Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, daughter, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and passionate reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

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!

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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

Lovin’ My Library

“When in doubt, go to the library.”
~ J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

One of the important criteria when searching for a home in Oregon to buy for our retirement years was that it be located within walking distance of a library. We were very fortunate and found a lovely home and a sweet library! So we spend a lot of time at our local library. Our daughter now works there. It’s an important place for the entire family!

On this sunny morning, I again walked to the library, took some books back, picked up a book on hold, and checked out the Friends of the Library book sale. I also took a bunch of photos to share my library love with you. I hope you enjoy the slideshow!

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Rivers of Oregon

On my trip to the library last week I picked up a beautiful new book called Rivers of Oregon, by photographer/conservationist Tim Palmer, and published by Oregon State University Press.  “Rivers are the essence of Oregon,” stated the author, and this book is full of beautiful photographs and interesting essays about these hundreds of waterways.

“Healthy rivers are not only essential to the abundance of life and a historically robust economy in both sport and commercial fishing, but to all we do. The livability of whole towns and regions would wither if i weren’t for rivers and the water they deliver.

Oregon’s rivers are likewise embedded in our history and culture, from the route of Lewis and Clark across the Northwest to urban greenways that brighten Portland, Pendleton, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, Grants Pass, Bend, and other towns large and small. Whether in our backyards or in our most cherished wilderness, the rivers give us a refuge from the stress and clutter of our busy lives. At the stream’s edge, we can adjust our expectations in synchrony with the natural world.”

This book is filled with absolutely gorgeous photographs of an amazing number of rivers in Oregon with information about each one. Besides being a talented photographer, Tim Palmer is an excellent writer so this is a very readable book as well as a lovely photography book.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Oregon, the natural world, and in conserving the beauty of nature and our rivers in this challenging time in our nation when decisions are being made that put many rivers in peril.

 

Wise Words 04.19.17

One of my heroes, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson