Tag Archive | Books

The Farming of Bones

I haven’t been to a city library since the pandemic started. For a long time, they were closed. However I’ve done very well sharing books with reading neighbours by using a little free street library a mere block away. I’ve learned they read some worthy books around here.


Stuff happens to me that never happens to other people. By sheer coincidence, after just finishing ‘The Feast of the Goat’ by Mario Vargas Llosa, a novel based on the Dominican Republic during dictator Trujillo’s era, what do you think falls into my hands?


A harrowing but fantastic can’t-put-down read by Edwidge Danticat called ‘The Farming of Bones’ about the destitute Haitians who crossed the border from Haiti into The Dominican Republic during Trujillo’s rule. Those who did struggled for survival doing the dirty and dangerous jobs no one else wanted, meanwhile suffering outright racism.


Danticat’s book didn’t end the way I wanted it to. A love story, the lovers don’t get to walk off into the sunset, get married and live happily after. If that’s what you want, it isn’t the book for you. It isn’t a pleasant story, but it reads true…

Feast of the Goat…

Trujillo

Right now I’m reading ‘The Feast of the Goat’, a novel which takes place in the Dominican Republic during the rule of the hated dictator Rafael Trujillo, who was called the goat. (Dominicans often made up nicknames for others.) Trujillo was assassinated in 1961.

The book is written by Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, who among many other literary prizes earned a Nobel Prize for literature. Llosa wrote extensively and was born in Peru in 1936.

Mario Vargas Llosa

On page #205 of my copy, I found the following quote:

‘AN OPEN BOOK IS A MIND THAT SPEAKS; CLOSED, A FRIEND WHO WAITS; FORGOTTEN, A SOUL THAT FORGIVES; DESTROYED, A HEART THAT WEEPS.’ By Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore

Tagore was a Bengali poet, writer, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter, and more. Obviously a brilliant guy. He lived from 1861-1941 when he died in Calcutta.

I love the quote…

Covid-19: A List…

COVID-19: A list….

Lately someone on the radio said he starts each day by listing 10 things he is grateful for. This being Covid:19, I decided to try for 19. Here goes…

I am grateful for:

1. My children and their loved ones. Their frequent calls give me warm fuzzies. (The border is closed, we can’t visit.)

2. Local special friends who are like family, especially Amy, who drives me everywhere I must go. She doesn’t want me on public transit yet.

Thank you Aina

3. Aina Wifolk (1928-1983) Look her up on Wikipedia…

4. The beautiful mountains I see from my window. I don’t climb them, but sure like seeing them.

5. The white clouds that frequently reach their arms out and around said mountains in loving-like embraces.

6. The lit ski hill which I see every night. I don’t ski, but enjoy imagining others on it.

Hummingbirds bring me joy.

7. The tiny hummingbirds who visit the feeder on my balcony and then flit away.

8. The bean plant that struggled so this year to provide me with a crop of one solitary bean. (The weather wasn’t kind to growing things.)

9. Chandra, my dear daughter-in-law, who bought me snow peas to plant. They thrived. (I don’t know why) I had a lot of those.

10. The flowers in their containers on my balcony which come back again and again.

They help us get what we need.

11. Those who keep our local shops going during this pandemic so I can safely obtain whatever I need.

12. The kind neighbour in my building, who put out a flowering plant and card this week because one of our long-time residents passed away.

13. The neighbours and friends who emailed to offer me help should I need it during these trying times.

14. The people who maintain those little free libraries in my neighbourhood. How would I survive without them. (Our libraries are closed and I’m an avid reader.)

15. The thoughtfulness of daughter Susan, who sent me a wonderful birthday package including a used book about ancient China. She knew I would enjoy it. I did.

16. Catherine, who had read a ‘large print’ book, enjoyed it and so brought it to me. It was good and extra easy on my eyes.

Free libraries on our local streets.

17. The strangers who say hello or chat with me from a safe distance when I walk ALONE each day. It makes this pandemic livable.

18. All the people in my life who care about me.

19. All of you who read my blog. Writing these posts gives me additional challenges and pleasures during these crazy times.

COVID:19 Words for right now…

Dr.BonnieHenry

Dr. Bonnie Henry

I feel fortunate to be living in British Columbia where the number of people affected by the virus is low and we are directed by an especially capable Provincial Health Officer,  Dr. Bonnie Henry. The doctor is effective,  popular, very photogenic and gentle yet firm.

We have a Dr. Henry fan club, songs have been written for her, and because she enjoys shoes (the kind I could never afford) her favourite shoe manufacturer made a limited number of a particular pair she enjoys and sold them to raise money for charity.

the DrHenry shoe

The Dr. Henry shoe which sold like hot cakes.

Dr. Henry will be remembered by the words she leaves us with every time we hear from her: ‘Be kind, be calm, be safe’. Good advice for now…

This is a good time to think about words which can serve us well during these difficult times. (They are from a little book called ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’)

‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.’ (Niels Bohr)

Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.’ (Herbert Hoover)

‘A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.’ (Bob Hope)

BobHope

Bob Hope 1903-2003

BenjaminFranklin

Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790

‘Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.’ (Benjamin Franklin)

‘I am an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else.’ (Winston Churchill)

‘There is no education like adversity.’ (Benjamin Disraeli)

‘A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: It would be hell on earth.’ (George Bernard Shaw)

Schulz2

Charles M. Schulz 1922-2000

‘Don’t worry about the earth coming to an end today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia.’ (Charles M. Schulz)

‘Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.’ (Lord Byron)

‘Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.’ (Voltaire)

‘My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.’ (Michel de Montaigne)

COVID: 19 — Thank you…

Muriel2017I love people and miss seeing dear ones ordinarily in my life, but I’m also aware I owe many a big thank you. Some are friends and neighbors, and others are strangers. If I listed all of them, this would be a book and not a post, so forgive me if I haven’t mentioned you, you matter too.

 

Thank you to:
Friends and family who keep in touch so often by phone and email.

The people in my neighborhood who write: ‘Things will get better’ on the sidewalks in chalk.better

Neighbor Mairona and friend Chris, who, upon reading my post complaining about not having enough reading material, each delivered bags of books to my door.

Mairona and her husband Wayne, who are always willing to pick up anything I may need.
garthcardsGarth, whom I miss seeing at my favorite local cafe, who sends me beautiful cards and notes.

My dear ‘daughter’ Amy who goes shopping for me, arrives at my door wearing a mask and hands me my groceries, and checks in often by phone.

Those who step off the curb to be at the proper distance when they see this old gray-haired woman pushing her walker on our narrow sidewalks. (It is more difficult for me to do that. I always thank them.)

JoeinT-Shirt 2017

Joe wearing his Vancouver T-Shirt

My dear Beverly Hills friend Joe, who understands me and regularly puts up with my nutty ideas.

The strangers who, after I thank them for giving me space, have chatted with me from a safe distance as we pass each other. It helps me feel less isolated.

My son Rafi, who calls me just about every day, and my daughter Susan as well, who checks in so often.

Alison, my ‘granddaughter’ who calls me almost every day too.

Alison’s dad, who took the time out of his own busy schedule, (he’s a medical doctor) to drive her over so Alison and I could have a SAFE chat in person, both of us in masks out on the sidewalk.

All my friends who check in with me.
thanks

The woman I don’t know, whom I told I missed hugs most of all, who offered me one from a distance. I returned it. It isn’t the same, but it helped.

 

And, speaking of hugs, if you know me personally, know that I’m keeping track of all the hugs you owe me and I intend to collect for sure when this is all over.

 

Desperate measures for desperate times…

funny lady at computer

Life during COVID:19

There’s a saying: Man plans and God laughs. If ever there were truer words, find them for me.

My children live in a different country. I’ve been an avid reader forever. I’ve owned many books. I decided if I got rid of them, it would be easier for my kids when I need to move or pop off. If I decide to do something, I usually do.

I gave away books — many books.

Zhuangzi, 4th century BC

Zhuangzi, 4th century BC

Well, I’m hunkered down for the duration of COVID:19 and the libraries are closed. I’ve finished the few books waiting around to be read, so what next?

Going through my half-empty shelves, I saw ‘Zhuangzi: Basic Writings’, a textbook from a Chinese philosophy class I audited at UBC some 20 years ago. What the heck. It had been interesting, so I decided to revisit it.

FriedrichNietzche1844-1900

Nietzche, 1844-1900

What I found most fascinating were my own notes. This class had followed another I took about Western Philosophers, which included people like Freud, Nietzche, and even a contemporary well-known Canadian thinker, Charles Taylor.

 

‘Woman was God’s second mistake.’ Nietzche.

CharlesTaylor1931

Charles Taylor, born 1931

In my  notes on Zhuangzi, I’d noticed how similar  his written thoughts and those of Nietzche were, who came along hundreds of years later. Could it be? Had Nietzche read the ancient Chinese thinker and borrowed from him? Perhaps. Probably. Well, I, for one, thought so….

We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us.

xunzi

Xunzi, maybe 310 BC

 

‘The noble person uses things, the lesser man is used by things.’ Xunzi. (Actual birth date unknown.)

Seize the day…

Muriel2017

A friend recently recommended I not save my favorite cologne for tomorrow. How right she was. Life is precarious. We don’t know what the day has in store for us. A two-ton-truck may be lurking around the corner just waiting to throw me down hard on my keister. I’m using my favorite cologne…

I’ve become aware of my mortality and that pleasures I’ve enjoyed in the past can become impossible. OpendoorHowever, when one door closes, another opens. All we have to do is be willing to walk through that new door.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka 1883-1924

 

Always an avid reader, when I learned my vision was vulnerable, I went on a reading binge like no other — and it hasn’t yet ended. MetamorphosisI’ve pulled books I’d been planning to read or reread for years off my dusty shelves like: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, (banned in the Quebec of my youth but no big deal today); Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ and his very short and strange ‘Metamorphosis’ which I’ve read at least a dozen times, (both unforgettable); plus Cervantes ‘Don Quixote’, (a sometimes wonderfully funny book). I’m still reading voraciously…

Here’s a quote I like by Kafka, whose brain had no boundaries: ‘If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?’ His books DO wake us up with a blow on the head for sure.

The Trial

Weird and worth reading…

My everyday dishes now are fine English bone china. My former ‘everyday’ dishes are now used only

aynsley-cottage-garden-fine-english-bone-china_1_6cf6afd2e8a77b3de3f26be36cca697c

Well, wouldn’t this cheer you too?

to reheat food in the microwave. I like my fine china. Its colorful and makes me happy every time I see it. Furthermore, no one can ever say I didn’t get to use it. Indeed, I’ve dropped a few and the hard tiles on my kitchen floor are totally unforgiving, but so what? I rarely have 12 people over for dinner these days anyway.

I concentrate on doing things which enrich my life, like having lunch out with friends I particularly enjoy being with. I also get a great kick out of writing this post. It pleases me to share my thoughts with you, so I thank YOU for giving me this pleasure.

The last day of the year…

Muriel2017

The last day of a decade. Kind of special. I’m taking the day off. Yup! Honest. For real. I don’t know when I’ve ever done this before, I’m an ‘A’ type who usually does what she’s planned or should.

I’ve got a good excuse. They’ve issued a ‘rain warning’. They don’t usually do that, rain isn’t unusual here, especially at this time of year. They’ve cancelled some celebrations for tonight and talked about millimeters expected to come down on our heads. (I have lived here for years but still haven’t learned what millimeters actually are.)

book

Home reading a really good book

I’m not acknowledging my pedometer today as I usually do, but staying in and reading

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ which I can hardly put down. The book is about a couple who have a child who has leukemia. There’s no match to help her in the family so they decide to have a new child specially designed to be a match. When she is 13, she sues her parents for using her as a donor throughout her life. I’m reading about the court battle right now and don’t yet know how it ends.

Any illness in a family, physical or mental, can have dire consequences on everyone involved and this is clearly seen in this novel.

dancing

If you celebrate, enjoy!

2020Meanwhile, this is a good opportunity for me to wish each of you the very best for 2020 and to thank you for visiting my blog. I love that you live in at least 110 countries — that’s how many I’m aware of since I’m not always home to note new ones.

If you celebrate, enjoy! I didn’t make any resolutions. Don’t have to. I’m perfect as I am — and so are you.

 

resolution

 

hats

Hotel rooms with books to read???

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

As a lifelong avid reader, I’ve often bought books I ‘hoped’ to read someday. Someday never arrived, my vision isn’t what it used to be and I know I’ll never get to them. With much regret, I’m giving away every book on my shelves with small print — unread.

girlsreading

A lifelong avid reader

The books either go to friends, get donated to the library, or end up in those wonderful little free sidewalk libraries in my neighborhood. I give them away with the hope that someone else will be tempted to read the books I meant to, but never found the time for.

bookcases

sagging bookshelves

This is also a good time to give away books I’ve already read. There’s no point in holding on to them now since I still have too many sitting there on my sagging bookshelves waiting for my attention. I’m trying to generally cut down on stuff anyway.

Some of the books that are leaving home are of short stories, essays or poetry, books to be pried open and read with pleasure when there isn’t much time. They’d be great to have in hotel rooms.

funnyreading

Books to be read with pleasure

Hey, I like that idea! Packing books for travel can be difficult. They’re heavy and that can be a problem when airlines weigh your luggage. Wouldn’t it be great to find a book of short stories, essays or thoughtful poetry in that hotel room drawer beside the old Gideon Bible?

grreatfree

My great idea!

Think of it. Now that hotels have competition from all those Air B n B’s, this might be reason enough to BOOK with a hotel rather than take a chance on what may be questionable accommodations advertised on the sometimes unreliable Internet.

What say you?

Graveyards, worth a visit…

Muriel2017It’s been a busy time, so haven’t had time to write earlier. However going through my bookshelves, I found a small book ‘Comic Epitaphs: from the very best old graveyards’ published by Peter Pauper Press. Daughter Susan, who knows I enjoy old graveyards, bought it for me and some of the epitaphs in it are hilarious.

When Susan and I first visited Victoria together, we wandered through their old cemetery looking for Artist Emily Carr’s grave — in the rain. Much to my regret, we never found it.

I’ve wandered through many old graveyards on trips to Europe,

PereLachaise2

Pere Lachaise

but my very favorite is the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Once I spent a whole day there (except for a lunch break), following my carefully-marked map on which I’d circled all the composers, authors, and other special famous people who deserved special attention.

OscarWildePereLachaise

Oscar Wilde’s grave at Pere Lachaise

 

As I made my rounds along the ancient paths at Pere Lachaise, I noticed a moss-covered old crypt with my own family’s surname on it, but by that time was too tired to inquire at the office to try to learn more about them.

 

Here are a few epitaphs from the book Susan gave me. I hope you get as much of a kick out of them as I do.

Here lies Ann Mann

She lived an old maid

But died an old Mann
(Manchester)crossescolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

grim reaper

Here lies Pecos Bill

He always lied

And always will

He once lied loud

He now lies still
(Grand Forks)

 

 

 

Sacred to the memoryskelitons
Of Anthony Drake
Who died for peace
And dear quietness’ sake.
His wife was forever
Scoldin’ and scoffin’
So he sought repose
In a $12 coffin
(Marietta)

 

 

oldjewishcemetBudapest

Old Jewish Cemetery I visited in Budapest

 

Jonathan Grober
Died dead sober
Lord thy wonders
Never cease
(Clinkerton)

 

 

 

Owen Moore
Gone away
Owin’ more
Than he could pay
(Battersea)

Angel

 

Here lies a father of 29
There would have been more
But he didn’t have time
(Moultrie)

 

 

[On an infant]

Since I have been so
Quickly done for,
I wonder what I was
Begun for
Hammondport)

Here lies my wife
A slattern and shrew
If I said I missed her
I should lie here too!
(Selby)