First, there’s the amazing tale of Holly and her 200-mile trek down Florida’s east coast. The story of Holly’s arduous undertaking put me in mind of the children’s classic by Sheila Burnford. In that novel, Tao, the Siamese cat, had the companionship of two dogs. Holly, on the other hand, seems to have made her way all on her own.
The January 21 issue of the New Yorker had an especially fine cover:
(Three guesses who the herdsman is; the first two, naturally, don’t count.) This was an exceptionally fine issue, too. I recommend especially David Owen’s “The Psychology of Space.” Here we are introduced to the fabulous Oslo Opera House and its designers, the firm of Snøhetta Architects.
“Becoming Them” is James Wood’s eloquent, supremely poignant account of his ever changing relationship with his aging parents. And I enjoyed “Experience,” a short story by Tessa Hadley, author of The London Train.
At our house, Christmas Day has been spent in morally elevating and intellectually stimulating pursuits, to wit:
I’m deeply grateful for “Think before you buy that puppy,” an article by artist and writer Betsy Karasik. It appears on the Op-Ed page of today’s Washington Post. This is the concluding sentence:
Saving an animal from starvation and homelessness is its own reward, but the beauty of rescuing an animal is that from an emotional standpoint, it turns around and rescues you right back.
Some of us know the truth of this from experience.
And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to sing the praises of one of the most precious books I own:
The pictures are marvelous; the stories, simply told and charming. The “cover cat” is named Blackie. In 2005 she went to live at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, England, having been given up for adoption by a hairdresser who had developed an allergy to her fur. Author and photographer Richard Surman tells us what happened next:
She is a rather grand cat, more used to the scent of hairspray and pomade than rigours of community life, and thoroughly resistant to the allure of the Priory’s wild woodland. It certainly took some time for Blackie to settle in: carefully guarding a pink ball that was her treasure, she was very wary of this radical change of environment, and for a while all that could be seen of her was a pair of startled eyes staring from the undergrowth in the garden, or from deep in the shadows in the priory entrance hall. But both the present Abbot, Father Stuart, and Sister Mary Bernard, devoted a great deal of time and patience in encouraging Blackie to be more at ease, and little by little she came out of her shell.
Richard Surman’s work is beautiful. To see more of it, click here.
We find Blackie’s resemblance to our own Miss Marple rather striking:
(Research on Burford Priory revealed that it has passed into private ownership. I hope and trust that provision was made for Blackie.)
There is nothing like another superb meal at Tersiguel’s – I had “La Dinde Traditionelle d’Amerique (traditional turkey dinner), in honor of Thanksgiving - to remind me of just how lucky I am:
For my brother David and his wife Joan, out there in sunny San Diego (O please ship some of that sunshine East – we’re starved for it!);
For my brother Richard, and for Donna, the wonderful woman who now shares his life;
(The “Adventure” referred to, by the way, was mine! I went to Yorkshire in 2005 with The National Trust for Historic Preservation. This slide show was assembled from my photos by the ever-resourceful Ron; the music is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s luminous Lark Ascending.)
For my dear friends from the library;
For my friends of many years’ standing, whose love and affection I’ve been able to hold on to for an astounding amount of time: Nancy – almost forty years! Charlotte and Helene – more than fifty!
More than anything, for my husband Ron, who gave me a second chance at happiness, and for the love of music that brought us together…
(If you go to the bottom right hand corner of the video and click on “YouTube,” you’ll go directly to that site, where further information on the performers can be found. And while you’re at it, click here for my favorite recent musical “find” on YouTube.)
Finally, here’s a piece on Chef Michel Tersiguel:
I thank God for these and many other blessings.
No, it’s not my puppy – though I rather wish it were. On Wednesday June 24, in a column in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson declared himself to be in love – with this little guy:
Gerson confesses himself amazed at this turn of events, since, as he states in his opening sentence, he has never liked dogs. Admittedly, for some of us reading this piece, the thought arose at once: What took you so long?
Never mind – better late than never.
“A Latte To Warm the Heart” goes from sentimental to discursive, then back to sentimental at the end. No matter; Gerson could have interpolated a discussion of particle physics for all I care, so completely delighted am I by his conversion to animal lover.
The article concludes with these words from A Christmas Carol by Dickens:
“Many laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them. . . . His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him.
So…how long must we wait before introducing Michael Gerson to the likes of:
Several days ago, I awoke to this delightful sight out our back windows:
The above three photos were taken with a Panasonic FZ-20 digital camera with a 12x zoom lens. The two below were taken with the same camera in the optional wide screen mode. Be sure and click to enlarge; these look beautiful in full resolution.
All pictures were taken by my husband Ron.
I’ve long been a fan of Dr. Michael W. Fox’s column, Animal Doctor. Today Dr. Fox addresses a question about grief for a lost pet.
His response to the query “Can Pets Contact Us From the Great Beyond?” was so deeply eloquent and compassionate that I wanted to be sure that my fellow animal lovers saw it. (Be sure you go to page 2 to get the full text, after which you can watch the Good Doctor tackle the somewhat more prosaic but nevertheless endearing question of whether dogs should eat cheese!)
Have a look at Dr. Fox’s website. It’s a terrific resource, and bears witness to the lifelong commitment of this humane and dedicated veterinary doctor.
What I’m reading:
Hamlet, Revenge; by Michael Innes, a Golden Age classic (written in 1937) that’s out of print and hard to find. I got my copy several years ago from a small British publisher, House of Stratus. They do not currently stock any copies! And so we beat on, boats against (contemporary publishing) currents, borne back ceaselessly in our search for (out of print) gems from the past (with apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald).
Waterloo Sunset, crime fiction set in Liverpool and written by the dependably engaging Martin Edwards;
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. Well, yes, I do identify with all those irrelevant intellectuals, but so far, Jacoby is preaching to the choir (and that’s one of the problems she addresses in the very first chapter).
The Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain, by Martha Sherrill. The story of the man who almost singlehandedly saved Akitas, referred to in Japan as “snow country dogs,” from extinction as a distinct breed.
An especially meaty issue of The New Yorker. “Uncluttered” is about the Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, whose work I recently saw at MoMa in New York. And there’s a fascinating piece by Rebecca Mead on The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in the Berkshires. It seems this venerable dwelling is at the moment threatened with foreclosure. Even the great Edith Wharton has been unable to escape the nation’s current subprime mortgage crisis! [This article is not available online.]
Finally, there’s Daniel Mendelsohn’s meditation on Herodotus, occasioned by two new versions of The Histories. [Attention, children's librarians: The New Yorker cover is by the late William Steig, author of one of my all time favorite children's books, Dominic.]
What we’re watching – and that would be on our brand spanking new 32-inch Toshiba 32RV53OU : The Wire, Season Two. I have nothing to say about this astonishing, harrowing program that hasn’t already been said. We finished Season One two weeks ago; I was so wrapped up in what was happening to these characters – especially Kima – that I was going to sleep obsessing about them and then dreaming about them.
[First picture: Dominic West and Wendell Pierce as Jimmy McNulty and "Bunk" Moreland; second picture: Idris Elba and Wood Harris as "Stringer" Bell and Avon Barksdale]
How did they find these fabulous actors? (There was an interesting article about David Simon, creator of this landmark series, in a recent issue of Atlantic Monthly.)
Unscheduled event of the weekend:
My husband’s brave but ultimately futile attempt to convey a piping hot Pepperidge Farm Chicken Pot Pie from the oven to the table resulted in said pie landing with a great splat on the kitchen floor. I’ve eaten this item before – from the table, I hasten to assure you! – and it really is quite tasty. But perhaps there should be a warning on the box concerning methods of conveyance. I’d suggest a picture of the pot pie imploding as its container crumples. A second graphic would have the pie’s crust and innards liberally spread hither and yon, while one’s pet – in this case, Miss Marple, a cat ever alert to novel culinary situations – comes racing in and careens right through the middle of the mess. Don’t try this at home, folks!
I have been asked by several of my cat-loving friends to write something more about Miss Marple. It is my pleasure to do so. One of the things she does that particularly delights us is to observe closely the wildlife in our backyard. She is strictly an indoor cat – I am way too much of a nervous wreck about her well-being to allow her out. So this monitoring function is primarily carried out from the vantage point of the sliding glass doors in the dining and family rooms.
Even though birds and squirrels are commonplace, they are always duly noted by Miss Marple. The big event, though, is when deer come tramping through the yard. When she spots them, Miss Marple’s entire body goes rigid! This has to be one of the most endearing characteristics of cats, the way their entire bodies, and not just their minds, focus on the task at hand.
Finally, it being late summer, there are fireflies in profusion at nighttime. Miss Marple likes to get herself situated between the curtains and the window and watch the winking lights of these mysterious insects.
Miss Marple, by the way, was named with our favorite actress in mind. We love Joan Hickson’s incomparable portrayal of Agatha Christie’s elderly but keen-eyed sleuth. Hickson’s Miss Marple has a still, deep center, like a seer. There is nothing silly or superficial about her. One can well believe that she has in fact witnessed every sort of depravity right there in the tiny village of St. Mary Mead!
Joan Hickson was 78 years old when she began filming the twelve Miss Marple episodes for the BBC in 1984. The project was completed in 1992; she died six years later.