Pushing Forward Back February/March 2020

Highlights from this past month: getting a new table for our kitchen, getting a romanesco cauliflower in our Misfits Market subscription box, Seamus (as usual), and the cover art for the book Blue Horses by Mary Oliver.

February found me finally reading poetry this past week after going back and forth whether or not I wanted to read it or not. I read two Mary Oliver books: Dream Work and Blue Horses, enjoying the latter more than the former. I also read two other books this past month:

  • Heaven, My Home, the second in the Highway 59 series, by Attica Locke.
  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi,

enjoying the former over the latter with those two as Attica Locke continues to astound me with her writing.

I still am continuing to read the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories and Pillar of Fire, the second in the America in the King Years series, by Taylor Branch, something I will continue into March.

Highlights of the month include our getting a new table set for our kitchen, our watching the movie Knives Out (which was very good) and having a day off this past and my taking the day off this past Wednesday for Ash Wednesday.

March: we have no special plans, but I am taking a vacation day for the first day of Spring, which comes this year on Thursday, March 19. If the weather cooperates, maybe I’ll get out for a hike that day in the nearby Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to celebrate the changing of the seasons.

The only other thing I know for sure that I’m adding to my reading for March is Lent Is Not Rocket Science: An Exploration of God, Creation, and the Cosmos: Meditations for 40 Days of Lent by W. Nicholas Knisely, the 13th and current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island.

On the TV and movies front, I guess the movie I’m most looking forward to seeing is Jumanji: The Next Level, which comes out on DVd and streaming on March 17. The first one was a pleasant surprise and I’m hoping the second one will be good too. Last month, we also watched the Zombieland sequel: Double Tap and enjoyed that so hope we will continue our success with sequels.

I’ll leave you with this, from my favorite contemporary composer:

Posts from February:

Some. Of. The. Poetry.

I began the month gung-ho for poetry, joining a poetry challenge, and then doubling down on reading All. The. Poetry. Then after deciding I had bitten off too much, I declared I would have None. Of. The. Poetry. But yesterday after reading two books of poetry, I now am thinking I’ll be okay with Some. Of. The. Poetry.

The two books of poetry were by the late Mary Oliver: Dream Work and Blue Horses. I read both yesterday on Ash Wednesday, which I took off as a vacation day. I borrowed the first from Prime Reading, the second from the Free Library of Philadelphia via the Libby app. While I liked the first one, I enjoyed the second one more for poems like the main poem:

Listen to “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses” by Mary Oliver by On Being Studios on #SoundCloud
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/franz-marcs-blue-horses-by

The poem was inspired by the painting below:

Turm der blauen Pferde (The Tower of the Blue Horses) c. 1913 by Franz Marc (1880–1916).

I guess I am okay with poetry. For now. At least. Some. Of. The. Poetry.

Lenten Plans 2020

In the Episcopalian tradition, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Because I am Episcopalian, at least in name, not in church attendance, that is how long I will be observing Lent. Here is what I plan on doing for Lent, in accordance with invitation from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 265) to observe Lent “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word”:

  • Starting Lent with a day off from work today during which my wife and I are attending an Ash Wednesday service at our church and then staying in a meditative frame of mind the rest of the day by listening to quiet music and reading.
  • Praying Daily Devotions both morning and at the close of the day, using the website of the Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church. The devotions also include links to readings from the Bible for the day, which I plan on reading too.
  • Reading Lent Is Not Rocket Science: An Exploration of God, Creation, and the Cosmos: Meditations for 40 Days of Lent by W. Nicholas Knisely, the 13th and current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. According to his biography on the diocesan website, Knisely was a graduate student at the University of Delaware when he decided to leave behind his studies of Physics and Astronomy and was sent to Yale/Berkeley Divinity School to study for the priesthood. He also taught Physics and Astronomy for nearly seven years at Lehigh University while he was serving in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
  • Denying myself alcohol and soda throughout Lent.
  • Ending Lent by going to church that Saturday, Holy Saturday, or Sunday, Easter, depending on my schedule.

If you are a Christian and observe Lent, what are your plans for the season? If you belong to another faith tradition, do you have practices within it to reflect on our faith daily and/or periodically? Anything you read for your particular faith? If you have no faith tradition, how do you relax/meditate/stay calm?

I used my post from last year on my Lenten Plans 2019 as a template for this post.

None. Of. The. Poetry.

This past week I decided I’m abandoning the Poetry Reading Challenge 2020.

The option I chose was to receive a poem via email from the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day Project and to pick out and write about my favorite poems from one week a month here on the blog. Then not only did I double down on the challenge, to do it each week, but also I tripled down to add listening to a poetry podcast The Slowdown by Tracy K. Smith, the former Poet Laureate of the United States and including those poems in the mix of ones from which I’d choose my favorites. 

After only two weeks of trying this, I’ve learned that neither poetry resource is going to work for me. It seems with both, that every poem, or at least every other poem, is as depressing as f***. Right now, with some stresses at work that I am dealing with, or really maybe…EVER, I don’t need that. 

I also want to refocus my reading efforts on the two fronts I already was working:

  • With fiction, to get back to “old school” detective fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.
  • With nonfiction, to return to reading Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years trilogy.

To those ends, this weekend I want to continue my reading of the Sherlock Holmes canon and the eighth Nero Wolfe novel, Where There’s A Will. I also want to continue reading Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65, the second in the series, that I began a few weeks ago. 

While I only read four Sherlock Holmes short stories earlier in the week, I enjoyed reading them. With Doyle, it is not as much about the mystery as it is about how Holmes learns of the mystery and what he does or doesn’t do once he has solved the mystery. In that regard, he is much like Hercule Poirot that he allows circumstances to happen, sometimes to the detriment of others, making himself the judge, jury and sometimes executioner. I look forward to reading some more this weekend and during the upcoming week.

This doesn’t mean that I am abandoning poetry altogether. I would like to circle back to poetry in April for National Poetry Month, but on my own terms. I just have to face the fact that I am not good at long-term reading challenges with others. When I give myself reading challenges, I am mostly fine. For April, I think I will leave things more open to wherever “the spirit moves me” than saying that I will limit my poetry reading to x, y, or z.

This weekend, though, I am refocusing on older detective fiction and civil rights history. Wish me luck.

Update: Saturday was a bust for reading, but some Saturdays are like that as I just like to get out of town and go somewhere for lunch. Yesterday was such a day. I start Sunday with higher hopes, but am beginning first by reading other Sunday Salon posts and other posts from throughout the week. Among the posts are a return by Florinda of the blog The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness and a celebration of 8 years of blogging by Karen of Booker Talk.

Speaking of x numbers of blogging, I just received a notification yesterday from WordPress.com that I have been with them for 12 years. While I think I have been blogging on and off, mostly on, for 15 years, I joined WordPress.com 12 years ago. As I have off this coming week on Wednesday and Friday, I will try to write up a post about 12 years of blogging that I will share next week.