“Missing In Action”

I have been reading a memoir reviewed in what I thought were trustworthy columns as “mesmerizing,” “enthralling,” “incisive,” “illuminating,” and “revelatory.” Meanwhile I have been raving to my poor husband “this book needs an editor!” I have come to expect that many self-published books could have used a good editor, but this was put out by a mainstream publishing house. The author even thanks two editors. I think they were overpaid.

I am not naming the book in question, but rather using it as an example of the importance of knowledgeable editors seriously helping authors shape and refine their work. The book’s concept did in fact promise to deliver the adjectives reviewers used to describe it. Sadly, the actual execution left much to be desired. Perhaps the reviewers read only the book jacket.

James Dickey, the late American poet, said that he “worked on poems to take the worked-on quality out of them.” The finished piece might look effortless, but much revision had taken place to achieve that effect. A good editor can wrestle a meandering book into a coherent whole. When a book has been well edited, the reader no longer has to labor to follow the narrative, but can use her mind to ponder the issues presented.

I used to tell my students that if they had to work too hard to follow an author’s work, the blame might lay with the author. My students always assumed they were deficient in some way. The next time any of you throw down a book in disgust, consider that it might have needed an editor. And that editor shouldn’t have to be the reader!

“Last But Not Least”

Fall here means a winding down for many plants. As you can see, the zinnias on the right have become quite rusty and many of their seeds have been eaten by birds. Scattered on the ground to the left and sprinkled among the asters are the first leaves fallen from the cherry tree. The lush purple asters themselves have seemingly waited for just this moment to begin to open. All arrive on their own timetable in the garden.

I was reminiscing with my grandchildren the other night over my grandson’s outdoor birthday dinner. They wanted to know when I stopped growing, an issue much on the mind of the 11 year old. A more apt question might have been when did I start growing. I was a very very late bloomer, much like the aster plant. I entered high school at 4’10”, a good half foot shorter than most of my peers. I didn’t hit my adult height of 5’4″ until I was 17. Another case of last but not least.

The original aster plant was a free offer from a televangelist. I didn’t follow the man, but I did accept the plant. It has thrived as his empire has collapsed. I imagine there is a metaphor there. I hope so.

“Wherefore Art Thou?”

I have been writing my blog for over four years, and I have become aware that a variety of people start, continue or stop their blogs. At first I followed the writers who had found my posts and commented on them. As I found writers I enjoyed, I found new blogs by reading the comments posted on blogs I followed. I blog not only to have a chance to express myself, but more importantly to have a chance to interact with writers around the world. So active comments matter to me.

So while many blogs disappear, when I no longer receive posts from ones I follow, I wonder what happened.

What happened to the thoughtful young man from Kashmir? I wrote back and forth to him and learned much about the military presence in Kashmir and its affects on students such as him. His views led me to learn more about the complicated history between Kashmir and the larger Indian nation. I also learned more about the partition in 1947 creating the separate nation of Pakistan. Nothing is simple in conflicts in Kashmir, and I began to understand that. His presence came and went as internet access was cut off to his province. But eventually he stopped writing.

What happened to the philosophy scholar from Turkey? She wrote long thoughtful essays on challenging philosophical issues. Was she affected by the turmoil around Universities in Turkey? She quit writing without an explanation.

What about the stressed mother dealing with a child’s medical challenges? Her posts exposed me to language disabilities I had never before known. She tirelessly worked to get help for her daughter. Did she find another way to share her experience?

I have come to expect that however much we have engaged in the back and forth around our writings, my correspondents may vanish. It hasn’t stopped me from connecting, but it does leave me wondering.

“A Is For Apple”

I grew up reading Edward Lear’s nonsense poetry. I gained a love of limericks, imagined the owl and the pussycat in love, and memorized an alphabet series beginning with “A was once an Apple Pie, pidy, widy, tidy, pidy, nice insidy Apple Pie.” An early illustration for the poem is on the left above. Silly for sure, but it really does roll off the tongue in a satisfying way. My grandfather loved such word play and had us also learn a counting rhyme beginning with “One old ox opening oysters.”

I make pies three specific times a year. Earlier I showed you the peach blueberry pie I do when the two fruits are ripe in season. Then in September I make an apple pie with several varieties of apples from the local farmer. In December I bake two pumpkin and one mincemeat pies. This morning it was the September apple pie with Macintosh, Cortland and Gala apples. Above the photo on the right shows the tools and fruit laid out for the pie. I would show you the finished product but it has already been 1/3 eaten. I didn’t take a picture quickly enough! At least this time it was Charlie, not our Australian Shepherd who ate it. A few years ago she got on her hind legs, pulled the cooling rack over to the edge of the counter, and ate out the middle of the pie. I guess she didn’t care for the crust.

The weather is below 40 at night and into the 70’s in the day time. Lovely fall weather with an evening chill brings us back into the house sooner than last month. Winter approaches slowly, but the change in temperature reminds us that it is approaching.

“Out Damned Spot Out.”

Lady Macbeth

I guess I had Shakespeare on my mind this morning when I was doing the laundry. As I poured bleach into the whites, I thought about Lady Macbeth’s totally unrelated to my actual situation plea “out damned spot out.”

I have had enough of political grief lately, so my thoughts didn’t go too far thinking about Trump’s ideas of using bleach to kill covid, nor about those people who drank it for that reason. Clorox even had to warn adults not to drink bleach. Oops, I guess they went that way for too long. Then I remembered how hard it was to even buy bleach and now how its price has skyrocketed. That was discouraging too.

Then I let the smell of bleach take me to better times. I learned to swim in a chlorinated cold water indoor pool. My first association with smelling like bleach was when I finally got out of that nightmare and put on dry clothes. The smell lingered and reminded me of how much I hated learning to swim. That wasn’t any more encouraging!

But wait. I suddenly remembered a long ago love who swam laps every morning. He always smelled sweetly of bleach. Finally I had found a good free association!

What has any of this to do with Lady Macbeth? Very little as it turns out, but it does give you an unasked for peek into my covid brain.

“Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meat did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.”

Our dear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died yesterday, Friday, September 18th. The same day the Republican leader of the United State Senate announced he would have a nominee named and appointed to fill her vacancy before the 2020 Presidential election has chosen the next President.

In Hamlet, the Prince alludes to the shameless behavior of his mother Gertrude being able to use the leftover food from his father’s funeral to furnish her wedding feast to her second husband. It is an example of total shamelessness.

Yesterday the behavior of Republican politicians did Gertrude one better.

“Can’t Touch This!”

When I was at the library yesterday( yes AT the library after six months without being able to go there) I saw this children’s book displayed. It brought back several times in my life when touch was an issue. (No, I am not talking about MeToo, don’t worry.)

When I was pregnant people seemed to feel free to not only comment on but occasionally pat my stomach. I have no idea why. Somehow pregnant women seem to invite all sorts of questions and comments. I must admit that I fall victim to the same impulse, though I have never been tempted to touch another woman’s stomach. I do seem to blurt out things that are really none of my business such as “when are you due?” and “you look like you are carrying a boy.”

The book narrated by a little girl with big poofy hair suggests that people seem to come up and touch it without asking. She says they need to ask. Of course that raises the question of why they want to touch it in the first place. In this instance, probably her hair is unfamiliar to the kids around her and they are curious about it.

I had a similar experience years ago in a African-American women’s hair salon where I was waiting as a friend had her hair done. I was the only white woman in the place. As I have mentioned, I have very thin wavy light brown hair. One of the stylists came over and asked if she could touch my hair. Agreeably I said “sure.” She said she had never touched hair like mine and would have no idea how to work with it.

We are all curious beings. We just need to ask before touching.

“Sweet Home Alabama”

Gulf Shores Alabama Pier Being Pummeled

This seems to be the week that both my husband Charlie’s and my childhood stomping grounds have been hard hit by “natural” disasters. I have written about the forest fires in Oregon destroying many of the places I camped, hiked, fished and vacationed in. This morning Hurricane Sally made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama before moving onshore to Mobile, Alabama.

My husband grew up in Mobile and spent many summers at a beach house at Gulf Shores before it became built up with countless condominiums. He jokingly called it “redneck Riviera,” a name only allowable to one who went there. He taught himself to surf and knew each inch of the shore. In the mid 1960’s that house was destroyed by a hurricane and his family never rebuilt.

Today he was glued to the Weather Channel and on-line pictures of the water damage. He knew each little town they mentioned and laughed when one of the commentators said “you probably aren’t familiar with Daphne, Alabama.” “No kidding,” he quipped.

So far this season we have suffered through a tornado warning and tropical storm in Connecticut, watched Oregon burn and Gulf Shores flood. They say there are five more storms developing in the Atlantic and that we are running out of names for them. Combined with covid, this year has delivered far too many unpleasant surprises. I just reviewed the ten plagues in Exodus. Apparently we can still look forward to hail and lightning, if not frogs!

“In Mourning”

McKenzie River before the fire
Fire along the McKenzie River

When Charlie and I first discussed plans for our honeymoon, I said I would love to go white water rafting on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. This discussion took place two years before our wedding and demonstrates that a woman overcome with hormones will say almost anything. The one time that I had gone white water rafting with Charlie and the kids, the photo taken in the biggest plunge doesn’t show me. That is because I had flung myself onto the bottom of the raft.

So I proposed that we spend a week in a small cottage on the McKenzie River in Central Oregon. That way we at least were next to, if not on, a river. We rented a small unit next to the river and spent a week exploring and reading, him doing more of the first and me doing more of the second. At one point we drove through the McKenzie Pass into central Oregon. By the middle of June, the Pass was opened for the first time of the year, having been closed for snow until then. The week was lovely, full of rest, recreation, good food and gorgeous surroundings.

This week fire destroyed both sides of the McKenzie River, taking out several small towns, restaurants and places to stay and camp along its banks. It will never recover. I feel a physical ache when I think about Oregon and the destruction that drought, wind, fire and climate change have produced. Ignore the debate still senselessly going on in my country about reality. One has only to look at the two photos to understand things have changed. Reality trumps unscientific blather every time.

“Up In Flames”

Before we moved to Connecticut on the far east coast of the United States, I lived for fifty years in Oregon on the far west coast of the United States. I grew up near the Pacific Ocean and now live near the Atlantic Ocean. Oregon’s main industries when I was a child were logging and fishing. Oregon throughout the Cascade Mountains, one third of the way east from the ocean, was heavily forested and provided many opportunities for logging and operating lumber mills. Eventually logging mostly died out and the forests remained, most designated as National Forests, places for camping, hiking and fishing for a majority of western Oregonians. (The eastern two thirds of Oregon are dry, sparsely forested, ideal ranching land.) The Willamette River valley, that land west of the mountains and thus west of the forests, houses most Oregonians, in towns small and large, rural, suburban and urban.

I am providing this background, needed for readers outside the United States, as a prelude to my post tomorrow on the effects of the massive fires now raging over 1500 square miles of Oregon. Often when people think of forest fires and their impact they imagine people building in the woods, heedless of the danger. While that is true in some places, it definitely is not the case in Oregon at the moment.

Right now towns and suburbs involving nearly 500,000 people have been evacuated as the fires burn uncontained.