Classics Club Spin #17

It’s time for another “Spin” with The Classics Club! I am enjoying my reading of the classics I chose for my 5-year reading plan even though I’m running behind on writing my reviews. It’s a very enjoyable, non-pressured challenge, so if you are wanting to read more classics, you should join up!

Here’s how the “Spin” works:

Choose 20 books from your list of classics TBR and post that list on your blog before March 9th. On Friday, March 9th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 30, 2018. 

So here is my Spin List.  It will be fun to see which number (and which book) is chosen in the “spin” on Friday, and I’ll return to this post then to highlight the book chosen.

Classic Spin #17:

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  3. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz 

  4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  5. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  6. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  10. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  11. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  12. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  13. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  14. The Lost Prince,  Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  16. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  17. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  18. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  19. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  20. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith


I am awake early this morning. Sadness woke me from a grieving dream about a friend who is moving away.

So I made some tea and opened a book of poems from the library. Poems by Ursula le Guin. I read her introduction and then a couple of random poems. Poetry touches me like music, going straight to my heart in a way that bypasses all my filters and protections. I was touched by her words — words that describe similar experiences and familiar feelings — we have shared common ground, the Poet and the Reader.

And then I found her poem called “Dos Poesias Para Mi Diana.” There, inside this poem, was an electrical connection!  Without knowing anything about the personal life of this writer, her words alone, without explanation or history, let me know that we have walked the same pathways, shared two far-distant places on this planet. I am thrilled, touched, overwhelmed momentarily by the synchronicity of this magical connection. And it’s like the voice of a friend from far away gently reminding me that distance, and time, are irrelevant. Our connections, our friendships, transcend time and space.

Good morning, my friends!

Valentine’s Day at the Library

The Hubby and I visited one of our nearby libraries today. The Hillsboro Library is a very nice library with beautiful grounds which include paved walking trails, a creek, and ponds that host many water birds. It was a fun way to spend Valentine’s Day morning, both inside and on our walk outside the library.

Inside the library, I appreciated the “Blind Date” display and checked out one of the books that turned out to be a vegan cookbook. Perfect! I loved the clues on the front of each of the wrapped books and hope that many others checked out one of those parcels as a blind date!


January Reflections

January is one of my favorite months. I love new beginnings and the New Year. It’s my birthday month, my brother’s birthday month, my nephew’s birthday month, and my blogging anniversary month. Lots of happy things! Lots of celebrating!

I started the month by setting a new reading goal for myself on Goodreads, and lowered the goal number from last year’s 75 books to 52 books. A lower number because I have some long books, or series of books, I want to read, so I’m giving myself extra time for them. I want to read slowly and get lost in some good long stories. Here’s a sneak preview of a couple of the chunksters I would like to read this year and some of the series that I’d like to read or that are already keeping me busy.

January turned out to be a good reading month for me and was a real pleasure! I finished 10 books in all, and I’m also continuing on with my very enjoyable rereading of the Harry Potter series. My favorite book read in January was The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning! It certainly inspired some ongoing cleaning up here at home! I’m trying hard to keep that momentum going!

Two books this month had a tremendous emotional impact on me and I am still processing them. A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir, was beautifully written and touched me very deeply. My review is here.  Also, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race, is a powerful must-read book. I’ve decided that I will need to reread it because there is so much in it to think about and question oneself about…I need to revisit it soon as part of my processing!

One January read that I thought I would love, but didn’t, was The Alchemist. I had heard so many people tell me it was their favorite book, and I think it could have been a favorite of mine if I had read it when I was young. But although I’m  glad I read it, I just didn’t love it.

The end of January was filled with family time — birthday celebrations, news from the Seattle part of our family that a new baby girl had arrived, and a short medical crisis here at home with my husband fighting a kidney stone (he’s doing well now.). So I’m happy to welcome February and have actually managed to finish one book so far.

January reads:

Virginia Woolf: They Have Loved Reading

I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”

Today we celebrate Virginia Woolf who was born on this day in 1882.

A Special Visit

A panorama of the view from our hotel…

This week, Hubby and I are vacationing on the Oregon coast to celebrate my upcoming birthday. It’s been a nice trip although January weather on the coast has been gray, rainy and windy. That’s okay with us, though, because it is just so beautiful here!

But the best thing about this trip happened this morning when we visited my long-time blogging friend, Les (@Coastal Horizons) and her husband, Rod, and her mother, Andrea. It’s an amazing experience to finally meet in person someone you’ve gotten to know quite well online over a 10-year period of time! It was a very special visit for me!

A wonderful dream: I would just love to travel the world to meet all of my book blogging friends!

A Sad Loss

The world has lost a wonderful author today. I was saddened to hear the news of Ursula le Guin’s passing. I’ve enjoyed a number of her books, and I was so happy, when I was teaching second grade, to introduce my young students to her wonderful imagination by reading them the Catwings series. They loved those books, class after class, for many years! I’m sure a number of those former students are Ursula le Guin fans today and are also saddened by our loss.

Read Eloquently

Painting by LaShun Beal…

If you don’t like the book, you do not have to read it. Put it aside and read something you do like, because there is no reason at all why you should read what bores you during your serious reading time. You have to read enough boring stuff in the ordinary way of life without extending the borders of ennui. But if you do like the book, if it engages you seriously, do not rush at it. Read it at the pace when you can pronounce and hear every word in your own head. Read eloquently.

~ Robertson Davies

A Very Easy Death

A hard task, dying, when one loves life so much.

A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir, is a beautifully written, powerfully emotional account of her mother’s death and her own emotional journey through her mother’s illness and death.

At age 78, her mother fell and broke the top part of her femur. She was hospitalized and during examination, the doctors found that she had cancer. It was a highly aggressive sarcoma, and her illness and decline were rapid. Simone and her sister, Poupette, spent most of their time at the hospital with their mother throughout that time, and Poupette was there the night she died.

This is a story that so many of us have gone through with a parent or loved one. Because the journey through illness and decline is a familiar one, I was acutely aware and appreciative of the honesty with which de Beauvoir shared their story — the story of two daughters in the process of losing their mother, and of their mother’s struggle to LIVE while dying.

Before reading the book, I thought that the term “an easy death” meant that the person didn’t have to suffer very much before dying. My family used that term about my father’s passing. He didn’t suffer long with his illness, and we were so grateful for that. But that is not what de Beauvoir meant by “an easy death.”  On the contrary, her mother suffered terribly before she died, but she had her daughters with her throughout the decline, and they helped her, advocated for her, and shared courage together in facing the inevitable. That was a luxury that de Beauvoir felt many people don’t have at the end of their lives.

With regard to Maman we were above all guilty, these last years, of carelessness, omission and abstention. We felt that we atoned for this by the days that we gave up to her, by the peace that our being there gave her, and by the victories gained over fear and pain. Without our obstinate watchfulness she would have suffered far more.

She and her sister were with her mother constantly during her illness, so de Beauvoir also describes the very painful reality a loved one faces in going through the agony of cancer.

…In this race between pain and death we most earnestly hoped that death would come first.

…Friday passed uneventfully. On Saturday Maman slept all the time. ‘That’s splendid,’ said Poupette to her. ‘You have rested.’ ‘Today I have not lived,’ sighed Maman.

…Nothing on earth could possibly justify these moments of pointless torment.

And she poignantly details the final aloneness of death.

…The misfortune is that although everyone must come to this, each experiences the adventure in solitude. We never left Maman during those last days which she confused with convalescence and yet we were profoundly separated from her.

All the way through this book, I thought of my own mother.  Simone de Beauvoir’s mother was 78 when she died, which seems so young to me from my vantage point now. I am incredibly fortunate to still have my mother who is 98 years old and still very much alive and well! But she and I are also very aware that time is getting short, which gives a special aura to every conversation, every visit, every moment we share. She and I talk about the end quite often, and our shared hope is that it is quick and painless. I live 800 miles away from my mother, so I know it is possible I won’t be with her when that time comes, to help ease her final journey, and that is hard for me.

Nothing prepares any of us for death. Even if fighting a terminal illness, Simone de Beauvoir said: “A hard task, dying, when one loves life so much.” Her mother clung tenaciously to life:

What touched our hearts that day was the way she noticed the slightest agreeable sensation: it was as though, at the age of seventy-eight, she were waking afresh to the miracle of living.

And on the finality of death itself, de Beauvoir said:

There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.

Simone de Beauvoir was a gifted author and influential existential philosopher. This was the first book I read by her, but I am very anxious now to read more of her work. I was so impressed with the beauty of her writing and with her deeply thoughtful honesty. With this book, she has touched my heart and mind like no other author has done in a long time.

Simone de Beauvoir with mother and sister…

This was a book that was on my list of 50 books to read for The Classics Club, and was also on my TBR Pile Challenge list.

That’s Evolution!

The kite-eating tree!

Last weekend, our son and grandson were flying their new drone when it got stuck in one of our 100-foot tall oak trees. No way we can reach it even with a ladder! No way we can even throw a rock high enough to dislodge it.  So we’ve watched it all week, hoping the wind will do its work, but the breezes haven’t blown it down yet. So this weekend, we sent up a “rescue” drone to try to knock it from its position in the branches. The second drone, after hitting it once, (we were so hopeful!) also got stuck in a second tall oak!

“That’s evolution!” my neighbor pronounced. “They used to be kite-eating trees [a la Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang], but now they have progressed to eating drones!”

Our drone in the tall oak tree…