First Monday of Summer

Happy Summer!

I hope you all enjoyed a lovely solstice evening. It felt pretty weird for Tom and I not to be hosting our annual solstice party. That said, it was kind of nice to enjoy a low-key summer evening with just the two of us. 

And now it's the first Monday of summer. Time to . . .


As usual, on Mondays I share a bit of this and a little of that and things I discovered over the weekend.

(And I always start things off with my quote-for-the-week.)


"Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness."    --- Mary Oliver




Like many of you, I am working especially hard these days to learn all I can about race in America. It's hard work - but I'm determined to listen and learn, apply those learnings in my day-to-day life, and - bottom line - be a better person and do what I can to bring about change.

Here's an article from the Columbia Journalism Review that explains why it is appropriate to capitalize 'Black' -- and not 'white' when referring to racial groups. It's worth the read! (And also, just to add, the Associated Press style guide did announce that it had changed its writing style guide - the "bible for journalists" - to capitalize the "b" in Black last Friday.)



Take a few moments and scroll through these gorgeous images by artist Tawny Chatmon in her collection The Redemption 2018-2019. Breathtakingly beautiful. (If you click on any of the images on the site, you can see a bigger version and then you can scroll through each piece.)



I have followed Lewis Miller - of Flower Flash fame - for years and years on Instagram. (Flowers are magical! He proves it every day.) His floral designs are incredible, always an inspiration -- and the "flashes" he creates on the streets of NYC are AMAZING. You can read more about him in this profile article from the New York Times -- and if you're looking for some inspiration in your Instagram feed, he is truly worth following.



And now . . . the biggest rabbit hole I've discovered in a while! Each Sunday (beginning last January), The Atlantic adds to Fifty -- a photo collection from each state in the nation. (A new state collection is added each Sunday.) Oh, we may not be able to travel very easily right now . . . but we can certainly visit each state in the US through these incredible photo collections. 

Go ahead. Click in. Get lost in this armchair adventure!


And that's it for me this Monday morning.
I hope your week is off to a good start!



Sharing a Poem . . . and Something More

A poem . . . on a beautiful day in a week that's been full of beautiful days!



When Life Seems a To-Do List
Marjorie Saiser

When the squares of the week fill
with musts and shoulds,

when I swim in the heaviness of it,
the headlines, the fear and hate,

then with luck, something like a slice of moon
will arrive clean as bone

and beside it on that dark slate
a star will lodge near the cusp

and with luck I will have you
to see it with, the two of us,

fools stepping out the backdoor
in our pajamas.

Is that Venus? -- I think so -- Let's
call it Venus, cuddling up to the moon

and there are stars further away
sending out rays that will not

reach us in our lifetimes
but we are choosing, before the chaos

starts up again,
to stand in this particular light.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.)


Today's poem was published in The Woman in the Moon, by Marjorie Saiser, 2018, The Backwaters Press.  Information about the poet can be found here


The Something More. If you're looking for a meaningful way to observe Juneteenth today, check out this special collection of historical photographs, poems, and articles from The New York Times. And if you're just looking for a good explanation of Juneteenth (how it came to be and why it's particularly relevant now), here's a good article from Vox.


Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020

Saturday is the summer solstice . . . so it's time for me to wrap up my spring reading with a Top Five books list.

I read a lot during the last 3 months! I had made a serendipitous pick-up at my library the day before it closed for the pandemic, so I had a fresh stack of 7 books to read. Plus there were audiobook downloads and ebook loans and books from my own library to keep me occupied. Truly an embarrassment of riches!

Here we go . . . with the Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020 list:


I was reading this extraordinary book, Aperiogon by Colum McCann, just as the pandemic shutdowns were beginning. This book will stay with me forever! Not because of my timing (although I will probably always have a link in my brain between this book and the world falling apart all around me) but because it may be the best book I've ever read. It is a brilliant, layered portrait of friendship, grief, and moving forward under the most challenging of circumstances. It is . . . moving, powerful, poignant -- and unlike any other book I have read.  I highly, highly recommend this one (and especially the audiobook version, where it is a special treat to hear it read by the author).


I have read most of Anne Enright's books over the years, but somehow missed reading her 2007 Man Booker Prize winning entry The Gathering. It may not have been the best book to read during the early days of the pandemic, but there it was . . . in my library pile. The Gathering is a beautiful book of characters and feelings, and probably won’t appeal to those craving action. That said, it is a gorgeous and very precise look at the workings of one woman’s mind loosed by tragedy and reflection; a redemption story of family love and memory, beautifully written and tenderly told. I recommend this one especially for readers who enjoy contemporary Irish literature.


The Far Field by new author Madhuri Vijay was another book in my pandemic library pile. I really enjoyed this one -- a beautiful and compelling read about good intentions gone bad. It builds slowly . . . until, suddenly, you realize you just can’t put it down. The writing is lovely -- clean and crisp, with wonderful descriptions of the setting; the characters are well-developed and believable. I’ll look forward to more books from this new author. Highly recommended.


I debated leaving this book, Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, off my Top Five list . . . because it is a re-read for me. But then I decided I liked it too much to leave it off! Last fall I read The Topeka School . . . which reminded me how much I love Ben Lerner’s writing. I decided then that I would re-read his Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04 over the summer, just to immerse myself in Lerner’s words again. (I guess you could say that Ben Lerner is my literary “crush” . . .) I was a bit apprehensive about re-reading. Frequently I regret re-reading books I really loved the first time around because they just don’t stand up to the test of time for me. Not to worry, though. I enjoyed Leaving the Atocha Station as much (maybe even more) with a second read. I highly recommend this one, knowing that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. But for my friends who appreciate words and how they can be formed (more than plot) . . . well, this is a book for them!


And now I have the series of books that got me through the pandemic spring: all four installments of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowlings). While they aren't perfect, they are certainly entertaining! I was surprised and delighted with the series -- perfect for my mood during the early pandemic, stay-at-home days. I enjoyed the developing characters of Cormoran and Robin, and found the murder storyline to be entertaining and engaging. Excellent storytelling -- and I especially enjoyed the  fabulous narration by Robert Glenister. I'm ready for a break from these books now (until a new installment comes out later this summer), but I highly recommend them for your summer reading. (Note: These are not "cozy" mysteries. If you're squeamish, there is some gruesomeness and gore. . .)


How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of spring reading?


If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my other Top Five lists by clicking the links below:

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019


An Altogether Different Destination

This week . . . I'm supposed to be biking through the Scottish countryside.

But I'm not.
Of course.

Instead, I took a little trip to "sleeve island."


That's two sets of sleeves there. Adult-sized sleeves for this cardigan for me. And baby-sized sleeves for this cardigan for a gift (for a great niece due next month).

An altogether different destination, indeed.


Head on over to Kat's today for more Unraveled posts.

Purple Haze


This is the time of year when all my hard work in the garden (and Tom's, too!) starts to pay off. Everything is generally neat and tidy, the blooms are bursting, and the party's ready to begin. Usually I look for reasons to celebrate in my garden. With other people.

I mean, I do love to just sit in my garden and enjoy. And we do that. Pretty much every evening at the end of the day. But gardens are meant to be shared!

Usually, I host my book group in my garden. I volunteer to have small meetings right on my patio. I invite friends over for drinks or knitting. We host our giant solstice party. But not this year.

So I'll share it virtually with all of you instead!
C'mon back . . . 


People are usually kind of surprised when they come through my garden gate . . . into the back yard . . . because you can't really see my garden from the front of my house at all. It's kind of a secret garden.


(Pretend I remembered to move the yard waste bin out of the way before taking this photo.)

I have gardens beds and landscaping in the front, too. But the Main Event is in the backyard. It's private and hidden and comfortable. (As in not fussy at all.)


It's, well . . . a lot of work (because this is only half of the back yard...), and Tom and I do all of it ourselves. (Except the mowing. We do hire out the mowing.) But it's a labor of love. 

Right now, my garden is in its Purple Haze blooming phase. 

There's the wisteria dripping from the pergola. . . 


and the globemaster allium holding court over the hostas.


I've got false indigo . . . 


and several types of perennial salvia attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.


I wish we all could sit around the patio . . . on this glorious day . . . sipping some wine and enjoying the blooms together. But like so many other things these days, we'll just have to imagine.

Thanks for coming along!

. . . 'scuse me while I kiss the sky.

Perfect Weekends

. . . just go too fast, don't they? But now it's Monday again. Time to . . . 


As usual, on Mondays I share a bit of this and a little of that and things I discovered over the weekend.

(And I always start things off with my quote-for-the-week.)


"Resistance is the secret of joy."
        --- Alice Walker




I haven't shared a dictionary word on a Monday for quite a while, but I wanted to share something about a word today. Merriam-Webster is planning to revise its definition of the word racism. You can read about it here -- and be inspired by the young woman who spoke out and asked Merriam-Webster to make the change.



Ever since my childhood, I've had a fascination with . . . scissors. I wondered how they worked and how someone figured out that they could work. I marvelled at how efficient they were at cutting paper or cloth or flowers or hair. Over the years, most of the crafts and projects I like best involve scissors, and I've amassed quite a collection (and just ask my kids: don't EVER use my sewing scissors to cut paper) (ever). I have everyday scissors for paper cutting and special paper scissors (that I hide) for cutting paper when it really matters. I have my sewing scissors for cutting cloth and snippers for cutting threads and pinking shears for a zig-zag edge. I have embroidery scissors and knife-edge scissors (especially good for cutting Alabama Chanin layers) and a couple of small snips in my knitting bag. I have garden snippers and loppers and flower stem cutters. I have kitchen shears.

Basically, I have a lot of scissors.
And probably there is not a day that goes by when I don't use at least a couple of different pairs.

So. I was intrigued by this article about scissors (from the Alabama Chanin newsletter). If you're fascinated by scissors, you might enjoy reading it, too.



I was sitting in a Zoom meeting last week, and the topic drifted (as they do). We got to talking about things we'd created during the pandemic . . . and one of the participants showed us an amazing paint-by-number painting she was working on. She explained that paint-by-numbers had gotten her through the lockdown months. She'd tried various kits from various makers with varying success (mainly related to paint-quality), but she particularly liked ordering kits from this company: MiiCreative. They put together custom paint-by-number kits from your photographs. I haven't tried one, but they sound like fun and got a rave review from my Zoom-pal.

(I loved paint-by-numbers when I was a kid.)
(Even though they didn't involve scissors.)



Still not traveling? Yeah. Me neither. But thanks to The World Through a Lens series at the New York Times, we can go to the Nash Islands in Maine for the annual sheep shearing! The photos will almost make you feel like you're there! (Almost.)


And that's it for me this Monday morning.
I hope your week is off to a good start!


It's Still Friday

. . . and I really need some poetry!

These last couple of days have been a bit, well . . . not quite what I'd expected. But here I am. Everything all working out and tied up with neat little bows and everything. (Y'know, when you lose internet these days . . . you lose so much.) (Just sayin.)


When I need comfort, I turn to my favorite poets. This morning? Billy Collins. And this is a perfect day (at least here in my corner of the world) for this particular poem. (And, yeah. I know it feels more like summer than spring . . . but it's technically still spring. For a couple more days, at least.)




Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage, 
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden sprouting tulips

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants 
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest - and things that bring you joy.

(And maybe some poetry, too.)


Today's poem was published in Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, by Billy Collins, 2013, Random House.  Information about the poet can be found here. (If you haven't discovered the wonder of Billy Collins yet, oh do give his poetry a read!)


Mystery Date

Remember this?

(Holy sh**SO MUCH WORSE than I remembered. . . )

So. A few weeks ago, I told you all about my . . . recent flirtations . . .  when it comes to my knitting. Well, my heartbreaker of a summer continues. Because now I'm on a Mystery Date!


Will it be a dream??? Or a dud???
Stay tuned and find out!


How about you? What are you making?
And be sure to pop over to Kat's for more Unraveled posts.


About New Tricks

I love June. 

It is, hands down, my favorite month of the year! The weather is pleasant and the garden is bursting with blooms and the air smells like wisteria and the birds are singing. Just . . . so many of my favorite things everywhere I look.


But I've noticed something different about June this year.

And it's a good thing.

If this was a usual-June and not a pandemic-June, I'd be scrambling like a woman with her hair on fire right about now . . . trying to make the MOST of June. I'd be preparing for our annual summer solstice party (cancelled) and prepping for a major fundraising event (cancelled) and going on my biking tour in Scotland (cancelled) and getting together with friends (nope) and killing myself with the garden work (no party; no ridiculous attempts at perfection) and fitting in my workouts (gym closed) and feeling bad about not going up north (because who has time).

This June?

It's June as I always imagined June to be. Relaxed. Spacious. Quiet. Joyful.

Sure. I'm missing my friends. I was really looking forward to that bike trip in Scotland. I love hosting our summer solstice party in my garden. But I'm also noticing something else. And it's something really BIG, actually. I've noticed . . . that I don't miss these usually-highly-anticipated things nearly as much as I expected I would.

The pandemic stay-at-home period has given me some clarity around what I'm doing and how I want to live the rest of my life. Do I really want to be part of the organization that usually hosts the big fundraising event in June? (I'm thinking maybe no.) Do I still want to host a summer solstice party? (I'm thinking yes. But maybe not at quite the scale it has been in the past.) What about travel? (Yes . . . but probably not for a while.) Do I need to belong to a gym? (Shockingly . . . no. I don't.)

I'm loving this quiet and more relaxed June. 
I blame the pandemic.
Because I'd never have made these drastic changes to my life and calendar otherwise. 
(Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?)


It's Time

Monday again.

Time to . . . 


As usual, on Mondays I share a bit of this and a little of that and things I discovered over the weekend.

(And I always start things off with my quote-for-the-week.) (Only this week I'm starting off with my mantra of late.)



Artwork and words by Lisa Congdon.

(If you're not already familiar with Lisa Congdon, do check out her website and Instagram posts. She's an inspiration.)



I am continuing my own education on racial injustice in America. This is something I actually started decades ago in my foundation work, but something I will never "finish." One thing about this particular time in history . . . it's a great time to LEARN about racism and racial injustice. There are so many more resources now than there were back in the 1990s when I first began my learning journey - and so many ways to access these resources. I hope you'll join me in this learning process.

Here's an excellent list of movies, shows, and documentaries that you can watch to educate yourself on racial injustice.  I would also suggest Just Mercy (available to stream on Prime Video right now). It is so well done -- and it's based on our first Read With Us book selection Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.



Speaking of reading . . . 

I always think of summer as my prime reading time. I don't think it's actually true for me, but I think my brain is wired to associate summer with the Summer Reading program at my library when I was a kid . . . and how I loved thinking about the whole summer unrolling ahead of me with my stack of books, fresh from the library!

Here's a summer book preview for you, just in case you're looking for something new to read this season.



Did you see this? Check out illustrator Roz Chast's "lockdown sampler" and read an interview with her in The New Yorker.



And because no Start Your Engines post would be complete without some advice from CoronaLisa . . .

Here's a handy article from my local Michigan news source ranking 36 activities by coronavirus risk level. I found it extremely helpful, and thought you might, too.


And, finally, one more thing before you get on with your day.  You may already have seen/heard this, but it is a moving performance -- and one worth watching more than once.


That's it for me this Monday morning.
I hope your week is off to a good start!