Looking Back

Today is the last day of the year and all I have to say is good riddance. It has been a pretty awful year and because it has been awful I have struggled to read and to write blog posts. Well, I have struggled to read books that I want to write blog posts about. I have read plenty but I have read a lot of junk and reread a lot of old favorites. I have many books on my shelves that I am sure I will love and that I am sure I will want to write about but it just sounds like so much effort. I want to have read them but I don't want to read them right now. If I read them now I have to concentrate and mark passages. I have to analyze what I want to say and how I feel. And then, what if I waste a good book on a bad day? What if I read something amazing and don't properly appreciate it because I am too stressed and anxious? The other day I decided I wanted to change this. I wanted to read a big, fat novel; the kind of novel that would take days to read. I pulled a few off my shelves and asked on Twitter which I should choose. The general consensus was that Middlemarch was the best choice. I have reread three books since then but I still haven't started Middlemarch. I will. One of these days. It is still sitting on my coffee table. I look at it longingly and I pick up something else. I just can't. I want to but I can't.

For a long time, I have thought of this as a book blog but over the last year I haven't written very many book reviews. Is it still a book blog? Does it matter? I don't know. I am pretty sure I have lost some readers because I meander my way through blog posts like this one, talking about books but never analyzing books and rarely reviewing books. But at the same time, I used to also write a lot of posts about life, kids, things we did. I don't do that as much lately either because of things going on right now. So much of my life and my thoughts involve the personal business of other family members. I can't write about that.

Where is this going and what is the point of this post? I don't know. I think the spark has been missing from my blog lately and that makes me sad. I am not sure I can do much about that for now. We have to ride out a few things and hope for better times. Maybe then enthusiasm and energy will return.

Not everything about this year has been terrible. My daughter and I went to Scotland and had a wonderful time. My husband and I went to New Hampshire and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I have read some good books. Some of the stresses are starting to improve. My daughter is enjoying her technical high school and just had to choose which shop she is specializing in. The cat had a growth removed from his mouth and does not have cancer. I have discovered that I really like poetry thanks to my "Poem for a Thursday" posts. My husband and I have been able to spend more time together. There are bright spots.

So, what do I want for next year? I want peace and a low-stress life. I want better health for various family members. I want to read really good books. I want to write more. I want to pick up my camera more often. I want to have fun. I want to go places and do things and not merely exist.

I want to look ahead and smile.

A Poem for a Thursday #62

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Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White, is a wonderful children's book. Who can ever forget Wilbur, Charlotte, and Templeton? White was also an essayist who wrote for The New Yorker for fifty years. He wrote this poem for his wife, Katherine, and sent it to her in a letter.

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread  of her devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From which she started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.

Natural History
E. B. White

Here is a poem from Brona.

Defining Moments

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Last week I read Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes. I was reading it at the same time that I was reading Word By Word:  The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper which I reviewed here. Because I was reading about dictionaries and words I especially noticed the words I did not know the meaning to in Death at the President's Lodging. There were a surprising number of them. I have a reasonably good vocabulary and I amassed a longer list than I expected.

Words are interesting and I always like to learn new ones. In case you feel the same way, here are the words that were new to me. Maybe they will be new to you as well.

"He had apparently delivered himself merely of a sort of exordium or proem and intended something like a speech."

    exordium:  a beginning or introduction especially to a discourse or composition

    proem:  a preliminary comment

"...that in any company of men minute perscrutation of act and motive may have the most miserable consequences."

     perscrutation:  a thorough examination : careful investigation

"the manciple had to bring him a list every day"

     manciple:  a steward or purveyor especially for a college or monastery

"The ceaseless driving of natural physiological energy into narrow channels of mentation and intellection"

     mentation:  mental activity

"the first mists of senescence begin to gather about their minds"

     senescence:  the state of being old : the process of becoming old

" the inspissated gloom in which they were enveloped"

     inspissated:  broadly:  made or having become thick, heavy, or intense

Aren't those all lovely words? This book used a hugely varied vocabulary. Most of the words were familiar even if I don't use them often but a few, like these, I don't think I had encountered before even if the meaning was clear from the context.

I enjoyed the mystery but I think I paid much more attention to the language. There was one quote I enjoyed and completely agreed with.

A living-room is always revealing, and particularly so when clothed with books.

I will have to look for more books by Michael Innes purely in the hope that he regularly uses such lovely words.

A Poem for a Thursday #61

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Nikki Giovanni is a well-known African-American poet. She has won many awards and has been nominated for a Grammy for her poetry album. She was commissioned by the radio program All Things Considered to write a poem for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  Her poetry is described as being "politically, spiritually, and socially aware."

I wrote a good omelet...and ate
a hot poem...after loving you
Buttoned my car...and drove my
coat home...in the rain...
after loving you
I goed on red...and stopped on 
green...floating somewhere in between...
being here and being there...
after loving you
I rolled my bed...turned down
my hair...slightly
confused but...I don't care...
Laid out my teeth...and gargled my
gown...then I stood
...and laid me down...
To sleep...
after loving you

I Wrote a Good Omelet
Nikki Giovanni

Brona has featured a poem today too.

Book Review//Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

I missed my calling in life. After reading Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries I have realized that I am meant to be sitting in a quiet office in Springfield, MA reading about, researching, and occasionally discussing words. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

I loved this book. It is everything I like in nonfiction. It discussed a subject I knew little about in an approachable, informative, and entertaining manner. And it was about words. I like words.

Kory Stamper is a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. The making of a dictionary may not sound like the most fascinating subject but, believe me, it is. Stamper discusses how definitions are written, how word use has changed over the years, and how our perceptions of the English language affects our response to dictionaries. Yes, people do have, according to Stamper, very strong feelings about dictionaries. Stamper says:

Many people-and many people who think they'd be good at this lexicography gig-believe that the dictionary is some great guardian of the English language, that its job is to set boundaries of decorum around this profligate language like a great linguistic housemother setting curfew. Words that have made it into the dictionary are Official with a Capital O, sanctioned, part of Real and Proper English. The corollary is that if certain words are bad, uncouth, unlovely, or distasteful, then folks think that the dictionary will make sure they are never entered into its hallowed pages, and thus are such words banished from Real, Official, Proper English. The language is thus protected, kept right, pure, good.  This is commonly called "prescriptivism," and it is unfortunately not how dictionaries work at all. We don't just enter the good stuff; we enter the bad and the ugly stuff, too. We are just observers, and the goal is to describe, as accurately as possible, as much of the language as we can. 

Stamper has such a way with words which I realize is not at all surprising considering she works with them all day every day. (Oh, the dream! Why can't I?)  I like this passage about the English language.

We think of English as a fortress to be defended, but a better analogy is to think of English as a child. We love and nurture it into being, and once it gains gross motor skills, it starts going exactly where we don't want it to go:  it heads right for the goddammed electrical sockets. We dress it in fancy clothes and tell it to behave, and it comes home with its underwear on its head and wearing someone else's socks. As English grows, it lives its own life, and this is right and healthy. Sometimes English does exactly what we think it should; sometimes it goes places we don't like and thrives there in spite of our worrying. We can tell it to clean itself up and act more like Latin; we can throw tantrums and start learning French instead. But we will never really be the boss of it. And that's why it flourishes. 

People get very upset about changes to the English language. I have read whole threads on Twitter written by people upset that a word is being used incorrectly. This seems to become more and more common as the world, and the English language becomes more homogenous. I understand how they feel. I have words and grammar issues that push my buttons. However,  language changes, usage changes, words change. Sometimes we have to change too, hard as that is.

Etymological fallacy is the worst sort of pedantry: a meaningless personal opinion trying to dress itself up as conern for preserving historical principles. It misses that language change itself is a historical principle: a language that doesn't change is a dead language, and as much as etymological fallacists seem to love the purity of Latin, you'll notice that none of them have abandoned that whore English for it.

If you have ever wondered how a dictionary is written, or even if you haven't, read Word By Word. It will give you a whole new appreciation for the English language and for the people who record its usage in the dictionaries we all occasionally pull off our shelves.

I will be here, dreaming of that office in Springfield, where I could spend my days researching words, talking of words, using words, and writing about words.

A Poem for a Thursday #60

Photo by Skyler Gerald on Unsplash
Linda Pastan served as the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991 until 1995. She attended Radcliffe College and in her senior year, she won the Mademoiselle poetry prize. Sylvia Plath was the runner-up. Pastan produces "quiet lyrics that focus on themes like marriage, parenting, and grief. She is interested in the anxieties that exist under the surface of everyday life."

You tell me to live each day
as if it were my last. This is in the kitchen
where before coffee I complain
of the day ahead - that obstacle race
of minutes and hours,
grocery stores and doctors. 

But why the last? I ask. Why not
live each day as if it were the first - 
all raw astonishment, Eve rubbing
her eyes awake that first morning,
the sun coming up
like an ingénue in the east?

You grind the coffee
with the small roar of a mind 
trying to clear itself. I set
the table, glance out the window
where dew has baptized every 
living surface.

Imaginary Conversation
Linda Pastan

London Plans

If there is one thing that should be clear to anyone who reads this blog it is that my husband and I love to travel to the U.K. We have been to London a number of times. The last time was a couple of years ago. Happily, we are going again in February. Our original plans were to go to Yorkshire for our next trip. However, this trip was planned after my husband was in a motorcycle accident last year and needed something to look forward to in order to get through a long and painful recovery. He couldn't handle the thought of anything unfamiliar because the concussion made it seem too overwhelming. We have been to London enough that we know how to get around, we know where we like to stay, where we like to eat, and, most importantly, which bookshops I like to visit.

Unfortunately, my husband is still dealing with health issues from that accident and is currently once again out of work on medical leave. We thought he would be completely recovered by now and that is just not the case. We are still going on the trip because it is bought and paid for but it will be even more low-key than I originally thought.

I am anticipating a week of coffee shops, museums, bookshops, and National Trust properties. So, really, not that different from our usual trips. Maybe just a bit slower with a few more naps. If any of you lovely readers from the London area have any suggestions for any of the above please let me know. Especially any suggestions for less well-known places. Do you have a favorite non-chain coffee shop? Is there some quirky little museum you love to visit? Bookshops, always bookshops. I know to go to Persephone and Daunt and Charing Cross Road but I really enjoy the little hole-in-the-corner secondhand shops. Do you know any of those? And finally, what about an easy, calm day trip out of London? We have done quite a few but we do like taking the train and seeing a bit of the world outside of London. Is there a town that you recommend visiting? It doesn't have to be a huge destination. It just needs to be scenic and fun to wander around.

It has been a rough year. My husband and son have both been ill. Life is a little uncertain right now. Hopefully, a visit to one of our favorite places will restore a bit of happiness and ease to our lives.

A Poem for a Thursday #59

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Clive James. the writer, broadcaster, poet, and literary critic, died a few days ago. I thought this was a good time to share one of his poems.

Have you got a biro I can borrow?
I'd like to write your name
On the palm of my hand, on the walls of the hall
The roof of the house, right across the land
So when the sun comes up tomorrow
It'll look to this side of the hard-bitten planet
Like a big yellow button with your name written on it

Have you got a biro I can borrow?
I'd like to write some lines
In praise of your knee, and the back of your neck
And the double-decker bus that brings you to me
So when the sun comes up tomorrow
It'll shine on a world made richer by a sonnet
And a half-dozen epics as long as the Aenid

Oh give me a pen and some paper
Give me a chisel or a camera
A piano and a box of rubber bands
I need room for choreography
And a darkroom for photography
Tie the brush into my hands

Have you got a biro I can borrow?
I'd like to write your name
From the belt of Orion to the share of the Plough
The snout of the Bear to the belly of the Lion
So when the sun goes down tomorrow
There'll never be a minute
Not a moment of the night that hasn't got you in it. 

Have You Got a Biro I Can Borrow?
Clive James

Visit Brona to read another poem today.

A Poem for a Thursday #58

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Do you have the urge to travel? Do you want to escape from everyday life and have new adventures? Then you will relate to this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The railroad track is miles away,
   And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
   But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,
   Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
   And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
   And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
   No matter where it's going.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Brona shared a poem this week as well.

Winter Plans

The days are dark and cold now. At least fifteen layers are required in order to spend an extended time outdoors. Soon the world will be covered in snow and ice. I'll take it. Snow and ice are better than heat and humidity any day. However, even I agree that winter needs some fun to brighten the long stretches of cold. Here is my list of things to improve any winter.

Hot chocolate preferably with marshmallows. Not the stuff from a packet but the good hot chocolate made with cocoa and sugar and a bit of time.

Ideally, you will be drinking your hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire in your fireplace.

Of course, you should also be reading a book. Winter is the perfect time to read that huge, chunky book you have been meaning to get around to. War and Peace, Middlemarch, a Dickens novel; which shall it be?

If you are anything like me you have a selection of craft projects you started last winter and never finished. Now is the perfect time to finish some of them. Or, alternatively, start yet more projects that will never be finished.

Bake. Fill your house with the warm scents of ginger and molasses, pumpkin, apples, fresh-baked bread hot from the oven.

Embrace the layers. Find the coziest sweater, the softest blanket, the warmest slippers, and just revel in them.

Go for a walk in the snow. Ideally, this should be done while it is still snowing. Catch snowflakes on your tongue. Enjoy the muffled silence of a snowy world. Flop down in the snow and make a snow angel. Start a snowball fight.

Go sledding. It is guaranteed to warm you up and make you feel like a kid again. Feel free to be surprised at just how exhausting it is. Was that walk back up the hill so steep when you were younger? Never mind. Jump on the sled and leave your cares, and age, behind.

Go ice skating.  This should be done on a frozen pond but if that isn't available a man-made, outdoor rink will do. Fall down and get up again. Laugh. Admire all the cute little kids who are way better at skating than you will ever be.

Play board games, cribbage, Scrabble, and any other game of your choice. Long evenings give you plenty of time.

Learn a new skill. Have you always been interested in drawing, wood carving, photography, knitting? Whatever your interest is, winter evenings are the perfect time to watch a few tutorials and get a start on making your interest a reality.

Organize; that cluttered closet, those overstuffed bookshelves.

Plan for that next vacation, that house renovation, that party. Whatever makes you happy.

Admire the beauty around you. It is there even if it is not as obvious as the lush, summer beauty. Admire the beauty of a snowflake. Be in awe of the stark branches of tree against an ice-blue sky. Laugh at the antics of birds fighting over the seed you scattered in front of your window. Marvel at their colors against the snow.

Drink tea, read books, be happy.

A Poem for a Thursday #57

Faith Shearin is an American writer who has published five volumes of poetry. She won the May Swenson Award. I didn't find much information about her but I like this poem.

They are taking so many things with them:
their sewing machines and fine china,

their ability to fold a newspaper
with one hand and swat a fly.

They are taking their rotary telephones,
and fat televisions, and knitting needles,

their cast iron frying pans, and Tupperware.
They are packing away the picnics

and perambulators, the wagons
and church socials. They are wrapped in

lipstick and big band music, dressed
in recipes. Buried with them:  bathtubs

with feet, front porches, dogs without leashes.
These are the people who raised me

and now I am left behind in 
a world without paper letters,

a place where the phone
has grown as eager as a weed.

I am going to miss their attics,
their ordinary coffee, their chicken

fried in lard. I would give anything 
to be ten again, up late with them

in that cottage by the river, buying
Marvin Gardens and passing go,

collecting two hundred dollars. 

My Grandparent's Generation
Faith Shearin

Brona has shared a poem this week.

On Being a Bad Mom

When my daughter left for the bus this morning at 6:20 it was 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 Celsius). She was wearing a sweatshirt. And her hair was wet. I am pretty sure that makes me a bad mother.

 Have any of you ever tried to convince a 14-year-old girl to wear something she does not want to wear? It is an exercise in futility and not the way I felt like starting my morning. I shrugged my shoulders and let her go. She was going to be cold but maybe, just maybe, if she was cold enough she would wear a coat the next time. (Probably not, but I live in hope.) The bus came about two minutes later and we both went on with our days but it got me thinking.

Sometimes being a bad mother is the best way to be a good mother. Whether or not to wear a coat on a cold morning is not the biggest issue in the world but learning to make decisions and deal with the consequences is. We spend our children's early lives making decisions for them. We decide what they should eat, what time they should go to bed, and yes, what they should wear. We decide because trusting a two-year-old with those decisions is just plain foolish. However, sometimes, as parents, it can be hard to stop making the decisions. After all, we do usually know better. We see the mistakes coming and we just want to protect our kids. But there comes a time when we have to stop micromanaging our children's lives and allow them to manage them.

It is hard. Not because I want to continue making all those decisions but because habits are hard to break. I have been a decision-making mom for 19 years. I can frequently do it better, reach conclusions faster, and analyze the situation more accurately than my kids can. That is what life experience gives you. But what I am trying to give my kids is their own life experience.

I want them to be strong. I want them to make their own decisions. I want them to take responsibility for those decisions. I want them to do the scary things. I want them to push themselves.

I want them to wear coats when it is cold.

I am a bad mom because it is the best way I know to be a good mom.

A Poem for a Thursday #56

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There is one simple criterion for me to choose a poem. Does it make enough of an impression for me to go back and read it again? And maybe again. This poem did that. I read it three times in a row.

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and the scratched records...
Since there is no place large enough 
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit 
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

So Much Happiness
Naomi Shihab Nye

Brona has shared an absolutely lovely poem this week.

Quips and Quotes

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

It is late and I am tired. I can't concentrate on the book I am reading. It is about the flying bombs of WWII. It doesn't necessarily sound very interesting but, I assure you, it is. However, you can't skim read it when you are tired. Instead, I have been puttering around on Goodreads looking at lists of quotes. I am always curious about what catches other people's eyes when they are reading. Besides, it is a good way to get a taste of a writer's style. Since I keep coming across quotes that I want to share with someone I am going to share them here with all of you. The first one is from Stephen King.

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them-words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear. 

 I like this from Sylvia Plath. It is from her journals and now I want to read them. This is a good life goal right here.

Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.

Here is another one about writing. It is from Annie Proulx.

You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.  

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary which is a bit mind-boggling. Twenty-nine years. How did that happen? Thank goodness we still like each other. So, in honor of our anniversary here are a few quotes about marriage. The first one if from Anne Shirley in Anne of the Island. I love Anne.

I wouldn't want to marry anyone who was wicked, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked and wasn't.  

Anne Lamott said this:

A good marriage is where both people feel like they are getting the better end of the deal. 

I like this quote from Erma Bombeck about raising children. I couldn't agree more.

I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would get home. I loved you enough to insist you buy a bike with your own money even though we could afford it. I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover your friend was a creep. I loved you enough to make you return a Milky Way with a bite out of it to the drugstore and confess, "I stole this." I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your bedroom, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes. I loved you enough to say, "Yes, you can to to Disney World on Mother's Day." I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust, and tears in my eyes. I loved you enough not to make excuses for your lack of respect or your bad manners. I loved you enough to admit that I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness. I loved you enough to ignore what every other mother did or said. I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall, hurt and fail. I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your own actions at age 6, 10, or 16. I loved you enough to figure you would lie about the party being chaperoned but forgave you for it-after discovering I was right. I loved you enough to accept you for what you are, not what I wanted you to be. But, most of all, I loved you enough to say no when you hated me for it. That was the hardest part of all.  

And one final quote from Erma Bombeck because I couldn't agree more. This is the principle upon which I have based much of my life.

When the going gets tough, the tough make cookies. 

I think I might be making cookies tomorrow.

A Poem for a Thursday #55

Photo by Liam Charmer on Unsplash

I am not sure there is anything Maya Angelou didn't do. She was a poet, singer, and civil rights activist. She wrote for plays, movies, and television. Angelou received many awards and more than fifty honorary degrees. She recited one of her poems at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton. It is possible that she is best known for her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her books "center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel." Many viewed her poetry as most interesting when she recited it herself. Simply reading it gives a good feel for her distinctive voice but if you want to hear her for yourself YouTube has many videos of her.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants 
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to 
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold 

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed. 

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

Brona has shared a poem this week. You can read it here.

A Poem for a Thursday #54

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Vita Sackville-West was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer. She wrote more than a dozen poetry collections and thirteen novels. She designed the gardens for Sissinghurst Castle which is one of the most famous gardens in England. I would love to visit it one of these days.

She was wearing the coral taffeta trousers
Someone had brought her from Ispahan,
And the little gold coat with pomegranate blossoms,
And the coral-hafted feather fan;
But she ran down a Kentish lane in the moonlight,
And skipped in the pool of the moon as she ran.

She cared not a rap for all the big planets,
For Betelgeuse or Aldebaran,
And all the big planets cared nothing for her,
That small important charlatan;
But she climbed on a Kentish stile in the moonlight,
And laughed at the sky through the sticks of her fan.

Full Moon
Vita Sackville-West

Old Sturbridge Village

I have written about Old Sturbridge Village many times before. In fact, I have written about it so often that when we decided to visit this weekend I didn't even bring my camera because I thought you didn't need another post about it. That didn't work. I had only been there a few minutes when I found myself snapping pictures on my phone. Sturbridge Village is one of my favorite places so, I suppose, I can never have too many photos or write too many blog posts about it.

I love the peace and quiet. I love the feeling of walking into another world. I love watching my teenage daughter revert to a 7-year-old with a stick of root beer candy in her mouth and a determination to revisit all her favorite spots.

We wandered and chatted and drank hot apple cider. We had nothing we had to do and nowhere we had to be. It was lovely.

Sometimes what we need is not high adventure and new experiences but, instead, a return to the tried and true experiences of our past. We need the security of going somewhere where we know what to expect and what to do. Sometimes lack of excitement is the best thing of all.

We all left feeling a bit calmer, a bit happier, and as if we had, for a little while, taken a step away from problems and stresses.

My previous posts about Old Sturbridge Village are here, here, and here. We renewed our membership for another year so I think there is a good chance that next spring there will be yet another post about the Village complete with photos of lambs and other baby animals. What can I say. It makes me happy.

A Poem for a Thursday #53

Photo by Nashad Abdu on Unsplash
I do love tea. It is comforting, refreshing, soothing, stress-relieving, and just plain delicious. In this poem, the love for tea and the love for a person are combined.

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you're away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions - sugar? - milk? -
and the answers I don't know by heart, yet
for I see your soul in your eyes and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea's names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it's any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea. 

Carol AnnDuffy

One Day at a Time

Life is a little rough these days. We will get through it but it isn't a great deal of fun. Why do stressful things always occur in bunches? The only thing to do is to get through one day at a time and the best way to do that is to get through one book at a time. When I am stressed I end up doing a lot of rereading. It is undemanding. I am not going to be suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with the death of my favorite character. It is a bit like a visit with old friends.

Lately, I have been rereading Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. They are authors I always go back to. I have read their books again and again. I wish I started tracking my reading years ago so I knew just how many times I have read their books. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice; all of them are comforting books. They are books I can pick up and open at any chapter and sink into the story.

 Frequently, it seems people feel we should be reading books to be informed, to expand our horizons, to read about people different than ourselves. All of those things are valid. However, sometimes I just want to read books to escape. I want to return to a familiar world. I don't want to confront social issues or address the ills of the world. I want to retreat to a world where the girl solves the mystery, where the guy gets the girl, where the family lives happily ever after.

Right now, I want to live one day at a time with a pile of books, favorite books, by my side.

A Poem for a Thursday #52

Photo by Ian Cumming on Unsplash
I started "A Poem for a Thursday" one year ago. I've read a lot of poems in the last year. I've spent a lot of time browsing my way through books of poetry and wandering through the internet looking for words that catch my imagination. My horizons have definitely been broadened. Sometimes, however, I just want to return again and again to a poet that I have fallen in love with. This week that is what I am doing. I have chosen poems by Mary Oliver many times and I am sure I will choose her poems often in the future. This is one of her more famous poems but I love it and I love what it says.

I wrote this post and then realized I used a Mary Oliver poem a couple of weeks ago. What can I say, I seem to like everything she writes.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. 

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

An Apple a Day

Few things taste as good as an apple you have plucked from the tree yourself. It is best eaten while wandering through the orchard with friends. Life is even better if the friends have a three-year-old who is thrilled with everything. Even the teenagers got over-excited and ran around madly filling bags to overflowing with all different varieties of apples. I see apple pie, apple crisp, apple bread, and applesauce in our futures.

There is something so satisfying about something as simple as apple picking. I don't know why. It isn't as if we grew the apples but you watch your bag fill up, you chat with friends, you wander down the rows of trees and watch kids having fun. It is basic in the best sense of the word; "forming an essential foundation, fundamental." Isn't that what we all need in life-food, fun, friends?

 Unfortunately, you don't get any photos of the cute three-year-old since her parents haven't asked for her to be plastered all over the internet. However, I offer a few photos of Celia instead. Just as cute but a bit older.

There was also a cutting garden where you could pick your own flowers. I didn't buy any but one of my friends did. The flowers were so pretty even at the tail end of the season.

Maybe for us in this modern world, it isn't the apple a day that keeps the doctor away. Maybe it is picking the apples that benefits us. We all need to escape from stress sometimes. I recommend a wander through an apple orchard. Enjoy the quiet, the scent of autumn and apples, and the time with friends. May you find a bit of peace in a hectic life. That alone should help keep the doctor away.

Then go home and bake a pie because no one said your apple a day couldn't be encased in pie crust and dusted with cinnamon.

A Poem for a Thursday #51

Today's poem is pure nonsense written by Lewis Carroll. Sometimes life just needs a little nonsense. This poem is best read aloud, at the top of your voice, while standing on your feet. Please use extravagant gestures and enjoy every moment of it.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  the frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought,-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with his head
  He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
  He chortled in his joy.

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 

Lewis Carroll

A Poem for a Thursday #50

Today's poem is another one by Mary Oliver just because I like it. Sometimes I look for poets and poems that are new to me and sometimes I go back to ones that have become favorites. I don't think I have read a poem of Mary Oliver's that I haven't liked.

Don't you imagine the leaves dream now
   how comfortable it will be to touch 
the earth instead of the
   nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
   the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the birds that will come-six, a dozen-to sleep
   inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
   the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond 
   stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
   its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
   the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way. 

Song for Autumn
Mary Oliver

Reese has a Robert Frost poem this week.

Crafty Things//A Refinished Table

I finally did it. I refinished my kitchen table and covered it in book pages. It isn't perfect and if I did it again there are things I would change but, all in all, I am very happy with it.

My table had a very damaged surface so something had to be done with it. I thought about just painting it but then I came across a tutorial online with gorgeous photos of a table covered in pages. I fell in love. I have quite a few books that have fallen apart and I have been using them for various crafts. I won't deliberately destroy a book but ones that disintegrated on their own are fair game. I used On the Banks of Plum Creek because I love the illustrations and the book is a huge part of my reading history.

It is surprisingly hard to take a photo of the finished product. It actually looks nicer in real life. I am hoping it holds up well. I used two cans of spray polyurethane in the hopes of making it very water-resistant. We shall see. I still need to spray paint the chairs so they match the table legs but I will get around to that eventually. The difference in color is barely noticeable anyway.

My husband is pleased I am happy with it, my daughter has decided she likes it, and my son is driven crazy by it. He says if I had to cover the table in book pages couldn't I at least put them in order and neatly next to each other so it can be read. The randomness of it bothers him.  I said it looks more artistic this way but he isn't convinced.

I have a lot of other books that have fallen apart. Does anyone have any other craft suggestions for me?

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 and Reese has one by Auden.