Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Book Report

Fourteen books read this month, but let's start with the one I didn't read - that's it on top - Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of  Decluttering and Organizing. I added this book to my reading list after watching a segment on Sunday Morning about the author and her books. As usual, I thought reading a self-help book might lead to me changing my ways. Ha! Who was I kidding? I wasn't even motivated enough to read the entire book. (Which wasn't the book's fault.)

A Dark and Twisted Tale by Sharon Bolton - a first time author for me, but not this author's first book - just the only one at my library. Lacey Flint is a member of London's River Police whose home is one of the city's house boats. This was a good read and I would read more by this author if available.

The Private Patient by P. D. James. Woman is murdered at a country clinic after she undergoes plastic surgery to repair a scar on her face. A second murder occurs a few days later. Dalgliesh is sent in to solve the crimes.

Long Time No See by Susan Isaacs. Yes, I'm reading my way through the books available by this author. This is my favorite so far. It relates back to one of Isaacs' previous books.

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith was one of my favorite reads this month. Noted food and travel author goes to Italy to get over his breakup with longtime girlfriend and finish his latest book. No rental cars are available, only a bulldozer, which he agrees to rent to get to the little hill town where he is staying. What a premise! And in Smith's hands, this becomes a delightful little story. I loved it.

The Evening Road by Laird Hunt is based on actual lynchings in Indiana on August 7, 1930 which were the basis of Billie Holliday's song, 'Strange Fruit'. The book is imagined from both sides, black and white, and told by two women. At times it was hard to understand just what Hunt was trying to say. At other times, the book was poignant, insightful and powerful. In all, however, I liked his book 'Neverhome' better.

The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth is one of those books that at the end had me thinking "What a good book!" as I wiped away the tears. Do tears equate with good writing? Or are women just programmed for tear jerkers?
Single mother, devoted to her "social anxiety disorder" suffering daughter, learns she has stage three ovarian cancer. Mother has no close friends, no family, no support network. Who will care for her daughter when she is gone? Well written.

Death In Holy Orders by P. D. James. Alas, the last of James' books available at my libraries. I have really enjoyed her books. She became a favorite author - one I wish I had begun reading years ago. Searching "authors to try if you like P. D. James" has given me some new ones to try.

Compromising Positions by Susan Isaacs is the book I should have read before Long Time No See as it introduces the characters some twenty years before. I really liked Long Time better. Both were entertaining reads.

Any Place I Hang My Hat by Susan Isaacs. As I said, I'm reading my way through this author. Woman journalist abandoned by her mother at age ten is raised by her father and grandmother. She is unable to commit to her 'perfect' boyfriend because of abandonment issues. She tracks down and confronts her mother in order to move forward.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan was another of my favorite reads this month. Set in England during WWII, the story is told in letters and journals of the women who are left to carry on while the men are at war.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is another book chosen after seeing a segment about it on Sunday Morning. The coming of age story about opposing gangs written by Hinton when she was 16 and the basis for the movie of the same name.

Bum Steer by Nancy Pickard. I thought I had read all of her books available but found this paperback which is the 6th in her Jenny Cain series. The best part of the book was its setting - The Kansas Flint Hills. Not as good as some of the previous mysteries.

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert is the first in a new mystery series by this favored author. Garden club members solve mysteries. A cute little mystery read.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the third of my favorite reads this month and the most favorite. I loved this first novel by this author. Lucky for me, I bought this book at a library sale, so I can refer to its 'Dictionary of Flowers' as often as I wish.
A woman raised in foster and group homes after being abandoned as a baby reaches age eighteen and her emancipation from the system. With limited resources and nowhere to go, her love of flowers and knowledge of their Victorian language provide her a marketable talent. She becomes a successful and sought after florist.
When she gives birth to a daughter which she then abandons, the cycle continues. This is such a beautiful book, emotional, poignant, educational (if you're into the language of flowers), romantic and though provoking. If I can find the words and hold on to the feelings I had when I finished reading this book, there will be a follow up blog about mothers and daughters.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nature's First Green

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost.
Photos by ril.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

After Being Sick For A Week....

Yesterday was the first I journeyed out and about after being ill for more than a week. *Someone*, I won't say who, but you can probably guess, brought home a bug I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, as the saying goes. It would be described, I guess, as a cold or an upper respiratory illness - a horrible, unrelenting cough was the worst part, seconded by extreme tiredness.
Anyway, after a week I finally felt up to venturing out. And one of the first things I noticed was the lilacs! The bushes are loaded this year. My niece sold her place in town, so I had to find another location to score a bouquet.

In the dooryard fronting an old farmhouse near the white-wash'd palings,
Stands the lilac bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle -- and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn, with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love. 
     (Lines from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd by Walt Whitman)

One thing being ill does is make you grateful once you start feeling better. If I had to be sick, at least it is almost over. I can enjoy the lilacs and all spring has on offer.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Porch Poem

I read this poem a few days ago. It really resonated. Therefore, in order to keep it where I can easily read again and again, I'm parking it here. I hope the author doesn't mind.

(Back Porch on Fourth Street)

This Dark Porch

This dark porch
has brimmed
with light
like a bowl with water
like a throat with laughter

afternoons of light
years of afternoons
scintillating dawns
flagrant noons
underwater-green dusks

and nights
dark and late
lit by candles, hands,
eyes with the leap
that's the life
we've come for,
what we carry
down the spill of years,
what carries us, what
meets us in the end
and on the way
in each other.
     (Catherine Abbey Hodges)

Oh, if only I could write a poem such as this. Maybe in another life?

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Beauteous Evening

"It is a beauteous evening calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility...."
(It Is A Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free)

" ..........The sky is overcast
With a continuous cloud of texture close,
Heavy and wan, all whitened by the Moon,
Which through that veil is indistinctly seen,
A dull, contracted circle yielding light......"
(A Night-Piece)

(And my favorite.....)

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."
(I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud)

William Wordsworth, 
April 7, 1770 - April 23, 1850

Thursday, April 6, 2017

WWI Centennial

One hundred years ago today, the United States entered The First World War. It was exactly one month before my father was born.

This photo was one of the ones from an online quiz this morning: "How Much Do You Know About WWI?" I answered thirteen of the fifteen questions right, missing only the date of the start of the War and the number of countries involved.

That does not mean I know everything about the history of "The War to End All Wars". One of the *new* things I learned today was that the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City is our country's National World War I Memorial and Museum. I had seen that tower numerous times but never once wondered about its importance and I didn't know there was a museum there, I only saw the tower from a distance. Now I want to go there.

On a personal level, I remember fondly two young men who served in "The Great War" - our neighbor, Albert Reichardt (I wrote about him in my blog post of July 17, 2011) and my great uncle, Leslie Duncan. These two, along with seventeen others, left Corning by train in February, 1918 for training at Camp Dodge near Johnston, Iowa. I know Albert served overseas, but I don't think my great uncle did. I think the war ended (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, 1918) before Leslie was shipped overseas.
(Addendum: My great-uncle Guy Inman also served, though I don't know any details. On his grave stone is this: "Pvt. Repl. Tng Center WWI")

One online site reports more than 4.7 million Americans served in the war and 53,402 died in combat. But I have also read that more died from diseases than the ones killed in combat. The 'Spanish Flu' pandemic spread quickly through the close quarters of army camps.

Next year's centennial of the end of WWI will garner much more attention, I'm sure, than this one of our country's entrance into the war which had already been going on for more than three years, and the flower which came to symbolize the War will also receive more attention. For me, those first lines will always remind me of that long ago time.
.....In Flanders fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row.....

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Thinking About Bridges

You don't think about bridges much until they aren't there. Then you realize the necessity and convenience of a structure that carries a road or path across a stream a river or any other obstacle.

Late last summer Adams Street which runs on the North side of Lake McKinley was closed so this bridge, which was built in 1940, could be replaced. I rather liked the appearance of the old bridge and wondered what the replacement would look like.
The new bridge and repaved street were supposed to be opened two days ago. The opening has been delayed a week due to weather. Weather which has been nothing but rainy for days, so who knows if the projected opening happens or is delayed yet again? I'm certain all the people who use the street for their daily commute will be happy when it is opened.

This is the new bridge. I rather like its appearance also. The new structure includes a pedestrian walkway along the south side of the bridge. This will make it safer for the many people who like to walk around the lake, which includes hubby dearest.

Crossing small bridges like this one does not bother me, but, as I've written about before, crossing on larger bridges has always caused me fear. When my son, Preston, gave me a 2017 calendar from his place of work, I thought it was ironic it was of fourteen bridges. The photographs are beautiful and it was fun to figure out how many of those bridges I have crossed. (Three: Manhattan Bridge, NYC; Claiborne Pell Bridge, Newport, RI; and Fremont Bridge, Portland, OR)

Of the 'Top Ten Most Beautiful Bridges in the World', I've only been across two: San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and New York City's Brooklyn Bridge.

There are also sayings about bridges, like "Don't burn your bridges behind you.", which means don't do something in your life which would cut off other options from being done.

My favorite is "Love can build a bridge" from the Judd's song of the same name. "Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Love can build a bridge, don't you think it's time?"

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Healthy Schools Day

Today is the 15th annual Healthy Schools Day. Apparently I wasn't paying attention the previous fourteen years because when I heard about it, I had to look it up to understand just what it is.
I learned much of the emphasis concerns the school environment - chemicals, asbestos, toxic products, indoor air quality, lead in the water, moulds, building maintenance, etc.

My first thoughts about health in the schools went to the health of individuals which made me think about health as it was addressed when I went to school in our local one-room country school.

Part of the morning routine, after the pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited and while we were still standing beside our desks, was the teacher walking down the rows and examining our hands. We had to hold out our hands, palms up so she could see if they were clean and then turn them over so she could see if our fingernails were clean. I know our hair was supposed to be neatly combed but I don't recall ever being checked for head lice - although that was a problem many years later when I had children in elementary school.

I also remember an outbreak of ring worm in one family and being warned not to touch those kids. Then there were the usual childhood illnesses. If one kid had the measles or mumps you could expect everyone else to catch them, too. Interestingly even though the measles went through the student population more than once in my eight years of grade school, I never caught them until after I started to high school.

Drinking water came from a well on the school grounds. The water tasted kind of funky, but I don't think it was ever tested. One of the older kids would pump a bucket of water and carry it up to the school house. We had a crock like this one that sat on a shelf just inside the door. It seems to me, when I first started to school, we all used the same glass when we wanted a drink. Later I think we each kept our own cups or glasses to use.

We were also supposed to carry a handkerchief to cover coughs and sneezes but our teacher usually kept a box of tissues on her desk which we could use. Desks were probably only wiped off if they got sticky from paste or our lunches - water was sufficient for cleaning - no Lysol spray needed! And who can forget the smell red sweeping compound sprinkled on the wood floors?

How healthy was our one room country school? How might we have celebrated Healthy Schools Day if it had been a national day back in the 1940's and 50's?