My miraculous orchid now has seven flowers. (Original entry here.)
■ The Amateurs (Liz Harmer; 2019. Fiction.)
■ Postal: Deliverance, Vol. 2 (Brian Edward Hill; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
■ Ascender, Vol. 2: The Dead Sea (Jeff Lemire; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
Hoopla has enabled me to keep up on series that interest me.
■ The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff; 1982. Non-fiction.)
This is a somewhat different book now than it was when I first read it. The story of the author’s difficulties with the publisher are chronicled on his website.
■ The Pearl (John Steinbeck; 1947. Fiction.)
It seems impossible that I have not read this before, but I could not remember anything more than the horrific conclusion.
For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. This is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.
■ Death in Venice (Thomas Mann; 1912. Trans. Michael Henry Heim; 2004. Fiction.)
Again, how is it possible that I have not read this? The Heim translation is introduced by Michael Cunningham, who writes, in part, “All the writers I respect want to write a book so penetrating and thorough, so compassionate and unrelenting, that it can stand unembarrassed beside the spectacle of life itself. And all writers I respect seem to know (though no one likes to talk about it) that our efforts are doomed from the outset. Life is bigger than literature. We do the best we can. Some of us do better than others.”
How about this for serendipity / synthesis / synchronicity?
The cases were kept secret. Within a week, however, there were ten of them, then twenty, thirty, and in different districts to boot. […] The Venetian authorities issued a statement to the effect that health conditions have never been better then took the most essential precautions against the disease. […] But fear of the overall damage that would be done — concern over the recently opened art exhibition in the Public Gardens and the tremendous losses with which the hotels, the shops, the entire, multifaceted tourist trade would be threatened in case of panic and loss of confidence — proved stronger in the city than the love of truth and respect for international covenants: it made the authorities stick stubbornly to their policy of secrecy and denial.
Interesting aside: The word legerdemain is used in the description of one of the pearl dealers in Steinbeck’s short novel. It’s not a common word, so it struck me when I encountered it again in the Heim translation of Mann’s work.
A third bloom! How lucky am I?
In other news…
In about two hours, I will attend my fourth Theater of War production. Warm thanks to the reader who brought this fabulous group to my attention. Today they’re doing The Book of Job Project, using the Stephen Mitchell translation. Maybe I’ll “see” you there?
Also, I finished two more books in June and wanted to add them to the count, which, at the year’s midpoint, stands at 124, with 102 read from the shelves.
■ Circe (Madeline Miller; 2018. Fiction.)
Read with my older daughter as part of our informal summer reading program. Both of us described it as a page-turner and finished it in one day. Related links here and here.
■ The Godmother (Hannelore Cayre; 2019. Fiction.)
Light and quick with a few witty observations. Perhaps it will work better as a movie?
People say I’m bad tempered, but I think this is hasty. It’s true I’m easily annoyed, because I find people slow and often uninteresting. For example, when they’re banging on about something I couldn’t give a crap about, my face involuntarily takes on an impatient expression which I find hard to hide, and that upsets them. So, they think I’m unfriendly. It’s the reason I don’t really have any friends, just acquaintances.
But not much more.
Before I left last summer, I gave my daughters a beautiful orchid from IKEA. When they came home for the holidays, my older daughter admired my new orchid (a just-in-case-I-forgot-someone-at-work holiday gift). I asked how long the IKEA orchid lasted. Wait, what do you mean it’s still alive? So, yeah, apparently, their orchid had not only grown but sprouted new leaves, new roots, and eventually, buds.
What’s your secret, kid?
“I just water it like the rest of plants, Mom.”
Wait, what? That’s it?
When I visited in February, I saw this mighty orchid for myself. My daughters have arranged most of their many plants on benches in the sun-filled windows of the Boston-area apartment they share. They’re thriving — my daughters and those plants. Even the orchid.
Hmmm. Just water it, eh? I can no longer remember if I was my aunt or my sister (maybe both?) who told me that orchids get ice-cubed not watered, but does it matter? Why did it never occur to me to research the matter myself? For years, I plied my orchids with ice cubes.
And they died.
Well, my current orchid has never met an ice cube; I just water it like the rest of the plants. When a new leaf emerged, I took a chance and repotted it with some orchid mix from Home Depot. Another leaf. Two roots. Two new stems. A number of buds.
And now… flowers.
When I left for my first walk of the day at 5:32 a.m., the thermometer in this window read 58 degrees. Twelve hours later, it reads exactly fifty degrees higher. The light in this spot is so lovely, but in the summer, when the street-facing side of the forever home is bathed in sun, we would be pizza in a brick oven if not for central air conditioning and the beautiful oak that partially shades the front.
According to our arborist, the cold, wet spring was hard on trees, especially oaks, and for the first time in ten springs, that protective oak out front is struggling. We have been relatively lucky, though: Other property owners have experienced catastrophic tree loss since the odd deluge / drought cycles began in 2011. Still, I worry. We lost a maple in the backyard in 2014 to rot stemming from the previous owner’s bad pruning, and shortly after that tree was removed, the backyard oak began showing signs of stress. It was eventually diagnosed with bur oak blight, and, oh, has it been plied with the tree health services since! It finally showed signs of stability last summer, and yesterday the arborist expressed cautious optimism about its chances for survival. He was also encouraged by our ginkgo tree’s miraculous rebirth: Last month, its new leaves suddenly browned and shriveled, but it proved healthy enough to sprout an entirely new set a few weeks later.
I sat down in this clean, well-lighted place to write about the new books I received this afternoon and the one I finished reading this morning, but all of my thoughts are about the trees. I mourned the maple and continue to feel its loss; and I worry about the oaks as much as I do the cats. What explains my attachment?
From Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees:
But we shouldn’t be concerned about trees purely for material reasons, we should also care about them because of the little puzzles and wonders they present us with. Under the canopy of the trees, daily dramas and moving love stories are played out. Here is the last remaining piece of Nature, right on our doorstep, where adventures are to be experienced and secrets discovered.
Over the last two or so weeks, Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, ruby-throated hummingbirds, white-crowned sparrows, American redstarts, and indigo buntings have returned to our yards, as have the small purple flowers of a plant I lazily dropped in a bare spot in the semi-tamed area out back four years ago. That each spring since I have been so richly rewarded for so little effort (I do not even know what kind of plant it is!) is such delight in this weird, uncertain time.
At the Chicago Botanic Garden orchid show.
Images, unedited and taken with phone, from our recent trip to Franklin Park Zoo.
Earlier this month, my older daughter and I spent a morning reading and birdwatching by the lake. When we arrived at our usual spot, lifeguards were dragging battered rental canoes to the water’s edge, and maintenance crew members were rolling mowers off the truck, so we headed to a less frequented part of the shore and lingered there until nearly lunchtime. It was lovely.
While some summer breaks are, metaphorically speaking, mornings by the lake punctuated by flurries of activity, this summer break has been a flurry of activity punctuated by the occasional morning by the lake. Yesterday over lunch, though, I realized that at least four days of (metaphoric) mornings by the lake stretch ahead of me. Walks, books, and music practice; maybe a movie or two and some games. I don’t even care that it’s supposed to rain. Again. The house is clean. The yards are mowed and trimmed. The refrigerator and pantry are full. This is going to be great!
Speaking of books, here are commonplace book entries from True West by Sam Shepard:
Act Two, Scene Five
LEE: It’s not a film! It’s a movie. There’s a big difference. That’s something Saul told me.
AUSTIN: Oh he did, huh?
LEE: Yeah, he said, “In this business we make movies, American movies. Leave the films to the French.”
Act Two, Scene Nine
LEE: Sounds original now. “Intimate terms.” That’s good. Okay. Now we’re cookin! That has a real ring to it.
LEE: (continues) “He’s on intimate terms with this prairie.” Sounds real mysterious and kinda’ threatening at the same time.
And from the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf:
Lines 24 – 25
Behavior that’s admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.
With Beowulf, I reached sixty books read this year. So how am I doing with my reading resolutions, particularly my “Read from the shelves” challenge? Well, twenty-seven of those books were from my shelves; seventeen from the library, twelve acquired this year, and four other. With only a little more than half the year remaining, then, it seems unlikely that I will read one hundred books from my shelves. But my acquisition rate has certainly slowed, and I will handily meet my goal of thirty non-fiction titles — I’ve already read twenty-one. Of course, only ten of those were from my shelves, and my goal was twenty-four non-fiction titles from the shelves, so I have some work there. It’s achievable, though.
I also remain optimistic about reading at least one book from each of the following “special collections”: Shakespeare, poetry, NYRB, Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA. In fact, I reread Hamlet last month and will reread Vonnegut’s Player Piano over the summer. As for my close (re)reading of Moby Dick, that may be a fall project.
Today we located the twelfth of fifteen finds on the geocaching passport we hope to fill before summer’s end.
We also signed up for the summer reading program at the local library. Although we were advised that movies and library programs could also be used to satisfy the requirements ( !!?? ), we agreed among ourselves to stick with books. The summer selection for our family book club is Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.