Thursday, January 27, 2022

Spring Has Sprung--In January

Winter has been non-existent here. It's been warmer and drier than usual. Rainfall totals have been far below what is normal, although we have had plenty of grey skies. New year's eve was the warmest on record. Our first winter in Ireland, we frequently commented on how springlike it was, but even then we had cold days, frost, icy mornings, and some snow. This is the first winter I have not turned on the heat and I have had windows open on several days in December and January, including today when they were all open for a while. This may be the new normal. It's what the scientists predict for Ireland as a result of the climate crisis. In any case, things are leafing and flowers are blooming. It's too early, but the colours are beautiful nonetheless.

Whatever the weather in your neck of the woods, I hope you're having a great day!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Diary of a Buddhist Cat

 Diary of a Buddhist Cat by Julian Worker
ISBN 9781914965142

Freddie the Cat comes home from the animal shelter with John and Mary. He had lived for a time with a woman referred to only as ‘old lady’ throughout the book, but he needed to go to the vet one day and when she learned the cost of the necessary medication, she threw Freddie at the vet and left. While he lived with her, he was able to read some of her books about Buddhism and other spiritual traditions—Freddie is a very well-read cat. He decides to be a Buddhist cat and he brings this philosophy of life with him when he meets his new sister, Gemma. Gemma has a different idea about humans, considering them fascists who stole her offspring from her. 

Freddie gets himself outside when the people are away at work and befriends the local wildlife. Together, they have various adventures. Freddie is particularly keen on the library. One of the things I found most amusing in the book was his dedication to his ‘art.’ Before he went into the library for the first time, he observed the librarian in her office and was intrigued by the photocopier (which he calls the ‘birthing machine’). When he enters the building, that’s his first stop. He sits on it and presses the button. The resulting pictures of his backside please him very much and he considers them ‘postmodern surrealist masterpieces.’

There are some nods to various authors, from Dickens to Woolf to Agatha Christie, which I enjoyed.

The book is written as a diary, in which each day is simply today, because Buddhists are trying to live in the present moment. 

This is a delightfully funny book that is a joy to read while also engaging with literature, philosophy, and other topics.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Salka Valka--An Icelandic Classic (Net Galley Review)

Salka Valka by Halldor Laxness, translated by Philip Roughton, published by Steerforth Press on 17 May, 2022

What kinds of psychic wounds are inflicted when one grows up as a bullied outsider in a small village? What happens when ideals crash into reality? How do people deal with the hypocrisy that sometimes manifests when what we believe in collides with what we want? These themes are explored in the book, Salka Valka, an Icelandic classic, originally published as two books in 1931 and 1932, later combined into one book, and presented here in a new translation.

We meet the title character when she is about 10 years old. She and her mother, Sigurlina, are getting off a boat in a small Icelandic fishing village. They were going from the north to Rekjavik, but when the money ran out, their journey ended. This small village revolved around fish, which is owned by a wealthy man who also owns the shop. Fish processors are not given wages, but credit at the shop, which ensures they will always be poor and in debt. The villagers are not used to outsiders and are not inclined to help them out. Sigurlina ends up at the Salvation Army, which provides her with a community, but makes her more of an outsider. Meanwhile, Salka is brutally bullied and develops a thick skin. They are taken in by an elderly couple who need help on their farm after their son brings them there, but he is an alcoholic who can be violent and has a disturbing attraction to Salka. At the end of the first section (originally the first book), Salka is 14.

When section two opens, Salka is grown. She owns a share in a fishing boat and has organised a fisherman’s union. This leads to unintended consequences and more poverty for the processors. The atmosphere is perfect for the Marxists who come to the village with big (unrealistic) plans, one of whom is a former resident and friend of Salka’s—he taught her to read when she’d first arrived. By now the Salvation Army no longer has a presence in the village and the conflicts become more political. The author does a good job of showing how, for some people, political ideas become a sort of religion and how in both areas, the conflict between ideals and reality can be difficult, both in public and private life.

I could relate to much of what was going on in this book, having moved to a small, rural, not-well-off area in New Hampshire when I was 14 and being a bullied outsider. There were class issues there, too--they called me  the 'rich bitch on the hill.'  I’ve also had a lot of people in my life who were very zealous in their religious and/or political views. He describes these things well. There are footnotes explaining some of the more obscure Icelandic poetry and folklore,as well as the religious texts.

This is not a cheerful read, but it was a really good book and I am glad I read it.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

What's the Message?

 'My actions are my only true belongings.'

'Our own life has to be our message.'

So wrote Thich Nhat Hanh, a man who gave us all much wisdom. His message enriched so many and made the world a better place. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Did They Really Think This Would Work?

 One of the Irish news sites I read had a story today about two guys (Idiot 1 and Idiot 2) showing up at the post office to collect a pension payment. There's a twist, though. The idiots were propping up a guy between them. It was the middle guy whose pension they were trying to collect. A staff member at the post office was concerned about Middle Guy and inquired about his condition. Idiot 1 and Idiot 2 dropped him and fled while Middle Guy fell to the floor. Staff checked on Middle Guy and discovered he was deceased. Gardai (the police) are investigating.

RIP to the deceased.

Beyond the incredible disrespect to the person who died, this story boggles my mind for a few reasons, not least of which is the fact that they apparently believed this would work. Idiot 1 and Idiot 2 sat around with the deceased Middle Guy and hatched a plan to get some cash. At no time did either one of them have second thoughts or wonder aloud whether this was really a good idea or ponder whether anyone would notice that Middle Guy was not breathing. This is certainly not the finest example of humanity on display.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

A Ramble Through the Rainbow

 I find colour and my responses to it fascinating. Overall, I am drawn to jewel tones, my favourites being purple and teal, but followed close behind by blue and green. I like red if it is a deep red/burgundy. Orange and yellow are my least favourite colours, except in autumn when they signify the end of summer. I love them then, but in dark tones, not bright ones. Last autumn, some friends came to visit and they brought me flowers--a lovely autumnal bouquet. My friend apologized because she said after she got them, she remembered that I like purples and blues. I assured her they were perfect and just what I love at the time of year. 

When we moved into our last apartment, I quite enjoyed the fact that the chair, two-seater, and curtains were all deep violet. I was not thrilled with the colour scheme here, which is grey and yellow with a bit of blue. I love grey and love blue, but the yellow--no thanks. I have gotten used to the yellow drapes, throw pillows, kettle, toaster, and canisters, but none of them would be my first choice. Still, I am not a home dec kind of gal. I feel extremely uncomfortable in places that are all coordinated and decorated just so. I cannot relax in them. This is residue from the houses I grew up in. Because rentals are furnished here, and we've lived in several of them, we end up with a bit of this and a bit of that--the small pieces of art and craft, books, and other stuff we bring with us and whatever is already there. We have a large heavy blanket a friend gave us that I love. It's beige, brown, deep green, deep red, and deep blue. I have used it as a blanket, but mostly, I have just tossed it over a two-seater or a couch and enjoy it that way. I have it covering the couch as I type this. It doesn't match the yellow, but it does provide me with some relief from it! It also protects the couch. I know some people would be appalled. That's OK. I am interested in functionality and comfort, not design and appearance.

I often get entranced by colour and colour combinations when I am creating. As with everything else in my life, I am an improv sort of gal here, too. I work almost entirely with orphan supplies--scraps, bits of this and that given to me by others, random yarn, thread, fabric, and embellishments I find in charity shops. Often these things are in colours I would not necessarily choose, but because I have them, I use them and placed with other colours, my perception of them changes. This is one reason I love scrappy projects--I never know what surprises will arise. It can be one colour interacting with another or it can be two colours of thread held together and seeing how they play together that piques my interest. 

There's an art gallery next to the library here--they're in the same building. We meandered through an exhibition last month after we were done at the library. I was not surprised to be drawn to a couple of abstracts that were deep blue with texture--line and shape are also a source of fascination with me. What did surprise me was how much I loved a huge corner piece. It was squares painted on larger shapes that were arranged in a certain configuration. The squares were mostly neon colours, primarily pink. This is not at all my usual thing. But I loved it. It made me smile. It also made me think. I like the cool jewel tones because I find them calming and peaceful. I dislike warm colours, particularly bright ones, because they create a hum of agitation in me, which I do not need, particularly at certain times of the year. But this work, with its neon pink, green, and other bright colours, just made me happy.

What colours do you like?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Utter Joy!

 Here's four minutes of utter joy to bring a smile to your face!