Category Archives: Life

A Favorite Character

 

Virago Press has an Instagram meme for this month called “#BooksforChange“.  I’m really enjoying the photos that people are posting in response to this meme, and these daily prompts inspire lots of ideas to think about regarding my reading.

Today’s prompt is favorite female character,” and it didn’t take me very long to decide that Penelope Keeling, from Rosamunde Pilcher‘s The Shell Seekers, is one of my all time favorite female characters. I liked her very much when I first read the book as a young mother, but I like her even more now that I am approximately the same age as the character.

Some things I love about this character: I love that she’s a gentle, thoughtful person, that art and beautify help her survive the terrible losses in her life, that she has an inner strength that guides her well through the relationships in her life, and that she finds joy in the little things in life — “the gentle powers,” she calls them.

“I’ve lived with sadness so long. And a loneliness that nothing and nobody could assuage. But, over the years, I came to terms with what had happened. I learned to live within myself, to grow flowers, to watch my children grow; to look at paintings and listen to music. The gentle powers. They are quite amazingly sustaining.”

In the two different movie versions of this book, the character of Penelope Keeling was played by two lovely actresses — Vanessa Redgrave and Angela Lansbury. Both of them were perfect for the role.

A Self-Education

Civilization

The Story of Civilization on my bookshelf.

When I was 16 years old my father gave me the complete set, which at that time was 9 volumes, of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. I was both thrilled with and overwhelmed by the gift. I love history, as did my Dad, but 9 volumes (soon to be 10, and then eventually 11) with fine print just overwhelmed me. Although I’ve used them like an encyclopedia, looking up information needed, in all this time I’ve never read them cover to cover, although they have traveled with me through every move and have survived every purge of books in my lifetime, thus far.

You will understand, then, when I tell you why I am extremely proud of my son. In the last few years, our son, Dan, has had a long commute to work. He has made that time spent in the car both productive and bearable by listening to audiobooks. He has just completed a huge project listening to the complete unabridged set of the 11 volumes of The Story of Civilization!  If I added correctly, that’s over 424 hours of listening time! But it’s more than that because along the way on his historical journey, he took many “side roads” and listened to much of the classic literature of the time period he was immersed in.

We have had the most wonderful and fascinating long talks with him about the different historical time periods, about the amazing people involved, about human nature and culture, and about the writing of this epic life’s work by Will Durant and his wife, Ariel. What an amazing education Dan is giving himself over the miles! I know my college professor Dad would have been incredibly proud of him, too, and they would have had amazing discussions about all that Dan has learned. The pleasure of learning is certainly a powerful gene in our family, and I’m so very proud of the self-education Dan is giving himself through his reading.

“Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.”

— Will Durant

Our son, Dan, reading to his son…

Old Favorites

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Dusting my bookshelves today, I decided to share a photo of some of the oldest books on my shelf. These are books that have survived numerous purges and were dutifully boxed and moved with us from house to house. I’ve always thought I would reread them, but haven’t done so yet, except for My Antonia. Still, something to look forward to.

What are some of the oldest books on your shelf?

These Attacks of the Past

“I have them, these attacks of the past…”
~ The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

This week I have been listening to The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and the line above really struck home with me. I have them, too, these attacks of the past. And I’ve been having them a lot recently because this is a significant year for me. It has been 50 years since my year as an exchange student to Argentina, a year that had a profound effect on the rest of my life. And since my father kept every letter I wrote home during that year, I have words from my younger self, as well as many memories, to help me revisit that experience. I hope to share some of that with you, if I may.

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Before cell phones!

50 years ago today, my hurried preparations were complete for spending a year abroad. In the 3 week period between receiving my acceptance letter and my departure, I got my passport and required shots, was tutored by the Spanish teacher at my high school (since I’d had five years of French, but no Spanish training), put together a wardrobe that I hoped would work for the year, and was almost finished packing it all into one large suitcase. I said goodbye to my school friends who would graduate before I returned. I had just turned eighteen years old and the longest I had ever been away from home was two weeks at Girl Scout camp. But I was over the moon with excitement and ready to take on the world!

DEPARTURE:

I wrote these words about my departure for Argentina in a post I published here in 2008.

In early 1967, I was chosen to be an exchange student with the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs). Looking back, I realize that the year I spent in Argentina was a “pivot point” in my life — that point where I stood still, poised to move in one direction or another. A photograph of me, at age 18, was snapped at the moment I hesitated at the top of the stairs while boarding the airplane to Argentina, looked back over my shoulder, and then began the forward motion of my life.

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Watching Waves Therapy

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My Facebook and Instagram friends have already heard about my birthday surprise weekend (thanks to my sweet hubby) at the Oregon coast. We celebrated my birthday by spending hours watching waves. The effect of that on the human psyche is absolutely therapeutic! We are calling it our “watching waves therapy” and will be repeating this lovely weekend as often as we can!

After leaving Depoe Bay, we also stopped at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, before we returned home. What a wonderful place! The hours we spent there were both educational and fun. This is definitely another place we’ll be visiting again soon, too!

Depoe Bay, Oregon:

Hatfield Marine Science Center:

Birthday Books

There’s nothing better than getting books for one’s 68th birthday! Hubby and I are heading for the ocean today so I’m taking these with me!

10 Years Ago: A Shy Blogger

Books and reading are such an important part of my life. Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the many reading blogs on the internet–the wonderful sharing of ideas and the love of reading. Thinking to myself…I’d like to share some of my passion for books, and some of my experiences as a reader. So, shyly, I begin a blog.

Ten years ago this morning I sat down at my computer and started this blog with that first very short post. I had fallen in love with the new book blogging world online, and although I’m a shy and very private person, I wanted to take part in the celebration of books and reading that was happening at that moment in time. It’s been a wonderful ten years full of books and bookish friends!

So this morning I celebrate a decade of sharing with you my thoughts, memories, and ideas from a lifetime of reading! A heartfelt thank you to all of my readers/followers for being part of my reading life!

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