Thursday, May 29, 2008

On Being a Slow Reader

I don't equate speedreading with a heightened intellect, but three weeks to read just 200 pages is something of a record even for me. When I taught academic reading, I emphasized skimming and scanning among other skills. Some books lend themselves almost exclusively to skimming, usually those I realize early on that I shouldn't have started in the first place but that, obeying an inner parental voice, I make myself read to the end.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the rare book that merits to be scanned throughout. "Les Déchirements*" by Hubert Nyssen is such a book. Not only am I scanning it, I read pencil in hand, underlying, circling, adding my own shorthand in the margin and writing notes on the blank last page.

Briefly, "Les Déchirements" describes how early pivotal experiences and events color our personal life narrative, and how deeply disturbing it is to have them challenged by a close witness's perspective and revelations. The characters and events of this novel do not parallel my own life but they have initiated a voyage of re-evaluation and rediscovery of my own well-worn narrative.
So, at snail pace, I move on, pausing to consider the text and getting sidetracked in my own reflections. I am in no hurry to turn the pages faster, to find out "how it ends". It is not that kind of a novel.

To compensate, my next read will have to distract me from myself. What will it be? A trip to Venice with Donna Leon? A return to a disappeared England with Barbara Pym, or maybe a plunge into South Africa with Athol Fugard's gifted daughter Lisa?

* Heartbreaks, Agonies

Monday, May 26, 2008


Rainy days in the garden

and still the callas bloom,

protect small spiders,

and open to perfection

Friday, May 23, 2008

and the Winner is . . .

Zephirine Drouin, First Rose To Bloom in 2008!

and Outrageous as an "almost open" second.

All the irises are in full beauty as you can see on the updated slideshow.

If only the weeds would malinger, I would be completely happy!

Monday, May 19, 2008


HOT in Portland! The garden, le chat Gris and I are lovers of temperate weather. In the nineties, the pink peony dropped all its petals, the callas fainted to the ground and we knew just how they felt. One brave white peony barely made it through the heat wave.

HOT crowds for Obama on Sunday! They came on foot, on public transportation, on bikes and on boats, all 75,000 of them, to stand and cheer in the hot sun. Oregonians are thrilled that, for the first time in 40 years, their votes will actually make a difference in the choice for Democratic nominee; a record number of votes is expected tomorrow.

HOT yellow T-shirts to alert one and all that the Portland chapter of No More Victims is preparing to welcome Mustafa and his father in July.

He will be here for several weeks and, in the best case scenario, will return home to Fallujah with a new leg and repaired abdominal damage.

Yes, we do accept donations at No More Victims . Spread the word, and maybe you could consider starting a chapter in your community if there isn't one already . . .

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gardening by Buddha

By my desk, throughout the seasons a window frames my garden Buddha.While I admire Buddhist teachings, I am not a practicing Buddhist.

My upbringing did not include religious training. From my parents I passed on to my children a laissez-faire attitude toward religion and its institutions. But I was startled some time ago when I was summarily told, "Well, you are not a spiritual person!". Had the tenor of that particular remark invited a response, I would have begged to differ, "Working in my garden is what nourishes my spirit".

In winter, Buddha sits wrapped in his snow coat and white hat, a reminder that the barren garden is only dormant, pregnant with promises.

Come spring, life emerges all around him,

and in the high season he is "a green thought in a green shade".
This is paradise enough for me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

le 10 mai 1940

My mother's brief entry in her account book reads:

"Vendredi 10 mai Premier jour de la guerre.
Un soldat vient chercher Pierre à 2h du matin. 5h. Premiers bombardements.
De 8h30 à 10h30 apporté ses affaires à Pierre. Nous sommes restés ensemble pendant 3h.
Alertes toute la journée. Les anglais arrivent."

Friday May 10 First day of the war
A soldier comes at 2 a.m to fetch Pierre. 5 h. First bombings.
8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Took his chest to Pierre. We stayed together for 3 hours. Alerts all day long. The English are coming.

Was it on that day of fear and confusion that was planted in me the seed of a lifelong horror of war?

This is a timely reminder of how Mother's Day came to be:

(If you have audio problems, just let the video run once without sound, then replay with sound on.)

If you wish, you can ask me how you can help through No More Victims .

Friday, May 9, 2008


Under the blue sky, white butterflies among the apple blossoms
After its first mowing this year, the lawn looks like a boy 's botched crew cut

I walk barefoot by flower beds filled with promises coming true

In an old planter, a surprise of forgotten flame tulips

My precious pink peony has opened

And so have the irises

Book on my lap, I fall asleep in the 3 o'clock sun
Finally, finally spring has come

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Another Birthday, Another Treat

This RECIPE is touted as "The World's Best Cheesecake" and our quality control team agreed that it is very good indeed. Personally, I would skip the walnuts in the crust altogether or substitute pecans or hazelnuts. I basted the raspberries with last year cold pack red currant jelly, in case you wonder about their unusual sheen.

Fortunately for our waistlines, there are no more birthdays on the immediate horizon, and today is a gardening day.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Muguet Porte-Bonheur

All over Belgium today people will be offering sprigs of lily of the valley to each other. For 1,000 years or more this little flower has been believed to bring luck and happiness in what are today France and Belgium. Just think of the delicious scent all over the country, a lovely way to celebrate the lovely month of May, "le joli mois de mai".