Friday, October 29, 2021

Gratitudes & things that are making me happy


 • Watching hachiya persimmons ripen on my neighbors' trees, the fruit nearly the same color as the changing leaves

• Time off work

• Rainstorms, for my fire- and drought-plagued home

• Critically, a handy neighbor able to stop my roof leaking

• And for a very rainy-day lunch: hot chocolate and grilled cheese

• Fairy tales - I've been reading slowly through the first edition of the Grimm collection

Isn't It Romantic, the movie - lots of laughs on a recent weekday night

• The colors of the sunset reflecting in the puddles on the rooftop across the way

• New comfy work-from-home pants

• Finding nice, brand-new hiking boots in my size at a secondhand store, for under $40

• Al-Anon meetings, the kindness there and the feeling of hope and calm I receive

• Giving up on a book partway through sometimes 

• Giving up on books I own but haven't read, sometimes

• Booster shots for my girlfriend and my mom

• Juniper (our cat daughter)

• A daydream of learning to weave

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Read in September 2021 (part two of two)

(Part one here.)

10. Goldenhand, by Garth Nix (2016)

Eh, meh. As a fan of the original books in this series, I was intrigued to learn of this one's existence, but thankfully my experience of Clariel a few years back tempered my expectations. This felt like a reunion episode of an old TV show, not that well written and made more for audience gratification than to realize a compelling story. Nick and Lirael's awkwardness was cringe-inducing, rather than amusing. Also, it's hard for this book's particular Great Peril to follow the previous one (i.e. the literal end of the world as threatened in Abhorsen).

11. Self Care: A Novel, by Leigh Stein (2020)

As a fascinated/horrified observer of the women's wellness industry, and a veteran of a small and dysfunctional start-up, this satire about the inner workings of a wellness social media platform was certainly amusing to me, and also nudged at some more serious questions about gender and social media.

12. Outside In, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby (2020)

Beautiful, moving picture book. 

13. The Secret Hour, by Scott Westerfeld (2004)

Reread. It didn't totally hold up for me, but I get why I thought this was fun when I was nineteen. I think I would still recommend it to a teenager.

14. Reigning Cats & Dogs, by Hilary B. Price (2003) 

Reread, cartoons about the cat/dog-lover life, very amusing. Thanks to my mom for telling me to reread this.

15. Up to This Pointe, by Jennifer Longo (2016)

Reread, read this for the first time last December. Still lovely!

16. The Case of the Missing Marquess, by Nancy Springer (2006)

Fun and original, the first in the Enola Holmes series about Sherlock Holmes's teenage sister and her exploits. Has a nice, appropriate feminist tinge to it that added to my enjoyment. Not 100% lighthearted, against my expectations, but still in the greater part a romp. I would have loved this as a tween.

17. Kitten Lady's Big Book of Little Kittens, by Hannah Shaw (2019

Read as possible gift research for a niece. The author is a Youtuber who specializes in kitten rescue (whom I know of because my girlfriend loves her). Cute and educational, with great information and kitten photos.

18. Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth, by Chris Dixon (2011)

I think I really wanted a long-form article on this topic rather than a monograph, but I made it through the book anyway. Certainly lots of interesting subject matter here, particular as I enjoy engaging non-fiction about the ocean and oceanic sports. However, this presumed more interest in the particular surfers who populated its pages, and more knowledge of surfing (see: all the jargon involved in describing how a particular wave was ridden) than I actually have. It was also rather mannish, both in the weird "conquering hero" way the men relate to the waves they ride and in little details like all the women mentioned (who are mentioned at all because of the men they're related to) being described as beautiful. Not unhappy I read it, but it took me a few weeks.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Rain walk

 In honor of fall's first rains, photos from a rain walk I took in late autumn last year.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Books read in September 2021 (part one of two)

1. The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower, by Kate Forsyth (2016)

Reading The Wild Girl in August got me really interested in the history of the Grimm tales. I have only slightly more exposure to them than your average bookworm  - this due to having been a student of the German language, which properly should always entail a bit of time spent with the Grimm tales, a.k.a. the world's most famous German-language book.

So, I tracked down this non-fiction work by the same author, who wrote it as part of her dissertation for a phD in fairy tale retellings (I know, right?). It was wonderful and wonderfully interesting! For example, the discussion of lingering matriarchal symbolism in the Rapunzel myth just...makes me all intellectually swoony. 

It did repeat itself somewhat, but I think that's just it being an academic work. Some of the short articles by the author included at the end were a bit irrelevant to Rapunzel, but I didn't mind.

Now I need to reread the other component of her dissertation: her own novelized retelling of Rapunzel, Bitter Greens (read last December).

2. The Last Time I Wore a Dress, by Daphne Scholinski (1997)

This memoir was, in a conversational way, dark as hell, and a weird view of mental hospitals I hadn't seen before - a teenage girl committed involuntarily for several years, basically because her negligent/abusive parents didn't want to be her parents while she was exhibiting behavioral issues. Among other things, she gets slapped with a Gender Identity Disorder diagnosis for being insufficiently feminine, and prescribed makeup lessons, not having a female best friend, and developing romantic interest in male patients. What a good time! Some of her casually tossed-off anecdotes did not read as credible to me, which made me feel a little hmm but I don't disbelieve the framework of her story. Certainly an effective reminder of how well-rooted misogyny and homophobia are in psychiatry. Overall, I feel like stories like this (i.e. about hospitalization as incarceration) are underrepresented am books set in mental hospitals, at least they sure were in what I've read.

3. Zuri Ray Tries Ballet, by Tami Charles, illustrated by Sharon Sordo (2021)

Cute illustrations, cute friendship, read because ballet is one of my Interests. The moral of "Do things in whatever way you want to, even in ballet class! For example, if you want to wear a soccer uniform and do creative soccer movement while everyone else does ballet!" was odd.

4. Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame, by Erin Williams (2019

This was somewhat interesting. In part it reminded me of those posts everyone was making during #MeToo, where you'd see a bunch of your female acquaintances on Facebook simply posting a laundry list of every sexual mistreatment men have subjected them too. I feel like too much was made of her thesis about choosing male-gaze desirability (e.g. her twenty-step beauty routine) versus being invisible. It doesn't guide the book that much, and as a lesbian, it's not a feminist topic that I find compelling. To an extent, I would say I feel the same about the current tendency to find/seek feminist solidarity only around our victimization.

5. Flamingo in the Dark: Images, by  Bea Nettles (1979)

I checked this out because I ran across her photographic Tarot deck, the Mountain Dream Tarot. Curious to see the types of manipulation that photographers used before computer editing was available. Dreamy but not totally my thing. I wished her descriptions in the front of what biographic moments each photograph pertained to had been connected to the actual relevant images.

6. The Witches of Worm, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

A reread. This author really does creepiness and ambience well. I didn't notice as a child the ambiguity about whether the cat is really a demon or whether the lonely, angry child is just using him to justify her own bad behavior to herself. (Credit to my friend who pointed this out to me before passing on her Little Free Library copy to me!) Also, I reckon this is set in San Francisco, which is always a plus.

7. In Praise of Wasting Time, by Alan Lightman (2018)

To summarize: "Wasting time is good because it makes you more productive." This is companion to a TED Talk (which I haven't watched) and that totally fits for me. I didn't dislike it but much of it was review of topics I've read about elsewhere in greater depth. Am I the only millennial who is indifferent to the institution of TED Talks? I think I've watched two, total.

8. Lirael, by Garth Nix (2001)

A reread. The world-building of the Clayr's Glacier, and particularly its Great Library and Lirael's life in it, is so savory to me. Sam is annoyingly thick, but I guess he is a teenage boy.

9. Abhorsen, by Garth Nix (2003)

A reread. The second half of Lirael's story, but somehow I always liked the first half better, even though much of the plot hadn't really gotten going yet at that point! The parts of his books where the protagonists are running around in a panic, organizing people and magic, trying to stop the world from ending, are a little exhausting and perhaps overly drawn out here. (To me the first book, Sabriel, was the more perfectly plotted of this series.) I love the Disreputable Dog so much.

(Part two here.)

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Days, lately, in photos

IMG_3563 Hot days in a top-floor apartment = blinds down all afternoon, big fan blasting. It still reliably gets 10 degrees hotter inside than outside on those days.

Untitled Immature acorns.

A nice neighbor. I say hi to her every time I pass her yard.

IMG_3556 Add pomegranates to the list of fruits I have seen successfully cultivated by home gardeners in my area. Another recent addition: olives!

I have taken up coloring again to keep my hands busy during team meetings on Zoom.


Untitled Our girl.

Untitled Beautiful color from the liquidambar trees.

My shady walks are becoming gradually less so...

Untitled Rosehips are ripening, and reminding me it's a good time of year for rosehip tea (a gracious source of vitamin C).

Sunday, October 3, 2021

"Stepping Westward"

What is green in me
darkens, muscadine.
If woman is inconstant,
good, I am faithful to
ebb and flow, I fall
in season and now
is a time of ripening.
If her part
is to be true,
a north star,
good, I hold steady
in the black sky
and vanish by day,
yet burn there
in blue or above
quilts of cloud.
There is no savor
more sweet, more salt
than to be glad to be
what, woman,
and who, myself,
I am, a shadow
that grows longer as the sun
moves, drawn out
on a thread of wonder.
If I bear burdens
they begin to be remembered
as gifts, goods, a basket
of bread that hurts
my shoulders but closes me
in fragrance. I can
eat as I go.

- Denise Levertov