28 July 2010

Decoupage - snips of my day

I live in the heart of a sprawling city where "all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And bears man's smudge and shares man's smell..." and yet sometimes I am surprised by great natural beauty.  The wild turning of a bayou, a kingfisher perched on a wire, flights of birds or butterflies that swirl like schools of fish in the sea, swooping martins, flowers, flowers everywhere.  "...nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep-down things..."  These two ideas play tug-of-war in my thoughts.  {The quotes are from my favorite poet Gerard Manley Hopkins whose words are as deeply etched in my heart and as voiced in my prayers as any scripture.}

Yesterday I went to the zoo with my sister-in-law, my neice and her young daughters.  When one goes to the zoo one expects to see animals, animals in cages--no matter how lovely the habitat of the cage may be.  My favorite animal was wild and uncaged--a young cotton-tail rabbit sitting behind a palm tree nibbling a tidbit from the plantings.  A "dearest freshness deep-down thing" reminds me that this city is an overlay on an ancient landscape.

After I got back home I rested by catching up on blog reading.  CFS in her blog Link to this blog wrote, "The other day I was driving home from work, on 290, going posted speeds with the rest of the Houston population, and do you want to know what I saw: a duck and her four baby ducks. That is right, there was a duck trying to cross 290 with her 4 babies!!! It was a disturbing picture for me. How on earth did that duck and her four babies get up on 290?"    I identify with the duck and wonder how such a fast-moving, dangerous thing as U.S. Highway 290 came to be on the peaceful Katy prairie, ancient home to migrating water birds.   "...all is seared with trade" and the prairie is being devoured by that sprawling city that is my home.

I think of my friend DTA and her pressing concern for the over-population of the earth.  I remember  petri dishes filled with nutrients and seeded with bacterial cultures.  How very much pictures of the earth from space--the spreading lights, the destruction of forest, the growing deserts, the Texas-sized gyre of litter in the Pacific, urban sprawl creeping across the big blue marble, "all... bears man's smudge and shares man's smell"--resemble those petri dishes with the bacterial colonies eating thier substrate until all is gone and there is nothing left but death.

Another friend, VFS, blogs   Link to this blog  about the Polyphemus moth in Annie Dillard's An American Childhood.  I don't need this reminder of a disturbing story that has long lived in my memory.  I remember my mother asking me to take a look at the "worms" that were eating one of her prize plants and finding a butterfly chrysalis and watching the process of a butterfly unfurl and take its first flight, a "dearest freshness deep-down thing."  I am in sore need of such comfort.

I love Annie Dillard who voices my tug-of-war and grows my spirit.  It's time to read her books again and I'm pleased to find that I can now add her books to my Kindle:  Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  American Childhood  The Writing Life  For the Time Being  Holy the Firm  Teaching a Stone to Talk  An Annie Dillard Reader The Maytrees  The Living

My blogging friends both work with issues of childhood, although in very different fields.  Their blogs resonate with each other, echo through my thoughts, disturb my rest.   How many children did I see at the zoo today who are Dillard's Polyphemus moth?  How many mothers and children are caught in a world that has changed and is moving much too fast?  How many of us are caged in spaces too small to spread our wings and fly?  We and all creation bear the curse of a by-gone Eden, "bleared, smeared with toil..."

I find it's easy to weep.
It's harder to hope.
I share the depression that often crippled the poet.
Yet, Hopkins concluded his poem:
"Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."

Link: to Hopkins poem on the Victorian Web.

17 July 2010

It's a mystery

When I was in the 4th Grade at South Plains School, J.B. Williams, became the principal and every two weeks (or maybe only once a month) he went by the public library in Floydada to check out a collection of books for his "country school" students.  I think the librarian selected them for him.  The books filled the large back seat of his car and the older boys carried then into the classrooms, sorted by grade levels.  My classroom had books for girls (Nancy Drew and stories about nurses) and books for boys (Hardy Boys and sports stories) and dog and horse books.  I usually managed to read all the girls' books, all the dog and horse books, and several of the boys' books before Mr. Williams brought the next bunch of books.
The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew, Book 1)The Nancy Drew books were the most coveted;  all the girls wanted to read Nancy Drew.  I sometimes spent recesses and lunch hours telling the slower readers the stories so that they would give their books to me, which probably undercut the purpose of Mr. Williams hauling all those books around.  I read the first 37 books of the series, mostly in the editions illustrated by Bill Gillies:  Link to see Nancy Drew dust jackets   The Nancy Drew mysteries are "formula" ficition.  Carolyn Keene was a name owned by the publisher and the books were actually written by several people.  The first books (perhaps the first 23 in the series) were written by Margaret Wirt Benson for $125 each.  Benson wrote other books, many of which I read.  Link: Mildred Wirt Benson

After I finished whichever Nancy Drew books were in the stack, I read all the dog stories by Albert Payson Terhune, the first author's name I learned because someone else wrote dog stories that I didn't like at all.  I remember looking carefully at two of the books and discovered that the author made a difference.  I also remember showing the books to Mr. Williams and telling him which ones to bring next time.  I was a bossy little girl.  Some would say I never outgrew it.  

I also loved the books by Mary O'Hara; My Friend Flicka is the most well known probably due to the TV series.  I liked the one about the white stallion Thunderhead and in fact searched that book out for my collection.  Green Grass of Wyoming and Wyoming Summer are other titles.

The nurse books were the Cherry Ames mysteries by Helen Wells and the Sue Barton series by Helen Dore Boylston.  When I declared my intention to be a nurse, my parents said I should become a doctor instead because I liked to be in charge.  See, I really was a bossy little girl.

As I grew I read and read...  Mysteries were a big part of what I read:  Victoria Holt (one of the pen names of Eleanor Hibbert)  and Mary Stewart and the canon of classic mystery writers:  Eric Ambler, John Buchan, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, Dashiell Hammett, Helen MacInnes, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, Josephine Tey, and Erle Stanley Gardner who wrote the Perry Mason series that my Gran Cummings loved and DMP continually rereads.

I know a lot of people who read mysteries--who in fact still read the mysteries I read.  My husband, and at least 2 of my sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law...   One of sisters-in-law in fact writes mysteries.  Link to Dee's website.  Houston has a whole bookstore devoted to mysteries which I visit with DMP two or three times each and every month.   {Sigh!}

I, however, don't read mysteries.  Somewhere between ages of  25 and 30 years, I pretty much quit.  I stopped reading mysteries and formula romances around the same time.  It was not a conscious decision as much as my having tired of the formulaic genres.  Around that time I wrote a romance novel which was never published and in retorspect I'm very glad it wasn't.

I read a lot of Victorian authors, I read some literary fiction, I read some theology but I don't read mysteries.

08 July 2010

What I'm Reading...

This month has been yet another slow reading month.  There have been busy distractions but I think a need for new glasses may be the root of the problem. 

DMP and I have also been making full use of our NetFlix Subscription which means 2 movies of week, which means 2 fewer evenings for reading.  Movies:  Paint Your Wagon, Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian, The High and the Mighty, High Noon, The Sun Also Rises, Rio Bravo, The Philadelphia Story, Master & Commander.

I have done a couple of "quick and dirty" medical literature reviews:
  • macular degeneration for a private client
  • Vitamin D
  • is there an assoication between urinary tract problems/sugery and myasthenia gravis?
I've skimmed, clipped, filed, and recycled a 2 1/2 foot stack of periodicals.

I've begun transcribing my recipes.

I've been entering books into the church library catalog.

A couple of ideas have grabbed my attention in my lectionary reading and I'm starting to explore these biblical ideas, mostly in Hebrew Scripture:
  • staff, the meaning of Aaron's staff in Numbers and it's implications in other passages
  • robe, Elijah/Elisha is the source of my current curiosity but it is a recurrent motif
What I'm reading (I include picture links to Amazon where you can browse the book):

Brueggemann, Walter: The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.  There is hardly a page on which I didn't highlight something.  An extraordinary book!  "The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings."  p. 56  There is commentary on Psalm 137 p. 62.  "Speech about hope cannt be explanatory and scientifically argumentative; rather it must be lyrical..."  p. 65 "I believe that, rightly embraced, no more subversive or phrophetic idiom can be uttered than the practice of doxology, which sets before us the reality of God, of God right at the center of a scene from which we presumed he had fled." p. 66  "...exile is first of all where our speech has been silenced and God's speech has been banished." p. 69  "Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism." p. 88  "That tradition of radical criticism is about the self-giving emptiness of Jesus...  The emptying is not related to self-negating meditation, for it is a thoroughly political image concerned with the willing surrender of power..." p. 98  "Without the cross, prophetic imagination will likely be as strident and as destructive as that which it criticizes.... Prophetic criticism aims to creat an alternative consciousness with its own rhetoric and field of perception....  This kind of prophetic criticism does not lightly offer alternatives, does not mouth reassurances, and does not provide redemptive social policy.  It knows that only those who mourn can be comforted, and so it first asks about how to mourn seriously and faithfully..." p. 99  "...all functions of the church can and should be prophetic voices that serve to criticize the dominant culture while energizing the faithful....  Thus, the essential question for the church is whether or not its prophetic voice has been co-opted into the culture of the day." p. 125

Peterson, Eugene H.:  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Discipleship in an Instant Society2nd edition.  Downers Grover IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2000.  I'm fairly certain I at least scanned the first edition, 1980.  A devotional reading of the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.

Schweizer, MarkThe Organist Wore Pumps, a liturgical mystery.  SJMP Books, 2010.  Funny!  "It's tradition... when society started, women were not thought of as 'literary'... That's true.  Well, if you don't count Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dorothy Parker, or the Bronte sisters."  See previous posts for more detailed descriptions of these books (Organist is the 8th in the series) which DMP and I both find hilarious.  I include the Amazon links for those who may want to browse but we buy our mysteries at Murder by the Book in Houston. link: Murder by the Book
This is a real bookstore with staff who knows their books and get to know their readers.  I love the $1 shelf at the back where I find treasure.  Unlike DMP, I don't read mysteries, except for the couple of authors who make me laugh.

Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Love PoemsPoetry:
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett: Sonnets from the Portuguese and other love poems. Illustrated by Adolf Hallman. Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1954. My friend, Konny, gave me this book and I've greatly enjoyed reading these poems.   The illustrations are particularly lovely in this gift book edition.  Adolf Hallman, 1893-1968, is a Swedish illustrator; his drawings for this book have the sparse look and muted colors of much Scandinavian art.  I usually look for vintage books like this one at estate sales and used book stores. When I must have it now I use  IOBA   or biblio.com  or abebooks.com or alibris.com   or, yes, Amazon.  When a book is in the public domain (as most books first published prior to 1923 are), it's a good time to read it digitally and this is my favorite starting point:  onlinebooks at U Penn and read EBB now at the poetry foundation.  "
We walked beside the sea, After a day which perished silently, Of its own glory..."  "I thank all who have loved me in their hearts, With thanks and love from mine.  Deep thanks to all...  Love that endures, from Life that disappears."

03 July 2010

While I'm reading...

Based in part on my recent blog poll, I'm playing with this post while adding a few "monetize" things.  I'm not sure I'm keeping them but the Amazon links may prove useful to readers who want to preview or browse some of the books I recommend.  In the interests of full disclosure, I will of course be paid for referrals although I doubt that it's going to amount to much.  I will undoubtedly donate and monies to a literacy charity or a library.  I'll be sure to update all my readers.  The Amazon Associates process is easy.  There is a good selection of widgets.  Amazon Associates puts a right side bar beside my text editor which makes it easy to select links and images.  All the links in this article are to Amazon.

While I'm reading, I often sip a cup of coffee.  I drink a lot of coffee, 4-6 cups every day.  Coffee, java, a cup of Joe... should be very hot, and strong, and generally black... although a half scoop of Bluebell Homemade Vanilla in the cup is delish.   I'm enjoying my Keurig coffeemaker although my favorite K-Cup is the one I make with my Gevalia coffees, especially Kona and La Procope.  My favorite pre-prepped K-cups are:   Timothy's Nicaraguan Fair Trade Extra Bold and Green Mountain's Kona blend.  I'm not usually much on flavored coffees but I just adore
Green Mountain's Wild Moutain Blueberry.
While I'm reading, I often grab an apple and call it lunch.

While I'm reading, I often listen to music... instrumental only, lyrics are words and distract... not too loud.  I like lots of the New Age stuff ( Yanni is a particular favorite) as well as Classical and sometimes Jazz.  The links in this article are so far are text links to Amazon but I could also do image links like this.   Which may be a bit in your face.

While I'm reading, I often have a hand buried in Mandy's lush fur.

Do you find the scroll slideshow of books distracting?
I'm not sure the blue background works.
Is a monetized blog offensive?