Showing posts from October, 2020

Poetry Sunday: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

This poem rattled around in my head all last week. I think it was all those pictures of lines of people around the country waiting patiently, or impatiently, but waiting to vote. Millions of them. More than nine million in Texas alone. Nothing is more hopeful than the sight of people exercising their constitutional right to select their leaders. That's not exactly what Maya Angelou was talking about in this poem; she was referencing the history of Black people and racism in this country. But the words seem to fit our current situation as a nation. Decency and honor have been trodden into the dirt over the past four years, but they still exist. And now it is time for them to rise and assert themselves.   Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave... Still I Rise by Maya Angelou You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like

This week in birds - #424

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  The first of the winter's Eastern Phoebes have arrived. I heard the first ones of the season calling this week. That's always a welcome sound. *~*~*~* At last, we are nearing the end of the election season. If Biden should win, it offers the United States the chance to once again join the community of nations in the Paris Accord and pledge to fight climate change . *~*~*~* The damage that has been done to the environment by the current administration's "meat cleaver" assault on wilderness areas is almost impossible to overstate. *~*~*~* Though many journalists seem to believe otherwise, Joe Biden's climate policy which emphasizes a transition away from the use of fossil fuels is actually quite popular with the public. *~*~*~* The current administration is taking action to strip protections from Alaska's Tongass National Forest and allow logging there even though the move is very unpopular

Luster by Raven Leilani: A review

  When we first meet Edie she is an assistant book editor at a publishing house in New York. She is a 23-year-old Black woman whose main focus in regard to her workplace seems to be sleeping with as many of her male colleagues as possible rather than actually engaging in doing the work. Not that these sexual adventures appear to provide her with any pleasure; instead it is evident that she seeks them out as a way of escaping from self.  It is interesting to read the descriptions of corporate life as seen through Edie's eyes. At one point, we get her take on the "diversity" offerings of her publishing house: These include "a slave narrative about a mixed-race house girl fighting for a piece of her father's estate; a slave narrative about a runaway's friendship with the white schoolteacher who selflessly teachers her how to read; a slave narrative about a tragic mulatto who raises the dead with her magic chitlin pies; a domestic drama about a Black maid who, li

The Searcher by Tana French: A review

  Critics and readers in general often assign Tana French to the niche of crime fiction writers, but that really undervalues her art. Her novels could be more accurately described as thoughtful literary fiction in which a crime takes place. That has never been more true than in her latest novel, The Searcher .  Several critics have noted the debt this particular novel owes to the classic Western movies, particularly collaborations between John Ford and John Wayne. The very title of the book is a nod to the Ford/Wayne movie "The Searchers." But there may be just a touch of "The Quiet Man" here, too, in the American who moved to western Ireland and became a part of the local scene in a small village.  The American here is Cal Hooper, a Chicago cop for twenty-five years. Cal has just endured a rancorous divorce and his adult daughter has moved to Seattle. There seems to be nothing keeping him in Chicago except the job. A job from which he is eligible to retire. And tha

Poetry Sunday: As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

As children, we all have dreams of how our lives will play out. Most of us probably imagine ourselves as heroes, accomplishing great deeds for which we will gain fame and fortune. Few of us actually see those dreams come true, at least in quite the way we had imagined. The most fortunate of us may see some form of the dreams come true for us. For others, the dreams are edited and changed through the years as imagination bumps up against reality. This scenario may be true of all people but especially for those whose goals in life are hampered by society's expectations of them, and most especially when those expectations are overlaid by such things as racial prejudice. The acclaimed African-American poet Langston Hughes was well aware of how dreams can be stunted by a wall of prejudice that grows around one and inhibits the ability to act and achieve. As an older man, he wrote about it.    As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes It was a long time ago. I have almost forgotten my dream. Bu

This week in birds - #423

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : One of the winter visitors whose arrival we always look forward to is the Yellow-rumped Warbler   Pine Warbler . I don't think they've arrived yet this year. This picture was taken in a previous year.  *~*~*~* Like much else of our society, environmentalism has some of its roots firmly based in racism. This article explains how we might correct that. *~*~*~* The unexplained deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds in the Southwest this late summer and fall still remain a mystery but are thought to be somehow related to the massive wildfires that afflicted the region. Scientists are attempting to get to the root cause and explain the possible connection . *~*~*~* The election is just a week and a half away and environmentalism is very much a part of the decisions that voters will make. The New York Times explains . *~*~*~* We know something of the damage that plastic waste in the ocean can do to the fish and ma

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: A review

  I have not read Yaa Gyasi's first novel, Homegoing , but after reading this, her second, I certainly intend to.  The main character in this book is called Gifty and she shares some biographical information with her creator. Both are children of Ghanaian immigrants to the United States and both grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. It is not clear if any of the other parts of Gifty align with the author's own but any character created by a writer must be informed to some extent by that writer's life experiences.  Gifty is a brilliant neuroscience graduate student at Stanford. The focus of her research is a study of reward-seeking behavior in mice. Her choice of subject was suggested by her obsession with her brother Nana's struggle with opioids and his subsequent death as a result of that addiction. Her mother's response to her son's struggle and death was to sink into an almost catatonic state of depression. She finally leaves Huntsville, where she has little suppor

Poetry Sunday: End of Summer by Stanley Kunitz

Summer does not typically end for us in September. Instead, it lingers through most of October and even sometimes into November and December. Wearing shorts on Christmas Day is not unheard of in these parts. But at the end of last week, we did get a glimpse of autumn and were allowed to hope that 90 degrees F days might be over for a while. Daytime temperatures hovered in the 70s and at night dropped all the way into the high 50s. Higher temperatures will likely return this week, but it has been nice while it lasted. Stanley Kunitz in this 1953 poem celebrated the changing of the seasons. I was particularly struck by his reference to "the unloved year." If ever a year was unloved, it is 2020. End of Summer by Stanley Kunitz An agitation of the air, A perturbation of the light Admonished me the unloved year Would turn on its hinge that night.   I stood in the disenchanted field Amid the stubble and the stones, Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me The song of my marrow-bones

This week in birds - #422

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Red-tailed Hawk views the world from the top of a utility pole, backed by an October blue sky. *~*~*~* Winter is the peak season for feeding birds in one's yard. Here are some hints about how to do that more effectively. *~*~*~* Earth just recorded its hottest September on record since at least 1880. The year is now on track to possibly become the hottest year on record, breaking the previous record set in 2016. *~*~*~* The Pantanal wetland in Brazil is still burning. Roughly a quarter of the ecosystem has been consumed by wildfires that have been exacerbated by climate change. *~*~*~* A slow-motion ecological catastrophe is occurring at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California-Oregon border. A massive outbreak of avian botulism has killed 40,000 birds so far, mostly waterbirds that gather in the refuge is vast numbers during migration.  *~*~*~* Climate change is causing irreversible shift

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2020

Welcome to my zone 9a garden in Southeast Texas. Here's what's blooming this month.  Tithonia, aka Mexican sunflower, with a grateful bumblebee. Coral vine. The lycoris, hurricane lilies, or better known as naked ladies have bloomed sparsely this October. I think they were affected by our long dry period.   Evolvulus glomeratus , 'Blue Daze' groundcover. Another groundcover, wedelia. The Cape honeysuckles have bloomed gloriously all month but they are almost spent now. Clerodendrum bungei , 'Cashmere Bouquet' aka Mexican hydrangea. Even some of my succulent plants on the patio have been blooming. Duranta erecta with a few blooms and its berries called "golden dewdrops." Lantana. Turk's cap. The chrysanthemums are only just beginning to bloom. 'Calwell Pink' rose. Blue plumbago. Some of the crinums are getting in a few last blooms before taking their rest. Hamelia patens , aka hummingbird bush. Buddleia. 'Old Blush' antique rose. Fi

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny: A review

The latest in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series takes the inspector and his wife out of their little Quebec village of Three Pines and on to Paris. They have gone there to be with their daughter Annie who is about to give birth to their granddaughter. Both of the Gamache's children and their families live in Paris now and Annie's husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second in command, has left police work and is employed in the private sector. Also in Paris is Gamache's elderly godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz. So, it is family reunion time in Gay Paree. The happy times come to a brutal end when Horowitz is run down by a van while crossing the street. The driver then speeds away. It was all witnessed by Gamache who is sure the "accident" was no accident. Horowitz survives, just barely, and is taken to the hospital in critical condition. When the Paris police seem skeptical that the hit and run was a deliberate attempt on Horowitz's