March 2011

Books read in March 2011:

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. A Baptist preacher from Georgia takes his wife and four daughters to the Congo in the 1960s. Their life there, and what happens after…
  2. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Delightful little stories for one’s Best Beloved. The Elephant Child is my favourite, with his ‘satiable curiosity.
  3. King Lear by William Shakespeare. An old king and his three daughters. A duke and his two sons. A beautiful tragedy.
  4. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. A man’s dreams change reality, and his psychologist takes advantage of this. Almost not quite science-fiction, until you get to the aliens.
  5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Sequel to Hunger Games and just as un-put-downable as the first. What will happen next??
  6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. An eccentric family living in the ruins of an old castle in the 1930s, as told through the diaries of one of the daughters, Cassandra.
  7. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. I love Ray Bradbury. He doesn’t explain anything. Also, he writes about Mars.

Best new read of the month: The Poisonwood Bible.
Best (only) sequel of the month: Catching Fire.
Best non-novel of the month: King Lear.

This was a hard month for choosing bests. The Lathe of Heaven tied for best read, but anyone who reads this blog knows that I am biased to Ursula K. Le Guin. And choosing a best non-novel? How does one compare Just So Stories with King Lear and The Illustrated Man? Each is so incredibly different. I put King Lear because it is a play I have tried to read several times in the past and just never could get into it, but this time I did and I loved it.

I wanted to read Fire and Hemlock this month in honour of Diana Wynne Jones, but didn’t get to it. Soon. I am sad that she has passed away, for I have heard wonderful things about her novels. Neil Gaiman, her friend, wrote a lovely tribute to her here. My first introduction to her story-telling was watching Howl’s Moving Castle, which I thoroughly enjoyed; it made me want to read her work. The legacy of a writer is that their work survives them…

Take with food

I take a lot of medicine.

At the present, I take 8.5 pills a day; 12.5 pills one day a week and 9.5 another, with the odd injection thrown in here and there. This is excluding near-daily pain killers and the occasional allergy tablet after I’ve been working in the garden. Almost none of them can be taken at the same time (or with certain foods or drink), which means I have to remember to take them at various times throughout the day.

  • Prescription A makes me feel better about life.
  • Prescriptions B and C keep my body from self-destructing.
  • Prescription D counters the toxic effect of Prescription C.
  • Prescription E serves a similar purpose as B and C, but in a different capacity.
  • Prescription F is restoring an important mineral to my body.

However, Prescription F might be inhibiting Prescription E, thereby reducing E’s ability to keep my body functioning normally. So in addition to the twelve (12) vials of blood taken out of me this month, I expect to have more taken soon to make sure that I’m still getting enough of Prescription E into my system — once we get today’s results back. And we’re still waiting for the results of some of those other tests. Looking at my diary just now, I’ve gone to the hospital 10 out of the 13 weeks so far of 2011.

Thank goodness for socialised health care.

In other news, there is sunlight. Even though it is grey and raining today, it is light outside, and I can feel the difference. And today while we were fixing lunch, Ros said she saw my friend the grey kitty outside. I went out at once and didn’t see her, so I called for her. Just when I was about to go back inside, she leapt over the hedge and came running to me. We had a good visit and and even played tag around the garden. (She was much better at chasing me than having me chase her, because she wanted to be caught and petted.) Then it started raining harder and I didn’t have on a coat, so I had to go back inside. I didn’t mind the rain though. Kitties are some of the best medicine.

The weekend

Spring has arrived. The daffodils are blooming in our garden, today we changed our clocks, and it’s been warm enough to work outside in a long-sleeved t-shirt with a hoodie in the shade. It also means I’ve been doing odd jobs here and there. I re-strung the washing lines so that one of the lines isn’t an old extension lead and also to give us more room (I found a way to string two lines from each pole) and pulled up the remains of last year’s vegetable garden. After church today I picked up a couple of bags of ‘Grounds for your garden’ from Starbucks to mix in with our soil. I’m glad the Starbucks here does that! We were going to plant our seedlings indoors today, but in the process of planning the layout of our vegetable patch we realised we didn’t know how much room our landlords wanted. So we’re going to wait until we’ve heard back from them — hopefully soon.

Yesterday morning, I saw my friend the pretty grey kitty on the neighbour’s shed. I went out to say hello, but she was intently watching another cat. I got tired of waiting for them to finish their territorial standoff and went back inside to finish making my breakfast. Not long after the other cat was gone she bounded across our garden and was waiting for me at the back door. We visited for a little bit, and then she went to stalk birds and I went inside to eat my breakfast. I’m glad she came back to see me!

So far we have five cats that I’ve seen use our garden as a thoroughfare. I’ll try to keep my camera handy so I can post pictures of them eventually.

It’s head-first back into work tomorrow.

Sermon update

The sermon I wrote about a couple of Sundays ago has been posted to the church website. I added the link to my earlier post, but here it is, too. And also a quote from D’s sermon:

So what I want you to reflect on this morning is that temptation is not just about the things we should very obviously not do – tell lies, hurt others and so on. It also takes much more insidious forms, for it comes equally to those of you who are good, holy and devout. It is there when for perfectly good reasons you get your priorities wrong, as in Jesus’ first temptation. It is there too, when, as in the second temptation, you are not content to rest in the love of God and of those human beings who especially care for you, but instead constantly require that love to be demonstrated, wanting the show and not just the reality, as it were. Finally, it is there too when we come to prefer the good but grand gesture to the humbler responsibilities of the specific context to which God has called us, as in Jesus’ third temptation.

Jesus fasted – went into training – to defeat those temptations, because even he found them difficult to defeat. So will we, unless we also accept that Lent is a call to discipline ourselves, a summons to think clearly and carefully about where our values and motives really lie. Only once we get beyond the view of goodness as an easy conformity to rules will we escape the full power of temptation to corrupt the good. Jesus leads the way not by being totally different from us but by showing that, even as we get closer to God, the temptations get not easier, but more challenging still.

The best sermons, I think, are the ones that challenge us, make us squirm a bit uncomfortably in our seats…

Our Garden, Part 1

First things first: Many congratulations to Kelly, who passed her thesis defense today. Hooray!

Now, to other things. I finished preparing the beds on the east side of the front garden yesterday, and planted more flowers. So this is now what greets us when we walk up to our door:

There is a lot more work to be done in the front garden, but this helps make it look so much better.

We also put up a bird feeder in the back garden, where we can see it from the kitchen window. I hope the birds won’t think that it is too close to the house. Rebecca pointed me to the RSPB‘s application for a free ‘Birds in your garden’ booklet, so I have ordered mine. Here’s the link so you can order one, too!

While my mom and I were lashing the poles together, a kitty came to join us. She was very friendly and very curious. As soon as we started petting her she wouldn’t stop purring, and she and I played in the garden when we were finished with the bird feeder. She is also just simply beautiful. Hopefully my new friend will come back to visit.


My body is sore from gardening most of yesterday afternoon, but it is a good kind of sore. Muscle-tiredness is different from joint-tiredness. I’m joint-tired, too, but I’m used to that. Feeling my muscles stretch doesn’t so much hurt as to feel part of being alive.

I think gardening is a good activity to pick up during Lent. My favourite part of weeding yesterday was pulling up the plants with long runner roots. I liked just seeing how far and the unexpected places the roots would go. I’ve been studying 1 John for Lent, and thinking about God’s love also makes me think of 1 Corinthians 13. While I was thinking about how sin roots itself in our lives like those runner roots, I also thought about what it takes to pull up those long, winding roots from our hearts. When a root is pulled from the soil, it dislodges the dirt around it; likewise, our attitudes will have to be altered for the root to be pulled free. For me, relating this back to 1 Corinthians 13 means aligning my heart with verses 4-7. ‘Love keeps no record of wrongs’ particularly has been pricking my heart. Each Sunday I am reminded of this in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us’. It’s frustrating that it’s taken so long for me to learn (or relearn) this lesson. Thankfully I have plenty more weeds to pull for it to get through this thick skull of mine.

Sunday evening

A quiet evening at home features Ros marking essays at the table and me knitting in my chair, both of us listening to The Phantom of the Opera (film) soundtrack, and mostly singing along. She sang soprano and I sang tenor (as much as I could, anyway). It was a lot of fun.

Lessons from trees

I meant to do more garden work today, but I started reading Catching Fire in the morning and just didn’t put it down. I finished in time for dinner. So, no gardening today. But I did find this passage from the New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques to be especially illuminating:

The life of a transplant

We often expect newly planted trees to romp away after planting, but newly planted bare-root transplants will take at least three years to grow vigorously.

When trees are lifted from the nursery field, they can lose up to 90 percent of their original root system, so in the first year of planting, do not expect too much of the tree, when shoots are likely to be shorter and leaves smaller than normal.

First year:
Roots gradually take hold, but as leaves and shoots are smaller and shorter in the first year, energy for root growth will be limited.

Second year:
Roots spread over a greater distance, so they will be able to take up more water and nutrients, promoting more top growth.

Third & subsequent years:
Vigorous growth results now that the root system is fully recovered from transplanting and the roots are well established.

New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques (Royal Horticultural Society), 91.

I think this can be said for more than just trees…

First steps

I bought some flowers today for our front garden. Ros and I had decided on 1) No pansies; and 2) No pink or white. So I bought sunset-coloured Delia Apricot Primroses, and they bring a bit of the golden fire of sunlight to our garden. My mother and I spent most of the afternoon working on the western half of the front garden (my mother worked on the eastern half yesterday). It is very overgrown and probably hasn’t been tended for a few years. In some ways, it looks messier now than when we started. But I uncovered some daffodil shoots and we all but filled the brown bin with weeds and dead plants.

There is room along the border for us to plant more flowers. Bit by bit we will have to keep working on the west side. I tire easily, so I will work as I am able, but there is something about the smell of earth and being in the sun that revives the soul.

Unread books

Just after Christmas I compiled a list of books that I owned or was borrowing that I hadn’t yet read. It came out to be about a third of my books, and so I resolved to reduce the list by half before I was allowed to ‘acquire’ any more books (i.e., buying or borrowing).

Yesterday, I reached that goal.

Now I am reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is a book I already owned, and would have read by last Christmas (having received it as a gift the previous Christmas), but I had accidentally left it in the U.S. and only recently had it brought to me. I’m curious to see how long I can go without buying a book. I’d have to rely on the public and university libraries, and those of my friends…