What’s Making Me Happy – Four

So much is making me happy this week! It’s been a good one!

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

  • Work, in general. I realized this week that I am, at present, completely and totally content with work–and it really snuck up on me. I think it’s in large part down to the people I work for (and with). I get along with them well, and they have really made it an appealing place for me. I really feel fortunate and blessed in this.
  • There was more work goofiness. This time involving jokes about a pig–the local fair is coming up, and they were teasing one of the managers that he was expected to represent the firm and buy us a pig. Verbal madness ensued!:)
  • The music of Hector Belioz. Specifically, Symphonie fantastique, which I was reintroduced to when I was searching out something instrumental to listen to at work when I needed to concentrate extra on a project. Just simply wonderful.
  • The Olympics! Although not a terribly big sports fan, I’ve always been fond of the Olympics, summer or winter. My favorite summer sports include swimming, diving, and gymnastics of which swimming is my favorite.
  • Rooting for a local-to-me athlete. Someone from my home county, Carlin Isles, is on the US men’s Rugby Sevens team. I know almost nothing about the sport, but sounds really exciting and I’ll definitely be seeking it out to cheer on Isles.
  • Rooting for fellow Kent State University alumni. Two recent students will be competing: William Barnes will represent Puerto Rico in men’s 110 m hurdles and Danniel Thomas will represent Jamaica in women’s shot put. #flashesforever!
  • So…I may be a little busy the next couple of weeks. It should be fun!

And you–what’s making you happy this week?

What’s Making Me Happy – Three

And here we are at the end of July! I’d say I was unhappy with how fast it’s sped by except that I’m actually rather happy to see the end of it–that much closer to cooler autumn temperatures! (And a September vacation!) Besides the end of a hot month, what’s making me happy this week:

A sunflower - un girasol

  • The sunflowers are in bloom–a very happy-making thing. I also had fun this week learning a new word: a restaurant I pass everyday going to and from work installed signs this week with their new name, Los Girasoles. I already knew il girasole as the Italian for “the sunflower,” so it didn’t take much work to deduce that los girasoles was the Spanish for “the sunflowers” (el girasol, singular). Now, to just remember that they are pronounced differently!
  • Work goofiness. As in, the sight of one of the studio managers working away as if everything were normal despite the swim cap and swim goggles fixed securely on his head. As one does. Or the senior partner making silly faces at the college student shadowing the marking department every time he stuck his head in the conference room. Just an ordinary Wednesday…
  • Reading! Although the book I just finished definitely ended on a down note (as I had fully expected), the actual process of reading it and two other books this week really has been a joy. It’s been a while since I really sunk myself into a book as well as I did this week. Here’s hoping that continues in this coming week!

And you–what’s making you happy this week?

Completed: The Grey King

Cover: The Grey King by Susan Cooper The Grey King
Susan Cooper
1974, England

I’ve been slowly revisiting The Dark is Rising Sequence over the past year and a half or so, inspired to reread this favorite childhood series by my reading of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. (And after I started my reread, I learned that she was indeed inspired by Cooper’s work.) I haven’t been blogging about these for the most part, but since I’ve included the last two on my 15 Books of Summer list, I thought I’d write up just a little bit.

The series in general–five books in all–is inspired by Arthurian legend, but set in the present day (roughly 1960s/70s, when it was written, though it really doesn’t feel that dated and could equally be now). The first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, was a grail quest, as the three Drew children sought to retrieve the Hold Grail before a group of adult adversaries can. It ends with the Grail in a museum and the tantalizing suggestion that maybe The Merlin has been helping them along the way. And there, I understand, Cooper originally intended to leave it. It was only some years later that she added on the other four books, to round out a series depicting a great battle between the Light and the Dark, a battle ongoing since at least the time of the great King Arthur. The books from this point bounce between protagonists: Will Stanton, the last (and youngest) of the Old Ones, is introduced in book two, The Dark is Rising, where he must search out and retrieve the six signs by Midwinter’s Night. In book three, Greenwitch, the Drews return as protagonists, when they “happen” to meet Will in a small town in Cornwall (the setting of the first book) where they must rescue the stolen Grail back from the Dark.

The fourth book, The Grey King, returns to Will’s point of view. He has been sent to Wales to recuperate after a severe illness. While there, he meets a strange boy, Bran, and Bran’s dog Cafall, and discovers that he will need their help in retrieving a lost gold harp meant to wake the “six sleepers” whose aid the Light will need in their upcoming battle against the Dark. Over the course of the story, Will and Bran will also learn the surprising backstory to Bran’s arrival in Wales and that Bran’s help may be needed for more than finding the harp.

Although commonly classified as fantasy, The Dark is Rising sequence has long felt to me more akin to the myths and legends of long-gone times: of King Arthur, of Brenin Llwyd. Perhaps, in our cynical, rational age, this is a fine distinction. After all, we know that magic doesn’t exist–at least not as defined in fantasy tales. But when I find myself considering what book might most naturally follow next after these, it is the old legends and stories I think of, not more contemporary writers. Cooper, by drawing in bits of stories she only borrows, pushes me towards seeking out stories I don’t yet fully know. And if that is the result of reading one book, to be pushed toward others, I would say that the writer has been successful in their telling.

I read The Grey King as part of my Classics of Children’s Lit project and as #2/15 for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

What’s Making Me Happy – Two

What a fast week! I suppose it was all the busyness at work–so many people are on vacation just now but new jobs just keep coming in. No complaints though; it’s good to be busy. But what’s making me happy this week?

Purple Cone Flower and Brown Eyed Susan

  • My bullet journal – I only just started one about two weeks ago, so I’m still working out just how I want to use it, but both the organizational system and the freedom I’ve given myself to let it not be “perfect” and to experiment are making me very happy. Come to think of it, organization can make me strangely happy, despite how much I hate to clean…
  • As a Northeast Ohio partisan, and ignoring all politics [please don’t air political views here!], all the positive press for the city of Cleveland coming out of the Republican Convention this past week–apparently we’re rather nice in the Midwest, and outsiders are starting to recognize Cleveland’s rebirth.
  • Revisiting the artwork of Beatrix Potter for my final post on her Twenty-three Tales from earlier this week–so delightful!
  • Delicious seasonal peaches (well…imported from the South) and plums.

And you–what’s making you happy this week?

Beatrix Potter Tales Part 3

Oh dear, it’s been so long since I read the rest of the Twenty-three Tales by Beatrix Potter, finishing up shortly after the end of the Classic Children’s Literature Event. But I do want to post something, and fortunately, I took notes as I read. Really, I have no excuse for taking so long, but just a sort of writing avoidance. I seem to be finding that I either have to a) write something up the moment I finish a book or b) sneak up on myself to write a blog post. That last one’s tricky.

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)

I feel like our main character is really Timmy Willie, the country mouse. But no mind. This is a tale of a city mouse and a country mouse. Timmy Willie accidentally visits town and is quite out of place—the noise keeps him awake, the cat frightens him, and the food not at all to his taste. He is much more at home in the country, with his gardens and quiet. He returns home and eventually Johnny returns the visit, but just as Timmy Willie is unsuited to the city, Johnny is unsuited to the country.

 

The Tale of Mr. Tod - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912)

Another tale that seems a bit misnamed, for while Mr. Tod is part of it, and the most exciting action is at his house, it seems to be as much about Tommy Brock and the efforts of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny to recover Benjamin’s little ones from the oven where the badger, Tommy Brock, has hidden them. It is thus a darker tale than the preceding, both for the greater danger the bunnies are in at the hands of the badger than any we have seen yet, and because the illustrations themselves are largely in darker colors than typically used. But it is also quite amusing, to see Mr. Tod’s machinations to get at Tommy Brock and Tommy Brock’s pretending to sleep that he might get the better of Mr. Tod.

Notably, this is the first of these I’ve read with black and white line illustrations as well as watercolors. I read the tales in the order they are numbered in my set, which is not strictly chronological, and it seems whoever ordered them put all the stories containing black and white line illustrations (they still have watercolor images, just not as many) at the back half.

The Tale of Pigling Bland - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913)

We return to the story of a good little animal who due to outside forces finds himself on an adventure. In this case it is Pigling Bland—who doesn’t misbehave, but due to circumstances—the frivolity of his brother, a mixup of papers, and some mistaken turns, winds up lost and in a farmer’s clutches, where he must not only escape, he must rescue a girl-pig, Pig-Wig, from a future as bacon and ham.

It does seem, perhaps, that Pig-Wig may be nearly as frivolous as his brother, so one wonders in the end if Pigling Bland has gained anything? Other than, of course, female companionship.

Although there are many of these tales that only barely ring familiar, really, I’m not sure I ever read this one!

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding (1908)

We follow up with Tom Kitten & his family – Mrs. Tabitha (an “anxious parent”!) is trying to place her kittens in the cupboard to keep them out of trouble while she bakes, but she has lost Tom Kitten. While she searches, Mittens and Moffit also disappear, and she doesn’t find them until a neighbor, Mrs. Ribby, appears and searching together they find the two girls, who have seen two enormous rats—Anna Maria and Samuel Whiskers—running about stealing kitchen supplies. The rats have Tom and are preparing him as a dumpling, when John Joiner (rat terrier, I believe) shows up, and the rats run away.

Despite yet another example of a story in which a young animal is in danger of becoming someone else’s dinner, it really was a rather delightful, fun story. And, it should be noted, Miss Potter makes an appearance. I don’t think this is the first time, but it is the first by name. (The others she has just referred to herself, “I.”)

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905)

Ribby, whom we met in Samuel Whiskers, invites Duchess to tea, and promises to serve a delicious pie. Duchess accepts, but then fears it will be a mouse pie, which she couldn’t eat, so she attempts to switch it out with a veal and ham pie she made, only things don’t quite go to plan, in a most amusing way.

I must say, poor Ribby! It would seem she needs better options for guests. Though I quite understand Duchess’s reluctance to eat mouse pie, her antics in trying to switch out the pies—well, no wonder at the end she feels silly!

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909)

An economics tale! Ginger (cat) and Pickles (terrier) run the same-name shop, and they do rather well as far as quantity of sales—10 times Tabitha Twitchit!—, but as most of their business is on credit, they never seem to get paid. But the taxes must, so they are forced to close up shop and take up new occupation (trapping for Ginger, gamesman for Pickles). The community is dismayed at the loss of the shop, for Tabitha raises her rates and doesn’t take credit, and other options are scarce. Eventually, Sally Henny Penny reopens the shop, much to everyone’s delight, for while she won’t take credit, she is less frightening than a dog or cat and has good bargains.

It is delightful to see so many critters from previous stories in this one—more in the illustrations than show up even in the text. The reader paying good attention to Potter’s illustrations is always rewarded.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930)

“The Owl and the Pussycat”

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

This is the longest of the tales and the only one with chapter divisions; it is nonetheless delightful and diverting, even with far fewer of Potter’s always charming illustrations. Inspired by the Edward Lear poem “The Owl and the Pussycat,” it is the story of the risks of a young pig going alone to market, for although he may be good and sensible, he may not be invulnerable to harm from others. Sure enough, danger finds young Pig Robinson, and there is very real risk he may be—gasp—eaten!

Although Potter has never shied away from the realities of life—that many of her critters may be eaten, either by humans or other predators—here she has one line in particular that is both forthright and amusing: “They led prosperous uneventful lives, and their end was bacon.” (Ch. 1)

With the greater length of this story, Potter has plenty of time to set the scenery—I was truly transported to not just the countryside found in so many of her tales, but to the bustling sea-harbor of Stymouth. I wonder what else she might have done had she turned her attention more to longer stories.

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit - Beatrix Potter

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906)

A very short little moral tale: bad rabbit = consequences! It is a very simple text, as if it is designed not only to impart a lesson (not sharing could lead to bad things), but as if it is meant as an early reader. Quite in contrast to some of the other tales, with their more complex vocabulary and structure (e.g., The Flopsy Bunnies or Little Pig Robinson). It is also one of the earlier stories, as is the following.

The Story of Miss Moppet - Beatrix PotterThe Story of Miss Moppet (1906)

Another very short, simple text, although with delightful illustrations—the expressions! It is a cute story, however, without the moral of the preceding, but rather a vignette of a cat-and-mouse game! Quite charming

Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes - Beatrix Potter

Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes and (1917)

Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes - Beatrix Potter

Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922)

Two short collections of nursery-rhymes, some I recognize from elsewhere (e.g., “Three Blind Mice,” “Goosey, Goosey, Gander”), others by reference, and some I believe to be Potter’s inventions. Although charming in their own right—and easily learnable to recite, with their patterns and rhymes–I’m not sure but that perhaps Potter used them as a raison d’être for more of her imaginative illustrations, which really seem to be the stars in these books.

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