Wallace Stevens wrote a famous poem,Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird. Argentine born, French writer Alberto Manguel explores fifteen ways of thinking about a library in his 2006 book The Library at Night. I encountered this title in the international book group I mentioned a few posts back and found it at my local library.
Manguel delineates many ways that one can think about a library, from a system of order to a spatial arrangement on to a place of chance and through twelve more reflections on a collection of books. I enjoyed thinking about my own book collections, libraries I have known, my reading habits and the books in my childhood.
I have always lived surrounded by books, filling shelves, balancing by my bedside, piled alongside the bed, and basically occupying any horizontal surface wherever I have lived. As I read I frequently found myself thinking “I am not the only one.” I am not the only one who can’t find the one book I am looking for. I am not the only one who doesn’t finish every book I begin. I am not the only one still searching for a way to organize my shelves. I am not the only one who, no matter how frequently I try to pare down my library, still has books crammed willy-nilly on shelves already full.
A thoughtful and original series of reflections on owning, storing and reading books, the title should appeal to any bibliophile out there.
The filter in our trusty window air conditioner(pictured above) is held together with tape. If we added any more tape to the plastic screening it would no longer allow air to pass through, rather defeating the purpose. We decided to find a replacement for the filter. The unit still works very well and we only needed a new filter.
Charlie started at the local appliance store which gave him a card with a parts warehouse number. Of course we would need to know the model and serial number to order the part. The machine is made by Friedrich whose phone number was easily visible. A call to them told us how to find the required numbers by taking off the front panel of the unit.
With the two required numbers in hand, I called the parts warehouse who said they didn’t carry Friedrich parts and that I needed to call Friedrich. When I did so, the lovely clerk told me they didn’t carry parts either. But she was able to give me the number of the part and another phone number to call to order the part.
I called the new company and optimistically gave the woman the part number. The reply? “That part is no longer available and there is no replacement.”
This winter, when the air conditioner is removed, Charlie can figure out how to fix the old filter with new screening material. He always needs projects when it is snowing.
After trying unsuccessfully to get cable service to connect with our new television set, I called Comcast. After literally yelling at the automated answering system since none of the choices fit, I was finally connected to a living person. He graciously told me that I had a “legacy” set box and that it wouldn’t work with the new television.
I began to think of the variety of euphemisms I have run into in the last few years that are being substituted for old, over the hill and outdated. I guess some younger person is treading carefully around my age demographic, hoping to avoid hurting our feelings. My husband’s Levis are called “Classic.” My sweater is referred to as “Heritage.” Other carefully chosen words include “original,” and “time honored.” My own pants have what is called a “Relaxed Fit,” to distinguish them from the offering of “Modern Fit.” Here clearly the title is meant to cushion the blow of realizing that my body is now “relaxed,” rather than “modern.”
So in effect I had an old television set box, looked at by my husband in his old Levi’s and me in my old pants using an analog wristwatch and waiting for the timer on the counter to ding. It’s all right. I can accept that I like to keep things the way they are without being “new” or “improved.”
As you may remember, early in the spring I purchased a share of a local farm’s produce. Each Thursday we drive down the road to the farm and pick up a large tote bag full of the week’s offerings. It had been many years since I had been so in sync with the agricultural year. I have gone to the local store and purchased the vegetables I needed for the week, with a moderate amount of each.
But when I pick up the week’s bag, I remember the actual growing season and actual ripening of vegetables. And they don’t ripen a little at a time. Rather, as many can recall, they come on gangbusters at once. These couple of weeks it has been the wonderful local corn variety, Butter and Sugar(white and yellow kernels seen above.) How much corn can two people eat in a week? Well, it turns out not 12 ear! So I had to resurrect another old skill from years past–preserving corn.
As a young mother I spent at least eight hours into the night cutting, canning and pressure cooking the corn given to us by a neighbor. I watched a horror movie Night of the Lepus as I worked. Giant radioactive rabbits and corn preservation have been irrevocably merged in my brain ever since. Since we now own a freezer, and since it is just a dozen ear at a time, I can slice off the kernels, bag them and freeze them.
Just to be on the safe side, however, I listen to music instead of turning on the Movie Channel.
I realized a couple of years had passed since I wrote about the pie, so I am adding a photo of one from two years ago(before Charlie ate any!) along with the recipe, completely marked up with peach juice. I actually add more peaches, probably 5 cups instead of 4.
I would also repost the story behind the pie, but I can’t yet figure out how to in the new editor. You can find it in my archives on September 6, 2018.
Some of you may remember that August mandates that I bake Charlie’s favorite pie–peach and blueberry. This season the two fruits didn’t ripen at the same time, so the blueberries were already in the freezer by the time the peaches were ready. I need “squishy” peaches for the pie, known by their other name “seconds.” These fruit are extra ripe, full of juice, but often fairly unsightly and passed over at the market. Fortunately when we went to pick up our week’s produce, they had a peck of seconds for sale at a very reasonable price.
How I instantly knew it was a peck I have no clue. I hadn’t really thought much about pecks since grade school when we had to memorize how many pecks there were in a bushel(four.) But sure enough, this eight quart box (how many quarts in a peck?) held one peck. Way more peaches than needed for the pie meant I had to quickly(before fruit flies arrived) process the rest. Above you can see the procedure laid out from right to left. First the boiling water, then the ice bath, then the peeling, then the slicing, then the sprinkling with lemon juice to keep them from darkening. I froze the slices.
It had been many years since I had processed fruit like this, but the routine seemed to be in my muscle memory. I might have been 25 again, canning all sorts of vegetables and fruits shared by our rural neighbors, guaranteeing my little family would eat well in the winter.
Reminiscing done, I defrosted some blueberries and made Charlie his summer pie.
In My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle sings the great line “words, words, words, I’m so sick of words, I get words all day through, first from him now from you.” A close friend, home now for five months with very verbal children, went for an MRI yesterday. When the technician asked her what music she wanted she replied, “None.” The aide was confused, “Do you mean spa music?” “No,” she responded, “I want thirty minutes of total silence!” It has come to this for some people, an MRI chamber is preferable to another conversation!
Even the virtual conversations can be exhausting. I finally read that is because we are having to get all our cues about the other person just from their face. Usually we can watch body language and understand intent more clearly. Then there is the challenge of words exchanged in person behind those ever present surgical masks. The barrier requires a level of enunciation foreign to most of us. Combine that with any degree of hearing loss(true for a majority of people our age)and conversations are having to be constantly repeated. “What did you say?”
Add in each person’s way of understanding Zoom and cell phones in the house. It appears that each medium suggests that a voice needs to be raised in direct proportion to how far away in actual miles the listener is from the speaker. Clearly someone Zooming from across the ocean must need me to speak louder than usual for her to hear me! Or so it seems around here.
Silence is more than golden many times. In fact it may soon, like those fancy credit cards, be worth platinum.
Saturday morning I had the pleasure of joining a Google virtual book group with attendees from Canada and India. The four of us talked about all the various books we were reading. At the end of the visit, we mentioned titles we had heard from others that sounded interesting. For instance, I was intrigued by the book The Library at Night and requested it from my local library on Monday.
The three other participants were writers I had met while blogging. I was uncertain how it would be to meet people I had only read. How much are the voices in our writing a reflection of our whole selves? I had been fooled by the glossy portrayals of lives on Facebook and the discrepancies between the image and the reality. Was the same going to be true talking with blog writers? To my relief and joy, I felt that I already knew each person, having read their writing on line. Seeing and hearing from them merely reinforced my deep appreciation for the connections blogging makes possible.
The organizer of the group is always looking for others to participate. You can leave a request in my comments and I will share it with him.
This past week I read the book pictured above and learned something that challenged most of my approaches to interpersonal conflict. I am “conflict averse” as in I hate disagreements between me and those close to me. I have developed lots of ways to avoid arguments, believing that nothing good could come from them. Somehow in my mind I carried the idea that two people, whether spouses, friends or adult child and parent should always be in tune with each other and that failure to do that was a sign of trouble.
Ed Tronick, the researcher author of the book(helped greatly by the easy prose of his co-author Claudia Gold) put the lie to all that. Many years of study of mothers and infants, couples, and parents and children have demonstrated conclusively that we grow from the times we are out of tune with each other. However–and this is a big however– that only happens if after the rupture(falling out) in the relationship, the connection is repaired. When two people can successfully get through the mess of disconnection(rupture) back to the harmony of connection(repair) the relationship grows.
Clearly I had lacked experiences of repair when I was growing up, as do many people. Often the “my way or the highway” style of parenting or unresolved fighting of parents suggests that ruptures cannot be repaired. Who would want to experience ruptures with no hope of repair? Not me, that’s for sure.
Now with this new and encouraging understanding, I am most intrigued to try out this new behavior. I am in safe relationships, and I can practice trusting that ruptures can be repaired. For any readers who share my challenge with disagreements, I wholeheartedly recommend the book.
I am truly grateful for all the advice and tips and commiseration I have received about transitioning to the new editor. I have been exploring these choices and attempting to continue to use the classic editor and also transition over. In my explorations of Gutenberg, I have found some formatting choices which will be beneficial to including poetry. Otherwise, I have found that I don’t take easily to the change.
Above, my cousin Susan, like so many of you, is patiently trying to explain how to “cook” on the toy stove. While I appreciate her patience, as I appreciate yours, I seem to look pretty skeptical. That is about how I look right now!