A Poem for a Thursday #49

Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash
Carl Dennis is an American poet who has won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He writes of  "quotidian, middle-class life, but beneath the modest, reasonably lighted surfaces of the poems lie unexpected possibilities that create contrast and vibrancy."

Today as we walk in Paris I promise to focus
More on the sights before us than on the woman
We noticed yesterday in the photograph at the print shop,
The slender brunette who looked like  you
As she posed with a violin case by a horse-drawn omnibus
Near the Luxembourg Gardens. Today I won't linger long
On the obvious point that her name is as lost to history
As the name of the graveyard where her bones
Have been crumbling to dust for over a century.
The streets we're to wander will shine more brightly
Now that it's clear the day of her death
Is of little importance compared to the moment
Caught in the photograph as she makes her way
Through afternoon light like this toward the Seine,
Or compared to our walk as we pass the Gardens.
The cold rain that fell this morning has given way to sunshine.
The gleaming puddles reflect our mood
Just as they reflected hers as she stepped around them
Smiling to herself, happy that her audition
Went well this morning. After practicing scales
For years in a village whose name isn't recorded,
She can study in Paris with one of the masters
And serve the music according to laws more rigorous
Than any passed by the grand assemblies of Europe,
Laws I hope she always tried to obey. 
No way of telling now how close her life 
Came to the life she hoped for as she rambled,
On the day of the photograph, along the quay.
And why do I need to know it when she herself,
If offered a chance to peruse the book of the future,
Would likely shake her head no and turn away.
She wants to focus on the afternoon almost gone
As we want to focus now on breathing and savoring
While we stand on the bridge she stood on to watch
The steamers push against the current or ease down.
This flickering light on the water as boats pass by
Is the flow that many painters have tried to capture
Without holding too still. By the time these boats arrive
Far off in the provinces and give up their cargoes,
Who knows where the flow may have carried us?
But to think now of our leaving is to wrong the moment.
We have to be wholly here as she was
If we want the city that welcomed her
To welcome us as students trained in her school
To enjoy the music as much as she did
When she didn't grieve that she couldn't stay

In Paris
Carl Dennis

Brona has shared a poem by Wislawa Szymborska this week.

Book Purchases


My daughter has discovered a love for thrift shopping. She spent years rolling her eyes at my secondhand purchases and then suddenly decided thrift stores were full of cool, vintage things.  I am pretty sure a subreddit is responsible for her change of mind. There is absolutely no chance she suddenly realized her mom was right all along. Last Saturday she asked to go to Savers to look for vintage clothes. I was happy to oblige even though few things will make you feel as old as realizing that the "vintage" clothes your 14-year-old daughter is looking for are the very same clothes you wore in your teenage years. I know all clothing styles eventually cycle back but it is odd to see the 1980s returning. We both had fun trying on all kinds of random clothing items, and she decided to buy one very 1980s sweater, and then we went and browsed the book rack.


I bought a few books. I don't usually do too well finding books at this Savers but someone with similar reading taste to me must have just donated some books and I hit the jackpot. I found two British Library Crime Classics. I almost never come across those. I practically started jumping up and down in excitement. I am sure my daughter would have loved that. Parents are so embarrassing. I also found two more books with very pretty covers. They obviously came from the U.K. since the price on the back is in pounds. I have read Cold Comfort Farm but I didn't know this book existed. The Edmund Crispin book is familiar but I don't think I have ever read it.


I also bought a copy of War and Peace. It was never a book that appealed greatly to me but then Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice wrote a review that got me interested. Maybe I will get around to it during the winter. The Georgette Heyer is because I am trying to complete my collection. I might actually own this somewhere but I can't be bothered to look right now. My daughter bought a couple of Redwall books and we picked up a Star Wars book for my son.


I also had a few books show up in the mail. The Mignon Eberhart is because I can never have too much vintage romantic suspense in my life. The book of essays about Jane Austen was recommended by Girl With Her Head in a Book. I can't find the specific post but her whole blog is very good. Go read it if you don't already. I bought In Search of London because I am slowly working my way through H. V. Morton's books. I greatly enjoy his travels around the U.K. I wrote a post about one of his other books here.

I think my daughter's new interest in thrifting might be bad for my book purchases-or good, depending on how you look at it.


This was my other purchase at Savers. Ignore the fact that the mirror isn't clean and the photo is pretty bad. My grandmother had a mirror very similar to this and I always loved it so when I saw this I had to buy it. I have no idea where I am going to hang it but it is still making me very happy.

A Poem for a Thursday #48

Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash
Our neighbor got a dog. It barks. It barks a lot. Last night it barked for 95 minutes straight; yes, I timed it. We have tried talking to her and she just got angry with us. We have tried contacting animal control and they just ignored us.

I am ready to move. If anyone has a little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere we can rent that would be great. It has to have no neighbors. Though my husband says we could build a house in the Sahara Desert and someone would buy the next dune and move in with a yapping dog. Probably true.

Billy Collins wrote a poem about a barking dog. Here it is.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking.

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius. 

Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House
Billy Collins

Reese is sharing a Dorothy Parker poem today.

Rereadings by Anne Fadiman


I love Anne Fadiman's writing. Her love of books spills out from the page and she frequently puts into words the things I have just thought. I am slowly working my way through Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love and while it does not have as much of her writing as I would like it is still very enjoyable. I particularly liked her introduction where she talked about reading a beloved book of her childhood aloud to her son.

Reading a favorite book to your child is one of the most pleasurable forms of rereading, provided the child's enthusiasm is equal to yours and thus gratifyingly validates your literary taste, your parental competence, and your own former self. Henry loved The Horse and His Boy, the tale of two children and two talking horses who gallop across an obstacle-fraught desert in hopes of averting the downfall of an imperiled kingdom that lies to the north. It's the most suspensful of the Narnia books, and Henry, who was at that poignant age when parents are still welcome at bedtime but glimpse their banishment on the horizon, begged me each night not to turn out the light just yet:  how about another page, and then how about another paragraph, and then, come on, how about just one more sentence? There was only one problem with this idyllic picture. As I read the book to Henry, I was thinking to myself that C.S. Lewis, not to put too fine a point on it, was a racist and sexist pig. 

What does one do when your much-loved book does not fit in with your grown-up, current-day values? How do you present it to your child? Fadiman started discussing the book with her son and this is what happened.

Henry shot me the sort of look he might have used had I dumped a pint of vinegar into a bowl of chocolate ice cream. And who could blame him? He didn't want to analyze, criticize, evaluate, or explicate the book. He didn't want to size it up or slow it down. He wanted exactly what I had wanted at eight; to find out if Shasta and Aravis would get to Archenland in time to warn King Lune that his castle was about to be attacked by evil Prince Rabadash and two hundred Calormene horsemen. "Mommy," he said fiercly, "can you just read?" 

Henry, like many children, immersed himself in the action, the adventure, the sheer excitement of the story. But when we reread we see things we missed before. Does that always change our love of the book? I'll let Fadiman answer.

Still, C.S. Lewis treated girls and Calormenes as inferiors, and I could not get that out of my mind. For a while, the knowledge of his small-mindedness wrestled uneasily with the pleasure I took in his book. By the time I closed the last page, however, I found that the pleasure, without conscious instruction from me though doubtless with some abetment by Henry, had clearly gotten the upper hand. The book's flaws were serious but the connection was too strong to sever. 
And why shouldn't it be? The same thing happens with our parents. They start out as gods, and then we learn that they committed adultery, or drank too much, or cheated on their taxes, or maybe they just looked awkward on the dance floor or went on too long when they told a story. But do we stop loving them?

 I have only read a couple of the other essays in the book and they are very good but I do wish I had an entire book of Fadiman's writing. If you haven't read Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader then go find a copy right now. It is a joy and a pleasure. I wrote a post about it here.

A Poem for a Thursday #47

Photo by Stéphane Juban on Unsplash


William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet who lived from 1865-1939. Yeats was very involved in politics and was appointed a senator of the Irish Free State in 1922. His poetry frequently reflected his pessimistic attitude toward the state of politics in his country. Yeats was also a playwright and he was one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Yeats won the Nobel Prize in 1923.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars. 

When You Are Old
William Butler Yeats

Reese is sharing a poem on her blog, Typings.

A Poem for a Thursday #46


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) "achieved a level of national and international prominence previously unequaled in the literary history of the United States." What American schoolchild has not read "Paul Revere's Ride" or "Hiawatha"? Longfellow also gave us this gem:

There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
             When she was good,
             She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

No, that is not your poem for today. Longfellow was one of the few American writers to be honored in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. Longfellow was viewed as "a champion of poetry in an otherwise prosaic society" and he provided encouragement to other poets including Emily Dickinson. His narrative style poems are out of favor these days and, as readers looked for more complexities in their reading, he fell out of popularity. It is a pity because there is something very appealing about much of his work. It may frequently be sentimental and old-fashioned but it is also very readable.

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
       And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
but the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
       And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls. 

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here is the poem Reese at Typings shared this week and here is one from Jennifer at Pastry & Purls.

A Day Out//Harkness Memorial State Park


Summer is almost over. Soon the days will be getting cooler and school will be back in session. One more day of walking a beach, collecting sea glass, and listening to the waves seemed necessary. We went to Harkness Memorial Park in Waterford, CT. It is a park we have visited many times over the years but we never tire of it. The park has gardens, a mansion, and a beach on Long Island Sound. No swimming is allowed on the beach but that was fine with us. We were happy to putter around taking photos and paddling in the waves.




We didn't visit all the gardens because Celia was very anxious to get down to the beach. A Tuesday morning is not exactly a prime beach visiting day so we had it pretty much to ourselves. There were a few mothers with their small children happily building sandcastles, some older couples ambling down the shore, and a small group of artists very involved in painting the ocean view but that was it. We were free to imagine that the mansion was ours and we had simply wandered down for a gentle stroll before lunch.




There is something so soothing about a beach. The rhythmic sound of the crashing waves drowns out the worries we all carry around with us. The sun, the sand, and the search for the perfect shell or rock return us to childhood. For a little while, we are happy and at peace.



Eventually, hunger drove us out in search of clam chowder and french fries but we had seashells in our pockets and salt spray in our hair to remind us of one last summer day.

A Poem for a Thursday #45


Four years ago this week I started this blog. Four years of taking photos of books, talking about books, writing rambling posts about my random thoughts, and being constantly surprised that people take the time to read and comment. I've frequently thought I had nothing to say and then found that once I start typing the words are there. I've learned a lot about blogging and photography; just enough to know how much I still have to learn. I've discovered that I actually like poetry and I have expanded my reading horizons by reading other people's blogs.

Most people in my everyday life don't know I have this blog. I don't talk about it, at first because I was self-conscious and now because not  talking about it has become a habit. But this space has become part of who I am. It is a place where I have a voice and where I can talk about things that many people around me don't have an interest in. Like anything online, it only portrays a snapshot of my life but that snapshot, small as it is, is real. That means that, yes, I am just as London, tea, and book obsessed as I seem.

It seems appropriate that this week's poem be connected to books because so much of my blog is about books. Thank you for sticking around and reading my rambling, book-obsessed thoughts.

A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,
His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.
His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;
What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;
When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
the gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,
He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown. 

In a Library
Emily Dickinson

Reese, at Typings, has also shared a poem.



Books I Bought in Scotland


Most unusually, book shopping was not the focus of this trip. I was traveling with my daughter and, much as she loves reading, she did not want to spend all her time in book shops. She wanted to see castles and pandas and museums as well. I suppose that is reasonable. However, I did manage to pop into a few bookshops and I came home with ten new books. I didn't put a lot of thought into my purchases. Since I didn't have much time in bookshops I just bought things when they looked interesting. Or I bought things because the bookseller was nice. The book second from the bottom in the stack was purchased solely because the bookseller spent 20 minutes discussing what route we should take to get to Kelvingrove Park and what we should do along the way. I had to buy something after he had been so nice.


We did have one day when we visited a few bookshops. Katrina, from Pining for the West, and her husband offered to meet us in Edinburgh and give us a tour of the city including stops at a few bookshops. It was very, very kind of them and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Celia had been nervous about spending time with people we didn't know but about ten minutes after we met up with them she dropped back to walk with me and whispered: "they are really, really nice." She was right.




I could easily have bought so many more books but I was limited by what would fit in my carry-on suitcase. Such a pity. I will have to go back. Celia enjoyed rummaging around in the bookshops. She ended up buying a small dinosaur encyclopedia and an old copy of The Swiss Family Robinson. She wanted a complete set of The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton but there was no way we were going to get that home.



Celia and I also visited a couple of bookshops in Glasgow but the only one I have photos of is Caledonia Books. It was charming and the owner was friendly but we were both very jetlagged at that point and I am sure I missed some treasures.




Of course, I managed to visit Waterstones a number of times since it was just around the corner from our hotel. So, all in all, book shopping may not have been the focus of this trip but I did manage to squeeze quite a bit of it in.




A Poem for a Thursday #44

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

Sylvia Plath was an American poet and novelist. Her poems are autobiographical and focus on her own emotions and sense of despair. Joyce Carol Oates wrote of her poems that "many of them written during the final, turbulent weeks of her life, read as if they have been chiseled, with a fine surgical instrument, out of arctic ice." Plath took her own life when she was thirty.

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks--
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills' northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal. 

Blackberrying
Sylvia Plath

Brona is also sharing a poem this week.

Scotland, We Loved You


Here are a few totally uniformed opinions about Scotland based on my one week visit.

It is very pretty. Apparently, the Highlands are even prettier than the area we visited. I will be happy to return and test that theory.

The people are unbelievably friendly. Everyone talked to us. Everyone was helpful. It was lovely.

Scones with cream and jam are the food of the gods.

You can spend a lot of time at the Edinburgh Zoo before the panda decides to emerge. For a whole 2.5 minutes. But that was enough to make Celia's day.

Glasgow is a bit rough around the edges and not quite what I expected but we loved it and would happily live there.

Edinburgh was objectively prettier but it was so crowded because of the festival going on. We will have to go back. Of course.

There are a lot of castles. Celia would happily visit all of them.

I bought some books.

There was a Waterstones around the corner from our hotel. A couple of mornings Celia slept in a bit and I went to the cafe for tea and cake and some book browsing. It was the perfect way to start a day.

We walked over 60 miles in a week. It balanced out all the cake and scones. I wish we lived in a place where we didn't have to drive everywhere.

Trains are very affordable. We went to Edinburgh twice, Stirling, and Loch Lomond. The most we paid was about 13 pounds. For both of us. Round trip. That is amazing. Celia is under 16 so her ticket was 1 pound every time.

Bagpipes are best enjoyed from a distance.

Walled gardens make me happy.

Our flight home was canceled and we got an extra 24 hours in Scotland. Once we knew we had a bed for the night we had absolutely no complaints about that.

British Airways then decided to check our bags for free. If only I had known before I had arrived at the airport I could have bought more books.

Celia has decided she is going to grow up and move to Scotland. I don't have the heart to explain the impossibilities of moving to the U.K. so I am just joining her in unrealistic dreams.

Yes, Scotland, we loved you.


One more thing; Simon, at Stuck in a Book, has brought back his My Life in Books series. I am one of the two bloggers featured today. If you want to read the post it is here.

A Poem for a Thursday #43


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
John Donne was an English writer and Anglican cleric born in 1572. His poetry was very well-known during his lifetime and for some years after but then went out of favor for several centuries. He is considered one of the great metaphysical poets. Most people are familiar with No Man is an Island because of studying it in school. Today's poem is a love poem. It appeals to us because "it speaks to us as directly and urgently as if we overhear a present confidence."

I wonder by my troth, what thou and I 
Did, till we loved? were we not wean'd till then?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die. 

The Good-Morrow
John Donne

Book Review//England for All Seasons by Susan Allen Toth



Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I love the United Kingdom. It is my favorite place to travel to on vacation. I frequently get asked why we are returning there yet again when there is so much of the world yet to be explored. It is hard to explain. Some places just fit. Susan Allen Toth understands that.

I read her book My Love Affair With England earlier in the year and enjoyed it. England for All Seasons was just as enjoyable. Toth loves every bit of England (with a few excursions into Scotland and Wales) and her love comes through unabashedly. Her brief essays about everything from The Imperial War Museum to the sweet trolley to gardens she has visited are informative and affectionate. The facts about opening times and contact information at the end of the chapters are sometimes outdated now but that is only to be expected of a book written in 1997. Gardens are a great love of Toth's and there are quite a few chapters about different ones she has visited. I am not much a gardener but I still enjoyed these chapters and immediately dreamed of planning a tour around the countryside.

Toth is also a great book lover and I could relate to the following quote.

Because of books, I grew up believing that England was a magical country, inhabited by such fascinating characters as Dick Whittington's cat, Toad of Toad Hall, Sara Crewe, King Arthur, Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, and Maggie Tulliver. For years I didn't bother to sort out its real geography.  Instead, on a vague mental map, I brushed in patchy fields with wandering hedgerows, windswept moors, rocky pastures on misty hills, lonely miles of jagged seacoast, and a labyrinth of gas-lit London streets. Starting with nursery-rhyme places, I soon added Ratty's great River, Chrisopher Robin's Forest, Bilbo's peaceful Shire, Doctor Doolittle's Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, and the mysterious London park where Mary Poppins once descended from the sky with an open umbrella. 

Well, exactly. Toth understands that not only is England a beautiful country in its own right but it is also a place of dreams and literary references that leave a person with the constant feeling of having walked into a storybook. Anyone who can head a chapter with these sentences is a person I understand.

Forget cashmere sweaters, skirt lengths of Harris tweed, Wedgewood teacups, and satiny black umbrellas. A book lover carries home souvenirs that look plainer, weigh more, but last a lot longer. 

I have always said that books are the ultimate souvenir. My daughter and I leave for Scotland tomorrow and I will be thinking of the above quote as I browse a few bookshops. I will leave you with one more quote from England for All Seasons. 

Sometimes I can shut my eyes and open them in memory on Regent Street or Birdcage Walk or the Victoria Embankment. I get flashes of red double-decker buses jammed together in traffic along Knightsbridge, pigeons fluttering in Trafalgar Square, emerald lawns in Regent's Park, crackling-new books--not available yet, if ever, in the U.S.--stacked near the cashier's desk at Hatchard's. At such moments, London seems very close, and I think I can almost imagine that wonderful, rainy, acrid smell...Cities are like people; who can ever satisfactorily explain why he or she loves one and not another? Venice, not Rome? Amsterdam, not Brussels? San Francisco, not New York? Above all, London, not someplace else? Crowded, chilly, increasingly expensive, grimy, touristy, demoralized London? Yes, above all London!

Interestingly, over three years ago before I ever read Toth's books, I wrote a post with the same title as one of her books. You can read my version of My Love Affair With England here. It is still one of my favorite posts I have ever written.

A Poem for a Thursday #42

Photo by Jamie Morrison on Unsplash
John Masefield was a British poet and the poet laureate of the U.K. from 1930-1967. He also wrote some novels of adventure, autobiographical works, and novels for children. As a young man, he was apprenticed on a sailing ship and one of his best-known poems brings that to mind.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheels kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Sea Fever
John Masefield

Here is Reese's selection at Typings.

Itchy Feet and Unlikely Dreams


I have recently been researching the feasibility of moving to Canada. Or Iceland. Or anywhere with a long and frigid winter. I think I have mentioned before that I am not a summer person. It has been very summery around here and I am not happy about it. Over the weekend, it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the heat index was much higher. I don't know what that is in Celsius but let's just say that you needed gills to breathe and I probably could have cooked an egg on the sidewalk if I had been so inclined. I was not so inclined because that would have involved leaving the comfort of my air conditioning and I had no intention of doing that.

I am not moving to Canada because it is ridiculously complicated--yes, I did really look into it--but the unacceptably hot weather has made me realize I have itchy feet. We have tended to move around a lot over the years but we have now lived in the same place for ten years. That is the longest we have lived anywhere and I am feeling the pull to totally upend our lives and go on an adventure. We probably won't because we have one kid still in school and that complicates things but it does sound fun.

I know that, in actuality, it is stressful because of housing and jobs and various other practicalities but oh the joy of leaving the old life behind and starting over. Not that my old life is all bad. I would take my husband and children with me. But you do things a certain way and people expect certain behavior out of you and somehow you are stuck in a rut. Moving is a chance to reinvent yourself a little and that is appealing.

I have thought for a long time that ideally, I would like to live in a more urban area than our current small town. I have wanted to have conveniences at my fingertips, to be able to go to museums and bookstores. I have wanted to be able to walk to a coffee shop or the grocery store instead of driving everywhere. I have wanted to live around a more diverse group of people with more wide-ranging interests. That still sounds nice in many ways but I don't think it is what I would pick right now.

Right now, I am researching houses in the country with acres of land around them. I want peace and quiet and no neighbors. I want to walk out my door and go for a hike (once it isn't 100 degrees anymore) and I want pretty views while I do it. It is quite a change and I don't know why I am feeling this way because I have never been pulled to the countryside for anything except a vacation. But I want to run away from everything and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist.

I probably won't go anywhere. Ten years from now I will most likely still be living in the same house in the same small town but right now I am looking at a lovely little farmhouse on ten acres in rural New York State. It has a front porch and a pond and stables. Oh dear, Celia would want a horse. We both can dream.

Do you dream of running away and starting over? Where would you go?

A Poem for a Thursday #41

Photo by John Bakator on Unsplash


Jane Hirshfield is an American poet, essayist, and translator. Poet Kay Ryan described her as "that rare thing in contemporary American life, a true person of letters--an eloquent and exacting poet, first, but in addition the author of enduring essays and influential translations and anthologies."

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down--
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest-

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a 
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

For What Binds Us
Jane Hirshfield

As always, Reese at Typings has shared a poem. Go read it and enjoy.

A Day Out//Mont Mégantic National Park


I had never been to Canada. I know, that is a bit ridiculous. Canada is not that far away from Connecticut, maybe seven or eight hours, but somehow we have never made it. So, when we were in New Hampshire a few weeks ago we decided to take a day trip into Quebec. It was only a few miles up the road so it would have been silly not to. We went to Mont Mégantic National Park and it was absolutely gorgeous.



Mont Mégantic has lots of beautiful trails and we walked quite a bit. We weren't prepared for intensive hiking so we did some of the shorter trails but the views were still breathtaking. It is worth noting that once you are in the park there are very few bathrooms and there isn't really anywhere to get food or drinks. We walked for a few hours but eventually I got thirsty, hungry, and a bit grumpy so we had to leave to find somewhere to eat. Of course, the park is big and maybe other areas have places to buy things but we didn't see any. If I was going again I would bring a backpack of supplies.



Mont Mégantic is known for its observatories and in 2007 the area was recognized as a dark sky preserve. It would be fascinating to visit again, especially at night when we could go to the public observatory. Unfortunately, we had to get back to our vacation rental in New Hampshire that evening so we could head home the next day.




We were only able to get a tiny taste of the Quebec region but we will return. It was beautiful and there is so much more to explore. We would love to visit Montreal. Maybe some day soon.

A Poem for a Thursday #40

Photo by Logan Fisher on Unsplash
I have featured Robert Frost's poetry before because I love so much of it. His poetry frequently brings to mind typical New England scenes and has a quietly contemplative tone.

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves 
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to seep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break;  though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer.  He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping 
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth a while
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Birches
Robert Frost

Here is the poem Reese chose this week.



Book Review//Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen



It is impossible for me to be unbiased about Jane Austen. Let's get that out of the way immediately. Everything she wrote was amazing and all her books are my favorite books. I have read them all over and over since I first discovered her when I was about ten years old. However, if I had to criticize a character in one of her novels it would be Marianne in Sense and Sensibility. I just want to shake her which, I know, means she is a well-drawn, believable character. But, oh my, the overwrought, teenage angst is a bit much for me. I have a lot more sympathy for Elinor and did even when I was a teenager myself. I can relate to the reserved, private character much more than the overly emotional one.

That being said, Marianne is great fun even in the midst of her emotional upheaval. She is such a teenager. Here is her reaction to Colonel Brandon's appreciation of her music.

Marianne's performance was highly applauded. Sir John was loud in his admiration at the end of every song, and as loud in his conversation with the others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton frequently called him to order, wondered how anyone's atention could be diverted from music for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing a particular song which Marianne had just finished. Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures.  He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion, which the others had reasonably forfeited by their shameless want of taste.  His pleasure in music, though it amounted not to that extatic delight which alone could sympathize with her own, was estimable when contrasted against the horrible insensibility of the others; and she was reasonable enough to allow that a man of five and thirty might well have outlived acuteness of feeling and every exquisite power of enjoyment. She was perfectly disposed to make every allowance for the colonel's advanced state of life which humanity required. 

That is why I read Jane Austen over and over. What an absolutely perfect picture of several characters in only a few sentences.

Here is another passage where Marianne is very sentimental and emotional and it makes me laugh every time.

"And how does dear, dear Norland look?" cried Marianne.
"Dear, dear Norland," said Elinor, "probably looks much as it always does at this time of year.  The woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves."
"Oh!" cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensations have I formerly seen them fall! How I have delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind!  What feelings have they, the season, the air inspired!  Now there is no one to regard them.   They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight."
"It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves." 

Really, Marianne drives me crazy but I love her at the same time. She is so self-centered and ridiculous and yet, so sincere. She is frequently unkind and inconsiderate but she learns a hard lesson and grows up a bit.

Elinor, well, I think Elinor and I could be friends. We would talk when we felt like it and not say everything we were thinking. We would be dampingly practical when emotions get too high and we would try to pretend our own emotions don't exist. It sounds perfectly reasonable, perfectly sensible.

I can't be the only person who wishes that Elinor ended up marrying Colonel Brandon. Edward Ferrars is a bit of a nonentity. Marianne doesn't deserve Colonel Brandon. Elinor and he would be such a good match. Mrs. Jennings would have been so pleased.

I labeled this post as a book review but it is really just me rambling on about a Jane Austen novel because I can't review her novels sensibly. All I can do is love them but that is more than enough.

A Poem for a Thursday #39


I spent last week hiking through woods and enjoying the peace and calmness of nature. This poem, by David Wagoner, seemed fitting.

Stand still.  The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.

Lost
David Wagoner 

As usual, Reese, at Typings, is sharing a poem too.

New Hampshire


We are home from our week in New Hampshire and, unfortunately, back to everyday life. Gone are the days of leisurely hikes, lots of reading, and no responsibilities and we are back to work, work, and more work. However, our kids were surprisingly happy to see us so that was good.

We were in far northern New Hampshire, right on the Canadian border. It is such a pretty part of the country. There are lots of lakes, tons of trees, and not too many people. Plus, every food you can imagine is flavored with maple syrup which made my husband very happy. He ate maple ice cream, maple pie, a maple donut, maple mustard on a sandwich, the list goes on and on.




The first couple of days were a bit grey and gloomy but after that it is was beautiful weather. My uncle is originally from the area so he gave us a few tips about places to visit. One suggestion was Beaver Brook Falls. It was very pretty. It was bigger than it looks in the photos. There is a trail you can hike up the side of the falls but it is very steep and we were not in the mood for that much effort. We walked an easier path by the river instead.




I would be happy to go back. The week was a nice escape from everyday life and a very welcome break. Besides, it is so much more photogenic than my normal life.

We did go into Canada for one day but that is a post for another time.