Friday, November 30, 2012


fortune and misfortune

Life just keeps on happening, doesn't it?  We had lovely and intricate Thankgiving plans, all of which were promptly abandoned when Ryan came down with a miserable cold.  Instead of traveling hither and yon to spend time with worthy groups of beloved relatives (and pass along said cold to them), we instead had a quiet holiday meal at home, just us, for the first time ever.  Delicious leftovers were plentiful, since I originally thought we wouldn't bother with all the fuss of cooking a lot, then thought again, wait just a freaking minute here, why wouldn't we treat ourselves as well on a holiday as we would treat others?  In our very own home?  Thus, holiday fare, and for a few days after we were blessed with sandwiches of leftover turkey, stuffing, and homemade cranberry sauce, with a bit of mayo, on anadama bread.  And leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast.  A week passed, and so amply fortified, I thought I had escaped getting sick myself.  But no.  I succumbed a few days ago and here I sit with hot tea and a pottery bowl full of all-natural cough drops and a box of tissues.  Ah well.

I'm taking my cues from Hodge for the duration - sitting in warm patches of sun, draping myself with blankets, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired.  Hanging out by the woodstove in the evenings.  I'm also trying to take my own teabag-fortune advice, by working on a new(ish) project.  I've wanted for ages and ages to make a little illustrated book, with watercolors and line drawings, not unlike my gardening journal.  For about a year now I've had a folder full of ideas and sketches sitting around, so I have that spread out on the table now, and am finally putting something together.  The teabag above is one of the sketches from that folder.  The miniature scale of this book-to-be feels just right for the coming winter.  Another attempt at a sustained creative endeavor, why not.  I certainly have nothing to lose.  Be brave!

Speaking of bravery, I still have Byron on the brain, even though I've finished reading his Letters and Journals.  If you ever feel pity for yourself, or think you are having a particularly bad time of things, think of him.  May 14th, 1821:

"Since last year... I have lost a lawsuit...- have occasioned a divorce - have had my poesy disparaged by Murray and the critics - my fortune refused to be placed on an advantageous settlement... by the trustees - my life threatened last month (they put about a paper here to excite an attempt at my assassination...) - and, finally, my mother-in-law recovered last fortnight, and my play was damned last week!  These... must be borne.  If I give in, it shall be after keeping up a spirit at least."

Murray was his own publisher, who wanted him in no uncertain terms to go back to writing verse to please the ladies.  In his litany of woe, Byron forgot to even mention his own continuing ill health, both physical and psychological, often severe.  That was apparently last on his list, bless him.  He flew his flag with great humor and panache, despite all, and I love him for it.

Not to try to squeeze too much into one post today, or change the subject all willy-nilly, but I can't let November slip away without mentioning another personal hero once again, Ronald Blythe.  He turned 90 this month and received a lovely birthday notice in the Guardian.  The story is on this charming blog devoted to awareness of his weekly columns past and present.  Blythe is one homebody I dearly love to read and re-read, a writer whose quiet heartfelt life I would happily emulate.  Unlike Byron, whose worldly adventures are fascinating to read about but perhaps best encountered only on paper, Blythe lingers closer to home and we gladly join him in his garden, on his rural walks, in his book room.  There are many ways to be brave, many kinds of ramparts, and sometimes staying home and facing your own self is a fine choice, is it not?  Read Ronald Blythe and believe so.   

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