This time last week I was looking forward to getting out of this house – the one we’ve been sheltering in place in since mid-March for a week-long trip to a BnB in the Flint Hills.
My original plan included dusting off my telescope in the hope of some dark sky observing, only I forgot to check the moon phase calendar before booking the cabin. Full moon occurs this week (tomorrow if I remember correctly).
But despite all the stress of participating (as a team lead) in a hackathon (and placing second), escaping our home however briefly just wasn’t in the stars.
Terry’s health has been a problem for several months now, including a trip to the hospital last month for a few days (that turned out to be a bad drug reaction and interaction). The hospital food also did a number on his digestive system and he’s still suffering weeks later. So at the last possible moment, I cancelled the trip (rescheduled it for the new moon in mid-April 2021) and resigned myself to a week of home improvement and maintenance projects.
I have twenty-four days left to read twenty-five books to reach my goal of reading one hundred and one books this year. I’m skeptical I’ll complete my self-imposed challenge.
I can possible finish another ten books, but I doubt I can do at least a book a day, not and work, clean, shop, etc. This will be the first time ever I won’t meet my reading challenge. I fudged a couple of years ago and lowered my challenge 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through the year due to work, school and home pressures. But this year I’m resisting the urge to adjust my goal post just to give myself a ‘fake’ win. I will suffer the shameful consequences.
I came home from work to a warm home. Completely cozy and comfortable in all rooms, not just the ones with space heaters and comforters. My furnace is refurbished, with nearly all new parts (heart and brain transplant aka fuel switch, heat exchange and motherboard). For the first time since the day before Thanksgiving, I’m not wearing multiple layers of clothing, a sweater or robe nor wrapped in a blanket.
Now I can concentrate on the fact that there’s only twenty more days until Christmas and less than two weeks before my daughter flies in for a ten day visit.
Today would have been the 121st birthday of C.S. Lewis. A week ago today marked the 56th anniversary of his death, which was, at the time, overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy.
To celebrate his birthday, I decided to read the second essay found in the 1969 edition of Selected Literary Essays by C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper. Interestingly, the copy I checked out from the Kansas City Public Library may be a first edition. If not, it’s been in circulation for fifty years, as evidenced by date stamps through early 1996, after which, I assume, the Library moved from analog to digital (card catalog to barcodes):
I originally checked out this volume specifically to read the 21st essay entitled “Psycho-Analysis and Literary Criticism” which was referenced in a footnote in an essay I read recently in A Tolkien Compass. For today, though, I wanted to celebrate the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, so I read, instead, the second essay entitled “The Alliterative Metre.”
The essay covers many of the rules governing alliterative verse, including these definitions:
The half-line consists of Lifts and Dips. Every half-line must contain neither more nor less than two Lifts.
A Lift is either (1) one syllable both long and accented (as the first syllable of ogre or mountain); or (b) two syllables whereof the first is short but accented, and the second unaccented (as the first two syllables of merrily, vigorous, melancholy, evident).
A Dip is any reasonable number of unaccented syllables whether long or short.
Despite my best efforts, I quickly got sidetracked by yet another footnote. It all began with a short example alliterative verse, composed (I’m assuming) by Lewis.
We were TALKing of DRAGONS, | TOLkien and I In a BERKshire BAR. | The BIG WORKman Who had SAT SILent | and SUCKED his PIPE ALL the EVEning, | from his EMPTy MUG With GLEAMing EYE | GLANCED toWARDS us; "I SEEN 'em mySELF', | he SAID FIERCEly
Note: Syllables printed above in capitals are Lifts, the rest are Dips.
The first and most distracting footnote followed the word ‘fiercely’ and read:
A week ago I was dreaming of today, waking up in Texas, snuggling with my nearly 18 month old grandson. I woke up to something completely different and totally unexpected. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a very long post . . .
Instead of a warm home filled with happy family and the wonderful smell of baking goodness, I find myself sniffling and shivering in a cold, mostly dark, mostly empty house.
It all started this past Monday the 25th. I fell asleep in my recliner in my cavernous and often chilly ‘great room’ which has a nearly twenty-foot ceiling. I woke up because I was shivering, yet I could hear the furnace fan blowing. I got up and stood on the vent directly over the furnace (located underneath the entryway by the steps leading to the upstairs bedrooms). The air coming out of the vent was cold. I woke up Terry on the way downstairs to the basement, where we tried various troubleshooting techniques with the furnace but ultimately gave up. I left a voice-mail with our heating repairman and went back to sleep wrapped in a throw. I called again a few minutes after eight o’clock and they assured me someone would be over to check the furnace that morning. I made arrangements to work from home.
The repairman arrived sometime between nine and ten in the morning. I escorted them to the basement and woke Terry up to monitor them. I had many meetings and conference calls schedule, so I retreated back to the great room, which doubles as my office until I motivate myself to clean out the second guest room. After an hour or so, the repairmen left, not having found a cause but oddly the furnace began working again on its own. I returned to my conference calls, despite a scratchy throat and an increasingly congested sinus cavity. By four o’clock I could barely keep from coughing and shivering so I took some Mucinex and went up to the guest bedroom for a nap.
I was a bit shocked last week when I returned to work from a normal weekend to see traditional Christmas decorations in the elevator lobby, including Christmas trees and presents. The relief was palpable. If you read my last post, you’ll understand what nine years of PC purgatory looked like. The vote is still out on the winner of the worst decoration (I’m leaving the poll open until after Thanksgiving).
I’ve been sick the last couple of day, and so has my furnace. It’s having surgery right now in my basement. All of this meant we had to cancel our annual trip to visit my son, daughter-in-law and grandson for Thanksgiving. I don’t want them to get sick with whatever I’ve got and I can’t leave my house unattended with an unreliable furnace. I guess I’ll get caught up on my early winter reading.
I wish all of you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. Spend quality time with your family and friends. I’ll have to substitute a video call with my far-flung offspring.
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.
As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history. A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.
If it weren’t for my book clubs, I’d only ever read Tolkien, epic fantasy or the occasional space opera. Thankfully, I have many wonderful women in my life who push my reading boundary buttons and pull me out of my comfort zone. This book, a true crime non-fiction selection published a couple of years ago, was recommended to me last year by one of my small town local librarybook club members. Killers of the Flower Moon was our final book of the month selection for 2019, which we discussed in mid-November. We typically skip December and choose to read a classic over the winter months for discussion in early January. This year’s classic is Hard Times by Charles Dickens.
Nine of us gathered at the local library for our discussion. A couple of us read the audiobook but most of read the print edition. The general consensus about the book was favorable (good research) but before reading Flower Moon, none of us had heard of the Osage murders, and we are within a couple of hundred miles of where they occurred. Even odder, as I noted during our discussion, that Tim White, the special agent in charge of the murder investigation, left the Bureau to become the warden of the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth. Even more shocking, our resident skeptic (which really isn’t the right word but I can’t think of one that means ‘person who rarely likes the books we read as a group) stated she enjoyed reading Flower Moon.
With respect to the audiobook, I became distracted by Will Patton’s narration. Not because it was ‘bad’ but rather because it was so amazing. I felt sorry for the other two narrators because when compared side by side (or as book ends) to Will Patton’s performance, theirs was forgettable. And that is why I took a half star off of what would have been a four star rating. The content was informative, well researched and sparked very good group discussion. The audio production gets five stars for Will Patton and three stars for the other two.
This book club is still finalizing what we’re reading in 2020. The polls are out and as soon as I get the results, I’ll update our GoodReads group book shelves and post the slate here and at the library. We at least know what we’re reading for January and February. Beyond that, you’ll have to wait and find out!
MiddleMoot 2019 (last month in Waterloo, Iowa), like most conferences, consists of multiples sessions competing for the same time slots. Like all good stories, plays and, in this case, moots, there is a beginning, a middle and an end where we all gather together. In between, decisions must be made.
Since I wanted to support my fellow Withywindle Smial presenters, Sessions 2 and 4 were already decided. Thus I need to decide between female grief as foresight or interruptions and musing for the first session. I went with the former for various reasons, but mostly because I’m not a writer of fiction (just a reader), my life is one long interruption and I was intrigue by the concept of female grief as foresight and subcreation, especially after reading about Aragorn’s mother, Gilraen. I created an audio recording of the session on my iPad, but Jude Bleile was so soft-spoken, even with a microphone, that I won’t share that recording here to avoid listener frustration.
While visiting my daughter last weekend, (see previous post), we spent part of Saturday visiting the Museum of Flight, and the rest of the day carving pumpkins, something I hadn’t done in decades. The last time I did this as a kid, was in the mid to late 70s when my grandmother spent a couple of weeks with my brother and I in October while my mom and dad were away on a trip. We did the more traditional carving of a face – eyes, nose and a mouth with jagged teeth.
Skip ahead a decade and a half in the mid 90s after I’d spawned two children of my own, both of whom were vastly more artistic than I ever dreamed of being. My daughter especially has always been good at 3D art. Thus her dragon is center stage in the photo above. My Balrog isn’t too shabby but not nearly as frightening as I’d hoped. Nic’s Raven is his nod to Poe, nevermore!
In just a few hours I’ll be boarding a plane to the Pacific Northwest so I can visit my daughter and see her debut performance as Principessa in Suor Angelica for the Lyric Opera of the Northwest. This will be the second time this year I have seen this opera. Earlier this year, in May, Rachelle appeared at the Mistress of Novices for the St. Petersburg Opera.