Showing posts from September, 2020

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke: A review

  This is the second of Attica Locke's Highway 59 series, a sequel to Bluebird, Bluebird which I read three years ago. The books feature a Black Texas Ranger named Darren Matthews. Darren was raised by two uncles after his father was killed in the Vietnam War. One of those uncles was the first Black Texas Ranger; the other uncle was a criminal defense lawyer. Darren was all set to follow in the footsteps of his lawyer uncle until a particularly horrific hate crime impelled him to drop out of law school and go back to Texas to be a Ranger and uphold the law. But here we see him violating his oath by lying to protect an elderly man, an old family friend, who might have been arrested for murder without the benefit of that lie. His motive for lying might have been honorable but it has also landed him in a world of trouble from which he will have to try to extricate himself as he works a new case. He is based in Houston and after his last case, he has been given a new assignment of tra

Poetry Sunday: Follower by Seamus Heaney

Memories. They stumble behind us and will not go away. My father was a farmer and in his time he sometimes worked with a horse-plow, except in his case it was a mule-plow. As a child, I would sometimes follow behind him and so when I came across this poem last week, it brought back all those memories once again. I could smell the fresh-turned soil and the horsey smell of the mules and hear my father's voice as he directed them. I think I, too, must have been a nuisance as he tried to do his work, but he never complained.   My father is gone now but he's always there just over my shoulder and will not go away. Follower by Seamus Heaney My father worked with a horse-plough, His shoulders globed like a full sail strung Between the shafts and the furrow. The horses strained at his clicking tongue. An expert. He would set the wing And fit the bright steel-pointed sock. The sod rolled over without breaking. At the headrig, with a single pluck Of reins, the sweating team turned round

This week in birds - #419

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Mourning Dove - always a favorite of mine. As a child, I would wake up to the sound of their calls which I never thought of as mournful. To me, they sounded welcoming. They still do. *~*~*~* The environment lost a staunch friend with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Politico has a look at her environmental legacy .   *~*~*~* Our current government could not by any stretch of the imagination be called a friend of the environment. The rollbacks of protections that they plan could add 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases over a period of fifteen years. *~*~*~* The cause of the mass die-off of elephants in Botswana that I reported on a couple of weeks ago has been identified. The elephants had ingested deadly toxins produced by bacteria at the waterholes that they frequent. At least 350 animals died in the Okavango delta this summer.  *~*~*~* The Winter Finch Forecast is out and forecasters are predicting quite

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: A review

I have read so many glowing reviews of this book by my fellow bloggers this year, and now I read that it has been long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction. So it was time for me to finally read the book and find out what all the shouting was about. As all the reading world is probably aware by now, the book tells the story of twin girls, light-skinned African-Americans, who grew up in the little dusty town of Mallard, Louisiana, two hours north of New Orleans. The town of Mallard was founded by light-skinned African-Americans and had remained an enclave of their descendants through the years. Families had intermarried and their children had become lighter and lighter in skin tone until they could easily pass as White. The twins were Estelle (called Stella) and Desiree. The light skin of their family had proved no protection when their father was dragged out of their house one night by five white men and lynched. The twins, who were only small girls at the time, witnessed the

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi: A review

Akwaeke Emezi is a non-binary transgender writer from Nigeria who is known for their acclaimed debut novel, Freshwater , which tells the semi-autobiographical story of the spirituality and gender issues of the Igbo culture,  as experienced through the protagonist, Ada. This current novel again explores such issues as they exist alongside the Western construction of society in Nigeria. As we enter the story, Vivek Oji is already dead. "They burned down the market the day Vivek Oji died," reads the first sentence of the novel. From that point, we get recollections of Oji from his friends and family interspersed with his own observations from beyond the grave. In this narrative, Oji is both alive and dead, sometimes in the same paragraph. If that sounds confusing, it really isn't. Within the context of the framework devised by the author, his posthumous narration seems perfectly plausible and ordinary. Oji had been born the child of an Indian mother and Igbo father on the sa

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen: A review

In need of a distraction from the sorrows of the world last week, I turned to Carl Hiaasen. His books are usually guaranteed to amuse. And I can't say that this one wasn't amusing on some level, but even in the pages of his book, I wasn't able to escape the sordidness that characterizes our current government. The "Florida Man" of Hiaasen's novels might now be identified as Trumpian. Indeed, the president and first lady and assorted Secret Service agents play central roles in Squeeze Me . So do those other unpleasant denizens of the Sunshine State who are there through no fault or impetus of their own, the pythons. Invasive Burmese pythons have become a plague upon the state, their population exploding after being released either accidentally or on purpose into the wild. They have devastated native wildlife and capturing and destroying them has become a growth industry in the state. And thereby hangs Hiaasen's tale. Angie Armstrong is a wildlife wrangler e

Poetry Sunday: Monarchs, Viceroys, Swallowtails by Robert Hedin

For many years, my garden was a haven for butterflies of many kinds. Monarchs, queens, viceroys, swallowtails of various kinds, buckeyes, red admirals, sulphurs, skippers - they all came in good numbers. Walking into the backyard at any time of day and any time of year would almost guarantee an encounter with some species of butterfly. But things have changed in the past couple of years. There's been lots of construction going on and the neighborhood has changed but is that the reason that I don't see as many butterflies as before? Or is there some even more sinister reason? The flowers and the trees are still there, waiting. And I, the gardener, am waiting and hoping for their return.   Monarchs, Viceroys, Swallowtails by Robert Hedin For years they came tacking in, full sail, Riding the light down through the trees, Over the rooftops, and not just monarchs, But viceroys, swallowtails, so many They became unremarkable, showing up As they did whether we noticed them or not, Swo

This week in birds - #418

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Red-breasted Nuthatch . We get them here in some winters. I photographed this one in my backyard a couple of years ago. We'll have to wait to see if they come this far south this winter. *~*~*~* Why are so many birds dying in New Mexico and parts of Texas and Colorado? Huge numbers of migratory birds have been dropping dead in the area, so far for unexplained reasons. Speculation centers on the pollution from the wildfires in the West, combined with long-term drought and record heatwaves. Recently, there was also a cold snap in the mountains that may have contributed. But it is a mystery so far.  *~*~*~* Unsurprisingly, the president has picked a climate change denialist to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that oversees weather forecasting, climate research, and fisheries.  *~*~*~* Chemical analyses of ancient sediments have allowed scientists to confirm that the planet is presen

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves: A review

"My little horse must think it queer    To stop without a farmhouse near    Between the woods and frozen lake    The darkest evening of the year..."   - Excerpt from Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost The evenings are dark and sometimes stormy in Ann Cleeves' latest entry in her DI Vera Stanhope series. And snowy. Very, very snowy. On the first snowy evening of winter, in blizzard conditions, Vera starts driving home in her ancient Range Rover. She is on a familiar road, but in practically zero visibility, she becomes disoriented and takes a wrong turn. She comes upon an abandoned car pulled off the road with the door standing open and stops to investigate. There is no driver around, but she deduces from the position of the seat that the driver was a short woman. Then a cry from the back seat leads her to discover a toddler strapped into his car seat. Finding no one around, she takes the child and continues on the road which she now recognizes as leadin

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2020

Here in my zone 9a garden in Southeast Texas, we have finally begun to get some rain in the past week along with a noticeable moderation in temperatures. Unfortunately, the rain came too late for some of my plants. I have lost a number of plants this summer to the drought and heat; they were all plants that had been planted this year and had not had time to establish a sufficient root system to find the water they needed. Happily, I do have my old dependables that ignore adversity and just keep going.     Things like Esperanza "yellow bells.  Some of my roses gave up and stopped producing in the heat but the antique polyantha rose 'Caldwell Pink' is not bothered. Evolvulus 'Blue Daze,' a very useful ground cover.  Hamelia patens , aka hummingbird bush or Mexican firebush, of course. The almond verbena is covered in these not very noticeable blooms but their scent is certainly noticeable. It is heavenly! The purple oxalis has been resting during the summer but now

Poetry Sunday: Little Lesson on How to Be by Kathryn Nuernberger

The death of someone you love is something that you never really get over. You learn to cope with it somehow and you move on. But you never really stop missing them in your life. There's a hole there that can never be filled. Kathryn Nuernberger understands that. The woman in her poem lost her mother eighty years before but she has never stopped missing her. I lost my mother sixteen years ago and my life still feels her absence. My mother's name was Reba. Reba.  Little Lesson on How to Be by Kathryn Nuernberger The woman at the Salvation Army who sorts and prices is in her eighties and she underestimates the value of everything, for which I am grateful.   Lightly used snow suits, size 2T, are $6 and snow boots are $3.   There is a little girl, maybe seven, fiddling with a tea set. Her mother inspects drapes for stains.   Sometimes the very old and lonely are looking for an opening.   She glances up from her pricing and says something about the tea set and a baby doll long ago.