Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Name is Lucy Barton

“There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed.”

And so begins the story of Lucy Barton, a young wife and mother, who is recovering from an

unnamed illness in a NYC hospital. Although the story centers on Lucy’s time in the hospital, the book meshes three stories—Lucy’s childhood, the hospital stay, and her life as a writer. 

Told in snippets of memory, we know that she is married and has two beloved children, but we don’t see much of her husband or the children.  Instead, her long-estranged mother shows up at the hospital from Amgash, Illinois, and sits at Lucy’s bedside for five days, never leaving even to sleep.  

In the haze of her recovery, Lucy listens to her mother talk, mostly about people from her home town, gossip about their marriages, but never about what is most on Lucy’s mind—the extreme poverty of her childhood, her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s abuse. Her mother never asks about Lucy’s own marriage, or her two beloved girls.  Instead, Lucy and her mother talk around these  issues, and it is what is left unsaid that paints this story.

 The story goes back and forth in time, and Lucy reflects on many aspects of her life—her childhood, of course, but also the influence of a writing mentor, the kindness of her doctor, a beloved sixth grade teacher. It almost doesn’t matter what her mother says, it’s the mere comfort of her mother’s voice that helps Lucy to heal and to piece together the many bits of her life.  This is a brief, but thoughtful novel, about the fragile bonds of family, the comfort of a mother’s voice, and the imperfection of love. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Books On My Nightstand

I've taken quite a breather from the blog this summer, but thought I'd do a quick update on books. It's been a good summer for books~~ I've been trying to catch up on some of the books on my nightstand and there have been some good ones.

  • A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson~~great book, just as good as Life After Life, which I loved. It's a companion book to Life After Life, but you don't necessarily need to read that one first.
  • Radiant Angel, by Nelson DeMille~~another thriller about John Corey, who's  saving our world, thank goodness.
  • The Truth According to Us, by Annie Barrows--recommended to me by my friend Mary.
  • The Children's Crusade, by Ann Packer.
  • Among the Ten Thousand Things, by Julia Pierpont.
  • Euphoria,  by Lily King~~ I heard the author on NPR and this sounded so good. Fiction about Margaret Mead.
  • Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng~~sad but interesting book I read earlier in the summer and liked it a lot.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

My book group at the library read this book for June and we discussed it on Tuesday night.  I loved Nancy Horan's first book, Loving Frank, about the life of Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife Mamah. The author does so much research for her books that you really wonder what is fact and what is fiction, something that sparked a whole separate discussion on the genre of historical fiction.  Under the Wide and Starry Sky is about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife Fanny, and it is based on extensive research, including the many letters of both Louis and Fanny.  They had a fascinating life of love and adventure and I enjoyed the book, although it's a little slow going at times. We all agreed it (like many books) could have been 100 pages shorter. The life Louis and Fanny led, living in France, England, Scotland, Australia, Switzerland, California,  and finally sailing the South Pacific and living in Samoa was really amazing, especially considering they were living in the late 1800s.

Stevenson was a sickly man much of his life, and Fanny nursed him and nurtured his career so that he could write the classics Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll  and Mr. Hyde, among others. (Interesting fact: Stevenson borrowed the name Jekyll from family friend Gertrude Jekyll, the legendary English gardener!). Fanny sacrificed her own dreams (not always happily) of being a painter and a writer, certainly not unusual for that time period. There was lots to talk about with this book, and while most people liked the book, a few did not and that always makes for a good discussion.

Robert Louis Stevenson's epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June Garden

I feel like I haven't been out in the garden for weeks--thus nothing interesting to blog about. Between the rainy weather, hot hot hot temps, working on our kitchen, and wedding planning,  the garden has taken a back seat this summer. It's looking pretty good even without my help,  though, everything is so lush and green after all the rain.  The vines on my fence are just going wild. I often think about the jungle we would live in if we didn't spend any time trimming and cutting back. We have neighbors who do nothing in their yard, and so their weeds on their side of the fence have turned into trees, and I spend a lot of time just cutting that back.  It's amazing how fast things grow.  I did spend a little time over the weekend on deadheading and weeding, always that. Daisies and phlox and coneflowers are just beginning to bloom. My roses aren't looking too good--too much rain and fungal diseases go wild. We had huge storms last night but the sun is out this morning and it is actually pleasant outside.

One thing I have noticed is a few of my autumn anemones are turning white, or turning variegated. I have looked this up thinking it might be a virus, but see nothing that would explain this.  Any ideas from my master gardeners??

Pots are all doing great, especially the lantanas,  which the butterflies love. Some of my succulents are turning to mush though, with all the rain.

See the monarch butterfly?

My amaryllis summering on the deck

Monday, June 1, 2015

Morning Garden~~Larkspur and Roses

'The garden I love more than any place on earth; it is a better study than the room inside the house which is dignified by that name. I like to pace its gravelled walks, to sit in the moss-house, which is warm and cosey as a bird’s nest, and wherein twilight dwells at noonday; to enjoy the feast of colour spread for me in the curiously shaped floral spaces. My garden, with its silence and the pulses of fragrance that come and go on the airy undulations, affects me like sweet music. Care stops at the gates, and gazes at me wistfully through the bars. Among my flowers and trees Nature takes me into her own hands, and I breathe freely as the first man.'

The Gardener's Monthly, 1864

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Green Morning

I was up and out early this morning watering all my pots as it's going to be a hot hot week. Everything looks so lush and green right now. Above is my new conifer bed, where we tore out a big burning bush and planted that pretty hinoki cypress in the middle, and I am filling in with dwarf conifers and potted succulents. I am calling it my conifer bed although you really can't tell because the plants are so small.  I love the idea of mixed textures and colors.

Salvia argentea

My herb garden looks really good right now, the thyme is taking over and the lavender is starting to bloom.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Floral Tatoos

I'm not a big fan of tattoos but I'm kind of loving these temporary floral tattoos via Etsy.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chaos and Calm

It seems like blogging has taken a back seat lately because of so much else going on around here.  We are in the middle of kitchen reno, which we are doing ourselves (stripping wallpaper, painting cabinets) and so my kitchen, and my life it seems, is in disarray.  My computer and camera aren't in their usual spots (as well as everything in my kitchen) and so my routines are disrupted. I am more focused on paint chips and sanding dust right now.  And in the middle of all that,  Julia and Hampton got engaged (yea!) and now we are planning a wedding. And here I am, during the very best time of the year,  not paying attention to what's happening outside in the garden. 

But I made myself go out yesterday and look around and take some pictures.  Tom and Evie are in town and they stopped by to visit and see the garden too.  After several days of July-like weather, yesterday began cool and spring-like, so refreshing. So much is blooming and the garden that I have been neglecting just goes on being beautiful. Herbaceous peonies are blooming, roses are just beginning,  the baptisia is gorgeous, the Kousa dogwood is lush with flowers, perennial geraniums are blooming, and believe it or not, I still have lots of hellebores. The larkspur is budded and should bloom in the next week. That is always quite the show.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tree Peony Blooms!

Early May is definitely my favorite time in the garden, because my tree peonies are in bloom! Even though the blooms are short-lived, they put on quite a show for a few days, dramatic, fragrant, and simply gorgeous.  I love to go out in the morning and stick my head into their big, blowsy faces. To give you an idea of the size, a fully opened bloom is the size of a dinner plate. They are a woody shrub, unlike the herbaceous peonies, and keep their good foliage and structure the rest of the season. I have three, a dark red in the backyard,  this pink one in the front perennial bed,  and a new yellow one, which I planted 2 years ago and has yet to bloom. Tree peonies can last 100 years--this one is young at 25 years old. I bought it at Merrifield Garden Center and I remember thinking it was the most expensive plant I ever bought--it was $15.  People walking by my house always comment on them and want to know what they are. As the tree peonies start to fade, the herbaceous peonies begin to bloom, so at least we get a week or two of peonies.