Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Listening to Cadfael

It is almost bedtime as I am writing this blog. Today I listened to an entire book! Obviously this book was a good deal shorter than the huge biography of George Washington I have mentioned before. I'm still only a little more than halfway through that one--I am in the post-Revolutionary War, but not yet to the uniting of the country under the Constution. I am taking Washington in bites rather than gulps.

The book I listened to today is A Morbid Taste for Bones, the first of the Brother Cadfael chronicles. I actually own the entire Cadfael series in real book form and have loved and read these books for many years. Now that I am investing in some recorded books through Audible, I find that books I love and have read for myself become a different sort of experience when I listen to them. I love to read for myself; I also love to hear a book read well.

If you have never read any of the Cadfael books, I would highly recommend them. They are mystery stories, but they are also historical novels. The author is Ellis Peters (a pen name for Edith Pargeter). She was an enormously accomplished woman, and I was saddened when I heard of her death at age 82 in 1995. No more of her books! At least the final Cadfael book ended in a satisfying place in the life of Cadfael. I suspect that the author probably knew it would likely be her last book.  (I once came across a book I liked by an American author whose name escapes me at the moment. Having read one book, I wanted to keep following the lives of her characters, but found there were only four books, because the author had died. That series did not end quite as neatly as the Cadfael books did. Since I've been reading books for a very long time, there have been quite a few of my favorite authors who have died or who have reached an age where they are no longer writing. Now I am reaching an age where I wonder if l'll live long enough to see the final book in one long saga that is still being written! )

Back to the subject of Brother Cadfael. A number of years ago there was a television series based on several of the Cadfael books (BBC I think, shown in the U.S. on Public Television stations). The TV episodes were good, although I felt the TV folks mishandled the way they wrote the young man, Hugh Beringar, who eventually becomes Sheriff and friend of Cadfael's. He was a very sharp cookie in the books (he does not appear until the second book), but TV made him seem like a bumbler. The Cadfael episodes are available through some of the streaming video suppliers on the Internet.

Cadfael doesn't have DNA, fingerprints, or any of today's scientific equipment. He finds answers through his acute observation, life experience, knowledge of human nature, and abundant common sense. For a good read (or listen!) visit the world of Brother Cadfael in 12th century England and Wales.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I live in Wyoming. My son lives on the east coast. Therefore I do not get to see him or his wife very often. I am grateful for telephones and the Internet for making it easy for us to keep in contact, but it is still not the same as "in the flesh" visits.

Yesterday I received a photo of my son, that both tickles me and almost brings me to tears from missing him.

I love this picture!

Jeremy rescued this squirrel when it was an abandoned, hungry, cold baby that ran up to him in the parking lot of his store. He and his wife have had it for several years. It used to have the run of their store until some busybody reported it to the "pet police" and they were told it was illegal for them to have a wildlife animal as a pet. They would have to keep it away from the public or it would be confiscated. Of course, if they had not rescued Squirrely he would have died. If the Game and Fish Department confiscates Squirrely, he will be killed or released in a place where he is completely unable to fend for himself. He would either die of starvation or be easy prey for another animal.

So, Squirrely no longer makes public appearances. He can only come out of his back room cage when the store isn't open for business. You can see in this picture how he is bonded to Jeremy and loves being out with him. There are some very strange rules about what can be a pet and what cannot. And what animals can be rescued and what cannot. I am definitely against people keeping large predators such as lions and tigers in private hands. There are many truly dangerous animals being kept in circumstances where they should not be.

But rescuing a healthy little squirrel and saving its life does not seem terrible to me! And the authorities confiscating such an animal to kill it seems like bureaucratic insanity. Yes, we need some rules and common sense in the interaction of humans and animals. But why is it OK to have pet mice and rats, but a squirrel is not considered pet-worthy?

Well, I got off the track a bit there! My only intention when I started this was to share a photo I love and explain how Squirrely came to be a rescued pet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From My Burrow

I am like an old groundhog in the winter. I just retire into my cozy burrow and wait for spring! I'll admit to being a bit of hermit by nature, which is a good thing considering that going out in the cold and wind sets off my asthma. Even on a calm day I have a problem with the smoke from the neighbor's woodburning stove and the dust and snow melting chemicals residue that are thrown into the air by auto traffic when the snow is gone.

This is me at about age seven. That
year I was introduced to the Oz books
by my second grade teacher in the
read-aloud time in school.
Now that I don't have a family to care for or a job to go to, my natural burrowing instincts have taken over. So, what have I been doing in my burrow? Unlike the groundhog I really can't sleep all that much. But, boy, can I read! I also watch TV, listen to books on Audible (still working on the big biography of George Washington), and do basic household chores. But I'm in no hurry. I just finished putting away the Christmas tree and other seasonal decorations yesterday. I rather miss them. The living room seems so bare and plain without the Christmas tree and other ornaments. I have known people who leave the tree (artificial, of course) up all year, but that makes it less special when Christmas really rolls around.

I have several new books waiting for me to be in the right mood to read them, but right now the only book I am working on that I haven't read before is a book titled Nightpool that my granddaughter and I are reading together. It is a fantasy novel set in a world where certain species of animals are sentient and speaking. Of course, there is the classic good vs. evil situation, where the young heir to the throne is being hidden and sheltered by sentient animals after the murder of his father, the king. When he grows up the good/evil contest is bound to get more intense.

When I'm doing something that requires hands but not much mental attention, or when my eyes are tired, I listen to one of my Audible books. The ones I have are very well read. It reminds me of when I was in elementary school and for fifteen minutes every day the teacher would read aloud to us. I always loved that.

I am also rereading the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King. These books are a reimagining of the the life and times of Sherlock Holmes, as seen through the memoirs of his young wife, Mary Russell. Many writers have taken Arthur Conan Doyle's characters from his Sherlock Holmes tales and given Holmes new adventures. Of the ones I have read, these books by Laurie King are my favorites. She does not rewrite the characteristics of Holmes, Watson, Mycroft, etc., she just moves them on a few years, and expands on them. I think what got me started on this reread was watching a few episodes of a couple of modern day TV shows that put Holmes into our time, plus the big screen movies that have come out in the past few years. I've enjoyed these reimaginings of Holmes, but my favorite remains the Mary Russell series. I'm enjoying revisiting her world and adventures.

So, that's it from my burrow today!

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Interesting Facebook Site

Recently I read a reference to a man who was planning to live for a year on an Alaskan island with just his dog for company. There were skeptical comments about whether he would succeed. Many people have tried such adventures, only to find the hardships too great and the loneliness too devastating. It sounded interesting, and I wanted to find out if this man actually carried through on his plan.

Every few days I check his Facebook page, and, yes, he is still there, living in the 9 x 9 cabin he built. He has a small woodburning stove in the cabin, but doesn't use it. The body heat he and his dog put out keep the temperature above freezing and he has acclimated so thoroughly that it is all he needs. Sometimes he even sleeps with the window open!

If you would be interested in reading how this modern Robinson Crusoe has done and is doing on his island, you can find him here.

I would hate living like he is living, but, I must admit, I enjoy the vicarious experience of it!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Gift to Myself

Product DetailsA few weeks ago I bought myself a present--The Trans Siberian Orchestra's (TSO) Beethoven's Last Night. I had never heard this rock opera, but I knew I liked TSO's sound and the Amazon reviews were very positive.

This is not one of TSO's Christmas albums. It is a story purporting to recount the battle for Beethoven's soul and music on the last night of his life. Mephistopeles attempts to trick Beethoven out of either his soul or his life's work, particularly his just completed Tenth Symphony.

Fortunately, the CD came with a booklet that tells the whole story and gives the setting for each song, as well as the words to all the vocals. This makes listening to the drama much more enjoyable, although it would be worth listening to even if you did not have a clue as to what it was all about. The music is outstanding and the story is dramatic, touching, and tragic, with a comical twist at the end. (You mean you thought Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies?)

I enjoyed the recording played on my little boom box. Then my son-in-law gave me a new surround sound system (my old one had died) for Christmas. Today I listened to the whole thing on the new system. Outstanding!

Portrait of Beethoven from Wickipedia.
Of course, this program got me interested in the life of the real Beethoven, so I went online and did some reading about him. His real life was every bit as full of talent, success, and tragedy as the fictitious story.

While looking things up online, I discovered there is another CD set of Beethoven's Last Night which includes all the narration that is used in TSO's concert presentations. There is even a sample of this on TSO's web site.

Drat! I wish that was the version I had. As good as the strictly music CD is, the full presentation with narration is even better.

I thoroughly enjoy what I have and it prompted me to learn something about Beethoven, and his life was definitely interesting. I am basically musically ignorant, so chalk one up for education thanks to the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thoughts from the Cryptoquote

This evening I solved the Cryptoquote in the local newspaper, and the quote that was revealed gave me food for thought.

Here is the quote:

     Now that it's all over, what did you really do yesterday that's worth mentioning?
             --Coleman Cox
First, I thought about this quote from the perspective of my days. I lead a very quiet life and most of what I do is not of any real importance to anyone else. In general, I enjoy these quiet days of my retirement--the so-called "Golden Years." But I would have to admit that there is not a lot worth mentioning the next day, unless you are interested in what I've been reading, watching on TV, or doing as a few household chores.

Next, I thought about the quote from the perspective of a Blogger. Most of the above paragraph applies here. I don't blog every day because sometimes I don't feel like I have anything worth mentioning.

Lastly, I thought about this from the perspective of a Christian. Should I be beating myself up with a guilt trip because I don't have some deep spiritual experience or insight every day, or because I haven't done anything in particular to advance the cause of Christ? I have come to the conclusion there is very little to be gained and much to be lost by such self-flagellation. I am not the Apostle Paul, but I am a child of God, and there I rest.

In the busy days of my life, with family, job, and church responsibilities, I could have found something worth mentioning every day. In my senior years, living alone and no longer tied to a job or to the care of my mother, I find that I have adjusted to my current lifestyle and am usually content. Perhaps that, in itself, is the thing that is worth mentioning!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

By the Grace of God

I've been rather asthmatic for the past few days. I breathe all right until I either talk too much or do too much (which is actually very little) physical activity. Then the tightness develops in my lungs and brochials and the cough begins trying to open the airways.

Since I was teaching Sunday School this morning, I was concerned. It meant an hour of talking a lot. The lesson, unfortunately, was not the kind where I could throw out a question and let the class do all the talking. What would I do if the asthma kicked up in class and I could not talk and started coughing?

Well, God's grace covered that eventuality.

The class went fine.

But, when class was over and I was sitting in the church service, my breathing became more and more difficult. Finally, I told my daughter I should leave. I hate being that person that coughs all through the meeting, being a nuisance to everyone else.

So, while I should still be in church, here I am at home.

I'm going to go do a breathing treatment now.

But isn't our God great, to show his grace in such a way?! A teacher in a small class, in a small church, in a small town, and He sees the difficulty and takes care of it for the needed time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Wish. . .

I wish I had some brilliant (halfway intelligent, semi-interesting) thoughts to blog about today. Fact is, I have been having some restful days. I've been reading, listening to books through Audible on my Kindle, catching up on some TV programs I had taped, and doing a minimum of household chores. Right now I have the washer cleaning my laundry and the TV playing music for me. While I don't have much of a musical ear/memory, I do enjoy having music in the background of my day. Today I was in the mood for classical. Have no real knowledge about the classics, but from time to time they suit my mood.

I wish the predicted snow would begin to fall on poor dry Wyoming--good, wet, deep snow is badly needed. It may be inconvenient for human traffic and activities, but it is so critically necessary. We could use a winter like that of 1996:
Anne Marie, Chad, Mother, and Teddi the dog on a very snowy December 1996.

While I was finishing the book of Daniel recently, I came across a verse (part of the prophecy given to Daniel by an angel) that just tickled me. It so applies to governments and diplomatic conferences throughout the ages and across the globe. This is from the Contemporary English Version.
"The two kings will meet around a table and tell evil lies to each other."  --Daniel 11:27 
Yep, that pretty well sums up most of world history!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


The pastor had a good sermon this morning, but one sentence stood out for me and stuck in my brain.

It wasn't even the main point of the sermon, but it is what I carried away from the message, still thinking about it. Maybe it won't strike others with the same force it did me (that's usually the way it works--other people probably were meditating on some other point).

Anyway, this is the sentence:

Love is an unlimited commodity!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Mystery of the Doll (or A Doll's Journey)

A few days before Christmas a package arrived from Colorado addressed to my granddaughter Megan. It was from her Great-Grandmother Emma (my mother-in-law). The package was an original shipping box from the seller, and "Megan" had been written on the side. The original shipping label, on an envelope attached to the box, had a new label glued over it, directing it to Megan's address.

Neither the box nor the envelope had ever been opened.

On Christmas morning Megan opened this gift. Here is what it contained:

It is a collectible nursemaid doll with her infant charge.

Here is the rest of the story.

Emma is now 95 years old. Last summer it became clear that she could no longer live alone safely, so she moved to a care facility. When clearing her apartment, her daughter Jean found the doll's box on top of the kitchen cupboards. Since it had Megan's name written on it, she thought it would be a nice Christmas surprise and saved it until then to send on. She did not open the box before relabeling it and sending it on.

Emma's memory has become a little quirky and she does not really remember anything about when she got the doll.

I opened the envelope with the original shipping label. Inside was the invoice for the doll, dated January 2, 2002. Emma had ordered, received, but never opened the package eleven years ago! At that time she lived in Buena Vista, Colorado. Several years ago she moved to Bayfield, Colorado. The doll box moved with her and was stashed by someone on top of the cupboards in her new apartment, to be found last summer when her apartment was cleared.

Christmas morning. Megan (wearing a hat she made)
 with the nursemaid and baby dolls.
We don't know when Emma wrote Megan's name on the box, but in January 2002 Megan was four years old.

For years Emma had the habit of ordering or buying things that caught her eye throughout the year. She would store them away until Christmas season and then sort and send them out as gifts. We speculate that the doll was such a purchase, but it was stored away so deeply that it was overlooked year after year, being moved when Emma moved. Emma may not even have seen the box when she moved to Bayfield, as family members were doing the moving for her.

The overlooked doll now has a home!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Getting to 2013

Anne Marie and Gwen during the trivia game.
Some years I have declared the New Year by New York or Chicago time, so I could go to bed. This year, however, I did manage to make it all the way to midnight. (I must, in fairness, say that I am often awake at midnight. I tend to crash around ten o'clock, get ready for bed, and then find I am wide awake so read until I am sleepy again.) The reason I stayed reasonably alert throughout the evening was that we were having fun.

Megan (wearing a hat she made) concentrating on Monopoly.
Neither I nor my children are party people. But we do enjoy small gatherings with family or friends, and that is how we celebrated New Year's Eve. Our friend Gwen came over after she completed work at the clinic (she's an R.N.). We put together a collection of mostly finger foods, ate, visited, cleared away, and then played table games until midnight.

First we played a goofy trivia game that was one of the gag gifts given to me at Christmas (we won't go into that!). Then the Monopoly set came out and the competition was fierce. I fell first. Anne Marie put up a good fight, but she lost it all next. Chad had property with lots of houses and hotels, Megan had a pile of money, but bit by bit Gwen got it all. Ten minutes before midnight she cleaned them out and was the undisputed real estate mogul of the evening.

I didn't take many photos, and those I did take turned out very poorly, but they are what I have. I call those kind of pictures "Memory Photos"--they help me remember the occasion but have no intrinsic artistic value!
The photo I was aiming for was Pip the dog resting her chin on the table for a little nap. Although she was on Chad's lap, she was keeping an eye on Anne Marie, as she has ever since Anne Marie's surgery. The angle from which I took the picture makes it look like Chad has a huge hand--at first I cropped that out, but it amused me so I restored it.

It was our kind of party. Not enought excitement for some, I'm sure, but we really enjoyed it, and none of us woke up with hangovers!