Sunday, April 29, 2012

words, words, words

I love words.  I enjoy listening to words as much as I like reading them.  I will sometimes become so wrapped up in the words while reading, I  have to return to the beginning of a chapter and reread to pull out the content.   I find it mind-boggling when I think of how words were created and have developed over time.

Before sitting down to write this I did a bit of research on the "origin of language" and find I am in good company.  It seems when and how language was developed has been debated for over a hundred years.  At one time the subject became so heated the discussion was banned.  There are several circulating theories, one being we are genetically encoded.  I am not an academian, anthropologist, archeologist nor am I a linguistist; I am simply a lover of words (though probably a poor user of words).

The subject of "words" has been on my mind since listening to All Things Considered on NPR last week.  The interview was with Ben Greenman of "The New Yorker" regarding the elimination of  the single most offensive word in the English language.

Before I continue, I must tell you NPR is the only station I listen to while driving.  I've been know to sit in my car just to hear the end of an interview.  With that said I must say I seldom hear the beginning.  This can be a problem when I am trying to retell something I found interesting.  I don't always have all the details.  To make sure I fully understood this interview I pulled up the transcript so I might have my facts straight.  I will admit when I told the story earlier this weekend,  I did have a few of the facts skewed... a little.

The New Yorker ask its readers to respond, via twitter, with their nominations for the worst word.   Awesome, moist and slacks were the top three.   After much deliberation the powers that be decided slacks was the most offensive word.  "People said it felt like rubbing the palm of their hand over polyester...".  Personally I can think of a few more offensive words.

Fast forward to this morning.  I am breezing through the Sunday paper, separating the good from the garbage when I see an article titled "All hope is gone, surely for grammarians"  (I will add grammarian to the list of things I am not.)  Again, via twitter the Associated Press Stylebook stated It, too, had succumbed.  "We now support the modern usage of hopefully, ...It is hoped, we hope."  The article goes on to say the fight over the proper use of "hopefully" has been going on for decades.   Personally, I had no clue such a vicious battle had ensued.

If we can, even jokingly, eliminate words or change the way a word is used... who is to judge if a word is being used correctly.  Doesn't it make it all a little subjective?   All this fighting over and eliminating of words has left me perplexed.

Surely someone will help clear the confusion, she said hopefully.


While on the subject of words....  A couple of weeks ago our "letter of the week" was "A".  My usual routine is to have the children give me words beginning with the letter.  I have a few children who are always ready with a word and then I have those who struggle.  The obvious words are the first to be shouted out:  ape, apple, acorn, and....  I want each child to have a word on the chalkboard so I give lots of hints.  While helping one child, one of my girls raised her hand while calling out "Miss Bonnie, Miss Bonnie, I have a word".   Certain she had thought of the word I was asking for, I called her name.  "App".  "Ape?  Ape is already on the board."  "No,  app" showing me her hand while pretending to push buttons with a finger on the other hand, "app".

"Okay.  Uppercase or lowercase?"
  Well, I am sure there is an app to find that.

We lose a word... We gain a word...

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and never find yourself at a loss for words.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In the Garden

It is the second week I haven't been able to get outside to work in the garden.  Everything is looking messy and nasty, in need of a little attention.   It needs a good cleaning not to mention there are things I would like to add here and there.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for Saturday morning.   (I think some garden therapy is just what I need to get back to normal.) 

Willie and I strolled around this afternoon and found some pretties among the weeds, sticks and debris.

There are always a few creatures flitting here and there

splashing around

hanging out.

We finally met out new garden member lurking in the ivy.
Do you see his bright orange face?

He seems a little shy.

He ventured out a little just to say hello

and quickly disappeared.

After a bit of research, I've discovered it is a male (orange jaw) five lined blue tailed skink.   Isn't he wonderful?

Most creatures great and small are welcome in my garden.

I hope you have discovered something new this week.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"It Takes a Village"...

and one really thoughtful fellow blogger to change the look here at Living Life.

Yesterday while playing around with the look of my blog I realized I had started something I wasn't sure I knew how to finish.  I put out the call for help and immediately started receiving responses.  The first, and most helpful (many offered much appreciated encouragement) came from Sarah at thoughts from My Yellow House.  Not only did she send a suggestion through comments, she checked in on me several times during the evening via email.  Thank you Sarah for your generous help and time.  I think we did it!


Last week Sunday at ciao domenica posted about Muriel Spark Reading Week hosted by stuck-in-a-book.    I remembered reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in high school and enjoying it very much, but not really thinking about the author at all.  I wasn't aware of the number books she had authored.

I did a bit of research and decided I would read Curriculum Vitae, A Volume of Autobiography.   Friday,  I picked up a copy at the library and also found The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on the shelf as well.  I thought it time to reread it.  I have actually been reading them together and finding it such fun discovering  many things from her life incorporated into this small tale of an extraordinary teacher.   I am looking forward to becoming reacquainted with an old friend and learning more about the remarkable author this week.

Thank you Sunday for the introduction to a new blog and for continuing to add to my "reading" list.


Lastly, thanks to all who commented and emailed wishing me a speedy recovery.  I have been well taken care of; I am well on my way to being back a 100%.

So you see.... this week I have taken full advantage of "the village".  I hope I may return the favors soon.


Saturday, April 21, 2012


I'm a little out of my league.  

As you probably noticed I am changing the look here at Living Life.  It was beginning to feel a little cluttered and claustrophobic.  Since I am not outside playing in the dirt on this most gorgeous day I have been fiddling around on the computer, pretty much messing things up.  You ask are you sure you want to do this?.... and I select yes.  Yep that kind of fiddling and messing up.   (too much time on my hands I'm afraid)

I threw the old template away and opted for the "simple" design.  (Sorry if you were trying to view while I was trying everything on, it sort of made me a little light headed too.)   I like the simple layout, but I'm kind of a centered type of gal.  I would like for the header photo to be centered or stretch the total width.  All suggestions and advice welcomed......

Friday, April 20, 2012


Sometimes you just have to let yourself fall.

I don't frequently get sick.  I fight with allergies and will occasionally give battle to the common cold, but I seldom get really, go to bed and don't bother me, sick.  I have only had the flu, maybe, four times.  The last being over fifteen years ago.  I do not like anyone knowing I don't feel well.  I do not really like anyone fussing over me.   I do not like missing school.  There is nothing noble about it, it is just the way I am.  I've been told I am a bit stubborn.  Besides, I like being the one making the chicken soup.  

This week I had to throw up my hands, call a substitute, go to the doctor and crawl into bed.  It has not been pretty.  My sweet husband being the generous man he is brought this delightful bug home from Boston.   

I thought I was just tired from not getting any sleep, because someone was coughing and sneezing all night, but by Tuesday evening I was pretty sure I was down for the count.  After a quick visit to the doctor on Wednesday I took a wee spoonful of prescribed medicine and slept until 1:00 p.m. Thursday.   Gold, pure gold!

All is well, I am not quite back to normal, but I will be there soon.  No longer contagious, I did go to school this morning, and picked up a couple of books from the library, they were holding for me, on the way home.  This weekend I am planning on taking it easy and taking care of myself.

Sleeping, reading and that blessed golden elixir.
(or maybe reading, elixir, sleeping?)
I may make myself some chicken soup.

Have a wonderful weekend.  All is well here!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Books

"Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West with the Night?  I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book.  As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer.  I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen.  But (she) can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.  The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true. . . .I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book."
---Ernest Hemingway

I just finished Beryl Markham's autobiography, West with The Night.  It is the book we will be discussing next month when the Book Belles meet.  As I often say, this book was nowhere near my radar;  hearing it described as similar to Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa I couldn't wait to begin.  From the opening paragraph to the last word, I was not disappointed.  She shares with us her love of Africa and heart-stopping adventures.  We are with her when as a young girl she is attacked by a lion and when she becomes the first woman to attempt flying across the Atlantic from Abingdon, England to New York.  

Upon researching Ms. Markham I learned she was abandoned by her mother at the age of four and that she had relationships, marriages and children during the years of which she writes.  While these facts might have added drama and pages to her book I appreciate she chose to tell only the story of her life that defined her as an explorer and which led her to the twenty one hour, twenty five minute Atlantic flight.  She allowed, for whatever reason,  her intimate life to remain private.

I am not as eloquent as Mr. Hemingway, so I will only second his statement...
"I wish you would get it and read it, because it is really a bloody wonderful book."

(The above excerpt is of a letter from Ernest Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins

 taken from the back jacket of Beryl Markham's book)


Earlier this week I also read A.S. Byatt's The Matisse Stories.

The Matisse Stories

Byatt does not tell us a story about Matisse, but uses several of his paintings as inspiration to create a trio of insightful and timely short stories.  In these beautifully written tales we are confronted with aging, professional jealousy and sexual harassment.

A.S. Byatt never fails to give the reader a wonderful read.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Morville Hours

"Nowadays, adrift in an affectless no-man's-land, we are cut off not only from the hopes and fears, the triumphs and despairs of the agricultural year, but from the shared emotions of the great story which plays itself out month by month in the liturgical year.  The twenty-first century is fighting a losing battle to keep its calendar.  Gardeners of course have never lost it."  ...Katherine Swift

Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden

Good Friday was an appropriate day to finish reading Katherine Swift's The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden.   When I began a couple of weeks ago I knew it was not going to be a quick read.  There would be some reading,  research and rereading.

Katherine Swift moved into the Dower House in Shropshire, UK in 1988 with a desire to develop gardens on the estate.   The National Trust ask for a three dimensional design.  Instead she wrote of her visions.  With only her words and some well placed support her ideas were ultimately approved.

Using the ancient Book of Hours as her outline she takes us on the journey of building the gardens on the Shropshire estate.  Beginning with Vigils, the opening of the monastic day, we travel through the hours, days and seasons of the garden's birth and life.   

Through each of the hours, Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and finally Compline, we are given lessons in history, botany, astronomy and  theology.   She shares with us her successes, failures, sorrows and patience.  

My favorite section is the last, Compline, the last hour before bedtime.  And, as I said, entering and finishing this chapter on Good Friday seemed right.   

Talking about her last moments with her father she writes:

"In an interview given to the New York Times in 1998 Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, formulated the now famous proposition that we are all composed of the dust of long-dead stars.  When the Milky Way was formed, about ten billion years ago, it contained only the simplest of atoms, hydrogen and helium.  Then the first stars formed, and the building blocks of life - carbon, oxygen and the rest of the periodic table - were created from hydrogen and helium through the nuclear fusion that kept the stars shining.  In time these stars ran out of fuel, exploded into supernovae, and threw all the atoms back into space.  New stars gradually condensed out of the debris.  One of them was our sun with our group of planets orbiting it.  All the atoms there are - you, me, the garden, Pa - were once inside a star, and will be again."

The Pleiades
image via NASA
I have never found it difficult to merge science and faith.  To me, they make perfect companions; one not demanding to be chosen over the other.  I find it rather comforting to think one day I may be one of the stars overhead.

I borrowed The Morville Hours from the library and it must  be returned.  I am hoping to soon have it in my own personal library. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lessons in the Garden

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls bloom.” 

...M. Proust

With the lack of winter and the early onset of spring things which normally do not begin blooming until May are bursting open.   While I welcome all the foliage, flowers and beautiful colors,

 those things which show up in April have sadly come and gone.  We've had a few days nearing 90 degrees, if not above, with little rain.

Early spring flowers fade all too quickly in these temperatures.

My beautiful lilacs, the willing host of a band of inebriated bumblebees, quickly grew tired, faded and disappeared.

The garden, like life, occasionally finds it necessary to kick us in the shin and show us who is really in control.    

Trying to not let the premature warm weather get the best of me, I summoned my "glass half full" attitude and...
went to the closest nursery!

You seriously don't think I go to the garden center to just get ideas, do you?

This was only the first trip. 

Lots of activity going on. 
Many pots to fill


and new.

Some needed to

monkey around.
(Doesn't he dress up nicely?)

Some just begged for a little attention.

A snip here...a trim there.

There was a little matchmaking.

Delta Dawn heuchera paired off with the Big Daddy hydrangea.
Tennessee Williams could not have created a more perfect couple.

Last year an older gentleman ask if he could walk back to see the backyard.  When we turn the corner, surprised with what he found, he said, "Oh this is like the Garden of Eden.  This is how it is suppose to be."  (He was over complimentary and I was smitten.)

And yes,

 just like in Eden there is always the surprise visitor

in the garden.

Enjoy every surprise; it is a gift given to teach....patience, flexibility, tolerance,  and above all humility.