I have been away from the blog during this time clearing, cleaning, moving furniture, and repurposing a couple of rooms. Thankfully I have hired a friend to do the actual wallpaper removal, plaster patching and painting. I have reimagined the room where I write. As you can see from the photos above, the room is currently not conducive to thoughtful writing!

For a couple of more days I will be behind on reading and commenting on my friends’ posts. Then I will return writing from a freshly repaired and painted room, this time set up to make writing easy and enjoyable. The desk will face the window, the piles everywhere will be gone, and I will no longer bang into the desk leg with my chair when I sit at the computer!

With even a modicum of self restraint I should be able to curb my pack rat tendencies. At least in my office. (I can’t promise the same for the basement and attic.)

“It Was Just Right”

The weather around the world has confounded the best of us with either too much or too little rain and too much or too little heat. But in the early part of this summer I found myself basking in moderate temperatures, unusual for New England. The humidity never rose to an unpleasant degree. The thermometer often hovered between 70 and 75 degrees F and it felt very familiar and very comforting. I kept saying ” this feels like Oregon summer weather.” Except by this point the Pacific Northwest was experiencing record breaking and literally fatal heat. So maybe I was casting that rosy glow of nostalgia over my childhood summers.

Then I found the chart pictured above. I spent the 1950’s as a child aged 3 to 13. I loved being outdoors: swimming, walking to see friends, biking, camping and going to camp. And I hadn’t been idealizing that time; it really was much cooler than the following decades. Although it was atypical weather over time, it was the summer of my memory.

I am grateful that for a couple of months in 2021 I was transported by my senses back to the 1950’s. No humidity. No need for air conditioning(which we never had when I was a child anyway.) A gentle breeze. Walking without effort. Sitting outside. Knowing that I hadn’t imagined those years in the 1950’s. Summer 2021 really was “just like the good old days.”

“In the Aftermath”

I recently read the debut novel written by the young man pictured above, Sweetness of Water. I can only say that I hope he continues to write and to bring his thoughtful perception of character to the page.

I have often wondered what it was like for recently freed enslaved people and how it was for the people who had so recently “owned” them. Harris tackles this question subtly by immersing us in the lives of several characters in a small southern town just as the Union troops are moving in to take control. We meet two recently freed black men, two white Confederate veterans, and an aging white couple living on the outskirts of a rural town. Harris focuses on them, their interactions, their challenges, and their ways of dealing with their conflicts. Other people play a background role to the central drama surrounding these six.

With a title about sweetness, I hoped for a optimistic but realistic read. Harris delivered it honestly, not sparing real horror, but also showing glimpses of redemption. It wades into much less than sweet water on the way, but the book leaves us with a real sense of each of the people we have met, no matter what befalls them. (Some of the book is quite graphic, so if you are looking for a light read, I can’t recommend the novel.)

“American Ahistorical Insights”

As mystifying as racial realities are for an American, I imagine they are even more so for many of my readers. But this recent book How the Word is Passed, A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith will shed some necessary light on just how differently United States history is perceived across this nation. Smith visits several tourist locations which have a connection with slavery and talks with visitors about the issues each place brings up.

Most fascinating, to me, given the current acrimony about what is taught in schools, is the story at Monticello, ancestral plantation of Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. President. Smith talks with park guides about their experiences as he tours both the mansion and takes an add-on walk about slave history there. He learns of some visitors’ anger about hearing “political” things when they just wanted to look at a beautiful house. By “political,” they mean that the guides tell the truth that the house was built by slaves, that slaves tilled the grounds, and that slaves were bought and sold by Jefferson. Jefferson also fathered children by one of his enslaved women, proven by DNA testing of descendants.

I recommend the book highly for anyone wanting to understand just how ahistorical much of American history taught in schools has been. Many unpleasant truths have been omitted or watered down. Sadly, some still want to tell only a slavery free history of this country. No such history is accurate. I think of the old adage “the truth will set you free, but first it may make you miserable.” Forward is the only way possible for this country. There is no going back, and all of our citizens deserve to know the true history of how this country became great, including the contributions of free, indentured and slave alike. Only then can we move forward as one American people. As an optimist, I think it is possible.

“Listen Around the World”

As Pete mentioned in his comment to me regarding yesterday’s post about Merlin, the bird song identifying App, modules are available for each part of the world. You just have to look at the list of available packets and download the appropriate one/ones. I am using Northeastern Birds of North America. But they also include such diverse collections as four sections of India, New Zealand, South Africa, and four different European ones. Look for the menu called Bird Packs on the App to find the one you want to add to your phone

I thank Pete for finding the England pack and alerting me to all the various FREE choices.

“Listen Up”

I have enjoyed watching birds for many years, both in the wild and in front of my kitchen window. I am able to identify a majority that I see, but I have been flummoxed by their songs. No matter how hard I tried to read what a bird sounds like and compare it to one I was listening to, I failed.

Last week Cornell University released a new version of their free phone app, Merlin. In addition to being able to identify a bird from looking at it, the app has added a priceless feature. When you sit near where you hear a bird and turn on the app, it identifies the bird and/or birds that are singing. If it is uncertain, it waits for a bit. When a check mark appears, the app is certain. It then displays a photo of each bird, lighting when it is singing.

I was amazed to learn that I was regularly hearing from a Carolina wren. I could also hear the difference between the house sparrow, the house finch and the song sparrow. A noise that I thought was coming from a blue jay turns out to be coming from a grackle.The app stores the recordings on your phone if you like, so it is possible to listen again and solidify the connection between the sound and the image.

Have I mentioned that this is FREE? Have fun.

“Bowl From Cherries”

As I mentioned yesterday, we like to buy from artists as we travel. On one of those handout maps with little ads around the margins we saw a spot for Andrew Pearce and wooden bowls. If you have followed me over the years, you may remember I love bowls. I have bowls to spare and still crave more, a less fattening addiction than chocolate! The maps always caution “not drawn to scale,” so we weren’t sure how far it was on Route 4 in Vermont. But the road is lovely and we enjoyed keeping an eye out for the place.

The smell of the showroom was intoxicating: maple, cherry and black walnut objects all rubbed with oil and filling the space. The owner buys whole logs and has a sawmill in back to cut them down to workable sizes. Then working with electric machinery, he and other artists fashion all sorts of bowls and art pieces.

Having no need of an artistic piece of wood since my husband collects them on his own(for free outdoors), I settled on the bowl above. Just 10″ across, made of cherry, it now sits on a side table in the living room. When Charlie asked what I was going to use it for, I replied “I am just going to look at it.” And I do.