Poetry Friday: now(more near ourselves than we), by e.e. cummings

now(more near ourselves than we)
is a bird singing in a tree,
who never sings the same thing twice
and still that singing’s always his

eyes can feel but ears may see
there never lived a gayer he;
if earth and sky should break in two
he’d make them one(his song’s so true)

who sings for us for you for me
for each leaf newer than can be:
and for his own(his love)his dear
he sings till everywhere is here

~e.e. cummings

Happy National Poetry Month, friends!  We can use poetry now more than ever, in these weird and scary times, in which earth and sky are breaking in two and we are certainly more near ourselves than we.  I hope that you are finding joy wherever you are, and that you can hear a bird singing till everywhere is here.

Bluebells on a Battlefield

While we are all holed up at home, spring is springing all over the place!  It’s been raining and gloomy here for most of the past couple of weeks, which has made the social distancing harder to handle – especially with two energetic kids in the house.  By Sunday we all had energy to burn, and even after last week’s crowded trails, we wanted to try hiking again.  I had some good intelligence that the famous Virginia bluebells were blooming, so we decided to check them out.

We normally hike the Bluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run Regional Park.  This year, with the pandemic raging, the park is open for “passive use” only – which means hiking YES, but parking NO.  The parking lots at Bull Run Regional Park were closed, and while parking outside park boundaries and hiking in to the Bluebell Loop Trail is perfectly fine, that would add 2.5 miles each way to our hike – just from the car to the trailhead and back.  Fine for adults-only parties, but when you have two little hikers, you have to maximize every step.  Bull Run Regional Park’s social media team was suggesting other options to folks who didn’t want to park more than two miles from the trailhead, so we decided to try one of the alternatives – Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Civil War buffs, this is the famous Bull Run battlefield.  Steve and I hiked the battlefield itself years ago – pre-small hikers – but had never been to this part of the park.  We made for the Stone Bridge parking area, lured by the promise of bluebells growing on the banks of the legendary Bull Run.

Crossed the bridge over Bull Run and saw…

That famous blue glory all over the forest floor!

We were a bit early – it’s always tough to time peak bloom for any flower show, especially when it’s not a flower that grows in the neighborhood (and can be monitored accordingly).  Local friends – if you want to hit the trail later this week or this coming weekend, I think you’ll be in for a good show.  As for us –

We had plenty of visual treats to enjoy!

The trail was a bit damp, but not too muddy.  Peanut made the best shoe choice, wearing her wellies.  Nugget decided on his Keen hiking boots, which worked well, but didn’t allow for puddle-stomping.

The wildflowers were growing all over the opposite bank of Bull Run, too.

We were careful to take precautions on the trail – we left as early as possible to avoid crowds (even so, there were definitely folks on the trail) and were cautious about touching anything.  We also leapt off the trail to give people distance, and most reciprocated by kindly and responsibly walking all the way on the other side of the wide trail, at least six feet away from us.  With the exception of two women who thoughtlessly breezed down the middle of the trail despite our attempting to give them plenty of space, everyone was responsible and considerate about personal distance.

I wait all year for this fabulous floral spectacle, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  It was a lot of fun to check out a different spot – while I missed our usual stomp along the Bluebell Loop Trail, mixing it up is good, too.  And there’s a lot to explore out Manassas way – we really should make a point of getting here more often, and checking out some different scenery.

This weekly trail time is keeping my sanity intact – barely!  Missing our annual bluebell hike was unthinkable, so I’m glad we were able to take some precautions and make it happen.

What are your local spring spectacles?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 30, 2020)

Morning, fellow hermits.  How goes the social distancing?  It was a long week of being stuck in the house, although I did escape for a couple of runs around my neighborhood, which helped.  I’m trying hard to be gentle on myself; my Type A perfectionist side needs to unclench and realize that she is not going to be the perfect parent, teacher and lawyer all at the same time.  I’m trying to do three full-time jobs here, and it’s tough.  I’m lucky in that I have a job that allows me to work remotely, and so does Steve (in fact, he works remotely all the time – so as he told his colleagues in an all-firm videoconference they had, the luxuries of working for a small boutique instead of for Biglaw, and I can’t imagine if all 900+ lawyers in my firm tried to Zoom at once – it’s just a regular Monday for him).  But trading off kid-duty, making sure they don’t murder each other or fall too far behind in their reading and math skills, and respond promptly to every email I get is… well, it’s challenging.  All the more reason I have been looking forward to weekends, when I only have one job (Mom) instead of three (Homeschooling Mom, attorney at law).

This weekend was much of the same, obviously.  It rained cats and dogs on Saturday, so going out wasn’t tempting at all.  Steve and I each escaped for a run, in turn, during breaks in the precip.  The rest of the day I spent baking bread and breaking up fights between the kids.  Sunday dawned misty and gloomy, but not raining, so we drove out to Manassas National Battlefield Park to hike a different bluebell trail (recap on Wednesday).  The rest of the weekend – again, more of the same.  Cooking up a storm in the kitchen; talking to our next-door neighbors from opposite ends of the porch; and curling up on the couch for comfort reading while the kids watched cartoons (this week: Miraculous!, and Jim Henson’s Word Party, neither of which excites me much).  Sunday Scaries hit hard yesterday afternoon, as I wonder afresh how I am going to juggle everything this week.

Reading.  I know we are all having trouble concentrating – tell me it’s not just me?  In stressful times, I always turn to books for comfort; that’s nothing new.  But it has been hard to stop scrolling through my phone, reading the news and checking in on folks through social media (now that’s the only “social” we have).  When I do read, I’m looking for something none too taxing.  I finished Lucia in London mid-week and then turned to Meet the Frugalwoods, which was on my library stack.  Not particularly urgent – with the library closed, all deadlines have been extended until late April – but some fast-reading nonfiction seemed right for the moment.  I ripped through Frugalwoods in a day, then spent another day on the latest issue of Slightly Foxed before returning to E. F. Benson’s perfectly-tuned comedic world.  I’ve been waiting four books for Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp to have their cataclysmic encounter, and it has finally arrived.  A good way to close out the weekend and gin myself up for the coming week.

Watching.  I always say “um, nothing, just whatever the kids watched” but I keep forgetting to mention that I have been tuning into Miranda Mills’ delightful BookTube videos.  For true bookish comfort, there is really nothing better than watching Miranda wax poetic about her favorite reads, against a backdrop of her beautifully curated bookshelves.  I highly recommend the classics episode, and the episode on cozy mysteries.  I’m saving her latest videos, on comfort reads and books to read while social distancing, for when the situation gets more dire, as I know it will.  I also nominally watched – although I admit my attention was sporadic – the first episode of “Continent 7” from the National Geographic Channel on Disney+.  I’ve been dreaming of a trip to Antarctica for years, but for the moment, this is the closest I will get.

Listening.  A few podcast episodes – I finished up an old back episode of The Book Riot Podcast over a run this weekend; I may unsubscribe as it’s starting to feel repetitive.  I know they’re just covering the news, but there are other things that are more enticing.  Other than that, the main listening has been to Jim Dale reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – excellent comfort listening, and I’ve been putting it on while the kids do art projects midway through our homeschooling mornings (just about when Mom really needs a break).

Making.  The quarantine kitchen remains open for business!  This weekend I baked a loaf of rosemary sourdough bread (recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour) and stocked the larder with leftovers for the week – tofu stir-fry with kale and broccoli on Saturday, and the kids’ favorite goulash on Sunday.  We’ll be eating well this week, but we’re getting low on green veggies – just half a family-sized bag of broccoli florets and one green cabbage left – so I foresee a trip to the grocery store in my future, wish me luck, friends.

Blogging.  Taking you with me to the bluebells on Wednesday – and local friends, take note, there’s a good week of blooms left – and sharing the first Poetry Friday post of April 2020 on Friday.  If you’ve been reading for more than one second, it will not surprise you at all to see that I am opening this year’s National Poetry Month posting, as always, with e.e. cummings.

Loving.  This will likely not interest ANY of you at all, but in a week that was mostly devoid of joy, the thing that brought the biggest smile was: Camp Little Notch, where I spent many a happy hour falling off boats, shared a copy of the camp songbook on Facebook this week.  I downloaded it and promptly spent several days walking around humming the theme song for Tall Timbers, the tent unit where my group nearly always bunked up (as it had its own private dock and was near the fleet of sailboats).  Somehow I didn’t realize that every tent unit had their own theme song – likely because Tall Timbers was home, so its song was the only song that mattered.  Little Notch belonged to the Girl Scouts when I was a camper there, but it’s now privately held by a foundation established by former campers when the Girl Scouts put the camp up for sale some years ago, and I have a newly-hatched dream of taking Steve and the kids there for one of their Family Camp weekends.  We will, of course, be sleeping at Tall Timbers, and everyone will be required to sing the song.

Asking.  How are you holding up, and what are you reading this week?

Twelve Months of Trails: March 2020 – Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C.

Well!  How about a hiking recap, while we’re all stuck inside?  So – a couple of things about this.

  1. You may be thinking, “I remember January’s monthly hiking recap, but where was February’s?”  Good question.  The answer is that we didn’t hike in February.  I know.  Grrr.  I was preparing for a federal jury trial (which didn’t end up happening) and on the rare occasion when I was able to poke my head out of my laptop and suggest a hike, I got voted down.  I know.  Double grrr.  So for the first time, I’ve missed a month in a hiking challenge.  But that’s the explanation.  Or maybe you didn’t notice, in which case – Nonni, look, is that the Pope?
  2. This should go without saying, but STAY HOME.  Follow the instructions of your state and local authorities (since the feds are useless).  To be honest, I wish we hadn’t gone on this hike.  Roosevelt Island is a fairly popular trail running spot in D.C., so I expected to see some people out and about, but I was shocked at how crowded it was – too crowded.  And clearly not with regulars, because the normal hiking and trail running crowd would be following recommendations for social distancing, and not all of the people out on the trails were doing that.  We were able to avoid people, but only because we were actively trying to do so.  Next time, we either won’t hike, or we’ll pick something much more remote.  It’s sad, because I needed this trail release, and now I feel guilty about it.

Well, that’s that.  To the recap?

It was a long week stuck in the house with the kids.  We took a few walks in the neighborhood, and spent a couple of hours digging in the Lloyd House garden before the City of Alexandria closed all fenced-off parks, but I was desperately in need of a nature release – I think we all were.  We decided (unwisely) to go somewhere close to home, and drove fifteen minutes up the Parkway to Roosevelt Island.  I love the view of Georgetown from the footbridge.

Social distancing on the trail!  None of us are sick.  We did encounter other people on the trail and tried to give them their space, but a lot of folks weren’t following recommended guidelines, which was alarming.

Nugget brought his birdwatching binoculars with him.  He’s all about observing things lately, which is very cool.  We didn’t see too many birds this time – a few, but nothing especially exciting – but we heard a lot of birdsong.

Mom, come quick, I see something!  A habitat!

Checking out a nest.  There was a smallish black bird up in a tree that might have been a red-winged blackbird, but we didn’t have a good angle, so couldn’t say for sure.

Serene.  Just us, nature, the other hikers we were trying to avoid, and some ducks pooping in the water.

I did like seeing the brave little flowers poking up from the dead leaves.  Spring is here, it came, even though everything else is weird and scary and uncertain.  Spring is here.  And right on schedule, Steve asked me: “When do the bluebells bloom?”  (The answer: usually mid-April, but everything has been early this year because we really had no winter to speak of.  I follow Bull Run Regional Park – the park at which the bluebell trail is located – on Facebook, and they’re posting regular updates.  So far, plants, but no blooms yet.)

Peanut brought Willa on our hike, which was an appropriate choice.  Willa, of course, loved all the nature.  Also, it’s not like Peanut reading is a new development, but every time she stops to read a trail-side placard I am amazed and impressed and charmed all over again.



It felt good to get out on the trail.  I hope we can do it again – a week is a long time to be stuck indoors – or on a small patio – with two energetic children (and also try to work full-time).  It’s definitely been a challenging week, and we’re nowhere near the end of this; there’s a long slog to get through before things get better.  I will need hiking to get me through, but we’re going to have to go somewhere more remote next time.  I feel a little guilty about this, but I also know that we all needed it.

How do you stay sane in a quarantine?

The Classics Club Challenge: The Priory, by Dorothy Whipple

Dorothy Whipple is completely underrated!  One of the coterie of “middlebrow” writers of the Interwar period, her books have been famously slighted by Virago (which has a rule that it will not reprint anything “below the Whipple line”) – but fortunately for readers, Persephone recognizes Whipple’s merits and has reprinted all of her novels, most (or all?) of her short stories and, soon, her memoirs.  Whipple is a mainstay of Persephone’s stable of (reprinted) authors, and I’m glad of it, because it means her books are in print and accessible, even if my library doesn’t stock them.

I read my first Whipple, Greenbanks, a few years ago, and it’s taken me far too long to get back to Whipple’s vivid world.  I have two dove grey Persephone Whipples on my shelf, though, and they’ve been calling to me.  And I knew exactly where I wanted to start – with The Priory, which sounded (and was) right up my street.  The Priory is the story of an eccentric gentry family living in Saunby Priory, a fictional great house in the English Midlands.  When the novel opens, the house is populated by the widowed Major Marwood, long retired from His Majesty’s Army and caring only for his annual cricket tournament; Victoria Marwood, the Major’s artist sister; and Christine and Penelope Marwood, the Major’s two nearly-grown daughters.  Christine and Penelope are still living in their childhood nursery – it hasn’t occurred to anyone that they should move downstairs – and have created a world unto themselves.  Saunby itself is a world of its own, but it’s all upended when the Major decides to remarry, ideally someone suitable and sensible, who can help him manage Saunby’s expenses (except during cricket, of course).  The Major settles on Anthea Sumpton, the 37-year-old spinster daughter of a neighbor, who appears to like cricket.  Anthea is at first overwhelmed by Saunby, with its unmanageable servants and junk-filled rooms, and then events begin to move fast and furious.  The first thing that happens is: Christine falls in love, gets engaged, and has to face the idea of leaving Saunby.

She unloosed Rough and went her round.  She went to stand in her favourite places.  Under the chestnut tree, bare now and like a many-branched candlestick without candles.  Under this tree she and Penelope had always found the best chestnuts.  They peeled off the spiked cases, so fierce without and lined so soft within, and picked out with delighted fingers the smooth, highly polished nuts.  They took them back to the nursery, saying to each other that you could make the most beautiful doll’s furniture out of chestnuts if only you knew how.

She went into Lake Wood.  She stood in the avenue and looked across to the grey gables and chimney-stacks of the house, with the towering West Front alongside, pierced with blue sky in place of windows.  Lovely, lovely Saunby, she thought.  Wherever I go, there’ll never be anywhere so lovely.

Penelope, meanwhile, is furious with her sister for changing everything and upending their cozy nursery lives.

“Everybody’s having babies,” she said.  Everybody.”

“Women do have babies,” remarked Victoria.  “Even in these days.  You’ll find as you go through life that your friends are all doing the same thing at the same time.”

She buttered more toast.

“First they’re all going away to school, then they’re all being presented, then they’re all getting engaged and married.  Then they’re all having babies, then they’re all attending their children’s weddings and by and by you’ll find they’re all actually being buried.  If you’re not doing the same things yourself, you notice it more.  You’d better hurry to join the series, Penelope, or you’ll feel out of it.”

“Did you feel out of it, Aunt Victoria?”

“No, my dear, but I don’t think I ever wanted to be in it, particularly,” said Victoria, helping herself liberally to marmalade.

“Perhaps I shall be like you,” said Penelope.

Eventually, Penelope comes up with a life plan of her own, marrying for companionship and to escape Saunby, which is becoming a bit too hot for an adult daughter of the house, thanks to Anthea (who the reader can’t help but sympathize with – the Major is far from an ideal husband).  The second half of the novel focuses on Christine’s marriage and how it impacts the sisters’ relationship.  Christine finds marriage more challenging than she expected, and she pines for Saunby – to her, a true spiritual home.  Meanwhile, as the shadow of war grows longer over England – the action takes place in 1939 – Christine finds herself despondent, jaded, and worried about the future and what it will bring to her children.

‘People say: “Oh, it’s not like that for girls now.”  But it is, and it’s going to be more like it than ever, it seems to me.  According to these papers it is.  Women are being pushed back into homes and told to have more babies.  They’re being told to make themselves helpless.  Men are arming like mad, but women are expected to disarm, and make themselves more vulnerable than they already are by nature. No woman is going to choose a time like this to have a baby in.  You can’t run very fast for a bomb-proof shelter if you have a baby inside you, and a bomb-proof shelter is not the place you would choose to deliver it in.  No protection against gas is provided for children under three, this paper says, so presumably the baby you have laboured to bring into the world must die if there is a gas attack.  Look at this,’ Christine directed herself.  ‘In this paper, the headlines are about the necessity of preparation for war and the leader is about the necessity for an increase in the population.  “The only hope,” they say.  They urge women to produce babies so they can wage wars more successfully with them when their mothers have brought them up.’

What a world!  For herself, for everybody, what a world!

It’s impossible to stop turning pages in a Dorothy Whipple novel.  Despite the fact that The Priory was over 500 pages long, I flew through it.  Whipple’s works are often regarded as the type in which “nothing much happens” – but that’s not true, unless you consider marriage, and babies, and love affairs, and family drama, to be “nothing much.”  (Hey, maybe there’s a separate blog post here?)  Christine, Penelope, Anthea, the housemaid Bessy, and even Aunt Victoria go through monumental changes from the moment the novel opens upon Christine and Penelope bent over their sewing in the nursery to the end, in which the characters are jubilant that war with Hitler seems to have been averted (what will happen to them all, the reader wonders, will it all work out?).  And over it all, Saunby is an eternal presence, although only Christine pauses to consider how Saunby stood long before the Marwood family took residence there and will outlast them all.

March was coming in this year like a lamb.  The morning was mild and the sun gained moment by moment on the mist.  The swathes of mist in the hollows of the park were moving and the trees seemed to swim.  Saunby seemed to be materializing from a dream.

“It’s like a dream that we ever lived here,” said Christine.  D’you remember how happy we were?”

“Yes, I realize it now,” said Penelope.

It’s (Quarantine) Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 23, 2020)

Well, friends, we have one week (and some change) of social distancing behind us.  How are you holding up?  I know we’re all under different strictures – depending on geography, some of my friends are under strict shelter-in-place orders, and others have just their own social consciences to go on, but it’s clear that staying home is the right thing to do right now – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Steve and I worked from home all week, and the kids were knocking around the house, too; their school is closed until at least April 13.  (I’m guessing it will be longer, and Steve and I have started to wonder aloud to each other whether we will still be on the hook for tuition if we get to June and the school hasn’t reopened.)  I can’t say I had a very productive week, work-wise, although I did my best.  For the time being, Steve and I are working in shifts – he has the morning and I have the afternoon.  The non-working parent is in charge of the kiddos.  They’re nominally on “spring break” – they have distance learning packets to do, but the school has asked that we not start those until March 30, so I’m following a slightly looser schedule in the mornings and just trying to do some workbook pages and some enrichment activities, and otherwise let them spend a lot of time on art projects, which is what they prefer to do.  We’ll tighten it up once distance learning begins, but we’re just easing in for now.

That was my week – stressful, for sure.  I have some thoughts about the pressures of this quarantine, so stay tuned for a post in the next couple of weeks.  Anyway – the weekend was welcome, when it came.  Not because it was all that different from the week, but it was a relief to me not to have to juggle the kids and work.  Steve put in several hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and I mostly just kid-wrangled.  I did go out twice – on Saturday, I drove down to Wegmans to pick up some of the food we were running low on (most critically, coffee and ovaltine), and on Sunday we headed out for a family hike.  The trails were more crowded than I was expecting, and I ended up feeling guilty for going, even though I really needed a nature release.  Steve and I agreed that if we hike again during this quarantine, we are going to have to go somewhere much more remote.  I really hope I don’t have to give up hiking, since it’s such an important mental health activity for me.  I’d rather go quietly insane indoors than get COVID-19, but still.

Reading.  ‘Twas a pretty active reading week, which was to be expected (even without commuting).  On Monday, I finished The Mitford Murders, which was predictable but fun.  Moved on to Girl, Woman, Other, because it was a two-week book at the library – I couldn’t have predicted that before I finished it, the library would shut down completely and extend everyone’s deadlines to April 20th.  Oh, well – I finished it anyway, and it was astonishing.  Definitely not the comfort reading that I’m craving at the moment, but a really remarkable achievement and well worthy of the Booker Prize (and much better than The Testaments, which I admittedly liked very much).  Anyway, between quarantining and Girl, Woman, Other, I really needed my next book to be something that was going to make me feel good – Jane Austen to the rescue.  I read Sanditon, which is on my classics club list, so you can look out for a review in the next few weeks.  Fourth and final book of the week is Lucia in London, also from the classics club list, and just the kind of lighthearted romp that I so badly need right now.

Watching.  Lots of the kids’ choices, as usual – way too much of The Lion Guard, but more satisfactorily, Inside Out and Moana.  (This quarantine is brought to you by Disney+ and Pastabilities dinosaur mac ‘n cheese.)  On a more grown-up note, somewhat tragically, Steve and I are on the last episode of the current season of The Great British Bake-Off.  There are still the holiday episodes to get through, so we have that.  Once those are done, I will have to fight against my current overwhelming desire to go back to the beginning and start all over again.  Emma is calling my name, and I have a long queue of episodes of Rock the Park, and I’m not done with Grantchester, and I want to explore the National Geographic Channel section on Disney+, and it’s long past time for a Parks and Recreation re-watch, but I’m just going to watch Bake-Off over and over and over.

Listening.  The latest episode of Shedunnit, on romance in crime fiction, was the highlight of the week.  Not much listening other than that – I put on a bit of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for Nugget while he was building with Lincoln Logs one morning, and spent a little time with The Book Riot Podcast playing in the background as I baked pomodori al forno and sourdough crackers over the weekend, but that’s about it.

Making.  Right, so about that – not much over the course of the week; just some work product and a lot of yelling.  But I had a very soothing afternoon in the kitchen on Sunday.  I made a batch of pomodori al forno – slow-roasted Roma tomatoes, recipe courtesy of my mom’s BFF, Denise.  A double batch of my “Impossibly good bolognese” – vegan bolognese sauce with Impossible burger ground.  A batch of tangy sourdough crackers (not as crunchy as I’d like, but definitely edible and the recipe uses discard sourdough starter, so I’ll basically forgive all faults).  Several containers of sliced cucumbers and peppers for crunching during the week.  And a cleaned-out fridge, so it’s abundantly clear what we have in there.  No one is allowed to complain that there’s nothing to eat.

Blogging.  Book review on Wednesday, for the Classics Club (I’m on FIRE lately, people).  And a recap of our Sunday hike is coming on Friday.  I still feel a bit guilty about it, but I took a lot of good pictures and it seems like a waste to not show them to you.

Loving.  If you’re in need of a new hand-washing song, Nugget made up a good one.  Write this down: “Happy birthday to me, I’m one hundred and three, I smell like a monkey and I look like a donkey.”  (Note that it’s one hundred, not hundred, and if you sing it wrong he WILL correct you.)  Repeat twice.  You’re welcome.  WASH YOUR HANDS, PEOPLE.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?  And how are you staying sane in the quarantine?

Themed Reads: Women and Wartime

It’s Women’s History Month, which I always love – while I’m down for celebrating the contributions and successes of women any old time, it’s particularly fun when women’s lives are at the forefront of the conversation and on everyone’s minds.  I love seeing the Women’s History Month display in the window of Hooray for Books!, my local indie that I walk past every day, and I enjoy fitting my month’s reading around this cultural conversation.  Fiction and nonfiction books about women are always a focus of my reading, in any month, and I love delving into women’s lives at different periods in history – but today I want to talk specifically about women’s lives during a time period that interests me especially: World War II.

Home Fires: The Women’s Institute at War, 1939-1945, by Julie Summers (also published as Jambusters) explores the significant role British women played on the Home Front as they organized into local Women’s Institutes for the purposes of serving, learning, and socializing.  The Women’s Institute movement started as a flicker, but soon caught fire, with local WI groups forming in almost every community.  Interest and participation in the WI movement went up to the very highest levels of society: Queen Elizabeth (later to become The Queen Mother) was an honorary chair of the Windsor branch of the WI.  While the WI was best known for their efforts at food preservation – especially jam-making – which made a substantial difference during the long years of rationing and food shortages, they were heavily involved in all sorts of war efforts and provided a natural mechanism for women who were not employed in wartime industries or involved in the armed forces to pool their skills and make a difference.

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance and Rescue, by Kathryn J. Atwood is technically a young adult title, although it has appeal to every age group.  I happened across it in my library while looking for books about Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, a heroine of the French Resistance (this was before the publication of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, which I own but have not yet read).  Madame Fourcade is profiled in Women Heroes of World War II, but so are twenty-five other women, of every age and nationality, whose acts of courage helped to win the war.  Daring women took great risks to rescue fugitives from the Nazis, carry messages to the Allies, sabotage Axis efforts, and more.  In this age of political disaffection and polarization, it’s refreshing and bracing to read about women who banded together, often at great personal risk, to do what is right.

Consider the Years, by Virginia Graham, offers a contemporary perspective on the war years – and the long drab decade that followed – through a different lens: poetry.  Graham was a well-off young woman when the war began, and evacuated with her family to avoid the danger of living in London during the Blitz.  She writes movingly of daily life; I featured my favorite poem from this slim Persephone-published collection, Evening, in a Poetry Friday post during 2018’s National Poetry Month.  (Still love that one, with its evocative depiction of office workers lined up for a bus, collars turned up against a cold and damp evening, spirits yearning for home.)

Women have contributed meaningfully in every time period, of course.  But there is something particularly fascinating about the role of women during World War II – at least, there is to me.  Those years were a bellwether for women’s greater inclusion and expansions of social and economic freedoms; once peace was achieved, there was no going back to the way things were in the interwar years and before.

What historic time periods are especially interesting to you?