A Poem for a Thursday #95

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash
I have been puttering around for ages trying to pick a poem for today and all the ones that I like are by Mary Oliver. I know I have featured her poems many times before and I try to feature a variety of poets but today that does not seem to matter. Mary Oliver is the only acceptable choice for today.

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn't a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn't it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a 

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was 
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life. 

Work, Sometimes
Mary Oliver

Book Review//Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay

Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay tells of the Hilary family, the women in particular, and the dangerous ages they all face at different stages of their lives during the summer of 1920. The book opens on the morning of Neville's  (a woman despite the name) forty-third birthday. Quickly, you realize that the premise of the book is the hurry of time, the missed opportunities, the almost frantic need to do things before it is too late, and to find meaning in life no matter what age you are.

To think suddenly of Rodney, of Gerda and of Kay, sleeping in the still house beyond the singing wood and the silver garden, was to founder swiftly in the cold, dark seas, to be hurt again with the stabbing envy of the night. Not jealousy, for she loved them all too well for that. But envy of their chances, of their contacts with life. Having her own contacts, she wanted all kinds of others too. Not only Rodney's, Gerda's and Kay's, but those of all her family and friends. Conscious, as one is on birthdays, of intense life hurrying swiftly to annihilation, she strove desperately to dam it. It went too fast. She looked at the wet strands of hair now spread over her shoulders to dry in the sun, at her strong, supple, active limbs, and thought of the days to come, when the black hair should be grey and the supple limbs refuse to carry her up beech-trees, and when, if she bathed in the sunrise, she would get rheumatism. In those days, what did one do to keep from sinking in the black seas of regret? 

Neville's sister, Nan, is also facing a crisis in her life. Now in her thirties, should she settle down and marry the man who is deeply in love with her? She reaches a conclusion but it becomes more complicated when Neville's daughter, Gerda, becomes involved. Gerda realizes that,

Very certainly she loved Barry, with all her imagination and all her mind, and she would have given him more than all that was hers. Very surely and truly she loved him, even if after all he was to be her uncle by marriage, which would make their family life like that in one of Louis Couperus's books. But why unhappy like that? Was love unhappy? if she might see him sometimes, talk to him, if Nan wouldn't want all of him all the time--and it would be unlike Nan to do that--she could be happy. One could share, after all. Women must share, for there were a million more women in England than men. 

Nan, Gerda, Kay (Gerda's brother), and Barry all go on a biking holiday in Cornwall together and their love-lorn situation comes to a funny and pathetic conclusion. Or at least it seems to until Gerda has to confront the beliefs and worldview common to her age.

Mrs. Hilary, Neville and Nan's mother, might be my favorite character in the book. Not because she is particularly likable, she isn't, but because she is the most fully realized. Mrs. Hilary is sixty-three and doesn't know what to do with her life. She is insecure, pretends to an interest in intellectual things, and is very demanding. She loves her children but she wants to be the center of their worlds.

But Mrs. Hilary, though she felt the red-hot stabbing of an attack of rheumatism already beginning, stayed up. She was happier now, because the children were making a fuss of her, suggesting remedies and so on. She would stay up and show them she could be plucky and cheerful even with rheumatism. A definite thing, like illness or pain, always put her on her mettle; it was so easy to be brave when people knew you had something to be brave about, and so hard when they didn't.

Mrs. Hilary finds an interest in life in psychoanalysis and becomes deeply absorbed in it. She at first does not want to admit her interest because it was suggested by her daughter-in-law but eventually it starts to dominate her life.

The happiness Mrs. Hilary now enjoyed was of the religious type--a deep, warm glow, which did not lack excitement. She felt as those may be presumed to feel who have just been converted to some church--newly alive, and sunk in spiritual peace, and in profound harmony with life. Where were the old rubs, frets, jars, and ennuis? Vanished, melted like yesterday's snows in the sun of this new peace. It was as if she had cast her burden upon the Lord. That said her psycho-analyst doctor, was quite in order; that was what it ought to be like. That was, in effect, what she had, in  point of fact, done; only the place of the Lord was filled by himself. To put the matter briefly, transference of burden had been effected; Mrs. Hilary had laid all her cares, all her perplexitites, all her grief, upon this quiet, acute-looking man, who sat with her twice a week for an hour, drawing her out, arranging her symptoms for her, penetrating the hidden places of her soul, looking like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Henry Ainley. Her confidence in him was, he told her, the expression of father-imago, which surprised Mrs. Hilary a little, because he was twenty years her junior. 

There are a number of other characters. Grandmamma, Mrs. Hilary's mother, who seems to have achieved peace in her life and who observes the angst of the rest of her family with love and a bit of distance. Rosalind, Neville's other sister. Pamela, Mrs. Hilary's daughter-in-law. All of them appear and disappear throughout the novel. Their lives interweave to create a portrait of different ages and the pitfalls, outlook, and dangers that surround those ages.

This book is a part of the British Libary Women Writers series. I highly recommend all the books that have been published so far in the series. My thanks to the British Library for this review copy. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

A Poem for a Thursday #94

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian novelist, poet, essayist, and inventor. That last one surprised me. She invented the LongPen device which makes it possible to remotely write using a tablet and a robotic arm. The list of her books is impressive. The Handmaid's Tale is probably the one most people are familiar with especially since it has been adapted for television. I haven't read much of her poetry but I like this.

This is the plum season, the nights
blue and distended, the moon
hazed, this is the season of peaches

with their lush lobed bulbs
that glow in the dusk, apples
that drop and rot
sweetly, their brown skins veined as glands

No more the shrill voices that cried Need Need
from the cold pond, bladed 
and urgent as new grass

Now it is the crickets 
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside 
our window, bursts
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

The air is still
warm, flesh moves over 
flesh, there is no


Late August
Margaret Atwood

Dreaming of a Different Life

Have you ever heard of miniature cows? Go ahead and Google. You won't regret it. They are adorable. My daughter showed me photos of them and tried to convince me we needed one. Now, we live on half an acre in a residential section of a small town in Connecticut. It is not exactly the prime location for owning cows, miniature or otherwise. However, for one brief moment, I was seduced by the cuteness and very tempted. I quickly returned to reality but the thought did lead to me being happily occupied for the evening planning a totally imaginary, self-sufficient, mini-farm somewhere. Did you know you can buy 5 acres in upstate New York for about $10,000? So tempting.

I am not a gardener. I have mentioned that before. In my fantasy rural life, I have elected my husband to care for the garden. He is humoring me and has agreed. I want a huge vegetable garden with lots of stuff to can and freeze; tomatoes for sauce and salsa, cucumbers for pickles, onions and garlic to season everything. Plus, I insist on fruit trees and berry bushes so I can make jams and jellies.

At some point in these over-the-top plans I was making I remembered this book, Prairie Kitchen Sampler:  Sixty-six Years of a Midwestern Farm Kitchen. It is part memoir and part recipe book and I love it. It is the story of the life of a Nebraskan farm wife starting in the 1920s and going through the early 1980s, I believe. Her recipes are simple and hearty and sound very appealing, at least until you get to the 1970s. That was not a good era for food. There is a recipe for something called Salad Delight that contains lemon Jello, marshmallows, pineapple, bananas, and...cheddar cheese. The mind boggles. That is the exception though. There are so many things I want to make. Who can resist recipes for Tillie's Hardtimes Cake, Never Fail Noodles, Kolaches, Carrie's Damson Plum Jelly, or Overnight Coffee Cake?

I am seriously thinking of working my way through the cookbook though I don't think I would do it in order. My family doesn't need twelve cakes in a row or six different kinds of candy. All the recipes are very accessible and made out of simple, everyday ingredients so it would be relatively easy to do. Though I do think I will give Salad Delight a miss, or maybe not. Maybe I should fully commit to the experience.  I am particularly interested in all the different types of bread. I do like making bread.

This book is a picture of a time that is past and somehow, cooking the recipes feels like it can give me a connection to that past. I think we all feel as if we need a little grounding in this crazy world we live in and I say if making cake and bread can provide that then maybe I should do it.

And as for my mini-farm in upstate New York, I have decided it needs sheep. I could shear them and learn to spin and weave. Totally reasonable, right?

A Poem for a Thursday #93

 Leo Marks was an English writer and cryptographer. During WWII he worked for the SEO in their codes office. Famous poems were used to encrypt messages for the Resistance fighters but they were found not to be secure enough. Marks started writing and using his own poems. The Life That I Have is one of those poems. My favorite piece of information about Marks is that he is the son of Benjamin Marks, one of the owners of Marks & Co., the bookshop that was made famous in Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road. 

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have 
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

The Life That I Have
Leo Marks

Would You Like a New Book?

Well, hello again internet. Tropical Storm Isiasis hit the east coast of the U.S. last Tuesday and I have been without internet ever since. I know that is not much to complain about. Our home wasn't damaged and we are all fine. We didn't even lose power for more than a few minutes for which I am eternally grateful. If we lose power we lose water since we have a well and I hate being without water. There are still almost 150,000 people in Connecticut who are without power. But, our lives are so entwined with the internet these days that being without it for almost a week was difficult; not in any entertainment way but in a practical way. Bills still needed to be paid, emails needed to be answered, recipes needed to be looked up.  And blog posts needed to be published. So, here is the blog post that was supposed to go out last Wednesday. 

The British Library has kindly been sending me the novels from their Women Writers series. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, they got a little confused and sent me these books twice. I contacted them and they were more than happy for me to pass them on to one of you. I read, reviewed, and enjoyed both of them. My review of Chatterton Square is here and my review of My Husband Simon is here. I highly recommend both of them.

If you would be interested in one or both of these books then please leave a comment below or contact me through email, Twitter, etc. Tell me which of the books you would like. Please, if you are at all interested speak up. Last time I offered a book no one responded. That was A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair. It is still available.

So, free books! Those are words that should appeal to anyone that reads this blog. Get them while the getting is good.

*All three books have been claimed.