More from the back yard

back yard

Here’s another picture.

And now I have to run —

Somehow all the planning — getting M and me off east to look at schools; getting M and N settled for the summer; planning family vacations — it’s all making me unsettled.

I know once it’s done, I’ll forget it was even bothering.

Probably much like the process of getting M though high school. And off to college.

Maybe that’s the trouble. N seems so grown up, now. I can barely remember the horrors of high school.

Or maybe it’s the weather.

Who knows.



I am home today trying to make some inroads. Realizing I’m going to be gone next weekend, and the weekend after, and the weekend after that.

That, and I’m worrying. About M.

I’ve just finished Home, and I’m thinking worrying about children may be endemic.

I still don’t understand it, but it’s amazing, and worth reading.

Here I go, then.



This is what our back yard looks like, at present. A parent of a friend of M came over last night and was horrified. I suppose it is horrifying, but I actually like it. It reminds me of a Carl Larsson painting, or of our lake cottage when I was little. I’m in favor of wilderness.

I have been pulling weeds here and there, and the front yard is looking a little better, and there are parts of the back yard that are looking even civilized, but it’s actually really pleasant to sit way in the back corner surrounded by all grass.

I’ve finished The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, which was good, and Miss Buncle, Married, by D.E. Stevenson, which I really really loved, and am now in the middle of Marilynn Robinson’s Home which I am also loving.

The Miss Buncle books are wonderful, and an interesting trick about them is that the both end by dumping you out of fiction into real life. They both end with the resolution of a quandary involving Miss B’s books through a real life event. Which is nice, I think. In fact, is that what all those books which end in marriages are doing? You have whiled away these pleasant hours, and now we pop our characters, and you, dear reader, into real life? Hmm.

Home, well. What a book. I’m not finished, but first of all, how does she make something involving such sad and hopeless characters so readable? I can’t put it down, and it’s so sad. It’s as if she’s returned to her characters from Housekeeping, but they’ve returned to their childhood home and we’re privy to more of their thoughts. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It actually covers the same time period as Gilead, but from the viewpoint of Ames’s friend Boughton’s daughter Glory, and with particular attention to his son Jack, who is Ames’s namesake. We know parts of the story from Gilead which have not exactly been stated here, but I can’t quite remember them. Except that Jack has a son — which Glory and Jack’s father do not know, here.

Here is Jack’s blessing:

Jack glanced at Ames, who shrugged, and he began to read. ‘”Dear Father,”‘ he said. He paused and studied the paper, leaning into the candlelight. ‘My handwriting is very poor. I crossed some things out. “You are patient and gracious far beyond our deserving.”‘ He cleared his throat. ‘”You let us hope for your forgiveness when we can find no way to forgive ourselves. You bless our lives even when we can find no way to forgive ourselves. You bless our lives even when we have shown ourselves to be utterly ungrateful and unworthy. May we be strengthened and renewed, to make us less unworthy of blessing, though these your gifts of sustenance, of friendship and family.”‘

Jack is talking to his father, and to Ames, as much as he is to God, I think.

And the querulousness and crabbiness of the dying man is just right, too, not wanting Jack to play waltzes on the Sabbath, etc.

I don’t get it. I don’t get why Jack is so estranged from human life, and why that should matter, but it does seem to matter.

Maybe it’s when books somehow capture something important you don’t quite get that they seem so good.

Okay — I’m going back out.



Look, isn’t it pretty?

I trimmed it back a while ago. When you bruise the leaves, the cats are very interested. They don’t really care otherwise. But after I trimmed it, they came and sat next to it with faraway looks on their faces. They just wanted to be close to it.

I went to the gym last night in a fit of virtue. It always makes me feel better, but it is hard to fit it in. It takes an hour, really. It’s hard to spare a whole hour.

Anyway, I ran into N’s friend E’s mother. We chatted about the girls. We think they are both happy. Apparently they stayed up all night last Thursday night. E was cleaning her room and I have no idea what N was doing.

You know what? I think it is going to be hell having them home all summer long — they are going to want to stay up all night long and god knows what else.

This is something to think about.

Otherwise, I really have nothing. The big plan for tomorrow is to wash the floor. Be sure to stop by if you’d like to help.

That is all.

(Oh, I finished that hedgehog book. I’m not sure what I think.

  1. I’m not really all that big on philosophical novels.
  2. But this one was sweet enough. I confess I did some skimming.
  3. Some of it was interesting. The part about William of Ockham was a little bit interesting. Singularities vs. ideals. It seems to be about making order of things, which I can relate to (I’m a librarian. Much of what we do is order things.)
  4. I ended up liking the characters.
  5. I don’t think I thought the end was truly necessary. So i didn’t like that.
  6. Okay. Not the best book in the world, but okay.

The end.)

Surprise, surprise


Let’s see.

  1. It’s good that M is going to the academic counselor. She helps her keep on track and not freak out. She reassures her that she’s a normal person. She’s someone who isn’t me to help M get everything organized and figure out how to plow through the massive amounts of work M has. That’s good.
  2. After we drove back, yesterday, we sat in the car for probably 45 minutes discussing M’s school history, focusing mostly on mean teachers, nice teachers, M’s propensity to cry when it was least opportune, good behavior, bad behavior, families, siblings, the role of birth order in determining how annoying someone will be. It was interesting.
  3. My side of the family is organizing a family reunion this summer. We all like each other, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this, I think, but it’s sort of horrifying how everyone is behaving exactly as you could have imagined if you had known them when they were ten. There are a lot of us. I’m not sure if that makes things easier or more difficult. One sibling told me on the phone the other day, “No, now anything I do will be wrong.” Here, I roll my eyes and move on.
  4. I have Friday off! You can’t imagine how exciting this is. I have to carefully figure out exactly what I want to do. I could clean the house, or garden, but I’m not sure I can do both. Lying on the couch reading novels should also be factored in. We shall see.

And the girls get lost

Still thinking about the Disreputable History. I read it again, and came to the conclusion that it’s a much better book than I thought.

How can I put this.

Frankie develops over the course of the book, but what we see is that she becomes interested in not being “Bunny Rabbit,” by which the author means an adorable package in need of being looked out for, a pretty face, a little sister, a powerless person.

She wants to have power.

So what sort of reads as a romance — we want her to meet the boy who will appreciate her, I think, because we assume it’s a teen novel, i.e. romance — is not a romance at all. What she wants is power, and that’s actually what she gets.

Other arguments — why does she feel the need to take over this all boys club? Why doesn’t she just come up with her own club What’s wrong with rejecting this boy’s world as boring and go make crumbles — are all valid, and are all espoused by someone in the book — her sister Zada (who is a powerful person); her friend Trish. They’re all valid responses, but they’re not what she wants. She wants to be in charge of the existing thing that’s an all boys thing.

I can’t tell you the end, but the end actually works — she does get recognition, and she does reject romance. It works.

That was fun.

Also, I am please to report that the terrible Sula paper has been written, typed and handed in. The long household nightmare is over. We can breath again.

(It was a good paper. I typed it, and she kept bringing me more little bits to fill in here and there, and mostly I was impressed by every one. I now think she should be a psychotherapist.)

Happy Monday.

It’s a hard logic


We did in fact go skiing yesterday. Not M — she stayed home and wrote a paper, which was a good thing. But K and I and K’s cousin. It was lovely, and it snowed, and I meant to take a picture from the chairlift, or on the trail with the snow falling, but I didn’t so I’m giving you a daffodil instead, with some wild onion thing behind it.

I have not really skiied enough to actually get good at it this winter, which makes me sad. Maybe I’ll try to slip up there next weekend. When it’s fun, it’s so fun. I did improve — there’s one steep run which was torture the first time and nearly pleasurable the second. I think one more weekend would be great . . .

I’ve been battling airline tickets and family reunions and I think it’s nearly worked out. The reunion with K’s family has boiled down to two days at K’s brother’s house and a trip to the beach. We’re all broke, so we’ll drive an hour to a nearby beach, buy a clamroll and call it a day. It’s a relief, in a way, since it involves no reservations once we’re there.

It’s possible we’re nearly back on track, here, with things falling into place.

Oh, it was so pretty in the mountains yesterday. There are still no leaves at all, but some of the brush is starting to turn red and yellow and green. And the hills, on the way up and down, are all bright green they way they only are in March. It was beautiful.

Lost positives

So, I just finished The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. It’s a young adult book that’s almost really really good. It is good, but it’s just on the verge of being much more. It’s about a girl who suddenly gets pretty between 9th and 10th grade at an exclusive prep school, causing her to attract the attention of a type of boy she had never previously attracted. She’s annoyed, though, that she attracts the attention, but that doesn’t really make her belong. She’s “the girlfriend.” She’s not invited to the excusive boys’ secret society, so she secretly insinuates herself in anyway, without their knowledge.

The good parts are that it really captures that feeling of being “the girlfriend.”

Most young women, when confronted with the peculiarly male nature of certain social events — usually those incorporating beer or other substances guaranteed to kill off a few brain cells, and often involving either the freezing-cold outdoors or the near-suffocating heat of a filthy dorm room, but which can also, in more intellectual circles, including the watching of boring Russian films — will react in one of three ways.
Some, like Trish, will wonder what the point is, figure that there probably is no point and never was one, and opt for typicaly feminine or domestic activities such as crumble-making, leaving whatever boyfriends they have to “hang with the guys.”
Others, like Star, will be bored most of the time, but will continue attending such events because they are the girlfriends or would-be girlfriends of said boys, and they don’t want to seem like killjoys or harpies. If the boys are there, playing games on the Xbox (indoors) or letting off cherry bombs to make a big noise for no reason (outdoors), the girls will chatter among themselves and generally make a quiet display of being interested in whatever the boys think is interesting.
The third group aggressively embraces the activities at hand. These girls dislike the marginalized position such events naturally put them in, and they are determined not to stay on those margins. They do what the boys do wholeheartedly, if sometimes a little falsely. They drink beer, play the video games, light off cherry bombs. They remain alert during obscure Russian films. They even buy the beer, win the video games, and show up with an M-80, just when the cherry bombs are beginning to get old. If required by their social circle, they read articles on Andrei Tarkovsky.

It’s almost great, but not quite. Frankie doesn’t want to be the Bunny Rabbit. Frankie doesn’t want to be the baby. Frankie doesn’t want to be the adorable girlfriend. But she also doesn’t want to play field hockey, because it’s only a girl sport. Frankie only wants Matthew to notice her, but she almost doesn’t want to notice herself. She is angry that the club that her father joined won’t take her, because she’s not a boy, but she seems resourceful enough to found her own club, a co-ed club. She seems like she might be bright enough to move beyond Matthew and his boring friends. But she doesn’t.

Th author keeps stressing that she’s just an ordinary girl. I guess I want her to be more than that, and the scene with Matthew, when she reveals that she’s the mastermind, doesn’t quite ring true. She should realize, I think, that Matthew is never going to “see” her, but that other people might.

It certainly does remind me, though, of a period in my life, going to excrutiatingly boring parties with the boy I was going out with because it was supposed to be fun, or in college, hanging out with the boys on my floor who were exactly as boring as described above, because I thought they ought to be more interesting than my high school girlfriends. But they were actually as boring, but in a different way. It is a wierd position, when you want to be part of exciting things, but the exciting things prove to be very boring. I guess I wish it had ended with the possibility of her hanging out with people who actually were interesting.

Anyway. I’m being critical, but I actually enjoyed it a lot.

Back again:

I like Frankie’s friend Trish, who is the one who opts for crumble-making. (Frankly, I think crumble making is a worthy pursuit.) I like the author’s depiction of boys, and who they are willing to allow you into their world on sufferance, but are not willing to enter yours. My highschool boyfriend wanted to go to the boring beer parties at his friend Andy’s house. He did not want to come and hang out with me and my friends. I think a better resolution would not have been Frankie refusing to play field hockey because the more important part of th population does not play field hockey. There was another, slightly interesting, girl, and I wish the resolution would have been that F, and maybe that girl, and maybe Trish and the previous boyfriend would have formed their own prank society. I don’t like the idea that she’s conceding that the male half of the population is more important than the female. But perhaps what Frankie wants to do is to become the president of a bank, and I suppose there really are more male bank presidents than female.

Hmmm. I am possibly thinking about this more than it warrants. I’m also thinking about the boyfriends my kids have had — N’s boyfriend and she had overlapping circles of friends, and sometimes they hung out with one and sometimes the other, but she was pretty adamant about not spending all her time with him, or ditching her friends. M’s boyfriend comes over here a lot, and sometime they watch violent shoot-m-up movies, but they do also watch Mulan and Princess Mononoke.


Oh, Christ


So now, N wants to take a course on the Indians of Maine. It could be good. It does involve a weeklong fieldtrip, and she is now considering American Studies as a major.

I think this is just the way it’s going to be.

M thinks she is going to be too busy to go skiing with us this weekend, which is going to disappoint K.

My keyboard is making a funny twanging noise.

I have to figure out how to get N back from Maine with all her belongings. I hate buying plane tickets. They cost too much, and when you finally buy them, exactly then do you realize that there’s another thing you forgot to consider and the date you’ve chosen is ever so slightly bad. But there’s no refund. Ha ha. For a hundred dollars we’ll let you reschedule!

I finally conceded and am wearing spring-ish clothes, and now it’s cold. Ha ha.

My stomach hurts.


What do the names mean? The main character is Osama. His uncle is Jihad. Jihad is a worldly gay man, a champion pigeon-raiser. Osama is a guy sort of outside his culture. What is the deal with him — he never marries, either. He’s sort of extraneous, really. They have an Uncle Ma’an, and Ma’an is some sort of Druze hero.

Early on, Osama is worried about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and that Abraham would actually have done it. This sort of tickles me. I’m sure as a child I would have had similar worried. I suppose it’s supposed to show that Abraham would have done anything, but to a child it’s rather troubling. Why would a God want anyone to do something so awful? What sort of a god is that? Osama gets his mother to admit that she would not sacrifice him even if God asked, even though she doesn’t believe in God.

This, I believe, is also the holiday that brings Osama back to Beirut, and maybe somewhere it’s said that it’s the only holiday the Druze celebrate.


More pondering.

Here’s an interesting review. And another.