Showing posts from October, 2021

Poetry Sunday: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

How about something a bit spooky for Halloween? Something from that king of spookiness, Edgar Allan Poe. Like many of you, I suspect, I first encountered his poem "The Raven" in high school. I loved it! I loved the structure, the rhyme, and the rhythm of it that made it easy to remember, so unlike some of the other poetry we studied. Moreover, it told a story, again unlike some of the other poems in our literature book. So, it was an early favorite of mine. I love it still. I hope you do, too. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe   Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this and nothing more.” Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upo

This week in birds - #474

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The yard has been unusually quiet of bird activity this week, but we have had a lot of silent visitors. Monarch butterflies have been passing through on migration. Every time I've been outside this week I've seen them. This one is sipping from some tropical milkweed. *~*~*~* The good news is there has been progress on arresting climate change since the Paris accord of 2014. The bad news is it's not enough .  *~*~*~* As nations prepared for the major climate summit in Glasgow, many vowed to do more to curb their warming, but even if these plans are put into effect, the world would still be on a path to dangerous warming .  *~*~*~* The Biden administration this week announced plans to rescind two environmental rollbacks that took effect under the previous administration. This will have the effect of restoring habitat protections for endangered plants and wildlife. *~*~*~* In Malawi, a center of international i

Beloved by Toni Morrison: A review

I first read Beloved thirteen years ago. I hated it. It had, of course, been a highly acclaimed novel, thought by many critics to be Morrison's masterpiece and it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Morrison went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 based on her body of work. Some would say that Beloved was the heart of that body. I always felt that I had probably shortchanged the book in my reading and I made it part of my goals for the year to read it again. I finished rereading it a week ago. Who could have known that by then it would be in the news again, making racists uncomfortable ? Banning it seems to be the latest right wing cause celebre . The novel is set after the end of the  Civil War during the Reconstruction period. It was not a peaceful time. Even though slavery had been officially ended in the country, those who had been given their freedom or who had bought their freedom earlier were still victims of a lot of random violence. That was a c

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty: A review

  I had never read Liane Moriarty before, but if this book is any indication, her reputation for writing engrossing cliffhangers is well-earned. Apples Never Fall gives us the Delaney family, Stan and Joy Delaney and their four grown children: Amy, the oldest and artsy one; Troy, a highflying businessman very proud of his wealth and losing no opportunity to flaunt it; Brooke, the youngest, a businesswoman who has not had much success in the romance department; and Logan, the disheveled teacher with a heart of gold. This is, in fact, a family saga that turns into a mystery and a bit of a thriller before the end. Moriarty is very adept at giving us an in-depth portrait of each of these family members. That, I felt, was one of the book's strengths and something that I really liked about it. She describes each of their backstories of experiences along with their struggles and mistakes along the way. In spite of their weaknesses and mistakes, the reader gains a real empathy for each of

Poetry Sunday: Future Plans by Kate Barnes

When I read Kate Barnes' poem last week, I laughed out loud with a feeling of recognition. I know the woman in her poem. In fact, I see her in the mirror every day. Future Plans by Kate Barnes When I am an old, old woman I may very well be living all alone like many another before me and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave just as I wish to. No more need to be proud— at the tag end of life one is at last allowed to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair, sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress. My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess, my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight I shall take in the vagaries of day and night, in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof! I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof. I’ll wake when I

This week in birds - #473

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one of the most common woodpeckers in our area. He is a permanent resident here. Common he may be but it is always a pleasure to see him in the yard. *~*~*~* Three reports released by the Biden administration this week warn of conflicts fueled by the climate crisis . It is likely to aggravate conflicts over water and migration and to cause instability which can threaten global security. *~*~*~* Another aspect of the climate crisis is its potential to provide an "emerging threat" to the financial system of this country and to upend global markets and economies. *~*~*~* The weather pattern known as  La Niña is likely to further prolong the severe drought in the western U.S. this winter but it may bring some relief to Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. *~*~*~* Just what are  El Niño and La Niña weather patterns anyway and why are weather forecasters always referring to

A Murder of Quality by John le Carré: A review

  One of my reading goals for this year was to reread all of  John le Carré's George Smiley books. I read the first one, Call for the Dead , back in January, and now here it is October and I'm finally getting around to the second one. Yes, I did get a bit distracted along the way. This second one references boarding schools which, in a foreword, the author states that he was sent to from age five to sixteen. He hated them and something of that sentiment comes through in the book which finds Smiley being prevailed upon to help investigate what turns out to be a murder of the wife of an instructor at such a school, a sort of posh prep school. He becomes involved when he receives a request from a former wartime colleague. The woman, Ailsa Brimley, is now the editor of a publication called the "Christian Voice" and she has received a note from one of her long-time and valued subscribers who tells her that she is afraid her husband is going to kill her. Unwilling to go to

Matrix by Lauren Groff: A review

  This is the fourth Lauren Groff book I've read and I've loved them all. I love the subtlety of her writing, the way that she builds her characters, and the feminist vibe of the writing. In her acclaimed Fates and Furies , she gave us a dissection of a modern marriage as seen from the two points of view of those in the marriage. In this new book, she delineates the life of a 12th-century poet named Marie de France about whose actual life very little is known. This leaves the writer free to imagine it without worrying about historical accuracy. The result makes for fascinating reading. The Marie that she gives us is, in 1158, a member of the court of Queen Eleanor, history's Eleanor of Aquitaine who in her life was the queen of both France and then England. Marie was an awkward and unwelcome member of the court. She was extremely tall and had a giant bony body. She was too unattractive to ever be considered for a marriage, so what to do with her? She was educated and had ha

Poetry Sunday: Autumn Rain by D.H. Lawrence

I had never actually realized that D.H. Lawrence wrote poetry. I think of him as a novelist and short-story writer. But in fact, he did write quite a bit of poetry. I read that he was a fan of Walt Whitman and his poetry was influenced by him. His favorite form seems to have been free verse. I learned about Lawrence, the poet, as I was looking for poetry about autumn during the past week and I happened upon this one. It seems to speak with intensity and vigor of the poet's understanding of and empathy for the natural world. The poem was published in 1917 near the end of World War I and one feels that he must have been influenced by that conflagration. Perhaps that is what he refers to when he writes of "sheaves of pain" and "sheaves of dead men that are slain." Autumn Rain by D.H. Lawrence The plane leaves fall black and wet on the lawn; the cloud sheaves in heaven’s fields set droop and are drawn in falling seeds of rain; the seed of heaven on my face falling —

This week in birds - #472

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : What kind of bird is this, you ask? I thought I would give you something completely different this week in honor of the season. This is my friend who lives just outside my office window these days. She is a golden garden spider, Argiope aurantia . Golden garden spiders, in fact most spiders, are our friends and allies. They have a voracious appetite for insects and are very efficient predators. They are able to subdue and eat prey twice their size. These spiders are sometimes called the "writing spiders" because of the squiggles they put in their webs. It was such a spider that was the inspiration for E.B. White's Charlotte's Web . If you are lucky enough to have one around your yard - and they are most often seen in the fall - please be kind and don't disturb her. She's doing important work. My friend's name is Charlotte, of course. *~*~*~* The United Nations biodiversity conference, meetin

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2021

Welcome to my October garden. I do actually have a few blooms to show you this month, although if you have visited my garden before, you've probably seen them in the past. I haven't really added anything new this fall yet, but I hope to soon. Here in zone 9a near Houston, as in many parts of the country and world, we have endured an unusual year of weather. It has not been kind to the garden and my plants show that. So please understand if a number of my plants do not appear at their best. My tithonia plants are in a part of the garden that is not easy to water and they show that they have been deprived of moisture. Still, they bloom on, undaunted. The cosmos bloomed in the summer and reseeded itself and now it blooms in autumn.   These crinums still put out a few blooms from time to time. Do you ever forget that you've planted something? That happened to me with these yellow lycoris plants. I had completely forgotten that I had them until a few popped up to remind me. This