"A girl was never ruined by books," my mother used to say. I've spent most of my life trying to prove that wrong.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On Oranges...


At some point I acquired an ornamental orange tree.  It was probably 20  or more years ago, and each year I put it outside for the summer and brought it in October, where it might--or might not--bear one tiny orange.

This year I must have done something right, because it had a lot of blossoms when I brought it in, which have transformed into perhaps three dozen oranges.  Quite wonderful, I think.  Later on when they start to fall, I'll get the grandkids to plant some of their seeds so they can have their own little tree.

This comes just after I read a very interesting social history of California, Trees in Paradise by Jared Farmer.  The book  tells the stories of four sorts of trees in the Golden State, the Sequoia, Eucalyptus, orange and palm. Farmer uses these as points of departure for a detailed, pretty rigorous account of California since 1850, and for reflections on how people have remade the landscape, for good (a bit) or for ill (mostly.)

I found the method particularly interesting because I'm currently struggling to organize the vast amount of material I've been collecting about concrete for my next book Rock of Ages: How Concrete Built the World as We Know It.    Right now I'm wondering: Why not use the four elements the Ancients recognized--earth, fire, water and air--to tell this story?

To be continued...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Thoughts on The Lantern Waste and Narnia

One of the delights of having children is revisiting books you've read as a child, or reading books that have been written since then.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are a case in point.  I'm sure I read at least one of them when I was about 12, but then read the whole series to Lukas and Elin.  (Lee may have read some of them, too, I think.)

"It will not go out of my mind that if we pass this post and lantern either we shall find strange adventures or else some great change in our fortunes," says one of the character in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  And the spell that has fallen on Narnia is one that means winter forever but Christmas, never.

This scene in a Parc Beaubien reminded me of the stories this week.  The lamp post, the little house, the snow: all were evocative of the best things in the books, so I decided to share it this week.

But as I thought more and more about Lewis and Narnia, I realized that the series, while captivating, has many doubtful elements.  The Witch, for example, could be seen as just a very strong woman: why portray her so negatively?  Later in the series, a horde of brown, mounted adventurers from the South are the enemies for The Horse and His Boy: Arabs, Muslims, foreshadowing of  ISIS?  And there is Aislin who, Lewis said himself, is a Christ-like figure.

I suppose an enlightened parent could use the reading of these parts as teachable moments.  I didn't, and I wonder if I should have even though the kids, by any measure are All Right. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Good Motto for 2018

Just came across this lovely quote from Voltaire: 

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Or as he really wrote:

Laissez lire, et laissez danser ; ces deux amusements ne feront jamais de mal au monde."

 As this new year begins, remember this, my friends!