other people’s bookshelves

 

It’s Wednesday, which means I ought to be posting a mysterious photo or story prompt… more or less a self-imposed rule, which makes it easy to break.

Instead, I want to talk about bookshelves, other people’s, and how a recent snoop is connected to last Wednesday’s mysterious photo.

Snoop is a harsh word. I was more ‘browsing’ at the cottage where we stayed recently, a remote place in 300 acres of forest, on a lake, surrounded by trails and perfect snowshoeing conditions. We go to this place every year for the seclusion and disconnection from everything other than books, food, wine and fireplace (tea and starlight and thick blankets on the deck also allowed).

As always, my travel bag is mainly filled with books, even for just a few days. But if there’s a bookshelf where I’m staying, chances are I’ll be seduced. (There is something so satisfying in perusing other people’s bookshelves.)

It should be noted that my interest is not to see what they’re reading, as in current titles… bore bore bore… but rather what they’ve collected, the quirky books that might have been culled over time but were kept instead. Those are the ones I’m drawn to. Cloth covers and dust, that kind of thing. Also how the books are filed is interesting… alphabetically, by subject, theme, mood…

This place does it ‘by subject’, which subjects include theology, Shakespeare, political memoir, climate, history, nature, art, Ireland, novels about Ireland, and classic novels, the Brontes, etc., as well as obscure (to me) volumes of poetry such as ‘I Take it Back’, by Margaret Fishback, who strikes me as a sort of poetic Dorothy Parker for all of her delicious rhyming sarcasm as she comments on the state of society. (The rhyming, of course, is essential to the sarcasm.)

To a Baby One Day Old

It seems a sweet absurdity
to call so small a morsel ‘he’.

I mean, to think she was writing about gender identity in the 1930’s…

And this, a little tongue in cheek for, well, you know who you are.

On My Toes

I’m the pronunciation snob who knows
how to cope with the Ballet Joose…
nor does the Monte Carlo Ballet Russe
stagger me as it may do youse.

**

I also read about Lewis and Clarke and how Lewis was a bit of a jackass who thought very highly of his white self and neglected to give credit to the Shoshone wife of a member of the their crew. Her name was Sacagawea and without her they’d have been sunk as she was the only one who knew the terrain, the language and how to navigate the territory, including interactions with indigenous ‘residents’. Fortunately the transcribing of Lewis and Clarke’s journals fell to Clarke after Lewis’s death and he, being a much more decent bloke, gave her the credit she deserved (and which Lewis had conveniently left out of his own notes).

**

And I read about Emily Carr, who I’ve read, and read about, many times. But this was different in that the book I found was a rather obscure volume, written by one of her art students and life long friend, Carol Pearson. And not only was Pearson a friend of Carr, she grew up to be Aunt Carol to the people who own the cottage we were staying in. And not only that but Aunt Carol had a small cabin of her own in these very woods, which is now ramshackle (but the dish rack remains) and every time we’ve been up here I’ve passed it and wondered who it belonged to. And now I know.

This is what happens when you snoop in people’s bookshelves.

I mean browse.

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

a love pome for february

 
 
A street.
A side street off a main street.
A gravel driveway that curves left.
A mailbox, red flag down.
Bucolic, ordinary.
I notice it as I drive past at main street speed.
And in that split second

I remember you and me,
rows of strawberries,
laughing red fingered,
picking baskets of fruit,

early, early, early,

before the heat of another summer morning found us.

the world is too much with us

 
 
I can’t write sonnets so I’ll write a story instead.

Not about anything useful, not anything that will topple governments or stop people throwing garbage out their car windows.

I’ll write about my bike. Not the giant green one I had when I was eight or nine and had to choose between sitting or pedaling, but the yellow one I had after that when I was eleven or twelve, old enough to ride alone across the canal into the countryside to find streams and tadpoles and pretend I was Henry David Thoreau before I even knew who he was.

I’ll write about Mackintosh toffee and sponge toffee and favourite chocolate bars (Crispy Crunch) and cereal (Cheerios) and how I’d prefer corn chips to sweets any day and Bugles on my fingertips, pretending they were nails.

I’ll write about how anything eaten in a tree tastes ten times better than at a table and about the Bundt cake my mother made every Saturday with swirls of Nestlé’s chocolate milk powder mixed into the batter.

And stolen peaches and reading for hours in long cool grass and freedom.

Picnic dinners thrown together on a Tuesday night when my mum came home from working at Towers and my dad came home from the factory. I’ll write about a thin blanket spread on a sandy beach, swimming with dad while mum laid out melmac plates, a bowl of potato salad, a few slices of meat, a thermos of KoolAid, another of coffee.

I’ll write it all for some young child, young enough not to find it too dull, young enough to want to go in search of tadpoles…

If any still exist.

The World is Too Much With Us

 

i woke this morning with a yen

I woke this morning with

a yen to swim

in the Indian Ocean, to lick

the tile walls of Morocco, sunbathe

nude on the side of a grassy hill overlooking

the coast of Africa I wanted to tear

silk underwear to shreds

and tie the rags to the tail

of a kite—

sing to purring elephants at dawn

and ride caterpillars to the tops

of mossy trees.  I woke this morning,

then stepped outside

—never happier to be home.

 

i drove to barrie

 
I’ve never been to Barrie before.

dsc08000I’d heard there was a nice waterfront.

It’s true.

dsc08006dsc08008But I didn’t go for the waterfront. That was simply a bonus, a nice way to spend the hour before sunset.

dsc08010 dsc08014At 7 p.m. I was in the living room of people I’d never met, about to be entertained by one of my favourite musicians, Laura Smith.

And Paul Mills.

A house concert, my first.

dsc08015 dsc08016And I really can’t even begin to describe how extraordinary it is to hear a concert quality performance in the comfort of a private home.

dsc08036And Laura Smith’s voice… well, if you’ve ever heard it, you might understand the mind-boggling effect of hearing it up close. If you’ve never heard it, listen to this…  And more, here.

It was Laura’s voice on a couple of CD’s that kept me company as I drove back, solo, from Prince Edward Island last year. For me, her voice and driving, travelling, looking and seeing and finding new things… are all connected.

I’ve also been known to dance in my own living room to her tunes.

I did not dance in the living room of strangers, though I suspect they might not have minded.

dsc08048I must have had the feeling I wouldn’t be able to describe anything and so I scribbled down lines throughout the evening… some from stories Laura told about the origins of the songs, why and how she wrote them; others from the songs themselves. This is a sliver of things, my concert mash up…

 

I Drove to Barrie to Hear Laura Smith

I was never safer
because of my smart dog
—the hardest part was starting.
Only an echo will answer my name;
I look into your eyes and see stories
that will never get told, like a father
and a daughter—love to have you here
havin’ a beer, right about now, steamin’
with toil, with the seagulls around me
and crows on the plough; you are loved
and you are loved always, you’re home.
I hear voices in the salt spray, the last
light of the sun going down; I sit in the
same chair every night, Jordy—
a bad hair day in a cheap motel—I’m a
beauty. I’m a beauty.

dsc08049

Nothing else to say.

Except, thanks. It was the best…

aka: a lady of leisure

The following, ascribed to ‘Anonymous’, but thought to have been written by Florence McLandburgh, is taken from the 2014 Herstory calendar, an annual celebration of women that I have raved about at least once before.

*

No Occupation

She rose before daylight made crimson the east
For duties that never diminished
And never the sun when it sank in the west
Looked down upon work that was finished.
She cooked an unending procession of meals,
Preserving and canning and baking.
She swept, she dusted.
She washed and she scrubbed.
With never a rest for the taking.
A family of children she brought into the world,
Raised them and trained them and taught them.
She made all the clothes, patched, mended and darned
Till miracles seemed to have wrought them.
She watched by the bedside of sickness and pain
Her hand cooled the raging of fever.
Carpentered, painted, upholstered and scraped
And worked just as hard as a beaver.
And yet as a lady-of-leisure, it seems,
The government looks on her station.
For now, by the rules of the census report
It enters her—No Occupation.

*

Note: the rules changed in 1931, when “homemaker” was allowed on the Census report.
396PX-~1

Picture courtesy WikiCommons