Showing posts from November, 2020

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett: A review

  Back in 2010, I read and enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth . ( Here's a link to my Goodreads review.) When I saw this book was billed as a prequel to that novel, I was intrigued and added it to my reading list. Follett has also written two sequels to that first novel which I have yet to read. I'll get to them one of these days.  Reading a Follett historical novel takes a commitment of time. Pillars was just over 1000 pages long and this current book is just a bit less than 1000. Moreover, the narrative encompasses multiple alternating storylines and a mind-boggling cast of characters from all levels of society. In this instance, the society is late tenth century and early eleventh century England in a place that would evolve over time into the town of Knightsbridge. Follett recreates this period with all of its hazards and physical realities and the competing influences of religion and politics. The time period covered is just ten years but it is a jam-packed ten years full

Poetry Sunday: Falling Leaves and Early Snow by Kenneth Rexroth

The leaves are falling or have already fallen and I've heard rumors of snow in the more northerly climes. Around here we are still easing slowly through autumn with occasional returns to summer-like days. But it's almost December and we usually get our first frost sometime around the middle of the month. And on the long nights, the owls cry in the sifting darkness, and the moon has a sheen like a glacier.  Falling Leaves and Early Snow by Kenneth Rexroth In the years to come they will say, “They fell like the leaves In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.” November has come to the forest, To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen. The year fades with the white frost On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows, Where the deer tracks were black in the morning. Ice forms in the shadows; Disheveled maples hang over the water; Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream. Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold. The yellow maple leaves eddy above them, The glitterin

This week in birds - #428

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : I freely admit that my sparrow identification skills are poor. I'm not 100% sure of this bird's identity so I won't label it. (Maybe you can help me out?) I photographed it in winter at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast a few years and it has languished unidentified in my files. Here's another view:  *~*~*~* President-elect Biden has named John Kerry, one of the architects of the Paris climate accord, as his special presidential envoy on climate change and has indicated that it will be a cabinet-level position. Moreover, Biden has said that he intends that the fight against climate change will be an integral part of each of the executive branch agencies' mission in his administration. *~*~*~* Meanwhile, the current administration continues attempting to weaken rules regarding clean water and air, and career civil servants in the Environmental Protection Agency are stalling and dela

Poetry Sunday: The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

This is one of William Butler Yeats' most famous poems. I have featured it here before, but it seems especially appropriate to these times when "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.  The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and  everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned..." So here it is again. The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats     Turning and turning in the widening gyre    The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere    The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst    Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out    When a vast image out of  Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart: A review

 Imagine how all of those publishing houses that rejected Douglas Stuart's debut novel must have felt after Grove Press finally took a flyer on it, published it, and subsequently it was nominated for practically every literary award in the world. A bit chagrined I would imagine. And now the book has won perhaps the most prestigious of those awards, the Booker Prize for Fiction. All the accolades are well-deserved in my opinion. It is an amazing work of art.   The action of the novel takes place in the 1980s and 1990s in Glasgow. It is the coming-of-age story of young Hugh (Shuggie) Bain. The child Shuggie lives with his parents and older step-brother and step-sister and for a while with his maternal grandparents as well. But that doesn't last long. The father moves his family out to a council house in a poor neighborhood and then he abandons them. The sister marries and moves to South Africa. The brother stays on for a few years but then his mother tosses him out and Shuggie is

This week in birds - #427

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Rufous Hummingbirds have arrived. We usually have one or two of the little birds that spend the winter in our yard. That's why we keep our nectar feeders hanging and filled all year round. *~*~*~* The global pandemic and global climate change are two problems that are not completely unrelated. Here is an explanation of that and some thoughts on how a Biden administration might tackle both. *~*~*~* The current administration is rushing to try to auction off leases to drill for oil and gas in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden takes office. Conservationists are planning ways to continue their fight to protect the refuge in court, hoping to be able to stall the actions until after the January inauguration. *~*~*~* What will happen to border wall construction after the change in administrations? Border advocates and conservation groups are hoping that it and many of the onerous immigration

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2020

The color palette of November in my zone 9a garden in Southeast Texas runs from yellow to red-orange with very few contrasting or complementary colors. Let's start with yellowbells, Esperanza . Cape honeysuckle is still going strong. The cosmos that I planted in the spring has reseeded itself and is now blooming once again. The anisacanthus blooms are not very showy but pollinators of all kinds love them. Tropical jatropha. Hamelia patens, hummingbird bush. Tithonia, Mexican sunflower. Firespike. Cestrum. Turk's cap. Even the fungi get in on the orange action.   And so do the butterflies. Monarch on milkweed. Queen on milkweed. The Meyer lemons are ready to be picked. The Mandarin oranges are weighing down their limbs. And the Satsuma tree has its most prolific crop of oranges ever. Linking up with Carol of May Dreams Gardens for this monthly meme. Thank you for visiting. Happy Bloom Day.

Poetry Sunday: Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest

Remembrance of Thanksgivings past. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday of the year. I remember Thanksgivings at my parents' house when everyone would crowd in and we would all enjoy a great meal together and spend the afternoon visiting and catching up. Those days were a lot like Edgar Albert Guest described in this folksy poem. Thanksgiving this year will be a lot different, a lot quieter, but we will be no less thankful.     Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice, An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice; An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they Are growin’ more beautiful day after day; Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men, Buildin’ the old family circle again; Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer, Just for awhile at the end of the year. Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door And under the old roof we gather once more Just as we did when the youngsters were small; Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s

This week in birds - #426

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets have arrived. When I stepped out onto my back porch and patio on Monday morning I found that the redbud tree next to the patio was full of a mixed flock of the little birds. There were at least twenty of them and I've continued to see and hear them throughout the week. *~*~*~* President-elect Biden has plans to make the fight against climate change a government-wide effort that engages every department of the executive branch. So it won't be all down to the Environmental Protection Agency but will involve everyone from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of State. *~*~*~* Here is The Audubon's take on what a Biden presidency could mean for birds and other wildlife. *~*~*~* Meanwhile, the damage by the current administration continues. This week it removed the scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment,  the federal governmen

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: A review

  The Pull of the Stars . Or as the Italians say  la influenza delle stelle .  Influenza. The time is late October, early November 1918. The world is suffering through the influenza pandemic that would eventually kill an estimated 3 to 6 percent of the human race, more than died in World War I. That Great War is winding down and soon an Armistice will silence the guns. But that other war, the one against the pandemic, is heating up. The combatants in that war are medical personnel like Julia Power, a 29-year-old soon to be 30-year-old midwife working at a crowded and understaffed Dublin hospital. Julia is unmarried and shares a house with her younger brother who came back from the war shell-shocked and mute. He has not spoken since his return, but, other than that, he functions well in caring for the house and raising some vegetables for their table while his sister works. The staff shortages at the hospital have left Julia as the only nurse on duty overnight in the "fever/materni

Poetry Sunday repost: Democracy by Leonard Cohen

I was listening to Leonard Cohen's music on Saturday when my daughter reminded me that it had been exactly four years since we lost him. We lost a lot of things that year. It seemed appropriate to me somehow that the anniversary of his death should come on the day that this year's messy, frustrating, seemingly interminable presidential election was called in favor of Joe Biden and so there was only one choice for me when I considered what I would post for Poetry Sunday. This is a repost from a little more than a year ago. The words seem even more prophetic today. Sail on, sail on O mighty Ship of State! To the Shores of Need Past the Reefs of Greed Through the Squalls of Hate Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on. Most especially through the "squalls of hate. " ~~~ Sunday, September 22, 2019 Poetry Sunday: Democracy by Leonard Cohen Offered without comment except to say I can only hope, because "I love the country but I can't stand the scene". Democracy lyr