Tag Archives: book club

Books and Bouquets

Hello, my Dear Readers!

Life has been messily, exhaustingly, gloriously busy — and often fun. As a result, my house is messy, my body and mind have been weary, and I have seen many glimpses of the glory of God and His world.

Flowers, flowers, flowers! In my own garden I have sunflowers; in addition to the usual Delta species, I have “Autumn,” which seem very like in branching habit, but with more variety of color and shape of bloom. The tallest plant this year is an “Autumn.”

These shots from the front yard are just before we sheared the teucrium, so it was getting shaggy and with fewer and fewer flowers for the bees. Between the sunflowers and the asparagus let go, it’s a jungle out there for sure. Each successive summer the jungle is thicker, because the asparagus crowns deep under the soil are bigger. They send up more and fatter stalks every spring, which after two or three months of harvest I stop cutting as spears to cook and eat. They turn into  ferns, occasionally 5 feet high, and those green bushy parts carry on photosynthesis for months, growing the crowns even bigger.

There were plenty of flowers on the Feast of the Dormition yesterday, to celebrate Christ’s mother. We always have flowers, and extra for feasts, but the tradition is to have extra-extra for Mary:

I’ve been to the beach alone and with a friend; I’ve walked in the neighborhood, ferried friends all over two counties, and bought a new phone.

Our book group met yesterday, in a living room this time, because of heat and smoke; the smoke is still not from any wildfire nearby. We had lively discussion, mostly about A Long Walk with Mary, by Brandi Willis Schreiber, which I hadn’t read. The ways that the book had engaged such diverse women made me think I might like to read it myself in the future. We also talked a lot about what to read next, and we could not decide. No one wants a story so light as to be fluff, but they feel an avoidance for anything melancholic or gloomy right now.

One highlight of the book club event for me was afterward, when I got to visit the host’s garden for the second time. What a collection of flowers she has! I took a few pictures in the garden, and then she sent me home with a bouquet’s worth, plus several ripe tomatoes. My own tomato plants are puny and not very productive, and I have few flowers here that are good for cutting, so I was most grateful. She has two unusual and charming forms of zinnias that I would like to grow myself:

But I do have wisteria, at its most lush right now, making deep shade on the patio. Bees are happy in my garden, shown here on the apple mint that Mrs. Bread gave me, which has grown by leaps and bounds. The tomatoes below are the Atomic Grape variety, which are grape-shaped, but much bigger than any grape you ever saw. They are very tasty.

I’ve still been reading a lot. I abandoned a couple of books I’d started, and picked up new ones. Many times I have enough of my wits about me to read a book, but not enough to write about it. So I keep reading…. Lately the weather has been just the right amount of warm that it is the perfect thing to leave the too-cool house and carry my book and my lunch out to the garden. After a while I return to refill my big glass of iced something or other, and back out again to read a while longer. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it’s the perfect summer treat.

God bless you all and your own summer days.

Women talking about books.

reading
Arthur Lismer – My Wife at Sackville River

What I love about our women’s book group at church is how, over the course of the year, so many different women participate, and yet, each gathering is a totally different mix of women; the literary conversation is unique and fascinating in its range of genres, and even more so in the literary lives of each woman present. Those who met this week wear a variety of “hats” in their daily life, including those of mom, wife, schoolteacher, iconographer, farmer, marriage and family counselor, librarian, and screenwriter.

Our recent meeting — our first in-person meeting in over a year! — was after a non-reading break for Pascha, and it was a short get-together solely for the purpose of picking our next book. We were all supposed to bring an idea, and then we would vote. At the end of Lent when we met on Zoom, we had planned to return to the group’s original focus on women authors, and we also hoped to read something “summery” next, not in the “spiritual reading” category.

But of the six women at the table in the church hall Sunday afternoon, half weren’t aware of those parameters. The books that were suggested were:

1 – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

2 – The Italian by Ann Radcliffe

3 – The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

4 – My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

5 – Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus

6 – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Each of us told a little something about the book she was nominating, and then the informal and public voting began. Several of us lobbied for someone else’s suggestion. We had to choose a date for our discussion, also, which was harder, because for sure someone will have to miss that fun. People go on vacation.

Which book would YOU choose? Would you want to read a few, as we wanted? I came home and perused book covers to display here, and it was not easy to decide even among them.  If I were a graphic artist, I would think it the loveliest thing to do book covers.

I will tell you later what books we agreed upon, if I manage to read one or both of them. In the meantime, please tell me if any of these pique your interest or reaction for any reason. And I hope your own summer reading is satisfying in the best ways.

by Katie Harnett

It’s about light and seeing.

This was a Sunday extra-full of intellectual stimulation, so much so that I feel I must write in order to debrief and process the swirling thoughts. (The church property was also graced with thousands of manzanita blossoms, with which I am decorating my post.)

As I have mentioned before, we are reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis this year in the high school class that meets, as they all do, after we have partaken of the Holy Gifts, toward the end of Divine Liturgy. Today I was amazed at the scope of philosophy and questions we touched on in half a chapter of the book: What is a person? What purpose should art serve? How can we resist the urges from without and within to imbibe and conform to the culture we are born into?

The fictional story is of ghosts who get a chance at Heaven by taking a bus trip from Hell. They have been in the process of becoming more or less human for a long time. Is it hundreds or thousands of years? Hard to say. Our narrator’s guide by the middle of the book is none other than George MacDonald himself, who explains a great deal of what is going on.

About one ghost who appears to the narrator not to be really wicked, but only “into a habit of grumbling,” MacDonald says, “The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman — even the least trace of one — still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up.”

The blessed spirits journey for ages to meet the excursionists from Hell, and try to persuade them to cast off whatever hinders, and to stay in Heaven. Today’s reading included such an interview, between two men who had known of each other in the previous life, where they were both artists. When the ghost arrives, he looks around briefly and immediately wants to start painting.

“I shouldn’t bother about that just at present if I were you,” says the blessed spirit, and goes on to explain, “When you painted on earth — at least in your earlier days — it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came…. If you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.”

I wonder if George MacDonald struggled to keep his artistic focus on “telling about light,” if he ever found himself writing for the love of his own voice and to promote his reputation as a writer and storyteller. If so, he must have noticed, and repented. The glimpses of heavenly realities he was able to give have helped thousands to keep their eyes toward their life-giving Lord.

As often happens, the homily we had heard an hour earlier contributed to our lesson. This time Father John was telling us about the word peculiar in the King James translation, used in I Peter when the apostle is speaking to us who have been “called out of darkness into his marvelous light.” It comes from a Greek word that tells us we belong to God; we are possessed. We mused about how this fundamental truth about our personhood can help us to come back again and again to that light, His light, and not get distracted forever from our purpose, and from His life-giving Spirit.

I was not through being challenged to think, and to try forming my thoughts into speech fast enough to contribute to a discussion, because our women’s book club from church was gathering around my table mid-afternoon. We certainly didn’t need to eat, but you know how it is, one may rarely have a gathering of any sort in our society without serving food, and it is fun! …so I did put out a few snacks, and tea things and mugs.

We were discussing The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. A couple of the younger women had read it 20 years ago, and liked it then. But they have changed, and did not enjoy it much. None of us thought it was great, and I only read half, and won’t say more about it here. Next time we are reading Wounded by Love by Elder Porphyrios, picked from a half dozen suggestions of literary sustenance for our Lenten journey coming up in a few weeks.

Okay, now I’ve made my little report, and I hope I caught a ray of light somewhere in it. At least from the darling manzanita.