Showing posts from February, 2022

Poetry Sunday: Love Ukraine by Volodymyr Sosiura

This poem by Ukrainian poet Volovymyr Sosiura was published in 1944 near the end of another war. As I went looking for a poem that might express my concern for that embattled country, I found this and it seemed perfect for the moment. Two lines in particular resonated with me: For other races you’ll not love hereafter Unless you love Ukraine and hold her high. The message seems to be that one must love one's own country before one can love any other. But this week let us do whatever small act we can to "Love Ukraine."   Love Ukraine by Volodymyr Sosiura (Translated by C.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell) Love your Ukraine, love as you would the sun, The wind, the grasses and the streams together… Love her in happy hours, when joys are won, And love her in her time of stormy weather. Love her in happy dreams and when awake, Ukraine in spring’s white cherry-blossom veil. Her beauty is eternal for your sake ; Her speech is tender with the nightingale. As in a garden of

This week in birds - #490

(NOTE TO MY READERS: I have been forced to enable comment moderation on my blog because of a particular entity that has repeatedly attempted to post comments advertising their online gambling site. You can be assured that any legitimate comment will be posted as soon as I can get to it. I always appreciate your responses to my posts.) A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  Sandhill Cranes out for a stroll on a Gulf Coast afternoon. *~*~*~* The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the operator of the Dakota Access pipeline to have the refusal of the pipeline's key federal permit overturned. *~*~*~* The Biden administration has paused approval of any new leases or permits for oil or gas drilling on federal lands after a judge ruled they could not consider the societal costs of carbon emissions when making the decision. *~*~*~* Climate refugees from the worst drought in Angola in forty years continue to stream into neighboring Namibia. *~*~*~* This mon

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout: A review

  This was Elizabeth Strout's debut novel, published in 1998. In it, she explores the fraught relationship between a single mother and her teenage daughter in the mill town of Shirley Falls. Isabelle, the mother, works in the office of the mill, as secretary to the boss, Avery Clark. Clark is married but Isabelle harbors some forlorn hope of establishing a romantic relationship with him. It's been many years since she had such a relationship. The other employees in the office see Isabelle as aloof and not "one of the girls." Isabelle's relationship with her daughter, Amy, has always been a good one until Amy hits her teenage years. Then she begins to be critical and disdainful of her mother. When she is sixteen, her math teacher has a health crisis and is replaced by a substitute, Mr. Robertson. Robertson often singles Amy out in class and because of her beautiful golden hair tells her that she looks like a poet. Amy is entranced and develops a huge crush on the m

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler: A review

  For a brief time after I graduated college, I lived and worked in Baltimore. Whenever I read an Anne Tyler novel she takes me back there. She describes the city and its people so perfectly, I feel as though I'm walking those streets, riding those buses again. The house where Delia (short for Cordelia) lives with her family might be the house where I roomed while I lived there. When we meet Delia, she is forty years old and has been long married to Sam Grinstead. They have three children, the youngest of whom is fifteen. Sam is a doctor who still makes house calls, like Delia's father before him.  The house they live in is the house that Delia grew up in and where Sam came to be her father's assistant when she was only seventeen. Delia has two sisters, Eliza who has never married and Linda who is now divorced and has two young daughters. They all vacation together at the beach every year. It is a family tradition, but at age forty as she sits on the beach during their annu

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett: A review

  I grabbed this book on a whim in the mistaken perception that it was a novel by Ann Patchett. Yes, even though it says "essays" right there on the cover! Obviously, I was not paying close attention. I don't often read essays and if I had realized that's what it was I probably wouldn't have gotten it. That would have been a mistake. It was a terrific read. Her essays touch on a wide variety of subjects, mostly very personal. She writes, for example, about her three fathers. Her mother married three times. Ann was born in her first marriage to an L.A. cop. That cop was very dismissive of Ann's aspirations to be a writer. His ambition for her was to be a dental hygienist. This had the unintended effect of making her even more determined to become a writer and to succeed at her craft.  While Ann and her sister were still young children, her mother, who was a nurse, fell in love with a surgeon. When he moved to Nashville, she followed him there and they were marr

Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout: A review

  Elizabeth Strout's second novel, Abide with Me, was published in 2006. It tells the story of Tyler Caskey, a young minister in the fictional town of West Annett, Maine. His wife died about a year before, leaving him with two small daughters. The younger of the two, Jeannie who is still a baby, is being cared for by Tyler's mother in her home. The older child, Katherine, is around four years old when we meet her and lives with her father but has obviously been traumatized by her mother's death and is very antisocial both at school and at home. Tyler is thus dealing with his own grief and sense of loss as well as trying to be a responsible father to two daughters and meet his responsibilities at the church. In other words, he has his hands full. As Tyler struggles, rumors spread in the community about Katherine's problems and of a suspected affair between Tyler and his housekeeper, Connie Hatch. It all starts in the church's Ladies' Aide Society which seems to

Poetry Sunday: Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

When our kids were little, we had parakeets. They were lovely birds and fun to watch, but at some point, I couldn't bear to have a caged bird anymore. Perhaps it was because I had read Maya Angelou's poem.   Caged Bird by Maya Angelou   The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom The free bird thinks of another breeze and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own. But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped

This week in birds - #489

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  Black Skimmer resting in the Gulf Coast waters. *~*~*~* It's the weekend of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count . This is the count's twenty-fifth year. Are you counting and if not, why not? Anyone can participate. No particular expertise is required. *~*~*~* More people along the U.S. coastline are being exposed to rising sea levels where the levels are rising faster than the global average. It is expected that they will rise as much as one foot within the next thirty years. *~*~*~* A convergence of dangerous weather conditions exacerbated by the climate crisis will expose southern California to an increased threat of wildfires over the coming decades, according to a new study. *~*~*~* One thing that might increase the risk of wildfires is the megadrought that has ravaged the West for the last two decades. A new study states that this is the most extreme drought for that area in at least 1200 years and human

The Latinist by Mark Prins: A review

  ( I am falling seriously behind with my reviews so, in an attempt to catch up, my faithful readers get a bonus this week. ) I'm always a sucker for the classics. Anything with a Latin or Greek connection appeals to me, so obviously, I'm going to grab a book called The Latinist . It was a good move. It proved to be quite an entertaining read. The book turned out to be a suspense novel involving classicists. Clever, huh? Tessa Templeton is a Ph.D. candidate in classics at Oxford. She is ready to seek a job in the world of academe and her mentor, Professor Christopher Eccles, has written a letter of recommendation for her. Except that, as Tessa learns thanks to an anonymous informer, the letter doesn't exactly recommend her. It's a classic case of damning with faint praise. Very soon we learn that Eccles' motive in writing such a letter is to keep Tessa at Oxford. He wants her only chance for employment in her field to be at that university because it is where he is

On Animals by Susan Orlean: A review

  The essays that comprise Susan Orlean's latest book were written over a period of more than twenty-five years. They all appeared first in The New Yorker and those who have been readers of that magazine over that time may recognize some of them. My memory in its present state is such that even if I had read them before, I likely would not have recognized them. And some of them are pretty memorable. For example, there is the one about Keiko, the captive killer whale who starred in the movie "Free Willy." The essay is about efforts to free Keiko and it begins like this: "It was a hell of a time to be in Iceland, where the wind never huffs or puffs but simply blows your house down." How can you not be captivated by such a beginning? This book isn't only about big and famous animals, however. There are chickens here, and rabbits, pigeons, pandas, tigers, lions, donkeys, mules, and oxen. And that's probably not a complete list.  One of my personal favorites

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2022

Bloom Day in February finds only a scarcity of blooms in my zone 9a southeast Texas garden.  We've had an exceptionally cold (for us) and an exceptionally extended (for us) winter and it has kept many of the plants that would normally be flowering at this time of year in their long seasonal sleep. There are a few pansies about, of course.  ~*~ The Carolina jessamine is blooming but even it is not as full of blooms as it usually is. It has lots of buds and when we do finally get a few warmer days, I'm sure they will be opening. ~*~ There are some wild oxalis blooms among the grass of the lawn. ~*~ The white yarrow offers its blossoms. ~*~ The pink dianthus has recently been in bloom and will be again soon. But just now, nada. ~*~ I do have some Valentine's Day blooms courtesy of my thoughtful son-in-law. ~*~ And the garden has a bit of color from my goldfish, lounging among the bubbles from the aeration by their pond's pump. ~*~ I can always depend on the "blooms&qu

Violeta by Isabel Allende: A review

  The 100 years of Violeta Del Valle's life stretch from the Spanish flu pandemic to the current coronavirus pandemic. The country where she was born and lives is never named but one has to say that it sounds very much like Isabel Allende's native Chile. There are repressive forces at work here coming both from the state and from the day-to-day pressures of family life. During her childhood, Violeta's mother is in poor health and unable to be much of a force in her life. She is mostly raised by an Irish governess who is warm and loving. Violeta is very fortunate to have her. We know about this because we are reading the 100-year-old Violeta's missives to her grandson which recall the events of a very tumultuous life. We learn that in her early life, because of the pandemic, she was quarantined with her rich family in the capital city of her country. Then the Great Depression comes along and wipes out the family fortune. In despair, her father kills himself and Violeta i

Poetry Sunday: February by Margaret Atwood

Poetry may not be what Margaret Atwood is most famous for, but she has in fact published eighteen books of poetry. And, judging by this example, she is quite an accomplished poet. This one made me smile in recognition at her description of the interaction with the cat. Also, her description of our increased appetite in winter seems, unfortunately, spot on. It's not an easy time for those of us who have to watch what we eat. We can only hope that spring will arrive in time to save us. February by Margaret Atwood Winter. Time to eat fat and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat, a black fur sausage with yellow Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries to get onto my head. It’s his way of telling whether or not I’m dead. If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am He’ll think of something. He settles on my chest, breathing his breath of burped-up meat and musty sofas, purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat, not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door, declaring

This week in birds - #488

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : American Robins do love their beautyberries and there are plenty for them in my backyard. *~*~*~* Some rare good news for gray wolves this week: A federal judge has overturned the decision by the previous administration (which had also been defended by the Biden administration) to take the wolves off the Endangered Species List, thus removing them from the protection from being hunted. They will now be protected in most of the lower 48 states, although apparently, that protection will not extend to Montana and Idaho. *~*~*~* The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas remains closed due to threats from right-wingers.  *~*~*~* A saltwater crocodile in Indonesia that had somehow managed to get a motorbike tire wrapped around its neck has finally been freed after five years of carrying the tire. The reptile was trapped by a local bird seller and dozens of locals helped to drag the animal to where the tire could be c

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro: A review

  How is it I had never read this book? Just one of many oversights in my reading life, I guess. I'm glad to finally rectify my failure. I had seen the movie based on the book long ago. It was made memorable by the performances of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in the two main roles and as I read the book, those were the faces that I saw in the characters of the butler James Stevens and the housekeeper Miss Kenton.  Stevens and Kenton had both served in the pre-World War II household of Lord Darlington at Darlington Hall, a stately home near Oxford. We learn that Lord Darlington was a Nazi sympathizer, a fact which Stevens is slow to admit. After the war and after the death of Lord Darlington, Darlington Hall is bought by a wealthy American, Mr. Farraday. The house has a seriously reduced staff by this time. Miss Kenton is long gone, having married and moved to Cornwall. She is now Mrs. Benn. She and Stevens had remained in touch in the years after she left service and when Mr.

Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves: A review

  Continuing with my reading of Ann Cleeves' Shetland series, this is number four in that series. We get to know Jimmy Perez a lot better in this one. Mainly, we get to see where he came from and what his parents are like. Jimmy grew up on Fair Isle and it is where his parents still live. It is to Fair Isle that he goes with Fran, his newly acquired   fiancée, the former wife of Duncan Hunter and mother of young Cassie. He wants Fran to meet his parents, Big James and Mary. This book provides quite a bit of backstory for Jimmy and his parents. Fair Isle is famous as a birders' paradise. It features a birding reserve and research center that is run by Maurice and Angela. They have managed to attract a marvelous chef named Jane who was eager to escape the hectic pace of London. She has been happy on Fair Isle. Big James and Mary host an engagement party at North Light, the headquarters of the birding center, in order for their and Jimmy's friends to meet Fran. Jane prepares a

Poetry Sunday: Fear by Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer and visual artist. He was deemed by others to be a philosopher, although he himself rejected the title. He was born in Lebanon in 1883 and died in New York in 1931, a relatively short life of 48 years. He accomplished a lot in the few years that he had including writing The Prophet , which is one of the best-selling books of all time, having been translated into over a hundred languages. He was a poet and his poetry shows his philosophical bent. This one is a good example of that. Fear by Khalil Gibran It is said that before entering the sea a river trembles with fear. She looks back at the path she has traveled, from the peaks of the mountains, the long winding road crossing forests and villages. And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter there seems nothing more than to disappear forever. But there is no other way. The river can not go back. Nobody can go back. To go back is impossible in existence. The river needs to ta

This week in birds - #487

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : An Orange-crowned Warbler enjoying a meal of suet. *~*~*~* The National Butterfly Center on the Texas/Mexico border in Mission, Texas, has announced that it will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future as a result of harassment from right-wingers. The center, which is privately owned, has been the focus of conservative conspiracy theories and political conflict in recent years as they fought against the former president's plan to build a wall through their land. *~*~*~* The Biden administration is reinstating the mercury pollution rules that were gutted by the previous administration. Mercury is released by coal-burning power plants and it is a powerful neurotoxin that has been linked to developmental damage in children. *~*~*~* New research has confirmed that extreme heat in the world's oceans passed the point of no return in 2014 and is now the new normal. It is a "normal" in which many

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang: A review

  Joan is most definitely okay if a little weird. She is a Chinese-American doctor working in an ICU in New York City. She lives alone in a sparsely furnished apartment. She does not own a television and barely even owns a chair, but she seems perfectly happy with her existence. She doesn't relate well with humans but she loves machines, especially the machines in the ICU. Her parents who had originally emigrated from China to the U.S. returned to China once both of their children, Joan and her older brother Fang, were grown and in college. They saw their jobs as parents as done. Fang became an extremely successful hedge fund manager, meeting all his parents' expectations. He married and had a couple of children and he and his family now live on a rather palatial ten-acre compound in Greenwich, Connecticut. He pressures Joan to leave the hospital ICU, move to Greenwich and open a private practice there. When their father dies in China, he and Joan travel there. Joan stays for t