A Life-Enhancer

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I’ve long been fascinated by Virginia Woolf. I have a number of books on my “special books” shelf — three volumes of her Diary, and two volumes of her Letters. All were read years ago, and as I read them, I wrote down quotes that particularly impressed me at the time.

It is her birthday today. She was born 132 years ago, and I realized that she was born just two years before my grandmother. Somehow, that makes her feel much closer and not so long ago.

So to celebrate her today, I’ll share with you one of my favorite quotes about her.  It’s a quote from Nigel Nicholson, included in a book that introduced me to her, called Recollections of Virginia Woolf by her contemporaries, edited by Joan Russell Noble.

…Virginia had this way of magnifying one’s simple words and experiences. One would hand her a bit of information as dull as a lump of lead. She would hand it back glittering like diamonds. I always felt on leaving her that I had drunk two glasses of an excellent champagne. She was a life-enhancer. That was one of her own favorite phrases. She always said that the world was divided into two categories: those who enhanced life and those who diminished it.

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Under-the-Weather Reading

nhc_celia_09I’m not feeling very well this week… so what do you read when you are under-the-weather? My quiet reading/recovery time is spent with a little book that I downloaded onto my Kindle, but I’m going to order a hardback copy because it’s a little treasure with illustrations by a favorite artist: Childe Hassam. The book is An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter, who wrote it in 1894 at the urging of friends who loved her flower garden. She was a wonderful gardener, so I am loving reading about it and learning from her. But she was also a poet and writer of stories. I’d never heard of her before, so she’s a wonderful find for me. And this is a very nice book for someone “under the weather” in the middle of January…someone who is dreaming and planning her own garden, and longing for Spring to come!

Often I hear people say, “How do you make your plants flourish like this?” as they admire the little flower patch I cultivate in summer, or the window gardens that bloom for me in the winter; “I can never make my plants blossom like this! What is your secret?” And I answer with one word, “Love.” For that includes all,–the patience that endures continual trial, the constancy that makes perseverance possible, the power of foregoing ease of mind and body to minister to the necessities of the thing beloved, and the subtle bond of sympathy which is as important, if not more so, than all the rest.

Oh…I and DO wish I could somehow work it out to go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before March 8th to see an exhibit called “Flowers in Winter: Celia Thaxter’s Island Garden.

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An FO and Audiobooks

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A late Christmas gift…

In knitter’s language, an FO is a finished object. I don’t have many FOs to share, being a rather slow and formerly very distracted knitter, but I have actually been finishing some knitting projects since I retired from teaching last year. I mean actually starting AND finishing them! While I was working, I was great at starting those special projects, with all good intentions, but very few of them were finished. But nowadays I can focus on a project and see it through to the finish! Hooray!

So, slow knitter that I am…I just finished my son’s Christmas present. :) Late, but finished! I did wrap it up unfinished still on the needles and gave it to him on Christmas, so he has been patiently waiting to receive it again when completed. It’s ready!

And I really enjoyed knitting it, because the yarn was lovely to work on and because I listened to a number of audiobooks throughout the project. So here are the audiobooks that went into the spirit of this very enjoyable project…

The Frozen Deep

Painting by Albert Bierstadt: The Iceberg

Painting by Albert Bierstadt: The Iceberg

I just finished reading The Frozen Deep, by Wilkie Collins. It’s a short novella, originally written as a play, and was a free download that I’ve had in my classics collection on my Kindle for quite awhile. But I chose to read it now because many of my blogging friends are going to be discussing it today as part of the Wilkie in Winter Read-a-long, hosted by Amanda from Fig and Thistle, in tandem with The Estella Society (Andi and Heather). I wanted to be able to read reviews, comments, and discussions about the book without it spoiling it for me, and it was such a short book, I finished it in no time.

WilkieTomorrow (January 8th) is Wilkie Collins birthday, and with much of the USA currently caught in their own “frozen deep” with frigid temperatures that are closing schools and business and delaying flights, it seems right to be discussing The Frozen Deep today.

Without writing an actual review, I’ll tell you that I enjoyed this little book very much, gave it 4 stars on my Goodreads page, and am heading over to check out the tweets (#wilkieinwinter) and the links to the reviewers of the Wilkie in Winter group. Should be fun!

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2014 Sci Fi Experience Challenge

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“For my part I know nothing with any certainty,
but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

~Vincent Van Gogh

I love Carl V’s, (of Stainless Steel Droppings) reading challenges!  My very first reading challenge as a book blogger was in 2007 — his first Once Upon a Time challenge! (I’m looking forward to this year’s OUaT starting in March.) It’s been a few years since I participated in his Sci Fi Experience Challenge, but I’ve been reading many classics recently and decided it would be fun to read a classic of science fiction. Since I am late starting this challenge, which is already underway from December 1st through January 31st, I will focus on just one book:  The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I have the audiobook version from the library, narrated by the author, which should be especially interesting. As always, this will be an enjoyable reading (and listening) experience!

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Seedfolks

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My first read of 2014 was Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman. It was a quick read, a short novel told from the viewpoint of 13 different residents of an inner city Cleveland, Ohio, neighborhood. The vacant lot had been a nuisance for years, a place for garbage to be thrown out of windows, for drug deals and rats. It is a thoroughly awful place. But one day in very early spring, a young Vietnamese girl, in memory of her father, plants six bean seeds in the lot, next to the abandoned refrigerator, out of sight. Neighbors notice her activity and wonder. And from that curiosity emerges a glimmer of hope, and a community garden is born.

A lovely novella, this story has sparked the creation of many community gardens and much discussion about diversity and community-building. It was a lovely way to start the new year! A story full of hope and caring, this little book takes a positive look at what IS possible.

Our local Community Garden...

Our local Community Garden…

Leo Lionni

We’ve had a month of dark foggy days, and this week our gray rainy days will return. It’s early-January winter! I am reminded of a favorite book, read aloud many times in my classroom[s] over the years, and it brightened this gray winter morning to pull it off my shelf and re-read it.

Frederick

Frederick, by Leo Lionni, is about a group of mice gathering food for the winter. All are busy except for Frederick, who seems to be sitting on a rock in the sunshine doing nothing. But he IS doing something…he is collecting sun rays and colors and words. Later, in the middle of the dark, cold winter, when the food is scarce and the spirits are low, Frederick begins to tell the mice his stories. He weaves his memories of sunshine and colors into beautiful words which warm the hearts and lifts the spirits of his fellow mice. He is a storyteller and a poet!

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A Long-Awaited Read

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If you look at the “challenges page” on this blog, you will see that I used to participate in many reading challenges. For a person who considers herself “not a joiner,” I shattered that self-perception. I loved that these challenges introduced me to new friends, new authors and genres, and helped to expand my reading exponentially.

After a long hiatus from both blogging and reading challenges, I am looking forward in 2014 to participating again in some of these challenges. My approach this time around, however, will be for minimal stress and maximum enjoyment with each challenge attempted.

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My first challenge of 2014 is A Long-Awaited Reads Month, hosted by Ana and Iris, two special blogging friends. I am reading a book 100yearsthat’s been sitting on my bookshelf for 38 years! — One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. My friend, Nancy, recommended it to me and I immediately bought a paperback version intending to read it. However, the book seemed like a chunkster to me (it was that fine print!), and life was terribly busy with my preschool-age son, and I just never read it. See how long you can set a book aside!? So 38 years later, it is my long-awaited read for this challenge. And, oh yes…in order to deal with that chunkster intimidation factor, I figured out that if I read a minimum of 15 pages a day, I can finish the book within the month. Okay, Nancy…I’m on my way, 38 years later!

The Changing Light of a Room

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“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.
~May Sarton

It’s been a quiet New Year’s Day. I kept thinking I should be doing something more than just enjoying the quiet of this “empty day.” But after the rush and noise of December, I will take May Sarton’s words of wisdom to heart and just enjoy the last of the light on this first day of 2014.

A Reading Year

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2013 has been a “return to reading” year for me. Sometimes life hits you with multiple punches at the same time…the “old one-two,” as my Dad used to say. And three years ago, my family was hit by a combination punch that left me emotionally unable to focus well enough to read [or blog] for well over a year. But when 2013 began, I was delighted to realize that my reading focus had returned. It’s been a wonderful, enjoyable year of books for me, and it’s interesting to step aside for a moment and look back on my year’s reading journey.

Some Quick Stats:

  • 90 books read this year (hoping to finish up a couple of ‘currently reading’ books before ringing in the New Year
  • 21 audiobooks (listening-while-knitting also made for quite a few FOs). And for comparison, last year, I only listened to 3 audiobooks in the entire year!
  • 27 Kindle books (I unashamedly love reading on my Kindle because I can enlarge the type, read in the dark, and download thousands of books from the library!)
  • 16 classics. I’ve always loved reading the classics, and reading those 16 books filled me with a wonderful feeling of “returning to myself.”

Favorite Series:  I am loving reading Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. And I also loved reading Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwick series!

Favorite Non-Fiction: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

Favorite Classic: Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury.

Favorite Book of the Year: The Morville Year, by Katharine Swift. This was the first book I read in 2013. As I read this book, I created a “visual book review” on Pinterest, with photos of all the plants, people, places mentioned in this wonderful story of an English garden. For me, it was a lovely project that combined my love of reading, gardening, and learning!

2013 also brought more major life changes for us, but this time they were the most positive of changes. My husband and I retired this year, and thus, there is more time for joyfully reading on my front porch as I take breaks from the garden. We’ll see where my reading journey takes me in 2014!

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