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.



A Poem for a Thursday #38


I am in New Hampshire on vacation this week and everywhere there are lupins in bloom. They are planted in gardens and growing wild and neglected by the side of the road. They are beautiful. I went looking for a poem about them and found this by Seamus Heaney.

They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing.
In waiting. Unavailable. But there
For sure.  Sure and unbending.
Rose-fingered dawn's and navy midnight's flower.

Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure,
Sifting lightness and small jittery promise:
Lupin spires, erotics of the future,
Lip-brush of the blue and earth's deep purchase.

O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks
That stood their ground for all our summer wending
And even when they blanched would never balk.
And none of this surpassed our understanding.

Lupins
Seamus Heaney

Brona has snuck a poem into her book review this week. Reese at Typings has several Philosophical Limericks.

Peace and Quiet


Quiet mornings with my book and a cup of tea.

A walk by the lake with my husband.

Sitting on the deck with only the sound of the breeze through the trees.

Chat, just chat, with all stressful subjects banned for the week.

A drive up the road looking for moose; we haven't seen any yet but I live in hope.

Cell phones that don't work here.

A game of cribbage or two.

Conversations that don't have to be edited for the ears of teenagers who hear everything except what you want them to hear.

Puttering around with my camera.

The slow letting go of the constant anxiety that has been dominating our lives.

A cabin just big enough for two.

Plans for a hike tomorrow.

Ice cream and chocolate at any and all times of day.

The sound of the river across the road.

Falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon and waking up to realize it doesn't matter because there is nothing you need to do.

Finishing a book and immediately reaching down and picking up another one.

Another cup of tea and another quiet conversation.

New Hampshire, I think I like you.




A Poem for a Thursday #37

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
W. H. Auden was a British-American poet. I first read his poetry in high school when we were assigned "Funeral Blues." I loved it when I first read it and I love it still but, since it is one of his most well-known poems, I was going to use something else. However, nothing else seems to be quite right today so "Funeral Blues" it is.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'. 
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever:  I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good. 

Funeral Blues
W. H. Auden

Reese at Typings is sharing another poem this week. 

Lazy Days




Monday was the first day of summer. I know this because my daughter's alarm did not go off at 5:30 a.m. School ended the week before and now we have ten glorious weeks without homework, rigid schedules, and last minute panic about gym clothes that should have been washed but weren't. Summer doesn't start based on a calendar or the weather. Summer starts when school ends.

I'm relishing the summer because I know the days are numbered where I will have a kid with the summer off; a kid who wants plans and trips to the beach and who is happy to have me involved in these plans. Thankfully, my schedule changes a bit in the summer too so I have time to spend frivolously.

So, how did my daughter and I spend our first day of summer? Bathing suit shopping. Anyone who has or has ever been a 13-year-old girl knows what that was like. Yes, she was miserable. Yes, I was miserable. No, she still doesn't have a bathing suit. We will have to repeat the whole process tomorrow since she is going to her grandparent's house and wants to be able to swim. Pray for us both.

When I was a child summer break seemed endless. There were long, lazy days to be spent running through the sprinkler, visiting grandparents, and reading book after book. There was a much-anticipated week spent at the shore. There were bike rides and sleepovers with friends and hamburgers cooked over an open fire. There was an endless vista of days stretching before me with only the hazy outline of another school year far in the distance. Now I know that the summer is short and, as my children grow up, the summers only get shorter. Those ten weeks will be gone in the blink of an eye. But I want to grab at them for my daughter.

I want her to have time, endless time, to read a book, lie in the grass and stare at the sky, go to the beach and yes, even spend way too long playing a video game. I want her to have fun. I want to have fun too.

But first, there is a bathing suit to buy.


A Poem for a Thursday #36

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

It is Wednesday evening as I am writing this and this week feels like it has been five million years long. Five million years filled with niggling annoyances, small disappointments, and way too many trips to the grocery store. Also, I've been waking up at 3:00 in the morning with my brain absolutely convinced I need to worry about absolutely ridiculous things. Who needs sleep when you can revisit every awkward or unpleasant conversation you have ever had in your life?

I meant to write a nice, chatty post earlier this week but my laptop died (see previous paragraph about annoyances and disappointments) so I am only managing my usual Thursday poem post. My husband managed to temporarily resurrect my laptop but its days are numbered and I am writing this expecting it to die again at any moment.

Today's poem is by Judith Viorst. I have featured her before but this poem seemed like an appropriate choice. Happiness in little things seems like a good goal for the week.

Happiness
Is a clean bill of health from the doctor,
And the kids shouldn't move back home 
for 
more than a year,
And not being audited, overdrawn, in
Wilkes-Barre,
in a lawsuit or in traction.

Happiness 
Is falling asleep without Valium,
And having two breasts to put in my
brassiere,
And not (yet) needing to get my blood
pressure lowered,
my eyelids raised or a second opinion.

And on Saturday nights
When my husband and I have rented
Something with Fred Astaire for the VCR,
And we're sitting around in our robes
discussing,
The state of the world, back exercises,
our Keoghs,
And whether to fix the transmission or
buy a new car,
And we're eating a pint of rum-raisin ice
cream
on the grounds that 
Tomorrow we're starting a diet of fish,
fruit and grain,
And my dad's in Miami dating a very nice
widow,
And no one we love is in serious trouble
or pain,
And our bringing-up-baby days are far
behind us,
But our senior-citizen days have not
begun,
It's not what I called happiness
When I was twenty-one,
But it's turning out to be
What happiness is.

Happiness (Reconsidered)
Judith Viorst

Reese at Typings is sharing another poem this week.

A Poem for a Thursday #35

Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash
Elinor Wylie was an American poet and novelist. She was known for what she herself called her "small, clean technique." Wylie grew up in a socially prominent family and was expected to be a debutante. She rebelled against this life and her subsequent marriages and affairs caused a scandal. She suffered from poor health, including high blood pressure that caused incapacitating migraines, and died young.

Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enameled fish
Which circle slowly with a golden swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens, fed on cream and curds.
I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

Pretty Words
Elinor Wylie

Reese at Typings is sharing a lovely poem this week.

Summer Plans


My daughter and I are going to Scotland in August.

That statement deserves to stand alone because we are very excited about it. I have wanted to visit Scotland for years and Celia is happy to go anywhere with castles and history and afternoon tea.

 We have never gone on vacation just the two of us so this is a big deal. My husband talked us into it. A friend of mine took her daughters to Italy last month and he thought it was a great idea. He is still recovering from his motorcycle accident last fall and doesn't have the energy to do a big trip. Our son has a chronic health condition that is making it difficult for him to travel right now. If we want a vacation we are going to have to go on our own. So we are.

I'm a little nervous about being the only adult solely responsible for dealing with all the logistics of the trip but I am sure it will be fine. I have traveled to the U.K. a number of times before and what is the worst that can happen? I get a little lost or look a little clueless occasionally. I think I will survive.

We are staying in Glasgow because it is cheaper than Edinburgh but we intend to take the train to Edinburgh once or twice. Celia wants to go to the zoo because there are pandas there and she is a huge animal lover. We are trying to decide on a couple of other day trips by train. Loch Lomond isn't that far and I saw photos of the Isle of Arran and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Then there is Stirling Castle and Celia really wants to visit a castle. It is so hard to pick. If you live in the Glasgow area and have suggestions please let me know.

Of course, I will manage to squeeze in a few bookshops. This trip is mainly being built around Celia's interests though and, while she loves to read, I am sure she does not want to spend the whole week going from bookshop to bookshop. So, again, if you live in the area, tell me the bookshops I absolutely can't miss.

I have spent the last couple of weeks researching things. How do I get from the airport to the city center? How much does the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh cost? How far is too far for a day trip? I don't think a week is going to be nearly long enough. I am already planning a return trip so we can visit the Highlands.

So, talk to me about Scotland. Do you live there? Have you been there? Do you dream of going?





A Poem for a Thursday #34

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash
Today's poem is a Shakespearean sonnet. I really don't think I need to say anything else because Shakespeare needs no introduction. I remember reading this in high school and loving it.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That  looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd. 

Sonnet 116
Shakespeare

Jennifer at Pastry & Purls has shared a poem as has Reese at Typings.

A Poem for a Thursday #33

Photo by bady qb on Unsplash


Maggie Smith is an American poet, writer, and editor. Her poem "Good Bones" was widely circulated on social media and became the 'unofficial poem of 2016." I like this poem about a mother with her newborn child.

I'm your guide here. In the evening-dark
morning streets, I point and name.
Look, the sycamores, their mottled,
paint-by-number bark. Look, the leaves
rusting and crisping at the edges.
I walk through Schiller Park with you
on my chest. Stars smolder well
into daylight. Look, the pond, the ducks,
the dogs paddling after their prized sticks.
Fall is when the only things you know
because I've named them
begin to end. Soon I'll have another 
season to offer you:  frost soft
on the window and a porthole
sighed there, ice sleeving the bare
gray branches. The first time you see
something die, you won't know it might
come back. I'm desperate for you
to love the world because I brought you here. 

First Fall
Maggie Smith

Brona at Brona's Books and Reese at Typings have also shared poems.

Golden Moments #11


We went for a walk in a state park near our house. It was warm and sunny but not hot. The trail wasn't crowded and we all were cheerful. If that isn't a golden moment then I don't know what is.

I took my daughter shopping for new clothes. She needed them desperately but it is always a fraught experience. She is 13 with all the insecurities that go along with the age and we usually end the day of shopping grumpy and miserable. This time she liked everything she tried on and found a few things she loves. She was so happy she was dancing in the dressing room. I convinced her of the wonders of thrift shopping. Buying clothes isn't nearly so horrible when you can pick and choose your own style instead of trying to fit into the style the store insists you should have.

I bought myself two jean jackets when I was shopping with my daughter. I couldn't decide between the two and, since it was a thrift store and they were cheap, I bought both. I have a mental image of me in cute summer dresses, strappy sandals, and a jean jacket. We will ignore the fact that I am always so hot that a jean jacket in the summer is totally impractical. I am sure I will get a lot of use out of them in the two weeks of spring and two weeks of autumn we usually enjoy. I hope you read that last sentence with an appropriately sarcastic tone.

I bought an obscene number of books in the last few weeks but I did not spend an obscene amount of money on them. I am currently deep in a romantic suspense binge and I couldn't be happier.

My husband has a doctor's appointment today to check on his concussion recovery and we are going out to lunch afterward. That is a future golden moment but I am counting it. He said something about stopping at a bookstore as well. That man knows me so well. Please don't refer to the point above about an obscene number of books. When you are offered a trip to a bookstore you always accept.

This moment right now. The sun is shining, the house is quiet, I made a pot of tea, and I have 45 minutes until I have to start getting ready to leave. All days should start this way.






A Poem for a Thursday #32

Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash


Robert Graves was a British poet, classicist, novelist, and critic. Graves was one of the most well-known WWI poets along with Siegfreid Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. He was one of the first to write poets about what it was really like to be in the front lines.  Graves is also known for his autobiography Good-bye To All That. I found today's poem in a Norton Anthology of Poetry I bought recently. I am not totally sure what he is trying to say but I like the way the words sound and, to be honest, that is mostly how I pick poems.

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness,
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree, 
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off: 
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled 
Red and green, enclosed by tawny 
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel--
Children, leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head
Finds himself enclosed by dappled 
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still unopened on his knee
And, if he then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which he says
He lives--he then unties the string.

Warning to Children
Robert Graves

Reese at Typings has a poem by Tom Disch this week.

Bookshop Visit//The Book Barn


My sister and I took a day off recently and went to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT. We spent hours browsing in their three locations and we bought way too many books. We easily could have bought so many more and I am already thinking about going back. The main section of The Book Barn is a collection of buildings and outdoor shelving. There are also two smaller bookstores, one right next door and one further downtown. They are in the midst of consolidating from four bookstores to three so what genres are in each location could change but for now, the downtown store has religion, philosophy, cooking, gardening and children's books. The store next to the main location has romance and mysteries with a smattering of other subjects and the main location has a grand mix of everything else.



There were books everywhere. Just when we thought we had looked at it all we would find another section. Many of the older books were only $1.00 each and, since older books are what we mainly look for, this was perfect.




There are also bookshop cats. One of the locations had a leaflet with photos and descriptions of each cat and where they can usually be found. We only saw a few but it definitely added to the charm.



The people who work in the different locations were extremely friendly. We asked for restaurant recommendations and they suggested a Tex-Mex restaurant next door which was very good. The buffalo chicken nachos were especially nice.


My sister and I both have a weakness for old-fashioned romantic suspense so we were thrilled to find the "castles, coaches, and windswept moors" section. A lot of these older books are practically impossible to find in the library anymore and they are perfect escapist fiction.

So, what did we buy? As I said, way too many books. I bought 32 and my sister bought 49. We could have easily doubled those numbers and neither of us spent a huge amount of money. I think the most expensive book either of us bought was $6.00 and most were $1.00. This post is way too photo heavy but I am going to show you all 32 books anyway.









I did already own the book about Jane Austen and City Room is for my dad. My sister sent me a photo of all her purchases. Here it is.


If you are ever in Connecticut then visit The Book Barn. You too can buy way too many books, eat Tex-Mex food and hopefully, go for a walk on the shore. Our walk was rained out but that just provides an excuse for us to go back. And finally here is one more photo because any bookstore that provides wagons for you to cart around your purchases understands its customer base.


The Book Barn
41 W. Main St.
Niantic, CT 06357