Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reviews: 'The Cloud Forest' and 'Solo'

I didn't intentionally read these back to back, but what a great coincidence. Peter Matthiessen and Susan Fox Rogers each present books that take readers away on adventures they may perhaps never go on. I hope to one day travel to Spain, and Ireland and Scotland, Germany and possibly Sweden, but South America? I doubt it. Ditto India. (He doesn't go to India). But the writing is so perfect, you feel as though you are on board ship with him.
The stories Susan Fox Rogers collected and edited for Solo are so outstanding, either in the physical action (out-skiing an avalanche, hello!) or the emotional journey that those women experienced I wished I too, could throw it all in and just go. Go where my feet led me, go where my heart told me, go where my finger landed on the map. Perhaps it's selfishness, perhaps it's the onset on mid-life crisis, call it what you will, but I couldn't help but experience a pang of envy reading about these amazing adventures in places I will never see. My remedy has been to read more, of course, but with my children, to 'plan' adventures and mysteries that we might discover together. I don't really want to just run off and leave my family (except on quesadilla night, that is, when dinner food becomes hats and masks and Frisbees, anything BUT dinner), but there is an entire world out there to be explored. Until I am able to, I will live breathlessly through others' words, and encourage further exploration with my own family.

Currently I am working my way through Robert Frost's poetry. Everyone has read at least on poem by Frost, I am sure, unless you didn't go to school in the US. However, it seems we are only ever given the standard fare: After Apple Picking, The Mending Wall, The Road Not Taken, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. I've never even actually read The Gift Outright. (It's in the book, and I'm trying really hard not to jump ahead and peek). Oh, yes, and the dismal Out, Out I read in high school English class. I have discovered such treasures as The Oven Bird:

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

and A Patch of Old Snow, which so eloquently resounds with today's world, I think. Every day we read/see/hear some new heartbreaking atrocity. If only it could all melt away...

There's a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I've forgotten --
If I ever read it. 

Lastly, The Exposed Nest, reminding us of the sweet innocence and deep-hearted love that children have for the world they live in:

YOU were forever finding some new play.

So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,        5
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But ’twas no make-believe with you to-day,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,        10
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasting flesh)        15
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once—could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred        20
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might our meddling make her more afraid.        25
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.        30
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,        35
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

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