One last stop in Utah, and it was a good one indeed: Canyonlands National Park (via a quick stop at Arches, for the second time in a week, to turn in Junior Ranger booklets and take the oath). Knowing that we only had a very short time – and there is so much to explore in this park; we could spend a week here, and maybe someday we will – Dan planned for us to hit the highlight of all highlights: Mesa Arch.
My mom said that this was her favorite arch – better than Delicate Arch, better than Double Arch, better than any of the arches in Arches National Park. I’m not sure I would go quite that far… Mesa is certainly as iconic as Delicate Arch, but how do you top gigantic stone elephants? But I can certainly respect my mom’s preference for Mesa. I mean, look at that view:
Mesa Arch was also much less crowded than Delicate Arch, and we were able to get right up under the arch and peer through, and what a reward.
So, so, so beautiful. We could have stayed for hours, just gawking at these views, but there were a couple of other people hanging around waiting for their turns to take a picture under the arch. So we had to move along. But first things first: we had to get our picture.
All the excitement and gratitude to get to spend Thanksgiving with my favorite people in the world.
One last peep through the arch, and time to go.
That ends our journey through Colorado and Utah – only six months later! I hope you had fun reliving the memories with me. And don’t worry: there’s more travel content to come, as we head from the desert to… the rainforest! Off to Costa Rica next Friday.
Continuing on our epic day-before-Thanksgiving drive into Utah, Dan and Danielle steered us to our next stop: Dead Horse Point State Park. They promised sweeping views, a nice spot for our picnic lunch, and “Uncle Dan’s Potassium Lecture.”
And delivered on all three: here’s the view from our lunch spot (right?!) complete with potash pools (see above, icy blue pools in the canyon). Dan treated us to a dissertation about the chemical properties of potash and the history of potassium in the United States until Steve and I ruined it by singing Borat’s national anthem. #IYKYK.
Kazakhstan, number one exporter potassium, all other countries have inferior potassium, bum-ba-dum-bum-bum-bum-bum.
We’re sorry, Dan. We promise to listen next time.
Eventually, Dan gave up on his potassium lecture and pointed us to this incredible sight: I’d always wanted to see a horseshoe bend!
Lunch spots don’t get better than this!
Next week: last Colorado post (for now; we’ll be back!) and it’s a fitting conclusion to an epic trip.
^Mysterious moor, very Bronte! Busted – okay, that’s Dartmoor, not the Yorkshire moor. But still mysterious, and spooky with the mist, no?
Agnes Grey is stir-crazy. And like many other young women of “good family” (her father a poor but respectable curate, her mother the daughter of a rich gentleman who disowned her when she determined to marry a clergyman with more ethics than prospects) in the Victorian era, her options are limited. If she wants to get out of the family abode, she can do one of two things: (1) get married, or (2) become a governess. Looking for adventure and wanting to earn something to help support her family, Agnes chooses option 2.
Agnes’ first household is a horror show, where she is handed off charge of a pack of unruly children, immune to any form of discipline – or at least, immune to the tepid discipline that Agnes is authorized – children who throw maniacal fits and torture wild birds for fun. Their mother undermines Agnes’ authority at every turn, and then blames Agnes for her charges’ intractability. Agnes sticks it out for a year before she is unceremoniously and unfairly fired. She retreats home, feeling herself in disgrace, but unwilling to give up on her plans – and quickly finds herself another situation.
The second job is easier in some ways – Agnes’ charges are older, two young women who are nearly ready to marry and leave home, and the elder of the two sisters is already the belle of the county. There is no bird torture, so Agnes feels it’s a major upgrade – but there is other, subtler, torture, as Agnes’ charges thoughtlessly toss out snobbish asides and petty cruelties. When Agnes befriends Mr. Weston, the new curate, her elder charge – despite having no interest in marrying a curate and finding Mr. Weston’s earnestness a matter for cruel comedy – decides to snatch the curate from her governess, just to show she can. Agnes covers up her heartache as best she can, but she can’t stop herself musing bitterly on her untenable position to Mr. Weston, when he asks her directly about some friends of her charges’.
“You are alone again, Miss Grey,” said he.
“What kind of people are those ladies – the Misses Green?”
“I really don’t know.”
“That’s strange – when you live so near and see them so often!”
“Well, I suppose they are lively, good-tempered girls, but I imagine you must know them better than I do, yourself, for I never exchanged a word with either of them.”
“Indeed! They don’t strike me as being particularly reserved.”
“Very likely they are not so to people of their own class; but they consider themselves as moving in quite a different sphere from me!”
He made no reply to this, but after a short pause, he said, “I suppose it’s these things, Miss Grey, that make you think you could not live without a home?”
Agnes Grey is Anne Bronte’s blistering indictment of the governess system – a relentless churn in which young women are dumped into unfamiliar houses and forced to fumble their way without allies or a discernable place. Neither servants nor members of the family, governesses don’t fit in anywhere. Often forced to bear the brunt of family snobbishness, Agnes shoulders her lonely burden with her only solace the occasional letter from home. Anne Bronte was a governess herself, so she knows of what she speaks (or writes) – the isolation, the loneliness, the low pay, the bitter challenge of being caught between charges whom you cannot discipline and who therefore won’t listen to you and don’t respect you, and their parents, who refuse to grant you authority in your own classroom and then blame you for their children’s bad behavior.
Like many young Victorian women, Agnes doesn’t stay a governess forever. And it’s a testament to her strength of character that she leaves her bitter experiences behind her, still able to appreciate moments of beauty and joy. Anne Bronte is known for pushing social envelopes, but she deserves to be just as well known for her beautiful writing:
There was a feeling of freshness and vigour in the very streets; and when I got free of the town, when my foot was on the sands and my face toward the broad, bright bay… no language can describe the effect of the deep, clear azure of the sky and ocean, the bright morning sunshine on the semi-circular barrier of craggy cliffs surmounted by green swelling hills, and on the smooth, wide sands, and the low rocks out at sea… looking, with their clothing of weeds and moss, like little grass-grown islands – and above all, on the brilliant, sparkling waves. And then, the unspeakable purity and freshness of the air! there was just enough heat to enhance the value of the breeze, and just enough wind to keep the whole sea in motion, to make the waves come bounding to the shore, foaming and sparkling, as if wild with glee. Nothing else was stirring – no living creature was visible besides myself. My footsteps were the first to press the firm, unbroken sands – nothing before had trampled them since last night’s flowing tide had obliterated the deepest marks of yesterday, and left it fair and even, except where the subsiding water had left behind it the traces of dimpled pools, and little running streams.
Can’t you just see it? Aren’t you just walking with Agnes on the beach? (That might be my favorite passage in the entire novel.)
I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that Anne is my favorite Bronte. (It took me a long time to get there and still feels a bit disloyal – like the teenaged me who read Jane Eyre several times a year is frowning in disapproval – but it’s true.) Less histrionic than Emily, sparer with her words and prose than Charlotte, but just as willing as her eldest sister to take on unfair social systems – Anne has the total package. Agnes Grey isn’t going to top The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for me, but it was a compelling and beautifully-written narrative, and quite up to the “Acton Bell” standard.
Good morning, friends! Happy Mother’s Day – belated – to all of those who celebrate; major thanks and gratitude to the moms, mom-adjacent, expectant moms, mothers-in-law, aunts, grandmothers, mentors, teachers, and beloved women everywhere; and hugs to anyone for whom yesterday was a hard day. I love you all.
Flexibility is a mom superpower and flexibility was definitely required of me this weekend. My parents arrived on Friday (as I was still warming up after chaperoning a zoo field trip in the pouring rain), planning to crash at my place for a couple of days en route to vacation in the Outer Banks. They were stoked to watch Nugget play baseball, but unfortunately they didn’t get to: RAINOUT. Seriously, it poured for two days straight. So, no Saturday hike and no baseball – major bummer. We made the best of it, though: when outdoor nature fun isn’t an option, the Air & Space Museum (especially the giant hangar out at Dulles) is the next best thing, so that’s where we went. My dad especially loves it there, and he could happily visit every time, so he was in his element. But, really, we all were – it’s such a fun spot.
On Sunday, I woke up early to voices in my kitchen: Dan and Danielle, who flew through the night and landed at Dulles at 5:00 a.m. (woof). They’re joining my parents on vacation, but sadly we’re missing out on the fun this time – the school schedule reigns supreme around here and we have another month to go. My parents and Dan and Danielle pulled out of my driveway around 7:15, and we rolled out not long after, bound for a hike at Huntley Meadows, one of our favorite parks from our days as Alexandrians. The park definitely delivered: hooded merganser babies! (Steve nicknamed them “mohawk ducks”), eastern kingbirds, barn swallows, tree swallows, and more – a very happy Mother’s Day treat for this bird nerd. The rest of the day I spent puttering around the garden, finally getting the rest of my pots cleaned out and planted (I’m growing pole beans, cherry tomatoes, three pots of strawberries, a raspberry bush, and lots of herbs – we’ll see if anything survives the hot sun and ravenous squirrels) and checking out a Puerto Rico scenic ride on my Peloton. Finished with sushi and TV – not a bad way to end a rainy and cold May weekend. (Now I’ve had enough of spring: summer, please feel free to join us anytime.)
Reading. It’s been a slow reading week. I finished The Blessing on Monday, and hooted my way through it, especially the last chapter – but then the pace ground to a halt. I picked up The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (from my Classics Club list) and have been reading through it all week, very slowly. Some of that slow pace is due to a busy workweek and a field trip and entertaining my parents, no doubt, but it also just seems to be a book that wants to be read slowly. I’m really enjoying it, just meandering through.
Watching. A little of this and a little of that. Some Gardener’s World, and on Sunday Nugget and I curled up with popcorn and Rock the Park for a little while, which was delightful.
Listening. Fittingly for a week that included Mother’s Day, I’m still working my way through my backlist episodes of The Mom Hour. I’m down to 42 unplayed episodes, which may seem like a lot, but I started with over sixty, so progress is happening here.
Making. No question, the best thing I made all week was this tidy garden! (Ignore the rainforest around the frog pond, that’s not part of it you guys.) Eight pots, with herbs, veggies and fruit – all clean and tidy. I cleaned up the herbs that have overwintered (out of frame to the left), pruned some yellow leaves from the tomato seedlings, and replaced the rootbound, weedy soil in the rest of the pots with a mix of organic potting soil and mushroom compost, then planted the fruit and herbs and watered everything in with a mix of rainwater (we had plenty!) and organic liquid plant food. If that doesn’t help my garden grow, I don’t know what will.
Moving. Lots of Peloton this week! Several core strength classes (I’m working my way through the “Crush Your Core” program with Emma Lovewell) and a good mix of rides – a tough intervals and arms workout (Emma Lovewell again), a low impact recovery day with Jenn Sherman, a scenic Puerto Rico ride to Latin music, and “XOXO, Cody” with my pal Amanda. It was all great, of course, but Cody was the obvious highlight. I need to get back out on the roads, though – my running shoes are getting jealous.
Blogging. Speaking of the Classics Club Challenge, I have a review for you on Wednesday, and the penultimate Colorado and Utah travel post on Friday. Check in with me then!
Loving. Between rain, schedule shifts, and more sickness in the house (Peanut again – we think she’s been taking her mask off at school because Dr. Nugget Fauci, who wears his religiously, is getting sick about a quarter of the amount she is) – it could have been a gloomy Mother’s Day. But Steve made sure I was spoiled with a hike, sushi, and presents; ran kiddo interference all day so the rugrats didn’t bicker and stress me out; and just generally made me feel loved and spoiled.
Another day, another exciting dinosaur site! On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we took the day off work and drove out to Utah again – this time headed for Canyonlands National Park, but with a few stops on the way. First up, Mill Canyon: a nondescript pull-off into a sparsely populated gravel parking lot that promised a big, exciting treat.
Just about a hundred yards or so from the parking lot, Dan promised, we would find the remains of a prehistoric mud patch with dozens of fossilized dinosaur tracks. We owed this exciting score to Danielle’s dad, who enjoys poking around in the desert and “finding stuff” as much as his daughter and son-in-law do.
The site consisted of a path, boardwalks, and viewing platforms around the perimeter, ensuring that the treasures in the ancient mud remained undisturbed.
Therapod tracks! We had fun speculating about who might have left this imprint in the prehistoric mud. Allosaurus? Probably not T-rex; wrong time period.
I was most excited to see these: sauropod tracks! Maybe apatosaurus, my favorite? Or brachiosaurus or diplodocus? Insert star-eyes emoji here.
Of course, no one was as excited about the tracks as the six-year-old boy. He was actually having a bit of an emo day; it had been a lot of car time over the past week. But he brightened right up when we saw the dinosaur tracks. Wish I could always deliver dinosaurs whenever anyone is grumpy.
Doesn’t get cooler than this!
Tracks everywhere! I couldn’t stop clicking away with my camera.
Prehistoric crocodile slither spot, complete with tail-drag. Shut the front door!
Seriously, it doesn’t get cooler than this. We didn’t make it to Dinosaur National Monument on this trip – have to have something to save for the next visit, right? – but we certainly weren’t hurting for dinosaur excitement even without hitting up the big park.
Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for April, 2022.
4.50 From Paddington (Miss Marple #7), by Agatha Christie – Two trains pass one another, and in the moment they draw near, a passenger on one train watches through the windows as a man strangles a woman. There is no body, so the police don’t believe there has been a crime. But the witness happens to be a good friend of Miss Jane Marple, and Miss Marple is sure her friend is telling the truth. Good fun – and I listened to this one on audio, read by the incomparable Jane Hickson, which made the reading experience all the better.
Cheerfulness Breaks In (Barsetshire #9), by Angela Thirkell – Angela Thirkell usually provides a wedding, but in Cheerfulness Breaks In she provides several. They bookend the narrative, which is otherwise concerned with the outbreak of war, the arrival of refugees in the peaceful Barset countryside, and with sad and serious things – but as the title promises, cheerfulness breaks in and the residents of Barsetshire are keeping calm and carrying on. A fun addition to Thirkell’s Barset series.
Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, by Eleanor Perenyi – I loved this collection of short essays arranged alphabetically, in which Eleanor Perenyi muses on life and its whims and challenges in her Connecticut garden. She covers everything from tulips to rock gardens with wit and style.
Kate Hardy, by D.E. Stevenson – Kate Hardy, a single and independent woman (of means, from a successful writing career) arrives in a country hamlet, having purchased the local Dower House from the county squire. Kate is escaping her selfish sister and spoiled niece, and hoping for peace and quiet to work on her next book. But strange goings-on, a poison pen campaign, accusations of witchcraft, and social upheaval coupled with romance threaten to invade all of her peaceful writing time. Not D.E. Stevenson’s strongest book – by far – but a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Four Hedges, by Clare Leighton – Clare Leighton was a renowned artist, turning out stunning woodcuts inspired by her garden in the Chilterns. But she’s just as stunning of a writer, and her month-by-month look at life in her garden was lyrical and beautiful.
Skylarks with Rosie: A Somerset Spring, by Stephen Moss – I will always buy a new Stephen Moss, and this latest – a memoir of spring spent tramping his local pathways during the first lockdown of 2020 – didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed reading Moss’s musings on finding joy in the local flora and fauna, his occasional shoutouts to his good friend Chris Packham (who I adore), and his thoughts on climate change. There were only a few pages where Moss lost me – when he inexplicably veers into relating a birds-eye view of the “Central Park birder” incident of May 2020, but leaves out several facts. But that was two pages out of more than 200 otherwise wonderful ones, so overall a delightful reading experience, as I’ve come to expect from Moss.
Old Herbaceous, by Reginald Arkell – This was a slim, but poignant, novel of change as viewed from a garden. Bert Pettinger, the “Old Herbaceous” of the title, is a young, poor country boy who works his way up to being head gardener of a great estate. Gardening wisdom is sprinkled throughout, and Bert is an absolutely wonderful character.
The Owl and the Nightingale, Anonymous, tr. Simon Armitage – The Owl and the Nightingale is a lengthy poem – some 1,800 lines – written by an anonymous poet during the reign of one Henry or another. Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate of the U.K., provides an updated translation from the Middle English and it’s such fun. The owl and the nightingale debate which one of them is better – they can’t agree on anything, except on who should be the arbitrator of their claims. So much fun, and there are all the Medieval potty jokes.
Illyrian Spring, by Ann Bridge – I’ve had this on my list for so long and it proved to be the highlight of the month. The novel opens as Lady Grace Kilmichael is running away – from her husband, with his withering scorn and wandering eye, and from a tense relationship with her newly grown-up daughter. Grace’s intent is to disappear, and she manages it for a good long while – helped by her ability to support herself with her artwork (she is a respected painter). Bound for Croatia, Grace travels through Paris, Venice and Torcello, where she meets Nicholas Humphries, nephew of her good friend and 22 years old to Grace’s 42. They bond immediately, but Nicholas soon develops feelings for Grace, which she attempts to hold off while ignoring her own growing need for his company. The writing was absolutely gorgeous, and I missed the characters when I finished this.
The Morville Year, by Katherine Swift – A year in Katherine Swift’s Shropshire garden – this was a total joy. Swift writes with charm of moving trees, gathering windfall apples, planting bulbs, visiting other gardens, and more. Arranged month-by-month (much like Four Hedges, above) and such a delight.
Slightly Foxed No. 73: A Year in Barsetshire, ed. Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood – I always enjoy an issue of Slightly Foxed, but when the current edition is titled “A Year in Barsetshire” you know it’s going to be extra good. The headlining essay recounted a year of wandering local walks (again during the first lockdown of 2020) while listening to Trollope’s Barsetshire novels on audio. I love these books, and I delighted in reading someone else’s take on some of the most memorable characters in literature. That was just the first essay – there were plenty more delights to come, and my TBR swelled accordingly.
Unearthing the Secret Garden: The Plants & Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett, by Marta McDowell – Marta McDowell’s garden and nature books, each focusing on a particular author or book, are always lovely – I’ve read her takes on Anne of Green Gables, Winnie-the-Pooh, Beatrix Potter, and now The Secret Garden. As a child, The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books; I have read it more times than I can count. Reading about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s real-life gardens was wonderful.
Whew! Some reading month. I picked a loose theme for the month – did you catch on? Not every book was garden-focused (after reading only poetry last April and burning out on it for awhile, I was careful to sprinkle in breaks here and there) but many of them were. The runaway highlight of the month has to have been Illyrian Spring, which I absolutely adored. It has stayed with me and I find myself still thinking about Grace and Nicholas almost every day. Clare Leighton, Eleanor Perenyi, and Katherine Swift were all close runners-up in the reading highlight sweepstakes, and of course any month that includes Agatha Christie is a good month. And now, on to May – I have a good stack of exciting reads awaiting me, so I’d better get back to it.
On Friday, one of my outside counsel said in an email that he hoped I’d have a fabulous weekend. I thanked him for the sentiment but confessed that looming over my weekend was a triple threat – a baseball game, swim lessons, and a birthday party (which I was dreading for several reasons). That’s pretty much what we had on the agenda – no hiking, no paddling, basically no grown-up fun; it was all about the kids.
Not to say we didn’t have our nice moments. On Friday evenings, Steve and I try to have an informal date night in the family room – we banish the kids to play on their own, and we watch a movie or play a game. This weekend, we watched the new Death on the Nile, starring Kenneth Branagh and Gal Gadot – with wine. It was a good way to start a weekend that was otherwise given over to other people. On Saturday morning, Nugget’s baseball team faced the mini Royals. Our coach was out of town, so Steve filled in as relief coach and pitcher while I snapped photos, sprayed a cloud of OFF around my hat to keep the annoying gnats away, and anxiously watched Peanut out of the corner of my eye (she has a tendency to creep into the dugout and get yelled at by one parent who is taking this whole little league thing way too seriously, like who cares if she goes into the dugout you guys, but whatever). Then rushed home to get ready for swim lessons – which I ended up skipping. I had a call planned to help my dear friend Vanessa prepare for an interview with my current employer; I’d budgeted 45 minutes or so but ended up on the phone with her for three hours – worth it, though, because she wants this job so badly and I want so badly to have her company at the office again.
On Sunday, Nugget and I had grand plans to bike the C&O Canal Towpath in the morning, but the day dawned dreary and we were both bleary-eyed after a wakeful night – Nugget had a rough nightmare and we ended up hanging out together in the family room from about 1:30 to 3:30 in the morning. Nugget was still a little shaken up by his bad dream (he didn’t want to tell me the details) and begged off biking. Instead I spent the morning on my Peloton, and then Nugget accompanied me to Target to restock some house linens and buy a birthday present for Peanut to take to her party in the afternoon. The birthday girl recently moved to Maryland, so we hauled ourselves through Beltway traffic to the party, which was the usual emotional roller coaster and I was reminded of why the only thing I really didn’t miss during the height of the pandemic was kid birthday parties.
Reading. Last week was weirdly stressful, even though I didn’t have anything in particular going on; I think I’m just tired. Usually that would mean a slower reading week, but not this time. I finished up The Morville Hours on Tuesday and then blazed through the latest issue of Slightly Foxed in a day (had to get to it before the summer issue arrived in its brown cardstock envelope). Spent the rest of the workweek over Unearthing the Secret Garden, which I really enjoyed, and then turned to Nancy Mitford’s The Blessing over the weekend. I’m about two-thirds of the way through and enjoying it immensely. And during the Saturday-into-Sunday wakeful night on the couch, while Nugget calmed down by playing his Nintendo Switch for an hour in the middle of the night, I read Debbie Tung’s delightful collection of comics about being a bookworm in one sitting (because The Blessing was upstairs on my nightstand and I didn’t want to risk waking Steve up by creeping in for it). Like I said, it was a weirdly stressful week in life, but definitely a good one in books.
Watching. This and that, here and there. There was Death on the Nile on Friday, as noted above. And on Sunday night we had a family movie night and I got to pick, so we watched the first act of Hamilton – it had been too long! During the week… I’m sure I’m missing some, but we were on a travel kick and watched a couple of episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe about the Alps, and an hourlong special called Hidden Poland. I’m getting itchy to go back to Europe.
Listening. Still deluding myself that I have a realistic chance of cleaning out my podcatcher, so a few more episodes of The Mom Hour – working my way through about fifty-three downloads. (I “mark as played” the episodes I’m not interested in listening to, which hides them, so these are all episodes that I actually anticipate getting to at some point or another.) A couple of old ones about preparing for summer vacation, which felt timely again.
Making. I finished my Costa Rica photo book! Got another promotion for unlimited free pages, so it was time. I had to just make myself sit down and do it – I don’t mind playing with layout, writing the captions, and choosing backgrounds and embellishments, but the process of loading up the photos and then dragging and dropping them into the storyboard – an essential step before the fun parts of photo book creation can begin – just feels like an interminable chore. But I got it done, and now I’m anxiously awaiting that orange box.
Moving. It was not the best movement week, until Sunday. No hiking – no time over the weekend – and no workouts more intense than neighborhood walks, because I just didn’t feel like I could manage anything else. But on Sunday I spent a much-needed hour on my Peloton with Cody Rigsby, and felt like a new person afterwards.
Blogging. April reading round-up on Wednesday, and back on the dinosaur trail on Friday; check in with me then!
Loving. New La Croix flavor alert, you guys! When Nugget and I were at Target yesterday, I spotted an eight pack of “beach plum” out of the corner of my eye and said, “This I’ve got to try.” It’s so good, you guys. Not going to replace my beloved coconut or pure, but so good.
Before we headed down from Colorado National Monument (bound for pizza at The Hot Tomato, a famous spot in Fruita) Dan pulled us all off the road at an overlook to take in a really astonishing view. A hanging canyon! I’d never seen one before.
The vistas were just spectacular. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Can’t get enough.
I could have stayed for hours, drinking in this view.
Sadly, kids’ tolerance for spectacular vistas doesn’t quite match adults’ – and eventually, reluctantly, we had to tear ourselves away to feed the little critters. But the good news is: I can close my eyes and get right back to this spot anytime I want.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a nice (short) nature poem as much as the next girl. But sometimes you want to get stuck deep in an epic, right? Just me? But I don’t read Ancient Greek and – frankly – Ye Olde Englishe is a foreign language, too. Enter some absurdly talented translators who have made it their business to take the greatest epics and update them for the rest of us.
First of all, if you missed Seamus Heaney‘s swashbuckling translation of Beowulffrom 1999, what are you waiting for? It has everything you didn’t know you wanted to read about – mead halls, Grendel, Grendel’s totally badass mother, making this a weirdly appropriate Mother’s Day gift too – but it’s legit readable. Will you want to throw a mug of grog at a dragon? Yes, you will, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate Homer’s epic The Odyssey, and she does a bang-up job of it. I read it on the heels of an older translation of The Iliad last spring, and this version – which really moves – was a breath of fresh air after that. Pair with A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes, if you want to get the women’s perspective (spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty).
Not sure if this counts, but The Owl and the Nightingale is a honking long poem (1,800 lines) from an indeterminate time in English literary history – there are references to King Henry, but which King Henry, there have been so many? It’s bawdy and a little rude, and kind of ridiculous – an owl and a nightingale endlessly debate which of them is better and which of them is a useless pile of… well, you know. Simon Armitage presents a new translation with sumptuous illustrations and ALL of the Medieval potty jokes.
If you’re looking for something with which to celebrate National Poetry Month, and you’ve had your fill of the Romantics, I do encourage you to delve a little deeper into literary history. With Seamus Heaney, Emily Wilson, and Simon Armitage to guide you, how can you go wrong?
What’s your favorite modern translation of an epic poem?
Yawwwwwwn. Morning, friends. Happy Monday to you all – are you coming into this week off a good weekend? I hope so! As for me – we’ve had another weekend of sickness in the house. This time, poor Peanut caught whatever Nugget was fighting off last weekend (was it last weekend? life has been so overwhelmingly busy lately that I can’t remember). I felt so bad for the poor kid – she was really under the weather on Saturday and definitely perking up by Sunday, but not near 100%.
With Peanut down for the count, Nugget was glued to me all weekend. (That’s a normal state of affairs, actually.) On Saturday, while Peanut rode out the worst of her bug and Steve worked, I took Nugget to swimming and baseball. Sat with Nugget’s buddy’s mom, who has the same name as me and was also holding down the fort solo, so we started a club. (Kidding.) And on Sunday, I tore Nugget away from his Nintendo for an afternoon of Mommy-son adventuring. I had in mind a bike ride on the C&O Canal Towpath in Georgetown, but Nugget wanted a four mile hike (from Riverbend Regional Park all the way to Great Falls and back) and I am always down to get my steps in, so we went with his plan. Then hit the garden center on the way home, bought round 1 of vegetables for our container garden, and spent an hour elbow deep in dirt in the garden. It was (1) a good way to wind down a Sunday; and (2) kind of horrifying to see how out of control the patio garden containers had gotten.
Reading. It was another crazy-busy week at work, which always translates to a slow reading week. It was a good one, though, just slow. I spent the entire workweek over Illyrian Spring, and it was time very well spent – definitely going to be one of my highlights of the year. Finished the last few pages on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the weekend missing Grace, Nicholas, and the other characters. Book hangover, hello. For something different (and quicker) I polished off The Owl and the Nightingale (new translation from the Middle English by Simon Armitage) and then turned to The Morville Year, Katherine Swift’s month-by-month account of the life in her Shropshire garden. I’m about halfway through and it’s a delight.
Watching. Well, we finished what is now fondly known in our house as “Obama Parks” – so good, you guys. (Although the butterflies in the Monterey Bay episode were unnecessary. WHY?!) And while we figure out our next family show, Steve showed the kids The Wizard of Oz on Sunday night. (Apparently, he loves that movie, which just goes to show that after almost seventeen years of marriage you can still find out new stuff about your spouse.) Also, it reinforced for me that while I recognize the cinematic achievement, etc., The Wizard of Oz is not my jam. Don’t @ me.
Listening. I’m still laboring under the delusion that I am going to finally listen my way through my entire podcatcher. I know! Crazy, right? I still have sixty hours to go of The Mom Hour and that’s just one show. Send wine, you guys.
Making. Well, the beginnings of a patio garden, at least. An hour’s worth of work on Sunday and what I have to show for it is: two pots cleaned out (you have no idea how overgrown these were – weed central) and planted with cherry tomatoes and pole beans – trying something new. I mixed some wood ash into the soil, because I had some in my fire pit and read it was good for tomatoes and beans, so stay tuned folks. And then I spent the rest of the time hauling spiky, thorny vines out of the ground – I don’t have grand designs on this garden but it would be nice if it didn’t look like Sleeping Beauty’s palace after the gardener had been asleep on the job for a century, ya know? I have more pots to clean out and a few more seedlings to plant, and the whole place needs a good hard clean, but it’s nice to have something to do out there. Other than the hour in the garden – many more of those to come – I made incremental progress on my Costa Rica photo book, but I will have to dial that up because I got another “unlimited pages” coupon code from Shutterfly, this one expiring on May 8, so the clock is ticking.
Moving. Still obsessed with my Peloton! I’ve ridden “with” my friend Amanda a few times – we fire up the same class and give each other virtual high fives – and racked up a bunch more rides on my own. And in between rides, I’m also working my way through Emma Lovewell’s “Crush Your Core with Emma” program. It’s not easy, fam. Oh, and there was that four mile hike with the smol and the gardening has been surprisingly strenuous, too, basically I’m tired.
Blogging. Themed Reads coming atcha on Wednesday, and it’s a fun one for National Poetry Month. (Do you guys like those? I’m thinking of wrapping up the series at the end of 2022 because I have something fresh – and totally different – in mind but if y’all like Themed Reads I have plenty more ideas so I could keep it going, just think about it and let me know.) And on Friday, back to Colorado!
Loving. Sunroom reading season has proven to be short-lived in this house; the sunroom is not climate controlled, so it turns into an oven in the summer and an icebox in the winter. But in spring and fall, it’s totally working for me to sit out there with my tea and book, and I am deep into enjoying it right now. I have these Adirondack chairs and they’re the coziest.