life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway: Free Copies of Lucky Southern Women!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lucky Southern Women by Susannah Eanes

Lucky Southern Women

by Susannah Eanes

Giveaway ends August 21, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Five Basics of a Healthy Diet

Often, people ask me if I might help them shop for groceries. It seems that they believe I must know some secret for making quick and efficient work of this chore.

Well, perhaps I do.

Over 20 years ago I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE - commonly referred to as just "lupus." Through trial and error I found a few keys to making life easier. One of these was a diet based on these five basic ideas:

1. Simple
2. Fresh
3. Local
4. Organic
5. Varied

You can remember them by looking at your hand, where it just so happens that there are five fingers - one for each basic idea.

Cool, huh?

These five keys do simplify grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation a great deal. Choices that aren't so good for you are immediately eliminated by keeping them in mind.

Each key can be further described as follows:

In its most basic terms, simple means as few ingredients as possible. It is the first tenet of a basic lifestyle and diet. For instance, when you take a look at the ingredient list printed on a container of food - a loaf of bread, a can of soup, a box of cereal, you should be able to cover it lengthwise with one finger. If a few words or lines of text peek out below that finger, put it back. It isn't simple. Too many ingredients mean food additives and things that aren't really food. You don't need that stuff in your life.
Simple means basic, plain vegetables, fruits, meats, and grains. You can combine them in your kitchen. If you decide to purchase something someone else has made, keep that simple rule in mind. Their list of ingredients shouldn't be any longer than it would be if you'd made it yourself.

Not canned, frozen, pickled, dried, or otherwise preserved. Eat predominantly fresh foods every day. Use preserved foods sparingly. Preserving food is sometimes necessary, but be mindful that it introduces extra ingredients (see "simple") such as salt, flavorings, sugar, and other things you don't want too much of. If you want to preserve foods you can do it yourself. Make your own jams, bread, yogurt, chili beans, pizza, cookies, meat loaf, pudding. You'll know what's in it, and you don't have to worry about things you can't pronounce cluttering up your intestines and causing all sorts of unpleasantness.

The closer something is to your table, the less likely it is to have additives and other questionable unpleasantness like extra sugar, salt, and preservatives. Local means the farmer just outside of town, the dairy up the road, catfish from the river. If you're eating foods from your neighborhood you're going to be more aware of things that might affect your health. Local means fresh, simple, and varied. Local also means fewer environmental impacts in getting that food to you. And that's always a bargain.

One day, we'll all eat this way. Pesticides, herbicides, feedlots and unnecessary pharmaceuticals in our foods cost more and drive up the cost of production. Don't reward bad behavior. Remember, eating organic means you're putting less questionable things in your body. It's better for the earth -- better for our streams, soils, and the air we breathe. But do your research - make sure the company behind the label is reputable and isn't just "greenwashing."

If we go by what's in season not only will we be eating the freshest, healthiest food, but we're assured of a constantly changing variety. Sure, you may go on a binge and want to eat peanut butter for lunch three days in a row, or a week's worth of salads, but normally you won't want to press it beyond that. A varied diet means plenty of choices in color and texture; it means meats and potatoes, soups and sandwiches, nuts, fruits and cheeses. It means raw and cooked, bland and spicy. Use herbs, vinegars, piquant vegetables, peppery spices and creamy milks to add interest and nutrition when you prepare meals. Variety also means don't do it all yourself. Ask for help - children and those who might not normally be found in the kitchen will enjoy meals they helped bring to fruition.

A few final thoughts - 
Given a choice between an organic vegetable shipped across the country and a local but conventional one - choose the local. Many local farms actually use a minimum of artificial pesticides and additives, but haven't been certified because of the cost of the labeling. Bottom line - know where your food comes from. Make sure the actual cost of the food is reflected in your choices. "Cheap" is rarely better, and almost always doesn't take into account the cost to the earth or society. Which means - we'll be paying for it in the long run.

Good food is like medicine. It's an investment in your health. Choose wisely, and you'll reap the rewards of your wisdom!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Handful of Breakfast

"Handful of Breakfast" Bars

Yield: 9 bars
Pre-heat oven to 375 and prepare baking sheet with light coating of vegetable oil

Into large bowl, sift together:
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Add in and combine:
1 1/4 c old-fashioned oatmeal
2 tbsp whole flax seed
1/3 c currants
1/3 c blanched almonds
1/2 c toasted pepitas
1/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c mini chocolate chips (optional)

In separate smaller bowl, blend:
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt *or* regular yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 c apple juice

Add all together and mix well.

Form by handfuls into small rectangular flat loaves and place on oiled baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and place on waxed paper to cool. Wrap individually to store.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Dreams and Second Chances

Heartbreak Ridge to Heartsong Rise

Heartbreak Ridge No More

It sat on the high hills surrounded by a magnificent view, overlooking a cool and inviting stream, as it had for over two hundred years. Each brick had been formed by hand from the clay of the riverbottom, and painstakingly laid in neat rows, held in place by mortar of ash and lime. A small but beautiful plot of land remained of the original plantation, the best nine acres that nourished three springs and beautiful willows. The skeletal remnants of a boxwood garden and a family cemetery stood in silent testament to the families who had lived in, and cared about, this place.

Unfortunately, when we visited sixteen years ago, the mansion was a crumbling wreck.

The foundation was failing, due to someone's uninformed decision to cut through the summer beam that supported the central portion of the house to expand the stairwell descending from the first floor into the basement kitchen. The house was collapsing in on itself, the south wall cracking in protest where a huge failure was visible and would only grow without substantial investment of time, money, and even prayer. The home had been largely otherwise untouched, boasting much evidence of pride, craftmanship, and bustling activity dating from the original late 18th century construction date, including candleboxes in all the first-floor windowsills, thumbprints in the brickwork, once-polished and gleaming hard yellow-pine floors, horsehair plaster, and original paint finishes on the upstairs bedroom doors.

The wooden lintels had collected rain and leached moisture into the brickwork on the outside, causing the mortar to crumble, sad evidence of imminent failure under the sagging weight of the entire front facade - it looked like an old man with the baggy undereyes and downturned lips of a hard life etched across his cheeks.

So many reasons, so much work to do that involved thousands of hours of labor and dollars. So many dollars.

We turned in despair and walked slowly away, taking many dreams and heartfelt agonies of lost potential with us. Husband called it "Heartbreak Ridge," in an attempt to make light of the situation.

But no more. Someone with the wit, patience, and an adequate bank account, had saved it. Unbelievably, now it stands, a larger and steady presence, ready to be occupied once more by a family, a business, someone with even larger dreams.Some of what was done isn't really historically supported, but hey - it remains. It didn't collapse, after all. Hurrah!

Here's to living history, and second chances.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

the writer as pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here.

The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of wedging time to write within the framework of days fraught with other responsibilities having to do with caring for children, putting food on the table, and - oh yeah - doing the work you actually get paid to do.

The second, about Annie Dillard and entitled The Thoreau of the Suburbs, by Diana Saverin, didn't so much tell me things about the author's experiences in writing a Pulitzer-winning nonfiction work in her twenties as it revealed something of what I already knew. (The Dillard's home is well known to us in the Hollins community, and while it surprised me for an instant to see the somewhat nondescript brick ranch just over the little bridge where she lived while working on the book, it didn't really register what a marvelous feat of alchemy she had performed in getting most of us to believe she lived alone in the woods while writing.) As Saverin points out, it's what she left out that instills in us the knowledge of her experience. And isn't that what we're told in writing class - omit that which doesn't contribute to the story, and therefore does not need to be included? Trim, trim, and cut and trim again, until we have the fine, distilled essence of truth.

No one is ever going to know - or care, really - that you went to the grocery store, had two kids in college, and worked a rather boring but remunerative nine-to-five while crafting your massive, awesome book. Can you tell that this frightening yet exhilarating treatise on fecundity was penned while living an ordinary life in a city of about 100,000 people? No? Moreover, does it matter - does it make it any less powerful and interesting? Well, then.

Sometimes things are so subtle I miss them the first - and second and even third - times.

But here it is: you don't have to change your life to write. You just need to do it. Do it when you might otherwise be watching a movie, reading a novel, cleaning off the staircase and putting laundry away. Those things will wait, at least until tomorrow. Today, we can write. A friend noted recently that if you write only 250 words a day by the end of a year you will have 90,000 words - a decent body of writing in anyone's world. And from thence you can whittle and shape and re-arrange, much easier now through cutting and pasting than in the days before word processors when Dillard used index cards.

In these few stolen moments between phone calls I've made tea and written nearly 500 words. By the time this is done it will be closer to six hundred. This is what is called progress. Exercise the fingers, broaden the links between mind and word and screen (or paper, if you prefer). No one is picking up the tab, nobody's awarding us an honorarium for letters, and there's no housekeeper to answer the phone or the door. But we can keep going, we keep writing and we end up with words - words for tomorrow, next week, and the week after - and as they accumulate they turn from sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into essays, stories, and yes, even novels. Or nonfiction - truth, if you will - distilled from life.

Bravo! Now keep going!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

winter, warm and humble

Then came old January wrapped well in many weeds to keep the cold away
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene

Cold weather tends to bring out the hibernation in some of us. I happen to subscribe to this tendency, and do not apologize. Nothing seems more apt when the wind howls at the door than to curl up with a good book, snuggled deep in the blankets, the better to doze when the inclination takes us.

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Old-fashioned Desserts

Chocolate Chess Pie
Adapted from The Harmony Grove Cookbook

2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. whole milk
2 tbsp. plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. unbleached flour
2 1/2 tbsp. Dutch cocoa powder
1 c. unbleached pure cane sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Beat eggs into melted butter, milk, yogurt, vanilla; set aside.
Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into sugar in a separate bowl.
Add all at once to egg-butter-milk mixture, stir to mix thoroughly.
Pour into prepared pie shell and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 - 45 minutes.

Chowning's Tavern Apple Cake
Adapted from Celebrate Virginia! Cookbook                                                          Preheat oven @350

Melt 1 cup unsalted butter and allow to cool in dish until warm to touch but not hot.  

Into a separate large bowl: core, slice and chop 4 ripe, medium sized apples into 1/4" - 1/2" size bits; cover with 2 cups unbleached granulated cane sugar and set aside.

Beat 2 large eggs well and add to butter, beating until smooth and slightly glossy. 

Blend sugar with apples, stirring to coat. Add 3/4 c. chopped walnuts and mix well. Set aside again.

Place in sifter: 1 c. whole wheat flour, 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. cream of tartar, 2 tsp. baking soda with spices: 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. mace, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. coriander. 
Sift all to mix thoroughly into a 3rd bowl.

Blend 2 c. sour milk with egg and butter mixture. If you do not have sour milk you may substitute 
scant 2 c. whole milk mixed with 1/4 c. strained (or greek) yogurt. Blend liquid ingredients well and add to flour & spices in large bowl. Then mix apples, walnuts and sugar into batter, folding in to coat and distribute all well.

Pour into buttered 12-cup dish(es) (9 x 13 rectangular, round bundt, or two 8 x 8 square pans). Bake @ 350 for 45 - 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Let cake stand in pan for 15 minutes, then invert on wire rack to cool.

You may drizzle a glaze of cider and sugar over cooled cake, or serve with ice cream.



Sunday Night Dinner

The cold wet wraps around the house like a blanket. Nestled inside we are warm as toast, about to tuck into a simple dinner of soup and muffins.

Sweet Potato Muffins

Simply replace the banana in a banana muffin recipe with an equal amount of mashed, cooked sweet potato. Delish!

Split-Pea Soup with Rice and Carrots

To six cups chicken stock add 2 c. dried peas, 1 c. rice, 3 carrots (sliced), 1/2 c. chopped onion. Heat thoroughly over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking, for about 45 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

bahleeting the behemoth

So done with supporting blatant arseholes masquerading as consumer advocates.

Today, I'm deleting my Amazon account and anything having to do with the big behemoth. Awhile back I had already removed all payment information, connections to social media, etc.

It took quite a bit of sleuthing to uncover exactly how to do this. Apparently you have to contact Customer Service directly and ask politely, after which they state they will get back to you within 12 hours.

So I'm putting the how-to here, for the erudition of folks with less patience for this tomfoolery than mine, which admittedly is pretty short right now.

To delete your Amazon Account:

Go here:

Under "What can we help you with?"
--Select "Something else"

Under "Tell us more about your issue"
--From the first drop-down menu, select "Account settings"
--From the second drop-down menu, select "Close my account"

Under "How would you like to contact us?"
--Select what works for you - email, phone, chat.

You are most welcome.

Update: I discovered I had another, very very old Amazon account under another email address. I've done this for that one too. It was interesting to see that my first request has not yet been honored - the other account is still there and recognizes me even before I logged into the older one. This is beyond creepy, folks. I'll update here as applicable.

For further reading:
Hightower's Two-Part Takedown of the "Bezon" - Part 1: "Cheap" comes at a very hefty price Part 2: The tax-dodging predator at The Hightower Lowdown
The Amazon Effect at The Nation
Amazon Jungle Review of the book Amazonia at The Guardian
Amazon's Monopoly Must Be Broken
Amazon's Monopsony is Not Okay, by Paul Krugman in the NY Times Readers comment on Paul Krugman's article

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

look. just - look.

Friday, September 12, 2014

the anarchy of dreams

Links I am reading while my mind cogitates:  /


The Principle of Hope:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poetry Monday: The Author to Her Book

Source: Clements Library Chronicles
Anne Bradstreet
        THOU ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain
Till snatched from thence by friends less wise than true
Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
Made thee, in rags, halting, to the press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened, all may judge,
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat—in print—should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But naught save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst vulgars mayst thou roam,
In critics’ hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she, alas, is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

Colonial Prose and Poetry
Edited by William P. Trent and Benjamin W. Wells
The 57 writers in these three volumes spanning more than a century and a half represent the literary and cultural trends in Colonial North America—from the confrontation with the American Indians to Puritan life to opposition to slavery. 

In the earlier period men lived earnestly if not largely, they thought highly if not broadly, they felt nobly if not always with magnanimity.Preface  Trent and Wells

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Any Small Thing Can Save You

Any Small Thing Can Save You
Any Small Thing Can Save You by Christina Adam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Engaging, provocative text that calls to mind the language of Gail Godwin: the same solitary incisive viewpoint. It can be taken in small or large bites, as the chapters flow together seamlessly but stand on their own quite well. I will look for more by this author.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 02, 2014

Poetry Monday: Paracelsus

by Robert Browning, 1835


TRUTH is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW,
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.


I knew, I felt, (perception unexpressed,
Uncomprehended by our narrow thought,
But somehow felt and known in every shift
And change in the spirit,—nay, in every pore
Of the body, even,)—what God is, what we are
What life is—how God tastes an infinite joy
In infinite ways—one everlasting bliss,
From whom all being emanates, all power
Proceeds; in whom is life for evermore,
Yet whom existence in its lowest form
Includes; where dwells enjoyment there is he:
With still a flying point of bliss remote,
A happiness in store afar, a sphere
Of distant glory in full view; thus climbs
Pleasure its heights for ever and for ever.
The centre-fire heaves underneath the earth,
And the earth changes like a human face;
The molten ore bursts up among the rocks,
Winds into the stone’s heart, outbranches bright
In hidden mines, spots barren river-beds,
Crumbles into fine sand where sunbeams bask—
God joys therein! The wroth sea’s waves are edged
With foam, white as the bitten lip of hate,
When, in the solitary waste, strange groups
Of young volcanos come up, cyclops-like,
Staring together with their eyes on flame—
God tastes a pleasure in their uncouth pride.
Then all is still; earth is a wintry clod:
But spring-wind, like a dancing psaltress, passes
Over its breast to waken it, rare verdure
Buds tenderly upon rough banks, between
The withered tree-roots and the cracks of frost,
Like a smile striving with a wrinkled face;
The grass grows bright, the boughs are swoln with blooms
Like chrysalids impatient for the air,
The shining dorrs are busy, beetles run
Along the furrows, ants make their ade;
Above, birds fly in merry flocks, the lark
Soars up and up, shivering for very joy;
Afar the ocean sleeps; white fishing-gulls
Flit where the strand is purple with its tribe
Of nested limpets; savage creatures seek
Their loves in wood and plain—and God renews
His ancient rapture. Thus He dwells in all,
From life’s minute beginnings, up at last
To man—the consummation of this scheme
Of being, the completion of this sphere
Of life: whose attributes had here and there
Been scattered o’er the visible world before,
Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant
To be united in some wondrous whole,
Imperfect qualities throughout creation,
Suggesting some one creature yet to make,
Some point where all those scattered rays should meet
Convergent in the faculties of man. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Poetry Monday: Burnt Norton

Time is the moving image of eternity --Plato

Source: Poetry Chaikhana, Dervishes

Burnt Norton
T. S. Eliot (No. 1 of 'Four Quartets')


Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
          But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
          Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.


Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
          Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.


Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

     Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Internal darkness, deprivation
And destitution of all property,
Desiccation of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.


Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?

Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher's wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.


Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

     The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.

Source: British Listed Buildings, Burnt Norton

Further readings:
"Time, Eternity, and Immortality in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets" by Terry L. Fairchild
"Poetry Landmark: T. S. Eliot's Burnt Norton"
"Let Us Go, Then, to Burnt Norton" by Rebecca Hurt
"At the Still Point: T.S. Eliot, Dance, and Modernism" by Susan Jones
"GARDENING / A Poet's Garden: On a walk" by Helen Chappell

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: Return to Willow Lake

Return to Willow Lake
Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The characters were pretty lovable, and though this story touches on some deep, thought-provoking themes, it never gets heavy or depressing, which is hard to do and maintain credibility in the story. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Review: The Castaways

The Castaways
The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent, intriguing, and very entertaining read, with fully-developed, human-scaled characters who are fitted into the setting with careful attention to detail. Will definitely look for more by this author.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's a coupon worth 25% off the purchase of Lucky Southern Women - Click on the image and enter the coupon code to redeem your discount! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Far We've Come, To Fall So Far

There is simply no excuse for the fact that well into middle age, with advanced degrees, a respectable middle-class income, and a credit history over 20 years long, that my husband and I are still patently unable to purchase a house, and each month we struggle to meet the bills for basic needs such as food, fuel, shelter, clothing, and education.

Consider this: My parents, who were young professionals with no credit background to speak of and a two-year old, in 1963 purchased the home that my mother still lives in. At the time they were both teaching school, with advanced degrees and a respectable middle class income. This home was about five years old and cost $17,000.00 (slightly less than the average price of a new home in the US at the time as recorded by the US Census), and was paid off at the tidy sum of $103.00 per month, principal and interest, well before the time of my father's death in 1988. The property is valued at around $125,000 today; it is a 2/3-acre lot with a 4 BR/1.5 bath home in excellent condition and still located in a respectable neighborhood. My mother also has excellent health insurance and pension benefits and will never have to worry about how she will pay for basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, eyeglasses, and medical care. She never has and she never will. She's a classic example of someone who worked hard, paid her bills and was able to put something away each month for the future. She pays cash for a brand new vehicle about once every eight years or so because she has an abhorrence of paying interest that can not be deducted from one's tax bill. She has lived a tidy, respectable life, and has earned her comfortable retirement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has this handy-dandy little table that details teachers' salaries for the period 1959-2006, with comparable 2006 constant dollars that make it simple to see these salaries' equivalents in 2006 dollars. You will see, for instance, that though my parents jointly earned about $12,000 (my mother taught elementary and my father taught high school), the equivalent salary in 2006 dollars was about $80,000. This was because the cost of housing, fuel, automobiles, education, groceries, clothing, etc. - i.e., the cost of living - was considerably lower then than today.

It's quite shocking, in fact, to look over the chart and see how the value of middle-class salaries fell into the toilet during the ensuing years.

To be perfectly sure we're comparing apples to apples, my mother & father paid about $900 annually for taxes, insurance, and social security, making their effective joint disposable income about $11,100 (including obligations of 3.625% for FICA/SSec, 22.6% less exemptions & deductions for federal taxes, and 2% for Virginia state income tax). Their employers actually contributed to Virginia's retirement system and paid for their health insurance. Employees did not have to contribute at all until shortly before my mother retired in the 1990s. A pension and health insurance were considered part of one's compensation package - those were the days! However, during this period, all of the amounts deducted for FICA and Social Security came from an employee's paycheck; employers did not contribute to those programs at that time. There is a nice table at the Social Security administration's website that details federally mandated deductions for taxes and FICA starting in 1937. Historic federal tax rates are here, and you can peruse the actual 1040 and 1040a forms and instructions used to file back in 1963 at the IRS website. Historical state tax rates are contained within tables in this report.

So - let's compare: my husband and I just happen to jointly earn about $80,000 annually as professionals working in the non-profit and government sectors, from which about $20,000 is deducted in order to pay for medical insurance, withdrawals for retirement and deferred compensation of which our employers pay minuscule matches of less than 15%, and taxes, effectively making our joint disposable income in the neighborhood of $60,000. (Bankrate has a nice calculator to help you determine if adjusting payroll deductions might be a good idea in case you'd like to compare your own).

The problem begins to become apparent.

Take a look at my parents' joint disposable income of $11,100.00 in 1963 transferred to today's dollars in this handy-dandy little table:

[Note: Current data from this source is only available till 2012.] In 2012, the relative worth of $11,100.00 US from 1963 is:

  • $83,200.00 using the Consumer Price Index
  • $64,300.00 using the GDP deflator
  • $93,500.00 using the value of consumer bundle
  • $90,500.00 using the unskilled wage
  • $106,000.00 using the Production Worker Compensation
  • $170,000.00 using the nominal GDP per capita
  • $282,000.00 using the relative share of GDP
  • Put another way, if you want to compare the value of $11,100.00 worth of disposable income in 1963 with what it's worth in 2012 the relative:
    ...historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is $83,200.00
    ...contemporary standard of living value of that income or wealth is $93,500.00
    ...economic status value of that income or wealth is $170,000.00
    ...economic power value of that income or wealth is $282,000.00
    By any measure, our parents were wealthier by far than we can even hope to be, given today's economic realities. Thank you, banks, insurance companies, corporate welfare queens, and politicians. You've made it such a pleasure to be living and working today, working just as hard but making a fraction of what our parents did. Good show.

    See also US Census Historical Income Tables

    Measuring Worth

    1963 Enterprise Statistics



    University of North Texas Library