Conflagration

Photo by Tristan Fortsch (Click on the photo to follow the link to a news article about the fire.)

Those of us living in the greater Portland, Oregon, area are grieving the loss to fire of so much natural beauty in our beloved Columbia River Gorge. Although my husband and I live 75 miles west of where this devastating fire started, our air is filled with ash and smoke.  And although we live 75 miles away, this fire hits very close to home and is very personal.

Our grandson and his mother live just across the river from where the fire started, and have had to leave their home and take refuge with us and with friends for the time being. Our grandson’s school is closed indefinitely. We are grateful that they are safe, and so very grateful to all the people that are working to contain the fire and to help all those whose lives are in upheaval due to this fire. There are many heroes in this story.

But it breaks my heart to think of what this sensitive 10 year old will see when he and his mom return home. The views he loves to look at out his bedroom window are now forever altered. It feels like Life is now forever altered.

Conflagration.

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August Reflections

I had a wonderful August this year!  August is usually one of my least favorite months because of the intense and constant heat. But despite record-breaking heat in our area, I loved the month!  It was full of family — extended time with our grandson, and a family reunion in celebration of my mother’s 98th birthday. We enjoyed travel, gardening projects, 5K races, and watching the awesome total eclipse of the sun! And when it wasn’t too smoky in our area (due to the many wildfires!), I loved the daily views on my walks and drives through this gorgeous part of Oregon.

My reading time was limited, but I did enjoy 4 different books during the month. My favorite book of the month was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I am rereading the series just for fun and as an antidote to the misery of the daily news. I also reread Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which is my least favorite of her books…still. A refreshing and delightful read was of Philippa Pearce’s The Way to Sattin Shore. And a fascinating library book was The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures. It was a fun book and brought back many memories, including a memory of volunteering in the school library at my junior high school –typing cards for the catalog!

So, I just have to say that August turned out to be a delightful month for me overall. I am now 5 books “behind schedule” with my Goodreads goal for the year, but that’s totally okay. The special memories from this delightful month of August will warm me through many cold winter months ahead.

A Book Obsession

 

I have a confession to make… I have a serious book obsession. Gardening books are my passion these days and I keep finding treasures that I must have on my shelf!

When we retired and moved to Oregon, we culled our book collections and donated many many books to the local library. Also with retirement, my book buying has slacked off considerably, except for ebooks and audiobooks. But when I see a lovely gardening book, I can’t help myself. My collection is growing, and the photo above is of the two shelves I started out with, but it has already taken over another shelf in this bookcase. Yes, I’m reading them … slowly … but I love looking through them, and love learning and dreaming about gardens.

My 2016 vegetable garden…

A Summer of Reading

Woman Reading, by Frederick Childe Hassam

For me, this has been a summer of reading! While my blogging lagged, my reading continued and has been a real pleasure. I often copy down quotes that resonate with me from the books I’m reading, so I thought I’d share with you a few of those summer favorites so you can see where my reading journey has taken me.

“The house was refreshingly peaceful, and I pottered about enjoying my leisure and solitude. It is deeply satisfying to me, after spending so much of my time among a number of energetic young people, to hear the clink of a hot coal and the whisper of flames  in my own chimney, the purring of Tibby delighting in company, and the chiming of the clock on the mantelpiece.”
~ from Storm in the Village, by Miss Read

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“Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
~ from The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien

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“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
~ from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

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“At the very beginning, anticipatory obedience means adapting instinctively, without reflecting, to a new situation.”
~ from On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder

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“To those who will decide if he should be tried for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ -the House of Representatives-
And to those who would sit in judgment at such a trial if the House impeaches -the Senate-
And to the man who would preside at such an impeachment trial -the Chief Justice of the United States, Warren Burger-
And to the nation…
The President said, ‘I want you to know that I have no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job that the American people elected me to do for the people of the United States.’
~ from All the President’s Men, by Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward”

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“She could teach them to face whatever came with calmness and courage, to love their families and their friends with unswerving loyalty, and to relish the lovely face of the countryside in which they lived.”
~ from Miss Clare Remembers, by Miss Read

What Happened to May?

What happened to May? It just flew by for me in a rush of travel, gardening, visits with family and meeting with old/new friends, 5k races, and unfortunately, spending evenings being completely sucked into the news of the day. It was overall a lovely month and especially nice to have some sunshine and warmth arrive after such a long winter and wet spring!

During May, both my reading and blogging took back seat to all the other activities. However, I did manage to finish reading 4 books, two of them mysteries by Donna Leon, and I’m getting close to the end of my rereading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings.

Welcome June! I’m looking forward to getting back to my books this month and to being able to read them on the front porch!

Road Trip Reading

Early May is a special time in my family. The family often gathers to celebrate the birthdays of my brother and of my father who would have been 97 years old on this birthday. We also celebrate Mother’s Day (a little early this year) and honor our amazing Mom who is still so strong in intellect and spirit, although increasingly unsteady physically.

So our visit meant a road trip for Hubby and me, which we are enjoying very much, especially after this long and confining winter. We, of course, brought our Kindles with us. When it was my turn to drive, Hubby read The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, by Anthony Gottlieb.  And while he drove, I read my current mystery: Death in La Fenice, by Donna Leon.

We stopped for an overnight visit with my brother and sister-in-law, both voracious readers, so we left with this extensive list of books to read:

And when we arrived at my mother’s place, I found that she had just finished reading Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart, for her book club . I also thought you might be interested to see some of the books on her shelf so I took some photos for you.

With the family together (minus one brother and sister-in-law), we talked a lot about the current state of affairs in this country and the world, but we also talked a lot about books. It’s so nice to come from a family of readers!

April Reflections

“Puddle” by M.C. Escher

April flew by so quickly this year! We continued to have record-breaking rains here in the Pacific Northwest throughout the month, but the temperatures moderated and there were days when we could finally get out in the garden and start cleaning up after such a long winter. Hubby and I spent two days in Silverton, Oregon, enjoying the early Spring beauty of the Oregon Garden and a short, but beautiful visit to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.

My reading time slowed down but April was a good reading month anyway. I completed 8 books and a knitting project! My favorite book this month was the science fiction novella, Binti!  It was so well written and enjoyable, and I loved spending some time out of this currently crazy world. I enjoyed listening to another audiobook in Craig Johnson‘s Walt Longmire mystery series. And I loved reading more poetry during this National Poetry Month!  I also read and reviewed three books for The Classics Club, books chosen from my 50 books in 5 years list.

I always love April, and the beauty of the spring flowers and blossoms is wonderful after the darkness of our winters here. May will be a busy month, including a road trip to visit my 97 year old mother and many more days to spend outdoors in the garden and on long walks around town, but I’m looking forward to my May reading, as well.

 

Around town…

The Moorland Cottage

The Moorland Cottage, by Elizabeth Gaskell, begins with a lengthy and beautifully detailed description of the countryside location of the cottage where Maggie Browne and her brother, Edward, grew up.  Before you meet the characters in this story, you walk into their world along a country path. By the time you arrive at their moorland cottage, you have a very clear idea of their place in the world.

If you take the turn to the left, after you pass the lyke-gate at Combehurst Church, you will come to the wooden bridge over the brook; keep along the field-path which mounts higher and higher, and, in half a mile or so, you will be in a breezy upland field, almost large enough to be called a down, where sheep pasture on the short, fine, elastic turf. You look down on Combehurst and its beautiful church-spire. After the field is crossed, you come to a common, richly colored with the golden gorse and the purple heather, which in summer-time send out their warm scents into the quiet air. The swelling waves of the upland make a near horizon against the sky; the line is only broken in one place by a small grove of Scotch firs, which always look black and shadowed even at mid-day, when all the rest of the landscape seems bathed in sunlight…

…With something like the sudden drop of the lark, the path goes down a green abrupt descent; and in a basin, surrounded by the grassy hills, there stands a dwelling, which is neither cottage nor house, but something between the two in size. Nor yet is it a farm, though surrounded by living things. It is, or rather it was, at the time of which I speak, the dwelling of Mrs. Browne, the widow of the late curate of Combehurst.

Mrs. Browne is a grieving widow. Her daughter, Maggie is a gentle, kind soul, while her son, Edward, is a coddled, cowardly and cruel boy. Mrs. Browne dotes on her son while treating Maggie as a subservient, worthless female. Maggie’s is a cruel and harsh upbringing, but there is a strength in her that remains undamaged by the harsh conditions of her childhood. Her gentle spirit is recognized and appreciated by others, and in particular by another family, the Buxtons, friends of her late father. The Buxtons are well-to-do and privileged neighbors. The story is really about these two families, their likes and differences, and their connections over time.

I wasn’t sure at first if I would like this book very much, but I was quickly captured by Maggie’s kind spirit and her resiliency. The view of women’s lives through the lens of Mrs. Gaskell’s writing is sobering. Women had few rights. Men provided the living for the family and controlled all the money. If the head of the household was not a good provider (or a good human being), that living could be very difficult for the women. Most woman of Maggie’s class were not educated and often the big life decisions (who to marry, in particular) were made for them by the male(s) in charge.

Although it was hard to hear the stories of Maggie’s childhood and the inequality and cruelty with which she was treated by her mother and brother, I totally loved the core of strength that Maggie had that kept her kind and hopeful despite the meanness of her situation. And I loved the woman she became over time, thanks to the loving care of the family servant, Nancy, and the kind connections to the Buxton family.

From the publisher:

Growing up in Yorkshire, the daughter of a deceased clergyman, Maggie Browne is encouraged to devote herself to her brother, Edward, upon whom their widowed mother dotes. Through the example and guidance of her mentor, Mrs Buxton, Maggie learns that self-sacrifice is the key to living a fulfilled life. How much personal happiness will she forgo in the name of duty and devotion to her brother? This novella depicts the struggle of a strong-minded Victorian woman, torn between her dreams and her duty towards her family.

I ended up loving this little book that told the story of a young girl who became a lovely young woman despite living in a time and culture that did not value women very highly. But in the language of today, “she persisted!”  I haven’t read very much by Elizabeth Gaskell, but I’m going to remedy that and enjoy more of her work.

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club. It was also my first “Spin” book!

The Writer’s Almanac

One of the nicest things I’ve discovered recently is The Writer’s Almanac, with Garrison Keillor, a daily podcast of literary and historical notes, and the reading of a poem. It is an utterly delightful 5 minutes in my day and a wonderful antidote to all the ugly and negative news events that inundate us these days.

“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
~ Garrison Keiller