March 10, 2014 @ 7:26 pm | Filed under: Books, Poetry
Overslept this morning, thanks to Daylight Savings Time (which I nonetheless adore) and to having stayed up past midnight, too wired from sending off a manuscript (yippee!) to sleep—or to read, for that matter. Fumbled at a crossword puzzle on my phone instead. Well, after talking at my poor exhausted husband for an hour.
So no early-morning reading for me today. And a whirl of a morning, catching up on the housework and garden work I’ve neglected these past weeks. It’s spring out there! Who knew! Loads and loads of freesia sweetening the air—almost knocked me over, the scent was so lovely and so unexpected. And the pink jasmine is blooming, and the lime tree and grapefruit (not as exciting as it sounds, those two—they don’t seem inclined to produce fruit, ever). Nasturtiums and sweet alyssum and loads and loads of lavender. I might have to live outside for a while. “I think your garden needs you, Mom,” said Rose only a little reproachfully. She’s right; the clover is overrunning everything, and let’s not even speak of the bermuda grass.
But inside, there was Spenser. We’re reading it in excerpts, with plot summary between the passages—Marshall’s English Literature for Boys and Girls is wonderful for this—if you, a 21st-century teenager, can forgive the condescending name. Today was great fun, as the girls kept spotting parallels to Narnia (Una happening upon the dancing fauns and satyrs, not to mention her devoted lion)—Rose or Beanie, which?, said “I think Lucy is supposed to be an Una, Mom.” And the description of St. George going forth unto the dragon’s darksome hole:
“And lookéd in: his glistering armour made
A little glooming light, much like a shade,
By which he saw the ugly monster plain…
Most loathsome, filthy, foul, and full of vile disdain.”
I thought of Bilbo and Smaug, but Beanie thought of Eustace. They know a lot about Tolkien’s literary credentials and influences from our Beowulf studies, and now they know about Lewis’s too. You can’t help but see it, reading Spenser.
Oh, and we returned to our Poetry 180 journey, poem #8, “Numbers” by Mary Cornish.
Now, during all this poetry-reading, Rilla was perched in her usual spot at the kitchen table, drawing, and suddenly she flitted across to the shelves behind my rocking chair and started piling up books—mostly volumes from our Poetry for Young People collection, plus Child’s Garden of Verses. Later, I found this pile on my bed. She informed me gravely that she has decided to be a poet as well as an artist, “and I’m going to need to study everything about poetry. All the poems, and the poets’ lives, and everything.”
All the poems. Well, then. No time to lose. We began with Sandburg, at her request—his “Between Two Hills” is her favorite. And then a bit of Poe (we are incapable of saying his name without belting “Poe, Edgar Allen, American poet, born in eighteen hundred and nine…“). She liked the Raven but deemed it “too long” (I can’t disagree) and said she prefers poets like Emily Dickinson who “tell a whole story in a short little poem.” I can’t argue with that, either.
March 10, 2014 @ 2:50 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Photos
Things I read last week:
—finished Howards End
—the “Keeps House” chapter of Milly-Molly-Mandy (a favorite because of Billy Blunt pretending to be a Mr. Snooks)
—Queen of England: The Story of Elizabeth by Helene Hanff
—essay, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” Alice Walker
—began Where Angels Fear to Tread
I spent the past week (month) (several months) in panic/crunch mode on a manuscript and missed commemorating a rather significant milestone here: Scott and I celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first date. Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up in May, but in many ways this week’s date is the more significant, the more earthshaking, life-altering. We met at callbacks for a college play (Black Comedy) in February 1989. I was head over heels for him immediately. He seemed keen on me too. On March 3rd I invited him to my roommate’s birthday party. He took some coaxing—not a partygoer, is he—and somehow we wound up at a different party, either before or after my roomie’s (college, man), and we fell into a discussion of our mutual favorite books, The Lord of the Rings (remember, this was long before the films and you were part of a relatively small geeky subset if you were a Tolkien nut) and, well, we’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since. (Even my two years in grad school in North Carolina, when he was working in NYC, we talked every single night on the phone. And that brutal three-month stretch in 2006 just after Rilla was born when he came out here to San Diego to start the new job and I was back in Virginia trying to sell the house, we had an IM window open round the clock and often spent our evenings working together, each on our respective assignments. Ping, ping, ping.) I am still as ridiculously crazy about him as I was that very first day.
Anyway. I put some pictures on Facebook. Later in the week I was clicking around on the ‘related links’ below my posts, wandering back through funny kid stories I would have forgotten if I hadn’t blogged them, and I got swept with a tidal wave of gratitude for the chronicle this blog has become, this diary of our lives. His blog, too—even more so than mine, in so many ways—practically nothing is sweeter to me than glimpsing our children through his eyes, from his inimitable perspective. So, because I know I’ll be glad later that I did, I’m posting the photos here too.
Pretty sure this was the first picture ever taken of us. Would have been late March, 1989. Rehearsals for Black Comedy. In that show, if you haven’t seen it, there’s a blackout five minutes into the play, and the characters spend the entire rest of the show in the dark. When the show opens, the stage is pitch black, but for the characters there is light, and they are walking and talking as if all is normal. Then boom, blackout: the stage lights come up, and the actors stumble around as if plunged into utter darkness. We had to stick around campus during Spring Break and rehearse, and at one point there was a blindfolded egg hunt on the stage. You can tell our respective feelings about children’s Easter chocolate. I cannot say I have matured in that regard in the slightest.
Some months later but still ’89. I can tell because of the lipstick. It wouldn’t have been long after that that I bumped into Scott on my way (late) to an 8am class and he was all, wow, you look great, and I was all, but I don’t even have any makeup on…Ohhh. I just may marry this boy.
Recently. Still goofy. Still head over heels.
Rilla on why she didn’t put away her playdough: “Well, I expected myself to go back and do it, but I didn’t.”
There’s never any knowing—(how am I to put it?)—which of our actions, which of our idlenesses won’t have things hanging on it for ever.
—E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread
“I’ve never met a really good writer who lives in high style. I think a stylish life is unsuitable to the writer, and very often in the house where there’s a mild disorder one finds the writer with the best powers of organising his work. Order where order is due.”
Muriel Spark— “The Poet’s House”
Read this and many other wonderful essays by Muriel Spark in The Informed Air, which will be released by newdirectionspublishing on April 29th.
(Source: kevinelliottchi, via maudnewton)
(I’m counting the days until this book comes out!)
Huck: “I know what ‘bow’ means. It means ‘hello’ in dog language.”
Huck, apropos of nothing and in a voice of great urgency: “How old do I have to be?”
Me: “For what?”
Huck: “To get the remote and to cross the street by myself.”
Ah yes, the important stuff.
March 3, 2014 @ 7:47 pm | Filed under: Books
Our favorite line from The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. And Sir Isaac Newton (the newt) cracks Rilla up every time.
And in the you-had-me-at-hello department, how’s this for an opening?
When I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, first thing in the morning, I’m flooded with a sense of hushed excitement. I shouldn’t feel this way. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in bookstores, either as a bookseller or a publisher’s sales rep, and even though I no longer work in the business, as an incurable reader I find myself in a bookstore at least five times a week. Shouldn’t I be blasé about it all by now? In the quiet of such a morning, however, the store’s displays stacked squarely and its shelves tidy and promising, I know that this is no mere shop. When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too, the day’s weather and the day’s news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain—books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time.
—from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, one of your memoir suggestions from the other week, and also mentioned by jep in the comments here.
And a bit of Howards End this morning. I didn’t read much this weekend. How about you?
March 2, 2014 @ 4:09 am | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff
I’ve written before about our great experiences with various MOOCs one or more of us has taken via Coursera. Here’s another list of offerings, this time from FutureLearn.com. Courses that have caught my eye include:
• Moons— “Explore the many moons of our Solar System.” This has Beanie written all over it. Eight weeks, starts March 17. The Open University.
• Kitchen Chemistry— “Along the way you will use fruit tea to identify acids and alkalis, investigate chemicals that speed up reactions and experiment with electron transfer reactions. This should give you a feel for the world of molecules and an idea of some reactions. It should also introduce some methods to separate chemicals, to find out what chemicals are present in a mixture and ways to change chemicals from one form to another.” Six weeks, starts in April. University of East Anglia.
• England in the Time of Richard III! Exclamation point mine. “Explore 15th century England through archaeology, history and literature against the backdrop of the excavation of Richard III.” Yes, please. Methinks it’s time to introduce Rose and Beanie to Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time—a compulsive reread for both Jane and me—as a backdrop to this course. Six weeks, starts mid-2014. University of Leicester.
Those plus the Courseras we’re already signed up for—including a History of Art for Artists, Animators, and Gamers via CalArts, which is just getting rolling—may tide us over until the next iteration of ModPo kicks off in September. Boy do I love sending my kids to college around the world in our own living room.