Early last year I re-read one of my favorite books, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. It was delightful to revisit this old favorite, and I discovered that the landscapes of Grahame’s timeless story fit very well with the landscapes I see around me here in Oregon. I have some favorite spots that I pass by every day, and I’m sure they are inhabited by Mole and Ratty, Mr. Toad, and Badger. It keeps this beloved book close to my heart on a daily basis.
This morning I celebrate the first day of Spring by once again thinking of that delightful book which starts out with Mole doing some Spring cleaning. I’m sure that many of you, especially my friends enduring that endless East Coast winter this year, are also feeling that ‘spirit of divine discontent and longing’ on this first day of Spring. May your day be filled with wonderful stories, beautiful blossoms, perhaps some spring cleaning, and respite from those Winter storms! Happy Spring, friends!
The mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was going in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.
Illustration by Arthur Rackham.
Photo by Frank Hurley
January 1915. One hundred years ago, Ernest Shackleton‘s beautiful ship, Endurance, became completely locked in the ice of Antarctica. The story of this extraordinary expedition and the survival of the entire crew, despite being stranded for two years in one of the harshest environments in the world, is a fascinating story. All the men survived that experience because of the phenomenal leadership skills of Ernest Shackleton.
When I taught 6th grade many years ago, my teammates and I put together a January unit of study on the Shackleton story. We used Jennifer Armstrong’s book, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, as the basis of the unit, and the 6th graders became as fascinated by the story as we (the teachers) were!, It was a unit in which we focused on some very important life lessons–lessons and discussions about leadership, compassion, hope, and endurance.
So in the middle of January, I stopped everything I was doing and revisited that story in honor of my hero. I loved sharing that book and story with my students, and, if you haven’t read anything about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated ship, Endurance, I urge you to pick up one of the many books about this expedition and discover why this man is one of my heroes. There are quite a few books to choose from, but I’m very fond of the little, nicely written book I used to introduce him to young people. It is also available as an audio download through Audible.
Today is my birthday, and this week is also marks the 8th anniversary of starting this reading blog. I’m celebrating becoming an official senior citizen (according to the Social Security office) quietly today because I’ve been fighting a mean cold all week. The day will definitely be filled with books, however!
And I celebrate my 8 years of blogging, quietly, too. I’ve been an off-and-on blogger for the last few years, disappearing for months at a time while I focus on life happenings. But I return and check in, and share what I’m reading more often now. And I so appreciate my friends in the blogging world (hugs to each of you!), and all of you who visit me and comment on my sporadic posts. Thank you so much for being part of my reading life!
Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.
2014 has been a wonderful reading year for me. It was a year of re-reading old favorites, finding new authors to love, and just enjoying the book journey. The year began and is ending with two beloved books: The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, and The Collected Stories of Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, both audiobook versions of childhood favorites. What pleasure to listen to both those books again! What warm memories of hearing them read over and over by my Dad, gone now 20 years. That’s the magic of books — book memories are timeless, and the pleasure never gets old. As we welcome in the New Year, this is my wish for you, dear book friends: May you have a wonderful reading year that adds many warm and timeless memories to your reading life! Happy New Year everyone!
Now that I’m retired, summer reading has taken on a whole new meaning for me. For one thing, my summer is longer with much more time for sitting on the porch and reading. Yay! I don’t have to spent most of June finishing teaching units, grading papers, and writing report cards. I don’t have to take classes in July to update my teaching certificate. And I don’t have to spend days and weeks in August preparing my classroom and going to district teacher meetings. Although I miss my kiddos, I am happy now that I can just enjoy reading on my front porch! And doesn’t that sounds heavenly?!
So I decided to start my “Summer Reading” on June 1st this year with a re-read (this is the 6th time) of an absolute favorite of mine: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
It was early in 1968, having just returned from a year abroad as an exchange student, when I read a reprint of an article by W.H. Auden from The New York Times. It was a review of a series of books by an English author, J.R.R. Tolkien. They sounded so good, I quickly went out and bought all 4 books: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Those delightful hours spent reading those books set the standard for my summer reading. Total immersion into a different world… Traveling there and back again without having to leave my comfortable summer reading spot… Complete enjoyment of beautiful writing and wonderful creativity… I would love to recapture some of those delightful reading moments from long ago!
So… I am reading and enjoying, once again, The Hobbit.
By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green…
Hobbit house at the Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon…
Things change. That’s for sure. The husband and I are are coming up soon on the one-year anniversary of our retirement, and retirement is the biggest change we’ve made in many a year, with plenty of adjustments to make and challenges to face, but it has been very positive for us, I’m happy to say.
If I admit to being retirement age, then I must admit, also, to some of the changes that are inevitable as I move into that age/stage. In my case, it’s hearing loss and getting hearing aids. As any teacher knows, and any hearing specialist will confirm, spending 27 years in a classroom can be hard on the ears. My classroom for most of those 27 years was particularly bad because it had metal walls. So lots of voices, and ventilation systems noise, and bells ringing loudly, have finally taken their toll. (I should probably add into the mix those very loud concerts I used to enjoy — including Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin!) The sum total is that I now need hearing aids.
But I’m really jazzed about them because all of a sudden I can hear nuances again! I can hear my daughter’s quiet voice without having her repeat everything she says to me! My husband no longer mumbles. And, I decided that since I need hearing aids, I deserve some special stuff to go along with them. So along with the hearing aids, I ordered a bluetooth “streamer” so that I can listen to audiobooks (or music) through my hearing aids. Sweet! I’m going to enjoy many, many audiobooks with such a nice system!
Can you see the wire?
My sweet streamer…
So, yes, big changes in my life, but that’s okay. I’ll be enjoying my audiobooks more than ever, and I will keep foremost in my mind something very wise that Alan Watts said about change:
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
Nasturtium in the morning light…
My blog has certainly been quiet for a month, mostly because I’m spending more time in the garden and doing outdoor things, and not spending as much time on my computer. That sounds downright healthy! When I do get on my computer, I’m spending more time on my other, more personal, blogs — Reader in the Grove and my new gardening online journal, Garden in the Grove. I’d love to have you visit me there, if you’re curious.
But just so you know that despite the lovely distractions I AM still reading…here are my May reads so far:
And I’m finishing up a few others, hopefully before the end of the month:
Today is Jane Goodall’s 80th birthday, and I want to wish her a very happy birthday. I have admired her work for over 40 years! She is one of my heroes, and I was very blessed to be able to meet her a few years ago. She came to the school where I was teaching, to help launch our new Roots and Shoots club, and I was asked by my principal to introduce her at the school assembly. Why me? …because I had told my principal my story about reading her book, In the Shadow of Man, when my son was a newborn, and about how that book had really influenced my parenting! In reading about the chimp, Flo, who was such a wonderful mother, I learned a lot about patience and close attachment, and it really hit home with me as a new mom.
My principal asked me to tell that story as I introduced her, so I did. And my son, Dan, came in from Portland to be present in the assembly and to meet her. It was an extraordinary experience. She must have liked it all because she kissed my cheek after the introduction. It’s a totally awesome experience to have your cheek kissed by one of your life heroes! So, for her 80th today, I send her a big birthday bear hug and wishes for good health and many more years of her inspirational work.
It’s a rainy, rainy Saturday morning. Son and Grandboy are laughing and playing GO FISH on the kitchen table. Daughter is knitting on some beautiful new yarn that arrived in the mail yesterday. Husband is puttering around in the basement. And I am listening to the second book in The Once and Future King while doing laundry. I just want to pause and enjoy this rainy Saturday morning because this is one of those little moments that make up a lifetime, and I want to savor this simple, beautiful, happy moment in time. Despite the rain!