Monday, July 30, 2018

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: A review

Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is trying to tell you something? It's a sense that comes to me not infrequently when I'm in my garden or I'm watching wildlife. Both have much to teach me. And it's an intuition that comes to me often when I am reading books.

In the last several months, no less than three books that I have read and that have touched me deeply have made reference to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Clearly the universe was saying to me, "READ THIS BOOK!"

I resisted at first because I had, in fact, read this book many years ago and I thought I remembered it fairly well. But after I read Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones in February, I knew I had to read what many consider to be Faulkner's masterpiece once again. 

As I Lay Dying tells the story of the dirt-poor Bundren family, led by their patriarch Anse, surely one of the most feckless, worthless, good-for-nothing characters in all of fiction. There are five Bundren children: Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. We meet the family as their wife and mother, Addie, is near death. She lies in her bed under the covers in sweltering July in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, as different members of the family take turns fanning her. Outside her window, she can hear the sawing and hammering by her oldest son, Cash, as he fashions her coffin.

The story is told in turns by each member of the family; each chapter features the voice of a different member. Also, we hear the voices of a few neighbors or benefactors who take pity on the woebegone family and come to their aid along the way. It is Faulkner's distinctive narrative structure, using multiple points of view and the inner psychological voices of the characters to advance the plot and explore motives and action.

Death comes to Addie and they dress her in her wedding dress, place her body in the coffin and nail it shut. But that's just the beginning.

Addie had always expressed a desire to be buried in the county seat town of Jefferson where she was raised and where her family is buried. Anse had promised that he would take her there to be buried. So, they hitch the mules to the wagon and load Addie's coffin on it and set out on the days-long journey to Jefferson.

If the weather had cooperated, perhaps they could have made the trip without incident, but they are beset by torrential rains which flood the river which they must cross. They are forced to take shelter with neighbors along the way. 

The days pass and the inevitable happens; a foul odor emanates from the coffin. During the day, vultures circle overhead and sometimes alight on the coffin when they stop moving. The scene is pure Southern gothic in which Faulkner uses almost equal parts of humor and grotesquerie to paint the picture for his readers.

As they attempt to cross the river, the wagon capsizes and the mules become tangled in their traces and drown. Cash's tools which he had brought along are lost in the river and he himself almost drowns and suffers a badly broken leg. The coffin is almost lost. But the wretched family is able to survive, retrieve the coffin and the wagon, and eventually all of Cash's tools, as each member of the family, except worthless Anse, goes back into the raging waters to find all of his beloved implements. It's at this point that one realizes that these sad-sack people actually love each other. At least, they love Cash. They know what those tools mean to him and they are unwilling to have them lost.   

They find another team of mules and resume their trip, which continues to be one disaster after another. After flood comes fire, the revelation of Dewey Dell's unwanted pregnancy and her attempts to end it, Darl's descent into madness, and nine long days pass and the number of vultures gathering overhead increases daily. Vardaman, the youngest son, chases them away as they come near or land on the coffin. And amazingly, the Bundrens receive help from various neighbors along the way. 

This book was published in 1930. Most of Faulkner's best work was done in the first half of the twentieth century, much of it in the first third of that century. He wrote of the social realities of life in the South as it made the transition - or, in some instances, struggled against making the transition - from the Civil War to the modern era. He wrote of a culture that was impoverished both economically and intellectually, but in which the people still hung on to their stubborn pride and their concept of dignity. I think his ultimate triumph in expressing all of these ideas was this book. 

My favorite chapter in As I Lay Dying is Addie's chapter. It actually comes after she has died but it is her telling the story of how she, who was intellectually his superior, came to be married to Anse and how their lives together took shape. The chapter reminds me of nothing so much as Molly's soliloquy in Joyce's Ulysses. (Maybe I need to read that book again, too.) And my favorite part of the chapter is Addie's meditation on how words come to be:
“That was when I learned that words are no good; that words dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at. When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn't care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride, who never had the pride.” 
"...and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.” 
“People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.” 
God, that man could write! 

Faulkner, of course, has been an inspiration to many of his fellow writers, especially Southern writers. I see much of him in the work of Jesmyn Ward. Her Batiste family in Salvage the Bones echoes the Bundrens.

Yes, this macabre, visceral story still has relevance for us almost a hundred years later. It still has things to teach us about the human spirit and condition. I'm glad the universe sent me an urgent message to read it.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Poetry Sunday: My Cats by Charles Bukowski

I had a request to feature poetry by Charles Bukowski here, so I looked around for an appropriate poem and the first one I landed on was "My Cats." Well, obviously, it was meant to be! I looked no further.

My Cats

by Charles Bukowski

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and
concerns.

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
much.

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can't
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.

when I am feeling
low
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns.

I study these
creatures.

they are my
teachers. 


Rudy, one of my cats, who teaches me.

Friday, July 27, 2018

This week in birds - #313

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:


The Sora is a small attractive member of the secretive rail family. I photographed this one at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

*~*~*~*

There can be little doubt among rational people who accept the findings of science that global climate warming is supercharging this hot and dangerous summer across the northern hemisphere. Even areas near the Arctic Circle are being affected.

*~*~*~*

The heat wave in Japan has certainly been supercharged and extremely deadly. At least 65 people died from the effects of the extreme weather in just one week. 

*~*~*~*

Land use changes are a major driver of species declines, but in addition to the habitat to which they’re best adapted, many bird species use “alternative” habitats such as urban and agricultural land. Evolution appears to favor those species, such as Chipping Sparrows, that are able to make the adjustment and thrive in different types of habitats.

*~*~*~*

A new scientific report details how an extended wall along our southern border would harm species on both sides of that border. Thousands of scientists have expressed alarm over any effort to build such an impermeable wall.

*~*~*~*

Charlie Pierce has an appreciation of Nathaniel Prior Reed, a conservationist who was instrumental in instituting many of the environmental protection laws that came about in the 1970s. Reed died recently at the age of 84. He was a different kind of a Republican - the Teddy Roosevelt kind.

*~*~*~*

Fortunately, there are still people like Reed who devote their lives to defending the Earth from the violent assault against it. Here are nine of them.

*~*~*~*

Australia's critically endangered Swift Parrot needs such a champion. Its habitat is being destroyed by logging and the government seems to be dragging its feet on providing protection for it.

*~*~*~*

The Earth is drowning in plastic. Solving the problem of plastic will require a coordinated effort by local and international governments. It is essential that that effort be made.

*~*~*~*

Republican-led changes to the Endangered Species Act put plants and animals across America at risk. Here are six that would be sacrificed to the oil and gas industry.

*~*~*~*

Another large new study examines links between rising temperatures and an increase in suicides. Since temperatures are likely to keep rising for the foreseeable future, this is an alarming prospect.

*~*~*~*

A policy that elevated the role that science played in decision-making and emphasized that parks should take precautionary steps to protect natural and historic treasures has been rescinded by the National Park Service, under pressure from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

*~*~*~*

The Washington Post has the story of an unlikely courtship: "The crane who fell in love with a human."

*~*~*~*

Remember the program in this country that used ultralight aircraft to lead captive born Whooping Cranes on migration? Well, the same strategy is now being used in Europe with Northern Bald Ibises. The birds which have been extinct in Central Europe are being reintroduced to the area using this method.

*~*~*~*

A study of anoles in the Caribbean found that those animals that survived last year's deadly hurricanes had toe pads that were larger and front legs that were longer than the population of anoles that had been measured before the storms. 

*~*~*~*


You may have already seen this remarkable photo taken by amateur wildlife photographer Brent Cizek at Lake Bemidji in Minnesota. It is a female Common Merganser Duck with seventy-six ducklings following her. No, they are not all hers! Actually, mergansers are one of the water birds that employ creches to care for their young. So one female may have the young from several different nests in her care at any given time. It is a remarkably efficient day care system. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: A review

Earlier this year, I read Madeline Miller's latest book, Circe, and enjoyed it so much that I put this earlier work of hers on my reading list. While I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, I still found it a rewarding read and could easily understand why it was the winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction.

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of Achilles' friend and lover, Patroclus. The story is told from the point of view of the love story of Achilles and Patroclus.

Patroclus is introduced as a pre-pubescent prince of a minor Greek kingdom. One day, as he is being bullied by another boy, he pushes the boy who falls and cracks his head on a stone. The boy is killed by the fall and Patroclus is exiled from his home, sent to live in the kingdom of Phthia and be raised by its king, Peleus. This was a common practice in the Greek states of that day.

King Peleus has a son who is of approximately the same age as Patroclus. That son is Achilles, who is a demigod, son of Peleus' forced union with the sea goddess, Thetis. Achilles is the golden boy, the "best of all the Greeks."

Patroclus and Achilles grow up in the same household and Patroclus eventually catches Achilles' eye and interest and comes to be his "special friend." As they reach sexual maturity, the nature of their relationship changes and they become lovers.

Their idyllic existence is changed forever when the Trojan prince, Paris, kidnaps (perhaps willingly) Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Menelaus' brother Agamemnon had been looking for an excuse to attack Troy and take its great wealth. And so Helen becomes his "weapon of mass destruction," a convenient pretext to wage a war he had been itching to start. The other kings of Greece are bound by a blood oath to retrieve Helen and so off they all go, along with their armies, in search of glory and gold. Achilles and Patroclus go with them.

The Greeks are sure that the conquest of Troy will be quick. Ten years and thousands of deaths later, they are still fighting on the plains of Anatolia.

My reading of The Iliad left me with a jaundiced view of the Greeks. I always felt that Homer agreed with me. His telling of the story seemed much more sympathetic to the Trojan side than to the Greeks. The Greeks, on the whole, were presented as a bunch of bombastic jerks, convinced of their own superiority, and giving hubris a bad name. And Achilles always impressed me as perhaps the worst of the lot, or running a close second to Agamemnon. Madeline Miller attempts to present them - or at least to present Patroclus and Achilles - in a more sympathetic light. She is somewhat successful.

My favorite part of her retelling was the early part of the book in which she gives us Patroclus' and Achilles' backstories and in which we see them growing up together. I felt the middle part of the book, the long sojourn in Troy, was less successful; once again, basically, the Greeks are a bunch of barbaric jerks and she can't really disguise that without changing the nature of the well-known tale. The conclusion, when all the calamitous prophesies are coming true, was another strong bit of writing and the book ended with the tragedy of Achilles and Patroclus. And, of course, the tragedy of Hector, the true hero of the piece.

Once again in this story as in Circe, Odysseus plays a central role. I get the impression that Miller has an affinity for his character and enjoys writing about him. Maybe that should be her next book.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monday, July 23, 2018

In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear: A review

September 1939. Very soon a state of war will exist between England and Germany.  Appeasement has failed. It will never succeed with a bully; they always demand more. The title of this book is taken from the king's speech at the beginning of England's war.

Faithful readers of this series, myself included, have now followed Maisie Dobbs from her late childhood before World War I, through that war where she served as a military nurse and was seriously injured along with the doctor with whom she was in love, and after the war as she began to recover from her wounds and accepted that Simon, her doctor lover, never would, and began to build her business as a private investigator and psychologist. We've seen her fall in love again after Simon's death and eventually marry and become pregnant, only to see her husband die in the crash of the plane he was testing and herself delivering a stillborn child on that same day. After a stint in Spain helping the Republicans in their war against the Nationalists and a mission to Munich on behalf of British intelligence, we find her back in England, still building her business and preparing, like the rest of the British population, for war. Now you are all up to date and don't have to read all those twelve earlier books! 

But you would miss a lot of good reading if you skipped them. Winspear is a fairly meticulous researcher and her books are very good at evoking the flavor of the period about which she writes. The action of the novels is set in the actual events of the day and the books give one a sense of what ordinary people were going through at the time. Her main character Maisie can be quite stolid and a bit too perfect at times - really, does the woman have no faults or weaknesses? - but, on the whole, the characters are well-drawn and the plots, though somewhat esoteric, do move along. 

The plot of this one harkens back to World War I when England took in many refugees from Belgium. After the war, most went back home, but some, especially those who were in their late teen years when they emigrated, had put down roots in England and chose to stay there. Now one of them has been murdered and the police are not making any headway in solving the crime. The Belgian Embassy, in the person of a Belgian intelligence operative with whom she has worked before, contacts Maisie and hires her to investigate.

No sooner has Maisie begun her investigation than another man who was a Belgian refugee during the First World War is killed in a manner similar to the first victim. Delving deeper, Maisie finds that a third such man had died just a year earlier, with his death attributed to suicide, but she suspects that it, too, was murder. What connected all these men, other than the fact that they were Belgian refugees who settled in England? What happened in their shared past that has led someone, more than twenty years later, to take their lives?

Meantime, as the country gets ready for war, the children of London are being evacuated to the country and Maisie's home is offering sanctuary to three of them. The family of the two boys, brothers, is known, but there is a little girl, perhaps five years old, who is unknown and possibly an orphan. Complicating matters, she arrived with no documentation and she is not speaking. Another mystery for Maisie Dobbs to solve.

While this was not the strongest entry in this series, it was well-written and held my interest throughout. I solved the mystery of the murders pretty early on, although I had to wait for Maisie to follow the trail and figure out the "why." And it seemed pretty obvious to me from the beginning that the little girl Anna was going to be taken in by Maisie, perhaps on a permanent basis. Perhaps I'll find out for sure when I read the latest entry that came out in March of this year.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Poetry Sunday: Things by Jorge Luis Borges

Earlier this month, I featured a poem by Donald Hall called "The Things" for my Poetry Sunday post. One of my blogger friends, Carmen, commented on it and directed my attention to this poem by Jorge Luis Borges. It is on much the same theme - the things with which we surround ourselves, the things that fill up our lives, and the things that will inevitably be left behind when we are gone. Things that will "never know that we are gone."

Things

by Jorge Luis Borges


My walking-stick, small change, key-ring,
The docile lock and the belated
Notes my few days left will grant
No time to read, the cards, the table,
A book, in its pages, that pressed
Violet, the leavings of an afternoon
Doubtless unforgettable, forgotten,
The reddened mirror facing to the west
Where burns illusory dawn. Many things,
Files, sills, atlases, wine-glasses, nails,
Which serve us, like unspeaking slaves,
So blind and so mysteriously secret!
They’ll long outlast our oblivion;
And never know that we are gone.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

This week in birds - #312

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:



The Plain Chachalaca is a turkey-like bird that is fairly common in Mexico and Central America. It also appears along the Texas-Mexico border where I photographed this one. The bird announces it name with its raucous call which is unmistakable. 

*~*~*~*

Those in charge of the Interior Department are bent on making it more difficult to shield species under the Endangered Species Act. They want to make it easier for roads, pipelines, and other construction projects to gain approval. They've also started the process of rolling back the National Environmental Policy Act, an obscure law that is considered the cornerstone of environmental policy, laying out the process federal agencies must follow when considering major infrastructure projects. After all, who needs all that wildlife and strange plants?

*~*~*~*

For several years now, there has been a movement in California to restore floodplains, by moving levees back from rivers and planting trees, shrubs and grasses in the low-lying land between. The goal has been to go back in time, to bring back some of the habitat for birds, animals and fish that existed before the state was developed. This movement to plant trees has been given added impetus by bouts of extreme weather which give a glimpse of what the future will be like unless we take action. 

*~*~*~*

In 2017 four African nations launched the Akashinga program (“The Brave Ones” in Shona). The program is developing a new force of all-female wildlife rangers tasked with protecting rhinos, elephants, and other wildlife from poachers. Akashinga has so far recruited and trained nearly three dozen women. a departure from the male-centric military and special-ops that has until now been the world of wildlife rangers, what the founder of Akashinga calls “one of the ultimate boys’ clubs.” Goodness knows the rhinos, elephants, and other African wildlife need all the help they can get.

*~*~*~*

The Common Nighthawk population has been declining in recent years. Now a research project employing tiny transmitters to track the birds is attempting to find the causes for the decline.

*~*~*~*

More and more animals are learning to survive and thrive in suburban and even urban settings. Lately, those adjusting to life in the city have included Wild Turkeys and bobcats.

*~*~*~*

A study has revealed the shocking finding that the air in some national parks is as polluted as that in cities.

*~*~*~*

Two endangered butterflies, the Schaus' swallowtail and the Miami blue, are being reintroduced to their former habitat into the Florida Keys. There will be several releases of the butterflies in the area over the next several months.

*~*~*~*

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives offers a new funding stream for state wildlife programs, including efforts to help hundreds of bird species in decline that need urgent conservation action. The Senate version of this bill was introduced on July 18, 2018. Although the bills do have bipartisan sponsors, it remains to be seen if they can actually pass in the fractured Congress, or indeed if they would be signed into law if passed.

*~*~*~*

It is possible, indeed likely, that some South Asian cities will become unbearably hot - literally - if global greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace. Extreme heat can kill and it already has killed dozens of people in that region this summer.

*~*~*~*

Grevy's zebras were once widespread across the Horn of Africa but their habitat has been decimated by civil unrest and competition with humans and their livestock. Poaching has also taken a large toll. Now local communities in Kenya are banding together to try to protect the endangered zebras.

*~*~*~*

In the U.K., a habitat connectivity study has shown the importance to butterflies of that connectivity in allowing them to be able to freely and safely move from one area to another.

*~*~*~*

I can't say I've noticed it in my area but some places in the country are apparently experiencing a firefly boom this summer. Scientists are attributing the success of this season for fireflies to a wet spring which gave them ideal conditions for reproducing. 

*~*~*~*

Edge Effects has an article posted about "The Science of Seasons on an Out-of-sync Planet."

*~*~*~*

For all you citizen scientists out there, today begins National Moth Week. You can register and report your observations of moths.

*~*~*~*

And finally, some beauty to end the week: Here's a link to "The week in wildlife - in pictures."

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: A review

"Women in particular ... I want you to get more involved. Because men have been getting on my nerves lately."
- Barack Obama hosting a town hall in Johannesburg this week.

Meg Wolitzer has written a book about feminism whose timeliness can hardly be overemphasized. Indeed, its narrative in many ways seems wholly lifted from the news stories of the day.

We have the naive young college freshman named Greer Kadetsky who is the novel's primary protagonist. Greer had hoped to be going to an Ivy League college, but because of her incompetent parents' failure to complete all necessary forms on time, she ends up going to second-rate Ryland College, while her long-time boyfriend, Cory, goes to Princeton. Though her college may be second-rate, she makes a first-rate friend in a queer girl named Zee Eisenstat.

Zee convinces Greer to go with her to a party at a frat house on campus and it is there that the all too familiar story of sexual assault takes place. Greer is forcefully groped by a drunken and entitled "bro" from the frat. Shaken and sickened by the experience, Greer is finally convinced by Zee that she has to report it and, when she does, other girls come forward to tell of similar experiences with that same jerk. After an investigation, the groper gets a slap on the wrist but continues in college and life for his victims is diminished by the lack of justice.

Somewhat later, a famous, or perhaps notorious, feminist called Faith Frank comes to campus to speak and Greer gets a chance to talk with her one on one and tell her story. Faith inspires Greer to persevere and to overcome obstacles to be a force for change and for making the world a better place, a safer place for women. It is the beginning of a relationship that will change and give direction to Greer's life.

Much of this tale is told from Greer's perspective but we also get to know Cory, Zee, and Faith individually and to learn how they came to be who they are. The focus, though, is Greer and her relationships with Cory, Zee, and Faith.

After college, Greer gets an opportunity to go to work for Faith in a new foundation that is to give a hand up to women around the world, to help them become self-actualized and effective in their communities and countries. Through their relationship, Wolitzer explores the sometimes provocative and confrontational world of intergenerational feminism. How can a young woman of the 21st century relate to a woman who went through the struggles of the '60s and '70s and who made what seemed at the time to be necessary compromises to accomplish the difficult task of raising women up and fighting for equality in the world? On the other hand, how can a woman from the '60s begin to understand the challenges faced by young women today and the impatience they feel with the patriarchal assumption that male dominance is the way the world should be? Their mentor/mentee relationship eventually founders on the rocks of the cynical compromises of the mentor and the righteously indignant judgment of the mentee.

Along the way, Greer's relationship with Cory also founders after a horrible accident that rocks both their worlds and broke the heart of this reader, and the relationship with Zee is broken through Greer's feelings of guilt over her betrayal of Zee when Zee had asked for her help in finding a job.

So much of this book resonates with the current political climate in this country; even to the end when Zee and Greer learn that the young man who assaulted and shamed Greer in college is still engaged in those activities fifteen years later. Only now he does it online! Yes, he now has a revenge porn website where he and other lowlifes like him can assault and shame women in view of the world.

Truly, men are getting on my nerves, too, Barack.

Wolitzer's novel is full of wit and insight and gives its readers a lot to contemplate. It would be nice to think that this book would be read by both women AND men, but I am not hopeful that those of the male persuasion will pick it up and give it the serious attention it needs. The book has its flaws, I suppose, but it is a reminder of how important it is that each of us do what we can to change the world, no matter how small our contribution may seem. It's the only way we can progress in this "big terribleness," as Wolitzer calls our current situation - one woman rising at a time.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars  
           

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva: A review

The Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon has been outed. His cover as the art restorer Mario Delvechhio has been blown. His enemies know who he is and where he is which puts him in mortal danger.

Responding to the threat, the Israeli intelligence service hastily extracts Allon and his lover, who is also an Israeli agent, from Venice and brings them back to Israel where they are given new quarters and Gabriel must go to the "Office" every day to participate in an inquisition as to how the latest debacle happened.

There had recently been several terrorist bombings of Israeli facilities around the world, bombings that were attributed to Palestinians, but the Israelis must figure out who is planning and executing these attacks. There is an urgency about doing this before another attack takes place.

Meanwhile, Gabriel has made arrangements to bring his wife, Leah, who has been in a nursing facility in England for thirteen years since the explosion that killed their son and seriously injured her, back to Israel. And his current lover is pressuring him to finally divorce Leah and marry her. All the necessary papers have been drawn up; all he has to do is sign them. 

The search for the person responsible for the current wave of terrorist attacks leads back to the Black September Movement and to Allon's first assignment as an assassin - to kill those who attacked and killed members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972. At length, Gabriel becomes convinced that the perpetrator of these latest attacks may be the son and grandson of earlier terrorists, that it may, in fact, be the son of one of the Black September terrorists that he killed.

Daniel Silva provides quite a fascinating history of how Black September came to be as well as its forerunners. This "history" is fictionalized, of course, and has a definite Israeli bias, but then the protagonist/hero is Israeli, so it could hardly be otherwise. No doubt if he were Palestinian, the "history" would slant a bit differently. Nevertheless, the backstory provided by Silva is based on verifiable historical events and it gives considerable context to the current and ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis over the blood-soaked unholy land of the Middle East.

In my opinion, this fifth book in the Allon series is the best one yet, to a great extent because of the historical background that is given, but also because Silva seems to have a firmer, more sure-handed grasp of his characters this time. And that is to be expected, of course. The more one writes about a character, obviously the better known that character becomes to him.

I found the plot of this book more gripping and compelling than some of the others in the series. It was also pretty straightforward and easy to follow. The moment when Allon learns that his physically and mentally damaged wife has been kidnapped was a turning point in the story and in the series for me. It made Allon somehow more human and sympathetic, not the pitiless automaton that he has occasionally seemed.  

Prince of Fire was a thriller in the best sense of the word. It was a book that, once started, I didn't want to put down.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2018/Poetry Sunday - July by Helen Hunt Jackson

July

by Helen Hunt Jackson


Some flowers are withered and some joys have died; 
The garden reeks with an East Indian scent 
From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent; 
The white heat pales the skies from side to side; 
But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content, 
Like starry blooms on a new firmament, 
White lilies float and regally abide. 
In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed; 
The lily does not feel their brazen glare. 
In vain the pallid clouds refuse to share 
Their dews, the lily feels no thirst, no dread. 
Unharmed she lifts her queenly face and head; 
She drinks of living waters and keeps fair. 

~~~


The water lily does not feel the brazen glare of the hot July rays. "She drinks of living waters and keeps fair."

And what else is blooming in my garden this July?


The milk and wine lilies will wilt in the hot rays, but in the early morning they are fresh and lovely.


'Ellen Bosanquet' crinums seem unaffected by the heat.


And so do the blue plumbagos.


The purple oxalis blooms best in cool weather, but even in midsummer it puts out a few of its pretty little blossoms.


Dahlias are definitely summer flowers.


The crocosmia is nearing the end of its bloom cycle.


Pentas.


Last year's marigolds reseeded themselves this year and the volunteers have been blooming their hearts out all summer all around the garden.
  

It's called blue salvia but it sure looks purple to me.


Purple coneflowers.


Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' - common name black-eyed Susan.


Anisacanthus - also called flame acanthus.


'Caldwell Pink,' an antique rose.


Lantana.


The strange little blossoms of the buttonbush are much sought after by pollinators of many kinds.


 Snapdragons - still snapping.


Gaillardia.


Jatropha - just about to bloom.


Four o'clocks.


Hamelia patens with a bee attendant.


Angelonia.


Crape myrtle.


Yellow cestrum.


Duranta erecta's blooms are almost always covered in butterflies, but naturally when I went to take this picture, there wasn't a butterfly in sight.
  

We've had a pretty wet summer so far and the Texas sage, whose blossoming is triggered by rain, has already had several bloom cycles.


Justicia 'Orange Flame.'


The blossoms do look like flames, don't they?


'Lady of Shallott' rose. 


It's called Joe Pye weed, but it's not a weed; it's a lovely plant, a favorite of butterflies.


'Cashmere Bouquet' clerodendrum.


Tropical milkweed.


Summer phlox.


It wouldn't be summer without sunflowers.


Purple basil, beloved by bees.


Cypress vine. I got my start of this plant many years ago from my mother. It reseeds itself prolifically every year and whenever I see it, it reminds me of her.


'Darcy Bussell' rose.


The groundcover called wedelia.


Red columbines still bloom under the magnolia tree.


'Pride of Barbados' (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) - one of the more colorful members of the pea family.

With the weekly rain showers that we've had, it has been a struggle to stay ahead of the weeds in my garden and I fear I am losing the battle. But the rain that encourages the weeds has also helped to keep the flowers healthy and blooming, so I guess I'll take that trade-off.

Thank you for visiting my zone 9a garden this month and I look forward to visiting yours in turn. Thank you Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting us.

Happy Bloom Day!