The Four Tendencies

“It’s been freeing to focus on what works for me rather than what’s wrong with me.”

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In May I wrote a blog post about Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin’s very practical guide to habit change. That book overflows with helpful ideas, and one of them is recognizing our natural response to expectations. According to her extensive research, people naturally tend to find they are one of the following:

*Upholder (readily meets both inner and outer expectations)

*Obliger (readily meets outer expectations, struggles to meet inner expectations)

*Questioner (readily meets inner expectations, challenges outer expectations)

*Rebel (resists all expectations, both inner and outer)

I am convinced that this woman is a genius. She says,

“The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren’t those from a particular Tendency, but rather they’re the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.”

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As I mentioned in my previous post on her habits book,  I really enjoy listening to Happier, the podcast this cutting-edge author hosts with her sister. I’ve heard tons of discussion around this simple framework, and lots of listeners’ questions answered on the subject.

So much so that now I feel like a pseudo-expert, myself.  😉

It is interesting, though, to figure out with my family members how we each feel about the expectations that are all around and within us every day.

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As with all such frameworks, the diagnosis is only relevant as it leads to a cure.

So the idea with the Four Tendencies is that once we understand our innate response to inner and outer expectations, we can use that self-awareness to set things up for success. It’s actually pretty inspiring to hear people’s experiences with making changes in their lives once they put this knowledge to use.

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A lot of teachers, doctors, personal trainers, coaches, etc also find this perspective really useful in their work with motivating other people to do their homework, take their medicine, do their workouts, and so on.

I can easily believe this, as looking at old issues through this lens has been fascinating to me and my husband! We laugh together about the foibles we now recognize as parts of our -very different- tendencies, and practice talking to each other in terms of how we each instinctively feel about meeting- or avoiding- expectations.

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Incidentally, my husband (of 23 years) is a Rebel. When I read about this Tendency, it was like someone just explained him to me. Aha. And I think he felt the same way; like someone had just explained him to himself.

He had me pinned as an Upholder, but I am actually an Obliger (with Upholder leanings)… I feel very strongly about the reality of God, and my relationship with Him motivates me to try to be and do my best. So lots of things that I seem to be doing out of a sense of accountability to myself (as an Upholder would), I am, in actual fact, doing out of a deep and abiding sense of accountability to Him.

This book is clever and very useful if you are a person, (or deal with anyone else who is one… 😉

Have you read this book?

Do you listen to the Happier podcast?

What Tendency do you see in yourself, and what does this tell you about what makes you tick?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 😉

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

“It is sometimes easier to be happy if you don’t know everything.”

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Reading this book changed me, and changed my life forever.

It’s become a favourite in a way not many other books could; I love the main character, Precious Ramotswe. She seems so real to me that I’d have to remind myself (were I so inclined, which I’m generally not) that she is a fictional character. I love spending time with her, and sometimes I actually miss her like an old friend.

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of this hugely popular book and its follow-on series, is a genius. I have more respect for him than for almost any other living writer.

Being the first novel in a series (which I hope will never end in my lifetime), we are given a pleasantly meandering introductory tour of Precious’ life leading up to her starting her business. It hasn’t been an easy life, but what makes it beautiful and sweet is her, and her heart, and her perspective. And the author’s sense of humour!

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Cattle are the traditional source of prosperity in her beloved country, Botswana. And it is just this inheritance from her honoured and much-missed Daddy that allows Precious to establish herself as a business woman. That, and her ethics. She cares about people.

“There was so much suffering in Africa that it was tempting just to shrug your shoulders and walk away. But you can’t do that, she thought. You just can’t.”

She sees things in a way that is so clear to her, and makes so much sense, that to “help people with the problems of their lives” is a perfect career for this “traditionally built woman.” I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve laughed while reading about her and her many and varied exploits.

“The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That’s how most people thought.”

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Gabarone, Botswana’s capital city

When the lawyer who was administering her late Daddy’s estate came to speak with her about her inheritance, she stated her intention to buy both a house and a business. He was less than enthusiastic when she announced her plan to “start from scratch” with a detective agency. He made the mistake of asking- out loud- could women even do that?

“Women are the ones who knows what’s going on,’ she said quietly . ‘They are the ones with eyes. Have you not heard of Agatha Christie?”

Our large-and-in-charge leading lady doesn’t wait for grass to grow under her feet. She gets right on with it and is soon open for business. And sure enough, clients come walking through her door with mysteries to solve.

Some are intriguing in terms of human interest (like the case of the teenage girl with a suspected, but unapproved boyfriend, and the philandering husband who she outsmarts at the Go-Go Handsome Man’s Bar…)

Others are a little more complex (think: stolen car, and con man.) One is truly terrifying; a young boy has gone missing, and a witch doctor is the prime suspect. Mma. Ramotswe (Precious) has the courage, instinct, and wits to handle them all.

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She’s clever, and somehow her reflections on life are always refreshing even though they seem so sensible and true that they should be obvious. In spite of her important and challenging work, Precious never lets her work stresses ruin her healthy appetite.

Oh, no. She loves to eat beef, and cake, and pumpkin.

“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”

Haha! I wonder how she cooks her pumpkin to make it so appetizing…? She never mentions pumpkin pie, but seems to enjoy it as a savoury vegetable, which is a bit of a mystery to me… anybody else like to eat pumpkin this way? I’d love to see a good recipe…!

Have you read any of Alexander McCall Smith’s delightful novels? 

Do you, too, know and love Precious Ramotswe?

What’s your favourite story from the books about her?

Thank you for reading with me!

Leah 🙂

p.s. I hope you enjoy this post; if you like it, please feel free to subscribe to my book blog!

 

 

Happiness the Mindful Way

“Mindfulness refers to keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality.”   -Thicht Nhat Hanh

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Happiness The Mindful Way… I’ve had this book for a few years now; it was published in 2015. It’s definitely the most useful resource I’ve seen for understanding this powerful idea in bite-sized portions. This is the kind of book that gets marked up and stuffed with sticky flags and bookmarks. I feel like it has enough really helpful material in it to support a lifetime of mindfulness practise, but it’s totally approachable for beginners… like me 😉

“Mindfulness means purposely paying attention, in the present moment, without making any kind of judgement.”

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This is a  photo my daughter sent me of Waterton lake where she lives for her summer work. What’s so stunning about it is the calm. This place is famous for its wind and waves. I’m happy she takes time to pause and mindfully enjoy the incredible natural beauty around her.

Back to the book: Every page layout is like a display of mindfulness from a different perspective. I love this. I can open it up at any time and be presented with a visually calming spread that gently engages my attention. It’s a nice mellow way to take in any subject, but especially this one.

 

Here’s a picture my son took of a gorgeous local place where he was mountain biking this summer:

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Thankfully, even doing something so active (and muddy), he takes the awesome opportunity to soak in the amazing places where he works and plays. Also, I love that they share their pics with the rest of our family. 

One thing that attracted me to this particular book when I was shopping for one on this subject, was the title. I’m not talking about judging a book by its cover (although we all do that, don’t we?) I am not a fan of all the grey in the cover art. I know it’s a mellow and very trendy tone, so I get why the cover designer used it; it’s just something I look past to enjoy all the treats inside! Anyway, what I do love is the way this book presents mindfulness as a means to happiness. That’s what we all want, whoever we are, and however we go about trying to find and keep and share it.

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And this lovely photo is of a place where our other daughter went camping, near her workplace this summer. Again, nature is such a powerful source of strength and beauty, and I thank Heaven that she, too, treasures it. And shares with us.

So even though my own personal examples of ‘happiness the mindful way’ are all about feeding our souls on nature, this book is bursting with a wide variety of ways and means to understand and benefit from mindfulness. Some of the pages I found most interesting were questionnaires on authenticity, concentration, and self-awareness…

There are five main parts to this handy book:

*Discovering Mindfulness

*Toward a Mindful You

*Mindfulness Meditation

*Mindfulness Life Skills

*Mindfulness When You Need It

Each section is overflowing with lots of helpful tips and different ways to actually practise mindfulness and bring on its benefits. I recommend this simple little volume to anyone who wants to wake up a little more to the wonder and joy all around and within us.

Do you practise mindfulness? How? What are you most alive to that makes you happy from day to day…?

Also, I want to highly recommend that you check out this gorgeous little podcast if you are interested in finding ways -outside of meditation and yoga- to come a bit more alive every day with simple mindfulness practices and attitudes.

https://www.rachaelkable.com/podcast

She is Australian, and adorable.  😉

Thank you for reading with me…

I hope you enjoyed this post; if so, please feel free to comment, and subscribe for more book blog posts every Saturday morning!

Leah 🙂

 

 

My Life In France

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” 

Julia Child 

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She’s so funny!

Julia Child wrote this book about the three things she was most in love with; her husband (Paul), France, and cooking; she had the time of her life when she and Paul moved together- in 1948- to France, where she studied at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris…

Born and raised in a well-to-do family (with hired cooks) in Pasadena, California, Julia met the love of her life in Kandy (Sri Lanka) where they were both stationed in the Office of Strategic Services. Here’s what she said about their marriage:

“We had a happy marriage because we were together all the time. We were friends as well as husband and wife. We just had a good time.”

Their love story is unconventional, unexpected, and undeniably appealing. He loved photography, and was a decade older than she was. She was taller than him, and delightfully real. I really enjoy the photos of the two of them, which are sprinkled throughout My Life In France.

In ‘la belle France’ she really ‘found herself’ as an individual. Her words:

“I had come to the conclusion that I must really be French, only no one had ever informed me of this fact. I loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life.”

Her inspiring story of coming to herself in a foreign country is fascinating to me because I, too, love going places and learning how other people look at life. I feel like I want to take these treasures of perspective and keep them in my pocket until they rub off on me, as she did.

“It seemed that in Paris you could discuss classic literature or architecture or great music with everyone from the garbage collector to the mayor.” 

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Of course it was learning  French cooking, and bringing this skill home to America, that made Julia Child so famous that we’re reading her books over 60 years later!

The story of how this masterpiece came about is mind-boggling! She was so intense; I can’t fathom the countless hours she spent experimenting, practising, and perfecting recipes. Even just translating them into available-in-America ingredients that would work out well was a huge job. But, as she said “…nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”

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She was totally absorbed by learning to cook. It seemed to give her endless supplies of energy, and her dedication to this new passion makes me want to do a lot more of the things that make me lose track of time; passions that just swallow me up for as long as I can stay wrapped up in them.

“I suddenly discovered that cooking was a rich and layered and endlessly fascinating subject. The best way to describe it is to say that I fell in love with French food- the tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals.” 

Saying that, let’s remember that this woman cooked on her TV show, and it went on the air- with her mistakes included! She was no stranger to human error, and she didn’t pretend otherwise! That’s one of the reasons people love her.

“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”

Have you ever read any of Julia Child’s cookbooks? I still (loosely) follow her delicious recipe for stovetop beets. Just so good.

I hope you enjoy reading this post, and that you’ll leave me a comment and follow my blog! 

Thank you for reading with me, 

Leah 🙂

The Mysterious Affair At Styles

“Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.”

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This is the book that began it all… Agatha Christie’s first ever published novel!

She wrote it during World War 1, and after being turned down (hard to believe!) by more than one publisher, it finally made its way into bookstores early in 1921. Since then, Agatha Christie became the best selling novelist of all time, outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. Plenty of time for those who’d refused her to regret that decision!

In the little Essex village of Styles St Mary, we first meet Hercule Poirot… a Belgian refugee, who’d been a great police detective there before fleeing to England with countless others early in WW1. Poirot is hilariously renowned for his devotion to ‘order and method’ in criminal detection.

“Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory—let the theory go.”

He’s recruited to help solve the murder at Styles Court by Arthur Hastings, an officer in the British army who’s on leave recovering from a battle wound. Hastings is a highly likeable character (more than a little bit like ‘my dear Watson’ to the great Sherlock Holmes) He and police Inspector Japp of Scotland yard are to become regular fixtures in the many Poirot stories that followed this one….

And now, for the mystery! Emily Inglethorp, a wealthy older woman is poisoned.

Suspects include her new husband Alfred, who is decades younger than her, John and Lawrence Cavendish (Emily’s stepsons from her first marriage), Mary (John’s wife), as well as the victim’s’s paid companion, Evelyn Howard, and a family friend, Cynthia Murdoch; all of whom were living at Styles at the time of the crime.

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Alfred is suspicious for more than just the obvious reason of his sudden marriage to such a rich woman so much older than himself. He’s not very popular with John and Lawrence, who naturally wish their own father’s fortune to have been left more to them than in the power of their stepmother and her new husband! Mary seems to be (understandably) resentful of their financially dependent position, and Cynthia is working at a WW1 medical dispensary, so she has access to poisons! Even Evelyn Howard, who is generally  considered a good sport, but who is clearly not impressed with her employer’s second husband, isn’t above suspicion.

“They tried to be too clever—and that was their undoing.”

Of course you can be sure of satisfaction among the twists and turns of this clever plot, and if you haven’t read Agatha Christie before, there’s no better place to start than here- at the beginning!

I’m not a fan of gruesome or graphic crime stories, but these ones are classy. The writing is all about the brilliant detective using logic and awareness of human nature to solve mysteries. Plus, it’s fascinating to go back to this old time and far-off place and hear how people thought and spoke. I can never get enough!

Do you like reading mystery/detective novels?

Which are your favourites, and why?

Thank you for reading with me, 

Leah 🙂

p.s. I hope you enjoyed my post today… If so, please leave me a comment, follow my blog, and and feel free to share it with someone else who might like it, too!!

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife

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“I don’t understand all the fuss. If any creature is in danger, you save it, human or animal.” 

This is the only book of Diane Ackerman’s that I’ve ever read, and I’ll readily admit I only even heard of it because of the movie of the same title. I’m so glad she wrote this, so we can all be amazed and inspired by how these heroes cleverly outsmart and bravely overcome a powerful evil, saving hundreds of innocents from its madness.

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Diane Ackerman

It’s the true story of Antonina and her husband Jan Zabinski, who kept a zoo in Warsaw, Poland… They were real, and so- imperfect people who knew how to be bigger than their flaws. This allowed them to see beyond their own troubles and take giant steps over their fears in order to rescue others in far worse danger. I love it.

Antonina was the kind of animal lover who brought up ‘wild’ animals alongside her child in their home, including lynx, badger, and even hyena pups. She cared for them tenderly and took their ways and needs in stride in an incredible way and to an incredible degree.

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Antonina

“Why was it, she asked herself, that ‘animals can sometimes subdue their predatory ways in only a few months, while humans, despite centuries of refinement, can quickly grow more savage than any beast.”

Early in World War 2, when the Germans bombed Warsaw, many of the zoo’s animals and enclosures were destroyed. But the Nazis’ insane obsession with a master race extended beyond humans, and the Warsaw zoo had some valuable animals in its captive breeding program, which the Nazis prized enough to try and exploit as a resource.

In the most horrible irony, while they were capturing millions of Jewish (and other marginalized) people and sending them in cattle cars to concentration camps where they were treated as sub-humans, the Nazis were going to great lengths to recreate strong, ancient, ‘pure’ animal races.

Jan and Antonina decided to take friends into their home to provide them with a safe hiding place. But that wasn’t enough.

“Suffering took hold of me like a magic spell abolishing all differences between friends and strangers.”

Eventually, they were secretly bringing hundreds of Jewish people from the ghetto into their zoo and hiding them in empty animal cages.

The Zabinskis empathy and humanity in a time and place overshadowed by inhumanity and cruelty makes for a terrible contrast, highlighting their heroism.

“We feel what we see, we experience others as self.”

The research that led to the writing of this book is astounding, and the story that unfolds from the pages of history is breathtaking.

It throws down the gauntlet; how many of us are willing to endure even a small inconvenience to stand up for someone who’s being made to suffer for their ethnicity or their religion?

Have you read this book?

What other stories of heroism do you love? 

I’m sure I’ll be writing about other ones as time goes by…

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

ps: I hope you’ll leave me a comment, follow, and share my blog! 

 

 

The Summer Before The War

“War does have a way of interfering with one’s most closely held desires.”

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This yummy novel is part love story, part ode to the English summer of 1914, and partly a gentle feminist manifesto.

Beatrice Nash is a very clever, well read, highly educated woman; more so than is deemed quite proper, really. She’s coming into the little East Sussex town of Rye as a newly appointed Latin teacher, and several of the traditional people there find her a bit shocking. She would become a writer if she could, but has to earn her living, and is frankly fortunate that her own education allows her to do so by using her brain.

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Alas, she is also quite lovely to look at. Still recovering herself after the death of her old father, Beatrice is ready for a fresh start. Thanks to Agatha Kent (an old family connection who is also a well-established matron in Rye society) she has secured this new job. Agatha is a strong proponent of women’s rights and education for all children, including those labelled ‘gypsies’. She’s a super-likeable character, and if I were in the novel, I’d want to spend time with her in the hopes that she’d ‘rub off’ on me!

As so often happens, life has more in store for Beatrice than she had in mind for herself. Though she’s not looking for love, Agatha’s sensitive nephew Hugh Grange (a medical student on his summer break) finds his aunt’s bright and lovely young protege irresistible. Their friendship is growing to mean more to both of them by the end of that fateful summer than either of them expected it to…

“But if all else fails, I can always write her a sonnet.” “A sonnet?” said Hugh. “No woman can resist having her name rhymed with a flower in iambic pentameter,” said Daniel.”

Beatrice had found Hugh’s cousin Daniel pretty charming, but there was no future for the two of them as Daniel is homosexual. As are a pair of young local women Beatrice gets to know. Of course this is all kept quiet, as society was unforgiving toward such individuals….

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….And toward unmarried women who were no longer virgins. This is appallingly evident in the awful case of Celeste, the daughter of an old Belgian professor. They are taken in as refugees by England, as were countless other Belgians early in World War 1. (Naturally, they were a more palatable family to bring into one’s home than many others, who were made far less welcome due to their ‘peasant’ status.)

But poor Celeste is pregnant with the child of the German soldier who had raped her, and incredibly, she’s treated as ‘damaged goods’ by narrow-minded residents of Rye. It’s a relief to me to see how Beatrice Nash is able to make a difference at a time of terrible upheaval and long-overdue change!

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It’s a little tricky to know what to make of the local ‘man of letters’, Mr Tillingham. He seems like a nicely intellectual, slightly eccentric old character; but there’s something about him that feels like sand in my teeth.

Daniel is killed in the fighting, and their poor young Romany student returns home with P.T.S.D. Helen Simonson doesn’t spare her readers a view of the reality of war, which of course contrasts sickeningly with the insanely feverish, flag-waving excitement that drew so many off to battle. Beatrice and Hugh find in each other the love they so deserve after he returns from serving as an army doctor. It doesn’t feel especially romantic, but more like a piece of comfort. They and their lives, like those of millions of others, are forever changed by the war.

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This novel makes the same statement as did Testament of Youth. Violence and death is a senseless waste of life. I wrote a blog post about this intense autobiographical book shortly after I read it. Here’s a link to that: Vera Brittain.

It also reminds me of a more recent post, in which I blogged about another historical novel from the same period and not far away; Jacqueline Winspear’s  The Care and Management of Lies…

Which literary character do you wish you could actually get  inside the world of a novel and hang out with?

If you enjoyed reading this, I hope you’ll follow my blog and pass it on to someone else who might like it, too!

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

Haiku

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Photo by Chad Greiter on Unsplash

I’m an avid Happier podcast listener! Sometimes it’s practical and helpful, other times merely interesting, but always funny.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a weekly conversation between two sisters; one who lives in New York city and writes books about human nature and happiness, and the other who lives in Los Angeles and writes TV shows.

In one episode, they introduced the idea of making up a daily haiku as a little mindfulness moment.

And… if you’re not familiar with haiku, it’s a breathtakingly simple Japanese form of poetry that can also be done in English.

Often about nature, a haiku is simply a thought expressed in 3 little lines; the first line is 5 syllables; the second line is 7 syllables; and the third line is 5 syllables again.

That’s it.

Here’s an example by Gretchen Rubin, one I heard on that podcast episode:

Central Park in bloom.

This year, I made sure to go.

Spring passes too fast.

Here is a link to the podcast notes for that episode.

And if you want to check out some haiku by other Happier podcast listeners, take a look at this hashtag on Twitter!

The idea isn’t to write a masterpiece, just to compose a thought in a mindful way.

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Inspired by this, I found this lovely little haiku book at the library…

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What’s interesting about this tiny volume is the way it brings together the works of traditional Japanese poets (translated into English), and throws in a few classic English poets.

Here are a few I liked from Japanese poets.

Today’s moon;

Will there be anyone 

Not taking up his pen?

-Onitsura

 

This ramshackle house, 

And me just the same as ever-

The first day of spring.

-Issa

 

My life,-

How much more of it remains?

The night is brief.

-Shiki

 

Along this road

Goes no-one

This autumn eve.

-Basho

 

In the icy moonlight

Small stones

Crunch underfoot.

-Buson

And here are some haiku-like lines written by western word artists…

 

I will touch 

A hundred flowers

And pick not one.

-Millay

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(me touching, but not picking a flower 😉

A violet

By a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye.

-Wordsworth

 

not seeing 

the room is white

until that red apple

-Virgil

 

I was puzzled by the way the haiku poems collected in this anthology  are so loose in their ‘syllables per line’ structure! I wondered if it had something to do with the translation…

Then I read (in the foreword) this explanation by Peter Washington, the editor:

“Everyone is familiar with the notion that haiku have seventeen syllables, arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. What matters more is the combination of subtlety, force, economy, and technical refinement…”

That clarifies for me how great poets can get away with having a very fluid relationship with the rules. I think I’ll just stick to the standard form. Maybe one day I’ll graduate to the level of haiku composition that can afford to flout the rulebook, but not yet! I may not have a professional grasp on subtlety, force, economy, and technical refinement, but I can make up a symmetrical little poem with 17 syllables. Here goes:

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fresh green fir branches

reach out friendly hands to me

earthy smelling woods

-Leah

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That’s from Sunday afternoon; it’s a sweet and easy way for me to remember my walk up the riverbank trail with my husband.

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Have you ever tried making up a haiku?

What else do you like to do for little moments of mindfulness on busy (or slow) days?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 😉

Footsteps in the Dark

“It was growing late, and though one might stand on the brink of a deep chasm of disaster, one was still obliged to dress for dinner.”

~ Georgette Heyer

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Delicious. This really hit the spot.

Interwar England is one of my favourite settings to read in, and Georgette Heyer is one of my favourite reasons for this! Published in 1932, Footsteps in the Dark is the first of the many mystery novels written by this prolific author. I enjoyed it so much that I went straight on to her next mystery, and don’t plan to stop until I’ve read them all.

(Or until I run out of access on my library app for the month. That happened fast.)

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Georgette Heyer

I could compare it to Agatha Christie’s detective stories; only somehow a little lighter in tone, and a little more emphasis on the action as it happens than on the brilliant mind solving the crime. I like how Georgette Heyer always seems to write one character who is terribly clever in that very dry English way; it lightens the mood of the book and really takes the edge off the tension created by creepy mysteries unfolding among such prosaic and unsuspecting snobs.

The old-fashioned thriller woven through with social comedy is a perfect combination, like eating sour candy.

When the story begins, Celia Malcolm and her siblings (Peter and Margaret Fortescue) have just inherited a charming old country house.  Against the advice of Celia’s husband Charles, they decide to keep it as a summer residence. ‘The Priory’ has barely been maintained since the tenants were haunted away a few years ago by the resident ghost (a ‘monk’.) There’s no telephone or even any electricity installed, but they (with their elderly aunt, Mrs. Bosanquet) cheerfully drive up the long lane through the forebodingly dark woods to the house for a season of rustic, if genteel rest and relaxation…

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Charles and Peter’s idea of a good vacation involves a bit of fishing, so they take full advantage of the estate’s trout stream, and on their way home one day they happen to spy a couple of men who are acting and talking rather suspiciously. One of them is the mysterious stranger who helped Margaret out when she had car trouble the day before, and the other is the shifty character they’d recently spotted eavesdropping on their conversation with the innkeeper in the local pub. Hmm.

There aren’t many neighbours of sufficient social standing to get together with for dinners and card parties, but the Fortescues do enjoy some such visits with the local gentry; enter Colonel Ackerly (a retired military officer who plays a mean game of lawn tennis), and the eccentric Mr. Titmarsh (a devoted and enthusiastic collector of rare moths), as well as Dr. and Mrs. Roote (the tipsy village doctor and his long-suffering wife)…

There are a few other locals who show up in this old-school cast, but the last one I’ll mention is Monsieur Duval. He’s an appallingly rude, drug addicted artist who lives in a secluded cottage near The Priory. His egotism is matched only by everyone else’s utter distaste for his company (and his art.)

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If you’re in the mood for secret moving panels, winding passages, skeletons, and terrifying noises in the night, barely laced with a little touch of romance, this vintage thriller might be the book for you.

While this novel is not to be taken at all seriously, it’s brilliant as lightly thrilling escape literature! Of course, reading novels set long ago and far away is one thing, but I find that when I read ones that were actually written in other periods I have to overlook some very out-dated attitudes in order to enjoy the story for what it is. This is fine with me; I’m not a fan of revisionist history and the flavour is more authentic than anything a modern author could dream up.

Do you prefer to read stories set in modern times, or take in a little time travel on your way through a book?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

 

 

Pemberley Shades

“Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

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Ooh. Aah. This is a vintage sequel, the second Pride and Prejudice spin-off ever published… It came out in 1949!

(Incidentally, the first ever sequel to Pride and Prejudice, the most famous- of Jane Austen‘s novels, was published in 1915, entitled Old Friends and New Fancies.)

Back to our feature presentation: Pemberley Shades.

What a delightful book. The language feels quite authentic and the story is imagined really well, which is believable since its author was a clergyman’s daughter who grew up (with a governess) in Victorian England, and lived out her days as a single woman living with her family- as had Jane Austen herself.

~I’m excited to share with you an excellent blog post I discovered about the story of this story, especially it’s recent republication!

Pemberley Shades: The Legend of the Lost Sequel

On to the story itself…

Things are not always what they seem. Least of all, people.

This photo of the Derbyshire countryside (where our story takes place), seen through the mist, really captures our novel’s tone; trying to get a clear view through a screen of lies…

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Photo by Ali Gooya on Unsplash

So, we begin just a few years after the end of Pride and Prejudice… at Pemberley (the famous Darcy family estate) with Elizabeth and Darcy; happily married parents of young Richard (their cute, but somewhat spoiled son and heir.) Darcy’s musically talented younger sister, Georgiana, is still single and so living at home with the happy couple.

As their local rector has recently passed away, Darcy is on task to fulfil his responsibility of choosing and providing a new one to preach and minister to his tenants. He’s determined to avoid having the unbearable Mr. Collins foisted upon them all by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who has a hate on for her former favourite.

In the meantime his friendly neighbour Robert Mortimer of Clopwell Priory has been kindly filling in at the pulpit. But alas, in spending so much time at Pemberley, he finds himself infatuated with Georgiana. Which is sad for him, as she does not return his sentiments.

In the nick of time, Darcy receives a recommendation for a clergyman who sounds like just the ticket. Enter Mr. Stephen Acworth. And this is where the plot thickens.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so I’ll now become a little vague (to match the thickening plot.)

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English manor house, site for the BBC’s filming of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

We are treated to a  letter from Mr. Collins, and extended visits by several amusing characters from the original cast; including Lady Catherine De Bourgh and her poor daughter Anne (who seems to have had enough of her domineering mother), the hopelessly good-natured Jane with her beloved Bingley and their children, as well as Elizabeth’s somewhat reformed younger sister Kitty, their mildly eccentric father, and the all-around wonderful Aunt Gardiner.

“Sound principles are not always found in conjunction with a sweet temper, a superior understanding and elegant manners, but Mrs Gardiner possessed all these attributes and more besides.”

The ‘lightly gothic’ tension in the plot of Pemberley Shades reminds me of Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen’s slightly spoofy Gothic drama.)

So whet your lips for some thrillingly awkward, even frightening scenes deep in the shady woodlands, some shockingly improper behaviour by those who should know better, and some downright satisfying (if surprising) romantic entanglements!

I’m sure any fans of Jane Austen (and her entourage of follow-on novels) will enjoy this book as much as I did.

Which other Austen-esque ‘sequels’ or ‘alternate endings’ have you read, and which would you recommend?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂