Tag Archives: So Many Books — So Little Time

From the Witch’s Bedtable

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* Conrad Cherry rightly observed that Puritan New Englanders lived in the ambiguity inherent in their perception of the land as a “place of promise and threat.” A negative sacred ground in the province of Satan, it could — in the language of their myth — metamorphose into the place of God’s testing and final benediction. Far removed from the relational bonds with nature persons that characterized the religion of their Algonquin neighbors, Puritans still found themselves awed by the land they had entered. In the end, they understood that the best wild country was subdued wild country, and they transform Algonkin habitations from a sacred to an ordinary condition. And from the beginning their commodity orientation assured the trajectory of merchant, business, and mechanical success. Yet, on the way, they had absorbed something of the power of the Amerindian spirits who haunted the land. As Francis Jennings has argued, the land had been “widowed” by the ravages of European diseases and the dispiritment caused by Puritan displacement of the survivors. But, as if the ghosts of times past (native and biblical) would make their claims of the future, the Puritans and their descendants could never experience the matter-of-fact relationship with nature that characterized their ancestors. Nature, in the America that was just over the horizon, would become a central religious symbol for many inhabitants of the land: seventeenth-century Puritans and been John the Baptists for distinctively American nature religions.

~ Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkin Indians to the New Age by Catherine L. Albanese

* The historian Michael Walzer has argued that modern revolution was a task fro the kind of ascetic, single-minded, self-denying personality that Calvinism sought to inculcate, and certainly some of the successful revolutionaries of the West would seem to fit the bill. As we have seen, the English revolutionary leader Liver Cromwell, a Calvinist himself, railed perpetually against the festive inclinations of his troops. The Jacobin leader Robespierre despised disorderly gatherings, including “any group in which there is a tumult” — a hard thing to avoid during the French Revolution, one might thing. His fellow revolutionary Louis de Saint-Just described the ideal “revolutionary man” in terms that would have been acceptable to any Puritan: “inflexible, but sensible; he is frugal; he is simple . . . .

~ Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich

* The Challenge of Difficult-to-Grow Seeds
Oak trees, camellias, and roses all grow easily and quickly from seed. For other plants, figuring out how to get them to come up, how to get them to thrive, can become a lifelong struggle — or hobby, depending on how you look at it. I still have an Australian lily that my friend Ian Simpkins started by exposing it to a chemical that mimics the effects of smoke. Sometimes, I put seeds in my green egg-shaped smoker to make them germinate better. Seeds from fire-prone regions, such as our coastal southeastern forest, are stimulated by smoke. Pinus serotina is called the pond pine because it grows in glades often inundated by a few inches of water. In droughts, the soil dries and the brush catches fire and stimulates pond pine to germinate. But any source of heat will do; I discovered this while trying to stimulate a brush fire in my oven. When that proved to dangerous, I stuck the seeds in the microwave, after which they germinated readily. Find your special seed and crack it. You won’t always find glory; sometimes you’ll end up with runts, deformity, and plain-old boring offspring. But every now and then you’ll get grand results, making all the experimenting worthwhile.

~ Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners by Augustus Jenkins Farmer

Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable

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I may move Naomi Klein’s new book to the top of my reading list.

Point 5, alone, is enough to hook me.

5. Confronting climate change is an opportunity to address other social, economic and political issues.“When climate change deniers claim that global warming is a plot to redistribute wealth, it’s not (only) because they are paranoid. It’s also because they are paying attention.”In The Shock Doctrine, Klein explained how corporations have exploited crises around the world for profit. In This Changes Everything, she argues that the climate change crisis can serve as a wake-up call for widespread democratic action. For instance, when a 2007 tornado destroyed most of Greensburg, Kansas, the town rejected top-down approaches to recovery in favor of community-based rebuilding efforts that increased democratic participation and created new, environmentally-friendly public buildings. Today, Greensburg is one of the greenest towns in the United States. To Klein, this example illustrates how people can use climate change to come together to build a greener society. It also can, and indeed must, spur a radical transformation of our economy: less consumption, less international trade (part of relocalizing our economies) and less private investment, and a lot more government spending to create the infrastructure we need for a green economy. “Implicit in all of this,” Klein writes, “is a great deal more redistribution, so that more of us can live comfortably within the planet’s capacity.”

The Witch’s Bedtable

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* For me, never having had to swing a pick at a wall of rock or anything else, the original lure of thinking was only in part as a tool for problem-solving. The main thing was that it beat the alternatives — panic, for example, and terror. ~ Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything by Barbara Ehrenreich.

* Into the Twilight
Out-worn heart, in a time out-worn,
Come clear of the nets of wrong and right.
Laugh, heart, again, in the gray twilight;
Sigh, heart, again in the dew of morn.

Thy mother Eire is always young.
Dew ever shining and twilight gray,
Though hope fall from thee or love decay,
Burning in fires of slanderous tongue.

Come, heart, where hill is heaped upon hill.
For there the mystical brotherhood
of hollow wood and the hilly wood
And the changing moon work out their will.

And God stands winding his lonely horn;
And Time and World are ever in flight,
And love is less kind than the gray twilight,
And hope is less than the dew of the morn.

The Celtic Twilight by W.B. Yeats

*No point getting upset in the air,” said Phryne. “Very unforgiving element. No use changing your mind about it, either. Once you’re up, you’re up, so to speak.” ~ Cocaine Blues: Phryne Fisher #1 by Kerry Greenwood

* But magic has a habit of lying low, like a rake in the grass.

~ Equal Rites by Terry Prachett

Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable

(I am adding this to my very long list of books to read.)

* “And I was one of the ones that they belonged to. They belonged to me because I belonged to them. They thought so, and that made it so.”

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership by Wendell Berry.

* The horde pressing in on both sides gawped at me and I gawped right back. Let them get a good look at the [W]itch about to die before their greedy eyes. I scowled in the faces of of the mean-faced brats gathered to point and screech. What a scruffy lot they were, almost as ragged as the prisoners in Lancaster Gaol. Public hangings were the biggest feast days they’d see now that there were no more processions, no more saints’ days, or holy days like there used to be when Gran was a girl. Pity welled up in me when I thought of their bleak lives. Seeing a lass about Jennet’s age, I offered her a smile, only the poor thing took fright and covered her eyes.

Daughters of Witching Hill by Mary Sharrat

* “War made the English more English.”

Tesla, Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney.

The Witch’s Bedtable

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* At night, after I’ve put Jana to bed, I think about the letter I will write to Lotte. I’m not sure what she will think of the choices I’ve made, but one day soon I’ll write her. I also say a silent prayer for your nephew, that the shells will stop exploding in his head. Then I light a candle and stare into the flame until the walls of the room fall away and, with them, the miles that separate us. I stare into that flame until I can see your face. Until I can speak to you and hear your voice. I am no longer the shining girl you remember. You will see from the breadth of my hips and the way I stand with my feet flat on the ground that I have borne a child. But you will take one look at the hunger in my eyes and know that I have loved you in secret, that I have planted the seedling you gave me, planted it inside me. You will take one look at me and know that I love you far more than that girl in the blue muslin dress could ever imagine. You will take me in your arms, and I’ll cry into your hair. My soul touches yours, and in the place where our souls touch, a golden tree will grow. You said I was like Persephone. But who is Persephone now, and who is Demeter? You wander the world like a maiden, and I am a mother. I have prepared a home for you and planted a meadow of spring flowers. And you, like Persephone, will return.

~ Mary Sharratt Summit Avenue

* The salmon basked on the gleaming, transparent arc where the river met the air, languorously blowing bubbles, making no sound, scarcely even moving. The sun inched down from the distant peaks. When it was completely dark he said, “You are fortunate. I know where you can find this Mabon. And because you come from the greatest king to walk on earth since before the dawn of Christianity, I will be honored not just to share my knowledge but also to take you to him. Which of you will ride my back down the river to the place where he is incarcerated?”

~ Rosalind Kerven Arthurian Legends.

* [Discussing the rune ISA] Here the picture is of an element whose very beauty makes it more perilous, with the hard clarity of crystal. Its qualities are all in the extreme — overcold, immeasurably slippery. Ice is dangerous, but “fair to be seen.” One is reminded of certain images from folklore — the Castle of Glass in the Otherworld, where King Arthur seeks the Cauldron of Arianrhod, Snow White in her crystal coffin.

In the Norse and Icelandic poems, the images (as usual) are harsher. The Norwegian poem picks up the image of the slippery floor, but now it has become a bridge — bad enough when iced over, or worse still, an ice-bridge over a crevasse in a glacier, and even more treacherous when it is a blind man who much cross. However, at least the bridge is a broad one, so what might be meant here is a kenning for the earth covered over by winter ice:

Ice we call the broad bridge
The blind man must be led.

~ Diana L. Paxson, Taking up the Runes: a Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic

* Come to Me West, Giant Wave,
Bring Me Skinny Dips and Puddles to Jump,
Starfish, Twin-Pops, and Fishing Piers,
Mud Pies, Sweat and Tears,
Come to This Circle
Hold My Hand
Welcome.

~Ivo Dominguez Casting Sacred Space: The Core of all Magical Work

Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable

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* It is no secret that Rosetti had a wombat of course but what I discovered was that there is a good deal more material about Top than seems to have been previously realised or rather no one, except perhaps Angus Trumble, has previously been so addicted to this story and enchanted by the thought of Top as to burrow it out. In the following pages you will not only read about Top’s life with Rossetti but also about life in the shop from which he was carried home by Rossetti’s brother William.

~ Rosetti’s Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites & Australian Animals in Victorian London by John Simons

* Morning & evening
Maids heard the goblin cry: “Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges.
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheecked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries; —
All ripe together
In summer weather, —
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy.

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

* Alma Whittaker, born with the century, slid into our world on the fifth of January, 1800.

Swiftly — nearly immediately — opinions began to form around her.

~ The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

* Garlic.

Almost every meal at my home is cooked with a touch of garlic, whether it’s Italian pasta sauce, French vinaigrette, Thai noodles, a Chinese stir-fry, or a Turkish bean dip. It’s always there. In fact, garlic has always been there. One of the oldest cultivated plants, garlic has been treasured for the flavorful punch it adds to food and for its many medicinal and therapeutic qualities. Considered a peasant food since antiquity, this strong-smelling member of the genus Allium still has detractors, but [good] recipes will change your minds.

Organic Gardening

Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable

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[Children may need to escape mentally and emotionally from situations they cannot master.] But the person who would be killed, the “I” in the “pain is big and I am small” belief, is an idea, a memory, an image of yourself left over from childhood. You already felt destroyed. That was then. You will never be that small again. You are not dependent on someone else to hold you, to love you so that you can continue breathing.

Staying [present in the moment] requires awareness of the desire to bolt. Of the stories [that] you are telling yourself about the need to bolt. Staying means recognizing that when you want to bolt you are living in the past. You are taking yourself to be someone who no longer exits. Staying [present in the moment] requires being curious about who you actually are when you don’t take yourself to be a collection of memories. When you don’t infer your existence from replaying what happened to you, when you don’t take yourself to be the girl [whom] your mother/father/brother/teacher/lover didn’t see or adore. When you sense yourself directly, immediately, right now, without preconception, who are you?

When you stay [present in the moment], you question what you’ve never questioned: the you [that] you take yourself to be. The you who is not your past, not your habits, not your compulsions. Anything becomes possible.

~ Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

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Come Celebrate Banned Books Week with Me

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to second best in a free and open encounter?

~ John Milton in Areopagitica.

What’s your favorite banned book? Which are still on your list?

Nicely Done

I haven’t read the book, yet, but there’s a level of professionalism here that’s really refreshing.

Clearing Leaves

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I imagine my mother watching me from the kitchen window as I headed off into the woods once more, a sturdy, slight kid, dressed in old clothes and rubber boots, striding all by herself into the trees.

. . .

I was gone, and she did not see me drawing away the previous fall’s clotted leaves from the thread of water that ran through the springtime oaks and hickories. It was a self-appointed task I took seriously, digging my numbed fingers into wads of leaves, watching the water rise and pearl and run.

. . .

A number of years later, when I no longer went into the woods to clean out the leaves from running water, I read Robert Frost’s poem “The Pasture,” which begins:

“I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away.”

I thought he had been watching me doing what I needed to do then and that perhaps I had not been entirely alone. Or, I thought, perhaps helping water run free is something many people long to make happen. I discovered, reading the poem, that I had been right all along: stories are about us.

. . .

What will happen to us when our children have no connection with what is wild in the land, its depth, danger, generosity? What will life be like for children who do not grow up paying close attention to it and testing themselves against it? And what will happen to those children who ache for it, as I did, but cannot find it anywhere?

We humans evolved along with other species. We became who we are by figuring out who they were: prey, predator, and the thousands of other important things in between. We weren’t just looking at something, we were participating in community. We were the soft clay. The wild world was the potter’s wheel and the potter’s hand.

Who will we become, when only witchgrass, gray squirrels, herring gulls, Norway rats, and others like them conduct their astonishingly adaptable lives outside our houses? Will we live as hostages to what we have made, stunned by loneliness and homesick for what we can no longer imagine?

~ Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town by Susan Hand Shetterly

Picture found here.