...ANYPLACE THAT IS NOT NEW ENGLAND IN OCTOBER!
My son just sent this from his weekend at Moosehead Lake in Maine...
...ANYPLACE THAT IS NOT NEW ENGLAND IN OCTOBER!
My son just sent this from his weekend at Moosehead Lake in Maine...
An article in this morning's NY Times tells of a woman who has taken on a self-imposed challenge, to read a book a day for a year. Not surprisingly, she reads quickly, as I do (the misfortune of that for me, is that I don't retain a lot of what I read) Thinking about it, I went to my KIndle and counted the number of downloaded books---170; and that list began in March, 2008, so those 170 books were over the course of 19 months. Math time: That comes to about 9 books a month. Then, of course, I also read "real" books, and I have no way of counting those. I'm going to guess those came to another 4 books per month. That's a book every two and a half days. Sounds about right.
Also in the NY Times, today...this in the on-line version---a video about a family in Pakistan, displaced from their home in Swat during the Pakistani Military action against the Taliban, The father ran a school for girls, and his daughter was a wonderfully articulate (and fluent in English) 12-year-old. She spoke of the frustration of having nothing to read, when she was being moved from household to household as the family looked for safe places to stay.
Just yesterday I had two 12-year-olds here, Martin's twin granddaughters (they'll be thirteen at Thanksgiving)---one talked of how much she loved "Hunger Games," which I had given her on her last birthday, and now loves its sequel (Darn. I had bought it and put it away for her coming birthday, but she's already read it)
And Saturday, in Maine, I had breakfast with my own two grandsons, and they talked about what they are reading (all my grandchildren know what topic interests me most)..the 11 year old boy is in the middle of the Spiderwick Chronicles, and the 8-year-old absorbed in Stone Fox.
And me? One of my 13 books this month? BROOKLYN, by Colm Toibin....
Adventure Stage in Chicago has recently started rehearsals for "Gossamer" and this is from their blog:
There's something incredibly powerful about assembling a group of
people in a room around one idea. Tuesday night was the first rehearsal
of Gossamer, and we had tons of incredibly talented people (actors,
designers, directors, technicians, staff, etc.) all on stage sitting
around a giant table, talking about the show and how it would look.
After touching base with all of the actors and introducing ourselves,
there was a gigantic design presentation with visuals of the set, the
costumes, the lighting and the puppets. We heard clips from a very
exciting sound design, and saw projections of images that will be used
to support the story.
But by far the most exciting part of the evening was the read through that followed. It was amazing to be able to hear so many talented actors bringing the story to life, even while still sitting at the table. After seeing the design elements, and all the possibilities, hearing the play read out loud made it take on a new life. Afterward, everyone left the space feeling energized and excited to start work on this show.
Well, the Ravens didn't slink off the playing field muttering "Nevermore" yesterday, but they DID get beaten by the Patriots, and I was right there on the 50-yard-line enjoying every minute.
This photo (pre-game) shows nothing except how very good my seat was. Many thanks to the Kraft family, who own the Patriots, and who have an almost-11-year-old granddaughter who is a book-lover.
I remember high school football games from my adolescent years (until I went to an all-girls school for my final two years of high school) and I remember being COLD. Games were on Friday nights and thogh we bundled up, it seems in my memory as if my feet always froze.
When I was in junior high school, in Tokyo, my older sister's boyfriend was a football star. Funny, I remember that his number was 41----that goes back 60 years! The games were played in Meiji Stadium, in Tokyo, which had been built for the pre-war Olympics; and during the summers we swam almost every day in the Olympic pool there---I seem to remember that we could walk there from our house, but I could be wrong---maybe we took some sort of bus. Even as kids (I was 11, 12, and 13 in Tokyo) we made our way everywhere by bus and train, and sometimes bike, very easily and safely....
This is such a gorgeous time of year in New England and I wish I could have stayed up in Maine longer, but had too many trips to make this fall. (And a Patriots game to go to tomorrow!)
But my son took his two boys, 8 and 11, and three mountain bikes, up to Acadia National Park for the weekend. (Luckily they have a hotel with an indoor swimming pool because the weather forecast was for rain today). For those of you who don't know Acadia---or haven't watched the Ken Burns series on National Parks this week ---it is one of the truly beautiful places in the USA, maybe the world; and we have several billionaires, including John D. Rockefeller, to thank for its existence.
Apparently the guys are undaunted so far by bad weather because my son just sent these two photos from his iPhone:
I know, it should be whom.
Whom it is, is KUZO. I got home from Washington and Baltimore Sunday evening. On Monday my brother and his wife arrived for a visit, from Virginia. When we talked about this visit a while back, they asked if they could bring their pet and I said sure. We like pets, in this house. Alfie likes other peoples' pets as playmates.
Here is Alfie, getting to know Kuzo..
The National Book Festival was fun, despite bad weather. Hundreds of people stood in line, in the rain, for hours, to get books signed, and it made me feel as if the future of literature and books is in good shape....
I just took this with my iPhone, and realized that A) you can see me reflected in the door, and B) you can get a glimpse of Alfie looking out through the door, wondering what the heck I am doing.
What I was doing was recording the annual fall spectacle of my coleus (thank you, White Flower Farm) at its so-magnificent height that the mailman has trouble getting to the mail slot (there is a second equally huge coleus on the other side of the door). One morning soon, though, it will all have frozen, shriveled, and died....
At the conference I just attended in Idaho, Eric Rohmann talked about childhood memories. When it was my turn, I also talked a bit about memory, as I frequently do, in talking about The Giver. I ended up, after I came home, thinking a lot about the same topic---and that led me to archives in my computer, and a couple of pictures that my daughter did when she was studying art. (Actually, she still studies art, but these pictures date from some time ago.) I don't know what -- if any -- the assignment was. But she did a drawing and then a painting of the view from her childhood window. So she was looking back, in her memory, probably 30 years.
The first one, a pencil sketch, is realistic in a folk-arty sort of way; her bedroom window overlooked a driveway that ended in a garage/barn. This was in Maine, so there was snow on the ground for many months of the year, as there is in her sketch.
Here I am in Rexburg, Idaho...gorgeous sunny weather, and a terrific conference on Children's Literature sponsored by Brigham Young University Idaho. Such conferences are always a chance to meet interesting people, and there are certainly lots of them here, all very hospitable.
So...what dumb thing did I do this time? Well, I was speaking to an audience of 250 people, and using a Power Point---people do seem to enjoy have having something to look at, I think. And the chapel in which I was speaking had a wonderful built-in tech system which made everything so easy.
But when I was showing pictures of some of the photographs I'd done for book jackets...Number the Stars, for example...I explained that I had studied photography in graduate school, and for many years had done a lot of portraits. "Photographing children was always a big love of mine," I said. Then I gulped. "Ooops," I said. "I can't believe I just used that phrase---big love---in front of this audience.""
Fortunately all 250 Mormons burst out laughing....
I returned from San Francisco Saturday night, arriving home yesterday morning, which meant a lost day yesterday as I napped and dozed while watching the US Open. In SF, a favorite city of mine, I ate too much, in wonderful restuarants, with good friends and also with my daughter and her friend Steve, Eat eat eat. And I went shopping for things I didn't need, with my friend Janet, an artist who knows all the most interesting stores. Spend spend spend.
The reason I mentioned eating and spending is because I came home to find the packet containing information about the Afghani woman whom I have agreed to sponsor through the organization called Women for Women International. (www.womenforwomen.org)
Fatima is 36 years old. Married. Four children, one of whom goes to school. She herself has no education whatsoever. She cannot read or write. She lives in a house with no electricity or water. She has no medical care for her children.
I will keep her photo on my desktop so that I look into those eyes every day as I consider whether to click the "BUY NOW" button on various bookmarked websites. The world is so unfair in ts disparities. I hope I can make a small difference in this woman's life.
A friend of mine who teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Education asked me this morning if I had any first-day-of-school photos, and I sent her this one, which she will incorporate into her Power Point presentation for 60+ new graduate students tomorrow, at her first lecture.
What she will be illustrating, with this photo of me and my sister in 1942, and whatever very wise words she uses to accompany it, is the sense of anticipation and eager expectation with which children approach the beginning of their education...not just kindergarten, which I was starting the day of this photo, but each year, anew, the beginning of another opportunity.
I used this same photo on the website TeachingBooks.net recently, with this accompanying brief essay:
We’re starting school. First day. My sister and me: we are eight and five; second grade and kindergarten....
My grandfather was a lawyer. My mother’s brother was a lawyer. My ex-husband is a lawyer. My son is a lawyer. My stepson is a lawyer.
So why have I never had the slightest desire to be a lawyer?
Easy. I hate arguments....
I was sitting here this morning, answering mail, when I happened to glance at this container of scissors.
Three cheers for whoever invented scissors. They really are quite ingenious, aren't they? Someone, sometime, after using a knife to cut a piece of paper, must have thought: Hey, if I took two sharp edges. and then attached them to something that you could fit your fingers through...
When I was a kid, there were never enough scissors in our house. (Why not? I wonder now. Were scissors very expensive in the '40's?) Those were the years of paper dolls. I don't think little girls play with paper dolls much anymore. But my sister---she was three years older---and I were passionate about paper dolls. Every Saturday we got our allowance. I don't remember how much it was. Not much. But paper dolls at the local Woolworth's only cost ten cents. I bought a new set every Saturday. So did Helen. Often they were movie-star paper dolls: June Allyson, Esther Williams, Jeanne Crain, Judy Garland... You punched the doll itself---she had perforated edges---out of the cover. She was fairly sturdy, sort of cardboard, and usually wearing a bathing suit. Sometimes you got two of her, in two different poses, arms arranged differently.
Then you set about cutting out her clothes from the flimsier paper inside---evening gowns, playsuits, lounging pajamas---all of then tabbed so that you could attach them to the cardboard doll, though they never stayed on very well and "playing with" the clothed dolls wasn't fun. We rarely bothered cutting out the shoes and hats. The fun of paper dolls was all in the acquisiton, the cutting-out, the comparing ("Does yours have a fur coat?" Mine does")...
My trees are filled with these apples, none quite ripe yet. This morning when I walked the dog at 5:30 AM, loons were calling on the lake, and a large deer in my back yard was startled into bounding away into the meadow beyond. It has been in the 40s at night. Everything feels like fall.
After reading what so many different people have had to say about the NYT article, I'll add just one more thought. Those who feel that once we get kids to "enjoy" reading by way of Gossip Girls and its ilk, they will eventually move on, on their own, to the "classics"----AIN'T. GONNA. HAPPEN. They will move on to read popular novels, and there is nothing wrong with that. But not one of them will ever voluntarily pick up Joseph Conrad or Henry James or Virginia Woolf. I never would have --- and I was an avid reader from the start. I needed the incentive of good teachers, of classroom discussion, of learning to think critically, in order to appreciate classical literature.
No young reader is ever going to leap on his own from Jack Prelutsky to William Butler Yeats. That's what an educational system is for. That's what good teachers do, and why we should pay them more to do it.
School starts this week. I hope a lot of adolescents are dragged kicking and screaming into a Shakespeare play.
A week after her students left for the summer, Ms. McNeill boxed up the class sets of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” along with “Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, keeping just three copies of each for her collection. She carted the rest to the English department storeroom.
This is the concluding paragraph of a lengthy front-page article in today's NY Times, profiling a teacher who has decided to let students (7th and 8th grade) choose their own books to read instead of the assigned literature she had used for years.
At least I'm in very good company, boxed up in that storeroom!
It is hardly a new concept, or a recent revelation, that kids don't respond well to much of the required reading of the past. I remember sitting down with a grandson, 14 at the time, who was about to give up on A Tale of Two Cities which he was supposed to read during a school vacation, and reading it aloud with him to see if that would help. Problem was, I could see exactly why he was feeling so negative. The book really had nothing to say to him at that time in his life.
Wrestling with the teaching of literature and trying to create lifelong readers has been an ongoing struggle for teachers. I'm a little troubled by the NYT presenting this one teacher's method as a wonderfully innovative solution—some of her students, she points out, are choosing to read Captain Underpants—but it does seem to me a sensible approach if a skilled teacher can combine such self-selection with an intelligent introduction to fine literature. A little asparagus if you want dessert....
Late August. Always a sad time for me: summer winding down; back to real life. Solitude ending. This is my last few days in Maine; I'll head back to Massachusetts next Thursday, a week from tomorrow. It seems as if I just arrived.
Here is an ominous sky; it is thunderstorm season:
And here is the last of the basil. I just picked this and will make pesto for the freezer:
I can't recommend highly enough the Sunday, August 23rd magazine section of the New York Times, which focuses on the plight of women world-wide. The individual stories of deprivation and powerlessness are so compelling. But the article makes clear, as well, that there are things we as fellow humans--(in my case, fellow woman)--can do to help. This morning I went to the website of WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL (there are many other such organizations as well) and arranged to sponsor a woman in Afghanistan, to provide education, vocational training, emotional support. This will cost me $37 a month.
I've always sent donations to organizations whose causes I believed in. But there is something about one-to-one ---knowing who a person is, knowing you are making a difference to that person, and the awareness that that person in need knows you care---that appeals to me.
Two days ago I bought a pair of earrings for $70 from a local goldsmith. I didn't need earrings. But I wanted to support a Maine artisan. And I suppose I still feel that way, and am not going to throw my earrings (which I am currently wearing) away.
But I feel much better about sending support each month to a woman who has so meager a future without help.
Well, I guess the answer to that is pretty much yes. But do I enjoy making the travel arrangements?? Grrrr. I have been sitting at my desk, on my phone, on a very hot day, getting literally hot under the collar. And here's why.
I got an email from my friend Tom the other day. Tom lives in Richmond, Virginia and he and I have been buddies for 40+ years. He emailed to ask advice about NY hotels because he's going there in late September to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Met. (This is, incidentally, the kind of guy friend every woman values---one who loves opera)
Anyway, we had the hotel conversation, he got a hotel, and in the course of the discussion I mentioned that I will be in NYC twice this fall, and also SF, and at Thanksgiving I head to Paris briefly.
His reply: S.F, Paris, NYCX2....God, Lois, how do you do it?
It exhausts me to think of your constant coming and going!
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