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Monday, August 4, 2014

It Can't Be August Already, Can It?

This busy past week, as time came to turn the calendar page from July to August, I did the following (a partial, not an inclusive list):

Observed Cherry Harvest in Progress

You can’t help observing it if you’re out on the roads this time of year. Cherry shakers and haulers, crew and tractors, are on the move throughout the county, and orchards enclose our home on all sides. My own farm dreams don’t involve fruit trees (a few chickens, a couple beef cattle, a field of alfalfa, and I’d settle for half a dozen chickens and time for a productive, well-tended garden), but I like living in a region of working agriculture and having farmers for neighbors.

Got in a Bunch of New Books for Young People

Some of them, for young adult readers, were recommended to me. Others, like the Beezus and Ramona books (and others) by Beverly Cleary, were my own personal brain wave. Oh, the bright, happy colors!

Started Reading a New Book

World War I began a hundred years ago this past week. (Not such a happy thought.) It isn't a war that gets a lot of play in bookstores, where customers much more often look to the Civil War or World War II than to the “Great War” (WWI) or even the Revolutionary War. Why is that? Too long ago? But not as long ago as the Civil war. It's a mystery to me.

My own horrified fascination, beginning with Elliott Paul’s The Last Time I Saw Paris, focused for years on the interval between World War I and II. More recently I have found myself reading further back in history, back into the 18th and 19th centuries, but having received a review copy a few days ago of David Laskin’s The Family: A Journey Into the Heart of the Twentieth Century (now out in paperback), I plunged right in and on Thursday morning reached Chapter Eight, “First World War,” coincidentally with the historic anniversary. A review will have to wait until I’ve read the entire book, but the story is gripping, especially with the Eastern Front bisecting the Pale....

Had a Beautiful Friday in Northport

Last Friday morning, after home chores and country dog walk, began in town with the farm market, where I bought bread, croissants, lovely red onions, little striped purple-and-white eggplant, fresh fennel, two kinds of goat cheese, and some irresistible organic beef. It continued in the bookstore, selling out of the second printing of The Ice Caves of Leelanau, and wrapped up with Music in the Park, for which I was a co-sponsor, this time around, of the Claudia Schmidt Funtet. It was a “good day from morning ‘til night,” but I was too busy and relaxed—yes, sometimes both at once!—to photograph the passing hours.

Thought a Lot More About Writing

William Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction is so lively, as well as helpful, that once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop, so I was glad to find it’s still available in paperback. Much of what he writes is applicable for fiction as well as nonfiction. After all, good writing is good writing (as bad is bad), so any writer can learn from good advice about the craft, whatever its genre focus. I’m ordering this for my bookstore, along with books on writing by Eudora Welty, Stephen King, and Anne Lamott. Any other suggestions for books on writing that have been important to you?

Started Reading Another Book

The Family is my morning book. At night, before sleep, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel, The Signature of All Things. Fiction, history, botany – all in one book. Only thing is, the edition I’m reading is LARGE PRINT, and I’m finding the LARGE PRINT makes me read differently. It’s very strange and more distracting than I’d thought it would be, but I’m persevering.

Took Note of Spotted Knapweed in Bloom

I know, I know! It’s a horrible, nonnative, invasive species, and it doesn’t do our fields and meadows any favors at all. The feeling I most associate with the blooming of this plant, however, is a sense of poignant urgency, coming from my knowledge that we have now reached late summer. After that, of course, comes summer’s end. But before the end come waves of lavender and gold, soft living colors threaded through the green, and my breath catches in my throat. Is this a response to beauty or to the passing of a season that is never long enough?

Invited Four Friends for a Dinner, al Fresco

It can be hard to find time and energy for entertaining during the summer, but in other ways summer is the best time for inviting people, since we don’t have to be crowded into the tiny rooms of our old farmhouse but can stretch and spread out under the black walnut and basswood trees. But the weather was unsettled on Sunday, and as I was driving home dark clouds loomed. I found David in the yard, scanning the sky and making dubious noises about the dinner plan. Those clouds were going to clear off, I told him confidently. The sky cleared for a while, then more dark clouds came; in the end, however, we were able to have our dinner outside under the trees, with just a little breeze and a question of rain in the air but no falling drops.

Baked a Lemon Polenta Pound Cake

This recipe was from The Cake Chronicles, and I think the author said there that she’d gotten it from some other book, but I’m at the bookstore now, and the copies I ordered to sell are still on back-order. Anyway, heavenly smell! Heavenly taste! A bit overdone on top, but the nice lady who brought me a whole quart of fresh-picked black raspberries, after I mentioned that I’d only been able to harvest a handful from my yard – she’s the one who made this dessert a real glory! Now, the next time she comes in, I’ll have to get her name! Nothing like the excitement of raspberries distracting me while bookselling to make me forget the basics. Well, I did say “Thank you,” but that hardly covers it, do you think?

Felt Deep Gratitude

I love our old farmhouse and the surrounding farm neighborhood. I love all of Leelanau Township. I feel so very fortunate to live here, so blessed, so thankful for my life. I’m also feeling grateful for friends old and new, present and distant, young and old. And I can feel that our dog, Sarah, shares all these feelings. Sarah loves her home! She loves company! She loves the yard! She loves her life!


Karen Casebeer said...

A little bit of everything in this post, Pamela. I share your feelings about summer's end coming. For me, I think it is a carry-over from all those years of teaching and the back-to-school feeling I'd get when the calendar turned over to August 1. Your image of the meadow with its "waves of lavender and gold" is stunning. The mid to foreground is quite impressionistic.

Cheri Walton said...

I have a suggestion for books on writing: "Living by Fiction" by Annie Dilliard. After reading "An American Childhood", I thought I was a great fan of Annie Dilliard, but the other books she has written, though I certainly like them, never enthralled me the way the first one did. This book about writing, though, was applicable to visual art as well, and I gobbled it up. I guess we always love to have our own ideas legitimized by somebody far greater than we are, and I felt as if she had picked a lot of what she wrote out of my own brain. You might want to give it a try. Her memoir is wonderful,too. I selected it for our Library book group to read (back when we had a book group)and everyone loved it.

Cheri Walton said...

That back to school feeling never goes away..even now when it starts to feel like Fall visions of new shoes and notebooks race back into my mind just like Pavlov's dogs....

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, that lavender and gold image is from last year (still takes me forever to upload new images from camera, so when an old one will do, I use it), but the colors are the same this year, and I love the look.

Cheri, thanks for recommending the Dillard book, LIVING BY FICTION. I read and loved it but didn't think of it when ordering a few other books on writing the other day. And yes, the artist who taught the drawing classes I took last fall and spring recommended several books by writers. Lots about creativity crosses what we silly humans think of as category boundaries.

Dawn said...

Love the knapweed photo. Another painting in the making I think. Of course Sarah loves her life! She has a wonderful one with you and David.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, could you tell I was putting my own feelings into Sarah's mouth? I thought the exclamations (my real feelings) seemed more natural coming from a happy dog (!!!!).