Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Poetry of Hope

On Saturday we headed to the nearby town of Gardiner for a stream cleanup/awareness raising event, put on by the organization Upstream, which was created by my fabulous friend and fellow naturalist Tina Wood to restore fish passage around the three dams that block Cobbossee Stream.

I had originally thought I would go to Boston for the March for Science, but as the time drew nearer, I became less and less enthused about the drive…and even the March itself. Yes, I support the responsible use of science, I oppose hiding, burying, denying, failing to fund, or destroying scientific research. But the idea of a march for science had me feeling a little ambivalent. Because science is not inherently good (or bad), but science can be put to good use, for the betterment of humanity, or it can be abused for financial gain while hurting people and the environment. And that's way too complicated a message for a picket sign.

Also, the three hour drive on Earth Day didn't sit well with me. So I was happy to join Upstream and their event, which had a clear focus and end goal for the day—get the trash out of the stretch of stream between Bridge Street and Maine Street—and long-term—get the alewives back to their native breeding grounds in Cobbossee Lake.

C, E, Z, and I were joined by the boys' best buddy and his parents. We left the kids on the sidewalk to ring cow bells and hold signs with the other marchers while us grownups headed down to the stream banks to fill up several large garbage bags with cigarette butts, Dunkin' Donuts cups and straws, sodden sweatshirts, and random hunks of plastic. The worst we found was four hypodermic needles and this bird's nest, made of strands of vine, fine rootlets, and cigarette pack wrappers.

The previous day, I had attended a poetry festival which had included a panel on poetry and climate change. The panelists spoke of nature poetry becoming more elegiac, and one said she had trouble writing a poem of celebration after the large dams were removed from the Penobscot River and fish passage restored. The big question in the room was: where was the hope? As I scrambled up and down banks, invasive multiflora rose brambles clawing at my jacket and my skin, filling my bag with other people's garbage, it occurred to me that hope is in action. In cleaning trash out of one small section of stream. In ringing a cow bell to let passers-by know that people are out there working to bring back the fish. In restoring anadromous fish runs that have been blocked for more than 250 years.

There's a lot to despair about these days, for those of us who care about clean air and water and fish passage and birds not nesting in garbage, who want more love and inclusiveness in our human communities, but nothing good comes of despair (I think in some ways despair brought us to where we are now—the despair of people who have been left behind by the modern world, looking for  an "other" to blame and a quick ride back to imagined "golden days"). The antidote to despair is hope, and hope comes from action. So we must go out and do the work that is important to us, and we must write poems about our work and our hope. We must write poems that celebrate being alive and all of the small victories we achieve, even if it's only cleaning up one small section of stream.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thirty-Minute Almost-No-Sew Bandana Bunting

We had some friends over for Mexican food this past weekend, and I wanted to make a special decoration to make the house festive. In the past, I've bought papel de picado—those beautiful punched-paper flags—but they get faded and tattered very quickly (especially when you have kids who shoot them with Nerf bullets), and then they look sad and you feel bad wadding them up in the recycle bin. So I thought I'd make something almost as festive and much less expensive and more durable—a bandana bunting.

To make your own bunting, determine how many flags you want your bunting to have, divide by four, and purchase that number of bandanas in the colors of your choice. I wanted a 12-flag bunting so I bought three bandanas.

I had a very specific color scheme in mind—yellow, orange, green—and unfortunately my usual bandana source didn't have any of those colors, so I bought some instead at the craft store. They're not quite as nice of quality, either in color, the printing of the design, or the squareness of the bandana, but they served the purpose.

Step 1. Iron the bandanas.

Step 2. Cut them into quarters.

For each bandana you started with, you'll end up with four equal squares.

Step 3. Place a bandana square on the ironing board in front of you, wrong side up, and turn it 45 degrees so that the two finished sides come to a point at the bottom and the two cut sides come to a point at the top. Fold the finished sides toward the center and press.

Step 4. Open the sides back up and fold the top down even with the tops of the side folds and press (You could also cut the top off, but pressing seemed easier to me.)

Step 5. Fold the sides back in. Now you have a triangle.

Repeat with the remaining bandana squares. So far no sew.

Now comes the time to put your bunting together. This is the only sewing part, although you could use pins, fabric tape, or glue. Double-fold bias tape would be ideal for the string part of the bunting (what is that? garland?), so that you can fold it over the raw edge at the top of the each flag. The craft store did not have any bias tape so I bought ribbon instead (a 5-yard spool). I thought I might be able fold the ribbon, but it was too narrow. It occurred to me belatedly that I could have bought two ribbons, one for the front and one for the back to give it a more finished edge on the back side, but I think it's fine how it is. 

Step 5. Figure out how you want your flags spaced on the ribbon. I could probably have used math to do this, but instead I laid the ribbon out on the floor and lined the flags up in a pleasing arrangement. They ended up about 3 inches apart with about a foot-and-a-half or two feet of extra ribbon on each end. Pin flags in place and sew (or tape or glue).

A few guests requested recipes from the dishes I made. Almost everything came from Rick Bayless's Mexico—One Plate at a Time cookbook (including the gorgeous flan M made with my help—a first time making flan for both of us and it came out perfect). I found a couple of recipes on his web page:

Chipotle chicken salad tacos
Mexican-style zucchini tacos

One dish I did NOT use a recipe for was the cheese enchiladas—for those I just rolled up grated cheddar in corn tortillas, laid them in a baking dish, topped with a magic secret ingredient, sprinkled on more cheese and baked until melty and bubbly.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Slow Spring

Spring has been very slow in coming this year (as it is every year), but we finally got some warm weather this week. I went out today to take some pictures of the melting snow, but most of them came out blurry (I've spent so much time away from my camera of late I've forgotten how to use it!).

Signs of spring I've seen and heard (but have no photographic evidence of) this week: spring peepers singing the last two nights in a row, the phoebes are back, and the aspen trees have unfurled their catkins. Spring is surely on its way.

Monday, April 3, 2017

March Reads

Having a single post to cover all I read in 2016 was a bit overwhelming—both to write and, I'm sure, to read. So I've decided instead to do a monthly recap of books I've read, and share a little about each book. For past months, see:
January Reads
February Reads

Nonfiction. I badly broke my rule about having only one book in each category going at a time this month. I started one book (which isn't even on this list because I haven't finished it yet) and then started two more and read a fourth after I finished one of those two.

Rad Dad and Rad Families. I'm not going to say much about these here, because I read them in order to do a profile of editor and rad dad, Tomas Moniz, for Literary Mama's Father's Day issue in June. So, you'll just have to wait to read that, but if you're a parent or know anyone who's a parent, and/or if you care about gender equality, inclusiveness, social justice, and just generally raising kids to be decent human beings, get yourself a copy of both books.

Suburban Safari. I read this for my naturalists' book discussion group. The author, Hannah Holmes, explores just about every facet of her backyard in South Portland, Maine, from insects to soil to geologic history to human history, right down to the spider in her office window. It's surprisingly interesting how varied and full of life a small suburban lot can be. Holmes invites experts, from the state entomologist to Amory Lovins to her home to talk about different aspects of what's going on in her yard and also travels around the country to look at things like lawns in the desert and wildlife habitat yards in California,  I was at first annoyed by Holmes's very perky voice. But it grew on me after a while and I began to think I need to perk up my own writing.

Poetry. For poetry I read Blue Window by Ann Fisher-Wirth. A very long time ago (12 1/2 years or so) I went to my very first writing workshop—a week away at a small college here in Maine. I managed to get work to pay for it, and to make the trip appear more legit, I signed up for the environmental journalism track, but it turned out there weren't enough participants to run two separate tracks, so we spent the morning with the journalism guy and the afternoons with the poet, Ann Fisher-Wirth. In her sessions I rediscovered a long-dormant passion for creative writing. I usually try to buy a copy of at least one of the author's books whenever I take a class or go to a reading, and while I read this right after the workshop, I was due to read it again. Her poems touch on life and death, California during Viet Nam, when she was young; Mississippi, where she lives, and it's heavy burden of history. The poem's are heavy with atmosphere, rich with imagery, and unafraid.

Fiction. My sister bought me Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield for my birthday a couple of years ago and I only just now got around to reading it. Normally, I object to celebrities writing books other than the obligatory ghost-written memoir—stay in your own wheelhouse, dammit (although in one of my writing workshops we had a great time comparing Molly Ringwald's writing to Virginia Woolf, which I suppose is a tad unfair to Molly). But this is Rick Springfield, so I totally give him a pass, because he was my first heart-throb when I was but a mere teeny-bopper. And it's also a fun, weird, funny, and surprisingly thoughtful book (though the narrator does have an inordinate obsession with his, ahem, anatomy). Look! My copy is signed and personalized with a heart (swoon), and you'll note that rick also illustrated it, which is just one too many talents for a single human being if you ask me. This was supposed to be my escapist book for the month, but it turns out to be kinda about the end of the world…there is no escape.

How-To (I'm still not sure what to call this category-"self-help" makes me squirm, "self-improvement" is almost as bad, and "craft" is not quite broad enough. 4/417 edit: I thought of a category name: Inspiration!!). I finish up the 12-week The Artist's Way program tomorrow. I'm actually a little astonished that I stick with it the whole time and did almost all of the exercises, including three "morning pages" every single day (that's 252 handwritten pages!!). I did not experience any dramatic results and very little "synchronicity" as some people report happening, but I did, about halfway through, kick back into gear on writing book that had been languishing since November, so that's something. And I enjoyed writing my morning pages, taking myself on artist dates, and doing small things to treat myself, so I plan on sticking with it—Artist's Way for life. And I'm also moving on to another creativity-generating activity which I'll tell you about tomorrow.

What are you reading this month?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Upcoming Nature Journaling Workshops

If you're local and you want to learn more about nature journaling, I have a whole slate of workshops scheduled for the next year, starting in April at Viles Arboretum and Hidden Valley Nature Center. 

Viles Arboretum
At Viles Arboretum I will hold four classes over the next year Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., one for each season.
Spring Nature Journaling ~ Birds, April 29Summer Nature Journaling ~ Bugs and Blooms, July 22 (tentatively)Fall Nature Journaling ~ Event Mappping, October 14Winter Nature Journaling ~ Trees, January 20
The workshops are suitable for both beginners and experienced journalers. Each class will include an introduction to nature journaling during which participants will learn a variety of drawing techniques designed to help even the most reluctant artist overcome their fears. From there we'll explore a different aspect of the natural world using a variety of journaling techniques specific to the topic and the season, so that participants may come for just one session without feeling they have missed anything or enjoy all four while learning new ways to journal at each one. Choose one or register for all four. Registration fee: $35 per workshop for Arboretum members, $45 for nonmembers.

Workshop Descriptions:

Spring Nature Journaling ~ Birds! In this workshop we'll use our nature journals to learn more about the birds that populate our fields and forests. We'll employ a variety of nature journaling techniques—from field sketching to detailed drawings, note-taking to poetry-writing—that will help participants become acquainted with our feathered friends. 

Summer Nature Journaling ~ Blooms and Bugs! In this workshop we'll take to the fields to seek out, draw, and write about the season's wildflowers and insects. We'll observe dragonflies, bees, and butterflies, practice sketching moving objects, and celebrate midsummer flowers in our journals. 

Fall Nature Journaling ~ Event Mapping! In this workshop we'll learn how to create an event map—an illustrated depiction of a route we take through the landscape—while we wander the Arboretum's trails. Through noticing and recording the sights, sounds, and moments in nature that draw our attention, we'll sharpen our observation skills and deepen our connection to the natural world.

Winter Nature Journaling ~ Trees! Artists from Da Vinci to Cezanne have found inspiration in the spare, bare branches of leafless winter trees. Focusing on those trees, we'll work on several drawing techniques that will help us truly see the natural world before us, practice describing nature using all of our senses, and write our way into stories about the winter world around us.

What to bring: 
We will spend time both outdoors and inside during all four workshops, so please dress accordingly and bring sunscreen and insect repellant as needed. Bring a blank book, notebook, or journal and your preferred writing and drawing tools (pencil and pen, and colored pencils, if you have them), and something to sit on outdoors (lightweight camp chair, sit mat, extra jacket, etc.). If you have binoculars and/or a field guide to birds, please bring them to the bird workshop.

How to sign up: 
The workshops aren't on the the arboretum's website yet, but you can call the Arboretum at (207) 626-7989 to register.

Hidden Valley Nature Center (Midcoast Conservancy) I'll also be holding a summer nature journaling workshop at Hidden Valley Nature Center on Jun 17, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm.


June is an extra-special time at Hidden Valley Nature Center, when the woodland wildflowers carpet the forest floor. Join us on Saturday June 17, as we seek out, identify, draw, and write about some of the season’s blooms. We’ll start the day with an introduction to nature journaling, during which participants will learn a variety of drawing techniques designed to help even the most reluctant artist overcome their fears. Then we’ll head out into the woods in search of pink lady’s slippers, fringed polygala, creeping dogwood, pitcher plants, and other woodland beauties. We’ll sketch, make observations of, and celebrate these flowers in our journals.

If you’re a novice naturalist this class will help you start identifying flowers, with your journal as your aid. If you’re an expert botanist you’ll learn ways to record your observations and deepen your appreciation through journaling.

Please bring a blank book, notebook, or journal and your preferred writing and drawing tools (pencil, pen, colored pencils), as well as water and snacks. We will spend time both indoors and outdoors and will walk up to a mile or more in search of flowers, so please dress accordingly and consider wearing a hat, sunscreen, insect repellant, and whatever tick-proof clothing you prefer.

Register here.

I'd love to see you at any or all of these workshops!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Writing the Colorado Trail

The whole (purported) purpose of quitting my job and hiking the Colorado Trail last summer was to write a book about the hike, a hike on the same trail C and I took 20 years ago, and the social and environmental changes that took place in the mountains during those two decades (there were many ulterior motives as well, but we don't need to get into those here).

Writing a book is a HUGE undertaking. Not only do I have to take journal notes from two separate six- to nine-week hikes and turn them into a coherent narrative, I have to research, digest, and summarize in an engaging way such things as water rights and reclamation, fire suppression, mining, climate change, public lands, grazing, recreation, and about two billion years of plate tectonics, uplift, and erosion. No problem. The writing and research are moving forward apace now, but I did take a little bit of a break from about November into February. I think it was a necessary period of senescence, letting the thoughts and experiences marinate a bit before turning to the monumental task of information-gathering. But I was not entirely idle during that time: I worked on several shorter pieces, some of which pertain to the hiking of the trail, two of which went live last week:

On Parent.co, "How Being a Mom Helped Me Hike 500 Miles," a short list of ways that my experience of being a mom made hiking the trail easier than it had been 20 years ago.

At Mothers Always Write, "Five Hundred Miles," an essay about sharing the trail experience with my teenage son.

If you're game, please check them out and let me know what you think. And if you do the social media thing, I'd love it if you shared either or both on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, March 17, 2017


The Situation: E and I pulled out the mancala board last weekend and, with a little help from M, figured out how to play, coming back to the smooth wooden grooves and cool glass pebbles again and again as the weekend went by.

The Stories:

Endless Weekends. Now that I don't work outside of the home anymore, I no longer feel like I need to live my entire life—both all of the things I need to do and all of the things I want to do—during those two days each week. Time stretches out. Whole weekends go by where I accomplish almost nothing. It feels good and it feels strange. A little guilty. Which brings me the next story: how I spend far too much of my newly acquired free time.

Boredom and Screens. The boys have gotten very intense with their screen time lately. I tend to ignore it for a while, taking advantage of the quiet it creates, until it has built up to a head and then I careen in the other direction, the screen nazi. So when I got an email from a teacher about a homework situation, screens disappeared. Boys went through the stages of grief—surliness, teariness, stomping, sulking, a slow return to real play. I feel like it's my obligation to engage them in real-world activities, even when screens haven't been disappeared. I know kids need to figure out what to do with themselves when bored, that it's actually good for them to be bored, but left to their own devices that's just where they'd turn, to their devices. E is much more amenable to being roped into a game or a project than Z, who would rather wander off by himself and daydream. Which brings me to the next story.

Twindividuation. The essay I told you about last week, which will be coming out in the Multiples Illuminated anthology, is about how spending an intense amount of time together over the summer seemed to trigger an intense period of individuation between E and Z. But when I wrote it back in the fall, I hadn't seen nothin' yet. Then they chose to divide their wardrobe and dresser drawers, and busied themselves with separate activities much of the time. Now they hardly have anything to do with each other, rarely want to play together or talk to each other and are often cross with each other. I think this has been harder on me than it has been on them. I miss their tight bond. Which brings me to the next story, and back to the first one.

Time. I don't know how to characterize time raising kids. The cliches—"it goes by so fast" and "long days, short years" don't quite capture the reality. It's more like you, here, now are point A and time accelerates as it moves away from point A, in both directions. So that the present is slow and stretchy, like taffy, but the farther it moves into the past or future the less viscous and more fluid it becomes as it ribbons away from you like meltwater sheeting down a rock face. I think I'm mixing my metaphors there. Today you think you will spend the rest of your life arguing with your 11-year-old about how much screen time is enough screen time, but if you look back at that 11-year-old as a baby, he's careening away from you at light speed, even though then you thought you would be changing his diapers forever. Same when you looking into the future. He as a teenager, an adult, and old man, shoots away from you at warp speed, but when you're there in some future incarnation, time, a moment, will feel slow and still, as you both move glass beads along a mancala board with your old, withered hands.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How to Write with (or Despite) Kids

At risk of turning this here blog into the department of shameless self-promotion, I have another publication to share with you today.

Two of my writing assistants.

In How to Write with (or Despite) Kids over at WOW! Women on Writing, I share some of the ways I've been able to make writing work for me over the years, even with three kids using up as much of my time and many of my brain cells as they possibly can. I hope you enjoy it and find some useful advice.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Multiples Illuminated, Part I

As they say, when it rains it pours. Or at least rains a little bit harder. I have several publications coming out over the next few months that I'll be excited to share with you as they hit the presses (or pixels as it were). Last week, my essay "No Fun" appeared on Manifest Station, in case you missed it. And then I had a guest blog post up on Multiples Illuminated.

Cunning little devils, weren't they?
It's called "Post-Twin Stress Disorder" and I don't really have to tell you what it's about, do I? It's part of a series leading up to publication of the anthology Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Tween Years, which will be coming out this spring, and in which my essay "Individuality, Mutuality, and a Game of Twister" will appear. (That's why this post is called Part I; Part II will appear when the book becomes available.)

If you're one of those people who's always wondered what's it like having twins anyway? or one of those people who says things like, I always wished I had twins, check out my post. It will have you running for the hills (or the birth control pills) faster than you can say "multiples."

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Slow Writing ~ No Fun

You've heard of the Slow Food movement, yes? Well, I'm a member of the Slow Writing movement. Three years ago, come April, I attended a Psychedelic Furs concert in Portland with a friend. (The poster, which I, er, liberated from a wall downtown has been hanging on the side of a bookcase ever since.)

There were several things about my experience at the show told me I had a story there, and so I started writing down my initial memories and impressions right away. After a while, though, I got bored with my writing, and felt it was going nowhere, so I set it aside.

Several months, maybe a year, later, I opened the file again and though, Hmm, maybe there is something here after all. I continued to work on the piece off and on until I finally finished and hit "submit" one month shy of two years after the concert. I'd had a place in mind to which I wanted to submit from the very beginning and I had high hopes of it getting accepted there, but I waited. And waited. And waited. After six months I sent the nudge email and got back a "thanks but no thanks" for my trouble. Over the next few months, I sent it out to seven more places, getting rejection after rejection (but at least on a faster timeline). Finally, after a total of six rejections, The Manifest Station picked it up and it appeared on their site yesterday.

A funny thing happens to writing that's been sitting around a long time—you fall out of love with it. You start to notice nitpicky problems. It no longer resonates. But, not this time around. I'm happy to report I still enjoy this piece and I'm happy to see it finally out in the world. I hope you like it, too.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Lichens Tree

A week or so ago, I was walking in the woods and came upon this tree that appeared to be covered in every type of lichens imaginable. Lichens are organisms up of members of two or three different kingdoms. Fungi form the structure of the organism and either algae or cyanobacteria, or both, create food for the organism through photosynthesis. We just brushed over lichens in our Master Naturalist training, and to be honest, I have not pursued the subject with a great deal of vigor (I can't even find my lichens key—need to do some organizing). But I do remember that license are divided into three major groups based on their form and this tree had specimens of all three.

Crustose lichen holds tight to the surface it grows on, almost like paint; i.e. it forms a "crust" that is virtually impossible to separate from the rock or bark it attaches to.

Foliose lichen are more leafy in appearance (think "foliage"). The leafy bits are called "lobes" and they're either attached to their substrate with rhizines or, in the case of umbilicate lichen, from one central attachment point. 
Fruticose lichen grows in a shrubby, branching pattern. The shrubby part is called the "thallus" and the attachment point the "holdfast."

This tree was a festival of life. Along with the many types of lichen, it had this little patch of moss.

And this little guy, which looks like it could be a lichen, but is actually a liverwort, which is a type of nonvascular plant.

So what kind of tree was this that so bloomed in February? I must confess I almost forgot to notice (you might say I couldn't see the tree for the micro-forest). But I did remember to arch back and look up at the branches—opposite—and I snapped off a twig, just to be sure: red maple (it's hard to tell in this picture, but red maple twigs and buds are red and the buds grow opposite of each other.

As my college bio teacher used to say, "Life is so cool; it goes anywhere!"

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Reads

Having a single post to cover all I read in 2016 was a bit overwhelming—both to write and, I'm sure, to read. So I've decided instead to do a monthly recap of books I've read, and share a little about each book.

This month I went on a week-long reading deprivation (as part of The Artist's Way) and I read one really long, book, so my overall book count was down over January (missing from that January post, Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for a total of six, not counting TAW which I'm not done with yet), but that one book was so long, the page count should be fairly equal. 

First up, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which should have gone on January's list, but I forgot to include it. This one I read out loud to E and Z (and sometimes M). After reading to them on our hiking trip over the summer, I realized how much I missed doing that (and I think they did too), so I've been trying to keep up the tradition. This is also I know the only way to get them to experience certain books they're not inclined to read on their own. As you probably know, The Cursed Child (you have to pronounce it—curse-ed child, so it sounds like a swear word. More fun that way.) is a play, so it's a little awkward to read without dialogue tags, but we figured it out, either with different voices for each character, or I'd throw in a "Ron said" here and there to make it clear. Overall, it was a fun read, but not nearly as interesting as the seven original HP books. If Harry Potter had an after-school special, this is what it would be like. Harry's son Severus, Malfoy's son Scorpius, and a certain other person's daughter (don't want to give away too much) all have daddy issues, which all get resolved in the end. Very Hallmark channel. But with magic. So I would say, not my favorite, but still entertaining.

My poetry read for the month (at around one to five poems per day, first thing in the morning; a very nice habit to have), was Sandra Cisneros's Loose Woman. This was a gift from my blog friend Lone Star Ma a few years ago, and I only finally got around to reading it now. I love Cisneros's playful language, sly humor, and sexy stanzas. A really fun read.

Next, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I know everyone was reading like two years ago so I'm a little behind the 8-ball. One of my writing group buddies suggested we read it together, only that was months ago and she was long done by the time I got around to it. Once I did start reading, though, I flew through the first half, then got bogged down for the third quarter, then really got into the last quarter again. It was an engaging book, a little on the long side (I think 100 or 200 pages could have been cut without losing anything), with a very mystery-like story and a surprising but satisfying ending. But. But, definitely required a suspension of disbelief for all of the terrible things that happen to the main character (no on can have that much tragedy, right), which I found more unrealistic than the actually unrealistic elements. Also, it was not a relaxing read. I was pretty stressed out and on edge the whole time reading—not a good choice when the world is already putting one into existential distress. But the ending is redeeming, and the (very, very long) denouement leaves on a hopeful note. So there's that. I'm glad I read it and I'm glad it's done.

Finally, while the shitshow that is America today has sent many I know scurrying for classic dystopian reads like The Handmaid's Tale and 1984, I've headed in the opposite direction, picking up Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, a utopian tale of an all-woman society. Gilman is best known for her autobiographical short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" which depicts a woman going mad from the ravages of postpartum depression and "the rest cure." In Herland, she tells the tale of three male explorers who come upon a remote and isolated country of all women. If the reader can overlook the dubious science behind the parthenogenetic reproduction that takes place in the land, and that the race of this 2000-year-old culture in South America is white, it is an engaging and entertaining read that turns every assumption the male explorer-narrator has about gender and western civilization on its head. The women of Herland are utterly and completely devoted to motherhood—recognizing the great miracle of their being able to reproduce at all—and every endeavor they undertake—from cultivating land to building cities to designing clothing—is for the betterment of their small world for the children's future, including refraining from reproducing more than the land can sustain. Theirs is not a sappy, sentimental motherhood, but rather a practical and universal one; every woman is a mother to every child. The narrator describes it thus, "You see, they were Mothers, not in our sense of helpless involuntary fecundity, forced to fill and overfill the land, every land, and then see their children suffer, sin, and die, fighting horribly with one another; but in the sense of Conscious Makers of People. Mother-love with them was not a brute passion, a mere 'instinct,' a wholly personal feeling; it was a religion." Though written in 1915, the women of Herland are subjected to attitudes from their male visitors that we still experience today, including mansplaining and rape culture. Herland continues to be relevant today and is worth a read not only for the clever, amusing story but also because it can remind the reader that there are better ways to do things than "the way it's always been done." It also teaches a very useful mode of argument—continue to ask innocent questions until your opponent is forced to concede the error of his thinking.

What are you reading this month?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekend Things ~ A Trip to Boston

We spent the last couple days of school vacation week in Boston, where we went to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the New England Aquarium, visited with relatives, rode the T, and walked around the city. I left my big camera at home, but here's a few shots I captured with my phone.

It was bizarrely warm there for February—so much so we went out for ice cream. Disturbing in a the-world-is-coming-to-an-end kind of way, but pretty nice for walking around in, compared to the dreary gray, cold, slushy weather I was expec

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Documentation ~ Still So Far Behind

It's been my New Year's resolution for the last four years (at least!) to get caught up on putting all my digital photos into albums, and it's a resolution that I've failed to keep, year after year. In fact, it's been two years since I last finished an album, and I've been taking photos all that time, falling even further behind.

For several months now, I've been copying photos from past years onto a backup drive and deleting them off my computer to make space. When I hit 2012—the next year in line for album-making—I also had to upload them to Snapfish, my photo processing site of choice. This all took forever—partly because we were having problems with our internet (which the phone company eventually traced to a bad wire 3 miles from here), and partly because I had SO MANY pictures from 2012.

I could not figure it out—that was the first year I was in graduate school, while still working full time. When did I have time to take all those pictures? It then occurred to me that what I didn't have time to do was delete any pictures—there were lots of duplicates, blurry shots, and otherwise not that great photos in the mix. (I also didn't have time to edit the photos—as can be seen from those shadowy faces on the front cover).

I also got my big camera that year, which has got to account for at least some of the excess of photos. Going through these images multiple times (once to upload, once to copy onto hard drive, once to delete, once to import into the album-making thingy, twice more to import them after errors and when  I realized I'd need to be more selective or the images would be the size of postage stamps in order for them to all fit) I was astonished by how much we did that year—out-of-town guests (my parents, my sister, my niece twice), two camping trips, a weekend at camp, a trip to Boston as a family, a trip to Boston with M's class, a boat trip with E and Z's class, a gazillion trips to the beach and to various nature centers and museums and hiking trails. Crafts and art projects and holiday celebrations. It was also the year I kept a nature journal daily When did I have time to read and write all the stuff I needed to for grad school, let alone go to work and sleep? I was exhausted just looking at the pictures!

I have probably overly ambitious plans of uploading and albuming one year every two months for the  rest of 2017. I have a vague hope that there aren't quite as many photos for subsequent years as there were in 2012—maybe I got into the deleting habit. Maybe once M had his own computer (in 2015), mine would host fewer photos of Lego guys and silly videos. But I'm not entirely confident that will be the case—one thing we didn't do in 2012 was go on any big trips, which is when I really go crazy with the camera (at least I've already put my 2013 Ireland trip into an album). Stay tuned for the next installment of Andrea's Quest for Photo Stasis.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...