It was the end of summer

With dried roses on the arbor, and Indian summer a month away, Lina paused in the garden to feel the coolness of grass and trees before stepping out onto hot pavement. Early mornings were the time to linger outside, enjoy the flight of songbirds, spy on the rabbits in the backyard. By noon, the neighborhood would be deserted by Lina and all the other commuters.  The rabbits and songbirds would be staying under the deep shadows of the mulberry trees. Only the crows would walk down the center of the street, picking at grass mulch and the Queen Anne’s lace that had pushed up through cracks in the tarred surface. Down the street, Lina heard the hiss of the northbound bus’s brakes. She stooped to pick up her backpack and bottled water, walked out the garden gate, and let it shut behind her without looking. Tuesday was waiting, and the next bus south into the city would arrive in 5 minutes.

–Not quite sure it’s a story yet, or even a decent paragraph. But if this turns into something, I’ll start a separate section for it. rj

Reading: Martha Washington : an American Life

Yorktown was on every American’s lips. Rather than stay at home in her sorrow [over her son Jack’s death], Martha decided to go with her husband for the comfort of his presence. This trip was a reprise of 1775, with escorts, addresses, and cheering crowds. Philadelphia, as usual, outdid every place in its welcome. In addition to the usual celebratory illumination of lanterns and candles placed on windowsills, large transparent paintings, lit from behind, covered many windows like glowing shades. Patriotic and allegorical themes ran riot.” — Patricia Brady, Martha Washington: an American Life.

How different Philadelphia is later, during the yellow fever epidemic that began in July 1793.

Follow Martha Dandridge from her first marriage to Daniel Custis, and then to her second marriage to George Washington, after she was through mourning her first husband. Martha burned most of her letters, so many of the records of her life are second hand and not in her words. But the author does manage to paint a picture of a woman who wasn’t afraid to follow her husband to Valley Forge, who traveled to see family and didn’t let the tragedy of losing family and friends to war and death keep her in despair so long as George was still alive.

Even though I thought I “knew” Martha Washington from the children’s history books, and 12th grade history class, this was a gently surprising book with blended families against the backdrop of history, without sugarcoating some things that current Americans might like to forget. Lovely library find, and thin enough to read on the beach during the last brief days of summer.

Precious little knitting, or blogging is getting done

It's not behind me, is it?

It’s not behind me, is it?

We’re all adjusting a bit to kitten time (rhymes with “bitten time”). I’m not sure this isn’t hardest on the elder cats. So, things that can be put down fast for intervention (books, mostly) have started getting more attention. I’m in the middle of a pretty good biography of Martha Washington. More on that later, perhaps. Excellently researched, I think, and also: easily put down when I have to throw a towel over the little terror.

So, any good books out there? Some chaser for Americana, perhaps (knee deep in founding fathers and powdered wigs these days, so maybe sci-fi)?

Countdown to a blue moon

Step outside at sunset on July 31st, and this will finally be a full, blue moon [NASA explanation here].

countdownbluemoon

But right now we’re just counting down (and maybe humming along to the Nancy Griffith song, Just Once in a Very Blue Moon, although that might just be me (possibly better sound here)).  And admiring the daisies in the neighbor’s lawn, as well as black-eyed susans by garden gates. Hopefully, if you are dealing with summer’s hot weather and grass allergies, you have beautiful flowers to enjoy in the early evening.

daisies

Commuting through farm country

I very seldom get the chance to take pictures of the beautiful drives to and from between home and work. But due to recent car trouble, I got to be a passenger, and could try to capture some of the farms (although no picture of the tiny farm with piglets, 3 hens, one pony, and one cow). I resisted the urge to ask my driver if we could stop so I could get a picture of the sheep farm, complete with one large great pyranees on guard duty.

Here’s one barn I captured as we headed up over the rise.

farm-commute

Lovely. It glows white in the evenings, and it provides a marker, indicating a curve right after the hill it’s on, and then a stop sign that you can’t see. The cornfield on the right is a blur in the photo. This is the point where I roll down my windows to enjoy the summer breezes.

So, what lovely things do you see every day that you wish you could capture with a camera?

Knitting continues – with kitten intervention

Having learned how to get about half an hour of uninterrupted knitting time (run the vacuum cleaner for a while – the kitten magically disappears), I managed to do one full pattern of Pinkie (Child’s French Sock by Nancy Bush). Which means I’m almost through the gusset of the second sock. I’d love to get these totally off the needles before August, or by the beginning of August.

My knitting lags when I have an active kitten participating in every moment of the day.

The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham

But to all that moving experience there had been a shadow (a dark lining to the silver cloud), insistent and plain, which disconcerted her. In the sober gaiety of Sister St. Joseph, and much more in the beautiful courtesy of the Mother Superior, she had felt an aloofness …. There was a barrier between her and them. They spoke a different language not only of the tongue but of the heart. And when the door was closed upon her she felt that they had put her out of their minds so completely, going about their neglected work again without delay, that for them she might never have existed. She felt shut out not only from that poor little convent, but from some mysterious garden of the spirit after which with all her soul she hankered. She felt on a sudden alone as she had never felt alone before.”

The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham. Quite a page turner, filled with scandal in 1920s Hong Kong and then in backwoods China during a cholera epidemic. Kitty, the protagonist if not quite a heroine, makes a poor marriage, then an extramarital affair triggers her husband to volunteer to tend the dying in a cholera epidemic (and to drag her along). The fun is in watching the undertow of emotions slowly take shape, while Kitty becomes a 3-dimensional person. I think one more chapter in the book would have made the ending feel less rushed, and the conclusion more satisfyingly tantalizing.

Pour yourself a glass of iced green tea, pull up a chair on the shaded verandah, and start reading. And then ponder the questions I’m left with:

  • After all those lies, why did Kitty choose that one moment not to lie?
  • Is Charlie Townsend just a lout, or is he a villain of opportunity?
  • What happens to Kitty after the book ends?

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