July Reads

A8EE4D3E-5E27-4021-950F-D43F2A7A3C6E

Hello, Dear Readers,

It’s time for last months reading recap!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (****) – This is one of my Back to Classics picks for the year in the Author that’s New to Me category.  Wow! This was an amazing book and my first Steinbeck. The nature descriptions are wonderful and I enjoyed his rich prose and insightful, detailed observations. It started off very dark and depressing as we are introduced to Cathy, later known as Kate. She is one of more disturbing people I’ve read about in literature in a long time! Towards the end, I feel like I was able to feel a twinge of compassion towards her or at least a teeny bit of understanding. As we went along, I started to see some of the “retelling of the Genesis story/Cain and Abel” feeling, as our characters battle the internal good and evil in their lives and with their families. This follows two generations of two families and weaves in and out in a beautiful way as they struggle to survive their parents and as parents, their upbringing, and finding their purpose in life. They battle the question of is our tendency towards good or evil inherited or a choice? The weight of this question is felt heavily in each person’s life.  I felt like I got to know the characters deeply and that many of their questions were universal. I loved Lee, the Cantonese servant, and eventually friend and caretaker to Adam. I loved, loved Samuel, the dreamy, distracted friend of Lee and Adam. I realize this is a crazy, all over the place review, but it’s hard to describe. Beautiful, recommend with caveat that it does have a lot of darkness: prostitution, language, and suicide.

Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching by Richele Baburina (****) – This is a reference book for how Charlotte Mason approached maths and her words gathered together on mathematics and laid out in a very helpful way. I skimmed some of this, but found it very interesting and plan on referencing it in the future.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889 – 1910 by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I absolutely loved this look into Maud’s life as a young teenage girl, growing into a young engaged woman. The angst, temptations, and frustrations of the growing years were the same as many of us go through, but this was unique peek into a woman’s life at the turn of the century. Maud’s life with her grandparents was very rigid, so it was fascinating to see how she escaped into books and nature. I don’t care what Maud said, her own personality comes through in Anne and her other characters SO much! 😉 I can’t wait to read the next of these! I think there are five of them.

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a page turner! Mysterious, full of awesome creep, and I loved the Edgar Allen Poe vein throughout. I also loved the newspaper setting in Libby’s world and coffee shop in Annalise’s life. I felt very interested and connected to both Libby and Annalise, both in their respective mysteries and time periods. The growing affection between Libby and (well, I won’t spoil it) was done well, not too cheesy, but slower and more natural.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Interesting, dark story about the English Civil War and the wrestling with good and evil in all of our lives. How the love of God and others trumps darkness. Fascinating look at Royalists, Puritans, class divisions, and the Romani peoples. Gardens and herbs are prominent in this book which was beautiful and piqued my interest in it all the more. This took me a LONG time to get into, you have to be very patient with Goudge, but she will reward you many times over, if you hang on.

Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance by Iris Graville (*****) – I picked this up off my non-fiction library new shelf and I’m so glad I did. This is the memoir of a full-time nurse, who is burned out, and knows she and her family need a change from their fast paced lives. They end up moving to a small village in Washington State, North Cascades. They really begin living pretty primitively and work hard at odd jobs in the tourist season. Through it all, Graville journals, hikes, and just really searches her heart about what is important. I appreciated that her and her husband had a normal, yet good marriage. The only thing I didn’t like was once in awhile it felt a teeny bit whiny and I’m not a Quaker, so some of that was vague to me, but over all really enjoyed this story about her life and family.

The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them edited by Antonia Fraser and Victoria Gray (*****) –  That title says it all! Ha. It was just lovely (for the most part) essays from writers on their lives and reading. I read this pretty slow, but really enjoyed it. At the end of each chapter, each writer shares a list of a few favorites. I was surprised how many lists had Alice in Wonderland on their lists! I think it’s time for a reread.  🙂

Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin (***) – I really enjoy the first half of this book, just about fantasy writing and the importance of imagination. The second half was forwards she wrote for her books and she gets more defensive of some of her gender neutral writings etc. I found it to get a bit too whiny and possibly preachy?

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young (*****) – I read this on a road trip and was positively charmed by the recipes and memoir reflections of Miss Young’s life. One of reading and and feasting created to compliment her favorite stories. Many of the recipes were drool worthy and weren’t TOO difficult (except for a few) for the average home cook. Just LOVELY.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy  for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher (***) – I found the beginning of this book absolutely fascinating as Dreher gives us a snapshot of how Christianity has fallen apart through the ages and a view of it in the United States. Not super in depth, but accessible to the normal reader, I appreciated this part a lot. I found some of his ideas very idealistic, yet I loved his hopeful tone and encouragement about cultivating community. I was a bit skeptical because I don’t love a lot of what you might label as “Christian self-help etc” type books, but overall, I liked this one.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (*****) – I just loved this collection of poems, revisited ones from Picnic, Lightening and The Art of Drowning, both which I read earlier this year. His poems are so REAL and concrete and so very universal. You feel like what he just shared happened yesterday to you. Yet, he surprises you, too, by his close, minute observations. I really am enjoying Mr. Collins.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Psalms, digging into Proverbs, and read Matthew and Mark.

~

 

 

 

Right Sort of Day

8B3FC6B2-17B1-4666-B901-3A5D6B0A7218

Tiny droplets of rain “trinkles” (as my 6 year old sweetie calls them) are on my greasy, shower-deprived face. I just spent a lovely hour or so sitting under our Honey Locust tree, sipping Chai, and snuggled by our black cat, and dipping into my current Gladys Taber read.  The wind was delicious today, sweeping along the humidity and mosquitoes that were tempted to settle down comfortable-like around the house. Today was an unpacking, catch-up-on-laundry-from-road-trip-sort-of-day. There is something so soothing with contemplating nothing other than the nodding heads of the huge patches of Queen’s Anne’s lace, following the flight of the Barn Swallows, and noticing the American Goldfinch nibbling from the Bull Thistles. Yes, I have a lot of weeds around my house. The laundry flapping, my last load of the day, getting a fresh, second rinse from the shower. Summer please stay, don’t go. I’m holding onto you and your warm, earthy smells, and blue, endless skies, dotted with fluffy bits. I’m reveling in your green blanket, oh, what an amazing color green is, with it’s hope and happiness all wrapped up together.

Our summer travels were filled with beauty and nature’s bountiful, gifted feast. Being gone from home, however, just makes one forget the little broken door knobs, ovens that don’t work, and to-do piles. One drives up lovingly, all the problems you drove away from just a few short days ago, long forgotten.  The tall, stalwart house opens up it’s ample arms,  window eyes bunching up with a smile, beckoning you to sink into your own comfortable, lived-in bed, resume one’s regular deck visits, and visit with your shelves of friends. You then go to bake a cake, and the oven kindly reminds you it doesn’t work, and then you think disgustedly that you may need a holiday to get away from all the fix-it projects. Ha. The cycles of life are hilariously funny if you think about them closely. I cleaned out the fridge, finding just enough ingredients to make a Cheesy Chicken Sweet Potato Skillet something or other that I found when googling ‘what to make with no oven’. It was delicious, but next time I will add a side of brown rice or triple the recipe, as my big boy’s belly wasn’t full enough. He downed a couple of peanut butter sandwiches after lunch to fill the spots in that hollow leg of his.

I’ve been thinking on the gorgeous lakes we visited and holding those pictures close in my mind as I go about the mundane. Nothing can shake that poetry I’ve read, even dipping a little into some today by Billy Collins, or those nature scenes stamped onto my heart, the fresh smell, the majestic pines reaching up into pointed spires, church-like. A place of prayer and worship are those wide open spaces, that we can draw from even while hanging up the heavy, wet camping bedding to dry.

One of my two hollyhock stalks broke in the wind while I was gone, so I stuck it into the watering can on the deck to enjoy just a wee bit longer. Day lilies and Turk’s Cap Lilies are hanging on, along with a few sunflowers, and the fields are still full of clover, Ox-Eyed Daisies, and unknown wondrous grasses that hum all day long in the wind. The neighbor’s corn across the road, in particular, has such a beautiful sound to it. Sometimes, I go to get the mail just to listen to it. Slowing my breath, standing next to the road, the sound soothingly flows from their ears to mine, dancing and delighting in the jubilant wind.

I googled Viennese Waltz music, which is mixing with the bubbly, soapy, delighted sounds coming from the bathtub. My boys are in dire need of hair cuts, but I don’t think I’ll do it tonight, just enjoying the music and slowness of today, and dreaming dreamy dreams of big three season porches, much to my husband’s chagrin. He has been amiable about the whole idea, which I have no idea if it will work, with it involving taking out three windows, huge bushes, adding a huge structural element of a roof, and working around a basement cupola thing. Ha. Poor guy. I just love the idea of being outdoors without being outdoors, if you get my drift. Just sinking down and soaking up the sunrise, the heavenly winds that came with this place, reading in the rain, and having more room for snuggles and eating outdoors.

I suppose I will try to get back to my school planning next week, writing, and regular march across the calendar of days, but I’m just taking a deep breath and turning my heart once again toward home, the people who draw breath here, and an amazing Creator who gave it all.  Beethoven’s Melody of Tears came on a minute ago, a fitting soft punctuation to the day. A late dinner of fluffy pancakes and syrup might be just the ticket for children returning from working with their father. I may just go out later and see if I can catch one last glimpse of some bit of wonder tonight, fireflies, moonlight, or another droplet on my face – it feels like the right sort of day for that. I hope you catch a bit of magic, too.

~

Handfuls of Moonbeams

IMG_8017

“Moonlight” by Amy Carmichael

 

Moonlight’s tranquility:

A shimm’ring ocean, like a silver band

Between the misty sky and misty land,

And dreaming mountains sweeping to the sea.

 

The forest slowly heaves

And murmurs as the low night wind awakes;

The moon rides through her filmy vapors, takes

Handfuls of moonbeams, strews them on its leaves.

 

The shining grasses light

The fells with flow’ry arrows silver tipped,

And their long spears are bright as though they dipped

In dews of silver through the silvernight.

 

Lord, when we take our part

Tomorrow in life’s duty; feel the rush

Of hurrying hours, let not their passing brush

The sense of moonlit quiet from our hearts.

 

~Mountain Breezes, p. 127

{Holding onto this today – may the sense of moonlit quiet be on my lips and still my soul!}

~

Listening for Summer

D6DAE10B-4404-4E28-8095-D0B609C4FA94

Snap, crackle, BOOM!

Birthdays hearken back to beginnings,

summer heat and sounds rising.

Drone of bee, Cessna, and

home-improvement saw.

Dog yips, wind weaving the warp and woof,

of the verdant, pregnant, lush,

wood carpet. Fern-deep whispers, birds and

chipmunks, cheeping and chattering.

Rain on metal roofs, water

trickles, rushing, cascading deliciously.

Hum, buzz, and hover

of my Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

Talkative crickets hang on dancing, swaying grass.

The flip and flap of floral sheets and once-a-year

washed quilts on clothesline.

Car horns, noon whistles, and whiz of bike tires floating

in through open window.

Miss Kitchen Curtains lifts her skirts a little scandalously

and tap dances to summer.

Motorcycles growl and roar, shaking out their manes

as they devour the miles.

Tunes thump from cars, sizzle of steaks simmering

on grill, juicy drops of grease hitting the coals.

Giggling, watery-delight-filled voices, small

lotion- slathered humans swimming in pools, lakes, and streams.

Flames flicker, wood snap, crackling,

and popping slowly, marshmallows roasting.

Listening closely now. It’s the deep, luscious

sound of high summer.

~

 

Drenched

4E8075BD-2CDE-4E4A-88FF-9D54D2DF36C2

The day is drenched in Thee:

In little, exquisite surprises

Bubbling deliciousness of Thee arises

From sudden places,

Under the common traces

Of my most lethargied and ‘customed paces.

~”His Surprises”,  Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes, p. 44

 

Yesterday was one of those actual delicious mornings, wind on the face, cool and sweet, sun-kissed, and soft. My laundry was flapping away, I sat on my deck, drinking in coffee,  bits of  the Book of Psalms and Isaiah. The newest batch of kittens, tumbled and rolled about me, my flower baskets tickled by the same wind that kissed me. My youngest was playing in the puddles, with old ice cream buckets, grass clippings, and his sister’s little pink tea kettle.

My husband and oldest daughter were off on a farm adventure, two of my daughters were with Grandma Margaret, having a grand time, evidenced by the photos I was receiving via text. So it was just myself and my three boys, reveling in the sun and  general splendor of a lovely, warm June day. These sorts of days aren’t always around. Days can be dark physically, mentally, and relationships torn. If you look hard enough, though, I believe any day can be redeemed. This just happened to be a gift day, a particularly drenched-in-beauty day. We scrambled up some of my son’s fresh eggs, and the boys, who have hollow legs, raided leftovers, also. I continued my laundry work, slowly making my way through the bedding from our Texan family visiting last week.

The act of hanging clothing on the line is so soothing to me. There is just something so satisfying about pulling the basket along after you, rough-wooden pins in hand or mouth, and slowly seeing your family’s daily life unfurl. My son’s favorite t-shirt, all the extra potty-training underwear (ha. ok, those make me grumble a bit ), table cloths, well-used for family meals, towels that dried little bodies, and swimsuits from hours of fun at the lake.

I tackled a project that had taken me three weeks to work up the nerve. It took me only about 45 minutes to complete. Isn’t that always how it is? We make things so much worse by building them up in our mind. The craft/game/supply closet was a veritable bog of random puzzle pieces, pencils, dust bunnies, leftover diapers, craft sticky letters, and flotsam and jetsam of our school year.  I can’t tell you the relief I felt, packing away the Bing Crosby Christmas cds that were still out and stacking all the toilet paper in ONE spot! It’s the little things, folks.

Later morning found me blissfully relaxing under the lone tree in our front yard, yes, admiring the clothesline’s dancing occupants, talking with Ben, as he made a grass salad, and contemplating a beautiful line from Elizabeth Goudge’s A Pilgrim’s Inn, 

When she had filled her basket with holly Jill sat down on the rock and waited happily for the twins. She did not find the waiting irksome, for she had been born one of those fortunate people who are never in a hurry and never restless. She had never felt restless in her life. In all that she did, in all that she saw, she was aware of a deep upspringing wonder, as though she did it or saw it for the first time. She was blessed with a mind neither retrospective nor anxious; the past and the future did not pull her two ways with remorse and dread, and the lovely freshness of each new-made moment was apparent to her focused vision. p. 314

What a wonderful thoughts… I desire to be constantly aware of a deep upspringing wonder. Isn’t that just such a lovely thought?  No matter how dark life gets, wonder is there, pushing at the cracks and bruises, trying to shine through. Brushing the grass from my skirt, I took this thought into the house, where I made leftovers, tuna, and salad for lunch.

The afternoon brought more freshly laundered sheets, more reading, my boys choosing to watch some LoTR movies, since their little siblings weren’t around, the scary factor is high on those. I got outdoors and took a quick walk through the countryside anticipating running to town right after to pick up my middle girls and have a coffee with my sister. It was so unbelievably gorgeous, the  birds, wind, and hot sunshine blending into a song and poem, floating on the wind, their notes following, matching the beat of my footsteps.

Grilled pork chops, deck moments gazing at the full moon, and late night banana bread baking were more frosting on the cake. What a gift, drenched with wonder. I’m saving it away to be pulled out when I need it.  ~

E1F49BBF-2BF7-4D8D-850B-098CB2620E5C

Monday Ponderings {June 18th, Happy Birthday to me!}

4C44B76A-7472-43AB-BBDF-09012E36E4A3

Our love is like a little pool; Thy love is like the sea…

~ beautiful line from an Amy Carmichael poem “Surprising Love”, p. 18, Mountain Breezes

Love is at the heart of every right way, and essential forgiveness at the heart of every true treatment of the sinner. 

~ George MacDonald, p. 307, Discovering the Character of God

Face to Face

O Love Divine, if we can see

In our beloved so dear a grace,

When Love unveils, what will it be

To see Thee face to face?

~Amy Carmichael

{The photo is from a lovely B&B my husband and I stayed at last weekend. We snuck away for a short break and it was so nice. Meditating on these today…how is your week shaping up? I’m a grand 38 today. I feel like I’m straddling the young and old fence. Ha. Three cheers for birthdays! Happy Monday from all of us here at Hearth Ridge Farm.}

~

Monday Ponderings {June 4th}

93B530E8-D41D-48DF-A02C-27D05BBBC194

The Holy Midnight

Ah, holy midnight of the soul,

When stars alone are high;

When winds are resting at their goal,

And sea-waves only sigh!

 

Ambition faints from out the will;

Asleep sad longing lies;

All hope of good, all fear of ill,

All need of action dies;

 

Because God is, and claims the life

He kindled in thy brain;

And thou in him, rapt far from strife,

Diest and liv’st again.

 

~ George MacDonald

~

 

Gather Round {June 2nd}

IMG_3923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Want to catch up on what has been happening here at Hearth Ridge Farm?  Check out previous installments here.

Domesticity – My seedlings did so well and then one word: chickens. Yes, our chickens got most of them after I planted them in the front areas. I forgot about putting up some sort of little fence or something. My basil, oregano, and dill are the only things that are still doing alright. Bummer. I think I will have to stop by the Amish greenhouse and see if I can get some zinnia plants. I need flowers. I really was tempted to put in peonies, but alas at $20 a plant, I might have to save up for that, since I only want like 457 plants. Gardening is definitely a lesson in patience and fortitude. I will stay strong. I now have a huge area with nothing really to look forward except weeds.  Ha. Well, I guess I do have hollyhocks that I planted last year coming up (purplish black! Eeek!) and I’m hopeful about some cosmos I planted. In other news, my littlest son turned four this week and he was so precious and said,”Thank you for my birthday,” numerous times.  He loved his big floor puzzle and book. We have a large party of guests coming in the next few weeks, so we have plenty of work in the house and yard to keep us going. I need to figure out how to feed 14+ people for a week or so. Hmmm….weed salad sprinkled with dill, anyone? 

Education ~  SomeONE *cough – not mentioning any names* always picks way too many books to read each school year and so we are just trying to finish up those last few hanging around. We finished Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare today and we  generally enjoyed it, albeit it was weird, and all the disguises were nuts. Everybody’s names ended in “io” it seemed…Petruchio, Cambio, Grumio, Traino, Gremio, Lucentio, and so on so forth. Sheesh. What were you thinking Will?

Writing ~ I have some major reevaluating to do soon. I feeling stretched a bit too thin and getting bogged down by too many voices in this area. I’m praying about it and I talked to a good friend today more about it. I do know that I want to continue to write here, because I enjoy it so much and hope there is a small spark of something that inspires you, too.

Reading ~  I’m really looking forward to more free time with our formal learning set aside for a few months. I’m really enjoying getting into T.H. White’s The Once and Future King more, and I’m rereading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, which I really find so wonderful and deliciously creepy. There are so many wonderful possibilities staring at me from the shelves, I’m giddy with anticipation. I was able to get a box of mainly new picture books at a book sale today and we all enjoy poking through them so much this afternoon. One of our main family read-aloud times this holiday break is the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and we already started it and are enjoying it.

Sillies & Sundries ~  My friend passed this TED talk along to me and wow. What do you think? I’m finding that I’m really struggling with a full brain, exhaustion, and just tension. Yes, some of that is just normal for a busy mother, but I’m wondering if this gentleman is on to something? I’m going to be considering his thoughts closely. I’m looking forward to chasing down his book, Deep Work. I think he focuses more on productivity in your job (*snore*), but I think this could be applied to creativity and just relationships. Very compelling.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

May Reads

The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baumillustrated by W. W. Denslow and originally published by George M. Hill Company, Chicago (1900)

“I have always thought myself very big and terrible; yet such small things as flowers came near to killing me, and such small animals as mice have saved my life.” ~Cowardly Lion

 

 

 

How was your reading month? I got some good ones finished and I’ve started many titles that promise to be lovely. My stack is heavy on non-fiction right now for June, which is very unusual for me. I’m trying to find more fiction in the fantasy genre that is based more in myth, legends, and folklore. Please share if you have any good titles that fall in the description. Here’s what I read in May:

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp (****) I read this for my Back to Classics by a Woman Author category. I found it heart-warming and pretty funny at times. I especially loved Mrs. Trapp’s hilarious explanation on their attempts at learning English and also the lengths she would go to hide her pregnancies.  I was amazed at the Trapp family’s resourcefulness and determination. It dragged just a bit for me, but overall, a good story. By the way, the movie is only slightly inspired by the real Trapp family’s life, very little of it is true.

The Alliance by Jolina Petershiem (****) Amish/Mennonite dystopian, anyone? Ha. I’ve read my fair share of Amish inspirational novels in life, so I was bit skeptical about this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. The characters were interesting and multi-faceted and it had intriguing premise.  If something big happened to our power grid or our society’s basic structure (that heavily relies on technology and electricity), who would be more adapted to handle that type of world? This title didn’t shy away from the dark side to people when faced with desperate situations and it didn’t have pat answers or solutions for tough things. This is a page turner with well-drawn relationships, fast paced action, and hard questions.  Older teens and up as it has violence and other disturbing images.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint (***) – I really enjoyed this story, well-written, good characters, and beautiful settings, urban Canada into an Otherworld. I love Mr. de Lint’s ability to create intriguing, mysterious settings, memorable characters, and amazing creatures. He did extremely well with creep. I want to give this five stars as it was close to perfection in what I love about the fantasy genre. My only hesitation has to do with my Christian faith as this is heavy on occultism in a way that really is hard to reconcile. I also really disliked heavy swearing. I can usually read something that isn’t to my taste and just throw out anything I don’t agree with, but I can’t recommend this book without reservation.

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals
by Dinah Fried (****) – This was a lot of fun. A combination of photo art and sentiments by Fried about memories of food in fiction she has read. I really enjoyed this and also found some new books and authors to check out. This was short and sweet, a nice break from all my long books and huge stacks. I heard about this book on a lovely podcast called Tea & Tattle.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling (***) – This was a beautifully written book about Maggie Black, a writer, who inherits her mentor’s home in Arizona. She finds herself drawn to and inspired by the harsh, yet beautiful landscape around her. A mystery surrounds the death of the poet who’s home she now calls her own. Heavy on spirit-ism, Native Peoples religious beliefs, and occultism, so I recommend with reservation.

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie, & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen (****) – I enjoyed this short, inspiring book on writing and exploring the fantasy genre. There was one chapter I warmly disagreed with, but it wasn’t anything horrible, it was just a preference of mine. Over all, I really enjoyed this.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (****) – This is one I’ve wanted to read for a long time and a few online friends read it in the month of May and discussed it here. I found it sad and multi-layered. After reading his The Buried Giant, I feel like I walked away from both of these, with more questions then answers. Stevens is a faithful butler who is out on a long-over due holiday, thinking back over his long career and who he is as a person. Thought-provoking. I’m sure I will get more out of this on subsequent readings.

The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening by Billy Collins (****) – I immensely enjoyed these two books of poetry. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed. 

The Holy Bible (*****) – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

To Begin Again

50B84FD8-A4A7-41E7-8C46-F27B4A425A35

What helps us start over? My daughter and I, feet dew-damp, chased a bit of fluffy fog this morning. Heads back, breathing in the heavenly fresh-after-rain scent of the air, the glint of diamonds off a nearby bush, catching us unaware. A light breeze tickles the ends of our hair, shafts of sunlight piercing through our worn, lone tree.

What does it mean to begin again? The swirl of brush in murky water, dabbing watercolors onto our papers together, I glance up at the blue Bell jar, the pussy willow stems beckoning to me, asking me to remember them on paper. Simple meals shared, tuna patties, lettuce, on wheat. Lanterns lit, orange juice pored from a tall, porcelain pitcher, catches the light just right.

How do we move forward from life’s bogs? I shake out a giant, geometric cloth, my hand smoothing, running the length of it, as I lay it on our table. A little orange gingham fabric piece in the middle, my lilac candle, lanterns, two pine cones, and bouquet. A quiet restart, reflection and hope for things to come, conversation, and relationship. Pausing over seasonal, springy, Tookish poetry, chuckling at Moomins, and dirty hands dropping their homemade bow and arrows on top, mussing it a bit.

What helps us breathe again, from the busy, harried, breath-sucking seasons? The steam rising from the pot of oatmeal, walnuts and raisins, sprinkling down over the top, a splash of milk added to the lot, pepper plants on the sill, a bit of spilled dirt, the curtain above, whipping in the wind from the window, fresh from bath, soap-smelling little boy, and soul-deep discussions over a chapter in Tanglewood Secrets.

What makes the ink of life, flow again? The pulse of our heart, beat again? A cool breeze, gray, slate-colored skies, epic soundtracks flowing along side the tide of feeling, bringing the outside in, the reality of knowing, seeing, drinking in the fact, that we are not really made for this world, and its darkness. The little dandelion, the moss, the way the birds sing, bringing in the dawn.  The first, hot cup of coffee, warming my hands, hip against the wood counter top, sipping in the morning.

What helps us start over? I’m not sure, but these small moments are essential ingredients. Humble gratitude for every little gift, no matter how small. Each moment is a new beginning.

~

 

 

April Reads

Vilma Reading on a sofa_ by Frantisek Tavik Simon (Czech 1877-1942)

“Vilma Reading on a sofa” by Frantisek Tavik Simon (Czech 1877-1942)

I was able to read some lighter fiction this month and finish some of the ones I’ve been dipping into for awhile now. The weather is turning glorious, so one must push oneself off of one’s backside and out of doors. 😉 I’m still plugging away at my selections for the Back to Classics reading community, but haven’t finished any more of them. I’ve been dipping into more Children’s and YA literature and I always fall back in love with it. Recently, I finally read a Moomin tale and found in charming. Do you enjoy Children’s or YA for yourself? WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE SUBJECTED TO A VERY TALL PILE OF BOOKS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (***) – I tend to rate books immediately upon completion very emotionally. I initially rated this a bit higher, but bumped it down a bit after I thought on it awhile. I’m not sure why I do this. This was silly and eye-rolling fun. I enjoyed the creativity of this story very much! It had a predictable plot, swearing, wonderfully wonky puns, and some ridiculous cliches, but the truth is, I just want to escape through a Prose Portal and visit with Jane and Mr. Rochester. The End.

Wodwo by Ted Hughes (****) – This is a collection of poems, short stories, and one play. It was weirdly wonderful. Hughes use of words is beautiful and he paints beautiful word pictures. I didn’t always understand the themes or subject of the pieces, but overall, I was enchanted by his word wizardry. My favorite poem of all, and one I’m super inspired by, is the title poem, “Wodwo”. I actually heard of this mythical creature from Robert MacFarlane’s Instagram account and googled the term. I was intrigued and chased it down, finding this book by Hughes.

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver (***) – There were parts of this that just made my soul sing. I especially loved the opening essay, “Upstream”, and there were words and thoughts and phrases that were just so beautiful. The rest was just ok and a bit strange and rambly. I really should reread and jot down words and phrases for future contemplation.

Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason (***) – This was an inspirational thriller with a side of mystery and romance. This title was intriguing and fast paced. I suspect that there are many others in this series or previous books that introduced the family of law enforcement officials, because I felt a little confused about details about the main characters, like it was assumed I knew about them a bit already. Over all, very well done, the villain/mystery was well-hidden and the romance not too bad on the cheese-o-meter.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – This has taken me months to get through because it was heart-wrenching in many ways. Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it. This is an achingly beautiful account of The Belgian Congo and a family torn up by Pharisaical religiosity, racism, sexism, and as many other “isms” that Kingsolver could think of and fit into this book. This is the first book that made me cry in a long time and I will never forget it. Even though I strongly believe the author made sweeping, prejudiced (ironically, the very thing she eloquently rails about in this book) blanket judgments of things she abhors (or at least seems to based on this novel), there is SO much to appreciate about this and pull away from it. Highly recommend if you can read it with a grain of salt and a willingness to look at yourself, shaking off deeply ingrained things that aren’t right.

Hourglass: Time, Memory, and Marriage by Dani Shapiro (*****) – If you remember last month, I finished another of this author’s titles, Still Life: Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life, and thought to try another soon. This was a short and easy stroll. Just subtle and lovely look at how fast time flies and longevity in marriage (ironically, this is the author’s third marriage, BUT I want to believe the best about people, right?! Marriage is hard, but that’s what can make it good). It was poignant and it made me think.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (**) – This was another Instagram FAIL. I was so disappointed after a promising beginning. Longer review here if you are interested, but slight spoiler alerts.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (*****) – SLIGHT SPOILER! The daily workings of a telecommunications company may not sound fascinating, but oh wow, they are when you have Willis writing about them. The new craze is a medical implant supposedly to increase your emotional connection to your partner. Briddley, a young employee, is thrilled and astonished by the attention lavished on her by one of her bosses Trent, and now he wants to get this implant with her! The weird tech department guy won’t stop warning her about the dangers of this procedure, and her big crazy Irish family won’t leave her alone.  Continued review here!

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende (***) – (GRAPHIC CONTENT IN THIS BOOK – READ COMPLETE REVIEW BEFORE READING!) I have a bit of a book “hangover” from this title. Brutal and honest look at life during the colonization of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and the Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) by the French and Spanish. This follows the life of a young slave Tete and her masters and the people she encounters in her life from her mother’s origins in Africa, enslaved to Haiti, ending up in Louisiana. It touches on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the Haitian Revolution.  Continued review here! 

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a beautifully written inspirational historic romance. Three different women’s stories carefully woven through the generations of the countryside of France. It takes you through the French Revolution, WWII, and modern day with ease and fluidity. The romance was SO well done, tasteful and slow, I’m so happy to find an Christian author like this. I can’t wait to read more from Cambron. This title reminded me a bit of Kate Morton’s style. The ONE thing I didn’t like was there were a few “neat” bows-tied up, but I’ll forgive it, because I really enjoyed it.

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises from Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (*****) – I think that title says it all. No need for a review. Ha. This was simple, straightforward, and I loved learning about what it takes to craft fiction. Wowsers. Go shake an author’s hand, will you, please? This is a great resource, wonderful for revisiting parts over and over again, and I’m sure I will, as I continue to learn and grow.

Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson (*****) – This was absolutely charming story of a little family of critters searching for their loved ones and forever home. They meet a whole bunch of fascinating friends on their journey. Gorgeous, whimsical illustrations with just the right amount of creep.  I want to move into Moominvalley with them!

Yonder by Margaret Bell Houston (*****) – My dear friend gave me a copy of this book this past weekend and I gobbled it up. Written BEAUTIFULLY and with such a wonderful blend of mystery, romance, and creepiness. A young woman Olive lives through a horrible tragedy and needs to begin again. She ends up as a companion to a young woman suffering from acute mental illness brought on by a sudden horrific event in her life. She lives in a castle on an island in the Florida keys filled with old, hidden memories, creepy handicap sister, and old, withered father. A mysterious servant Ezra is always in the shadows, as Olive tries to help the beautiful Zoé, the atmosphere and place creeps into her being. Olive finds herself healing and growing through the most unlikely friendships. This is full of lovely atmospheric bits, delicious haunts, and old pirate ghosts floating through the halls. I could feel the salt spray on my face and taste it all. I dug around a bit I found out the author is the granddaughter of Sam Houston, of Houston, Texas fame. Interesting!

The Holy Bible (*****) – working slowly through Proverbs, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John.

~

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {April 9th}

82F6318C-2ED4-4BDE-81F5-6677E61B57AE

“The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
{Saturday was Wordsworth’s birthday and I took some time to read a little of his poetry. This one is one my favorites and I’m thinking on it as we tackle this week. I don’t want to be a pagan ;), but I do want to shut out the craze of the modern world and delight in Nature’s minutia. It’s snowing here, so perfect for sipping coffee and mulling over his words. Happy Monday!}