Wednesday, March 27, 2013


march madness

I am not writing much lately because I have had so little to say about many minor and un-noteworthy happenings of late.  Well, okay, for conversation's sake, such as the following.

The week so far.  I moved a dear little antique table with one hand while vacuuming with the other, and one of the table legs cracked.  Then, since company was on approach (hence the vacuuming), I reached into the back of the dish cupboard for the "good" mugs, the ones that sort of match, and in so doing I knocked over my very favorite cup, the enormous comfortable staffordshire mug I have used daily for countless cups of tea over the last decade.  It leapt out of the cupboard seemingly under its own willpower and broke into shards on the counter below.  The Farmers Arms rhyme was printed on it (transferware just like this, except mine resembled a tankard more than a teacup), and oddly, the largest extant piece of the cup retains all of the rhyme - the broken edge curves neatly all the way around it.  A small blessing.  The table leg I repaired, sort of, with wood glue and a bit of unobtrusive hardware.  The mug is beyond repair.  I can find another, I know.  In antiques shops they aren't that uncommon.  But still.  Arg.

The good company lightened things up a bit and I'd made blueberry muffins so the house smelled like baked goods.  I hid the shards in a different cupboard and we drank Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea out of the "good" mugs.  Thus March marches on and I am trying, lord, trying, but am still feeling distinctly fussy and out of alignment.  I am also forging ahead with my self-help book and romance novel marathon.

I didn't intend to read thousands of pages in numerous books by Diana Gabaldon this month, but that is precisely what has happened.  But they're not all bodice-ripping historical-romance time-travel, though most are - her plotlines range widely across every aspect of life, and are often fascinating and erudite.  Otherwise why continue reading, right?  In book five (book five!) of the Outlander series, The Fiery Cross (Delta 2001, p.978) (page nine-freaking-hundred-and-seventy-eight!), she even quotes Thucydides:

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it."

Having attempted some difficult things lately (which I needn't get into), and having completely failed, I read this brief passage and felt much better for having tried.

The same thing happened while reading one of the self-help books I'm currently in the middle of, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin (Harper 2009, p.37):

"'It is by studying little things,' wrote Samuel Johnson, 'that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.'"

Broken furniture and crockery aside, any unexpected mention of Samuel Johnson fills me with quiet glee.  Another reason we read, for these small moments of happiness, creating layer upon layer of rich experience, within.  I don't know where I'm going with all of this, other than to say that in times of severe March madness (and I'm not talking basketball), books help.

It is the late spring this year, Sarah, and the earlier one last year. I think all of us are just muddling around in a fog, waiting for the snow to quit. The longer days are helping somewhat but I still feel on edge. Books do help, tax forms do not.
Diana Gabaldon is a true gift to readers, and writers! She's a wonderful person; warm, funny, perceptive, and has that wry look at life that I find so appealing. So glad you found her. She says that she "writes big weird books." Right up my alley, and apparently yours. :)

As for The Happiness Project, I just read that a month or so ago, and her follow up book. Fun, interesting, and great food for thought. And I loved the quotes she makes from Samuel Johnson too. Be of good cheer, spring is coming!
As a fellow Mainer (western Maine. We're talking THE boonies), I truly know where you are coming from. My mother always said she didn't mind it when people complained about the weather because at least the weather will always change for the better, eventually, unlike most problems. We are entitled to our bouts of cabin fever and end-of-winter angst. It's Maine! It's tough to live here. Someone once told me that for Mainers, winter was like childbirth: It's painful and feels like it takes forever, but you eventually forget it and enjoy what comes after. Well, only a man could get away with saying something as foolish as that, but I did kind of see his point. Unfortunately, I one of those people who get into a stupor during winter that takes until August to completely get out of and then I have to prepare myself for the coming doom all over again.
My cabin fever prevents me from having the concentration I need to read my usual fare of novels, so I have been carting home from the library those heavy tombstone-sized books on art or design--anything with pretty pictures that will get me out of my house even though I'm sitting next to the wood stove.
Hang in there. -Irene
I like Johnson very much and this is one of the best descriptions of Spring anyone ever wrote in my humble opinion:
"The Spring affords to a mind, so free from the disturbance of cares or passions as to be vacant to calm amusements, almost every thing that our present state makes us capable of enjoying. The variegated verdure of the fields and woods, the succession of grateful odours, the voice of pleasure pouring out its notes on every side, with the gladness apparently conceived by every animal, from the growth of his food, and the clemency of the weather, throw over the whole earth an air of gaiety, significantly expressed by the smile of nature."
Kathleen, we used one of the big blizzard weekends to do our taxes. It went well, all things considered. Speaking of fog - I would love to have just a little spring weather - maybe enough to plant the garden? is that too much to ask? (what, you say it might be...?) - before the foggy days of late spring arrive. The coast of Maine, love it or leave it. For the record, I'm staying. LOVE. IT.


Kim, oh yes, we do love big weird books! That's so great. My sister is reading Gretchen Rubin's second book now, I think she will lend it to me when she's finished. I can't believe I'm actually reading some New York Times bestsellers. Usually the dusty old tomes speak to me more, but not this month!

Hi Irene, thanks for commenting, yes it is often tough to live here, and as I get older it seems to be getting tougher! I need to figure out a way to take a trip to a southern clime, mid-winter, just for fun and an infusion of sunshine. I love it here and don't want to be a snowbird, by any means, but I must say that a short time away would be welcome.

The Johnson quote is SO BEAUTIFUL and becomes even more so with re-reading - thank you so much for sending it my way!

p.s. In my descriptions of domestic disasters, I forgot to mention that the frost heaves in the backyard caused part of the woodpile to collapse (north of the woodpile the ground is still frozen, in the shade, and south of the woodpile the ground is melting and re-freezing at night). I jumped out of the way just as it came toward me. It was like a tidal wave of wood! A small tidal wave, but still! The hazards of rural living are many and varied...
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