I Cherish…#5: Dad’s Rose Garden

Today, my Dad would have turned 101 years old! He’s been gone for 27 years now, but I cherish my very special memories of him. They keep him close to me every day. The last time we drove past our old family home (pre-pandemic), his rose garden was flourishing! It warmed my heart to see his beloved roses in bloom, still gracing the old neighborhood with their beauty.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming is a lovely memoir written by Jacqueline Woodson. Written completely in verse, she chronicles her growing up years in South Carolina and New York.

From the publisher:

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

It may seem unusual to write her story in verse, but the beauty of poetry is that a story can be told so powerfully in few words. Reading this book was a delight, and it was well-deserving of the awards and honors it won. 

  • 2014: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
  • 2015;  Coretta Scott King Award for Authors
  • 2015:  Newbery Honor Book
  • 2015:  NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Young Adult Fiction
  • 2015: Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal

Here is an example of her beautiful and poignant way of sharing her memories with us:

“Deep winter and the night air is cold. So still,
it feels like the world goes on forever in the darkness
until you look up and the earth stops
in a ceiling of stars. My head against
my grandfather’s arm,
a blanket around us as we sit on the front porch swing.
Its whine like a song.

You don’t need words
on a night like this. Just the warmth
of your grandfather’s arm. Just the silent promise
that the world as we know it
will always be here.”

I should have read this book years ago!  It is definitely one of my favorite books read so far in 2021.

Jacqueline Woodson

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. Part of this book was set in South Carolina.

I also read this book as part of My Anti-Racist Education project.

 

Sunday Reading

…painting by Robert Panitzsch (Danish artist, 1879-1949)

I came across this painting by the Danish artist, Robert Panitzsch, and loved the feeling it gave me. It describes beautifully my Sunday afternoon reading mood!  The book open on the chair would be my current read: A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. And I would be taking just a brief break to make some more tea. How lovely to read in such a room with sunshine, open window, potted plants. The perfect Sunday afternoon!

April Reflections, 2021

My reading in April really dropped off, due to some happy busy-ness. Reading time was given over to Spring garden projects, a visit from our daughter for the first time in most of a year, and the call to be outdoors by the return of very pleasant weather.

I was able to finish two books in April. The first one was Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell, (which I loved). The second one was The Consequences of Fear, by Jacqueline Winspear, (a fun addition to her Maisie Dobbs series). I also made a little more progress in my long-term project of reading The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a book that is both painful and fascinating to read.

I must confess that not spending so much time reading during the day was delightful. It is simply wonderful to be outside in the sunshine after the long gray days of rainy winter/early spring in the Pacific Northwest.

 

My One-Book Readathon

“Fear was the scariest of emotions and it nestled there, growing ever stronger and sprouting shoots, a seed in the fertile soil of doubt.”

Usually, my participation in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is theme-based and full of books. This time, however, I had my first one-book readathon. I simply spent the day reading Jacqueline Winspear’s latest book in her Maisie Dobbs series, The Consequences of Fear. It was a great way to spend my day, and after a very busy week, I enjoyed my rainy day readathon reading!

From the publisher:

October 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.

Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.

One of the things I enjoy so much about Jacqueline Winspear’s series is that each book is equally compelling and fun to read. I might be able to pick out a favorite, but mostly the series is just really consistent and even. This latest volume didn’t disappoint and kept me reading on and on.

Another thing I enjoy about this series is the growth and changes in the main characters over time. The characters have become my friends, and I care about them. I also love Maisie’s insights and intuitions. She’s a trained professional psychologist, and combined with her empathy and life experience, she’s a compassionate investigator, and her insatiable curiosity and questioning mind leads her to solve the most baffling cases.

“Truth walks towards us on the paths of our questions.” [Dr. Maurice Blanche]”
~ quote from Maisie Dobbs, the first book in the series

Although I stayed up late last night to finish the book, today I am feeling a satisfied tired — the aftermath of a successful readathon!  And I am already looking forward to another Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon in the Fall.

Readathon: April 2021

It’s been such a busy week here so I’m really happy that today is Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. It is wonderful to be spending some time reading again!

The week was happy-busy. Our daughter, now vaccinated, came to visit for the first time since last year. She is an avid gardener, so while she was here, we visited three garden centers for inspiration and specific plants, dug a new flower bed in front of the bicycle/gardening shed my husband has built, and ordered a load of garden blend soil. She was a wonderful help with these Spring gardening projects, and since the sun shone all week, we were able to get those projects mostly finished. Byron and I were sad when she left for home, but look forward to a return visit from her next month.

Today, after such a sunshiny week, it is raining. Perfect readathon weather! My readathon plans are minimal this time. Nothing fancy…no special snacks or anything. Just reading and more reading. I have a number of books I’d like to finish today. I’m in the middle of Jacqueline Winspear‘s latest book, The Consequences of Fear. I’ve borrowed a few books from the library, and my Kindle is loaded, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.

I’ll keep a list on this post of the books I finish, so check back later to see what I’m up to.
HAPPY READING, EVERYONE!

Rainer Maria Rilke: Thoughts on Marriage

52 years and cherishing every moment…

I recently read Letters to a Young Poet, by the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, and found it full of warmth and wisdom. I was particularly touched by his thoughts on marriage that were included in one of the ten letters he wrote the young poet. After 52 years of marriage, I thought he eloquently expressed our own truth.

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926

Hamnet

 

If I had to write a one-word review of Maggie O’Farrell’s book, Hamnet, I would simply say “Wow.”  I would write more if I could stop crying, but I was powerfully moved by this story, and it’s going to stay with me for a long time. And it’s okay to cry.

It is a story about grief…so beautifully described, so honestly told. It is the story of William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and his death at age 11. It was a devastating death for his family, as such a loss would be for any family, and the author includes you as one who feels the loss intensely.

How were they to know that Hamnet was the pin holding them together? That without him they would all fragment and fall apart, like a cup shattered on the floor?

Read it. The writing is mesmerizing, beautiful, gripping, profound. But be prepared to cry, because you become totally immersed in the emotional honesty of this world created by Maggie O’Farrell. And then read Shakespeare’s Hamlet again, from a new vantage point, which is what I am going to do now.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”

My husband’s copy of Hamlet…with post-it notes