From My Sickbed

books and tea

There should be a rule that if the mom gets sick then no one else is allowed to get sick as well.  Just once I want to get sick all by myself.  I want my family to soothe my fevered brow, bring me countless cups of tea, and insist I not get off the couch.

I'm living in a dream world, aren't I?

Instead what happens is that the cold (yes, we are only talking about a cold but, in my defense, it is a particularly nasty one) starts with my daughter, moves on to my son, and then hits my husband and me at the same time thus leaving no adult to care for the everyday concerns.  We both feel miserable, we both want to sit on the couch, we both get grumpy.  Don't you wish you knew me in real life now?  We sound so appealing.

My daughter went off to school today saying that she thought she might be getting another sore throat.  Do you think she might be starting a whole different cold?  The mind boggles at the misery.

But right now I am sitting on the couch, I have a stack of books next to me, and I know my husband will make me tea if I ask him to.  I am just going to ignore the five loads of clean laundry that need to be folded, the five million stuffed animals on my living room floor, and the dust bunnies under the coffee table .I am also going to ignore the slightly panicky feeling because my schedule is messed up for the week.  I am going to read my books and relax until the kids get home and I have to return to real life.

 What do you read when your head is so stuffed up you can't focus?  If you are me, you do a lot of rereading.  Right now I am reading The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer.  I always read Heyer when I am sick.  There is nothing like Regency England, witty comebacks, and fraught love affairs to make you forget your misery.  I have The Toll-Gate on the pile as well.  I haven't read that in a long time.  I also have Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.  Peter Wimsey will brighten any day.  I can pretend I am punting down the river in Oxford with him, looking frail and interesting instead of red-nosed and puffy-faced.  Of course, the witty comebacks would be mine in this case.  I would enthrall him with my intelligence and Latin tags.  (I think I might be feverish)  Lastly, I have All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott.  I read these books so many times when I was younger that I practically have them memorized and I had to stop reading them for a while.  I just recommended them to my animal loving daughter so I thought it might be time to pick them up again. His books always make me want to travel to Yorkshire.  I can plan an imaginary vacation when I need a break from reading.

I think I need another cup of tea.  And I'm out of Kleenex.  I maybe could be persuaded to eat a little something...

What do you read when you are ill?  

Book Review--Photographs From the Edge by Art Wolfe

I like pretty pictures.  I would like to take pretty pictures.  I mentioned in my recent post about being artistic that this a relatively new interest of mine.  I developed this interest partly because I started this blog and I obviously need photos for it and partly because I was not completely satisfied with some vacation photos I had taken.  I knew what I wanted but I didn't  know how to achieve it.  I still don't really but I am doing a lot of reading and a lot of practicing and one of these days I might end up with some photos I am reasonably pleased with.

Photographs From the Edge by Art Wolfe is one of the books I have been reading lately.  Because I have only recently started paying attention to photography I was not familiar with who Art Wolfe is.  I have a feeling I should have been. Apparently, he is a celebrated nature/wildlife photographer and his work has appeared in such publications as Smithsonian and National Geographic.  This is just one of many books he has written.  I see why he is so well-known.  His photos are gorgeous.  He takes you on a journey around with world with everything from a yak train in Tibet to penguins in Antarctica to the alps in France.  The photographs span many years of his career.

One thing I appreciate about the book is that is so accessible to someone like me who does not really know much about photography but would like to learn.  Each photo has a segment by Wolfe about the photo itself, describing what was happening around the taking of the photograph.  Under the photo title it also lists the equipment he uses.  Then there are two other little headings.  One is called "The nature of the photo" which is exactly what it says, a small blurb about the animal, location, etc. that you are looking at.  The other is called "Photo tip"  and provides easily understood pointers for the reader.  I enjoyed that not only is this a book full of gorgeous photos but it is also a way to learn a bit more about the photography process.

My one quibble with the book is that frequently the photos are smaller than I would like.  The text takes up quite a bit of space and then there is a surprising amount of blank space on the pages.  I think the impact would have been more impressive if the photos were larger.  After all, they are the star of the show.

This is a book that I am sure I will pick up and browse through with fair regularity.  It is not a book to be read cover to cover in one sitting but it is one to be flipped through and enjoyed.  It will bring a bit of beauty and a bit of the natural world into your everyday life.

I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review.

Books As Our Identity

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you want to be my friend you have to like Jane Austen.

Tell me that you don't like one of her novels and I will judge you.

Ask me, as someone did recently, who Jane Austen is and I will pass out from shock, recover and  judge you, and then I will pass out again.

As with many book mad people, the books I love have become part of my identity.  Tell me you don't like Jane Austen and you are telling me you don't like part of who I am because I can trace Jane Austen and her novels back through my life from the the first reading to the five millionth.  The characters are almost like people I know, friends I wish I had.  When you say Fanny Price is boring I wince in sympathy as if she can hear you and be hurt.  Because she isn't boring, she is just misunderstood.  Emma has her flaws, of course she does, but we love her in spite of them.  We, like Mr Knightley, see her potential.

When you say you don't like Jane Austen, or Angela Thirkell or Georgette Heyer or any of my other beloved authors, I can't help but wonder what we can possibly have in common.  I may be slightly exaggerating here but there is an element of truth.  When we meet people we automatically look for common ground.  Do we come from the same part of the country?  Do we both have kids?  Do we work in the same field?  You like to bake? Oh so do I.  When we find that bit in common, that meeting point, we also find the potential for friendship.

I ideally like to find that meeting point with books.  Now, obviously I can't reject as a friend everyone who doesn't read Jane Austen.  I would be a very lonely person if I did.  I can't even reject everyone who does not like to read, as horrifying as that is.  But when I do find someone who likes to read or when I discover a new book blog the first thing I do is find out what books they like, which are their favorites.  And if Jane Austen is one of them, well then, we have that bit more in common.  They are my kind of person. And if they do not like Jane Austen or another of my favorite authors it makes me wonder about other ways in which our thoughts would not mesh.

This sounds a bit as if I am not open to differences and as if I think everyone should think the same way I do.  That isn't what I mean. I like a good book discussion as much as the next person. I am happy to debate whether that book I read yesterday is really worth reading. However, there are some books that are so much part of our identity, books we have read over and over and absorbed into our psyche to such an extent that they are part of us.  Some of these are books from our childhood, I can't imagine not loving Little Women or the Little House books.  Some are more recent finds. I think Mollie Panter-Downes novel, One Fine Day, is an exceptional book.  But whether they are long loved and often read favorites or something we fell in love with last week, they do something to us.  They become part of who we are.

Because all dedicated readers are made up of the books they have read and loved.  It is through those books that we have learned about different countries and different cultures and different times in history.  We have learned about love and loss and how to deal with both.  We read about the mistakes characters made in books and hopefully we don't repeat them.  Books have educated us and comforted us and helped us to become who we are today.  We are defensive of those books and those authors because we identify with them.  They are us and we are them.

So tell me, do you like Jane Austen?

On Being Artistic

camera, book, and notebook

I am not artistic.  That is what I have always said, usually with a self-deprecating smile.  Then I would murmur something about being unable to draw a straight line and mention that my stick figures are unrecognizable.

It is true, I can't draw and my crafting skills are abysmal.  My children were outdoing me by the time they were three.  You haven't learned humility until your toddler has kindly and tactfully praised your play-doh creation and you have resisted the urge to agree that yes, it is a doggy, when really you meant it to be a lion.

I am not artistic.  That is what I have always said, until last week when I was showing my son the new photography book that had come in the mail.  He looked at the book and at my laptop, open to the blog post I was writing and he said "You know, you are artistic, you just aren't crafty.  Writing and photography are both artistic things."  It sounds so basic. They are both artistic but I never thought of it that way.

I looked up the definition of artistic.  It is "having or revealing natural creative skill."  Some synonyms are creative, imaginative, inventive, expressive.  Nowhere in that definition does it say you have to be able to make a recognizable lion out of play-doh in order to be artistic.  I can be creative and expressive.  I just can't draw.  There are so many ways to be artistic and so many things we can use to create.  The carpenter creates out of wood, the baker out of flour and butter, the storyteller uses words, the list goes on and on.

When you broaden the definition of artistic it becomes clear how many things fit that definition.  The problem is, like so many things, we frequently yearn after the forms of art that don't come naturally to us.  Because I can't draw or sing I discounted the fact that I like to work with words and that I am discovering an interest in photography.  However, both of those are creative outlets, they are artistic.  And nowhere in the definition of artistic does it say that you have to excel in order to be artistic.  Of course there are artistic geniuses but most of us are just creative.  Just creative.  That is a contradiction, isn't it?  There is nothing simple or negligible about any form or degree of creativity.  We need to appreciate it for what it is.  It is art, big or small.

I am not crafty.  A table filled with glue sticks, drawing pencils, construction paper, and glitter brings me out in hives.

I am artistic.  I am imaginative, expressive, and creative.

What a revelation.