"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, April 21, 2017

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

Here We Are: 44 Voices Right, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen is a new book in my library. It is a fairly slim volume of essays written by a variety of authors on the topic of feminism. It is one of those books that is important and should be widely read but will likely languish on the shelves ignored by students who would benefit greatly from reading it.

Feminism is one of those terms or concepts which is hard to define. Here is what the dictionary says about the term:

Definition of feminism

  1. 1:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
  2. 2:  organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
Many people have co-oped the term and turned it into an almost-swear-word. Many people have grabbed onto the term and attached it to angry women demanding equality with a fist. Some have even coined the term and use it for a radical feminist: feminazi. All of this makes the term "feminist" out to be an ugly thing. This book strives to correct the record.

Each person who contributes to this book elaborates about some aspect of feminism or how they grew into their current beliefs on the topic. Some of the authors include reading and listening lists. Others, the illustrators among them, tell their story with pictures or comics. It really is a delightful collection.

My favorite essay was actually written by a male author, Daniel Jose Older, "Many Stories, Many Roads." Most of the authors are female and I was a little worried that without a male perspective this book would not be as valid. He says he thinks the feminism has suffered from "gate-keeping and line drawing"--- people oppressing others, "acting like overzealous bouncers, keeping so many dancers out of that big beautiful room" (186). To allow as many people into the big room, he says, requires that we look at "our patriarchal gender norms, the rules that tell us how to fit into pre-assigned boxes labeled 'men' and 'woman,' having nothing to do with with and everything to do with power" (189).

Included in the collection is the poem "Somewhere in Amercia" by Zariya Allen. Watch the video below where Zariya and her friends perform it. It is a powerful message of what we teach our children about priorities. Catching in the Rye is more dangerous than a gun because it uses a swear word. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings isn't taught because of rape. "We are taught that just because something happens doesn't mean you are to talk about it" (89). Schools give out awards for best attendance but don't reward students who work the late shift at the fast food restaurant just to help the family make ends meet. Instead of leaning math and social studies in school, students learn to keep quiet, keep their head down, keep eyes on their papers. The poem  really shows a heartbreaking reality to our lives in America.  Watch the video.

 Why should students read Here We Are? Because everyone needs to know they are included in the "big room" as Older calls it. Students need to know that they are not alone, that others have also struggled with the ugly aspects of our society/school culture. If a person is a feminist, they are also pro-people, all people. I recommend that everyone read this book, or at least several of the essays. It is time we start shifting our definitions of what it means to be a feminist.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friday Quotes: When We Collided

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Book Beginnings:
I knew I was in love with Verona Cove on the first day, but waited until the seventh day to commit.

Friday 56:
Vivi just laughs. 'Manna is the food they eat in heaven. And stinky cheese is delicious cheese; you just don't realize that until you are older. Trust me, though. Someday, you'll eat this salad again and realize, holy moly, it's sprinkled with magic.'

Comments: The story is about mental illness. One of the main characters, Vivi, has stopped taking her medicine which keeps the symptoms of her bipolar disease in check. When I was in college one of my sorority sisters did the same thing and she went for the highest high for weeks of frantic activity and creativity and then CRASH. I am wondering when this will happen in this book.

I Sing the Body Eclectic AND The Book of Hours

April is National Poetry Month. I've completed two poetry collections recently and, as per usual, my head is swirling around in verse. Recently a visitor to my blog commented that she didn't really read poetry because she doesn't understand it. The thought that went through my head in response to her comment was, I bet she hasn't found her poetic muse. Certainly, I continued my internal discourse, if she would just read some Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, her poetry gene would click on and the whole world of poetry would be open to her.  I didn't say any of this is an actual comment to the gal. I just thought it because, though I appreciate poetry a lot more now than when I was younger, I certainly can relate to reading poetry and being left flat. Some poetry is so dense or obscure, it is hard to figure out what the poet is saying.

That is a little of how I felt when I read The Book of Hours by Kevin Young.  This book was placed on my TBR list last year some time and I really was looking forward to digging in to it. The poet, Kevin Young, had lost his father to a tragic accident and this poetry was written in response to his grief. I felt sure that I'd be able to relate perfectly to his poems since I just lost my beloved father-in-law and continue having bouts of raw grief. Another section was about the birth of his first son. As you know, we will be grandparents soon. Two points of similarity would certainly make this a collection of poems for me. In addition, Young's poems are all written in short couplets/triplets. For example in his poem "Obsequies" these lines speak loudly, "At Night I Count / not the stars / but the dark." And in this poem, grief which is so raw it hurts, this simple two line poem we see grief laid bare: "In the night I brush / my teeth with razors." This is palpable grief I can relate to, but most of the other poems didn't speak to me, or dare I say, I didn't "get." (Ah, that is where the blog comment fits in.) But the poems about the pregnancy, delivery, the baby did speak to me. In one poem titled "Ultrasound" the couple discover the baby is boy and see the child, in black and white, move his thumb up as if he wants to hitch a ride out of there. Hey, our daughter just found out she is having a boy, too. Poetry, at its best, gives me words to shape my feelings. I wouldn't put The Book of Hours on my top or favorite poetry books list, but it certainly does give the reader the words to shape the joys and the pains of living.

In the second volume of poetry, which I just finished reading last night in bed, I Sing the Body Eclectic, the editor, Patrice Vecchione, selected poems about the body. And just like the title says, the selections are very eclectic. Some of the poems usher me straight down memory lane like "Cobwebs" by Melinda Goodwin. The poem is about a memory of a time when a young girl goes through her mother's things, trying on shoes and clothes, the scents of the underthings in drawers, looking at herself in a mirror from the Fuller Brush man. As I read this poem my childhood came zooming forward. I used to do the same thing. I'd go through my mother's things, trying things on, smelling her perfume, combing my hair with her brush purchased by, you guessed it, the Fuller Brush man. In another poem, "Pastel Dresses" the poet Stephen Dobyns is trying to recall a memory of a dance when a girl had on such a lovely dress. He remembers the feel of his hand on her back and the stiff fabric but he can't remember her name or her eye colors. In the end he muses, "How can we not love / this world for what it gives us? How / can we not hate it for what it takes away?"  I'm in that time-warp more often these days. Remembering minute delays clearly and forgetting important ones. These poets have given voice to my life!

I've always found the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to be a bit inaccessible until I read his poem here "Your Laughter".  It opens with these marvelous lines, "Take bread away from me, if you wish, / take air away, but / do not take from me your laughter." I want to read this poem over and over because isn't it true? The qualities we love in another person become a source of nourishment to us. Another poem by Neruda, this one titled "Semen" and one by Erin Belieu, "Erections" made me laugh. If students only knew what poems were contained in these volumes so quietly sitting on the library shelves, they would be checked out all the time!

In the poem, which is written in a prose-style, by Gary Young called, "He Wheeled a Corpse", I sat dumbfounded after I read it. So I reread it. Then I read it, again. Can this be true? And what does it mean? Do bones really glow when the body is cremated?
He wheeled a corpse in the narrow furnace, and said, there's
something I want to show you. He lit the gas, and the head rose
from the table, the arms flew open and the body sat there for a
moment in the fire. The flesh peeled away from the bones, and
the bones snapped and burned with a fierce blue flame. When the
oven had cooled and the door was opened, the ashes and bits of
bone threw off a pale, opalescent light. That light, he said, is what
I wanted you to see.
---Gary Young
Artwork by Gary Young
Sometime poems just make me stop and think. Other times they make me think new thoughts. That would be when I read my favorite poem in the collection, "Giving Blood" by Sherman Alexie. Fortunately for the reader, Vecchione has provided short biographies of all the poets included in this collection. To understand "Giving Blood" one has to know that Sherman Alexie is a Native American. The poem seems to start in modern times, with a blood donation and those pesky questions donors are asked. The poem seemed silly and funny. But the reader soon realizes this poem is really about the history of the American Indians and how much blood they have shed over the years. In the final lines, as if I were struck between the eyes with a hard blow, my vision shifted,
...sorry Mr. Crazy Horse
but we've already taken too much of your blood and you
     won't be eligible
to donate for another generation or two
So why do I continue to read poetry? Why do I wade my way through volumes of poems when I don't understand most of them? Because, sometimes I find a diamond in the rough; some phrases or whole poems which rock my world. They may make me smile and recall happy memories, they may speak the words that seem to be my life, or it may, like "Giving Blood" give me a whole new perspective or point of view to consider.

If you, like my blogging friend, feel befuddled by poetry, I suggest you start with an easy anthology like The Body Eclectic, or one where the editor offers insights to assist the reader. Happy reading.

Monday, April 17, 2017

TTT: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Top Ten Nine Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

1. If the book is written by John Green. He could write a cookbook and I'd read it cover to cover.

2. If it is a YA book with 4 or more starred reviews. I am always trying to figure out which book is going to be a Printz winner when award season rolls around. Starred reviews by publications like Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, etc, don't necessarily predict the winners but it is a place to start when making reading decisions.

3. The Pulitzer Prize for literature winner. With a few exceptions I find the Pulitzer Prize for Literature winners to be some of the best books I've ever read. The 2017 award was just announced, so now I want to read its winner: Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

4. As soon as Mary Oliver publishes a new volume of poetry, I must read it. Her poems are like vitamins to me---necessary for life.

5. Youth Media Award Winners. In January the American Library Association announces the winners of a dozen or more YA book awards: Printz-best YA of the year; Morris-best debut YA author; Pura Belpre-best book authored by Latino author; Coretta Scott King Award-best book authored by African American author; Schneider Family Book Award-YA book which positively shows life with disability; Stonewall Award- a LGBT-themed YA book; Alex Award-adult book with cross-over appeal for teens; and others. I even host a challenge to encourage others to read all the YMA books

6. If the book is written by Barbara Kingsolver. I've read her novels, her essays, and her poetry. I've also read articles in magazine by her. She is a fabulous writer.

7. If Nancy Pearl, a contributor to PBS, makes a book recommendation, I always want to read those books, though I often don't get to them. She has a way of describing books in such compelling terms.

8. If someone I know tells me they really enjoyed an audiobook I automatically want to listen to that book. I am always looking around for well-done audiobooks. By the way, I am listening to one right now, The Hate U Give.

9. If Roger Housden would publish another 10-poems volume, I'd buy it and pay full price! I got interested in poetry because of Housden's little volumes which not only include just ten poems but Housden explains aspects of the poem which really brings it to life. If you want to check one out start with his first, Ten Poems to Change Your Life.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Salon, Easter

Photo credit: James Clarke, used with permission.
Happy Easter!

Weather: It was warm today, in the mid 60s. Days like today make it seem like we may have a real spring after all.

Easter: Today we worshiped at our church and then raced home to make an Easter dinner for a small party, us, Dan/Rita, and Dan's parents, Rick and Nancy. We made stuffed Cornish game hens, which took way longer to cook than we thought, green bean casserole, rolls, fruit salad, and, for dessert, rhubarb-custard pie. The fruit salad was good, the Cornish game hens were not very special, the green bean bake was unremarkable,  the rolls didn't rise very well, but the pie was spectacular. By far the shining star of the meal!  Thanks Rick, you make wonderful pie!

Photo: Isn't the above photo beautiful. It was taken by a high school friend of mine yesterday at University of Washington. The campus has lots of flowering trees which are all in bloom right now. Thanks for sharing your gift James!

Listening to: the 70s channel on the Music Choice station on the TV. Currently playing, "Sister Golden Hair" by the group America. I was wild for this group when I was in high school. Once my friends and I went to their concert and I stood on a chair and screamed. I was crazed. Other tunes, which have also been walks down memory lane, "Saturday Night Fever" by the Bee-Gees, "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas; and "Cracklin' Rosie" by Neil Diamond.

Books completed this week:

  • Art Deco: The Golden Age of Graphic Art and Illustration by Michael Robinson---sometimes my inner nerd emerges and I just consume a book which wasn't even on the radar the day before. We saw a few Art Deco buildings in New York so suddenly I was interested.
  • Tales of the South Pacific  by James Michener---my Classics Club spin book. This was not my favorite book by Michener or in general.
  • A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman--- an upcoming book club selection. This book really grew on me as I read it (listened to it.)
  • The Book of Hours: Poems by Kevin Young---I can't remember why I had this poetry book on my TBR pile but I finally turned my attention to it this week. Often people tell me they don't "get" poetry and I think, why not? Well, after reading this volume of poems I can now say, with a few exceptions, I didn't "get" most of the poems.
  • Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen--- 44 voices write, draw, and speak about feminism. I think this is an important book and I hope it finds its way into a lot of students' hands.
Currently reading:
  • The Body Eclectic: An Anthology of Poems edited by Patrice Vecchione--- I selected it because of the title. Ha! Print. 25%
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord---this is the last book for my Read the YMA Award books. Print. 10%
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas--- the most talked about YA book right now. Theme: Black Lives Matter. Audio. 8%.

Oh: Cat Stevens is playing right now, "Wild World". I am enjoying my walk down memory lane.
Osinbajo, a bishop in Nigeria, speaking with journalists today shortly after the Easter Sunday Service at the Aso Villa Chapel, Abuja, said: “(Easter) is a message of love of Jesus Christ to all mankind. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever that believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. “It is a message for love for all. There is no tribe, no religion; regardless of faith, Jesus loves us. This is how we should relate with ourselves. It is a pure love and I think that is what everyone should bear in mind at this time”.  Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/04/jesus-characteristics-around-criminals-osinbajo/

I hope you have a fantastic week.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Classics Club Spin Book---Review of Tales of the South Pacific

Another Classics Club Spin book completed! This one was Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener.

James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific after his experiences in World War II in the Pacific theater. It was published in 1947 and won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for literature. Michener was 40 years old when this book, his first, was published and he never looked back, eventually publishing over 25 books. This book was short (384 pages) compared to his other books, many weighing in at over 1000 pages. This book was adapted as a Broadway musical, South Pacific, in 1949 and in 1958 it was made into a movie.

Michener was called to active duty during World War II in the US Navy and spent the war as a historian, eventually making trips all over the South Pacific, and visiting many islands. He thinks one of the reasons he was allowed to move around so much was because his base commanders mistakenly thought he was related to Admiral Marc Mitscher. Later in his life Michener said this about his war time experiences,
"Many of the fondest memories of my travels stem back to my years of military service in the New Hebrides -- (now Vanuatu) -- during the Pacific War years of the early 1940s...While those beautiful islands have changed much with progress in the ensuing years, I know from subsequent visits that the friendliness of the peoples, their infectious smiles and their open-heartedness will remain forever one of life's treasures."
Tales of the South Pacific is a collection of short stories with an unnamed narrator who tells the stories collected from many of Michener's experiences and who plays witness to the happenings on many islands. Many people, reflecting back on the quality of this book compared to his subsequent works, think that he won the Pulitzer Prize for this book because of the post-war sentiment and patriotism, not because the books was a shining example of excellent writing. Most of the stories focused on how the American soldiers, sailors, and airmen spent their time when they weren't making war. Many of the characters in the stories did not have exemplary behaviors, several displaying blatant racism, and while others mentioned rape as if it were just an expected behavior. Few of the stories dealt with actual battles but the ones that did were my favorite. It is horrifying to think how many lives were lost over those little chucks of land in the Pacific.

One takeaway from Tales of the South Pacific was how much time was spent waiting by most of the military personnel. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I had no idea how much time was spent waiting for action. Soldiers asked to be transferred north so they could participate in some battle. Fighting was preferable to the boredom of waiting. In the story, "Dry Rot", one character begged to be reassigned and his commanding officer reminded him that somebody had to wait around on the island to gas up the planes. Why not him? In another story, "Fo' Dolla" an officer gets involved with a Tonkinese girl and ends up becoming completely obsessed with her, even though he would not marry her because he views her as below him racially. He had way too much time on his hands to get so involved with a local girl. I am fairly sure that Michener himself must have experienced the endless waiting, waiting, waiting, since it was such a prominent theme in most of the stories.
“I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, the full moon rising behind the volcanoes, and the waiting. The waiting. The timeless, repetitive waiting.” ― James A. MichenerTales of the South Pacific
The quote above is the opening line of the first story in the Tales of the South Pacific. The reason the narrator can't tell you about the loveliness and the waiting is because of the second paragraph, where we learn  "about the old Tonkinese woman who used to sell human heads." There were lots of surprising tidbits like this thrown into each story which kept me going and made the reading experience passable.

If I had to grade the book and my reading experience I'd give it a "C" and it is unlikely I will ever recommend that anyone read this book in the future. There were just too many problems with it that can't be overlooked.

Now I am off to see if I can a copy of the movie South Pacific to see how closely it follows the book. I watched it years ago and can't remember.

Here is one of the famous numbers from the South Pacific musical, "Bali Hai":


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Found Poem Assignment

April is National Poetry Month
My worksheets for the found poem project
Today I am jumping on the idea to combine poetry and politics by creating a found poem from the words of our president. The idea is part of the PEN America/Writers Resist movement, using my writing voice in combination with other writers"in a collective stand to defend free expression, reject hatred, and uphold truth in the face of lies and misinformation." I stumbled upon this idea from Keri at Friday Poetry and Laura Shovan. Check out their sites for much better examples than mine.
Found poetry is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.
My found poem is from the remarks by President Trump at a Black History Month gathering. All of the words were taken from the transcript of that meeting and they are in the correct order but I removed a lot of the words in between. Even though the poem seems to wander into uncharted and random territory, the meeting really did seem to dissolve into just random comments, totally unrelated to Black History Month. In a strange way the process of creating this poem was cathartic for me. I recommend it. Take a transcript from a speech made by any politician, preferably one that was delivered ad hoc, not written ahead of time, and see what you can pull out. Here's what I created from his words---

Black History Month
This is our little get-together. 
During this month, we honor the tremendous
     history of THE African-Americans
Throughout our country---
Throughout the world,
They're incredible people.
Frederick Douglass is an example
And is being recognized more and more.
Big impact!
(I don't like fake news.)
We need more jobs.
We're going to make it safe---
Much better than it is right now.
Right now it is terrible.
(I don't like fake news.)
This is a great group.
I want to thank my television star---
But I don't want to destroy her reputation.
Not quite, right?
(I don't like fake news.)
Why don't we start with you?
Go ahead.
That's a great idea---
Because Chicago is totally out of control.
And it is---I mean,
a lot of the media is actually the opposition party.
So it it a very sad situation.
(I don't like fake news.)
It's almost like, in the meantime, we won.
And we love the coal miners.
That's good stuff.
Thank you.

(Words by Donald Trump, from his Black History Month breakfast.)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books (2)

Top Ten Tuesday: Most unique books I've read recently (since April 2014)

1. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
This raunchy, bizarre, smart and compelling sci-fi novel defies description – it's best to go into it with an open mind and allow yourself to be first drawn in, then blown away. ---Rolling Stone
2.  How to Tell Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman
If your cat is kneading you, that's not a sign of affection. Your cat is actually checking your internal organs for weakness. If your cat brings you a dead animal, this isn't a gift. It's a warning. How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is an offering of cat comics, facts, and instructional guides from the creative wonderland at TheOatmeal.com.-Gooreads
3. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
The author of Printz Honor book Grasshopper Jungle returns with another genre-bending literary exploration of the absurd. Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel's story of his summer at a boys' camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow. -Amazon.com
4.  Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Ishmael is a half ton silverback gorilla. He is a student of ecology, life, freedom, and the human condition. He is also a teacher. He teaches that which all humans need to learn -- must learn -- if our species, and the rest of life on Earth as we know it, is to survive.- Ishmael.com
5.   The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Díaz finds a miraculous balance. He cuts his barn-burning comic-book plots (escape, ruin, redemption) with honest, messy realism, and his narrator speaks in a dazzling hash of Spanish, English, slang, literary flourishes, and pure virginal dorkiness. —New York Magazine
6.  March: Book Three by John Lewis
"An incredible accomplishment. It is the history of John Lewis, the civil rights movement and his role in it... a book that explains -- more deeply than anything else I've ever read -- the methods and the moral foundations of the civil rights movement, how civil rights activists did what they did and won what they won, and how they had the strength to do it in the most difficult circumstances imaginable." -- Rachel Maddow
"The closest American peer to Maus has arrived." -- The Washington Post
7.  Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
An enchantingly twisted modern fairy tale, perfect for those who prefer Grimm to Disney. Inventive, darkly magical, and beautifully written, it will stay with me for a long time.― Kendare Blake
8.  My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.---Goodreads
9.   Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North
Romeo loves Juliet. Or Rosaline. And Juliet loves Romeo. Or Viola. Or Orlando. It's Shakespeare as you've never played him before.  In this choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet, you choose where the story goes every time you read!---Amazon.com
10. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
'America's funniest science writer' (Washington Post) Mary Roach explores the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected, and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war.---Amazon.com

Peek below the line to look at the books I had on the list the last time TTT did this topic:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Salon---Spring Break report

Part of the NYC skyline
Weather: Overcast but not raining. There were a few moments of clearing today. The street trees are almost done blooming. Spring is here.

Part of the World Trade Center memorial. Roses are placed on the names of victims on their birthdays.
Spring Break in New York: last Sunday night we climbed aboard an airplane for a red-eye flight to New York. We flew through the night and I slept very little. We arrived at 7 AM, EDT. Our goal for the day was to make our way to Yonkers and Carly by 5 PM so we obviously were not in a hurry, which was good since our plans went awry almost immediately. As we rode a train leaving New Jersey we were detained because a train in front of us derailed. We had to jump over to the PATH train which travels to the World Trade Center. We decided to take the detour, even though we were dragging our bags behind us. This was our first visit to the site of the WTC since the completion of the memorial. We decided against going in the museum. (See note above about dragging our bags.) It was a touching experience. We also stopped in St. Paul's chapel across from the WTC and had a serendipitous moment since a Baroque ensemble was rehearsing with original instruments which included a lute and a oboe d'amore or a shawm (we couldn't tell which it was.) Next, we found a French Pastry shop and took our time over a ham and cheese croissant and a cafe latte. We caught the local #2 subway to get us close to Yonkers and finally Ubered our way for the last leg. We had enough time to take a short nap before our reunion with Carly. We closed out our first day in New York at Gianna's Restaurant in Yonkers, a wonderful spot we discovered  in August when we were in the state helping Carly move in.
Carly and Don contemplate a Renoir at the MET
Day two: Carly doesn't have classes on Tuesdays and every other Friday. So we all got up early and hightailed it into NYC to get in line for rush tickets at a Broadway theater. Carly is already good at navigating her way on the transit systems of New York. We took a train from Yonkers to Grand Central Station and then a subway shuttle to Times Square. We stood in line for about an hour but got rush tickets to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, starring Josh Groban. After purchasing tickets we had a lot of time to kill so we found our way to the Natural History Museum but couldn't believe how long the line was to get in so decided to march across Central Park and go to the Metropolitan Art Museum (MET) instead. After many hours and very sore feet we consulted the map and realized we had seen about 2% of what there was to see. We will have to go back some day, several times. After a quick dinner at Black Tap which specializes in Crazy Shakes we made our way back to the theater for a fabulous, mind-blowing theater experience. What a day!
Before the musical: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
Day three: Don and I made our way into the city early again hoping for another set of rush tickets. Quickly, however, we missed Carly's skill at navigating the transit system. We marched off the train in the wrong direction, dumped out into a part of town we didn't recognize, got lost walking around trying to find our way back. Our mishaps with the train and subway system continued throughout the day. We did find our way to the theater in time to get rush tickets for a matinee of Beautiful: the Carole King Story. Between getting the tickets and the show we made our way downtown, with another subway flub, to the Strand Bookstore. Though I enjoyed it, I hate to tell you this New York, Powell's Bookstore in Portland is bigger and better. Ha! Back to the matinee, we had a big laugh because it looked like the average age of the attendees was 70 years. The show was fabulous. We both loved Carole King so much when we were in secondary school. She has had an incredible career. We made another train choice goof-up but finally got on the right train and found our way back to Yonkers.
Don riding the bomb from Dr. Stranglove at the Alamo Drafthouse cinema

Day four: Our feet were too sore to make another trip into the city so we stuck around Yonkers for the day. Carly gave us a tour of Sarah Lawrence College where she is attending graduate school. It was good to see the spots where she hangs out during the day. We can now picture her life in New York more fully. That evening we went to see the movie, Logan, at the Yonkers Alamo Drafthouse cinema. The cinema has a new and funky concept where you can order food from a menu and it is delivered to your seat. They also have a great selection of draft brews and ciders. Logan wasn't my style for a movie selection but the experience was lots of fun.
At Rockefeller Plaza
Day five: After a late start we made our way back to New York City for another shot at a Broadway show with Carly. This time we planned on buying our tickets from TKTS so we had no idea what show tickets would be available. Times Square was just crawling with people, the TKTS line was so long, and it was windy and cold. Through an incredibly lucky event we were allowed to skip and go to the head of the line and we got discounted tickets to Amelie, a new musical on Broadway.  Once again after getting the tickets we had to kill some time before the show. We started with an early dinner at Juniors, home of the world famous cheesecake and delicious Reuben sandwiches. Yum. After dinner we had to keep warm somehow so we took a self-guided walking tour of Times Square and Rockefeller Center, spending a bit of time thawing out in two different churches, including St. Patrick's Cathedral. We loved the show, Amelie, which just officially opened this week, even though we were sitting in the front row!
Inside St. Patrick's cathedral
Day six: After a morning of shopping and helping Carly decorate her apartment we made our way to New Jersey to visit our friends Carol and Ken. What a fun visit. I'm counting it as one of my 60 for my 60th events. We've known Ken forever and Carol since they got married 34 years ago. We love you guys! Their son, Kevin, joined us for dinner. It is so fun to see our children grow into adults.
Waiting for the musical Amelie to begin. Me in the spotlight.

Day seven: our flight left Newark Airport at 6:45 AM, with the time change we were home by 9:30 AM. We stopped off at a favorite breakfast restaurant on my way back from the airport, The Sunbreak Cafe. I napped for a few hours while Don watched golf on TV. Now tomorrow we head back to work.

It shouldn't surprise you that I didn't get much reading done, but I did finish Upstream by Mary Oliver. Check out the my review by clicking the hyperlink. I also made progress on my spin book, Tales from the South Pacific. I'm at 83%.

Speaking of Josh Groban: Have you heard his single from Beauty and the Beast? Check it out.

What a week!

Upstream by Mary Oliver

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver is a collection of essays by one of my favorite poets. Some of the essays are short, paragraph-long reflections and observations, while others are longer, more in depth essays on a variety of topics.  The book is divided into five sections. The first section contains essays on nature and reading and writing. Most give the reader an opportunity to pause and reflect.  As she looks back on her childhood and past years she is struck by many blessings.
I quickly found for myself two such blessings--- the natural world, and the world of writing: literature. These were the gates through which I vanish from a difficult place... And this is what I learned: that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within otherness--- the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books --- can redignify the worst- stung heart (14). 
I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too (16).
Oliver hands out little quips of advice in this section, also:
You must not ever stop being whimsical./// And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life (19).
She also mentions several times how much she appreciates form and structure, not only in nature but in literature. Perhaps that is why I enjoy Oliver's poems so much--- she follows and uses an understandable structure when she writes.

Section two essays focus on Oliver's observations of nature. Here she talks about daily walks where she notices animals and birds. Section three contains four literary analysis essays.  The first is about Ralph Waldo Emerson and, by extension, his famous book, Nature. I've not read Emerson but after reading this essay I want to give him a try. I love what Oliver has to say about him as a man and a writer.
The best use of literature bends not toward the narrow and the absolute but to the extravagant and the possible. Answers are not part of it; rather, it is the opinions, the rhapsodic persuasions, the engrafted logics, the clues that are to the mind of the reader the possible keys to his own self-quarrels, his own predicament. This is the crux of Emerson, who does not advance straight ahead but wanders to all sides of an issue; who delivers suggestions with a kindly gesture--- who opens doors and tells us to look for things ourselves. The one thing he is adamant about is that we should look--- we must look...(68-9).
Her essay on Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass was of special interest to me since I just read it. I wish I had the opportunity to study Leaves of Grass under the tutelage of an instructor who understands its complexities but I will suffice with a few notes from Oliver here on the greatness of this volume of poetry.
Of all American poems, the 1855  Leaves of Grass is the most probable of effect upon the individual sensibility. It wants no less. We study it as literature, but like all great literature it has a deeper design: it would be a book for men to live by. It is obsessively affirmative...It offers a way to live, in the religious sense, that is intelligent and emotive and rich, and dependent only on the individual--- no politics, no liturgy, no down payment. Just attention, sympathy, empathy...Brawn and spirit, we are built of light, and God is within us. This is the message of his long, honeyed harangue (107-8).
This section also contains essays on Edgar Allan Poe and on the poet Wordsworth. Both essays shed light on the writings and lives of these great writers.

Sections four and five contain essays on a variety of subjects: building a small house with her own hands, a bear's visit to town, more observations on nature, and a tribute to her hometown. My favorite from these sections is a reflection Oliver offers at the end of the essay on owls. She knows there is an owls nest someplace and she walks all over looking for it.
And I walk on, over the shoulder of summer and down across the red-dappled fall; and when, it's late winter again, out through the far woodlands of the Province Lands, maybe another few hundred miles, looking for the owl's nest, yes of course, and looking at everything else along the way (139).
Mary Oliver reminds us in Upstream that it is not attainment of the destination but the journey that holds the magic, but we must stop and take note as we travel on. She encourages us "to discover awe and wonder in life's smallest corners" (book jacket).

All quotes from print edition of Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver, Penguin Press, New York, 2016.