We left off with me beginning Brenda Wineapple's White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. The saddest thing, I think, is that the work Emily Dickinson left behind was 'edited' (many say butchered) by Mabel Loomis Todd before Higginson was able to arrange it in book form to present to the unsuspecting world. That being said, of the more than one hundred poems Dickinson personally sent Higginson, they survived intact, and thanks to Higginson's correspondence with Emily Dickinson, readers are able to read the very same words that so shocked, dazzled, and enlightened Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and forged a twenty-five year friendship that transcended literature, place, politics, and time.
Next, Bernd Heinrich's Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
I was disappointed in this one. Some years ago I had read Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and loved it. (Really, if you like corvids as much as I do go check that one out.) I had expected this to be more of the same, just ravens, not crows (and yes, they are very different). Mind of the Raven is essentially the author's printed studies and the processes of those studies on ravens both in the wild and ones he has raised. While it was very well-written, I am not an ornithologist, and so was not very interested. (I did finish it, but with enough effort to deserve a medal.)
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes: This one was interesting in that along with a definition and background of 'radical homemaking,' the main premise of the book was interviews with people who had gone off the grid, so to speak. People who had been professionals in high-stakes fast-paced careers who suddenly realized that life was passing them by and they were miserably standing on the sidelines watching while guzzling espressos and trying to keep up; young families whose parents wanted what was best for their children and realized they could live that dream; hardworking people who realized that the life they wanted was to be found right in their own home. I can honestly say I envy those people. I do truly enjoy my work, but every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to live away from it all, raising chickens, goats, bees, a garden, and my children, and I regret that it will not happen. For all of the 'radical homemakers' out there, I salute you.
Gardening at the Dragon's Gate was a great follow-up to Radical Homemakers. Wendy Johnson has spent thirty years meditating and gardening at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California, and like her, I find great peace in the work of creation. Planting seeds and plants, the meditative repetition of weeding; the only thing I find more relaxing is sitting by a body of water. If some day I am lucky enough to have a garden with a pond or stream in it, I may never leave, except to feed the chickens. I do not have a yard of my own. Instead I have a 3 by 12 plot in one of the Community Gardens in town that my family and I have planted with herbs, strawberries, a collection of tomato varieties, hot peppers (and sweet, but sadly none of those seem to have germinated. I really wanted to see purple and white bell peppers...), summer squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, golden beets, lemon cukes and some other variety....anyway, for the area we have, I'm making the most of it. I have stated 5 gallon pots on my back steps as well, and on my days off I take my book and tea out to read. The Community Garden has a lovely bench parked beneath a blissfully shady maple tree, and one day I may have to go test said bench...
What I'm aimlessly rambling on about is the fact that even amid so much action that takes place in a garden, both above- and below-ground, they are places of serenity. If you are lucky enough to just sit and enjoy the surroundings you will leave refreshed. If you are working, you find yourself pulled into yourself. You begin a dialogue, planning tomorrow's tasks, reviewing that argument you had with your sister, applauding yourself for getting out and moving. I'm not going to say that to find true happiness you have to go plant a garden, but think about how looking at a beautiful flower makes you feel, and answer that question yourself.
All through middle and high school, I was going to become a lawyer. From high school graduation I was going to join the Navy, spend four years in the service, and on leaving the Navy head to college and law school. My dream was to be a lawyer for Greenpeace. Instead, in the middle of my senior year of high school I decided I wanted to be a writer, and the rest is history. I still love the ocean and all of its creatures, and I still enthusiastically support Greenpeace. Paul Watson, captain of the Farley Mowat is one of the co-founders of Greenpeace, and when he realized that organization wasn't going to take the aggressive measures he thought necessary to protect the oceans, he broke away and founded another environmental group, the Sea Shepard Conservation Society. I agree with Watson: countries should not be hunting whales in protected areas. They should not be hunting whales that are on the endangered list and aren't supposed to be hunted. Frankly, I don't think anyone should be hunting whales period. Or seals. Or sea lions, or sharks, or octopus, or...well, you get it. (And no, not just the whales and seals. Lions? Nope. Tigers? Ditto. Macaws? Leave the Wild alone already.) However, violence only creates more violence, and in the name of conservation Watson is committing acts of piracy and putting people's lives in danger. People who have families they are trying to support in a manner that their country approves of, at least. I don't know how to fix the problems, but I hope someday someone figures it out. In the meantime, books like The Whale Warriors will keep the situation front and center, and hopefully more information will yield a solution.
Soulspace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life - Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You by Xorin Balbes brings to mind a slimmed-down version of Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance. It also bears a very slight relation to Radical Homemakers and Gardening at the Dragon's Gate in that Balbes encourages readers to make their home the center of their spiritual being. It is in our homes that we can find the center of who we are and who we wish to be. By working on our homes and creating a space that fits us, we will create a haven for ourselves, find inspiration, and grow. This was a great read, but as I rent an apartment and cannot paint my walls scarlet and vermilion and cut new windows, I think I'll save it to read again until I own a house.
I am currently on page 18 of Peter Matthiessen's The Cloud Forest, and already love it. He's only in the Sargasso Sea currently, but the book is written as a travel journal, and the touches of humor he throws in amid observations and scientific notation are perfect.