Bibliotherapy

My husband had a bone scan done today. That meant a trip to the hospital at 11:00 to get the infusion, and then back to the hospital at 2:00 to get the scan done. Since it’s a distance to the hospital from our home, rather than driving back and forth, we decided to make good use of the in-between time and go out to lunch and then to the bookstore. It was so wonderful to be in the bookstore again! Spending time at Powell’s is definitely bibiotherapy!

Lost in the Yellowstone

Dad (in that special hat) leading the way on a beautiful walk…

The year before my father passed away, our family had a wonderful reunion in Yellowstone National Park. The entire family was there, including the grandkids, and the memories of that special trip are some of my treasured memories of my Dad and family. I haven’t been back to Yellowstone since then, and that’s been way too long! When the pandemic hit last year and we couldn’t even think about taking a trip, I found myself longing to return to Yellowstone. I am hopeful that we can plan that trip sometime soon.

So when I came across an audiobook called Lost in the Yellowstone, by Truman Everts, I downloaded it immediately to help fill my Yellowstone craving. It is the true account by Truman Everts of his incredible misadventure of being lost in Yellowstone for 37 days. He was part of the 1870 Washburn Expedition exploring the area that later became Yellowstone National Park. Mr. Everts was not an experienced explorer and had little or no survival training, so it was truly miraculous that he survived his ordeal after becoming separated from the group. And it was truly an ordeal! Everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong…but he survived nonetheless–just barely.  When he was found 37 days later, he was emaciated and hallucinating, and had frostbite as well as burns from the many steam vents. It was a fascinating story of survival.

It wasn’t the kind of trip to Yellowstone I had been thinking about, but it was interesting to hear his descriptions of the area in its natural state, and to read his story of how he was able to survive. A short but interesting read!

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

The Aye-Aye and I

An Aye-Aye

In the gloom it came along the branches towards me, its round, hypnotic eyes blazing, its spoon-like ears turning to and fro independently like radar dishes, its white whiskers twitching and moving like sensors; its black hands, with their thin, attenuated fingers, the third seeming prodigiously elongated, tapping delicately on the branches as it moved along, like those of a pianist playing a complicated piece by Chopin. It looked like a Walt Disney witch’s black cat with a touch of ET thrown in for good measure. If ever a flying saucer came from Mars, you felt that this is what would emerge from it. It was Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky come to life, whiffling through its tulgey wood.

This is the beginning of Gerald Durrell’s book, The Aye-Aye and I. It is the story of the trip to Madagascar he and his wife, Lee, took to capture healthy specimens of this amazing and rare endangered primate to place in breeding centers around the globe in an attempt to save them from extinction. Aye-Ayes are the largest Lemur, nocturnal primates, and they spend most of their lives in trees. It hunts for grubs by tapping on the wood and then gnawing a hole to get to the grub, and then uses its long narrow finger to pull the grub out.

I had never heard of an Aye-Aye until I found this book. My curiosity, as well as my love of Gerald Durrell’s writing, prompted an immediate purchase of the book, and I very much enjoyed reading it. If you have ever read a book by Gerald Durrell, you know he has a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful way with words. In reading this book, you learn a lot about life on Madagascar — flora, fauna, and human! — and get to know this amazing creature and the struggles it faces for survival.

 

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust: Reading the World,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a fascinating account from Madagascar.

The Living Reed

It is our fate, lying as we do between many powers, to be influenced to an extent by all and many. It is our task to accept and reject, to weld and mingle and out of our many factions to create ourselves, the One, an independent nation.

Pearl S. Buck is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is elegant, and she’s a consummate storyteller. With my new fascination with all things Korea, I was particularly interested in reading her novel, The Living Reed: A Novel of Korea. It has taken me awhile to read it because I’m much slower reading actual books these days (eye fatigue) and it was not available on audiobook. But I’m glad I stuck with it, reading a little bit each day, and therefore enjoying it even more than if I had rushed through it.

from the publisher:

“The year was 4214 after Tangun of Korea, and 1881 after Jesus of Judea.” So begins Pearl S. Buck’s The Living Reed, an epic historical novel seen through the eyes of four generations of Korean aristocracy.

As the chronicle begins, the Kims are living comfortably as advisors to the Korean royal family. But that world is torn apart with the Japanese invasion, when the queen is killed and the Kims are thrust into hiding. Through their story, Buck traces the country’s journey from the late nineteenth century through the end of the Second World War.

The story begins with Il-han, scholar and advisor to the queen. In order to be a better advisor, he leaves his family and travels around Korea. Throughout his travels, he finds a deep love for his country and his people.

With what words shall a man tell of love for his country? Before he was conceived in his mother’s womb, Il-han was conceived in the earth of his native land. His ancestors had created him through their life. The air they breathed, the waters they drank, the fruits they ate, belonged to the earth and from their dust he was born.

…He went his way swiftly then, content to do so as he perceived each day now fully the quality of his people. They were brave, they were strong, enduring hardship not only with courage but with a noble gaiety. Expecting nothing either of gods or rulers, they were grateful for small good fortune. Their strength was in themselves and in one another. They could be cruel and they were kind. They fought nature in storm and cold and under bleak skies, but they fought side by side and together. He loved them.

His sons become the next focus of the story, and their story is of the transition from the brutal ending of the Joseon period through invasion by the Japanese. Despite rebellion and revolution, the new order in the 1900s became a long occupation and suppression of the Korean culture. My husband and I had recently watched the Korean drama, Mr. Sunshine, which takes place during this transition time in Korea. It is a series (on Netflix) well worth watching — beautifully written and filmed! It provided a wonderful visual understanding of that tumultuous period of time, and went beautifully with Ms. Buck’s epic story.

The surviving son of Il-han became a revolutionary, and his story, and the story of his son, takes us through the Second World War, with all the complexities of the struggle for Korean independence. A conversation between the old scholar and his son best described the strength of the Korean people over time, and why they survived continual invasion and oppression by the surrounding countries.

“I remember the day my brother was born, and I broke the bamboo shoots, and you told me they would never come up again. You were right, of course, those broken shoots did not grow again. Hollow reeds, you called them. I felt my heart ready to break at what I had done. But then you told me that other reeds would come up to take their place. And every spring I went to the bamboo grove to see if what you said was true. It was always true.”

…“What do you tell me?” Il-han demanded. “This,” Yul-chun said, “that if you never see me again, or never hear my name again, remember—I am only a hollow reed. Yet if I am broken, hundreds take my place—living reeds!”

This book was truly an epic story, and knowing very little about Korean history, I enjoyed learning about it through Pearl Buck’s research and insightful understanding of the culture and character of the Korean people.

This book was one of my choices on my list of 50 books in 5 years for The Classics Club. It is also part of my personal challenge to read the works of Pearl Buck. And it add to my education about Korea!

May and June…where’d they go?

Daughter and me at our favorite garden center.

Oh my goodness. Yes, we have a lot going on here, but May and June just seemed to get lost in the shuffle of busy-ness. Reading has slowed down, gardening has sped up. In both May and June, all of us now vaccinated, we enjoyed a couple of visits with our daughter. We took a one day road trip to see her home and garden after 15 months of not being able to travel. Then, her visits in May and in June to our place. When she comes for a visit, there’s a lot of garden stuff that happens. We always visit our favorite garden centers, AND she helps in my garden! She weeds my flower beds and makes things look so nice. Her way of “helping,” which is a major understatement!

Two days after she left this last time, I was outside picking our bumper crop of cherries which took three busy days. I hustled to pick as many as I could before THE heat event hit the Pacific Northwest. Then I spent my mornings watering to keep things alive in the intense heat, and afternoons in retreat from the most intense heat I’ve ever experienced. Thinking back over the last two months, it’s no wonder I am feeling very fatigued! But here I am, checking in and letting you know I am still here, and still reading!

Books finished in May and June:

Hopefully, with the hot afternoons of July upon us, I will be getting more reading done while staying cool indoors parked in front of our window air conditioner. And hopefully, we won’t have a repeat of that record-breaking heat wave! I don’t want to repeat those three days of 104, 109, and 112 degrees!

I hope this post finds you enjoying your summer, and that it is filled with sunshine and books…and nice mild temperatures!