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Friday, July 31, 2009

On the Same Earth, a Different World

The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer. NY: HarperCollins, 2007

The Shah had been deposed and had died in exile, and Tehran lived in fear of Revolutionary Guards, who might come at any time to make an arrest. It happens to Isaac Amin on the day he had promised his wife and daughter he would be home for lunch. Never formally charged with a crime and laughed at for imagining he might come to trial, Isaac is held in prison, interrogated and, finally, tortured because he will not admit to being what he is not, a spy for Savak. We are shown Isaac’s situation and learn his feelings very intimately, as if we are his cell-mates in prison.
Isaac stares at his hands—the skeletal knuckles, the dark veins, the fingers he has always regarded as too short for his palms. He looks at his feet—anonymous, neither beautiful nor ugly—just feet, doing their job, keeping him upright. How much longer will they remain unlashed? The longer he stares at his hands and feet, the more disjointed they seem, and he wonders if he would recognize them if they were to be severed, somehow, after an earthquake, for example, or a plane crash, or another random, unforeseen accident. People reside inside their bodies for decades, but they rarely examine these vessels, and all their intricate, dutiful parts. A house is more easily remembered than a body: one can describe the number of rooms, the glass in the windows, the color of the walls, the tiles in the bathroom.

What will happen to his body if he were to die here? Will they shroud him in linen and place him in a wooden casket, as his religion demands, or will they dump him somewhere, in a mass grave perhaps? What will become of his faithful hands and his nameless feet, for which he suddenly feels enormous love?

From Isaac’s prison cell we move to his wife, Farnaz, in their apartment; to their son, Parviz, lonely and disoriented in New York; to their young daughter, Shirin, trying to make sense of her father’s disappearance, her brother’s absence, her mother’s strange behavior, and the increasingly treacherous waters she must navigate each day at school.
She had been to the infirmary five times in the past two weeks, a fact that had categorized her peers, her teachers, and now, Leila’s mother, as ‘sickly.’ But she doesn’t think of herself as a sickly child. What had been troubling her were bouts of nausea, accompanied by sharp stomach pains, and it was only once she was in the infirmary, sipping the tea prepared for her by Soheila-khanoum, the school nurse, that her stomach muscles relaxed and she felt the nausea float away. There, in the hush of the white-walled, sunny room, she would let herself be coddled by the nurse, a kind woman who people said had lost a daughter in one of the revolution’s bloodiest riots. ‘Black Friday’ people called the day of that riot. But for Soheila-khanoum, Shirin thought, the blackness must have spilled onto the other days, giving her nothing but black weeks and months. She wondered if Soheila-khanoum got bored or lonely all by herself in that infirmary, the silence a constant reminder of her daughter. She seemed pleased to have a visitor who interrupted that solitude as frequently as Shirin did.

Shirin has secrets she must keep. Isaac and Farnaz have regrets. Parviz can see no clear future for himself. But the details of all this interiority accumulate slowly, almost gently, as the author takes us from one character to another, through their memories of the past and fears of the present and future.

I stayed up so late to finish The Septembers of Shiraz that I did not want to know what time it was when I turned out the light, since I had to ride the train until my stop came, on the last page of the book, and today I am still wondering what happened to all of the characters in the unwritten pages following “The End.” Is Dalia Sofer, the author, the Shirin of the novel? Do I want to know or not? The story and its characters are real and dear to me, and I’d rather not think of them as invented composites pulled from living people and imagination. I want to think that Shirin, older now, is enjoying freedom, security and Queen Anne’s-lace this very summer, not only on the same earth but in a happy life.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Better Weather Than Expected

Today, Thursday, rain came again to Leelanau, but considering that last week’s forecast for this week was clouds and rain and thunderstorms every day, it’s been a surprisingly beautiful stretch, as these pictures of the harbor and the sailing school on Wednesday afternoon attest.

Elizabeth Buzzelli was a big hit at the library on Tuesday evening. I’m sorry that this picture of her cannot convey the hilarity her remarks provoked. (I knew I should have taken notes!) There was no thunder and lightning this year during her presentation--only bursts of laughter and applause.

Wednesday evening David had dinner with an old friend, who is currently renting a house belonging to mutual old friends. Here is David posing in one of Geoff and Carlene’s Peace Corps souvenirs next to one of his most well-known paintings, familiar to many through wine labels and posters. (Hey, Robin, up in da U.P., this one's especially for you!)

Our return home brought us west, into a magnificent sunset.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Health, Health Care, Reform, Objections, and One Independent Bookseller's Response

A friend e-mailed me an article entitled “5 Freedoms You’d Lose in Health Care Reform.” Let’s go down the list one item at a time.

Freedom to choose what's in your plan. Well, I don’t have a plan. Don’t have health insurance. Can’t afford it. Have looked at various plans, and there is not one for me. I have been priced out of the market by companies who offer expensive plans and people who can afford them. “Good” health insurance pays the medical costs of a middle-aged person who has a slight dizzy spell, is put through thousands of dollars’ worth of tests, finally told there’s nothing wrong and she should “get up more slowly” in the morning. A lot of people make a living because of such coverage, but it drives the cost of health insurance sky-high, leaving a lot of us behind.

Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs. Another freedom I do not currently have. When I go to the doctor, I am charged the full, i.e., highest, amount listed for my visit and/or procedure. If I have to buy drugs, again I am charged the highest price. This is because I do not have health insurance. Luckily, I am very healthy; I am not, however, rewarded for healthy living. Friends and relatives with insurance get price breaks not only because insurance pays—their insurance company pays less than I am charged, because the companies are big and can bargain for better prices. Those of us who can’t afford insurance pay more than big insurance companies have to pay to cover their paying clients. A friend picking up a prescription forked over her one-dollar co-pay and asked, out of curiosity, what the “real cost” of the prescription was, and the pharmacist answered coldly, “That’s none of your business. You’re not paying it.” I might have been charged $80 for the same drug. How much did my friend’s insurance company pay for her prescription? Twenty dollars? Less? It’s none of her business and none of my business, according to the insurance companies and pharmacists. The doctors, I can tell you, have no clue. Read on.

Not long ago, a doctor thought I should, to be on the “safe side” (though he was pretty sure his diagnosis was correct), have a battery of expensive tests. I asked how much the tests would cost. He didn’t know. He asked one of his employees to call the place that gave the tests. The people there didn’t know, either, how much the tests would cost. “Our billing company takes care of that.” Americans are asked to be “responsible,” behaviorally and financially, for their own health care and then asked, if they do not have health insurance, to hand over blank checks to providers. This is a freedom?

Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage. This sounds good. I wish I’d ever been able to find it. Oh, we’ve looked into the question and have been offered a high-deductible plan, but there is a very high ceiling to the cost of such a plan, so that you can choose lower coverage, but you’re still paying the same as if you had higher coverage. You can bring the cost down to the third floor, but you sure can’t get it to the bargain basement. Bargains in high-deductible coverage are either a myth, or everyone claiming to offer them has ruled me out. Why? Because I’m self-employed? I don’t know, but I got tired of lengthy investigations that never once turned up a reasonable result.

Freedom to keep your existing plan. Again, I don’t have a plan. Once I had a plan, a very good one. University employees have been spoiled in this regard for a long time, but those days are numbered, whatever changes the government does or doesn’t make. One state decided to stop making employer contributions to retirement plans, since employees received a substantial tax reduction from the federal government. That’s retirement, not health insurance, but the writing is on the wall. How many people do you know who stayed in jobs solely for the health insurance—and then got laid off or had their benefits reduced or stripped when their hours were cut back or who got all the way to retirement only to find the benefits they had worked for had evaporated or came down with a serious illness and found their policy cancelled? Without government intervention, you have the freedom to keep your existing plan just as long as the company can provide it to you at great profit to itself and no longer.

Freedom to choose your doctors. This has been the panic cry as long as I can remember. At least Shawn Tully is honest enough to admit that HMOs curtailed the freedom in the same way a government plan would need to do. But guess what—private insurance plans do the same! If doctors don’t “participate” in the plan you have, you can be seen by them only on an emergency basis. You cannot, for example, choose a surgeon to operate on you and have your insurance pay that surgeon if that surgeon is not a participant in the insurance plan. There are probably a lot of people who don’t know this, as we did not until David was in the hospital in Florida this past winter. My freedom to choose a doctor is curtailed by my ability to pay, but that is always seen as okay by financial freedom hawks, so why is it any bigger problem that someone with insurance might want to choose a doctor whose fees would not be covered by that insurance? You want someone else? Pay for someone else! Oh, suddenly the shoe is on the other foot?

Someone else asked me earlier this summer, "Do you work out?" I don't go to a gym. What I do is go out in field and woods with my dog, and that (along with a grateful attitude) is my health insurance policy, insofar as I have one. Sarah and I went for a good hike this morning--fresh air, sunshine, refreshing breeze, lots of interesting things to see (and, for her, smell) in the woods--good exercise for both of us, refreshing body and soul. No insurance company is going to reward me for this. My getting out in the woods with my dog is its own reward, in the moment. I don't have to worry that it might not pay off in the future, after I've sacrificed my whole life to have it in place.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Elizabeth Buzzelli in Northport Tonight

As part of the Friends of the Leelanau Township Library’s summer author series, Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli, author of Dead Dancing Women and Dead Floating Lovers (with at least two more books to come in the Emily Kincaid series), will speak in Northport tonight--and will, I’m sure, sign copies of her books if asked nicely. The program at the library (on Nagonaba Street, just a few steps up from the marina, before you get to the post office) begins at 7:30 p.m. After her talk, Elizabeth’s books will be available for purchase. Punch and cookies will be served. We will have fun! There is always fun when Elizabeth is involved, so if you like your murders with a generous dose of humor, don’t miss this event.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Very Rainy Sunday Morning

It’s raining, it’s pouring, it’s not good weather for a long dog walk (picture above is from yesterday morning), but the ambience is cozy for my continuing reading of The Death of Woman Wang, by Jonathan D. Spence, an account published in 1978 of events in a small region of rural China in the seventeenth century, T’an Ch’eng county, which in that time period simply could not catch a break. If it wasn’t flood, it was drought and famine or bands of roving butcher-bandits in search of plunder and victims of soldiers requiring to be fed and sheltered. One year after another, crops were lost, families starved or murdered, and still the taxes came due. Of the “observers” (as Spence calls his sources), P’u sung-ling is definitely my favorite. In his stories, miracle and fantasy come interpenetrate reality, and there are moments of prosperity and occasional happy endings. Surely the people of T’an Ch’eng, gone so long now, deserved prosperity and happiness as much as anyone! P’u did not have an easy life himself, and there is plenty of murder and misery, hardship and poverty in his stories, but even at that, in his fictional renderings he was kinder to T’an Ch’eng and to himself than Fate had been.

David and Sarah and I went for a slow county cruise Saturday night here in Leelanau, where fields of green alfalfa and lush corn, bales of hay, orchards bent down with cherries and sturdy, healthy livestock made a picture of prosperity and good fortune that contrasted sharply with my reading. If this rain keeps up too long, the sweet cherries will take on too much water and split, and growers’ hearts will break over the loss of a beautiful crop. Ironic, though, that the better the overall crop, the worse the price and vice versa. It seems perverse. In any case, no one in Leelanau will face starvation.

Dog Ears Books had a lot of visitors on Saturday. Many friends who had not been in Northport for a while showed up, along with one couple who had not visited before, Larry Nelson of Stray Dog Bookstore in Three Rivers, Michigan, and his wife, Nicola. (Bookman’s holiday!)

Between visitors, I found time during the day to be transported by lovely images in two big, beautiful books, Wildflowers of the Western Great Lakes, by James R. Wells, Frederick W. Case and T. Lawrence Mellichamp, and Fred Petroskey: A Leelanau Portrait, by G. R. Kastys, both of which seem rather expensive until one thinks of all the years of happiness each volume will provide. One of the joys of being a bookseller is to hold and turn the pages of books like these, to place them into new hands, and to send them on to new homes. I feel I am thus, in my modest way, sending joy out into the world.

Finally, I've photographed Queen Anne many times but never, I think, more successfully than this.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yesterday Morning, Quiet and Still

The sun was trying its hardest to burn through the fog.

Lines of young cherry trees looked like caterpillars crawling over the hill.

Crops planted in alternating strips made bands of subtle color in the soft, grey light.

The book on Leelanau portrait artist Gene Petroskey is now available at Dog Ears. Talk about beautiful!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two Unrelated Topics: Letter P

The flowering perennial known as penstemon, or beardtongue, seems currently out of fashion in gardens, judging from the many nurseries that do not stock it at all or have only a single plant left over from last year, though the penstemon site I just visited claims the species is “growing in popularity.” The flowers of the variety (or two?) I have found are unspectacular. Lovely in close-up, to the casual glance they are small in size and pallid in hue. You would not pick a bouquet of them. (A few stems, however, provide subtle surprise in a mixed arrangement.) No, it is the foliage that I find so pleasing, providing contrast against spears of green iris leaves and a color bridge between the red of a Japanese maple (out of camera range in this shot) and the flowers of lavender.

In a small garden, the restfulness of a limited color palette in blooms can be offset by variety of color and texture in foliage, without any sacrifice of simplicity of serenity. Thus my plea for penstemon. Find it, plant it, love it!

In a recent discussion, a friend defended creative financial “products” (the conversational scare quotes my own, not his), and I told him I think part of the problem began when banks started calling various services and schemes “products”--and getting away with it--when nothing new had been produced. Friend didn’t back down, saying something had been produced, in the form of intellectual property. My position, as the Muse next had it emerge from my lips, was that the so-called “products” were only “augmented promises,” with no increase in value to back them up. “’Augmented promises?’” Friend exclaimed, startled and suspicious. I never heard of that!” “Of course not,” I told him. “The phrase is my product. I just made it up. It’s a new intellectual property.” He snorted. But why? Because my words were meant to reveal rather than to hide, elucidate rather than trick?

Someone may write a song or a poem or a play or a novel, and that creation is intellectual property, something of value newly produced and available to others. People pay to hear songs, buy books, see plays. They get something for their money besides a way to get more money by escaping responsibility for loaning money. If a loan is not a product—and I don’t believe it is, though it may enable production of something else—then how is splitting it up, trickily, into untraceable little bundles some kind of production?

I have been reading a book by Simon Leys, published in 1985, called The Burning Forest: Essays on Chinese Culture and Politics. The first essay, on poetry and painting, drew me in; enmeshed, I have been drawn, fascinated, through the essays on politics. In the excerpt below, Leys is talking about so-called “China experts,” but what he says is beautifully applicable to economic experts of our own day:
The Expert should in all circumstances say nothing, but he should say it at great length, in four or five volumes, thoughtfully and from a prestigious vantage point. The Expert cultivates Objectivity, Balance, and Fair-Mindedness; in any conflict between your subjectivity and his subjectivity, these qualities enable him, at the crucial juncture, to lift himself by his bootstraps high up into the realm of objectivity, from whence he will arbitrate in all serenity and deliver the final conclusion. The Expert is not emotional; he always remembers that there are two sides to a coin.... After every statement, the Expert cautiously points to the theoretical possibility of also stating the opposite; however, when presenting opinions or facts that run counter to his own private prejudices, he will be careful not to lend them any real significance—though, at the same time, he will let them discreetly stand as emergency exits, should his own views eventually be proved wrong.

Economics, like politics, is too important to be left unchallenged in the hands of experts. We can no longer afford the proliferation of insubstantial products. We couldn’t afford it in the first place, but it has taken a while for the blank check we handed over to be charged to our account.

As for the Five Elements--Water, Wood, Earth, Fire and Metal--I cannot seem to leave them behind. Here are all five together in another of my gardens. This garden is sadly neglected, except when I visit it with my camera.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rainy Break in the Weather

It rained, poured, sprinkled, on and off all day, and I hid out for an hour and a half to read about Chinese painting, poetry, history and culture, the break made possible by the fact that Bruce was at Dog Ears Books today, “holding down the fort” (a favorite phrase of my father). The view from my hideaway perch would never sell as a postcard, but I was contented and cozy.

A friend of my mother’s from Illinois showed up at the bookstore, however, so I went up to Northport earlier than anticipated to be on hand if he returned, and that lucky choice put me on the scene when Traverse City painter and friend Charles Murphy showed up with a new children’s book he’s illustrated. Always so good to see Charlie! And the family who met him—parents who want someday to have a bookstore in southern Indiana and their daughter, Danielle, five years old, who currently has ambitions to be an author, illustrator and veterinarian (I’ve forgotten the other occupations to which she aspires)—were thrilled to have their book personally inscribed.

Those who have taken note of the bookstore OPEN/CLOSED sign that features a dog’s snout on one side and paw on the other have only seen the tip of Angie’s creativity iceberg (okay, tortured image!), and it’s always a pleasure when Angie and Dennis appear for a visit, but today it was especially exciting: they have a baby daughter! I hadn’t even known of the expectation, so little Corinne Rose was a delightful surprise. Only nine weeks old and already enjoying having her parents read books to her!

The last three customers of the day were three generations of women—grandmother, mother, daughter (though all three, unbelievably, are grandmothers)—and that was a fun visit, too. The grandmother and her husband once operated a grocery store and meat market in the building over on Mill Street occupied at present by Trish’s Dishes. Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and visit Northport sixty years ago or more.

Another rainy evening and night? It reminds me of our last visit to Manitoulin Island and how sweet and peaceful it was to sit in our lakeside cabin and read while the rain pattered on the roof. Ah-h-h-h! Even vacation isn’t all and only about sunshine.

Alfalfa, my favorite field crop, makes a colorful foreground to the old barn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Worlds of Monday

Heavy morning dew weighed down everything growing in the meadow. As the sun cleared the treetops, light and evaporating moisture formed a shifting mist over grass, alfalfa, milkweed forest and wildflowers.

“For a naturalist,” writes Terry Tempest Williams in An Unspoken Hunger: Stories From the Field,
traveling into unfamiliar territory is like turning a kaleidoscope ninety degrees. Suddenly, the colors and pieces of glass find a fresh arrangement. The light shifts, and you enter a new landscape in search of the order you know to be there.

Without claiming the title of naturalist, I can say that this kaleidoscopic re-ordering occurs in my world almost daily, as, for instance, during the course of one day—clear, sunny, fresh and refreshing, on the cool side of comfortable—I slippped from my lush green world into Williams’s world of Western desert, into the Serengeti Plains and the Pelham Bay marsh she visited, and back again. I learn from her that I must read Edward Abbey, who wrote, “Paradise is the here and now, the actual, dogmatically real Earth on which we stand” and “For my own part, I am pleased enough with surfaces.” Oh, me, too! This world! No "better"!

In the evening, from a birthday dinner with friends high over Lake Michigan, I looked down on sailboats becalmed in the Manitou Passage after sunset and wondered if my brother-in-law might be out there. Sailors without wind are often sad fellows, but there are much worse places one could be.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where I Live: Five Leelanau Elements

Looking for images to meet Flandrum Hill’s midsummer scavenger hunt challenge has been a delightful preoccupation these last few weeks. In the end, I settled on fairly straightforwardly literal interpretations of the five elements--nothing really "outside the box" at all. They are, however, very characteristically Leelanau County images, and all come from very close to my home here at the southern end of Leelanau Township.

I have represented wood with simple white birch trees (ubiquitous northern image) and water (eschewing lake scenes) with cumulous clouds over our old barn. The fire image is of a startling conflagration that surprised us one evening when one of our cherry-growing neighbors burned a huge brush pile of black locust to make way for new orchard. For metal I visited the grave markers of Bohemian iron-workers in the cemetery of nearby St. Wenceslaus church (farms and Lake Michigan dunes in background), while those beautiful fields of color on Kovarik Road gave me a picture of earth.

Summer. Welcome!

June, July, August, and September, deep summer, with everything reaching its limits in growth, and work, and play, and the land a deep and quiet place, green, wet, dark, and cool, or hot and dusty, with towering clouds and sudden lightning, and everything slowly growing a little wise and a little tired, is as quiet, dull, happy, strong, and deceiving in time, as middle age—and (damn it) I like it, best of all.
– Charles Allen Stewart, R.F.D. (1938)

See previous post for details on dog parade, August 8.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Goin' to the Dogs

These dog pictures today are from last weekend, when the weather was much warmer, and a round of puppy play required a follow-up cooling-off period and then a good nap. Dog parade registration is officially underway. I registered entries #1 and #2 myself, first thing this morning. The entry fee is $5 per dog. For those unable to register early, there will also be registration on the day of the parade, from 11:30 to 12:45. That’s Saturday, August 8, and even early registrants will want to arrive at the Mill Pond in advance of the 1 p.m. parade start, as judges will be looking at entries prior to formation. Once again, this year’s theme is “Kentucky Dogby: A Run for the Roses.”

Today was the big day in the neighboring unincorporated village of Omena, where anyone at all could cast votes—any number of them—in the mayoral race, paying $1 for each vote cast. The catch? This election was a fundraiser for the Omena Historical Society, and the candidates were 22 dogs, two cats, one horse, one snail and one worm. The deadline for voting was 5 p.m. Who won??? The suspense is killing me!

I’ve been having a hard time lately with the “Have you read this?” question. Some of us get through stacks of reading in the summer, others in the winter, and I’m in the latter group. Finally, however, I finished one of my many half-read books. Something to add to the list! Yes, yes, it was a murder mystery, not the Stendahl or the Chinese culture book, and yes, I immediately picked up another murder mystery! Please! I’m working hard these days! Besides, I’ve been waiting and waiting for Elizabeth Buzzelli’s Dead Floating Lovers, and finally it’s here, so who am I to deny myself for another day the pleasure of the company of Emily Kincaid and Deputy Dolly?

Here’s the first daylily bloom of the season in my garden.

And finally, here's a reminder (if anyone needs one) that evenings too cool for swimming still offer delightful strolling and cloud-gazing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Once Again, Falling Behind in My Reading

Wednesday was warm, humid and windy, a strange and unsettling combination. On Lake Leelanau the wind was churning up whitecaps early in the day. The marine forecast today is for one- to two-foot waves on Lake Michigan.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything to my “Books Read” list. One reason is my usual hopping from one book to another, with four or five going at once. I haven’t finished one in a while. Besides that, it’s summer. Summer for me is high work gear as well as high social gear, not to mention gardening. (Winter is my primary reading season.) But a third reason is that, after years of saying I never would, I’m reading Stendahl, and I’m reading Le rouge et le noir in French, lucky to get through a few short chapters each night before being overtaken by sleep. I’ve never been a speed reader, even in English, and my pace is considerably slowed in French. Hope all those reasons together form a sufficient explanation. It’s all I’ve got to offer.

What did I expect The Red and the Black to be about? Armies on the field? No, the main character is an untried but ambitious provincial adolescent who finds himself raised above his father’s station in life because of his Latin studies, and the mother of the young children whose tutor he becomes falls head over heels in love with him. What makes this so fascinating is the way the author presents the interior reality of these two characters, showing the vast ocean of difference in their feelings over one and the same small event. Their two souls definitely do not beat as one; both are tormented but for very different reasons.

And then along come—what else?—about 20 boxes of “new” old books for Dog Ears, and I am instantly undone, yielding to The Burning Forest: Essays on Chinese Culture and Politics (1985), by Simon Leys. He begins the Culture section this way:
Chasing bits of truth is like catching butterflies: pin them down and they die. ‘As soon as one has finished saying something, it is no longer true.’ This observation by Thomas Merton could serve as a warning for the reader and should indicate the proper way of perusing this little essay.

In Chinese classical studies, it is necessary to specialize. It is also impossible.

...China is an organic entity, in which every element can be understood only when put under the light of other elements,,,,

It’s hopeless. He had me with the butterflies.

Down by the creek, Canadian anemones. “Anna-moans” is how I first pronounced this word as a child, finding it in a book. With the accent on the second syllable, the word trips off the tongue, as the blooms dance, whether in sun or dappled shade.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July Offering: Fields of Color

Must open first, though, with the announcement that Elizabeth Buzzelli’s second Emily Kincaid mystery, Dead Floating Lovers, arrived at last and is available at Dog Ears Books in Northport. (If you missed the first book, Dead Dancing Women, we have that, too.) Elizabeth will be in town two weeks from today, speaking at the Leelanau Township Library at 7:30 p.m. She has a light-hearted approach to murder fiction that may surprise but will certainly delight the audience, once again.

Now for the color. Today is Bastille Day, and I could celebrate by re-posting my 4th of July flowers, since France’s flag uses the same colors as ours, only saying their names in another order, bleu, blanc et rouge rather than red, white and blue. It ‘s the 120th anniversary of the Tour Eiffel. I am, however, very much here in Leelanau County, and after almost complaining of summer’s monochromatic green landscape the other day, it is only just that I give center stage to fields of July color here where I live.

Trust painter David (we call him the Master of Color) to find these vistas so close to home! With Bruce in the bookstore yesterday and Woody on duty for the gallery, I’d driven up to the nursery for more plants and taken them home to plant in the early afternoon, but David insisted I drop everything and take a ride with him to “see something worth seeing.” Disappointed that the “something” was not horse-related (but reassured by his statement that it had nothing to do with cars, either), I went along, mystified. He circled around the long way and, as we approached the scene from the bottom of a hill, told me to close my eyes. “Now open them.”

Worth it, yes?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Darling Little Breeze

That’s what there was early this morning, and woven into it was birdsong and perfume of fresh-cut hay and summer's first blooming milkweeds, sweetest floral bouquet I know. The sun was already warming the air at 7:30, but the breeze was soft, gentle, cool, and the whole Up North world still seemed refreshed after Friday night’s thunderstorm. I'll admit that I was refreshed after Saturday evening's time-out in the hammock and a good night's sleep afterward.

Cherries are ripening, fields being cut so hay can be raked and baled. Besides alfalfa, though, many other leguminous plants are flowering these days, modestly performing their nitrogen-fixing miracle as there were nothing to it. With eighteen thousand species in this family, their variety should be no surprise. Here are just a few from my early morning weekend walks and drives, these from field, orchard and roadside.

Sometimes the green of summer reminds me of winter's white expanses, in that the camera is confronted with an almost monochromatic landscape. Looking for the color, I move in closer, and that reminds me that I promised to post a link to a photography contest on a blog from Nova Scotia. If you've never before yearned to visit the Maritime Provinces, "Flandrum Hill" will plant that desire in your heart. Entering the contest requires that you post (details here) five images to correspond, either literally or metaphorically, to the "Five Elements" Earth, Water, Fire, Wood and Metal.

As it turned out, the book of the day on Saturday at Dog Ears Books was definitely Jim Harrison’s In Search of Small Gods. It seemed to call out to everyone who passed the table, and so far the feedback is everything I expected. This is my favorite of all Jim’s books, ever, so I'll close today's post with a few lines:
This small liquid mouth in the forest
is called a spring, but it is really
a liquid mouth that keeps all of the secrets
of what has happened here, speaking in the unparsed
language of water, how the sky was once closer
and a fragment of a burned-out star boiled its water.
-- from the poem "Spring" in the book In Search of Small Gods, by Jim Harrison