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the peace of wild things

I love this poem:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things" 


2016 in books, book 6: the orphan master's son

Just finished The Orphan Master's Son, which was very hard to read. I didn't know anything about it, except that it was set in North Korea, and I'd suggest going into it with as little information as possible. I limped along for the first two hundred pages—perseverance!—and flew through the second half. My husband has requested that I pick "a funny book," please, while watching me grimace through the final hundred pages or so over the past two evenings. 

I loved it (but it was heartbreaking). 

photo via eric lafforgue


2016 in books, book 5: a god in ruins

Here's my rather paltry update for the week: I'm still working on A God in Ruins, which I started over a week ago. The end is (sorrowfully) near, though! 

This is one thing I love about historical fiction. When it's done right, it leads directly to a black hole of books. The entirety of this novel so far is worth reading, but if you only had time to cherry-pick the best parts of it, I would suggest the two portions of the book dealing with "Teddy's war"—his time in the RAF as a bomber during WWII—to be worth an hour or two of your time. And, if you had more time, it might lead you to research historical accounts of WWII bombers and their stories—and Atkinson conveniently presents that in her (very extensive) bibliography. 

Every review I've read of A God in Ruins cautions the reader to think of it not as a sequel to Life After Life, but a companion. I agree. It's not that you won't get it if you haven't read Life After Life, but—and this is only my imagining, having kept Life After Life well in my head after over a year and fifty books later—I imagine that it'd be difficult to appreciate the purity of Teddy's character, who spends the entirety of Atkinson's companion novel as the golden boy: the Todd's family much-adored younger brother. You'd expect a character like this to be boring, but as the novel is about the life he never expected to have after World War II and his subsequent struggle with reclaiming the moral balance in his life, he isn't. 

One warning: it is almost unceasingly grim, broken up only with a little black humor. My husband has watched me spend the last few evenings reading it, and it has usually coincided with a precipitous drop in mood. But. It's profoundly moving. And, like all hard books to read, worth it. 


snowzilla, part two


I know it's somewhat of a city-wide sport to mercilessly mock D.C. about how badly it handles snow and—while true—I think some of that hysteria pre-blizzard is self-created by locals. Because the commute in and out of and within D.C. can already be such a disaster without snow, and the city's snow equipment isn't exactly efficient, a snow day here ends up requiring way less snow when compared to, say, New York—where I remember trudging to work in a blizzard. In many ways, most days last week felt a little giddy, as though people were gearing up for a few days to recharge and relax by necessity.

My husband and I (very wisely, in retrospect) decided to stock up on groceries on Wednesday night rather than Thursday, when an extra inch or two of unexpected flurries sent everyone else in the city into a grocery-buying frenzy. Bare shelves, everywhere!

I was able to telecommute for our half-day of work on Friday (many workplaces here follow the schedule of the federal government's in the event of weather-related emergencies), so Aaron and I spent the cold but dry morning making a trip to Compass Coffee, which apparently stayed open throughout the entire storm. (Bravo!) I squeezed in a few hours of work in the late afternoon, when my husband bundled Aaron into his new snowsuit, and took him out to see the early hours of the snowfall, to adorable effect . . . .


We all went to sleep on Friday evening while the snow was coming down—and by Saturday morning, things looked a little different . . .





We spent the weekend relaxing, mostly—cooking, playing with Aaron's best-loved toddler friend (who lives upstairs!), and reading. There was a lot of Mater cartoons, and toys everywhere . . .


Some snuggling under the covers . . . .

Some toddler-throwing, with neighborhood friends . . . (have you ever seen a toddler get thrown into a snow drift? It's hilarious, and Aaron and his friend couldn't get enough!)


Good books . . .


 . . . and watching Dada shovel from the warm indoors, when things got a little too cold outside.


Hope everyone had a warm and cozy several days, and not too bad of a dig-out! We have another snow day today, which is hopefully the last—I don't think I'm the only one going stir-crazy and just about ready to go back to work again!

P.S. Aaron's crazy cute retro snowsuit, right here. 



Hope everyone is having a safe, warm weekend! The photo above is from yesterday afternoon, right before the snow started coming down in earnest, once again. (I thought we were done when it started tapering off in the morning, but I guess not!) Aaron had been having a blast playing in our shoveled front stoop, but as you can see, he decided he'd had enough when it started dumping on us again. My husband grew up in upstate New York and I grew up in Boston—so, thankfully, we're both used to snow, and are glad Aaron seems to love it (to an extent). 

Here's what's been helping my snowbound weekend:
a novel.
a mountain-climbing movie.
a little bit of balm (and color), to carry in my coat pocket.
a weekend getaway to warmer climates (six weeks away!).
a hearty meal.

A few more photos tomorrow... and, P.S. snowy days in Istanbul, a year ago. 


2016 in books, books 1 through 5

So I've already dropped the ball on one of my resolutions, which was to write a few words weekly on what I'm reading. So this is a bit of a long one, although I'm hoping to keep this short. And, you know, weekly. 

Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean: I'm still working on this one. I'm finding it significantly more difficult to read than A River Runs Through It—I think mostly because the entirety of the book so far involves such a grim event. (For those that don't know, it's about Montana's Mann Gulch fire in the late 1940s, during which over a dozen smokejumpers died attempting to fight it—two survivors of the disaster are in the photo above). I'm reading it in chunks. It's rewarding, but ultimately slow going. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling: Uh, well. I was already re-reading several books in the series when the year ended, so I turned back to this one. I will say this. The last time I read Harry Potter, I was pregnant with Aaron. I love, love, love this series—uncharacteristically, I haven't grown tired of it, even with its omnipresence—and I was worried it was the "last" time I'd get to read it without a little boy plucking at my sleeve, asking for one more chapter. I will say that while it'll be years before Aaron can enjoy it, reading it as a mother makes the entire series more poignant. Guys. They're such good books. I still can't get my husband to read them, and it's a big sore point with me. 

A Death in the Small Hours by Charles Finch: Charming! There's several of these books, and I'm looking forward to reading them all sporadically in this coming year. Light, Victorian mysteries with a lead detective who (refreshingly) has a happy and deeply fulfilling home life. Wonderfully escapist. 

Malice by Keigo Higashino: I knew nothing about this book, and picked it up off the "mystery" shelf at the bookstore. It's  a murder mystery, but the pace of the book—and perhaps the nature of the translation—makes it almost . . . soothing? Maybe that's a strange word to use. It has a bunch of twists and turns—maybe one or two too many. Given its brevity, that sometimes feels awkward. Still recommended, although I liked it a little less than I initially thought I would.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson: Oh boy. I read Life After Life a while ago, and remember it as one of the most pleasantly bizarre novels I've ever encountered—one that takes a long time to build up. I've only started it a night ago, so am only about a fifth of the way through, but this too falls under the apt description of "pleasantly bizarre." A lot of meticulous research went into the life of WWII RAF pilots, which (to me, at least) is extremely interesting.

Hope everyone in D.C. is prepared for the storm this weekend. The city itself, as you might know, is not.