Thursday, November 28, 2019

Quote du jour/from the Susan Branch calendar

God bless mother and father and grandparents, too, aunties and uncles and friends old and new, the children, the doggies, the birds in the trees, and happiness-makers wherever they be.

I don't know if she wrote these words, but I suspect so because they aren't attributed to anyone. Aren't they lovely?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Unrest - film

I know a young woman who has had the illness described in the film Unrest since she was ten or eleven years old, and I know a teenager who has had it for a year now, but is just letting the news out. I also have a long-time internet friend who has it, and whose daughter has it. Jennifer Brea, who has it, and who made this film, says there are a million cases in the United States, and seventeen million worldwide. That is more that there are cases in the world of multiple sclerosis. Yet unless you know someone with it, you have very likely never heard of it.

The horrors of this disease are expressed in a few letters. ME/CFS is the sort of umbrella name. Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The latter name is the most familiar. As the movie shows, there are jokes galore. It was not taken seriously for years.

But there are many other illnesses that people with ME/CFS may also have. You should see the hashtags that my 29 year old friend attaches to her Instagram posts. Here are but a few: Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Dysautonomia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia, each one sounding worse than the other. And they are awful.

The people who have this, mostly women (85%) often refer to themselves as "Spoonies". The dictionary says "a disability metaphor - how much energy you have left to complete tasks before becoming exhausted".

People can be sensitive to sound, smell, air temperature. Sometimes they are unable to speak. They have "brain fog." Some, like my friend, get their nourishment through a port.

There is no day without pain. They often cannot remember what life without pain is like.

The film is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. You may also buy the DVD. If you have never heard of any of this, the film will tell you what it is all about. If you have a friend with it, the film will help you understand the day-to-day hell which is their lives. The film educates and angers and makes one cry. We see the pain of those who have it, and the pain of those who love them.  I can't recommend it strongly enough. This is a very important subject.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Quote du jour/From television program Frankie

A doctor and a nurse are talking about a man with  multiple sclerosis who is trying alternative treatment.

Nurse: "Mostly healthy eating and an exercise regime. He got it off the internet."

Doctor: "What did patients do before the internet?"

Nurse: "We just asked our Gran. She knew everything. Like the internet but without the mucky bits."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Thirteen years

This is the same view that was on my first blog post November 22, 2006.

My beloved maple is gone. The little crabapple is now quite large. There's a forsythia tucked in there. The house is a different color. The fence has been moved a bit. Other than that, it all looks pretty much the same. Kind of like me. There are some changes, but I am pretty much the same.

To my longtime readers and friends, I say thank you so very much for still being here. And to those new readers, welcome. Each of you is more important to me than you can ever know.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Gladys' autumn

And so I come to the end of my seasonal reading written by two wonderful writers. If you haven't read the other entries, and are interested, you will find them under "Letter Topics" - Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber.

Gladys' books always contain both light and serious topics. A couple of her light ones in this chapter were how she isn't a good shopper. Her tendency is to "take the first dress I see in my size". "As long something is blue or lilac, I am satisfied." And when her friends go with her to "help" her shop, she usually ends up hanging those recommended purchases up and wearing her old clothes!

Being published in 1974, there was in the air in those days change in education. I think that is the decade when "wall-less" schools were all the vogue. A friend taught in one of those schools twenty years later, and the school ended up putting walls back! Also, there was talk of getting rid of grades and having no "required subjects". Gladys goes on to tell of her own schooling which was very different, having been born in 1899. She talks of the stress and strain of having a father who expected excellence, and how her inferiority complex came because she just couldn't always meet his standards. I had a father like that, too. Not fun. Then she went on to say
And often the straight A's are fortunate in the classes they are assigned to. They are likely to get the best teachers, and usually the best class hours. Early morning hours are fine for morning people but deadly for those like me who are at their best after being fortified by lunch. 
Boy, that is sure me. Not in high school so much, but in college my notes from an early morning art class showed my writing dropping down the page. Of course, turning off the lights and showing slides didn't help! 

Later on in her Autumn chapter, she writes some more about time.
I have difficulty in autumn as the days grow shorter even if there is no storm. When it is dark by four in the afternoon, I feel it must be time to start dinner. And I expect this shows I do not really live by the clock but by light and dark. When it is time to turn on all the lights, I am usually puttering around in the kitchen, with the result that supper is ready an hour before anyone else in the family is willing to eat. Then it follows that once it is authentically night, I am in fine shape because it should be night. By the time everyone in the house is ready for bed, I am sparkling. But little pieces of night tossed into what should be day just upsets me.  
Of course, for many of us, autumn is the time to start feeding the wild birds.
The summer birds are gone, and this means it is time to stock the big can of birdseed by the back door and be ready to wait on the winter boarders who do not migrate. After a snowfall, the air is full of wings, from the tiny chickadee friends to the flaming bright cardinals, the delicate juncos, the sea-blue jays.
That has been life at Windy Poplars Farm except for the year we saw the coyote out back. More here about that. Then three years later I wrote about feeding again. This has worked out just fine, other than last year when we had a few too many red squirrels and Tom had to relocate them in distant woods, as he does the mice we catch in the Havahart trap.

All this is building up to the fact that one day this summer, Margaret and I saw (whispering here) a rat cross the road from the tree stump to the lilacs next to the terrace. There is nothing that I hate more than those creatures. We happily have not seen it again, and I hope against hope that it went far away, but nonetheless, we made the decision that no bird feeding this winter! I can't take the chance that the animal might be drawn to those yummy sunflower seeds. So, we are back to not feeding the birds again. I suspect we won't go back, either. It is quite expensive. My sister-in-law has stopped, too, but for a different reason. She finds it just too messy.

Gladys closes Country Chronicle
It is not an ending as a season draws to a close but only a beginning of a new time. ... And I turn a fresh page in my journal because every day brings a new experience.
Such a wise, thoughtful woman.

Quote du jour/Arnold Bennett

I read this quote in a book I just finished - Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal, book two in the Kitty Weeks series. Excellent, by the way. Historical mystery that felt more like it was written when it took place, 1915-16. Kitty works for a New York newspaper, and she reads these words, written by Arnold Bennett.

"We may no more choose our styles [of writing] than our character."

He advised to never pass judgment of one's own writing until it was a week old, because "until a reasonable interval has elapsed, it is impossible for you to distinguish between what you  had in your mind and what is actually on the paper."

All of us who write blogs are indeed "writers". Years ago, I was the secretary of the Vestry at the church (Episcopal) and an older woman told me how important a job I did. She said that I was writing history for later generations to read. Each of us who keeps a blog is doing the same. I often go back to read blog entries written by people who no longer write, or who have died. I get great pleasure from their words written many years ago.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Susan's autumn

The last words in Susan Hill's summer chapter are
Everybody's home [from summer vacations] and looking sunburnt, notices begin to appear on the village board, about the beginning of this and the first meeting of that. On Tuesday morning, the school bus rounds the corner of the lane on the stroke of half past eight by the St Nicholas clock.
The summer is over.
I think most of us have mixed feelings about the end of summer. We are sad to see the (supposedly) more relaxing days pass by or to lose the hot weather. Yet we are a little excited about something new - buckling down to chores or going back to a job or school after vacation. There is an invigorating energy in the air, at least in climates such as mine.

In this final chapter of The Magic Apple Tree, Susan writes about those early days of autumn when it still feels summery.
At noon, it is very hot indeed, we are still wearing cotton clothes, and the children have gone back to school in summer dresses.
I well remember those days of walking home from school, simply boiling in my new fall clothes that included wool skirts and sweaters! But that time never lasted too long. As Susan says,
But day by day there are slight changes, subtle alterations in shape, in the mood of the season ... There is a smell in the air, the smell of autumn, a yeasty, damp, fruity smell, carrying a hint of smoke and a hint, too, of decay. It fills me with nostalgia, but I do not know for what. It is a smell I love, for this is and has always been my favourite season. They said that as I grew older I should recoil from it, the winding down of another year, the descent toward winter, the end of summer pleasures, that I would begin to shift my affections towards spring, when all is looking forward, all is blossoming and greening and sprouting up. But I do not do so. Spring so often promises what in the end it never pays, spring can cheat and lie and disappoint. You can sit at the window and wait for spring many a weary day.
But I have never been let down by autumn, to me it is always beautiful, always rich, it always gives in heaping measure, and sometimes it can stretch on into November, fading, but so gently, so slowly, like a very old person whose dying is protracted but peacefully, in calmness.
And I love the wild days of autumn, the west winds that rock the apple tree and bring down the leaves and fruit and nuts in showers, and the rain after the days of summer dryness. I love the mists and the first frosts that make the ground crisp and whiten the foliage of the winter vegetables.
I know that exact smell. I smell it occasionally here at Windy Poplars Farm, but I remember it most strongly on a certain stretch of my growing-up-street where I walked every day.

And she could have been writing down my exact feelings about loving autumn more than spring. I thought it was just me - living where I do, but she can also be disappointed by spring. Spring here can be cold and rainy. The grasses are full of ticks. But I have now found an antidote for any unpleasant weather and bugs in the spring. We planted daffodils last fall, and they were a constant delight to me for over a month. And this fall we planted alliums, and fritillarias, and an early flowering zone 3 clematis. So, even more beauty if the sky and the air are not what we all think of as springlike! And now that we've got those window air conditioners, I now love summer. It is quite a delicious feeling for me to suddenly love spring and summer, though still not as much as I do autumn and winter!

Then Susan Hill goes on to say something that I think might be a new thought to us, but is absolutely true when you think about it.
In early October, the woods begin to come alive again, and that surprises many people, who think of them in autumn as places of decay and dying, falling leaves and animals hiding away for their long winter hibernation. But it is summer that there is dead time, in summer the air hangs heavy and close and still, nothing flowers, nothing sings, nothing stirs, and no light penetrates.
But now, there is a stirring, a sense of excitement.
... The trees have begun to to turn colour but they are all at different stages. In summer in this wood every tree looks much like every other, though of course if you are close up, you can distinguish them by the shape of the leaves, and in the open, where they stand in ones and twos, by the shape of the whole body of the tree. Now though, in decay, the trees have become distinct, separate again, they take back their individual character, for no two species are the same in shading and depth of colour. I stand still and see sulphur-yellow and bright, bright gold, copper and tawny owl's feather brown, sienna and umber and every kind of nut, and the whole pattern breaks like a child's kaleidoscope as a sudden wind blows over the wood, becomes mottled, darker, and then lighter, as the leaves show their backs.
 Throughout this book, I have been impressed with the author as gardener, cook, and now in this last chapter a preserver of foods. She has a delightful record of her "preserving week". Plums, apples, brambles (I think what we call blackberries), elderberries. Jellies and jams and chutneys.

She writes about the Women's Institute, and I am filled with such longing to be part of such a thing. After reading this last chapter, I watched my boxed set of DVDs of Jam and Jerusalem, for maybe the fourth time. There was a very telling part when the regional leader tells their quite small WI that it is so much more than what they do. She says that the wonderful thing about it is the way it has brought together women who would not necessarily be friends otherwise. And Susan Hill writes much the same about this. She has a long section on the "autumn produce Bring and Buy sale."
I look around the room at everyone. Friends, Neighbors, Grey-haired, lined and wrinkled faces, middle-aged faces, beginning to sag, the faces of young women. Most are married, some not. There are working wives of farmers, there are gardeners. None of us has manicured and lily-white hands. Otherwise, we are all very different. From different generations and backgrounds - different social classes, too, let it be said, for, having been said, it can be dismissed, it simply doesn't matter. There are women who use their brains in their daily jobs, work in the university city whose spires you see as you drop down the last hill of the village beyond Barley, there are the wives of dons and doctors and clergymen, women who have young children, women who have great-grandchildren, women whose ancestors have been buried in Barley churchyard for generations back, and women, like me, who have scarcely lived here any time at all, but who feel at home, because we have at once been made welcome.
Isn't this what each of us rather longs for? Perhaps especially those of us whose children are grown. We used to be more a part of things, and now it takes effort to find that "part" again. I am lucky because my children live near, and I have grandchildren, so I automatically am involved in their schools and their lives. I feel very, very thankful.

I have so loved this book. It has been a "magic" book for me. I was happy to find that Susan Hill also wrote two shorter books on the same sorts of subjects, and of course, I bought them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Snow, and a song about June

You do know how much I love snow! Here are a couple pictures from today.

But if some of you living in the colder climes are longing for June, here is a beautiful song I heard on an American Songbook online radio station today. No video - just an album cover. Lucy Ann Polk is a completely new name to me, and I will go looking for more. Memphis in June was published in 1945, with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Lucy Ann Polk recorded it in 1957.