A Book Review

Is it fair to write a review of a book you couldn’t finish?  Maybe not, but I will just go ahead anyway.

The book in question: Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White.

Now I have read a couple of Bailey White’s books that are memoir/essay collections and enjoyed them immensely.   Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living is one of my all time favorite books.  When I saw Quite a Year for Plums in the local library, I snatched it up right away. (The book came out in 1999, which tells you something about how I get around to reading things.)

I was excited to start reading it.  I love White’s sense of humor, but I bogged down right away.

The book starts with a list of characters.  Right away that is a bad sign.  If there is a list to keep track of the characters I right away fear that I will have to keep referring back to it. And I did have to because they kind of blended together in their quirkiness.  I guess I should have realized after several flips back that I was really not being drawn to these characters.  Several of them struck me as quirky not so much in an amusing sort of way, more in a sad, serious mental illness way.

There were some amusing vignettes but on the whole the story seemed to really not be going anywhere in particular.  Maybe that was supposed to be the point about rural life, but it did not make a compelling reading experience to my way of thinking.

So I never did find out about what made it such a good year for plums.

I used to feel duty bound to finish every single book I ever started.  I’m at an age now where I feel the pressure of a lack of that kind of time.

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My Lottery Win

If you are into lottery tickets with the hope of scoring a great deal of cash, this is maybe not the post for you.

The lottery I entered was for a spot in a day long poetry workshop that was lead by local VT poet and former poet laureate from Maine, Baron Wormser.  And I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

It was held in the small rural town of Adamant, VT.  This was my first time ever making my way to this absolute bit of heaven here on earth.

Adamant is famous for:

It is such a beautiful spot, great place for a poetry retreat or workshop.  And Baron Wormser was an inspiration.  We read and discussed a selected poem and then he gave a prompt based on that poem. We were given a half hour or so to write a poem in response which then were shared on a volunteer basis.  We did that from 9 to 4, with time for a “civilized lunch.”

I can say i am truly excited to have “won” this lottery and I am thankful for the Burlington Writers’ Workshops for sponsoring such an event. I met some wonderful Vermont poets and I got a shot in the arm to stick with my own efforts.

New Art from Old

I have been making greeting cards for a while now.  I meet with a group of friends on a regular basis and we make cards, have lunch, and laugh while looking much like a coven to the outside world.  It’s a hobby that I enjoy. I end up donating most of my cards, but those I send handmade cards to really seem to enjoy them.

I have more recently taken up watercolor painting and this summer I took a class in mixed media.

I guess the next logical step was to combine the two hobbies.

I have amassed a number of practice paintings and paintings that just didn’t quite meet my standards.

I cut out areas of larger paintings to make these cards:

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I used collage and stamps for this one:

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And for these:

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I used section of scrap paintings to die cut and then made these cards:

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My gentleman friend wants to know why I don’t sell my cards.

Ha! That would turn a hobby into work.

I better clean my camera lens now.

Crazy Rich

I treated myself to a movie theater movie and went to see Crazy Rich Asians. It has been getting good reviews — 94 on Rotten Tomatoes and box office leader for two weeks in a row.

I thought it was amusing. There were some funny scenes and touching scenes. There was romance and family drama. There were stunning sets and lush scenery.

I thought, also, that it was depressing. The classist snobbery, the sexism, the greed, the excessive consumption were things I found off putting.  Obviously, I am in a minority.

But then, I usually am.

Crazy Rich Asians

A Vacation

I am back from a mini vacation.  I went to visit my friend Diane who has a cabin on Pratt Pond in southern New Hampshire.  We were able to kayak and go for walks around the pond.  We took a long hike on Sunday.  When it rained, we played games — cards, dominoes, Querkle.  We went to see a play at Peterborough Players on Friday night and watched movies on TV other nights.  We watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which we enjoyed very much.  I had reread that book just recently for a book club.

No trip to that area would be complete without a stop at Porter Hill Sweets for some sumptuous chocolate.

There was good food and wine, lots of relaxing, and lots of conversation.  Our late husbands were good friends as well, so some bittersweet trips down memory lane were inevitable.  Tears, laughter, wine, chocolate, and a good friend to share it all with — what could be better?

Poison Plant

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I took this photo of poison parsnip along the walking trail behind my town’s elementary school.

I believe Mother Nature is unhappy lately — very unhappy with the treatment from human beings and our materialistic feelings of entitlement and domination.  The message keeps getting louder and louder.  She must wonder why so few are listening.  She must be discouraged by the continued bad behavior of her wayward children. Poison parsnip may not be the devastating message as, say, wildfires run amok in California or flood waters in Japan, but it is a message nevertheless.  I guess the old lady wants to cover all the bases: subtle to catastrophic.

Invasive poison parsnip is an unattractive cousin to the Queen Anne’s lace, come to visit in the photo above.  Over the past several years it has been proliferating here in Vermont.  I am sure it is not isolated just to our small state though.  It is a problem because it’s sap gets on skin and, when exposed to sunlight, causes painful rash, blisters, and even chemical burns. You can get a look at one woman’s experience HERE.

A recent article in the local Seven Days newspaper asked if there was anything that can be done “Or must we resign ourselves to sending our kids out to play in hazmat suits from May through October? WTF?”

The solutions are not encouraging.  Mowing along the roadways would require at least six such efforts over the course of a summer and cost about $12 million.  It would severely disrupt further the ecological balance for native plants, bees, birds, and butterflies and most likely not even eradicate the problem.  Chemical pesticides? Please. No. Herbivores such as goats and cows?  They are allergic as well.  Controlled burns?  the pesky plant just pops up again.  Dressing in one of those hazmat suits and hand weeding seems the most effective eradication technique, but what a taunting task that is.  The stuff is everywhere.

Lately, it is easy to understand why early cultures felt the need to make sacrifices to appease gods whose anger was expressed through natural disasters.  I am not suggesting we try that again because how in the world would we be able to keep up?  I am suggesting that we, as a society, and especially our government agencies, start paying attention to what it is the Mothership Earth is trying to say.

 

Still Wondering about the Yoga Thing

I am just gobsmacked by the notion of yoga as a competitive sport.

From the USA Yoga website:

USA Yoga’s mission is to promote yoga asana as a sport.

Our members are athletes, coaches, and judges. We develop rules and scoring, provide training for judges and coaches, and organize events, so that athletes have the opportunity to demonstrate competitive excellence.

Our vision includes advocating the practice of yoga as a means to better human health, healing, and mental and physical well-being, for all ages, through education, outreach programs, and sponsorships of yoga events.

2018-national-champonship-website-300pxThis is a picture on USA Yoga’s site.

Yes there are yogis who can do these poses.  So what?

The practice of yoga was started as a way to condition the body for long periods of meditation.  At least that was always my understanding.  A means of facilitating spiritual growth does not strike me as a sport.  What’s next — competitive meditation states?

There is a full range of body shapes and sizes, a full range of flexibility, in any yoga class I have ever taken.  We are urged to listen to our bodies as we practice, to strive for improvement, yes, but never to the point of going beyond our personal edge.  You may notice that the person on the next mat is more flexible or less flexible, but the whole point is to not make that a cause for envy or self-satisfaction but to turn your distracted mind back to your own practice.  What is important is awareness.  This seems antithetical to the notion of competition.

There is certainly nothing wrong with  sports or competition in their place.  Competitions are generally seen as healthy, a way to challenge individuals to do their best and to provide recognition to those who work hard to develop their talent.  But competition involves winner and losers.  I’m sure it feels good to win, but I know it does not feel good to lose.  We certainly have a current and long standing culture of competition — and take a good look at the state of our society right now.  Is it just maybe not time to consider a value of cooperation over competition?

Maybe out large brains have gotten us into some trouble.  I heard this on an On Being with Krista Tippett interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer.  It made me wonder if forest mosses are smarter than human beings.

Mosses have, in the ecological sense, very low competitive ability, because they’re small, because they don’t grab resources very efficiently, and so this means that they have to live in the interstices. They have to live in places where the dominant competitive plants can’t live. But the way that they do this really brings into question the whole premise that competition is what really structures biological evolution and biological success. Because mosses are not good competitors at all, and yet they are the oldest plants on the planet. They have persisted here for 350 million years. They ought to be doing something right here. And one of those somethings, I think, has to do with their ability to cooperate with one another, to share the limited resources that they have, to really give more than they take. Mosses build soil, they purify water, they are like the coral reefs of the forest, they make homes for this myriad of all these very cool little invertebrates who live in there. They are just engines of biodiversity. They do all of these things, and yet, they’re only a centimeter tall.

I have come to a new appreciation of the yoga teachers at the studio where I practice.  They guide with a gentle touch, but they also caution against going beyond one’s edge and offer alternatives and props as needed.  I have come to a new appreciation of  the others practicing in the classes I attend.  Those on their mats around me, some far more flexible than I, some less so, offer nothing but supportive energy.

There will be those of a certain nature who will pursue yoga competitions and work to make this an Olympic sport.  So be it.  But will the competitions begin and end with the sacred sound of Om?

Yoga Competition

What??

I read in the local paper about an young girl from town who won a yoga competition.

Yoga competition — oxymoron.

Yoga competition —  I never would have thought there could be such a thing.  Competition seems antithetical to any concept of yoga I have ever had.

Yoga competiiton — I googled it and there is such a thing.

Why?  Why does everything have to be turned into some kind of competition?

This has made me very sad.