View from Our Back Deck--Autumn 2017

Monday, October 8, 2018

Books & Nature Weekend--In Deep, Deep Fog

Our peak foliage this year has come with almost no sunshine. Well, there was a day last week when it was sunny for a few hours... But mainly, we're suffering from a "temperature inversion," which is causing drizzle and fog to hang tough with no reprieve. The higher the elevation, the greater the fog. But the intense leaf colors of gold, oranges, reds, yellows, and greens are all still there--though they appear different. Dazzle in an alternate universe.

I have been venturing forth for miles and miles over the past 3 days, camera in hand, mostly wanting to capture photos of birds, but also taking fog-laden photos of colorful vegetation.

When I finally return home, and rather damp from my tramps, I eat my mid-day snack and then retreat to the bed in my bedroom, turn on all the lights, then light a candle, and read more of the wonderfully exciting Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George. Such scintillating dialogue, causing me to hold my breath. Wow! Fireworks!

Last evening we binge-watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which won a number of Emmys recently, and which streams on Amazon. It's set in New York City, in 1958-59. The young, ebullient Mrs. Maisel is left with two very young children, just a few years after the marriage to her  true love. Her furious anger pushes her to take on the role of comedienne, in small clubs in NYC, with hilarious results. Highly recommended!  I think it was very lucky that we got to bed by midnight. Ken was pushing for watching a couple of more episodes, those night-owl tendencies of his coming to the fore. But I folded. A wonderful night of television. After the past week of horrendousness, who couldn't ask for more???

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Night: Nell Painter and Andrew Wyeth

I have been listening to Nell Irvin Painter's Old in Art School for weeks and weeks, it seems. There were interruptions. I always listen to it while knitting, for better or worse for the knitting project should I become too absorbed.

I am within 45 minutes of the end, and it will be very hard to tear myself away from Nell Painter's voice, the variety of her tones of voice, the variety of her subjects. Many a time I have disagreed with her views on issues in art, on race, about white people, about academic historians and scholars. Yet even when I have had strong, strong reactions to what she has said, I've been fully engaged. I've been actually in dialogue with this author just as if she has been in the room with me. (!) I agree with her lots of times and at other times quibble only slightly. But, the point is, she's always challenging me. I feel I know her. I'm so accustomed to her voice that I hate to let her go, I dread finishing the memoir.  She is a SUPERIOR reader, the best I've encountered in the past year, and perhaps for many years. So painstakingly careful of tone, of voice, of diction and erudition, everything. I'm constantly writing her letters in my head as I take walks or when I'm cleaning or cooking.

Fortunately I'm able to stream thousands of programs via the PBS Passport program, provided when a person becomes a member of their local PBS station. Wednesday afternoon I was so very tired. I lugged my laptop up to my bedroom and for an hour streamed the PBS American Masters' broadcast of a documentary about the great and often terribly misunderstood American artist Andrew Wyeth. It's entitled simply Wyeth. Over the course of a lifetime I've seen a number of large-scale museum exhibitions of Wyeth's work: 1) a retrospective that circulated a number of museums in the mid 1970s, and 2) an exhibition of Wyeth's "Helga" paintings in the 1980s,  a collection of his art which had been secret for decades, and which shocked many people when they were revealed. I would never say that Wyeth has ever been "my favorite artist," or anything like that, but he has always interested me tremendously. I find now that I appreciate his art more as I grow older and older. A very stark realism. Not realism realism as has became so ridiculously outdated in the 1960s and later, but realism made more stark with emotions--I suppose that's how I see it. Perhaps for this moment in time he is my "favorite" artist.

In any case, the very next day, I descended on the library in Glens Falls and took out quite a number of books regarding Andrew Wyeth's art, a DVD about the entire Wyeth family, and a biography of Wyeth published in 1996, though he didn't die until 2006, I believe. How wonderful to have that library resource here--so grateful.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fall Books for Me Thus Far

In less than five hours it will be October. I cherish September and hate to see it go. With our travels, September passed much more quickly than we wanted it to.

Yesterday I meandered among my piles of library books and my own books still to be read.
I decided to read a book I vowed I would read this past summer, the second volume in Elizabeth George's Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley series, Payment in Blood, which is set in Scotland. (The novel was first  published in the U.S. in 1989.)
I have read a few more recently published novels in the series a few years ago, but I decided last year that I would start at the beginning, with the first volume, The Great Deliverance. I thought the strong characterizations of Lynley and Barbara Havers were superb and unusual for most crime fiction series. The fireworks (and I mean sparks and flames) within their developing working relationship were so eye-opening and revealing about both of them, so much so that I was in awe.

I imagine that many of you saw the BBC television versions of the novels in this series many years ago. I may have seen one at the most. I missed most of the excitement surrounding this series, during the years I was working long hours and read only about six books a year, aside from the dozens of tomes I read for the research for my books, which was office reading. Ken and I typically read about 30 minutes before bed, and then a few additional hours on the weekend. It makes me wonder now, stupefied, at how much I missed--it really does. But recompense was the satisfaction I had writing works of history.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Tomorrow: A Day to Contemplate Books til December

This week has been a bit complicated. We've been scurrying to catch up with mail, paying bills, doing many loads of laundry, battling our annual fall mouse invasion, and beginning our household preparations for winter, which has been very harsh the past few years. Yet the day-by-day, minute-by-minute crisis in our governance has been upsetting, distracting, and so hard to push aside from consciousness. It's taken a toll on both of us, as I imagine it may have on all of you.

Everyday after my labors, I force myself to halt the chores and I retreat to knit and listen to the audiobook  Old in Art School by Nell Painter, which is a delight because it is so provocative and because it makes me really think. I'm glad I haven't rushed the listening of this audiobook. I've taken breaks. And when I go back, I'm ready to absorb more and more. So much to be said about what it means to be an older woman in our society today, what it means to be black and a black woman, and what it means to have high ambitions despite one's age. Painter was born in 1942 and she has become a role model for me, although I must say I do not have the kinds of goals that she had and has.

Tomorrow I have a deep, impassioned need to sort out what I want to read next. I feel I've been piddling around. I really want to commit to reading some enriching literature.
On the docket! Til then!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Home Again!

The two of us returned home close to 6 pm on Saturday evening. We had a wonderful trip. Our final evening in Maine was spent in Portland, with a great view of the waterfront. But, due to my overly exuberant enjoyment of the rest of the vacation, I crashed and burned after we arrived, and was far too exhausted to go out for a night visiting the shops and restaurants in the Old Port as we had planned. Ken ordered us sub sandwiches, and while Ken watched tv, I fell deeply asleep.

But what a trip! I so enjoyed visiting Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that three nights and two days there did not do justice to the fun to be had. I am ordinarily not a shopper. In fact, I am known as a person who hates to shop. That's because I live in a place where there's no decent shopping. I was so over-the-top thrilled by the shops in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was as if I were a starving person who hadn't seen food in years. You see, at home I wear L.L. Bean and Land's End mail order. Very limited. So---I went just a little bit wild in the stores in Portsmouth. I confess I had a lot of fun.

The seafood in Portsmouth was good, but nowhere near the perfection to be found on the Maine coast. OMG.

And finally, Monhegan Island in Maine, to a hiker and naturalist, is a paradise. There's much to interest people who are not naturalists and hikers on the island, yet the dozens of hiking trails, many of them hugging the coastline, provide such dramatic land and seascapes. The bluffs, or headlands, along the very rugged, wild, rocky coastline provided such overwhelmingly beautiful views of land and ocean, cliffs and rocks and crashing waves, that I was in bliss continuously. The trails are very, very rugged and challenging, yet I loved the exhilaration of the views and the experiences provided. More than worth the effort and strained muscles afterwards.

We had late afternoon reading hours. Ken has been entranced by The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. He keeps wanting to tell me about it, to talk about it, but I keep hushing him because I want to read it. Poor Ken!

I read The Body in the Birches on the vacation and have been enjoying it. I think Katherine Hall Page's characterizations and the way in which her characters' dialogue delineates her characters are very well done. I'm a little more than halfway through. (I read only half a book on this vacation--so little.)

Because we only had one rainy day on this trip, and because we were constantly sight-seeing, I did not read anywhere near as much as I might have. We were having too many adventures.

I highly recommend Monhegan Island as a destination. I did not have a chance to visit all the artists' studios that I wanted to. I couldn't! Not enough time! So, I want to visit again and again.
If you decide to stay on Monhegan, you can't go wrong if you stay at The Island Inn. And make sure that you eat your dinners there, too. Best restaurant by far on the island, according to everyone. Best clam chowder, best lobsters, best breakfasts (which come with lodging), etc.  I'm going back in late May or early June, I think. If not, then, I'll go in mid-September.
Oh, and by the way, no ticks on Monhegan!  An exhaustive study by a Maine university found no ticks. 

Right now, as I'm still catching up with everything at home, I need to devote some time to organizing my upcoming reading. I'm not sure at all in what direction I'm heading for the final three months of 2018. Fairly clueless for the moment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Nook Samsung is Loaded and Ready to Go

We're finishing our packing tonight for our adventure together. It looks as though the weather will cooperate while we are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But next Monday morning we ferry over to Monhegan Island, and although the first day seems like it is likely to be a good day, the rest of the week is iffy, due to remnants of Hurricane Florence, which are expected to travel north eventually. But nobody knows. I feel so badly for people who will be sorely affected by this storm. I don't care what happens to us weather-wise on Monhegan. We can always go again for sun someday.

Monhegan is 10 miles out in the open Atlantic. I'm bringing all kinds of rain gear, so I think we'll venture forth okay, but not on the rocky shoreline if the surf is too high.

I just want you to know that there will be NO DIETING on this trip. I love all kinds of seafood and chowders, and Ken is a crazed lobster and crab and scallops lover. We're not expecting our favorite Maine shrimp to be available, because there has been a moratorium on fishing for it for a while now, in an attempt to "save the herd." I hope that the Maine shrimp population revives, although Ken hears from his family in Maine that its prospects are not bright.

And finally, what we'll be reading. It's Ken's birthday, and he has received from (guess who?) The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, which he has been eager to read. He is also carting along a number of Suduko books.
I've got my Samsung loaded with books. I wanted a Maine island murder mystery and so I downloaded a Faith Fairchild mystery, The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page, set on the fictional Maine island of  Sanpere. KHP writes a darn good cozy murder tale, and sometimes, I've got to say, a good many of her murder tales are none too cozy! Woof! (I woof in appreciation, something I've picked up from a succession of retrievers who never bark--they woof!)

Because I'm bringing some knitting, I'll continue with Old in Art School, my audio read, by Nell Painter. She does not disappoint. If I finish it, I'll start listening to Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein, her memoir of living and growing up with her dad Leonard Bernstein. This year is the centennial of the birth of that magnificent composer, conductor, and musician.

And I have a real, live gothic on my Samsung, one by Susan Hill, entitled The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story. It's short, at 133 pages. I started it a few nights ago, but thought, no! No! I should save this for Monhegan Island, when we'll be staying in a very nice renovated room, but in an old cottage, which happens to be part of the largest inn on the island. It will be lovely if it's good and creaky when the winds blow! I do hope there is a deep-voiced bullfrog  of a foghorn on the island.

I do hope I can post something on my travels. Monhegan has wifi,  but with "spotty bandwidth." I haven't named all the places we'll be staying, but will post when I can, although photos will have to wait for when I can download them when I return home after Sept. 24th.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

Reading on the Way to a Vacation and Beyond

Although we don't leave for our vacation until early Thursday morning, we've already been preparing like mad. The car's problems were totally fixed when Ken developed a dental emergency. Thank goodness, the dentist assures him he will be able to totally fix the problem tomorrow afternoon. Sigh. Thank you!

Lately I've been continuing to listen to Old in Art School: The Art of Starting Over, and I do identify with the author Nell Painter. Her comments that are race-related can be incredibly provocative, particularly as they concern contemporary art, which makes the book even more interesting.

Painter narrates this memoir flawlessly.  She is so careful and clear, and  has obviously taken the time to prepare what she will be reading in advance of the recording session. Painter was in her mid-60s to early 70s when she took on the challenge of working for a BFA in Fine Arts and then an M.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design. I believe I've already noted that she is a pre-eminent historian emeritus at Princeton University and author of acclaimed works of U.S. History. 

Painter's art became a second life. No, never a hobby, but a full-time professional occupation. Amazing! What she had to do to obtain her goals, what she had to sacrifice for what she wanted more than anything, makes for an awe-inspiring memoir. I was deeply moved by her narration of the final months of her mother's life, when Painter was constantly flying back and forth to Oakland, California, from Newark, New Jersey, while attempting to keep up with her BFA class. Painter was the only child of her parents and that makes the passage so difficult for the parents  and the child. 

I listen to Painter's flawless narration while I knit, and I think and I think about what she has to say. I must confess I'm an art enthusiast and art appreciator. I adore art museums, travel to important art exhibitions, and enjoy all kinds of art, all periods of art,  and  I am, for better or worse, sigh, an  art hobbyist.

It looks like I need one more post before we leave for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Thursday. Will do!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Late August--Labor Day Reading

Yes, I'm so out of the loop the past three days. So many of you have been reading up a storm and I've been cleaning and de-cluttering madly--absolutely insanely, so that it seems to me that you all have been leading intellectually productive lives and I have been merely sweeping up!

I do allow myself moments of respite. This past week offered about three days of unbearable heat and humidity, when my cleaning went minimalist and instead I trudged off in swimsuit to the pool with Chris Bohjalian's suspense thriller, The Flight Attendant, in my bag. Under ordinary circumstances, I'm sure I would not be as keen for this novel, and I know some of you thought it was relatively mediocre. But with my thriller-loving and undiscriminating heart still beating, and with my need for something not too difficult to read before and after swimming loads of laps, I've enjoyed the novel, although I will say I have a harder time when I find the protagonist not particularly likeable or unlikable, or as a person I can somehow find something to identify with.

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie is still claiming my attention, but I must say his imagination is mind-bogglingly boundless. (The link leads to a BookPage interview with Rushdie about the book.) This is my first read by Rushdie, and I knew his writing was very different. Oh, let's call it positively wild with exclamation points.

I read it first thing in the morning, with my first cup of tea or coffee, in bed. The novel requires the utmost concentration, I've found, so much so that I can only read about 20-25 pages at a time, maximum. This is because I'm not taking hallucinogens.

I wonder, I do find myself wondering, again and again: Might  Rushdie sometimes take hallucinogens while he is writing? After all, LSD is definitely coming back into vogue, so I don't think, based on the incredible leaps of imagination to be found in his writing, that it's unreasonable to just ask him to clarify the point.  And the countless allegories to every mythical culture throughout prehistory and history. Yikes! Not to mention allusions to obscure films, classic novels, and not so classic novels. I'm mentally exhausted just trying to describe the prose in The Golden House

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Little Nothing of a Post and a New Book

On the days I'm home, I work at least 3-4 hours a day on the upstairs rooms' overhaul--my projects room, my bedroom, the laundry room, and the upstairs loft so far. It has been absolutely grueling, and this is because I have not done a thorough weeding of STUFF (including books) in years.

I am determined, so very gung ho, to get the upstairs whipped into shape. Of course, this renovation all came to pass because I tried to do some projects and was completely thwarted by my CLUTTER.  I know I don't have that hoarding syndrome, which has been so explicitly detailed in amusing memoirs written by those afflicted. But still...

I do have trouble weeding books, magazines, and arts and crafts materials from the upstairs rooms. And clothes.

So new books: I helped one of Ken's clients yesterday to unravel the mysteries of her Nook e-reader, the Samsung tablet. When I asked her which book she wanted to download first, she said that she was dying to read Salman Rushdie's The Golden House, which is set in Manhattan, where Rusdie now makes his home. This client once spent nearly her entire adult life living and working in Manhattan, and now makes her home in the Adirondacks. 

It just so happens that I've been longing to read the same novel, and have it on my bookshelf in the bedroom. So we've each decided to read it and then discuss it together. Such fun. I don't often have this sort of opportunity in my neck of the woods.