Sunday, September 25, 2022

About Books

When I was a young teen, the money I earned mostly came from babysitting. I would save up that money to buy books. I wanted books more than anything else. 

When I got into B Dalton, or maybe it was Walden Books?, anyway, the bookstore at the mall--I would be so excited that I couldn't stand still. Literally, I would stand in front of the young adult section tipping from side to side about to wet my pants! I learned to go to the bathroom first, right away, as soon as I got in the store. Then, I could come back and browse to my heart's content. So many books! 

This was circa 1975 and the young adult section was one bookcase. But to me, it was heaven. I had favorite authors I looked for right away--Kin Platt, Judy Blume, and Paul Zindel were at the top, and S.E. Hinton of course, and Robert Cormier.  I followed the suggestions or comparisons in the back of the paperbacks I already had to find more authors I might like. This led me to books like A Separate Peace and Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye--old books I could (and did) get at the library.

I loved being immersed in the world of the story! I was able to go to places I had never been to--like New York City or California or a boarding school. And I could find out about drugs and pregnancy and domestic abuse without experiencing any of that in my real life. I could empathize with kids in difficult situations, and feel an easing of my own normal angst.

In eighth grade I worked in the school library and me and the other library aide had this game where we would go around and name at least one book on every shelf that we had read. If we hadn't read any on a particular shelf, we would take it home and read it. We read a lot. She started reading these books her mom had, Barbara Cartland romances, and left our game behind. I tried these romances, but found they just were not for me. All dukes and counts and fancy dress and stolen hand holding was just not that appealing to me. I'd rather read things that seemed like they could actually happen.

As child, I was always free to leave the children's section and check out any book in the library. I was never restricted. At home, I read from the encyclopedia or from my mother's shelves or from the books my parents bought in sets more as decoration than as something to be read. 

Books are powerful--so powerful that some people are afraid of them. !

Lynda Barry, a fabulous graphic artist who often draws and writes about teenagers characters, said to me, "If a kid made a book about their life, a lot of their parents wouldn't let them read it." Unfortunately, this is true.

View form my writing room

I know, that as humans, we need stories. And this is why I write.

I read and write whatever I want. And I hope that you will too!

Monday, September 5, 2022

Serious Books, Serious Films and a Pullover

  Here is my progress on my Lunenburg Pullover. As you see, I am nearing the end of the first sleeve. Hooray!

Of course, the sweater doesn't look it's best yet, because it's unblocked and has been going round and round and round while I do the sleeve. I'm disturbed about how much the increases at the bust line show, but I am hoping blocking evens that out. This picture does not show how great the purple/blue colors go together on the yoke, but when I finish, I'll post some better looks. This has been such a fun pattern!

Aside from occasional knitting, I have been reading a lot. These are the last few books I've read.

Actually, I'm still reading the middle book because it is a collection of short pieces that need to be taken in and digested slowly. I am finding it inspiring and reassuring and am reading it with a pencil in hand because I'm underlining so many things!

 The other two books cover some pretty tough topics, but they are told in a way that is compelling without being crushing. I guess I've been in a mood for serious books. Next up I think I'm going to read a book called Black Cake. (Also serious.) Seems I just can't read fast enough these days. There are so many books I want to read!

When I was in New York, My Italian friends gave me this DVD and book.

 What a fantastic gift, eh? So many Fellini films are among my very favorite of all times. I especially love Nights of Cabiria. So much to love in that film! The way Cabiria dances in her ankle socks and scabby rabbit fur coat and is awed by the elegant man who picks her up and takes her to his amazing rooms! So much whimsy in such a heartbreaking story. I could go on and on about so many scenes in Fellini movies--! 

I'm looking forward to a big Fellini retrospective that is happening here this fall.

Giulietta Masina in Nights of Cabiria

Things in the garden are finishing out their season, but the ginger lilies are blooming and hummingbirds are still busy buzzing around. Here and there I am seeing little frogs. This last one was about the size of my thumbnail!

Ginger Lily smells so fresh!

I hope you have a lovely week. It is all routine here, which all in all is not a bad thing.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Weekend in New York


Well, last weekend we did a most unusual thing! We went to New York!

We were there for a wedding which was out in Long Island. We only had one short day to spend in Manhattan because we had to gather early Saturday for a rehearsal dinner. The wedding was Sunday and there was no time to travel to the city and back. So, what did we do with our part of a Saturday? We took the train in to Penn Station--the first major stop--and got out. The first thing we saw was the Empire State Building, so that is where we headed!

There were very few tourists there and we were able to take an elevator to the top. These pictures are from the 86th floor where there was no glass and we were out in the open air. We went all the way to the 102nd floor.  Up there, I swear I could feel the building swaying slightly.

Can you see Central Park? The big green behind the skinny towers on the middle left.

That's the Statue of Liberty sticking up on one of those islands to the right.

The day was clear and cool. Well, we thought it was cool--some guests from Alaska disagreed!

We wandered around a little and stopped for a light lunch in Bryant Park before passing through Times Square and heading back.

Bryant Park

The wedding was a HUGE event.  This is a wedding that was cancelled because of Covid. I feel like maybe because there was so much planning time, the details in this wedding  snowballed and there was just a little too much going on. I was happy to just be a guest!

Even though New York is a long way to go for a weekend, I felt I really needed to go because the parents of the young man getting married are some of my dearest and most generous Italian friends from the time I lived in Italy. I remember when the groom was born! I remember his first birthday party! And I remember when he came to the hospital to see my little son when he was born. He kept pushing the call button for the nurse.

 At the wedding, I realized that he is the age of his parents when we met! I can't believe it. Time turns and here we are.

Although the groom was born Catholic, he converted to Judaism. 

The mother gives a speech in Italian and the father translates into English.

Italian friends and their children were at the wedding. These are people I haven't seen in probably 20 years! It was remarkable to see the children all grown up and find that they had memories of me being places and doing things that I had forgotten. My Italian was shamefully rusty, but it was wonderful to be able see and talk with these people again.

When I was a little girl, my mother went to New York and brought me back this book.

It's funny that it took me practically my whole life to get to New York! I have been all over the world, but this was my first time in New York. It was truly a "whirlwind" trip! And we had such a great time.

Sunday, August 7, 2022


My brother has been lost for a long time. I took this picture the last time I saw him, over 25 years ago.  He called me on the phone once around that time, and once maybe 10 years ago he chatted with me on messenger for about twenty minutes.  We chatted about going to the drive-in when we were kids.

But then he disappeared again.

That was his way. He preferred to remain remote. 

Last week we got news that he had taken his own life. He was alone in a pay by the week motel. 

Now, he is really lost.

I remember when we were younger, we went to a local amusement park together, just me and him. It was a night in late summer/early fall, and not many people were there. We were thrilled because there weren't any lines for the rides. So we rode the roller coaster and got off and ran around to the entrance and rode again and again. We went on all the rides as many times as we wanted! 

One ride was a type of ferris wheel, but you rode inside a cage that had a sort of steering wheel in the center. If you got that steering wheel going fast enough, it turned the cage upside down and you would not only be making the big ferris wheel circle, but you would be flipping around in your own personal circles. It was incredibly thrilling! We were bold and got our little room hurling us around and around and around. That night, when we went home, we lay on the bed and looked at the ceiling and laughed and moaned because our brains thought we were still spinning.

A lot of times I think he and I were not very good companions. I was the oldest and could be cruel in the petty way of annoying older siblings. But, more often perhaps, we weren't dueling. We were side by side as a matter of course; part of the neighborhood kids playing kickball in the street, part of school kids trying to win free popcorn, or part of the church kids toilet papering someone's front yard (oh! we did a wicked one of those once). We had little inside jokes from these shared experiences, and small understandings. 

But when we got older, to high school I guess, the space between us widened. The way space opens up between you and your parents at that age. You start to move into the next phase of your life, and, at least with me, I didn't look at what I was leaving behind.

And so, I lost him. He always knew where to find me--where to find any of us--but he was going forward in his own way. Only, he got tumbled around, like being in that ferris wheel cage, and lost his bearings.

It has been a dark and mournful week, and particularly heartbreaking for my parents.

Yesterday, I hiked up a mountain on a cloudy, humid morning.  As people moved ahead, they disappeared into the mist. I knew they were there, but I little by little they vanished. Of course, this made me think of my brother, who has not been far from my mind all week--and also of my late first husband. I imagined their souls disappearing from view ahead of me on the course. Perhaps their souls are just over there, out of view from where I am traveling now.

 I don't know if I believe that, but I would like to.  And maybe our little dog is following along with his white little flag of a tail.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Cars and Gardens

 Aren't old cars interesting? Cars of our modern era just don't have much pizzazz, if you ask me.

massive flying hood ornament in front of the museum

We went to a car museum and saw so many beautiful cars!  When I see those very early models where the tires are just barely one step above bicycle tires, I have to believe they had a lot of flats. Except, I guess they weren't really going that fast, were they?  I really love the cars of the 1930's and 40's with those wide running boards. I imagine Humphrey Bogart driving those, or maybe a driver if the car is a Rolls Royce, and some lovely lady in a gown getting out under the lights of a dinner club in Manhattan. 

The museum had quite a lot of race cars, if you are into that sort of thing--I am not. But it had many other kinds of cars as well. I only took pictures of some of my favorites. It was hard not to go around taking pictures of every single car though!

1953 Kaiser Dragon--very cool bamboo top and interior!

Looks like an old Go to Yellowstone Vehicle: "Hey kids! That picnic is for us, not the bears!"

The Scarab. It had a moveable table and chairs in the back! So much cooler than what the museum called "the first minivan."

We also went to the botanical garden one evening.  The garden has an amazing collection of orchids, but the orchid house was just way to humid to enjoy. We'll have to go back in the fall--some cold day! 

We really enjoyed the vegetable garden (of course) and took notes about what we can grow here that isn't in our garden now, but could be. Well--mental notes.

Look at all these kiwis! I don't think I've ever seen kiwis growing before, although I have seen their vines.

I loved this arbor of bitter melon. I like bitter melon, but probably not enough to try to grow it. I've eaten it in a Chinese dish. I don't think I know how to cook it. Wouldn't it be cool to grow a squash arbor though?

These were lovely days out!

Now, vacation is over and I am back to work. Some people complain, but I always feel very lucky to have a big stream of weeks off all at once. This year we traveled around more than last year--even if it was just to local places of interest. Maybe next year we'll get out to a further destination. Who knows?

Have a great week! 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Around the Museums

 We took a few days out in the city.

At the High Museum I enjoyed the works of Camille Pissarro. He is always a big favorite of mine, and I was happy to see his Snowscape with Cows. It's always a pleasure to fall into a snowy day painting in the middle of summer!!

Can't you just hear the crunch of this snow as the animals and people walk along? Can't you just smell the cold of this day? I first encountered Pissarro at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris when I was twenty something, and to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement!

Here in town, I also enjoyed Beach and Rocks by  Thomas Worthington Whittenredge which I guess speaks to my lonely soul (!) and to Moonlit Market which seems to me to be a very narrative painting--something Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens. Interesting that it is by John Mengels Culverhouse an American born in Holland. The buildings here appeared to me to be very Dutch. Imagine a time before electricity!

We enjoyed a light lunch out and went out again the next week to the puppetry museum.  Here I learned that old Italian Pulcinello is the same character, sort of, as Punch. Punch was just easier to say in other parts of the world. I had no idea.

I have always had a love for puppets, for making them and working them. Once, long ago, I was even in a children's television show and worked a puppet! In more recent years, I have tried to explain difficult stories to my high school students using puppets. It is so much better to have a puppet Reynard the Fox when I tell the story about him!

One of the most fascinating things I saw at the museum was a video of a Vietnamese puppet show done in water! The puppeteers stand behind the stage in the water to work the puppets. It is really exciting to see a swimming snake attack a man on a boat, or even better, a dragon!

I am hoping that we get out and around again this week. 

Meanwhile, I am knitting. I frogged a pair of socks with a fleegle heel because I just did not like the fit. I may try--gasp!--two at a time knitted socks instead with an afterthought heel. I also finished the yoke on my Lunenburg pullover--I'll post that next time.

I am also writing a lot while looking out this window at my lovely garden. Thank goodness we've had rain!  The weeks are going by so quickly now! Happy summer!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Not Feeling So Great

 This picture of a little frog statue in my backyard kind of sums up how I feel at the moment.

I am not feeling very happy right now. I feel frustration and disquiet about recent political decisions in my country. I am concerned about all those marginalized by society whose rights are in jeopardy. I am not hopeless, but I am finding it hard to hope.  

Meanwhile, it has been very, very hot and dry, and each day I water sections of the garden to keep things alive.

The cucumbers are bitter and the tomato blossoms are drying up because of the heat. At night it isn't cooling off enough to give the plants a rest. 

Any plant that is a perennial volunteer is being neglected.

 Most of the yard makes me feel hot and desperate and overwhelmed. If only it would rain!

Of course, there are some plants who love the sun--like peppers and eggplants. And some flowers too that are getting enough water because they grow where the A/C sends its condensation, or they grow in the shade.

Even though it isn't really the season for baking, when I saw fresh rhubarb in the farmer's market, I had to make a pie. (I just used a ready-made crust. Why not?)

I am hoping that in the coming week it will rain.
I am hoping a lot of things . . .