Sunday, September 30, 2018

Oregon minibreak, largely in photos

It's the end of a week off from work, and I'm likely coming down with a cold (hello autumn!) so I'm mostly posting photos here.

A week ago we set off for a few days on the Oregon coast. We traveled by way of Astoria so we could visit the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe which has become one of my favorite destinations. (Truly, I have said to Scott, "It's only a little more than three hours away; let's get a car and go to the Blue Scorcher! Maybe they'll have raisin bread." Thus far, he has resisted, though he loves the breakfast of wonder. It's just a matter of time.) This trip, Astoria upped its efforts to entice us to move there:

Jasper of Mary's Milk Monsters at the Astoria Farmers Market
Not only were there several soap vendors at the Astoria Farmers Market, one of them had a goat with her! Mary started raising goats about eight years ago, as part of a 4H project. Now she has a herd of about a dozen goats and her own little soap company. And, as we returned to the car, there was this:
Just a few deer out for their Sunday constitutional in Astoria
Eventually, we reached Newport where the wildlife was more sea- and beach-based:
One of about two dozen sea lions living La Vida Lion on Newport's Bay side
Never have I seen so much whale activity in the wild! Gray whales galore (providing little in the way of photos but much in-person excitement).
It was a good time for pelican sightings.
As well as my beloved peeps
And this somewhat pugnacious whimbrel
We stayed in the Melville room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Shelley, the resident cat, agreed to keep us company one evening:
Perhaps she found our company less than riveting
I never even try to resist signage:

Tempting, but we stuck to the 101 route and thus ended up back in Seattle.
Our route involves some ferry travel, and the WSDOT doesn't assume parents are too bright.
The weather was pretty uniformly gorgeous and Poseidon was, as always, a charming host.
Reflecty sands
Does this ocean make me look taller?
Mandatory sunset shot
Public art, Newport Edition
Of course, Washington State is pretty nice too.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Black Klansman and Lucy Carmichael

Scott and I went to see Black Klansman last night. It was more wrenching than either of us expected. Some years back I read Hari Kunzru's White Tears without being familiar with the expression and was underwhelmed by that book. But it led to my knowing the term and, I've just realized on looking it up again, misunderstanding it. Because my tears aren't that I don't believe in racial injustice; it's that I don't seem capable of doing anything about it except crying. In my mind "white tears" has come to be shorthand for liberals like me who feel bad but do nothing. There is, undoubtedly an expression for that; perhaps someone can share it with me here. But more, I wish someone would give me some concrete actions that I can take that will make things better. Because this current world is just wrong.

 But I've digressed. No, having been shaken by the movie (or, more precisely, by the footage from Charlottesville that ends the film which, by great effort, I had managed to avoid seeing (see also, white privilege)) I came home to distract myself by reading Lucy Carmichael by Margaret Kennedy, a book published in 1951. To my dismay, it was suddenly too topical, with a quote from, I think, William Wordsworth:

By superior energy, by more strict
Affiance in each other, firmer faith
In their unhallowed principles, the Bad
Have fairly earned a victory o'er the weak,
The vacillating, inconsistent Good.

Because that's us, the weak, vacillating, inconsistent Good (or, if not "good" then at least less vile than what seems to be winning these days).

And seeming relevant, at least at 1:00 a.m. and  with an echo of "when they go low," Lucy quotes Ephesians IV:

That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every word of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking truth in love, may grow up into him as all things, which is the head, even Christ.

I'm like Kirk in "Arena," surrounded by potassium nitrate, diamonds, and bamboo; if I were just bright enough to figure out how to use what I've been given, I could maybe do something. Being more like McCoy than Kirk (or Spock), I'm stumped. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Snapshots of late summer chez Aurora

One of the fresher sunflowers in the front forty
It's remarkable to me how time-consuming it is to post a handful of photos taken with the iPad. There *must* be a quick and  easy way to transfer images to blogger but, alas, I have yet to figure out what that might be. Is there some sort of power struggle between Google and Apple of which I am unaware? Very likely there is.

But the blahdeblahblah faithful need not be aware of any of that. No, for the reader these photos just appeared instantly, with the sun still warm upon them.

Every day is Earth Day chez Aurora (or we just have a lot of laundry).

The grape harvest will be smaller this year: jamly or pie? That is the question.
On the other hand, it's a good year for the fall crocuses. (Note also more depleted head of a sunflower, removed from the front forty to discourage squirrels from developing more of an interest in the crops.)
Morning glory and green bean tangle in the front forty
Toujours Mme Gradka

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I woke up this morning and said thank you.

22 of the 24: Two library books (Ship Breaker and The Goat) are back on the shelves of Seattle Public Library
 So that's me done with the 2018 edition of the SAL / SPL book bingo (‪#‎bookbingonw2018‬). I've blacked out with all of five days to spare. I confess I felt such a feeling of lightness this evening. Possibly that was the result of getting a decent night's sleep last night, but equally it could be knowing that I can pick up my next book without worrying about what square it might fill.

 My final book was one I'd bought at the author's reading at University Book Store nearly two years ago: The City Is More Than Human, by Frederick L. Brown. The subtitle, "An Animal History of Seattle" sums up the book nicely. It was an informative read, and quicker than I anticipated.

In addition to my goal of reading as many books as possible without getting a bingo (I think that number was nineteen), I wanted to make as many as I could books we'd bought on this year's bookstore day. It looks like eleven met that requirement, coming from Queen Anne Book Company, Magnolia's Bookstore, Secret Garden Bookshop, Open Books, Phinney Books, the Ravenna Third Place, Ada's Technical Books, and probably University Book Store and Elliott Bay Book Company. I also made a visit to EBBC a few weeks ago to fill several remaining squares, while six squares were (mercifully) filled by books I already owned. And there were the two books checked out from Seattle Public Library. I feel I've done my bit--and then some--to support the local book providers (while also going as far afield as London for one of the Persephone Books' titles). You'd think, wouldn't you, that I'd win one of the prizes? I am not so much holding my breath for that, and instead toast the successful end of the summer reading challenge with cocktails, pistachios, and a new book:

*The subject line is the first line of the poem "Grace" from No Matter the Wreckage: Poems by Sarah Kay

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Book Bingo Reading Fun 2018

For those keeping track (that'd be me), I'm down to my last book to black out my 2018 summer reading book bingo card. I confess I'm a little surprised; I wasn't sure I'd be able to fill every square during a summer I didn't have a month off work. It turns out it just called for a little strategy--namely, picking books that were relatively short. I'd like to do a proper review of the books read and the amazing insights that resulted, but I'm not sure I have that in me tonight--and I am still one book shy of finished.

That last book will be the "history" square, which is one that had me stymied for a bit until I remembered I'd purchased The City Is More Than Human at the author's reading at University Bookstore what turns out to be nearly two years ago. Huh. Time flies, etc. The subtitle is "An Animal History Of Seattle" and it's about (I think) how livestock used to just be part of city life and how that changed over time, with some animals (cats, dogs) being accepted as pampered pets while others (goats, pigs, etc) were banished to beyond the city limits. I expect it will be a fine read, even if I do really want to be reading the UK edition of Early Riser that appeared in my mailbox a week or two ago.

 So. I picked some books just because they were short, and some of those turned out to be remarkably good. I'd never read Of Mice and Men before and it turns out to be truly, truly amazing. Scott told me not to finish it the night I started it--"You'll cry," he warned, and I waited until the next morning to read the final forty pages. He was right. I knew the basic storyline, of course, but the writing was just so beautiful and the final scenes so moving. I wept. Is there higher praise?

 I'd been meaning to read Persepolis for years; book bingo was the final impetus I needed. It too was a fabulous story, told oh so very well. I'm never going to become a serious fan of graphic novels, but reading this one, you can see how maybe that's a mistake. (My not-so-insightful observation is that a book should start as a graphic novel; "graphications" of existing books likely don't work so well.)

I opted for The Fire Next Time because it was short. (I'm going to have to read Ellison's Invisible Man when I'm not trying to read twenty-four books in three months.) It had some overlap with some other Baldwin I've read, but it was still mighty good. Similarly, Lawn Boy may have covered some of the same ground as some earlier Evison novels, but it was still a fun (and quick!) read. And it led to some reflections on my life in the early '90s when government cheese and the like were significant portions of my diet. It occurs to me that there is some overlap there with Down and Out in Paris and London which I've just finished; there's a difference between being truly on your own and being broke but knowing you have a safety net. Too many Americans, I suspect, think that because they've occasionally been hard up but survived that they're better than those who truly have no place to turn. Were I Orwell, I could do something with that. I'm not, so I just throw it out there and vow to be a better human being.

The near-final book bingo card: 

I look at The City Is More Than Human and am relieved to discover that close to 100 pages are notes, bibliography, and index. Because that's what #BookBingoNW2018 does to one.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Life is tragic

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us. But white Americans do not believe in death, and this is why the darkness of my skin so intimidates them. And this is also why the presence of the Negro in this country can bring about its destruction. It is the responsibility of free men to trust and to celebrate what is constant--birth, struggle, and death are constant, and so is love, though we may not always think so--and to apprehend the nature of change, to be able and willing to change. I speak of change not on the surface but in the depths--change in the sense of renewal. But renewal becomes impossible if one supposes things to be constant that are not--safety, for example, or money, or power. One clings to chimeras, by which one can only be betrayed, and the entire hope--the entire possibility--of freedom disappears. 

 --from pages 91 - 92 of The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

I'm not sure I understand everything Mr Baldwin is saying in this book, but parts of it truly resonate. And I love his language. Why does no one talk about conundrums and chimeras these days? Riddle me that.

Book Bingo continues to steer me towards books with low page counts and some of those short books fill me with wonder. I call that a good thing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Beautiful writing and horrific stories, "Silent Spring" 100 pages in

One of the most tragic examples of our unthinking bludgeoning of the landscape is to be seen in the sagebrush lands of the West, where a vast campaign is on to destroy the sages and to substitute grasslands. If ever an enterprise needed to be illuminated with a sense of the history and meaning of the landscape, it is this. For here the natural landscape is eloquent of the interplay of forces that have created it. It is spread before us like the pages of an open book in which we can read why the land is what it is, and why we should preserve its integrity. But the pages lie unread.

The land of the sage is the land of the high western plains and the lower slopes of the mountains that rise above them, a land born of the great uplift of the Rocky Mountain system many millions of years ago. It is a place of harsh extremes of climate: of long winters when blizzards drive down from the mountains and snow lies deep on the plains, of summers whose heat is relieved by only scanty rains, with drought biting deep into the soil, and drying winds stealing moisture from leaf and stem.

As the landscape evolved, there must have been a long period of trial and error in which plants attempted the colonization of this high and windswept land. One after another must have failed. At last one group of plants evolved which combined all the qualities needed to survive. The sage--low-growing and shrubby--could hold its place on the mountain slopes and the plains, and within its small gray leaves it could hold moisture enough to defy the thieving winds. It was no accident, but rather the result of long ages of experimentation by nature, that the great plains of the West became the land of the sage.

Along with the plants, animal life, too, was evolving in harmony with the searching requirements of the land. In time there were two as perfectly adjusted to their habitat as the sage. One was a mammal, the fleet and graceful pronghorn antelope. The other was a bird, the sage grouse--the "cock of the plains" of Lewis and Clark.

The sage and the grouse seem made for each other. The original range of the bird coincided with the range of the sage, and as the sagelands have been reduced, so the populations of the grouse have dwindled. The sage is all things to these birds of the plains. The low sage of the foothill ranges shelters their nests and their young; the denser growths are loafing and roosting areas; at all times the sage provides the staple food of the grouse. Yet is  it a two-way relationship. The spectacular courtship displays of the cocks help loosen the soil beneath and around the sage, aiding invasion by grasses which grow in the shelter of sagebrush.

from pages 64 - 65 of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Oddly, I've never read this book though of course it's been around since I was two years old. The first several chapters were fascinating in a shocking sort of way, but now it's getting a bit more bleak; it seems I can better accept the casual deaths of children who are so foolish as to use an empty bag that once held insecticide (alkyl or organic phosphates) to fix a swing only to die soon thereafter as a result of poisoning--their playmates only became ill--than I am the wholesale death of birds, squirrels, rabbits, and cats after deliberate repeated applications of dieldrin (50 times more toxic than DDT and also cheaper) in Illinois that were intended to deal with Japanese beetles. I am, in fact, deliberately taking a break between chapter 7 ("Needless Havoc") and 8 ("And No Birds Sing") as it is all becoming too much.

 But I expected the horrific stories. What comes as a surprise is how beautifully Ms Carson writes. I can see how this book had the impact it did; while she doesn't hold back on the science and the horror, she also writes such evocative passages. 

 The book should be required reading for anyone who thinks that the EPA should be abolished or that we should make America great again by getting rid of those pesky regulations. Hell, everyone should read it just because it is an amazing book.