so I can wear them (the dresses) to work. Today I am wearing a sort of fancy black-and-white floral dress, three-quarter length sleeves, not really a summer dress but for an indeterminate season, with a white sweater and a black pashmina, so I can go out to dinner with my husband (and a friend in town from Chicago) for our 33rd (legal) wedding anniversary. Forty-one years of togetherness, but who's counting (correctly)?*

*math-challenged me

This afternoon, and yesterday afternoon, too, I have been reading and revising poems I wrote in spring. (I'm in a dress! How could I do housework after regular work? OK, I did go down into a cobwebby basement to retrieve boxes of Christmas ornaments for my mom and dad.) I fiddle, I make notes to self, I set them (the poems) aside (electronically...the files are open in various windows, even now). Yesterday, I actually managed a submission. There are December deadlines... When, if ever, will I bake the pumpkin bread?!

That's Ada Lovelace, mathematician, in a dress (not me). She was also, like Emily Dickinson, born on December 10! So it's a Random Coinciday in the blog!

Sunday, December 11, 2022


Speaking of Human Rights Day (yesterday), today I learned about Dressember, an organization working against human trafficking. One of the ways to raise awareness is to wear a dress (or a tie) every day for the 31 days of December. I was glad I was wearing a dress--actually, a skirt & top--when I heard about it. I see from their website that they are celebrating their 10-year anniversary, so it took me a while to hear about it. My bad. Going forward, I will try to arrange my (tidied up) wardrobe so I can wear more dresses in December! I hadn't planned to pack any dresses for a hiking/yoga trip we are taking, so I am glad about the tie option, and will have to get creative re: ties. It has also been delightful to find photos of men being Dressember advocates in dresses! But the blurry photo I share here is one of my favorite diaries, with a dress on it!

I do feel a little blurry these days, despite my new glasses (trifocals) and updated prescription. There were days of dense fog here, and then rain, and then After Rain, that melancholy book of short stories by William Trevor, also mentioned yesterday, and then I stared and stared at poems I've been writing, wondering 1) how to revise and/or 2) where to submit. Often there was a foggy feeling of, "I wrote that?" or "When did I write that?" but it was easy to track down, as I had included dates and prompts, etc. I began to feel great empathy, in ways I hadn't before, for people who don't send out their work, or dawdle at it. I am foggily dawdling at it this Dressember. Now I will go stare at my closet.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Emily & Eleanor

It's Emily Dickinson's birthday! And it's Human Rights Day, thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt, who spearheaded the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am celebrating by resuming A.M. Yoga with Rodney Yee, something I do regularly, a little like Groundhog Day, the movie, never progressing beyond Beginner status in yoga, and never getting it right (or ending up with Andie MacDowell). I like remaining a Beginner, and found myself as limber as ever, if a little stiffer in the usual spots, not having resumed A.M. Yoga sooner. In summer, I swim. In three seasons, during good weather, I walk to work. And the rest of the time, I do yoga, or should. It feels so right, and so good. Almost as good as the fabulous head massage I got at Jenni's Salon, right before Stephanie chopped off all my hair. I feel so light and free, also good for the morning yoga!

I noticed how I focused on Rodney's voice and the background ocean and music sounds, even as my mind wandered to tasks and/or to words, and my body did all the things it was supposed to do. That sounds like a detachment of mind and body, rather than a union, but I don't care. Everything came back together well enough and as needed. Happy Birthday, Emily! Thank you, Eleanor! And, as ever, thank you, Rodney Yee, who never ages on the beach in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, I've been reading lovely and melancholy books: After Rain, a collection of short stories by William Trevor, and In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss, by Amy Bloom, which I snatched up from the new non-fiction shelf and read in two days. It's about setting up accompanied suicided with Dignitas in Switzerland for Bloom's husband with early-onset Alzheimer's. What a difficult and beautiful thing to do. It feels like preparation, as Alzheimer's runs in my family. And we are "after rain" right now, where I live.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

One Book Leads to Another

Because I am apparently obsessed with reading...I will always tell you about what I am reading. And, in this case, how one book leads to another. King Dork, by Frank Portman, mentions Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene, as the best novel ever. So I ordered that through interlibrary loan, and now I am hooked. And sort of scared, as this is how it opens: "Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him." Has this been made into a movie yet? (Um, yes, but I haven't seen it, and I am not going to until I have read the book!) There are various covers, but this simple "Collected Edition" is the one that came to me from Bushnell Public Library in Bushnell, Illinois. Thank you, Bushnell. And I do love Graham Greene.

There is a kind of scary face book cover, too. In colors resembling the King Dork book cover, making this a Random Coinciday in the blog. But it is also a Slattern Day, meaning I did no housework, instead walking in the annual Christmas Parade, in the bitter, bitter cold. I knew, however, to wear layers, having walked in several parades over the past few years. Double socks. Undershirt, t-shirt (for Heartland Theatre Company), down vest, long sweater, red coat, blacked knitted Santa-esque boots, black gloves covered by Grinch-green fingerless gloves, a hat with a brim to protect my eyes from the lovely sunshine, and gingerbread man earrings, as the parade theme was "Season's Eatings, a Gingerbread Affair." I ended up toasty warm. We gave out candy canes to the kids, and postcards about the next theatre event to the grownups.

In Living with a Wild God, Barbara Ehrenreich mentions Valis, by Philip K. Dick, and I thought, "I have that, in a bag of paperback science fiction novels, mostly by Philip K. Dick, down in the basement, waiting to be put out in the Little Free Library after the winter." (I do think in details and with commas.) So I went down and got it. I love this pattern book cover, but mine is a small paperback with a different cover. If this blog entry gets long enough, I will show you that, too!

Oh, it will, it will. Because I need to mention (or re-mention) that the Little Free Library needs to be re-mounted on its own stand, because it used to be mounted on a tree trunk. That tree was a pine tree snapped off in a bad storm one November. We used the top of it as our Christmas tree that year, and chopped up the rest. But, as happens, the remaining trunk rotted this year, we detached the Little Free Library, and toppled the trunk. Sad. Also sad: the lack of a Christmas tree this year, as we will be traveling. Sigh... But I do love my little red butterfly tree in a pot, pictured here, a blog entry about another book! And about leaves and leaf-sucking. All the leaves are gone.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Day Without Art

Today is December 1, World AIDS Day, commemorated in the beginning as a Day Without Art, to acknowledge all the artists, of all kinds, that we lost in that pandemic, alas! art today in the blog.

It's a day I pause to remember theatre artists Mitch Webb, actor, and Scott McPherson, actor and playwright, both lost to AIDS. We worked together in Chicago, and I also went to college with Mitch. These two, and so many others. It is terrible to recall. 

It's a day of turning the calendar page, and, in my case, on one calendar, two pages. Sigh... I have many calendars, some portable, some on doors or desks or walls. One is in a project bin beside my computer. I lose track of some of them.

It was 16 degrees this morning! But sunny. I went with Ken Kashian, a photographer, to Chenoa, to do a live radio broadcast with Kent Casson, for his show Route 24. Ken Kashian has created a new artist book, Fugue, and I have written the tiny poems for it. He took photos of the native plants and tombstones in the Weston Cemetery Prairie Nature Reserve. Not showing you any. It's a day without art.