Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and avid reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

SumoKitty!

I now have two grandkittens. Yes…I’m a grandma to two kittens that are always getting into mischief one way or another. At the library last week, I saw a children’s book with a cat on the cover, and because I have kittens on my mind these days, I had to take a closer look. It was the story of a Japanese kitten, and I realized it was a must-read for me because I am currently participating in Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge #16, which is a celebration of Japanese literature and culture, and Sumo Wrestling is a major part of that culture.

It turns out that this book, called SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, is about a very hungry stray kitten who follows the sumo wrestlers home and mooches free food from them. The matron of the training center (their “heya”) doesn’t like having a stray around, so shoos him out of the house. However, when mice find their way into the home, and one of the sumo wrestlers is terrified of mice, they welcome SumoKitty back into the home where he works hard to become a really good mouser.

It’s just a fun book to read, and it’s also quite educational. I didn’t know anything about Sumo Wrestling, and this little book is packed with information on this very old traditional sport! It’s a great introduction to that part of Japanese culture, and my finding it was serendipitous in numerous ways because this week in Japan is the beginning of the January Grand Sumo Tournament!

So…you can download the ebook version of this little book to become familiar with some of the basics of Sumo (and find out what happens to SumoKitty!), then go to this link to learn everything you need to understand Sumo Wrestling:

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo/?cid=wohk-fb-org_site_gsh03_feed_dps-202301-001&fbclid=IwAR2dYRtV4SqXkFnXesi8_QO2cjkceVxuPssnixlRHr-kejGnyP5ZnMerMf0

And then watch the Grand Tournament this week, starting on January 8th!  It will be a complete immersive cultural experience!

 

Byron’s Books

Byron at the bookstore…

My husband, Byron, was a constant reader, and for almost 54 years we shared and talked about books. Although we often read very different things, we always enjoyed talking about what we were reading and the ideas, or the beautiful writing, that impressed us. For those of you who are new to my blog, I lost Byron to cancer in September. It’s a difficult loss in so many ways, but to lose a precious reading partner is really hard. However, when I look at his shelves, at his collection of books, at his favorite book, at the last book he gave me, or at the last book he was reading…I find so many wonderful things to read now in his honor. I continue to be inspired by him and by his reading choices. My beloved reading partner lives on in my heart, and he continues to expand and enrich my reading world.

I’ve created a new category on my blog called “Byron’s Books” so that those posts are easier for me to find. To honor his memory and his love of reading, those posts will include reviews of his books as I read them, quotes he kept in his notebooks, lists he made, and other memories of his reading life over the years. 

Byron’s corner … one of his bookshelves.

Snow Country

My first book read in 2023 was Snow Country, by Kawabata Yasunari. The writing in this book is elegant in its simplicity and imagery. The story is an existential love story. I was completely drawn in by the storytelling, the images the author painted in my mind, and the sadness of what the author called “wasted effort.”  This sad story was considered his masterpiece.  Kawabata received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 for all of his works.

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcome. In chronicling the course of this doomed romance, Kawabata has created a story for the ages, a stunning novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.

While looking online for information about Kawabata, I discovered that the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, NHK- Japan, was making a new film adaptation of the novel available free until October 2023. It is presented in two parts, each about 50 minutes long. I watched it last night after finishing the book, and it was absolutely beautiful. Along with the film, there was a lot of very interesting information about the author and the writing of this book. CLICK HERE TO LINK TO THE FILM.

This book is included on my list for the Japanese Literature Challenge, and for my second Classics Club challenge.

Looking Back at 2022

Considering how difficult 2022 was for me, I’m surprised and pleased that I was able to read as much as I did. And I certainly enjoyed and appreciated everything I read! Some of my reading was for pure escape. Some of my choices were made to help me understand better what my husband and I were going through with his medical journey. Some of the books were like a lifeline for me. All of it important reading in one way or another, but here are my top 5 favorites of the year.

  • The Birthday of the World, by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, touched my heart with kindness and hope.
  • A Peaceful Retirement, by Miss Read, was the final book in her Fairacre series that I have been reading slowly over the years, enjoying immensely.
  • Persuasion, by Jane Austen, is my favorite of her books, and it was pure solace to read it again.
  • The Light We Carry, by Michelle Obama, filled my heart with hope, and has inspired me to pick up my knitting again!

But my favorite book of the year was a slim book of poetry that spoke directly to my broken heart. Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without was written by Natasha Josefowitz, just before and after the death of her husband, and it is the story of her loss and grief. I don’t know when I have ever connected so closely with a book. Her words described my own experience, and have given me a glimpse into the pathway that is unfolding in front of me. Her poetry now is a companion on my own journey, and I am so grateful that she was able to share her grief so honestly and with such elegant simplicity.

It is hard for me to say goodbye to 2022, but I look forward to another year of reading discoveries and connections, and for time spent with friends and loved ones sharing the books we are reading.

May you all have a healthy and happy 2023 filled with love and joy, and good reading!

Holiday Reading 2022

My holiday reading this year was just plain fun. Two mysteries (one serious and one with lots of humor), an old-fashioned Christmas tale, and two absolutely wonderful classics. The two classics were re-reads for me, and I loved them even more this time around.

The first one was A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas. I listened to a recording of Dylan Thomas reading this, and what an extraordinary voice he had! I felt like I was sitting by the fire, being read to, and it made his childhood Christmas memories even more poignant.

The second classic was Letters From Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkien. This little book is a series of letters he wrote for his children at Christmastime over the span of 20 years. He wrote in answer to their letters to Father Christmas, and they were an absolute delight, full of clever humor and fun imagination. This one I also listened to as an audiobook, narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi, which made it a wonderful way to experience the letters again!

I hope you enjoyed your own holiday reading this year, and if you haven’t read these two Christmas classics, please put them on your list for next year to read or to listen to! They’ll make your holidays extra special!

Mr Polar Bear Sits Alone Reading Christmas Carols, by Oliver Hurst

My Word for 2023

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the most profound things I learned from the last three years of experiencing the pandemic plus my husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis was to be present in the moment. It was quite a beautiful experience, actually.

We were home for most of that time, hunkered down to avoid exposure to anything, and knowing that our time together was limited, we simply focused on each day. Each day was precious. Over time, that became our practice. We didn’t dwell on the future, although it was there, ever-present. We often said, “not today,” to that looming darkness. And memories of the past brought happiness and humor to the dailiness of our lives. Being able to live in the moment, with all that love and joy at simply being alive, was a precious gift that gives me strength now.

So, when I started to think about choosing a Word for 2023, “MINDFULNESS” seemed right. I very much want to continue being deeply in touch with the present moment. I want to continue to live my life with that level of awareness and appreciation for all the little things, because that’s what really matters. My other recent Words of the Year — hope, gratitudecherish, and courage are all part of being mindful of how to live deeply each day filled with love and wonder and appreciation.

2023 With George Eliot

It’s been many years since I read any of George Eliot’s books, but I remember how much I liked  them. Especially The Mill on the Floss, which I particularly loved when I read it in high school! So when I learned that Nick Senger was going to do his “2023 Chapter-a-Day Read-Along” with a year of reading six of George Eliot’s novels, I couldn’t resist. I can read a chapter a day for a year! So that’s my plan! Click here to read about how this fun challenge works. Maybe you would like to join us?

The Six Books We Will Be Reading:

  1. Adam Bede: January 1 to February 24 – KindleGutenbergLibrivox
  2. The Mill on the Floss: February 25 to April 23 – KindleGutenbergLibrivox
  3. Silas Marner: April 24 to May 14 – KindleGutenbergLibrivox
  4. Romola: May 15 to July 26 – KindleGutenbergLibrivox
  5. Middlemarch: July 27 to October 22 – KindleGutenbergLibrivox
  6. Daniel Deronda: October 23 to December 31 – KindleGutenbergLibrivox

2023 Japanese Literature Challenge

Japanese Literature Challenge

Meredith, at Dolce Bellezza, is once again hosting her Japanese Literature challenge. I have participated in this challenge many times and it’s always enjoyable. I have a special interest in Japan and it’s history and culture because my husband’s mother was Japanese. His grandmother was a picture bride from Japan to Hawaii in the early 1900s. It’s a fascinating family history, so over the years, we have collected a lot of books and DVDs about that culture. I lost my husband, Byron, to cancer in September, so this time my participation in this immersion into Japanese literature and culture is a part of my grieving process.

For the challenge this year, I decided to list only the books that I already own and would like to read. There are quite a few books already sitting on my shelves that fit this challenge, so I’ve put together a list of some of them to choose from. I also have quite a few DVDs of Japanese films because that was an interest my husband and I shared. So, while I will be enjoying the reading for this challenge, I’m also going to have my own Japanese Film Festival and re-visit some of those movies. That’s the plan!

Thank you, Meredith, for hosting this lovely challenge once again!

My Want-to-Read List:

  1. How Do You Live?, by Genzaburo Yoshino
  2. Snow Country, by Kawabata, Yasunari
  3. The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hirade
  4. A Bowl Full of Peace, by Caren Stelson
  5. Novelist as a Vocation, by Haruki Murakami
  6. The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami
  7. The Book of Tea, by Kazuko Okakura
  8. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  9. SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki
  10. The Lady and The Monk, by Pico Iyer

My List of Japanese Films to Watch:

  1. Woman in the Dunes
  2. Picture Bride
  3. Ikiru
  4. My Neighbor Totoro
  5. The Seven Samurai
  6. The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House (Netflix)

My husband’s grandmother and aunt…