Showing posts from May, 2022

Poetry Sunday: Hymn for the Hurting by Amanda Gorman

You probably remember poet Amanda Gorman from her appearance at the inauguration of President Biden. She read her poem "The Hill We Climb" on that occasion. After the senseless slaughter in Uvalde this week, she was inspired to write another poem which was published in The New York Times. It seemed perfect for the occasion and so I stole it in order to feature it here, just in case you didn't get a chance to read it in the Times . Hymn for the Hurting by Amanda Gorman Everything hurts, Our hearts shadowed and strange, Minds made muddied and mute. We carry tragedy, terrifying and true. And yet none of it is new; We knew it as home, As horror, As heritage. Even our children Cannot be children, Cannot be. Everything hurts. It’s a hard time to be alive, And even harder to stay that way. We’re burdened to live out these days, While at the same time, blessed to outlive them. This alarm is how we know We must be altered — That we must differ or die, That we must triumph or try.

This week in birds: #503

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : (Yellow-billed Cuckoo photo from eBird.) The dominant voice around my yard this week has been the bird that I knew as the "Rain Crow" when I was growing up. It was only later that I learned that the bird's proper name was Yellow-billed Cuckoo . A secretive bird that skulks among the leaves of the trees and shrubs its frequents, it is more often heard than seen, so it is difficult for the amateur to get a good picture of it. But at this time of year, even if we can't see it, its call leaves us no doubt that it is present. *~*~*~* The heatwave that has been scorching India and Pakistan has been made thirty times more like by climate change , according to scientists. The subcontinent has had extreme temperatures and low rainfall since mid-March and that has caused widespread suffering in the area. *~*~*~* Scientists are also warning that focusing on carbon dioxide alone will not be enough to keep temperatu

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro: A review

  This book was published in 2000 and all the reading world except for me probably read it then. I'm only twenty-two years late to the party, but never mind; the story still seems fresh and "of the moment" even though it begins in 1923. This is a sort of detective story that isn't really a detective story. It starts in the early twentieth century with a mystery, the suspicious disappearance from their home in the International Settlement of Shanghai of Christopher Banks' parents. First his father and then his mother disappear and nine-year-old Christopher is left an orphan. Christopher is then sent "home" to an aunt in England. It is a home he had never seen. He's never been to England before. His parents never turn up and he grows up in his aunt's home and becomes - perhaps not surprisingly - a detective. His urge to learn what happened to his parents is sublimated in his work of finding missing persons and solving crimes. He becomes a detective

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: A review

  Homegoing was Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, published in 2016. It is an ambitious work that covers almost three hundred years of history from the Gold Coast of Africa (later to be called Ghana, where, incidentally, the author was born) to life in America. Through eight generations of one family, it explores the history and the legacy of slavery. The story begins with "Effia the Beauty" and her half-sister Esi. It is the eighteenth century on the Gold Coast where England holds sway. Effia is married off to a wealthy Englishman named James Collins who is responsible for overseeing operations at Cape Coast Castle which is the headquarters of the British slave trade. Esi is the daughter of Asante warrior. She is captured by slave traders and sold to the British and, unknown to Effia, she ends up in the dungeons underneath the Castle before ultimately being shipped off to America. Esi has a daughter named Ness. In 1796, her daughter is taken from her and sold. In order to surviv

Poetry Sunday: Late Spring by Judith Wright

I met a new poet this week. Her name was Judith Wright. She is no longer with us, having died almost two years ago, but her poetry lives on. She was an Australian and a devoted environmentalist and social activist who campaigned for Aboriginal land rights. Her poems that I read were replete with references to the environment, revealing her familiarity and concern for issues affecting it. I particularly liked the following poem which gives us images of a pear tree that had fallen in a storm but still sends out its blossoms as "obstinate tokens" of life in spring. I hope you like it, too.    Late Spring by Judith Wright The moon drained white by day lifts from the hill where the old pear-tree fallen in storm springs up in blossom still. Women believe in the moon: this branch I hold is not more white and still than she whose flower is ages old, and so I carry home flowers from the pear that makes such obstinate tokens still for fruit it cannot bear.

This week in birds - #502

 A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : White Pelicans enjoying a day by the bay. *~*~*~* The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued its monthly report and the bottom line is that we should prepare ourselves for a real scorcher of a summer . *~*~*~* And in more potentially bad weather news, conditions in the Gulf are looking much like they did when Hurricane Katrina was produced. *~*~*~* According to United Nations climate reports, climate change indicators all set new record highs in 2021. *~*~*~* If you missed the lunar eclipse earlier this week, here are pictures of the event. *~*~*~* Unsurprisingly, policies that offer solutions to check the potential ongoing extinction of species also have benefits for fighting climate change . *~*~*~* This is a giant stingray, measuring 13 feet long and weighing 400 pounds, that was rescued and released into the Mekong River in Cambodia earlier this month. *~*~*~* Meanwhile, in Italy, its longest

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan: A review

  Jennifer Egan's latest is billed as a sequel to A Visit From the Good Squad which I read way back in 2013. A lot of books have flowed over the rocks of my brain since then, so I don't remember the specifics of that book as well as I might, but I do remember that I liked it. In fact, I've never read a book by Egan that I didn't like. And that includes The Candy House .  This one is a bit difficult to describe. It is all about memory and the desire for privacy in a world where so much of our lives is open to the public. We can come to feel that our lives are no longer our own but are part of the shared memories of everyone around us. As I say, a bit difficult to describe or wrap our heads around. The time is 2010 and Bix Bouton is a successful tech entrepreneur on the lookout for the next big thing. A conversation with some Columbia professors puts him on the track of an idea for downloading or externalizing memory. The technology that he creates to make that germ of a

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2022

Can it really be May Bloom Day already? Carol Michel says so and I must believe her since she is the original instigator of this monthly post. So, here goes. We've had a dry spring so far and it is looking like a dry summer but many of my tough old plants don't seem to notice.   This red salvia for example. The 'Hot Lips' salvia started blooming earlier and is almost finished with its first blooms now. I love these hot orange blossoms of the pomegranate.   Not quite in full bloom yet but this buddleia will soon get there. This sweet-smelling vine is by my back porch. These ancient cannas haven't done much for me so far, but they'll get going soon and bloom throughout the summer. Blue plumbago doing its thing. And yellow cestrum doing its. 'Darcy Bussell' rose almost finished with its first cycle of bloom. 'Julia Child' rose. 'Lady of Shallott' rose just a bit past its prime. I have lost the label for these blooming plants and have racked

Poetry Sunday: A Book by Emily Dickinson

This one is short and sweet and to the point. Emily Dickinson did not mince words! A Book by Emily Dickinson There is no frigate like a book To take us lands away, Nor any coursers like a page Of prancing poetry. This traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of toll; How frugal is the chariot That bears a human soul! ( Note to readers: My Bloom Day post will be published later today .)

This week in birds - #501

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  This, I believe, is a female Black-Throated Green Warbler who stopped in my backyard for a visit on her way north.  *~*~*~* Wildfires continued to ravage parts of New Mexico this week. There has been an early beginning to the wildfire season in the West fed by a combination of high winds and extremely dry vegetation due to drought. *~*~*~* On the good news for the environment side of the ledger this week, the Interior Department confirmed this week that it will not be holding three oil and gas lease sales  for the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska that had been expected to take place, removing millions of acres from the auction block. *~*~*~* But on the other side of that ledger, the global average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees centigrade is likely to be reached at some point in the next five years. That is the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for humans and for the planet a

Ocean State by Stewart O'Nan: A review

  The setting of Ocean State is the small working-class town of Ashaway, Rhode Island. The narrator is named Marie and she takes us back to the autumn of 2009 when her older sister Angel killed a girl named Birdy.  This isn't a murder mystery then. There is no mystery because we know from the very first paragraph of the book what happened. Angel and Birdy had been in love with the same teenage boy. Or at least with all the intense single-mindedness of teenagehood, they thought they were in love. Angel's solution to this "love" triangle was to knock off one of its sides.  Angel's and Marie's mom, Carol, struggles to raise her two girls and to encourage them to make lives for themselves somewhere away from Ashaway. She just wants to get them through high school and to help them as much as she can with college. Her dreams did not work out and that has left her with the feeling that their lives are a matter of chance and are basically beyond their control. Things

The Necklace by Matt Witten: A review

  I finished reading this book more than two weeks ago ( Yes, I am seriously behind with my reviews! ), and when I sat down to write a review today, I could not remember anything about it. You might conclude from that that it didn't make much of an impression on me and you would be right in that assumption.  Not that it was a terrible book. That would have made an impression and I probably would have remembered it, but it was just kind of blah. Not really terrible and not really that good.  The writing was okay. Matt Witten is mostly a writer for television and has had considerable success with that. He has also written other mystery novels, but this is the first one of his that I have read. In the end, I resorted to the summary of it on Goodreads to refresh my memory. One of the problems that I had with the book was that I just didn't like the protagonist that much. She should have evoked my sympathy. After all, her young daughter had been murdered twenty years before. A man h

Poetry Sunday: The Last Resort by Don Henley and Glenn Lewis Frey

I sometimes suffer from the disease of nostalgia. This past week it has been nostalgia for the music of "The Eagles." I've listened to it at every opportunity that I've had.  There are several of their songs that are personally meaningful to me, but the one that I return to most often is probably the one called "The Last Resort." That's its official name but I always think of it as "Paradise." The story that the lyrics tell seems to be particularly relevant just now and the two stanzas that always stand out in my mind are these: Who will provide the grand design? What is yours and what is mine? 'Cause there is no more new frontier We have got to make it here We satisfy our endless needs And justify our bloody deeds In the name of destiny And in the name of God And here are the complete lyrics: The Last Resort by Don Henley and Glenn Lewis Frey She came from Providence One in Rhode Island Where the old world shadows hang Heavy in the air She

This week in birds -#500

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Sora searches among the reeds for its dinner. *~*~*~* New Mexico is burning. A wildfire fueled by the drought has consumed thousands of acres and the governor of the state has asked the president to declare a disaster area in order to free up more funds to fight the catastrophic blaze.  *~*~*~* A global review has found that birds are disappearing at an alarming rate. Half of the approximately 11,000 avian species on Earth are losing population while only 6% are increasing.  *~*~*~* But there is hope. Just look at the California Condor , once nearly extinct and now flying over California's redwoods for the first time in a century. *~*~*~* India and Pakistan are suffering through a brutal heatwave which has exacerbated massive energy shortages on the subcontinent. *~*~*~* It's pollen season and the native pollinators are busy out there collecting it. One way to help protect native pollinators is to plant na