Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oh the world!

I recently read a "biography" of Nancy Mitford that was composed mostly of excerpts from her letters. Her friend Harold Acton put it together not long after she died. Nancy Mitford is the author of the incomparably English novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate yet she lived from 1945 to her death in 1973 in France.

The two novels I mentioned are hilariously funny, yet poignant. Later, she turned to writing biographies, and I am now reading her life of Madame de Pompadour. What I've read by her has not shown much interest on her part in religion (although no antipathy toward it either), so I was interested to read in her letters, in the years of the illness that eventually took her life, the remark "The longer I live the more Christian I become—Christian civilisation with all its faults has been by far the best in historical times, do admit."

Sometimes she had so much pain from her illness that she longed to die, but when she had relief from the pain, she wanted to live. She said, "Oh the world! how much better off we shall all be in the next one. And yet one’s pretty house, the sunshine, the bird’s moving in for the winter, Hassan and his niceness and all one’s friends can’t but attach one to it." (Hassan kept house, cooked, and cared for her in her illness.) I relate to that because I often think that this world is so beautiful that I wish we didn't ultimately have to leave it, even for a better one, and what I like best are my yard, my deck, my neighborhood, my dog, my family. Simple pleasures are the best, as the baked beans commercial used to say.



I was a little disappointed that, in my Kindle edition of Madame de Pompadour, the introduction, by Amanda Foreman, had several mistakes concerning Nancy Mitford. After mentioning Nancy Mitford's father's aversion to sending his daughters to school, she says, "Nancy was only half-joking when she claimed that the one novel she had read in her life was White Fang." Nancy Mitford never said this about herself, it was a line she put in the mouth of her fictional character "Uncle Matthew" (a character based on her father, Lord Redesdale), who said it was such a good book he never had to read another one. A couple sentences later, Ms. Foreman states, "She achieved instant fame with her essay 'The English Aristocracy,' a witty analysis of class-based habits of speech, in which she coined the terms U and non-U, meaning 'upper-class' and 'the rest.'" In fact Nancy Mitford wrote that essay some time after her novels had become wildly popular. Then, "After the war, Nancy moved to France and lived in a charming house in Versailles." Actually, Nancy Mitford lived in Paris from 1945 through 1966 and moved to Versailles in 1967. All these facts are in the book to which Ms. Foreman is writing the foreword. All she had to do was read the book to get it right.

Amanda Foreman, by the way, is the author of a biography I've read and enjoyed, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I trust her research in that work was of a higher caliber than this.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where is the answer?

We've been having windy weather. That seems to happen a lot in October, although, come to think of it, it's November now. Anyway, a couple days ago I stopped at Winco, the big-box grocery store, on my way home from work to pick up a few items. When I came back out to my car, I saw a shopping cart rolling across the parking lot with no visible means of locomotion. I said to myself, "The grocery carts are blowin' in the wind."

Naturally, this led to my singing "Blowin' in the Wind" (or such parts of it as I could remember) the rest of the way home. I knew it was written by Bob Dylan, and I've heard his version, but I prefer Peter, Paul, and Mary's rendition. I like close harmonies and melodic singing.

Judge for yourself. Here's Bob Dylan:



and here are Peter, Paul, and Mary:


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Replicake

Today the wife of one of my co-workers "experimented" with making a carrot cake, and she brought the result in to our office. I had a piece, and I proclaim the experiment a resounding success.

Further studies are warranted, however, to make sure the result is reproducible.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday noon

Today is a cloudy day with light rain. Washington rain. It's cool out, but the wind is not adding any extra chill. Wet leaves are all over the pavements.

Yesterday, Saturday, I slept in a long, long, long, long time, and it felt great. I didn't wake up until 11:00. One more week until we "fall back" an hour. Lucky Europeans already did so today.

In a little while, I'll go over to my sister-in-law's and we'll eat a nice Sunday dinner she'll have prepared and then we'll work on our stitching. I'm on the last flower of a pansy pillow, then I'll fill in the background. She is in the last stages of a large and complex needlepoint of Rembrandt's Night Watch.

This evening, I need to do enough laundry to get me through the work week. It's been many years now that my typical pattern is to do the most necessary weekly laundering on Sunday evening. That is because I tend to wait until the last minute to do almost everything. I don't know why I do that, I just do.

Oh, well.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Town sky

By the time I got into Lynden, about 6:00 p.m., the sky to the west looked like this:

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In my back yard, this glowing hump of cloud showed over the trees:

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When I took my dog for a walk, this giant thunderhead was due east, as I looked down South Park Street:

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Here it is closer up:

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And closer yet:

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Cool.

Countryside sky

So yesterday we had exciting weather. Thunder, hail, and rain about lunch time, then the sky cleared up in time for a partial solar eclipse in the afternoon. I didn't know about it at the time, but in Longview, Washington, about 200 miles south of me, there even was a tornado. Those happen rarely in Washington. This is only the second one I've ever heard of.

When I was driving home from work, the post-storm sky was going through rapid changes, with stunning cloudscapes and even a rainbow. I pulled off onto a side road (Abbot Road, off the Hannegan, if you're local) and took some pictures.

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Rainbow over the harvested field.

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Dark sky.

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The sky was dark, but everything on the ground was bright -- clean from the rain and with the westering sun making it glow.

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The edge of the dark clouds.

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The farm glowing against the louring sky.

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A watery effect because the car window on that side had raindrops on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beauty

P. Allen Smith, whose TV series "Garden Home," I enjoyed, has a Facebook page, and he linked to this blog entry  a woman wrote about her garden. She starts out recounting a time when some women said that their garden was strictly utilitarian and they didn't waste resources on things that weren't edible. So she wrote a blog about why she gardens and loves her garden, which has both edible and ornamental plants.

In Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the priest who saves Jean Valjean from going back to prison has a garden in which 3/4s was for vegetables and 1/4 was for flowers. His housekeeper told him that 1/4 plot was useless and that it would be better to grow salads then bouquets. He replied that she was mistaken and said, "The beautiful is as useful as the useful." And after a pause he added, "More so, perhaps."



Beauty is an intrinsic and valuable part of God's creation. When we plant flowers and enjoy them, we honor him.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Heat and humidity

I remarked earlier that it seemed quite warm today for mid-October. When I went to church this evening, when I sat in the fireside room, where we were meeting, I found myself feeling too warm and coated with sweat. I was embarrassed during the shake hands greeting time for fear I looked grossly sweaty. After a while I felt a little better, but always quite warm. At my small group meeting, toward the end, I was sweating again.

I was wondering, is it really hot? Or am I having hot flashes? Or maybe too much thyroid medicine?

When I got outside the wind was blowing harder than ever--it's been blowing all day, which makes it tolerable outdoors--and some large raindrops were scattered in with the wind.

By the time I got home, after 9:30 p.m., and looked up local weather reports, the current temperatures for my town were innocuous numbers in the low 60s (Fahrenheit). I finally found a site that said what had happened earlier in the day, and it turns out today's high temperature was 76.5 at around 3:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m., when church started, it was still almost 70 degrees, and as my small group was winding down it was still almost 67 degrees, and the humidity was getting up near 80%. So, pretty gross.

About now, the temperature is down to just a little over 61 degrees, but the humidity has climbed to 94%.

Fortunately, the forecast is for cooler weather starting tomorrow, also rain, maybe even thunder, which is exciting in this region because rare.

Autumn

Today was a rather warm day for mid-October, but still had a feeling of fall because of clouds, wind, and blowing leaves. Yesterday I borrowed two of my niece's children to help me do some clean-up around the yard and deck.  One of the things I did was throw away all the annuals I had bought but never planted. This past summer was not a good one for beautifying my deck or growing flowers. But now that is behind me. Ahead is the dormant season, and by the time spring comes I may have regenerated the desire to grow flowers.

This afternoon I mowed the lawn. The grass has gotten greener and lusher since the weather cooled off and we got a little rain. Also there were leaves all over the back yard, so wherever I mowed I left a path behind me. I like that. I don't pick up the leaves and grass as I mow, but I have blades on the mower that chop them up to fertilize the lawn. It was a gorgeous day to be outside.

Now I'm back inside and the only fly in my ointment, so to speak, is that I have a fairly severe infestation of fruit flies in my kitchen. So gross. I will have to address that problem at a later date because right now I have to feed and walk the dog, take a shower to wash off the smell of lawnmower fumes, then go to the evening worship service at my church, and then to my small group. The small group right now is my chief source of spiritual help.