Category Archives: Life

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!

A Short Reading Break

Hubby and I took a short break from projects and reading to make our Spring pilgrimage to the Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon. We go there a number of times each year, usually as a day trip since it’s only an hour-and-a-half drive away from us. But once a year we like to stay an extra day at the resort next to the Garden and spend two days walking the trails/pathways and soaking up the beauty. Included in our special package for the resort this time were tickets to the nearby tulip festival. So we have enjoyed two days of beautiful early spring blossoms and blooms…and the weather cooperated and gave us blue sky, sunshine, and temperatures that weren’t exactly warm but comfortable enough.

When we returned home this afternoon, I discovered that a book I had pre-ordered months ago had arrived on my Kindle. It’s a perfect book to follow up such a lovely trip to the Garden! I have some fun reading ahead of me!

March Reflections

March has been another busy month. Despite the many obligations and activities that kept me busy, I managed to finish reading the above five books and am in the middle of three others!

Early in the month, I joined The Classics Club, which was something I had thought about doing for years and so finally decided to just jump in. I put together a list of 50 books to read in 5 years, and filled my list with books I already own and really want to read, so there are some very nice choices ready for me. In March I read three books from that list and am almost finished with The Moorland Cottage, by Elizabeth Gaskell, which was the book on my list that was chosen as the “Spin” book for March/April. I’ve always loved reading the classics, for both adults and children, and so this is a challenge/group that fits me well.

Some of the other things that kept me very busy in March were my knitting and my walking. Because March was such a rainy month (record-setting, flood level rains!), I was indoors a lot and managed to finish two knitting projects — a scarf for me and a baby blanket for a soon-to-arrive grand nephew! (I love being a great aunt! My nephew calls us “Graunt” and “Gruncle”. )

I’ve also become a serious walker in the last year thanks to my 82-year-old walking partner, Gloria. She is a runner, and I’m a fast walker, so we’re the perfect match at our ages/stages of life! We walk/run a 5k distance twice a week, and meet in exercise class 3 days a week. In March, we both participated in the Shamrock Run in downtown Portland. Gloria finished 1st in her age division, and I came in 24th in my division. A very successful race for both of us!

March definitely came in like a lion, with an incredible number of storms and an amazing amount of rain. It’s going out today like a lamb, with mostly sunny skies and no rain. In between the lion and the lamb, came a lot of enjoyable reading and other activities.

Wise Words: 03.29.17

A few years ago, at a time that was particularly difficult for me and my family, I read two short novels by Alice Hoffman:  Green Angel and then Green Witch. (They were later republished in one volume called Green Heart.) I loved them both! And they were very healing books for me. This morning, I found a quote in one of my reading notebooks copied down while reading Green Witch. I love this idea, so I’m happy to share the simple and profound wisdom of Alice Hoffman’s words with you today.

“I can’t help but wonder if it might be true that for every step you take, everyone you’ve ever loved walks with you.”

 

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

old-books-2

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.

before-cell-phones-1967

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.

to-argentina