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Archive for the ‘Nature/animals’ Category

I closed the cover of Delia Owens’ enthralling novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing” with a few tears in my eyes and the sadness one sometimes feels at the end of a story well written – and an ending one did not expect. As I put this book down, I realized that it has been a long while since I last posted any book recommendations or reviews. Actually, it has been some time since I posted anything, for which I apologize. I hope to return to posting more often.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” came to me from my dear friend Elaine, who rushed up to me, book in hand, and said “you have to read this“. She was correct, I did. Once opened, it was a book I could not put down. How Kya survives abuse, abandonment, loneliness, poverty and being ostracized from the community while creating a family of sorts with wildlife and waterfowl is amazing. It lives up to all the hype and worth a read. Our book group will be discussing it at a future date – a discussion I look forward to.

These two books (below) were audio, from local libraries, “read” while I was out and about in my old car that had 6 slots for DVD’s – one of the few things I will miss from that now ancient vehicle. You know, the one with the latte body and mocha interior. (or was it mocha with latte interior?).

“The Library at the Edge of the World” was a delight to listen to about returning home, belonging, family conflict and, of course, books! “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” was equally delightful. It is historical fiction about Joy Davidman’s life, friendship and love of C.S. Lewis.

 

 

“A Fatal Twist of Lemon” by Patrice Greenwood is the first of several books in a murder mysteries series, the Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries. The books are set in and around a haunted house/tearoom located in Santa Fe. Mystery, murder, historic preservation, opera, seances, weddings, culture – you name it, the series is delightful. Short in length, they are best read on a winter afternoon with a cup of tea and a tasty morsel (a few recipes are included in the books).  This first book of the series, found in the library, was truly a book judged by its cover.

 

 

 

Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore is a small, charming, well established purveyor of histories and mysteries in Forest Park, just barely outside of the boundaries of the City of Chicago.  It is a bit out-of-the-way for me, but, worthy of a trip a few times a year to see what they have on the shelves over their unique plaid carpeting, and their knowledgeable and conversational owner. I think of Sherlock Holmes whenever I enter.

The bookshop has books concerning Chicago and the surrounding area and holds many events at the store, including book signings and author lectures. If I lived closer, I would be there all the time. I stopped in one chilly spring afternoon and was drawn to this short novel about a teenaged girl, Sarah, who is the second daughter of Jewish immigrants. Sarah’s family lives in a multi-cultural neighborhood surrounding Hull House during the late 19th century. Sarah wants to be an artist. Her father is a butcher, the shop close by, her mother holds a secret from the past, her brother is often ill, her older sister has romantic interests with a young Irish lad – and the Columbian Exhibition is about to open. Juvenile/young adult fiction, I enjoyed reading this. My father’s family settled in this area, his parents immigrants, his friends of many different cultures. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, our class had a field trip to Hull House, leading me to want to learn all about Jane Addams (who makes a few appearances in the book). A short read, “Her Mother’s Secret” by Barbara Garland Polikoff is a book you might enjoy.

One afternoon, some time ago, I had our local WGN/Chicago radio station turned on in the car. Do any of you listen to John Williams, or listen to local personality in your area on the radio?  John was reviewing and praising a book he couldn’t put down, “The Feather Thief:  Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century”” by Kirk Wallace Johnson. I was so intrigued by John’s enthusiasm that I purchased “The Feather Thief”, only to let it sit and collect dust. My garden club will be discussing it early in 2020, so, I opened the pages and was immediately immersed in the history of bird and feather collecting and categorizing in the 19th century, detailing the places scientists, ornithologists, and others traveled to collect exotic birds, skins and feathers for ladies’ hats –  and for salmon fishing lures in the Victorian era. They travelled in harsh, hazardous conditions, obliterating species for fashion, sport and greed.

But wait – there is more.

The book begins with a  20 year old flautist, Edwin Rist, a gifted, talented American, who, in 2009, hops on a train after performing at the the Royal Academy of Music in London. Under the cloak of darkness, Edwin travels to the Tring Museum at the British Museum of Natural History, climbs a wall, breaks a window and methodically steals hundreds of rare bird skins, coveted by salmon fly-tiers, of which Edwin is one, and hold many awards.  This is a fascinating, true story of ornithology, fashion, the fly-tying craze, environmental issues, autism, the internet, crime – and more.

What are you reading?

Centuries and Sleuths – https://www.centuriesandsleuths.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Wild Kingdom

It started when I opened the back door to go into the house. A frog hopped boldly in front me, over the threshold and headed toward my purse, which was on the floor inside. Silly frog. I didn’t have any money.

Pictured is our newly acquired “weed whacker”. As long as it stays out of the potted plants, it will be a peaceable kingdom here – or so I thought just as I turned and saw the hanging pot of fuchsia suddenly swinging a bit too fast.

Out the front door, wheezing as I went, just as a chipmunk scurried down into the pot, staring at me behind a leaf – in defiance. “Outofthere” (which became one word as I rapped on the pot, causing the chipmunk to literally bounce up in the air, out of the pot and into the weeds, er, hosta, whilst the crew of construction workers next door stopped to stare at me. (Chippy the Chipmunk was fine – just momentarily dazed.)

All’s well that ends well.

 

Just as the chipmunk scurried out of our little kingdom, a hummingbird arrived and proceeded to sip from the blossoms adorning the hostas then flitted over to the fuchsia flowers. I love these little moments in life.

 

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. . . in which the beginning of visits to three Japanese gardens that I began suddenly posted before it should have. It can be found here  My apologies if it was confusing (I’m confused 🙂 )

It is what it is, so,  let us walk together across this stone bridge from the Charlotte Pardridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the end of the previous post and travel together to the first of the Japanese gardens I visited.

 Watch your step.

One more bridge and then we will be . . .

. . .  at the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

As with many of my adventures in gardens and parks and forests, this was an excursion organized by the Elmhurst Garden Club’s Conservation and Education Committee. This committee, along with the Horticulture Committee, organize most of our trips. I have been wanting to go this garden in ever-so-long, so was as excited to go as these koi were to see us.

I have been to Japanese gardens before, but, this one seemed to be special – and it was.

We had a docent led tour, which made the experience more meaningful and insightful. We had two docents. One of the docents offered to take those who wished on a slightly less strenuous path with fewer steps to climb and places to stumble. Both were knowledgeable and engaging. We were asked to silence our phones, but, encouraged to take photos and to keep our voices low.

Our docent spoke of the elements of Japanese gardens; moving water, placement of living materials, paths, bridges, tranquil spots to sit and reflect, master craftsmanship and reverence for nature.

 

 

The garden was imagined by John Anderson as a young student and grew over the years. It was when he returned home from a trip to the Portland Japanese Garden in 1978 that he was inspired to turn his swampy back yard into a Japanese garden. Hoichi Kurisu, who directed the Portland garden, designed the Anderson garden. It grew over the subsequent years and was donated to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association in 1998.

 

 

 

 

This was a most delightful tour, followed by a most delicious lunch in the restaurant on the grounds and good conversation with kindred spirits. The food, our next project or trip, books – everything that women talk about with laughter in the traveling sisterhood of gardeners,  followed by the restroom, the gift shop and then the return ride home.

As I left the Rotary Botanical Gardens, mentioned in my previous post, I thought of the other two Japanese gardens. Each was designed in the Japanese tradition, each unique yet distinctive of this honored form of gardening. They were all tranquil and gently led me to a bench or large rock where I sat for spell and listened to the water, the birds, the whisper of leaves.

The gardens shared some facts. Benevolent gifts of land and of funds made them possible. Swamps, dumps and land used for other purposes were artfully developed into what we see today. Two were eventually donated to Rotary clubs. One (at the Como conservatory) was a gift of the people Nagasaki. These Japanese gardens were all close to industrial areas and all provide tranquility and peace for a small donation – or free. Two of them were conceived in the late 1970’s, the Anderson garden just a decade later. I visited two of them as the opportunity arose while traveling through three midwestern states.

They all gifted me a sense of peace in a troubled world – and I gladly accepted it.

Have you visited a Japanese garden – near you, while traveling?

Is there a Japanese garden near you?

 

 

 

 

 

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The art of stone in a Japanese garden is that of placement. Its ideal does not deviate from that of nature – Isamu Noguchi

Homeward bound with much of the long road behind me, I needed to stretch my legs. It was a pleasant day, I had been in the car for several hours, and I knew that the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin was a perfect place to stop for a break in my journey.

I exited the interstate, went the mile or so to the road leading to the gardens, and soon found myself marveling at the early summer blooms and lush greenery, the art installation and statues, the formal gardens, woodlands, vegetable gardens, and other botanical delights.

I was, as I often am, drawn to the entryway of the Japanese gardens . . .

. . . and I am always drawn to this bridge. Another of my photos of this bridge was the header for this blog quite a long time.

The Rotary Garden was a calming place to stop. I felt renewed for the last leg of my journey home.

As I walked back through the Visitors Center (and the restroom and the gift shop, of course) I realized that this was the third time in ten days that I had visited a Japanese garden. I wondered again at the coincidence as I merged back onto the interstate. I would pass Rockford (Illinois) on the next leg of my trip. It was the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford that the first of my trio of Japanese gardens was.

My son-in-law, Tom, knows me well. While visiting with my Up North family, Yia Yia was unsupervised for several hours while everyone else was at school or work. Just before she left the house, Katy remembered that her Tom (as opposed to my Tom) thought I might like the conservatory at St. Paul’s conservatory in Como Park. Katy gave me the necessary information, my GPS was soon loaded, and off I went.

This was my destination. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park. It is an amazing structure and home to tropical and exotic plants, as well as well  as as roses, lilies, and flowers you many have blooming in your own garden. The Conservatory is worthy of a post on its own, which I will endeavor to compose soon. I want to show you the sunken garden in particular.

I roamed the conservatory’s lush garden rooms, then turned a corner and found myself in what I believe is a newer wing.

Saint Paul and Nagasaki are sister cities.

The Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden was a gift from the people of Nagasaki. The garden opened in 1979. It has been renovated several times. This bright, airy passageway leads to a remarkable collection of Bonsai plants. In a rare moment for me, I did not take any photos of them. I wish I had. They were amazing, calming in their peaceful way.

I wandered outdoors, taking my time, enjoying the warm weather, the soft breeze, the stone lantern along the path and the soft chorus of waterfall. 

My visit over, I headed back having enjoyed a very sweet few hours.

Now, dear reader, something has happened with my wordpress account as I was writing this, so . . . I will do another post about the the third Japanese garden and hope that this update posts and in some way makes sense.

 

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The door is an unmistakable shade of Campbell’s tomato soup. It is as unremarkable as it is dependable, keeping the big, bad wolf without and us safe and sound within.

There is little reason to open the front door except to water the planters, shoo deer, chipmunks, and squirrels away, or to meet the occasional pizza delivery van. The business end of the house is in the back and most folks visiting know to go to the back door.

So it was that, on a mission to check the fuchsia Tom had given me for Mother’s Day, out the front door I went.

Something swished past as I stepped onto the porch. I paused, looked around and realized an awfully agitated robin was flitting about, expressing her displeasure at my sudden presence, just as the Antler Man meandered down the driveway to the check the mailbox and unaware that I was out on the front porch.

I said I could hear a disgruntled bird but wasn’t seeing it. I looked around then turned to straighten some twigs, leaves and raffia on the wreath hanging on the wall. Tom’s mom made the wreath from grapevines many years ago. We hung it up front a few year’s ago. I usually add a big, seasonal ribbon and put dried flowers, twigs, string, acorns and walnuts – items to keep it attractive and, at the same time, provide nesting material for birds.I hadn’t gotten to it yet this spring.

Just as my hand was setting to rearrange some errant raffia and dried plant material from last fall, the protective mama swooped past me, chattering away. My hand stopped midair. A mother’s intuition, perhaps, or just my own curiosity,  I moved closer, slowly upon my tippy-toes, and looked closer inside to the wreath.

There it was!

The reason for this engagement in my own version of Angry Birds.

How do you like my spring wreath, just outside the front door?

Meanwhile, this was already established at the back door.

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm

 John Muir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,

The maddest noise that grows, –

The birds, they make it in the spring,

At night’s delicious close.

– Emily Dickinson

 

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Then . . .

. . . there were chunks of ice, falling en masse, individually, randomly, sporadically. The racket would stop; a calm, silent, pregnant pause that would last a few minutes or an hour, then a fresh volley of frozen winter “fruit”.  Born from an ice storm, the chunks of ice would frazzle the steadiest of nerves as they hit the roof of the house, the skylights, the pavement, the arbor and more.

With frost quakes and frozen cannonballs, we have been experiencing a rather raucous winter,

a winter with tree “fruit” sparkling amid uplifting sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Snow can be peaceful, pristine and startlingly beautiful. It is a great equalizer; a coverlet, in equal measure on all that it touches, with indifference to income level or social status – at least at first snowfall, before the snowplows work time-and-half or double-time to clear the roads.

Ice, in all its glittering glory, is a lethal weapon when falling from above. It is challenging to walk upon. Its weight bears down on wires, creating outages which can become emergencies for medical needs, heating, communication. We have been fortunate. Our power has remained on, though our cable connections (which include landline, television, and internet) went out the other day. Thankfully, service resumed in a few hours. We really cannot complain.

We are coping, grateful for a warm house, food, cars that start and roads that plowed and are salted.

We have, however, entered into that 5th season –  pothole season. Rough winters and heavy vehicular traffic conspire to create amazing crevices – potholes –  in the pavement. This year, for some reason I have yet to discover, the potholes are harder to see. They are smaller, deeper, closer together and reveal themselves upon impact! I am wondering if the frost quakes have something to do with this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it goes, here on the cutoff. Stews and soups, hot tea and books are good for the winter-weary soul (not that I need a reason). More often than not, I can be found near the front window, a blanket on my lap, tea on the table and a book in hand.

On a recent late afternoon, I pulled out an old friend, “An American Year; Country Life and Landscapes Through the Seasons” by Hal Borland. It is a journal of sorts, filled with Borland’s seasonal essays and accompanied by illustrations from a host of “Distinguished Contemporary Artists”.  These are Hal Borland’s words from February, page 179.

The temperature still falls and the wind still roars, but there is smugness here and comfort and companionship. The night draws us all closer together. Surely it was not by chance alone that hearth and heart came so near to being the same word.

 

 

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