this is not a review: ‘braiding sweetgrass’, by robin wall kimmerer

 
 
Oh nuts. Time has whipped by and my inter-library (thank you, *Trent Hills!) copy of Braiding Sweetgrass  is due back before I’ve had the chance to read more than a few of its essays.

This is down to a couple of things. The stacks of books and papers in my house being the only one worth mentioning. (Tho’ if you must know, the other is an obsession with watching taped episodes of Escape to the Country, which occasionally cuts into my extracurricular reading time.)

In any case.

I did read enough to know that I’m not troubled by having to give it back because I’ve decided I need my own copy of the book. In the same way and for many of the same but also different reasons that I needed my own copy of Theresa Kishkan’s beautiful Mnemonic…  a memoir through the memory of trees and, often, the houses and lives surrounded by them, not all of them her own — “All my life, I have wondered at the feeling I have in particular houses, usually ones in which no one lives any longer.”

And Peter Wohlleben’s The  Hidden Life of Trees , which I read in a Kawartha forest cabin and then wandered among the birch and spruce in a whole new way, alert and hopeful for a sense of the conversations I now realized were going on all around me.

And The Sweetness of a Simple Life, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, one of those tiny eye/mind openers that change your world in the very best way. Every bit of clover in my yard is because of her.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to adding Braiding Sweetgrass  to that particular shelf and to continue reading Kimmerer’s gorgeous essays on nature. Here’s just a wee slice from ‘Asters and Goldenrod’ where she writes about the reason she chose to study botany in the first place… a moment from her intake interview at college:

“How could I answer, how could I tell him that I was a born botanist, that I had shoe boxes of seeds and piles of pressed leaves under my  bed, that I’d stop my bike along the road to identify a new species, that plants colored  my dreams, that the plants had chosen me? So I told him the truth. I was proud of my well-planned answer, its freshman sophistication apparent to anyone, the way it showed that I already knew some plants and their habitats, that I had thought deeply about their nature and was clearly well prepared for college work. I told him that I chose botany because I wanted to learn about why asters and goldenrod looked so beautiful together.”

Kimmerer is my kind of guide through the natural world because she doesn’t see a difference between it and us. (Spoiler alert: she gets into botany school and learns the science, but never, thankfully, unlearns her innate connection and unique eye/heart/spirit for what is real.)

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* That Trent Hills Library happens to be in Campbellford, a place I only discovered and fell into great affection with last year (they have a Stedmans!), is the kind of scrumptious serendipity that makes my heart sing. Also, I love the inter-library system.

 

savoury sentences from several sources, part 3

 

“I imagined her at her closet, deciding what you’d wear to go learn something about your child that just might break your heart.”

from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,  by Karen Joy Fowler

 

“She said it with just a hint of bitterness in her voice, enough that I could taste it, like a squeeze of lemon in a glass of milk.”

— from ‘Serendipity’ in the collection Flesh & Blood,  by Michael Crummey

 

“She had no children and beautiful shoes in a range of colours, and each pair had its own matching bag.”

— from ‘The Green Road’,  by Anne Enright

 

“It surprises me that he could have seen any delight in Toby Whittaker, an exhausted-looking young man who, after shaking hands, said not a word from first to last, but whose silence emitted a faint air of disaster and gin.”

— from ‘A Serious Widow’,  by Constance Beresford-Howe

 

“Recently, everything around me felt familiar yet amiss, like the first time you ride in the back seat of your own car.”

— from  Let the Northern Lights Erase your Name,  by Vendela Vida

 

“The smoke in the dark looked like a dove that whispered the future to saints in paintings.”

— from Lullabies for Little Criminals,  by Heather O’Neill

 

“Home was something that you could fit into a suitcase and move in a taxi for ten dollars.”

— from Lullabies for Little Criminals,  by Heather O’Neill

 

“The mixture of cafe au lait and impatience was producing an exquisite vibration.”

— from Still Life,  by Louise Penny

 

“The problem is he married a Pole. Turns out she doesn’t know her arse from her elbow. Doesn’t even keep Keen’s mustard on hand.”

— from Are you Ready to be Lucky?,  by Rosemary Nixon

 

“That was the trouble with grown-ups: they always wanted to be the centre of attention, with their battering rams of food, and their sleep routines and their obsession with making you learn what they knew and forget what they had forgotten.”

— from Mother’s Milk,  by Edward St. Aubyn

 

“They were not merely sentences but compressed moments that burst when you read them.”

— from the essay, ‘Thank you, Esther Forbes’, by George Saunders

♦♦♦
 

More sentences here 710px-Woman_reading,_1930s

and here.

 

 

it may seem we’ve come a long way but you’ve got to admit, the bar was pretty low…

 

In 1854, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon published a pamphlet, A Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning  Women; Together with a Few Observations Thereon” ; this is an excerpt:

“A man and wife are one person in law; the wife loses all her rights as a single woman, and her existence is entirely absorbed in that of her husband. He is civilly responsibly for her acts; she lives under his protection or cover, and her condition is called coverture.

A woman’s body belongs to her husband; she is in his custody and he can enforce his right by a writ of habeas corpus.

What was her personal property before marriage, such as money, becomes absolutely her husband’s, and he may assign or dispose of them at his pleasure whether he and his wife live together or not.

A wife’s chattels real (i.e., estates) become her husband’s.

Neither the Courts of Common law nor Equity have any direct power to oblige a man to support his wife….

The legal custody of children belongs to the father. During the life-time of a sane father, the mother has no rights over her children, except a limited power over infants, and the father may take them from her and dispose of them as he thinks fit.

A married woman cannot sue or be sued for contracts—nor can she enter into a contracts except as the agent of her husband; that is to say, her word alone is not binding in law….

A wife cannot bring actions unless the husband’s name is joined.

A husband and wife cannot be found guilty of conspiracy, as that offence cannot be committed unless there are two persons.”

 

* In 2007, the British equal rights campaigner and feminist Lesley Abdela came across the grave of Barbara Bodichon. The grave lay in the tiny churchyard in Brightling, East Sussex, about 50 miles (80 km) from London, in a state of disrepair, its railings rusted and breaking away and the inscription on the tomb almost illegible.[  About £1,000 has since been raised to restore the site.

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* With thanks to Wikipedia.

utopia

 

A strange conversation, recently overheard…

In a book store yet.

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One woman to the other: I get fidgety if I sit too long.

The other agrees, says, yes, that she has friends who can read for hours;
she has no idea how they do it.

Exactly!  says the first. l mean, I Iike to read… but not for  hours.DSC02070

Another exchange, in the same shop, one that made more sense—

I ask the owner how many books he guesses he has in here. DSC02072

His answer: not enough.

Every day, he says, someone comes in and asks for something he doesn’t have.

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We get that, right?

“Literature is my Utopia.” ~ Helen Keller

savoury sentences from several sources — part 2

 

“I always knew that sentences, beautiful perfect sentences, were the minimum of what was going to be required.” ~ Peter Behrens

“… I may be the only narcissist in the world with a case of unrequited self-love.”— Stephen Reid, Crowbar in a Buddhist Garden

“Being the class clown was like always picking up the cheque and having no one appreciate it.” — Heather O’Neill, ‘And They Danced by the Light of the Moon’, The Walrus, July/August 2012

“…one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.” — Joan Didion, ‘Goodbye to all That’, Slouching Toward Bethlehem

“”I’m not religious at all,” says Hilary. And the quick way she straightens her back shows me a woman who was baptized, took communion and knows the Act of Contrition by heart. She might as well be making the sign of the cross.”  [can’t remember who wrote this… help! anyone??]

“”Well, don’t read the bible,” I tell her. “That’s what Protestants do and look at them.””  [ditto above]

“Portugal is a fine country, for example, but I only found a couple of poems there.” — Lesley Choyce, Seven Ravens: Two Summers in a Life by the Sea

“To say what a letter contains is impossible. Did you every touch your tongue to a metal surface in winter–how it felt to not get a letter is easier to say.” — Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband

“When the cat died on Veteran’s Day, his ashes then packed into a cheesy pink-posed tin and placed high upon the mantel, the house seemed lonely and Aileen began to drink.” — Lorrie Moore, ‘Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens’,  Birds of America

“Though he looks at her, he doesn’t see her. He sees a version that suits him.” — Marnie Woodrow, ‘King Cake’, In the Spice House  

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savoury sentences, part 1

wordly obsessions

I’ve been mildy preoccupied recently with words that are missing from the English language, also some that have morphed over time. I have no interest in writing about this. Just thought I’d mention it. And then offer, as a small gift, apropos of my current status, an excerpt from what I believe to be one of the greatest sources of words that should be real… the extraordinary and tiny Meaning of Liff, where all the words not only make perfect sense and you wonder just how you’ve managed without them… but are the real names of real places.

Here follows the always useful ‘Corrie’ series:

CORRIEARKLET

The moment at which two people, approaching from opposite ends of a long passageway, recognize each other and immediately pretend they haven’t. This is to avoid the ghastly embarrassment of having to continue recognising each other the whole length of the corridor.

CORRIECRAVIE

To avert the horrors of corrievorrie, corriecravie is usually employed. This is the cowardly but highly skilled process by which both protagonists continue to approach while keeping up the pretence that they haven’t noticed each other–by staring furiously at their feet, grimacing into a notebook, or studying the walls closely as if in a mood of deep irritation.

CORRIEDOO

The crucial moment of false recognition in a long passageway encounter. Though both people are perfectly well aware that the other is approaching, they must eventually pretend sudden recognition. They now look up with a glassy smile, as if having spotted each other for the first time, (and are particularly delighted to have done so) shouting out ‘Haaaaalllllooo!’ as if to say ‘Good grief!! You!! Here!! Of all people! Well I never. Coo. Stamp me vitals, etc.’

CORRIEMOILLIE

The dreadful sinking sensation in a long passageway encounter when both protagonists immediately realize they have plumped for the corriedoo much too early as they are still a good thirty yards apart. They were embarrassed by the pretence of corriecravie and decided to make use of the corriedoo because they felt silly. This was a mistake as corrievorrie will make them seem far sillier.

CORRIEVORRIE

Corridor etiquette demands that once a corriedoo has been declared, corrievorrie must be employed. Both protagonists must now embellish their approach with an embarrassing combination of waving, grinning, making idiot faces, doing pirate impressions, and waggling the head from side to side while holding the other person’s eyes as the smile drips off their face, until, with great relief, they pass each other.

CORRIEMUCHLOCH

Word describing the kind of person who can make a complete mess of a simple job like walking down a corridor.

Image courtesy of WikiCommons
Image courtesy of WikiCommons

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spaces designated for art

“Very few buildings [were] built specifically to be art galleries in Canada. The National Gallery of Canada, for example, was housed in the ‘temporary’ quarters assigned to it in 1910, in a wing of the Victoria Memorial Museum. The building also housed the National Museum and the Geological Survey. Elsewhere in Ontario, London and Windsor had spaces designated for art exhibitions in their public libraries and in Oshawa art as displayed in the YWCA. While Montreal and Quebec City had ‘purpose-built’ galleries, farther east, in Fredericton, art was shown in a Quonset hut left over from WWII, Saint John had a gallery in the New Brunswick Museum and in Halifax there was an ‘art room’ in the public library and a gallery in the arts and administration building of Dalhousie University. To the west, the Winnipeg Art Gallery was housed in the Civic Auditorium Building and the Saskatoon Art Centre in the basement of  the King George Hotel; Calgary and Victoria showed art in converted houses, and in Edmonton art was shown in the Edmonton Motor Building. It would not be until the 1960s and ’70s that most Canadian cities would build galleries with the big white walls…”

~ Robert McKaskell, ‘1953, Fifty Years Later’, from 1953  (Catalogue of an exhibition by Painters Eleven, held at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, 2003/04)
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 The National Gallery of Canada