Monday, November 7


I can somewhat remember receiving the Scholastic book catalogue...its flimsy, newspaper-like pages...sitting at my desk slowly perusing and filling out the little order form at the back with my choices. Money was involved, I suppose, but I can't remember that part at all. Were there envelopes involved? That would be nice. But oh! I remember very clearly sitting at my desk, tingling with anticipation as I watched my teacher lift out little piles of books, each with the long skinny order form tucked in the top book of each child's bundle. Our very own stack of books, carefully chosen, waited for patiently, about to be put in our hands!

Do you remember?

Seven months...I surely didn't mean to be away so long. I suppose I have been writing elsewhere...and I have mostly been reading old and familiar things for the past many months. Not alot to share as I've shared them before (Wise Child, Juniper, Rosamunde Pilcher). I've been wanting familiar, cosy, easy...but none-the-less nourishing, interesting, enlightening. I've actually found many beautiful, domestic things in my reading, but am gathering them up to share at The Bower and in the new place I am preparing for the New Year.

I've found, finally settling down into caregiving, that I can't go terribly deep with books in this season of my life. I never know when my train of thought will be interrupted, day and night. I can't read anything dark or very challenging, because daily life has those at its edges now, and that is enough of that for me. I went on a real Rosamunde Pilcher bender all the late Summer and early Autumn, but had come to the end of them and had to find something else and found my old copy of The Girl Who Ran Away on the upstairs bookshelves (in my sons' rooms, where all the childrens' books-mine and theirs-reside) and plunged in. My deserves a whole post and I hope that I will actually get to that post one day soon, but suffice it to say I recognized myself in its pages, realized that it was one of the books that helped to make me who I am, that allowed me to be a more authentic version of me than I might have been otherwise.

It led to a short Scholastic Book fest...but I petered out after Little Plum and The Shy One. Some books hold up and some don't. Little Plum did (I was so glad to get reacquainted with Miss Happiness and Miss fact, a Rumer Godden bender may be next on the agenda), the Shy One didn't and I am now back to "grown up" books, in search of my next Rosamunde Pilcher.

Life is so good when there is a book to take from the shelf over my bed, where I tucked it late the night before, to the kitchen sofa in the quiet afternoon, or to toss in my bag on town days just in case there is a peaceful hour or two, and then fish out and bring back to bed in the evening....a thread through my days and nights.

Monday, April 4

The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth-A Life

by Frances Wilson

I believe I have been skirting around the writing of this post. For I don't know at all what I feel about
this book...about Dorothy Wordsworth...about William Wordsworth...about the author....

There is always a danger when reading a biography, that one's illusions will be shattered. I still, at first, shy away from the shattering, and have been doing so with this book. But after a few weeks away from it I am glad I read it and open to reading other interpretations of Dorothy's life (and all those around her-what an interesting time it was!). This one left me confused and depressed, tho' I was engrossed with the book, especially the first half. 

Before I read this biography, Dorothy's journals were something I valued for the simple and observational beauty they hold and the way of life they seem to express. Long, long walks in the Lake District, the planting and tending of the kitchen garden, the baking and cooking in the cottage, the everyday trials of illness and moods, the reading and writing...

Now, all of that is overlaid with the mysterious events, complicated and often disappointing relationships and choices made by Dorothy, William, Coleridge and the very real hardships described in the book (Dorothy's dementia for the last twenty years of her life being the hardest for me to learn of-too close to home).

I was also sometimes visited with frustration by the hypothesizing and speculation about Dorothy's writings, feelings, is natural, I suppose, in a biography with only so much actual fact to go on. But it leaves me with the same feeling that I used to get in high school when we would "analyze" a poem. Sometimes the heart of something is lost when you pick it apart or plumb too deeply.

Of course, the true heart is the truth that we cannot entirely know. So I will probably keep revisiting Dorothy's writings and her brother's and friend's to find glimpses of it....will probably read other biographies, too, in the hopes of understanding just a little bit more.

In the meantime, here are a few passages I marked:

"Dorothy implores her "dear, dear Mary," who William says has become too thin and weak, to

seek quiet or rather amusing thoughts. Study the flowers, the birds and all the common things that are about you. O Mary, my dear Sister! Be quiet and happy. Take care of yourself-keep yourself employed without fatigue, and do not make loving us your business, but let your love of us make up
the spirit of all the business you have."

"The money would enable her to pay her own way in the household, buy a few books, and take a journey now and then, things which, "though they do not come under the article of absolute necessities, you will easily perceive that it is highly desirable for a person of my age and with my education should occasionally have in her power."

"Put on with speed your woodland dress," William had written for Dorothy on the first fine day of Spring in 1798...

Thursday, March 24

Folly by Laurie King


by Laurie King

Folly turned out to be neither scary nor depressing....just wonderfully engrossing and satisfying.
I learned so much from it....about depression and mental illness and inner strength. It was rather profound for me, actually, for the symptoms that Rae described in the book at times-hearing voices, images of too-large things in her mind-brought back a time in my life that I had actually forgotten about. A time when I would hear voices now and then and see those too-large things in my was a period of twenty years or so and was only very occasional, but disturbing and meaningful, none-the-less.
I am just grateful that those experiences faded away as my life and marriage grew deeper and stronger.
I was lucky.

 A very worthwhile read...weeks later I can still feel myself on that earthy island in the San Juans
off the coast of Washington State....still see all the things that Rae crafted with her skillful hands and the
wonderful characters that peopled the book....

 I will return here soon with my thoughts on the Dorothy Wordsworth book.
It has rather consumed me the past few weeks.

Monday, February 21

February's armful

One of the pleasures of town days each week are the small armfuls of books I gather and bring home from the library. I usually bring home more than I can actually get to....but it is inspiring and comforting to have them nearby. Sometimes the chosen books are concrete evidence of the wispy seedlings of ideas or interests that pass through my mind. If the books are near to hand when the time comes to explore a little further, it is worth all the choosing and carrying home, you know?

This is actually two armfuls from the last two weeks, and I have only looked at three or four thus far. I have been putting off starting the Laurie King, as might be scary and/or depressing. But it is Laurie King, and the heroine is just my age and the story may be very worthwhile, so tonight I began it and will give it a go. 

I think I am rambling and it is time for bed, so I will leave with thanks to Julie for the Flavia recommendation. The first book of the series is checked out of the library, but it sounds wonderful and I will add it to my next armful just as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 16


I've not been doing very well with my reading choices lately, it would seem.

After Barbara Pym I tried a book that I bought at the library sale corner for one dollar-Hello to the Cannibals by Richard Bausch.  From what I read on the dust jacket, it looked very the lives of a modern young woman and the explorer and writer Mary Henrietta Kingsley converge with some found letters written by MHK in the 1800s. I gave it a good try for 150 pages or so, but had to give it up in the end as I began to feel caught in an inauthentic, sludgy, unhappy world and had no fortitude to continue on in it. This is a common experience for me with modern much unhappiness in them.

I am not sure what it says about me...that I don't like to spend time with books filled with harsh reality...but there it is.

I did, however, mark just two passages before I gave it up:

"Sitting in Ronda Seiver's living room, she experiences a terrible dread of the particulars of existence: the world outside, with its glitter of ice and roar of wind, is too big, too immense, a darkness she can't get her mind around."

Tho' this isn't pleasant, it did strike a chord within me and describes rather well the huge bodies of water that frighten me in my dreams and life with dementia and other "particulars of existence". But not the whole of existence, thank goodness.

And this I like just because I didn't know it before, but it is lovely...

"She begins telling him about her love of books and music and her excitement at getting to see her parents onstage, all her enthusiasms. She explains that her father told her about the Greek root for the word entheos, "the God within"...

On to The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson. I would be so interested to hear someone else's opinion of it. I started in great hope, finding lines like this:

"A woman at one of mother's parties once said to me, 'Do you like reading?' which smote us all to silence, for how could one tell her that books are like having a bath or sleeping or eating bread-absolute necessities which one never thinks of in terms of appreciation."

"It's lovely to have a London house with a schoolroom, and somebody in it of schoolroom age. To go upstairs and find Sheil sweating over the War of the Roses is like stepping into a new world. It takes one's disillusions away like magic."

"...and the tea is tawny and heartening..."

"...and my sympathy is going out to her quite against my will, in streamers, like seaweed..."

"...and even then my heart will hear it and beat when I'm earth in an earthy bed."

"Being Saturday, Katrine was at lunch too, and, suddenly, as I began to eat, deadly depression engulfed me. It sometimes does, and often quite irrationally, and one drifts with it because fighting it is no good. Father used to be the same, and would often say how he started a day meaning to love every minute of it, but in a moment 'along comes this cursed black pudding out of the blue, and destroys me root and branch.'

"We certainly have two servants, but they don't do their bit, and always have Legs that have to be Remembered, and Hearts which have to be Considered..."

"We love walking at night: one feels so light and fresh, and passing faces are shadowed and can't tire one, or sadden, or set one thinking. We go hatless, with walking-sticks, and wear what we like, which is restful, and find ourselves in strange streets and squares, and something they abruptly conduct one to eminent localities, as in a dream, and I once found myself outside Buckingham Palace in my dressing slippers. We call these walks 'gutter-perchings' and they are wonderful, if you are happy."

Delightful, witty, old-fashioned....but, in the end, too up in the air for me. After a while with it, my mind was tired from not being able to tell what was real and what was not. I began to feel more bemused than amused and was rather relieved when I finished it. If you saw the recent film The Black Swan, I can tell you that this is a like a light-hearted lavender version, in the sense that you never know if what you are seeing/reading is psychosis/fancy or the truth.

Until the next book....

Sunday, February 6

No Fond Return of Love

by Barbara Pym

So, trying to catch up, as I do want this place to be a record of my reading this year, as well as a place to capture wonderful words and sentences. 

After The Shell Seekers (a few days later as I can never just jump into a new book unless the last one was a complete disappointment!), I gave another Barbara Pym a try. I found it on the "recommended" shelf at our library and decided that I ought to give her one more chance...perhaps one book is not enough to judge by.

And I certainly enjoyed this one more than the last, for the main character-Dulcie-was atleast sympathetic. I did appreciate the glimpse into the neat, affluent-enough-to-order-whole-cases-of-wine-to-be-delivered-sort-of-society in mid-century London, but again, it all just left me rather cold. No one in the novel appears to have fun or experience anything deeply and the setting and story and characters seem to have had a grey veil thrown over them. And I felt rather dull myself when reading it.

So that is it for Barbara Pym and me...unless someone can convince me otherwise.

Saturday, January 15

The Shell Seekers

by Rosamunde Pilcher

I read this when it first came out in introduced me to Agas and scrubbed pine kitchen tables and so many other things that we are fortunate enough to see often now in British magazines and movies. But it was rarer back then.

It was very, very good....tho' not as good as her later books, I think. I marked just a very few passages this reading:

"You couldn't say "I can't bear it" because if you didn't bear it, the only other thing to do was to stop the world and get off, and there did not seem to be any practical way to do this. To fill the void and occupy her hands and mind, she did what women, under stress and in times of anxiety, have been doing for centuries: immersed herself in domesticity and family life. Physical activity proved a mundane but comforting therapy. She cleaned the house from attic to cellar, washed blankets, dug the garden. It did not stop her from wanting Richard, but at least, at the end of it, she had a shining, sweet-smelling house and two rows of freshly planted young cabbages."

"I lived with sadness for so long. And a loneliness that nothing and no one could assuage. But, over the years, I came to terms with what had happened. I learned to live within myself, to grow flowers, to watch my children grow, to look at painting and listen to music. The gentle powers. They are quite amazingly sustaining."

The gentle powers...isn't that thought-provoking? There is a book or a blog or something that might be made of that idea...when the time is right.

And lastly...

September has come, it is here

Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,

Whose nature prefers

Trees without leaves and a fire in the fireplace.

So I gave her this month and the next

Though the whole of my year should be hers who has

rendered already

so many of its days intolerable or perplexed

But so many more so happy.

Who has left a scent on my life, and left my walls

Dancing over and over with her shadow

Whose hair is twined in all my waterfalls

And all of London littered with remembered kisses.

-Louis MacNeice