Showing posts from December, 2017

Poetry Sunday: The Passing of the Year by Robert Service

And so we come to the last day of the year, and, yes, there's a poem for that! Robert W. Service, the "Bard of the Yukon," marked the passage of the year with this poem, published in 1912. More than a hundred years later, although much has changed, we still reflect here at the ending on all the events of the year that is passing - the good and the bad, the praiseworthy and the blameworthy. Regardless of it all, I can still say with the poet: "I thank God for each day of you; There! bless you now! Old Year, good-bye!" The Passing of the Year by Robert W. Service, 1874 - 1958 My glass is filled, my pipe is lit,      My den is all a cosy glow; And snug before the fire I sit,      And wait to  feel  the old year go. I dedicate to solemn thought      Amid my too-unthinking days, This sober moment, sadly fraught      With much of blame, with little praise. Old Year! upon the Stage of Time      You stand to bow your last adieu; A moment, and the pr

This week in birds - #286

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Mountain Chickadee on snow-covered pine tree, photographed at Rocky Mountain National Park. Note the white "eyebrows" which mark the bird as a "Mountain" Chickadee. *~*~*~* The Interior Department has rolled back an Obama-era policy aimed at protecting migratory birds, stating that it will no longer prosecute oil and gas, wind, and solar operators that accidentally kill birds. The new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which was issued on Friday before Christmas, marks a win for energy interests that described the policy aimed at protecting the birds as overreaching. *~*~*~* Type the words “climate change” into Google and you could get an unexpected result: advertisements that call global warming a hoax.  That's because g roups that reject established climate science are using the search engine’s advertising business to their advantage , gaming the system to

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: A review

In her latest book, Lisa See has given us a portrait of the Akha people, one of the minority hill tribes of China. The Akha live in the mountains of Yunnan province and, traditionally, their lives are ruled by ritual and superstition. And tea. Their lands are home to ancient tea trees that produce leaves that are greatly valued by tea nerds and connoisseurs and the Akhas' lives revolve around the growing, harvesting, and production of those tea leaves.  The story of the Akha is told through the life of one of the daughters of the tribe, Li-yan. We meet Li-yan as a child living with her extended family of parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, all of whom are involved in the production of tea. Li-yan's mother is one of the most important members of their community because she is a respected healer and midwife. Li-yan is expected to follow in her footsteps. When she is twelve, Li-yan meets a boy named San-pa and is immediately infatuated with him. She falls

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker: A review

I decided to take a break from my serious reading to catch up with Chief of Police Bruno  Courrèges from the idyllic village of St. Denis in the Dordogne region of France. This is the fourth entry in the popular series. Billed as mysteries, the books are as much travelogs and gourmet cookbooks. Bruno is an accomplished chef who enjoys cooking for his friends and promoting the famous cuisine of the region. One of the staples of that cuisine is foie gras and that plays an important role in this story. First, one has to be aware that Chief of Police Bruno tries never to arrest anybody. He always tries to mediate disputes which arise within his jurisdiction, and that is mainly the kind of action which the police get there. Petty disputes. In this book, the dispute is between the local farmers who produce the birds for foie gras and animal rights activists, including PETA. There is also a new and inexperienced magistrate assigned to the area and she is a vegetarian and is hostile to

Joy to you

Happy Winter Solstice! The shortest day of the year. It's good to know that after today, each day will get just a little lighter. I choose to see that as a metaphor for our future. Blogging will be sporadic - more likely nonexistent - over the next week as we entertain out of town guests and celebrate the holiday season with friends and family. Whatever holidays you celebrate at this time of year, may your days be filled with joy, peace, and love.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: A review

Nadia and Saeed are a young couple living in an unnamed city in an unnamed country in an unnamed part of the world. They are also living in an unspecified time, although it is a time when social media and the internet are integral parts of their lives and when drones hover in the air spying on the happenings below. The place where they live is about to be riven by conflict between militants and the government, a most uncivil war. The reader is left with the impression that their home is somewhere in the Middle East, although truthfully, for all we know, it could just as easily be Detroit or Memphis or Des Moines. We do know that the two have brown skin and that Saeed is a committed Muslim who prays regularly and that Nadia is independent and non-religious, although she wears the black robe of a Muslim woman as a kind of disguise. I think all of this non-specificity is meant to make the characters into kind of Everypersons, someone with whom every reader can identify. There is als

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A review

"A woman's lot is to suffer," seems to be the philosophy of life of Yangjin, the matriarch of the Korean family that we meet in Min Jin Lee's novel. It's a philosophy that she repeats often to various characters, especially to her daughter, Sunja, and it's a philosophy that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for all the women in succeeding generations of her family. Boy, do they suffer! They suffer, but they are tough, and through it all, they persevere, accepting and never seriously questioning the cards that fate has dealt them. In fact, in their lives, there is little time for questioning. They are too busy working to eke out a living for themselves and their families. Pachinko tells the story of this ordinary and honorable family. It's a story that begins in Yeongdo, a fishing village near the southern tip of Korea, in the early 20th century. It starts with the arranged marriage of the aforementioned Yangjin to Hoonie, a young man with a club fo

Poetry Sunday: Why I Have a Crush on You, UPS Man by Alice N. Persons

I have featured this poem here before, but it was several years ago and I think my readership may have changed during the interim. At any rate, as I watched the busy UPS man - and sometimes woman - going up and down my street and often stopping at my house on his/her rounds last week, it brought the poem to mind once again. What would we online shoppers ever do without our UPS and FedEx men? Is it any wonder that we have a crush on them? Why I Have a Crush on You, UPS Man   by Alice N. Persons you bring me all the things I order are never in a bad mood always have a jaunty wave as you drive away look good in your brown shorts we have an ideal uncomplicated relationship you’re like a cute boyfriend with great legs who always brings the perfect present (why, it’s just what I’ve always wanted!) and then is considerate enough to go away oh, UPS Man, let’s hop in your clean brown truck and elope! ditch your job, I’ll ditch mine let’s hit the road for Brownsville and tem

This week in birds - #285

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : I photographed this Black-billed Magpie on a snow-covered pine tree in Rocky Mountain National Park a few years back. Over in Australia, this bird's cousin, the Australian Magpie , has been voted the Bird of the Year , beating out the early favorite, the White Ibis , and the Kookaburra . The winner was not without controversy. Apparently, Australians take this vote seriously! *~*~*~* In addition to drastically increasing the fees to get into national parks, the National Park Service, under the direction of the current administration in Washington, will reduce the number of free days available to visitors in 2018. In 2016, there were 16 free days. In 2018, there will be just four: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15), the first day of National Park Week (April 21), National Public Lands Day (September 22), and Veterans Day (November 11).   *~*~*~* New research has confirmed that the unprecedented delu

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2017

For the first seven days of December, my garden was still full of blooms and butterflies. Blooms like these brugmansias. And the Cape honeysuckle. The bright marigolds. And butterflies like this Tropical Checkered Skipper. Then, last Friday morning, we woke up to this:   The snow was just a memory by mid-day, but the next night temperatures dropped below freezing. That put paid to about 99% of the flowers in my garden and I've hardly seen a butterfly since.  Here is what is left: A few late chrysanthemums. Some orphan marigold blossoms that were in a somewhat protected spot. More orphans. Of course, my antique rose bush, 'Old Blush,' can always be counted on to have a few blossoms. As can the 'Darcy Bussell' rose. The blossoms of the shrimp plant got a bit bitten but survived the freeze. As did a few stray wedelia blossoms. This one was growing next to one of my rain barrels and got some pro

Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson: A review

Maybe there is time to sneak in another guilty pleasure book before the end of 2017. After all, it's not like I have a queue full of award-winning current literary books that I need to finish. Oh. Wait. Well, anyway, I also had this third Craig Johnson book in my queue, so I might as well tick that box, right? Problem is, this one turned out to be more guilty than pleasure. The premise is that Sheriff Walt Longmire and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, along with Dog, take a road trip in Henry's baby blue classic Thunderbird convertible. They head out to Philadelphia where Henry is to exhibit some of his historical photographs at a museum and Walt is to visit his daughter, Cady, the Philadelphia lawyer, and Dog is to, well, be a dog. They arrive in the big city, where Walt is met at Cady's apartment by his deputy, Victoria Moretti's mother, Lena. (Vic, you see, is originally a Philadelphia girl and all of her male relatives - her father and various brothers

Poetry Sunday: The History of Red by Linda Hogan

This past week I was inspired to look at poetry written by Native Americans and that is how I came to meet Linda Hogan. Hogan is an award-winning, much-honored Chickasaw essayist, novelist, poet, environmentalist and eco-feminist. Her writings reflect her political and spiritual concerns and often deal with the environment, with historical narratives including oral histories, and with the relocation of Native Americans. I came across this poem of hers which I particularly liked. It resonated with me, I think, because I grew up in the red clay hills of Northeast Mississippi, part of the ancestral home of the Chickasaws. Red clay like "the human clay whose blood we still carry." I hope you will find it meaningful, too.   The History of Red by Linda Hogan First there was some other order of things never spoken but in dreams of darkest creation. Then there was black earth, lake, the face of light on water. Then the thick forest all around that ligh