Celebrating Shel Silverstein–and St. Patrick’s Day

I discovered Shel Silverstein’s poetry as an adult, although I had always bean aware of his book The Giving Tree. To this day, I have mixed feelings about the book. In 2011, Everything On It was published. This poem is from that collection:

 

YEARS FROM NOW

Although I cannot see your face

As you flip these poems awhile,

Somewhere from some far-off place

I hear you laughing–and I smile.

 

Here I go down Circle Road

Strong and hopeful hearted

Through the dust

And wind up just exactly where I started.

 

Check out his website also.

It wasn’t until I read A Boy Named Shel by Lisa Rogak that I learned he wrote “The Unicorn Song,” which is very popular on St. Patrick’s Day. Here are two versions. I love the art in the second one. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Image result for free clip art st. patrick's day

Image result for free clip art st. patrick's day

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Biographies, Children's Books, Classics, Poetry

Mysteries by Kathryn Lasky

I wrote in a much earlier post about how much I enjoy Kathryn Lasky’s books for young people. The other day, I came across one of my many notebooks where I jot down items to remember. On one page I scrawled the mysteries Lasky wrote before deciding that her niche was juvenile fiction. Some of these may be hard to find by now, but here they are–for another time:

Night Gardening (under the name E.L. Swann)

Dark Swan

Trace Elements (under the name Kathryn Lasky Knight)

Mumbo Jumbo

Mortal Words

The Widow of Oz

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Garden Time — The Poetry of W.S. Merwin

I am familiar with W.S. Merwin because Garrison Keillor has read his work often on The Writer’s Almanac. Merwin has written more than 50 verse collections in his 89 years. Visit the Merwin Conservancy for more on the poet, his work, and love for nature.

Garden Time, Merwin’s most recent work (I hope it’s not his last), is the only one I’ve read so far. I was very surprised by its brevity. I was drawn to it by its garden theme (apparently a favorite pastime for him). He also writes about memories, favorite places, love, and loss. In fact, as he was working on this, Merwin was dealing with losing his eyesight. I’ve watched people go through this, and it’s not fun. It absolutely sucks.

I enjoyed the entire collection. Two poems lodged in my memory and didn’t let go. Later, when I looked up specific details, I realized they were about paintings. Most of us think we can interact with art only in a visual way. In reality, many options exist. I hope that Merwin does not give up his interest in art.

One poem reflects on a work of the late Morris Graves, called “Blind Bird.” Here’s a picture:

Morris Graves Paintings | morris graves "Blind Bird"

Merwin based the poem “The Mapmaker” on Vermeer’s The Geographer. Here’s a really fabulous interactive page that explains the painting’s details.

And the painting:

 

https://i2.wp.com/www.staedelmuseum.de/sites/default/files/styles/col-8/public/staedel_altemeister_vermeer_johannes_dergeograf_1669.jpg

 

Last fall, I wrote about Picture This tours at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The article starts on page 10. The tours are intended for people who have low vision, but everyone is welcome. They alternate between the East Building and West Building the last week of each month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Attendees examine one or two paintings in depth. I have attended several of these since the story was published, and it helped me to see in different ways.

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“This Is How I’d Love You,” by Hazel Woods — A Perfect Read Any Time of the Year

I discovered the novel This Is How I’d Love You totally by accident. I was searching for books about the history of chess. Among the selections was this World War I-era story about chess players. After being matched, the correspondents share some details about each other’s lives, but the main purpose of writing is playing the game. Each man enjoys the chess challenge and is very good at it. Although they have never met, they like and respect each other.

Sascha Dench is a journalist at the New York Times who is very much against the U.S. entering World War I. In fact, he’s penned incendiary opinion pieces–and they have cost him his job. Charles Reid is from a wealthy New York business family. Unwilling to join the family firm, he enlists–much to the ire of his father. He is now serving as a medic in France, confronting war’s horrors and adjusting to life as a soldier.

Meanwhile, Sascha Dench is at loose ends. His independent-minded daughter Hensley, a seamstress, has recently graduated from school. However, she is facing her own serious problems. Deciding that a new start is in order, her father accepts a mine supervisor job in New Mexico through a distant relative of his late wife. Hensley goes with him–feeling alone and very unsure of what to expect in an unfamiliar part of the country.

One day, Hensley intercepts a letter from Charles to her father. She writes back, and encloses her letter with her dad’s reply. In addition to telling Charles about herself, she includes descriptions of their new home, and a few sketches and doodles.

Charles responds, and he soon looks forward to the family’s letters. On some days they are what keeps him going. “Your words have become as necessary to me as my own heartbeat,” Charles tells Hensley. His words are just as vital to her. When tragedy strikes, they are there for each other. It isn’t long before they fall in love through their correspondence. However, Charles and Hensley still have to dig deep to reveal truths about themselves. As they journey toward each other to meet in person, their relationship is strengthened even more.

This is Hazel Woods’ first novel. I can’t wait for the next one!  And I hope it will be just as beautiful. Here is an interview with the author.

 

Image result for free clip art chess pieces

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Filed under historical fiction, Romance, World War I

Regency England — The World of Georgette Heyer

I first heard of British writer Georgette Heyer through a librarian I knew who enjoyed reading her books to relax. “Pure escapism,” she would say. She didn’t seem like someone who would enjoy that author. I was intrigued about Georgette Heyer, though. I had never heard of her. In a review in the Guardian, a critic said Heyer took the plot of Jane Eyre and rewrote it one hundred times. Even so, the novels so far seem very lighthearted and enjoyable. I’m not so sure if the author was the same way in real life. I read Barbara Cartland a lot as a teenager, and apparently there was a rivalry between the authors.

I haven’t read a lot of Georgette Heyer, or much about Regency England, but I would read her again. For my first try at exploring her work, I went to my library’s e-collection. I chose Arabella.

No reader can resist Arabella–she’s smart, opinionated, funny, loves her family, and helps out where she can. She tries to see the best in people. For those she catches doing wrong, woe to them!  Although not of noble birth, Arabella has been given the gift of a London season from a school friend of her mother’s. Once there, by being true to her nature, she wins everyone’s hearts and changes lives for the good–including that of an obnoxious marquis, earl, or duke–I forgot his rank, but it doesn’t matter. For some reason, he is much admired by those in his circle.

You guessed it–Arabella turns his life upside down–after they annoy each other no end at their first meeting with their different views. They can’t agree on anything. And it takes him forever to realize that he loves her. It doesn’t take Arabella an eternity to realize that she has romantic feelings for this man; she’s just cautious and wise. The nobleman bordered on oblivious–until almost the very end of the story. Oh, well. Better late than never.

The next book I tried was The Foundling. I strongly identified with Gilly (his full name is too long to remember), a young gentleman of noble birth who has many things expected of him from others. He feels a great responsibility for everyone. The trouble is, he’s never been allowed to make a decision for himself. He’s always had assistance from other people. He also feels that he doesn’t have enough real-world experience. So, one day he decides to leave his ancestral home–and then the adventure begins.

It actually sounded pretty good. However, in the first chapter, where Gilly returns from a local hunting excursion, I knew I was in trouble. It took me a month to get past the pages where he crosses the lawn and enters the house.  Definitely not a good sign. I knew I had to leave it for another time.

My favorite catalog, Bas Bleu, sells many Georgette Heyer titles and a lot of other cool items. I got such a kick out of this entry from August 10, 2016 on their blog. I recommend it for smiles, grins, chuckles, and belly laughs: 16 Lessons We’ve Learned from Georgette Heyer. Enjoy!

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Filed under Fiction, historical fiction, Romance

In Sunlight or in Shadow May Inspire Readers to Write Their Own Stories

Image result for Edward Hopper free clipart

 

This is the only Edward Hopper painting I’ve ever really liked–all because of the collie. It’s called Cape Cod Evening. Hopper created this in 1934. I can go to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. at any time to admire it. NGA’s major exhibit of Hopper’s work ran from September 16, 2007  to January 21, 2008 in the East Building. The West Building’s major exhibit at that time was the British artist J.M.W. Turner. I much preferred Turner because I feel more hopeful and optimistic studying his paintings. Hopper usually makes me think of and feel loneliness, isolation, disconnection, and discord among people. In the painting above, I wonder what the dog’s name is. And I really want the dog to calm down so I can pet it (if the scene were real, of course, and if I were actually there). Most of all. I wonder what’s troubling the people, and who they are. Is it money woes? Have they lost a family member or friend? Will they have to move? Or are they angry with each other?

Recently, I discovered the 2016 anthology In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper. Lawrence Block is the editor. I love what his wife of many years tells him: “You’ve been at that computer forever. Why don’t you go over to the Whitney and look at some pictures?”

Many well-known writers have contributed, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King. A biographer (and curator) of Hopper’s also contributed a story about a little-known incident in the artist’s life. Her biography, mentioned in the introduction, is worthwhile reading for those new to Hopper–or who just enjoy exploring artists.

I have recommended  the book often. Be careful to name the exact title, though. Insert “and” by mistake, like I did, and you may confuse it with a book by Mark Halprin.

The painting below is called Cape Cod Morning. The real painting is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum–another favorite place. Hopper painted it in 1950. It is the frontispiece of the book, and doesn’t have an accompanying story. This gave me some ideas, but I haven’t started writing them down yet. I’m happy that the paintings  are included with each story. Even though you might not enjoy Hopper’s work all that much, you still wonder about the people’s stories. Maybe that’s what he intended.

As I find with most short story collections, this one is not an easy read, but one to be savored. However, I also have a favorite already. When I reread this, I’m pretty sure I’ll notice some things I didn’t before in each one.

Image result for free clip art Cape Cod Morning

 

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Filed under Art, Short Stories

Giving thanks, 2016

I just wanted to send Thanksgiving wishes. Enjoy! The card is from JacquieLawson.com. The song and Thanksgiving prayer are from Louisa May Alcott. Read “About This Card” after viewing, and enjoy the scene.

The quote below kept going through my head, so I thought I would post it as well:

 

Image result for a single grateful thought turned heavenward

Really, Thanksgiving should be every day.

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Filed under Hope, inspiration, Songs

You’ll Cheer for the Baseball Whisperer, by Michael Tackett

I don’t know what exactly made me pick it up, but something drew me to The Baseball Whisperer: The Small-Town Coach Who Inspired Big Dreams, by Michael Tackett. The author is the Washington bureau chief for the New York Times. All I knew was that it was a brand new book about a baseball coach, and that interested me.

The book most likely intrigued me because of an interest in baseball, a love for the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox (although you don’t talk about the Yankees in Boston, and vice versa), and seeing two professional games at Camden Yards and Fenway Park. One of my uncles watched baseball on TV a lot. My aunt and I have enjoyed a lot of baseball biographies over the years–mostly about Yankees players. Damn Yankees is also a favorite musical. My grandfather always told her never to count the Yankees out until the the very last, because they come from behind and win. They always used to listen to the games on the radio. When I think of baseball, I remember that I was just lucky to hit the ball a couple of times–and that was just Wiffleball. Alas, eye-hand coordination will never be mine. Still, a girl can dream about being a champion player.  And don’t forget the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, the inspiration for the movie Field of Dreams. There are also the films For Love of the Game, A League of Their Own, Angels in the Outfield, and The Natural.

Nothing on film compares to real life. The baseball whisperer is Merl Eberly, coach of the Clarinda A’s until his death in 2011. This summer professional baseball team won the 1981 National Baseball Congress championship (edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting moments in the book). The team has also launched the careers of several major-league players–most notably shortstop Ozzie Smith, who comes back for special events, and Von Hayes. Even if players did not have professional sports careers, they learned a lot from their summers in Clarinda, a small Iowa town of 5,000 people. Some even decided to settle there. And all of them keep in touch with the Eberly family–Merl’s widow, Pat, their six  children, their extended families, and the town’s host families.  Everyone involved with the program volunteers–receiving no payment. Merl seemed to have a knack for picking players with talent, and he networked a lot with local businesses, college coaches and players–anyone interested in baseball. Many players had never lived in a rural area before and were amazed by the friendliness of the people. Even the taste of sweet Iowa corn, which was almost like dessert, was a revelation for those who had never tasted it. Merl instituted strict rules, discipline, and a code of conduct. When players weren’t on the field, they worked in local jobs. Though Merl was fair, if a player didn’t do what was expected, he was out of the program.

As I read, I wished that I knew Merl personally. He sounds like he was a real keeper, and a mensch. His early life was difficult and he traveled the wrong path for a while. He quit high school for a time, but then decided to go back when his life wasn’t heading anywhere. Caring teachers and coaches saw something special in him and gave him a second chance. He did the same later on for his players. He was a pro baseball player for a while, but when that ended, he sold advertising for the local newspaper. Pat Eberly was always  grateful that her father taught her a lot about baseball; otherwise, her marriage to Merl would not have worked.

Merl was a beloved husband, dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa. Many times, he was a surrogate dad to players who had no father around. For others who had great relationships with their parents, Merl and Pat were a second set of parents. To his own children, he was a loving but strict father. Julie, one of his daughters, recalled that she would miss her dad’s bear hugs. All six kids, participated in sports. As he did for those on the Clarinda A’s, he urged his kids to give it all they had–whatever they undertook. Another daughter recalled making a mistake during a piano recital. As she had been taught all her life, she kept going and did not give up.

Michael Tackett has done a wonderful job researching and interviewing people for this story. He only met Merl once, unfortunately, but so many others were around to tell his story.

It’s Pat’s Eberly’s wish to leap the Clarinda A’s going for as long as possible. I hope it continues to succeed.

 

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Filed under Biographies, Helping People, Sports

Revisiting Jane Eyre

I first read Jane Eyre when I was 11, and I really liked it. Although, I never liked or forgave Edward Rochester for locking his first wife in the attic. I actually didn’t want Jane to marry him, but the author and her character didn’t see it that way.

I still have that 1940 copy of Jane Eyre. I  kept it because of the illustrations and that my neighbor gave it to me. .She had given us some books she didn’t want anymore, and it was in the bag. At the time, I didn’t know about Charlotte Brontë, her family, or where she came from. That would change a couple of years later, when I did a book report on the author. I was to encounter the novel several more times in high school, and by then I got bored. But I still love the story in all its forms over the years.

One of the latest, Reader, I Married Him, is a short story collection created and edited by historical novelist Tracy Chevalier. She contributes one story in the collection.  She was inspired to organize an anthology after visiting the Brontë family home and parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire.

Whether sticking closely to the novel or giving the story a modern and very contemporary viewpoint, each of these women–very well known international authors–gives a creative, diverse, and unique interpretation to Jane’s famous line: “Reader, I married him.”  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, sympathize, be outraged. perhaps, or maybe curious about how life turns out for the characters. I couldn’t help but think of Shakespeare, too: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

 

 

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Filed under Classics, Marriage and family, Short Stories, Women's Fiction

A Spooky Halloween Read

I guess my motto should be “Better late than never.” I read the young adult novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters, last Halloween. I stayed up until the wee hours to finish it, and it was worth the effort. It had been a Big Library Read selection, and appropriately eerie for the holiday. It takes place during the time of World War I, in 1918. This was also the time of the influenza epidemic in the U.S. Also around this time, many people were into spiritualism–communicating with those who had gone before. Mary Shelley Black is the main character. She is mourning her friend Stephen, who had enlisted and was killed.

We see the events of the story through Mary’s experiences, thoughts, and memories, and there are many twists and turns.

The photo below was taken a couple of years ago. There’s a Halloween tradition around here that businesses paint their windows for the holiday. Some of the local school kids participate.  This one was a favorite–appearing in Mad Fox Brewery’s window.

 

Great Mad Pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fiction, historical fiction, Mystery, Uncategorized, World War I