Thursday, April 20, 2017

BRANCHING OUT

Spring is a natural time to think in terms of growth. . . . Trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals . . . all nature seems to sing and get in on the chorus.



Recently I took stock of what's going on in my life and was surprised to find I'm branching out! Here are some examples:

Reading--one of my several hundred favorite things to do, reading. I've mentioned in these posts many of the books I read. In branching out, the books I'm choosing come from a different set of shelves. Autobiography, biography, and memoir have always interested me; now they're near the top of any list I make. Mary Roberts Rinehart, who wrote mysteries in the early 20th century, wrote and published her autobiography in 1931, when she was 55; it's called My Story, and tells much about her family's daily life in the late 19th century and early 20th. As a journalist, she was able to go to the front in World War I; at one point she went into No Man's Land, unheard of for any reporter, male or female.

Jill Ker Conway's grew up on a sheep ranch in Australia, earned a scholarship for a college education, and in later years became the first woman president of Smith College in the U.S. The Road from Coorain is the first of her books, a fascinating account of growing up in a different culture.

My current companion at breakfast/lunch/supper is The Boys in the Boat, an account of the Washington State rowing team who went to and won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Much good historical information there, when the world seemed poised on the edge of another world war.

Fiction authors I'm sampling include: Charles Todd, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett. Read a page or two of a couple of new writers but didn't like the present tense voice of the narrator--not sure why this is so, but I'm much happier with stories told in third person and past tense. (Perhaps another characteristic of dinosaurs.)

Movies and TV--I've mentioned before that I don't watch network TV; but I do share a Netflix account with one of my daughters and also have access to Acorn-TV and Amazon Prime movies. With these resources, I can sample shows long off the regular air. Now they are available on my laptop at any time I choose. And I can watch one episode after another, not waiting a week for the next one; or I can hopscotch around from one show to another.

Mysteries and thrillers are my favorites--Grantchester; The Murdoch Murders; Broadchurch; Endeavour; Inspector Lewis. As you can see, my tastes run to British/Canadian series.


Plants--My Ohio daughter gave me an orchid for Christmas--first one I've ever owned or tried to keep alive. So far, so good! A friend at church told me how to care for orchids, so yesterday I went to Home Depot and bought potting mix--not soil, because it compacts too much, but a loose mix of bark-like stuff that is similar to what orchids prefer in the wild. This is definitely branching out for me--my houseplant experiences are limited: philodendrons and herbs.

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So, you say, what's the point of all this branching out?

Trying new things, finding new resources, being open to different ways of doing things are all positive steps to keep us alive and growing. Think of it as fitness for the mind. Some people do puzzles--word, number, jigsaw; some keep a meticulous check book or inventory their collections; some challenge themselves with new projects to make from wood or metal or cloth. Some take a class--fitness, genealogy, foreign language, art . . . a limitless number of pursuits to try.

Branching out means you won't grow stale. This benefits the mind, which influences the body. Recently my eye doctor told me there's nothing I can do to change eye pressure advancements, but physical exercise is helpful all the same because it keeps the body healthy. I'm all about that.

I have to admit--making an effort to branch out takes energy, consumes time, and may cause you to make some mistakes. Here's a tip about mistakes (posted recently on a white board at the Y): "If you stumble, make it part of the dance." I like that!

Here's to branching out!




Thursday, April 13, 2017

SPRING IS . . .

On March 20th, just three and one-half weeks ago, I read on my calendar that we were experiencing the First Day of Spring. But I didn't find much to fill my senses at that time.

In the week past, I have seen and smelled and experienced completely the meaning of Spring. Here we go:


I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen. Anne Lamott, American novelist and non-fiction writer

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You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming. Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet-diplomat










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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. Hal Borland, American author, journalist, naturalist










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Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota holy man




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Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. Doug Larson, columnist and editor in Door County



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Wherever you are, enjoy Spring!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

QUARTERLY REPORT


50-Book Challenge

January:

7 mysteries
3 romances
1 women's fiction
1 memoir

Total for January: 12

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February:

6 mysteries
10 romances
2 memoirs


Total for February: 18

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March:

7 mysteries
1 thriller
4 romances
2 writing books
1 unpublished book-length ms.

Total for March: 15

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From the above bare facts, you might conclude my favorite reads are romances. The ones listed are all re-reads of books I've collected over the years. My best time for reading romances (or any re-reads) is when I'm pressed for time and need something to read while I eat my meals.

My actual favorites are mysteries. The thriller mentioned in the March list is an oldie but goodie by Graham Greene, The Human Factor, and is actually a spy story. The draw for me is the author.

Several on the list of mysteries are by Dick Francis, a British jockey turned author at the end of his riding career. Since Dick Francis's death in 2009, his son Felix has been writing. The books are not a series, though there are a handful with recurring characters. 

Other authors in the mysteries are Anne Hillerman; Rex Stout; Patricia Moyes; Ellis Peters; and Jacqueline Winspear.

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Non-fiction is also high on my list, though not everyday fare.

Roger Angell's Let Me Finish is about his growing up in New York City and his life as a journalist (he wrote often about baseball). Heather Lende's If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name chronicles her life in Alaska.

Frederick Buechner's Now and Then is part 2 of a 3-part memoir. This one is subtitled A Memoir of Vocation. (Buechner is an ordained Presbyterian pastor and has written a number of books on faith.)

I've read several books on writing memoir, but none has reached me like Marion Roach Smith's The Memoir Project; the content is taken from the classes she taught in New York. 

Dennis Palumbo's Writing from the Inside Out is also a re-read. Much good advice and encouragement there.

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The unpublished ms. is my own, called The Growing Season, a story set in the Great Depression of the 1930s. I have notes about the story going back to the early 1990s, though much of the writing was done after 1999. Happily, the story holds up for me, and I still like it.

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The above are the books I've read. There were also magazines, small booklets of devotions for Lent and for everyday use.

Not to mention: texts; emails; snail mails (letters!); and cereal boxes. I don't read many cereal boxes nowadays, because I have beaucoup books. But there are blogs, articles, how-to advice on making/doing nearly anything you can imagine.

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Of the 16 authors represented in the books I've read, 9 are American, 7 are British. The books by the Brits outnumber those by the Americans 31 to 14. This surprises even me!

Hope your reading life suits you and your lifestyle.

Read on!



from Frederick Buechner