Monday, March 22, 2021

Springtime Blues

 With the arrival of spring, my difficult half of the year has officially begun. Meh. I posted this last year just after I wrote it, but am posting it again because it's that time once again. Meh.

Song of the Season

Spring-summer and I,

we just don’t get along

as the nights get short

and the days get long.

The sun comes out

and I overheat

while wishing the rain

would come down in sheets.

The flowers, they bloom

and then clog my head

while my lungs start

to feel like they’re filled up with lead.

The grass starts to grow

and my throat starts to burn,

then my plummeting mood

becomes cause for concern.

I miss seeing bare branches

against a grey sky,

my depression returns

and sometimes I cry.

When solstice arrives

and folks welcome the light

the great joy for me’s in

the lengthening night.

So spring-summer and I

are surely not friends

and I get less depressed

as we get near the end.

When the days grow short

and the nights grow long

I’m back in the seasons

to which I belong.

Give me the dark,

the rain, and the cold--

Autumn and winter

don’t ever get old.

You know what they say--

that all things must pass,

but to me spring and summer

are pains in the ass!

13-14 May 2020

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

For the Day That's in It!

 From me, Bill, and the local Dungloe leprechauns here in beautiful Co Donegal-- a very happy St Patrick's Day!

And here's a tune for the day that's in it:

Monday, March 8, 2021



'We shall never have equal rights until we take them, nor equal respect until we command it.'

--Belva Ann Lockwood

Happy International Women's Day!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

When in Doubt, Sprout!

 We've not been able to get radishes in Aldi for months. I suppose they'll be returning fairly soon as the season rolls around again, but in the meantime, I was nudged into finally attempting to sprout. I've been thinking vaguely about trying this for years, ever since I went to a talk about sprouts when we were still in the US. I just never did it. But a few weeks ago, when we were getting an order together at, a shop in Galway where we buy some food as well as shampoo bars and all natural laundry detergent and washing up liquid, I decided to add sprouting seeds to the cart. They don't have a huge selection, but they had radish and something called 'Gourmet Mix.' I got some of both. I skipped the sprouting jars, which were simply glass jars with perforated lids. I had glass jars from peanut butter with wide mouths and lids that I could perforate with a small corkscrew, so I use those. 

I'm on my second batch of both kinds of sprouts now and while I find the Gourmet Mix underwhelming and won't buy it again, we both love the radish sprouts! 
It's not a great picture and they don't look so appealing, but they taste great! It's nice to have the crunch, the tiny leaves, and fresh peppery taste in various things. I've added them to salads, wraps, and on top of some Thai red curry. I've even eaten some on their own. 

If you had told me a couple of decades ago that I'd be getting into sprouts, I would have said that was madness. I had a thing about sprouts from childhood, when my mother was sprouting mung beans and piling them on top of our dinner salads every night. Oh how I loathed them! I would put some in my mouth and take a swig of juice to try to swallow them without chewing or tasting them. Mung beans for sprouting were available at Evergreen, but I passed them by and will continue to do so. However, I will expand into other kinds of sprouts beyond radish. We'll have to look elsewhere for a wider variety, but we definitely want to try broccoli sprouts. From there, we'll see what else seems worth experimenting with. I suspect we'll find some we love and some we don't, but it will be fun to see what happens. 😊 Any recommendations?

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Sea and Sun

 The other day, Bill was on the landing at just the right time to see the last moment of the sunset, with the giant orange ball sinking out of sight. I dashed around the corner to look at the sky, sorry to have missed what had come before, but still happy to drink in the beauty that remained. I also made a note of the time, so I could watch out for more sunsets in the days ahead. Of course, we then had a few days of solid grey sky, so there was no need to check on the sunset. I knew it was happening behind the curtain of grey, but I wasn;t going to be able to see it.

This evening it seemed like there was a chance, so at around 6, I went on the landing to look. As soon as I opened the door, I was quite hopeful, because the space was filled with an orange glow. Sure enough, there was the sun. I tossed on my jacket, grabbed my bag, hurried downstairs, and raced around the corner to watch the show. It was gorgeous.

How grateful I am to be able to walk outside and see such beauty.

Friday, March 5, 2021


a few moments after sunset--sky of glowing stripes

Thursday, March 4, 2021

In Between the Dark and the Light

bare branches against
a palette of sky--orange, blue
early spring sunset

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

February Books: Fiction

 There are always mysteries in the mix of books I read and over the past several months, classics, too.

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
This is the latest in the author’s Vera series and, like the others, it was a page-turner (or screen tapper, since I read an e-book borrowed from the library). 

This book takes place around the winter solstice/Christmas and begins with a blizzard in a rural area of England. Vera is on her way somewhere after being stubborn and not heeding the advice of her colleagues to stay at home. She is finding the driving difficult. Things become more harrowing when she comes across what she thinks is an abandoned car on the side of the road. Thinking someone might have gone off the road, she goe to see whether anyone needs help. To her surprise, she finds the car is not empty, but contains a baby in the car seat. Thinking the mother had gone off to find help, she leaves a note and takes the baby with her so he can warm up. She heads for some lights in the distance and discovers to her dismay that she has arrived at the estate of estranged family members, where there is a party underway. Having no other options, she rings the bell and brings the baby inside. Shortly thereafter, a body is found in the snow. Vera calls her team and the investigation gets underway. 

I really enjoyed this book. I whipped through it and when I had to put it down, was eager to pick it back up again. At one point, I thought I had some plot twists figured out, but I was well off the mark. This is a great series and this latest addition is no exception.

Diary of a Nobody by Weedon Grossmith and George Grossmith (audiobook read by Frederick Davidson)
I’d heard about this book on the A Good Read podcast. Bth of the guests and the hosts loved it, so when I saw it was a new title in the e-audiobook collection on the library website, I borrowed it. 

Diary of a Nobody was first published as a book in 1892, although it was published in serial format before that. It is told from the perspective of Charles Pooter who is married to Carrie. They have a son, Lupin, who is just entering adulthood. Charles works as a clerk, but we’re never told what sort of firm it is. He decides one April day that he, a nobody, might just as well keep a diary, like the more well-known people do. The diary runs for 15 months and describes his interactions with friends, his run-ins with tradespeople, his new home in The Laurels, which is right next to the railroad tracks, his jokes, and more. It’s a funny book, not in a laugh out loud kind of way, but more in a quiet chuckles way. I think the way the reader reads adds to the sense of humour.

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
This is the 5th book in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series, although he did not want to include it in the series at first. He was convinced to do so by his friends. Some have argued that this could be the first Palliser novel or that it could be a ‘hinge’ book between the two. It does not take place in Barset, but many of the same characters readers meet in previous novels make appearances here. It is also the introduction of Plantagenet Palliser, who is one of the main characters in the Palliser series. It was first published in serial form in Cornhill magazine in 1892 and then as a book in two volumes months after the completion of that in 1894.

This book revolves around the Dale family—a widowed mother and her two daughters, Bell and Lily. When Mr Dale died, they were left in less-than-comfortable circumstances, although they were not extremely poor, either. They went to live in the Small House on the grounds of the estate owned by Mrs Dale’s brother-in-law, who has never married and has no children. He takes an interest in the personal life of Bell and one of his nephews, Bernard, who will inherit. This leads to some complications as does Bernard’s visit to the Big House with a friend. There are other storylines besides that of the Dales, but almost all of them have something to do with this family in one way or another. 

I don’t want to say much more because to do so would be to give away plot points. I was listening recently to a book tube video in which someone was talking about classics in general and she said that she never reads the back of classics when she gets them, because they often include spoilers. That was true for me in this case. The World’s Classics edition I have did indeed give away a big incident on the back. When I read Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, in the Wordsworth edition, it was not until the end that I realized that an important plot twist that was supposed to remain suspenseful until the very end, was given away in the list of the characters at the beginning of the book. My experiences with these books would have been completely different had I not known about these things in advance. So from now on, no reading the back or the list of characters before reading the book! I already save the introductions to the end, because they give a lot away, too.

As for this book, I loved it. It pokes fun at the aristocracy, illustrates a changing society and the struggles to adapt, addresses gender roles, class, the need to keep up appearances, and the role of money in happiness and unhappiness.

An Exhibition of Murder by Vivian Conroy
This is the 4th and thus far at least, final book in the author’s Murder Will Follow series set in the 1920s and featuring retired Scotland Yard man Jasper and his dog, Red, who travels with him everywhere. Each book has been set in a different location. In the first one, we meet Jasper and learn that he has retired to the villa he purchased on the French Riviera. In the second, he and Red are on holiday on a Greek island. The third book finds them in Venice, and in this one, they are visiting an old friend in Vienna. This friend is a museum curator who is very excited because of the opening of a new exhibition—an Egyptian death mask found during an archaeological expedition. The curator’s daughter is engaged to one of the men who found the mask—an older widowed man who has no interest in monogamy and who has a troubled grown daughter, cared for since childhood by a companion. Unsurprisingly, the opening does not go as planned and when the door to the room housing the mask is thrown open, attendees are faced with the mask placed over the face of the dead person lying on the floor. Many people had reasons to want this person gone and the hunt begins for the person who decided to get rid of them. There’s quite a cast of characters in addition to those already mentioned—a singer, a boozing reporter, a budding psychiatrist enamoured with the new ideas of a guy named Freud, an illusionist, an immigrant hiding money problems from her husband, and more. I enjoyed these books, and if there are ever more, I would read them. The three previous e-books had previews of the next one at the end, but not so with this one.

And with that, the February reading list is complete. Onward through another month and another stack of books!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

February Books: Poetry and Biography

 I read some excellent poetry last month and some biographical work about poets.

The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa by Robert Hass
This is an excellent book, focusing on three haiku masters, each living at different times, although the last two overlap a bit. There is a section devoted to each, following the same format. They begin with a short biography which is followed by about 100 of their haiku in translation. Each section concludes with a prose work by the poets. Following these three sections, there is a chapter describing Basho’s thoughts on haiku. The book includes cultural references and discusses some of the problems with trying to translate into English when the implicit knowledge that Japanese people have is missing. To include such information would make the poems too wordy. There’s also a chapter on the evolution of haiku. This is a book I’ll keep and refer to again and again.

Seasons of Light by Dermot O’Brien
A collection of Irish haiku. It's interesting to read haiku from other cultures, as the form evolves and people adapt it to fit their own creative visions. I love the cover art on this book.

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po) by Ha Jin
This is a biography of Chinese poet Li Bai, known in the West as Li Po. He lived from 701 to 762 and was influenced by Daoist thought. His work was popular and well-known during his lifetime, and that continues today. His work is still taught to Chinese schoolchildren.

The book is well-written and reads like a novel—not surprising, since the author is a novelist. I’m glad I found it in the ‘new to library’ category in the e-book section of the library website!

This is Yarrow by Tara Bergin
This poetry collection was new to the e-book library this month. I enjoyed it. The poems were quite varied in subject matter. This is the description from the library site:
‘They are inhabited by characters who seem at first widely different from one another, yet share nervous energy, a troubled state of mind: ‘I am unwell, little crow, / I am unwell and far from home / where longing lives in my house’. In This is Yarrow Bergin gathers language from a wide range of sources and places to create a music and vision entirely her own.’
The Book of Nature: Wordsworth’s Poetry on Nature by William Wordsworth
This is another poetry collection that appeared in the e-book library in February. It’s exactly what the title says it is and a very nice collection.

Monday, March 1, 2021

February Books: Nonfiction

 And we begin another month! I got a surprise in the post this morning, when a book Bill ordered for me arrived. I guess it took a while. I'm looking forward to this one!
As always, February was filled with books. I was feeling a bit blah at the end of last week and into the weekend, but I had books, so I had those to bring me joy. I sometimes lose my desire to do certain things, but if I ever lose my desire to read, I will be very alarmed, because I'll know something is very wrong!

There was some nonfiction on the list for last month. Here it is:
How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh (audibook read by John Sackville)
I’ve read and listened to a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh’s ideas over the years and I always find something that speaks to me in the moment. This was no exception. This is the description from the library website. 
‘This book guides us in achieving deep relaxation, controlling stress, and renewing mental clarity. With sections on healing, relief from non-stop thinking, transforming unpleasant sounds, solitude, and more, How to Relax will help you achieve the benefits of relaxation no matter where you are.’

How to See by Thich Nhat Hanh
In this book, the author shows us ways to look beyond the superficial and encourages us to look deeply at how things really are beyond our perceptions of them. I find his teachings to be very valuable in my life.

The Easternmost House by Julie Blaxland
The author and her husband live in the house of the title on an eroding cliff in the easternmost part of England. They know that they don’t have much time left in the house before the cliff is gone. This memoir describes a year in the house, but mostly in the surrounding area. It is a meditation on the natural world in which the author lives, the wildlife she and others share this world with, and life in general. At the end of each chapter, Blaxford has a list of what fruit, veg, game, fowl, and fish are in season at that time and how much space there is from her house to the edge of the cliff, noting plants and trees that have fallen in that month.

I loved this book. I was glad to immerse myself in the natural world she was describing and it provided food for thought.

Mountcharles Past and Present by various authors
One day, Bill had an appointment to get his eyes screened. It was in Mountcharles (pronounced mount-char-less), about half an hour from where we were living, so we hopped on the bus. We’d been through the village on the bus many times, to the famine pier, and once we went to the Olde Village Tea Room with a friend, but we’d never walked around before. It was a bit of a bummer that the appointment was smack dab in the middle of the time we had there, so we had to be mindful of getting back to Main St before and after, so couldn’t go too far. We had something to mail, so we brought it along and called into an Post to send it off. On a counter along one side of the narrow space, Bill noticed a couple piles of books. Of course, we had to go over to look. One pile was this book and one was the sequel. We bought one of each.  I am so glad we did! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, with the stories of how things used to be and the photos. I learned a lot, including a bit about the stone quarry that provided the stone that was used in constructing one of the places we used to live. Other notable buildings were listed and we’ve seen them all, so that was pretty cool. Also, in one of the poems, they mentioned a guy who came and started talking to us as we were waiting for the bus. 

These books are part of our collection of books about small towns and villages that we’ve been picking up when we come across them. It’s cool that these community groups create these books. This one was put together by the Mountcharles Heritage Group as part of their effort to preserve local history, knowledge, and folklore. 

A Cocoon with a View by Alice Taylor (audiobook read by Jennifer Fitzgerald)
I first discovered Alice Taylor during our first festive season in Ireland, when our librarian at the time handed me a book of hers and saying, ‘I think you might like this.’ It was a book about Taylor’s childhood memories of Christmas in rural County Cork. The librarian is quite a bit younger than Alice Taylor, but she said much of what Taylor describes in her books brought back memories of her childhood on a farm in County Galway. I checked out the book, brought it home, started reading it, and continued on until I was finished. Then I went to the library website to see what else they had by her. The next day, we went back to the library and I returned the book. ‘What did you think?’ asked the librarian. ‘I loved it, ‘ I replied, ‘I want to check out more of her books.’ The librarian got up, walked across the small library to the appropriate shelf, and started pulling books. She handed me a pile. Since then, whenever I’ve seen a new book by her, I’ve read it, so when I saw this listed as a new title in the e-audiobook section of the library website, I checked it out.

Like most of her other books, it’s a memoir, this time of her time cocooning during the first COVID-19 lockdown, which started about a year ago. It’s funny, even as it deals with a serious subject, and the reader was perfect for this book. 

Here's to a new month of happy reading!