As I have done the last few years, I’m celebrating my birthday, which is June 9, all month long, starting today. Unlike last year, where I celebrated big for my 50th birthday with a few trips here and there throughout the month, including a weekend trip with my wife to wineries on Seneca Lake in upstate New York, this year understandably I’m keeping the celebration low-key. We only have one trip planned: next Tuesday, on my actual birthday, to visit with family about 60 miles away since the counties in Pennsylvania we live in have gone “green.” Of course, we’ll be practicing social distancing, but it still will be good to see them.
Other than that, I am off four days from work this coming weekend, with at least for June the library where I work being closed on Sundays and Mondays for quarantining items and cleaning of the building. I took Tuesday as a vacation day and just have Saturday off. We’re doing curbside pickup for now, if you’re wondering.
Other than that, for the weekend, I’m going to give myself a goal of finishing the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot that I’ve been reading the last few years. The last book in the series, at least in the American version, is Every Living Thing.
Throughout the month, I plan on continuing my phone-free Sundays. I also will be continuing to read the second volume of two of the complete Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. Yesterday I finished the collection, His Last Bow, and now only have The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes left.
In terms of chronology in the canon, the short story “His Last Bow” is the last appearance of Sherlock Holmes and is after he is retired and living in the country. I think is a fitting end for Holmes, especially as the story is at the cusp of World War I and with Conan Doyle giving the detective perhaps the best lines of the canon, as he says to Watson:
“There’s an east wind coming…such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither…But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”
As for today, it is the end of my wife’s work week and the end of my weekend. So we’re keeping it chill here, as I’m extending my phone-free Sunday, and my wife is joining me. Our only exception is Scrabble Go. And even though we’re not going to wine country in New York this month, there will be wine, including today.
So I’ll leave with this ditty in celebration of wine:
Tomorrow I’m joining Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon for the umpteenth time. However, unlike other readathons like this, I do not have a large stack of books or a goal on time. I only have two books: one that is in progress and almost finished, the first of two volumes of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories; the other, Every Living Thing, the last part of the All Creatures Great in Small series, by James Herriot.
With the Sherlock Holmes, I’m in the middle of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which is toward the end of the first volume. As for the Herriot series, over the last few years, I have been making my way slowly through the series, usually during other readathons, so I thought I’d return to it for yet another readathon.
I am hoping to do better for this readathon than I have for the last two readathons over the last two months: Off The Grid Readathon and Social Distancing MiniReadathon. Both were a bust (why I’m not providing links), but I’m not going to lie it’s been hard to concentrate within the last 40 days I’ve been sequestered almost continuously except for one or two trips out for medications and groceries. I’m hoping now that with the news of our part of Pennsylvania might be reopening potentially in a couple of weeks, I can focus a little more on reading. It’s not that there’s not anxiety, which I’ll spare you the litany here, but it is less anxiety, or maybe more manageable anxiety now, than what it was a month ago.
Take off the mask you might be wearing. Give yourself a break from micromanaging how you come across to others. Allow yourself the freedom to be you, with all your virtues and vices. Doing so will embolden and empower others to try the same.
from A Mindful Year by Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Seth J. Gillihan PhD
“Excellent! And a mask?”
“I can make a couple out of black silk.”
“I can see that you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of thing. Very good, do you make the masks…”
from “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In light of COVID-19 and as a nation we are being told to wear masks to help prevent the pandemic’s spread, out of context the above mask quote from the book of daily reflections I’ve been using for this year seems to be counter to that directive. However, in context, where the previous reflection before that invitation is about depression, it isn’t; to wit: “Sadly, due to social stigma, many of us often hide what we’re going through from others” and “It takes courage to let go of a positive facade. There is freedom to be found in making peace with where we are and what we’re experiencing. The great irony is that accepting our situation allows change to take place — it allows us to return to what matters most to us and take action in line with our values.”
To that end of taking off the figurative mask, I do suffer from depression, and not just because of COVID-19 and family and friends that I know who have had either presumptive cases or actual cases, but because I’ve always suffered from depression. I’ve taken Prozac for almost the last 30 years and just before the stay-at-home order, I began teletherapy (because of the physical distances involved) with a counselor through a free program offered by our insurance. In short, it is going well, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Making it easier today is this readathon, with all of my notifications shut off and only periodic updates here on the blog and on Instagram.
I just finished my second short story of the day, “The Adventure of The Six Napoleons,” which I remembered what happened as I was reading, after reading my first short story of the day, “The Adventure of Charles August Milverton” mentioned above. Both are short stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes in the first volume of two that I am reading of the Holmes canon.
I also am using The Sherlock Holmes Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK Publishing as a guide, as recommended by Emma of the blog Words and Peace. I’m not always finding the plot synopsis that helpful, although at times I do because I’m not really following what is happening. However, I am finding the historical background of the stories, especially as cases relate to real-life events happening during Doyle’s time, fascinating.
Update No. 3: Saturday afternoon, 12:20 p.m.
I just finished “The Adventure of the Three Students” within the last hour. I also have been checking in briefly on Instagram and providing updates and comments there. However, I still have notifications shut off. I think I might take a brief poetry break before returning to finish The Return of Sherlock Holmes in this first volume of two of the Holmes canon. Here are highlights of the first quarter of this readathon in photos:
Update No. 4: Saturday afternoon/evening, 6 p.m.
I just returned from a walk and am getting ready to have dinner, barbecue seitan pizza, with my wife before she goes to work tonight for a 12-hour-shift. On my walk, I listened to “The Adventure of The Golden Pince-Nez” as narrated by Simon Vance, for my fourth Sherlock Holmes story of the day. Where have been I since this morning?
I took a nap for about an hour.
I tried to read a collection of poetry that I thought would be good, but it wasn’t…at least, not for right now.
I searched for other poetry and found some that I might read later tonight and for audiobooks via Audible (two free credits as a Prime member with a 30-day trial). I found Simon Vance reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes and also his narration of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Since I already was reading the Holmes collection, I decided to start there instead of tackling Dickens right now.
During dinner, we’ll probably watch some Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and then after she leaves at about 7:30, I’ll return to either more reading or listening of Sherlock Holmes or poetry. Here are some photos from my walk via Instagram:
I finished my readathon last night by listening to and reading the last two short stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes .
So how are you and reading getting along during all “this”? Are you able to concentrate? If so, what are you reading? If not, what would you like to read when you are able to concentrate? If joining the readathon, let me know your plans. If not, no worries, you don’t have to tell me why not. I get it, we’re all in different places, not only geographically but mentally and physically and also just with whatever we have planned for our weekends, even if not going out anywhere. Wherever you are, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, hope you, your families, and friends are staying safe and well.
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.
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.