23 March 2009

Meditation: sweet gum buds

Hurricane Ike toppled the young sweet gum tree in our back yard. The moment the storm passed, we pulled it back to vertical and staked it in hope that new roots would form and that Spring would bring bare branches back to life. As winter days grew longer and warmer, we watched and hoped. Was there any life in those bare branches?

Several weeks ago buds began to swell and the vigil became one of eager expectation. Friday was the first day of Spring and I spent it tending my neglected garden. In the morning, the sweet gum’s buds were hard, tight, closed. Each hour’s warmth and light worked upon the buds, growing them fat and long and coloring their tips blood red. Shortly after noon, the first tiny leaf unfolded and unfurled, followed quickly by others. By Sunday morning the tree was covered with leaves growing large and more numerous by the moment. My tree is green and growing. Hallelujah!

On my knees in a garden, I realize that for a long winter I have been a bare branch; I have been hard and tight and closed. Suddenly I am in prayer, fervently wanting to be opened, unfolded, unfurled. In eager expectation I am tempted to rush toward renewed life, to shout “Hallelujah!” I am tempted to hurry Easter, but resurrection life, like a budding branch, cannot be rushed.
So I will spend a short season in waiting; I will take time to repent, to be rooted and grounded anew, to become slowly and fully aware of the warmth and light that Christ brings to the world. I will remember the shouts of praise that turned in a week to betrayal and a cross. I will count the cost of the love that rolled the stone from the tomb.

Oh, Lord, come Easter in me and once more I will be green and growing.

18 March 2009

What I'm Reading

Fiction Binge:

Schweizer, Mark: The Mezzo Wore Mink: a liturgical mystery. Hopkinsville KY: St. James Music Press, 2008. 191 p. illustrator: Jim Hunt. I don't read mysteries but I do make exceptions. Schweizer's six books featuring an Episopal choir director who is also a small town chief of police and a wanna be writer who channels Raymond Chandler... Well, what more can I say. Laugh out loud funny! Unfortunately the slip case issued with this book probably marks the end of the series. Perfect for a cold, rainy day. Read every word including the added material and adverts on the frontis. This is one you'll either lover or hate. The series in order: The Alto Wore Tweed, The Baritone Wore Chiffon, The Tenor Wore Tapshoes, The Soprano wore Falsettos, The Bass Wore Scales, The Mezzo Wore Mink. MYSTERY EPISCOPAL CHURCH POLITICS SMALL TOWN ROMANCE 20th Century

Rolls, Elizabeth: His Lady Mistress. free download link from Kindle Daily Post, Tue. March 10, 2009 in celebration of Harlquin's 60th anniversary. This is a Harlequin Historical Romance, "a bodice ripper." ROMANCE HARLEQUIN ORCZY Several decades ago I was badly addicted to paperback romances; since I could read the shorter ones in under 2.5 hours, I read about 3 each and every week. I eventually tired of the genre as I do all formulaic ficition. Since I've been studying a lot of 19th and early 20th Century novels written by women, I found this reading of a current romance novel quite interesting. Except for the mandatory three erotic scenes in the 21st Century version and the diminishment of vocabulary and syntax, this novel is much the same as the earliest romance novels. I wonder if Rolls use of "Blakeney" is a conscious allusion to Emmuska Orczy's Pimpernel.

Bedside Book:

Mariani, Paul L.: Gerard Manley Hopkins: A life. New York: Viking, the Penguin Group, 2008. 496 p. includes index BIOGRAPHY POETS CATHOLIC OXFORD 19th Century 21st Century Hopkins has been my favorite poet since I discovered him during my freshman year at Rice Univerisity. I like Marianni's writing very much; superb shaping of excerpts from poems, journals, letters into a very readable text. One of the best accounts of Hopkins life I have read. A gift from David on my 60th brithday.

Chairside Nibbles:

Yonge, Charolotte M. (ed.): Gold Dust: a collection of golden counsels for the santification of daily life. New York: Thomas Whittaker n.d.. 165 p. DEVOTION 19th Century


Radcliffe, Ann: The Mysteries of Udolpho. A Project Gutenberg Book first published in 1794. This is the book everyone is reading and talking about in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. FICTION 18th Century


Patten, Robert L.: George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art. Volume1: 1792-1835. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992. BIOGRAPHY ARTIST ILLUSTRATOR 18th Century 19th Century 20th Century This award winning biography by one of my English literature professors from Rice University is proving a most enjoyable re-read. One of Patten's strong points as a professor was rooting the literature in the history, the sociology, and the culture of the time, He offers rich details in a very readable frame. With my new interest in book illustration it is even more interesting to me now than it was on my first reading some years ago.

10 March 2009

Family Note: Lullabies of Joy

My nephew and his wife have blessed my family with a new baby who is a great joy to us all. My sister melts in tender sweetness toward her granddaughter as she did toward her grandson. Aunt B makes photo collages. Her daddy teaches the family to admire her tiny muscles. Her big brother adores his baby sister and pauses to kiss her head whenever he rushes past in pursuit of a 5-year old's important business. We all admire her large, long-fingered hands and dream of her career as a pianist... or a basketball player. And the family speaks of past, present, and future with gratitude. What a thing of wonder! A precious bundle of joy wrapped in love and hope and faith.

When I talked to my mother on the telephone following her first visit with the baby, her voice was full of joy. She sounded decades younger than her 82 years. As she recounted holding the baby, she relived the experience. She sang the lullabies she had sung to the baby and I heard again the mother's voice of my childhood. What a gift of joy for a woman of sixty years--to hear her mother sing lullabies!
Niece BK posted a video of my Mother singing to our bundle of Joy.

My brother and sister and I grew up with a mother who sang--say any word and she knew a song. She literally sang and danced around the kitchen. And she read to us; she read poetry to us. Long before I could make sense of the words, I learned the rhythms of Longfellow's Hiawatha.

Richer than I you never can be
I had a mother who read to me.

Read Strickland Gillilan's poem, The Reading Mother at

05 March 2009

Dynamic Bibliography

After several years of working in solitude, I'm enjoying a small academic community with a trio of doctoral candidates in English literature. Last week I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a visit with BD (Rice U) at the lovely Brochstein Pavilion. Having mentioned an article that I thought would be of interest, I sent her a link to the citation:

Spurlock, John C. & Magistro, Cynthia A.: “Dreams never to be realized”: emotional culture and the phenomenology of emotion. J. Social History, Vol. 28, No.2, Winter, 1994


Spurlock & Magistro (psychology) have published some rather interesting work on the development of women’s emotional consciousness, their societal roles, and the history of gender equality.

This article concerns the diary of Gladys Bell, (early 1900s) and note number 42 mentions Laddie by Evelyn Whitaker as describing the Victorian ideal of manhood. However, when I first came across this article in early 2004 the author of Laddie was listed as anonymous. Now the author is identified and is linked to the Wikki article which I wrote and edit now and then.

Bibliographies and footnotes are no longer static. WOW! (this is the sort of thing that really excites a librarian) Even an old citation can be corrected and expanded and the web of knowledge grows. It's nice to play a small part in the weaving.

Should you wish to view that description of ideal manhood from Laddie, on-line versions are available from Google digitization (descriptions of Dr. Carter on Chapter 2, pages 20 ff. and pages 64-67 where he confesses his momentary weakness to the ideal Victorian woman, and again during hospital rounds page 81 ff.) and from archive.org both of which are linked from the digitized titles page at

02 March 2009

Naming the Blog: Read Lead

I have been blog-lurking for some time and have decided that now is the time to provide a blog where others can lurk. I've decided on a literary blog in part to answer the requests I get from friends and family for lists of books I am reading and have read.

For the present, this blog mirrors the one hosted by my own domain evelynwhitakerlibrary.org and after some experience I'll decide if it has enough data transfer capability to continue there. Does anyone reading care to offer an opinion?

Naming the blog was easier than expected.
I love word play. As a young child following my mother's finger in the hymnal, I discovered homonyms--"faithful loving serivice, too, to Him belongs." And I already knew that 2 was spelled "two."

I have always been fascinated by the verb "to read" which is spelled the same but pronounced differently for present and past tenses and the reader determines the tense in part by context. And, of course, the presence tense rhymes with "lead" although it past tense of "lead" is unpredictably "led" more like "breed" and "bred." Oh! English where similar words follow an entirely different set of rules. {English is both the richest language and one of the most difficult.}

I have long known and often stated that I have lived not only through my own experiences but through the experiences of others in the books I've read. So naming the blog in a couple of couplets:

the life I lead
is the life I read;
the life I led
is the life I read.

For additional reading lists, book notes, Hopkins and Psalms bibliographies, and more than you ever wanted to know about a certain late Victorian author who published anonymously, VISIT: