Musings on a Summer Evening

Snail 1 (1)

Last Night the Rain Spoke To Me
By Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the wild and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.


As I go out of the door, taking my dog on the last walk of the day, my boot crushes a snail. I hear the sharp crunch and lift my boot, but it is too late. It’s pretty, with a yellow and brown striped shell. Not your average, drab common garden snail. Continue reading

A Week in the Wild West (of Scotland)

 

distant-islands

June was a month of travelling for me. After a short break in Madrid, I spent a week in the wild west of Scotland. The Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point in the UK and it’s very remote. There are no towns, no shopping malls, and barely any cellphone reception. It’s a perfect place to relax and spend some time at a slower pace of life – reading, hiking, eating good food, and watching out for wildlife. Continue reading

It’s been a while…

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Flowers by the lake

It’s been a while since I last blogged. I’ve been busy with…oh, you know…life and things. I think sometimes we use busy as a synonym for stressed.

“How are you?” “Oh, I’m busy,” you say, implying your frenetic, feet-hardly-ever-touch-the-ground life.

Continue reading

“Solitude is a human presumption”: Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer

“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot”

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Prodigal Summer is the second novel by Barbara Kingsolver that I have read. She is arguably most well-known for her bestseller, The Poisonwood Bible (published in 1998), but I became acquainted with her writing when I read and enjoyed Flight Behaviour (2012) last year. In many aspects, Prodigal Summer (2012) is similar to Flight Behaviour: both novels are set in rural locations in the South (Virginia and Tennessee, respectively), nature and ecological themes are key points, and female protagonists with grit and independence are at the forefront of these novels.

Three stories form the plot of Prodigal Summer. There is the reclusive “hillbilly accent[ed]” biologist, Deanna Wolfe, who lives in a mountain cabin and works as a forest ranger, maintaining the trails and protecting the wildlife. A few miles below the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowksi has married into an insular family that does not readily accept her. Meanwhile, a couple more miles down the road, two elderly neighbours, Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley, live in bordering properties and bicker about God and farming on an almost daily basis, but perhaps they have more in common than they can see.

Kingsolver’s background as a biologist is clear in her writing, as she brings environmental themes into her stories and writes about them with eloquence and insight. I enjoy her evocative descriptions of Southern Appalachia and she writes about nature in a way that I find very soothing. The human stories are well-drawn too. I don’t always enjoy stories with multiple main characters and story-lines, but Kingsolver executes this literary technique with smooth transitions. The chapters alternate between “Predators” (Deanna’s story), “Moth Love” (Lusa) and “Old Chestnuts” (Garnett and Nannie): the stories are different but the characters are living out their lives against the same backdrop and the location is as much a part of the novel as the human characters.

Have you read any novels by Barbara Kingsolver? Do you like the blend of ecological and human themes which seems to be characteristic of her writing?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Ring out wild bells to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Even though it’s the New Year, the twelve days of Christmas don’t finish until Twelfth Night on January 6, so I thought I’d share some Christmassy photos.

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It’s the time of year for winter walks, when the morning dawns clear, bright and frosty:

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A treat after a bracing walk: lebkuchen and a cappuccino, made using the milk frother that was a Christmas gift from my mother. If you’re a coffee drinker, I recommend that you treat yourself to a milk frother. It adds a special touch to a cup of coffee and I love being able to make cappuccinos at home now!

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Happy 2015 everyone!

Snow and Poetry

For Day 19 of Zero to Hero, the challenge is to “publish a post using a format you’ve never used before”. The slideshow below contains a photo gallery (a format which is new to me) of wintry pictures which I took a couple of years ago, plus a cento I composed to go with them. A cento is like a poetic mash-up, with lines from poems by different authors rearranged into a new, unique poem. For a wonderful example of a cento that the BBC recently produced as a promo for one of their channels, click here: BBC Cento.

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And here is my complete cento in order. All of the authors’ names and the titles of the poems are in the captions of the gallery slideshow. In respective order, I composed the cento with quotes from poems by Robert Frost, Emily Bronte, John Clare, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
And fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills have melted into spring.
The winter comes; I walk alone.

Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone.
Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.

The secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.