Saturday, October 31, 2020

Poetry Sunday: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

This poem rattled around in my head all last week. I think it was all those pictures of lines of people around the country waiting patiently, or impatiently, but waiting to vote. Millions of them. More than nine million in Texas alone. Nothing is more hopeful than the sight of people exercising their constitutional right to select their leaders. That's not exactly what Maya Angelou was talking about in this poem; she was referencing the history of Black people and racism in this country. But the words seem to fit our current situation as a nation. Decency and honor have been trodden into the dirt over the past four years, but they still exist. And now it is time for them to rise and assert themselves.  

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave...

Still I Rise

by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Friday, October 30, 2020

This week in birds - #424

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

The first of the winter's Eastern Phoebes have arrived. I heard the first ones of the season calling this week. That's always a welcome sound.


At last, we are nearing the end of the election season. If Biden should win, it offers the United States the chance to once again join the community of nations in the Paris Accord and pledge to fight climate change.


The damage that has been done to the environment by the current administration's "meat cleaver" assault on wilderness areas is almost impossible to overstate.


Though many journalists seem to believe otherwise, Joe Biden's climate policy which emphasizes a transition away from the use of fossil fuels is actually quite popular with the public.


The current administration is taking action to strip protections from Alaska's Tongass National Forest and allow logging there even though the move is very unpopular with many Alaskans, especially the Native American population.


Many birds of the boreal forest including Pine Siskins, Red-breasted, and White-breasted Nuthatches are irrupting into the eastern half of the lower 48 states but there is also a significant irruption taking place from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains of birds like jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, and finches.


An important tool for preventing future pandemics is simply protecting the natural world and ending the trade in wildlife.


The Fish and Wildlife Service is once again attempting to remove gray wolves from the protection of the Endangered Species List. Even though the species has significantly recovered, many scientists believe it is not yet time to discontinue those protections. So, it is back to court once again for the environmentalists trying to keep the protections in place. 


Meanwhile, the accession of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court will likely cement a conservative majority that is willing to give polluting industries freer rein, limit the ability of citizens to sue, and call into question the very basis of the EPA to issue and enforce regulations.


As the numbers of right whales continue to fall, it seems that the species may be on the very brink of extinction.


A designated marine protection area around the Antarctica Peninsula could go a long way toward protecting Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins that are being harmed by concentrated fishing for krill, the birds' main source of food.


Even though a La Niña climate event is underway, which normally presages a colder and stormier winter in the northern hemisphere, it is expected that 2020 will be one of the hottest years on record.


And still more scary climate news: Dust levels are rising in the Great Plains giving rise to fears of another Dust Bowl.


More land birds migrate through the eastern part of the United States than the western part and those that migrate through the east travel farther than the western birds. Kenn Kaufman explains why


The Pacific coast off Los Angeles was once a dumping ground for the banned pesticide DDT. Recently, a robot exploring the seafloor there found some of those old dumped containers and it showed them to be leaking.


Do you speak the language of plants? Knowing the scientific name of a plant which is in Latin can tell you quite a lot about that plant.


Madagascar is the land of lemurs and a privately owned park there called Antohakalava that is twice the size of Central Park is home to three critically endangered lemur species.


The president's precious border wall (which Mexico is not paying for) is an ecological disaster for the border area. Vox provides a visual guide.


A scientific study of birds of the Amazon has found that nine insect-eating species that live there are in steep decline.


A chameleon species that had not been seen in a century has been found alive and well in Madagascar by a team of researchers from Germany and Madagascar.


MERMAID (Marine Ecological Research Management AID), which launched last year, is a first of its kind: a free, online-offline platform that allows scientists anywhere in the world to collect, analyze and share field-based coral reef surveys. It offers a way to channel conservation action to save the reefs.


A set of ancient footprints from the Pleistocene Era that were recently found in the southwestern United States tell an interesting story of an adult and toddler human walking in an area full of large animals.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Luster by Raven Leilani: A review


When we first meet Edie she is an assistant book editor at a publishing house in New York. She is a 23-year-old Black woman whose main focus in regard to her workplace seems to be sleeping with as many of her male colleagues as possible rather than actually engaging in doing the work. Not that these sexual adventures appear to provide her with any pleasure; instead it is evident that she seeks them out as a way of escaping from self. 

It is interesting to read the descriptions of corporate life as seen through Edie's eyes. At one point, we get her take on the "diversity" offerings of her publishing house: These include "a slave narrative about a mixed-race house girl fighting for a piece of her father's estate; a slave narrative about a runaway's friendship with the white schoolteacher who selflessly teachers her how to read; a slave narrative about a tragic mulatto who raises the dead with her magic chitlin pies; a domestic drama about a Black maid who, like Schrodinger's cat, is both alive and dead." I believe I discern a pattern here.

When she is finally called into the Human Resources office and fired for sexual impropriety Edie doesn't even bother to ask for an explanation or to protest. She packs up her office and goes.

Not only has she been engaging in serial sexual encounters with multiple partners from her workplace but she is infatuated with Eric who is a much older white man in an open marriage with his wife, Rebecca. This started with an online courtship and progressed not as rapidly as Edie would have liked to a physical relationship. On one occasion, Eric even took her to his home for a romp while his wife and daughter were out.

After Edie is fired, she manages for a while with spot delivery jobs. She has a roommate to help with expenses. But then the roommate moves out and Edie still hasn't found another job. Soon she is drowning in debt.

In this state, she goes to her lover Eric's house; it's not really clear why. She enters the bedroom where she and Eric had sex and is going through his wife's closet when the said wife comes home and discovers her there. Rebecca accepts her presence calmly. She obviously knows who Edie is. In fact, she invites Edie to move into their guest room.

Her interest in Edie becomes apparent when we learn that she and Eric have a 12-year-old adopted daughter, Akila, who is Black. Akila is one of very few Black children in a White suburb and she is lonely and isolated. Rebecca seems to see Edie as a possible friend and counselor for Akila. Eric is out of the country on a business trip and the three females settle down together in a kind of spiky relationship.

Akila is not particularly accepting of any counsel from Edie, but eventually, she does accept her help with her hair. Thus, we get what for me were intriguing conversations and narratives about the care of Black hair. It is fragile in a way that the hair of White people is not and it requires handling by someone who understands its properties. 

In fact, hair is an important plot point in the book. It seems to be one of the first things that Edie notices about other women. And not only does she spend time teaching Akila about the products that she needs to properly care for her hair, at one point, she also carefully dyes Rebecca's hair in response to her request. After Eric returns home, these relationships continue for a while, even as she and Eric resume their sexual adventures.

The narrative proceeds in a fairly linear fashion with the exception that we do get Edie's backstory of her upbringing which includes her father's philandering and her mother's addiction. We get to know a lot about Edie, maybe even too much, but mostly as a list of symptoms and actions rather than a fully-formed character. I freely admit I didn't like her much and I couldn't work up any empathy for her. Is that because of our generational divide or our differences in background? I couldn't say. I can only say that I fully understood the other characters' impatience with Edie as she continues her transgressions against society's norms with little consciousness of the damage that she does to others or to herself.

This is Raven Leilani's debut novel and it was highly touted by critics for its boldness and sexual frankness. It does show promise but a lot of the writing seemed repetitive and flat to me. The pace of the plot is brisk and the atmosphere of the writing is pulpy. The greatest weakness, in my opinion, was a failure to develop the characters beyond their surface appearance and actions. I would rate it at three-and-a-half stars, generously bumped up to four.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Searcher by Tana French: A review


Critics and readers in general often assign Tana French to the niche of crime fiction writers, but that really undervalues her art. Her novels could be more accurately described as thoughtful literary fiction in which a crime takes place. That has never been more true than in her latest novel, The Searcher

Several critics have noted the debt this particular novel owes to the classic Western movies, particularly collaborations between John Ford and John Wayne. The very title of the book is a nod to the Ford/Wayne movie "The Searchers." But there may be just a touch of "The Quiet Man" here, too, in the American who moved to western Ireland and became a part of the local scene in a small village. 

The American here is Cal Hooper, a Chicago cop for twenty-five years. Cal has just endured a rancorous divorce and his adult daughter has moved to Seattle. There seems to be nothing keeping him in Chicago except the job. A job from which he is eligible to retire. And that's exactly what he does. He invests in a fixer-upper cottage in a bucolic Irish village and moves there to set about repairing and upgrading it. It seems the perfect escape for the quiet life that he envisions. He gets acquainted with his neighbors, makes himself known at the local pub, and generally goes about settling into his new life.

Then his cop sense begins to twitch. He begins to suspect that someone is watching him, even to the point of looking in his windows at night. He sets a trap by spreading smooth soil under his windows to capture footprints of the suspected interloper. And sure enough, in the morning, there they are - proof that someone was spying on him.

He stays alert over the next several days and finally, his stalker shows up.  It's a kid - a thirteen-year-old named Trey. Trey comes from a hardscrabble family living on the mountain adjacent to Cal's place. There are six kids in the family and a mother trying to keep them all fed and together. The father is nowhere to be found. Some months earlier, the oldest child, a boy named Brendan, had disappeared. No one has heard from him since and there seems no clue as to where he has gone or if he is still alive. Trey thinks he was kidnapped and wants Cal to find out what happened.

Cal doesn't want to get involved, but once again that cop sense kicks in and he feels a need to solve this mystery. Also, he's becoming attached to Trey who helps him with chores around his place. His conversations with the child inevitably lead him to start asking questions. And that's when he begins to suspect that there are hidden layers to life in this quiet village and that there are dangerous secrets that he would be wise not to disturb. Cal's neighbor, Mart, who had taken the American under his wing and eased his entry to the village delivers an oblique warning that Cal is about to poke a hornet's nest. The warning doesn't take. As Cal goes about asking his inconvenient questions, the reader has a growing sense of dread that this is not going to end well for him or for Trey. 

French builds her plot ever so slowly and carefully with full attention paid to the beauty of the Irish landscape and to the insularity of village life. She makes us feel Cal's loneliness as he longs for his daughter, feeling that perhaps something is wrong in her life but unable to discover what it might be or do anything about it. He even misses being able to discuss things with his ex, Donna. And he begins to suspect that his neighbors are not to be fully trusted.

Some critics have complained that this book is very different from French's Dublin Murder Squad series or her most recent book, The Witch Elm, and they seem disappointed with it for that reason. To which I reply, yes, it is different and why on Earth would you require a talented writer to write variations on the same story every time out? This is a story in which right and wrong are not simple and they are definitely not black and white. These characters' lives are filled with gray areas and morality is a complex issue. It is a narrative that gives the reader much to consider, the kind of thing that one would expect of the best literary fiction.

I liked Cal Hooper quite a lot. Maybe I even fell in love with him a little bit. And Trey is a marvelous and ambiguous character. I did not want my time with them to end. This rates right up there with my favorite French novels. Her artistry and creativity are in full flower.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Poetry Sunday: As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

As children, we all have dreams of how our lives will play out. Most of us probably imagine ourselves as heroes, accomplishing great deeds for which we will gain fame and fortune. Few of us actually see those dreams come true, at least in quite the way we had imagined. The most fortunate of us may see some form of the dreams come true for us. For others, the dreams are edited and changed through the years as imagination bumps up against reality.

This scenario may be true of all people but especially for those whose goals in life are hampered by society's expectations of them, and most especially when those expectations are overlaid by such things as racial prejudice. The acclaimed African-American poet Langston Hughes was well aware of how dreams can be stunted by a wall of prejudice that grows around one and inhibits the ability to act and achieve. As an older man, he wrote about it.   

As I Grew Older

by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

Friday, October 23, 2020

This week in birds - #423

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

One of the winter visitors whose arrival we always look forward to is the Yellow-rumped Warbler Pine Warbler. I don't think they've arrived yet this year. This picture was taken in a previous year. 


Like much else of our society, environmentalism has some of its roots firmly based in racism. This article explains how we might correct that.


The unexplained deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds in the Southwest this late summer and fall still remain a mystery but are thought to be somehow related to the massive wildfires that afflicted the region. Scientists are attempting to get to the root cause and explain the possible connection.


The election is just a week and a half away and environmentalism is very much a part of the decisions that voters will make. The New York Times explains.


We know something of the damage that plastic waste in the ocean can do to the fish and mammals that live there but it can also damage bacteria that are essential to the oxygen cycle, thus making it more difficult for us to simply breathe.


Older male chimpanzees are known to form close reciprocal relationships with a few good friends with whom they interact. No grumpy old men here!


An interesting find this week from the world of archaeology: The image of a huge cat was found among the Nazca lines in Peru. This joins such previously found images as hummingbirds, monkeys, and an orca. The feline line drawing has been dated to 200 - 100 BCE.


The Tawny Frogmouth is one of Australia's most beloved birds and they are found throughout that country. Here are some interesting facts about the birds.


As sea level rises, king tides are becoming a big problem for communities along the East Coast. Floods that used to come only during storms now can happen even on sunny days.


Ethiopia is facing a plague of biblical proportions from desert locusts. Swarms of the insects have damaged 200,000 hectares of crops in a region that was already struggling with food insecurity.  


Tardigrades are tiny organisms less than 1 millimeter in length but they have the knack for surviving in the extreme environment of the Arctic. The creatures, nicknamed water bears or moss piglets, have an uncertain future in our world with its changing climate. 


An uncounted number of North American shrubs, trees, herbs, and other plants have gone extinct since Europeans came to the continent. Here are five that botanists have documented.


Corvids are well known for their intelligence and ability to solve problems. They are perhaps less known for another of their capabilities: generosity and empathy. Their social life is a major factor in determining to what degree they possess these capabilities. Those that raise their offspring cooperatively are more likely to engage in actions that benefit the entire community.  


Countries in Europe that are making positive efforts to control global warming are looking to America's upcoming election with some trepidation and hoping that the new year once again brings them an ally in these efforts.


The description of the Amboteryx as a flying dinosaur is a bit generous. Based on an analysis of its fossils, it appears to have been rather spastic and flight-challenged and likely was only able to hurtle and glide from tree to tree.


A shocking number of birds are killed each year by colliding with buildings. Identifying them is just the first step in understanding the problem. Here is the story of a researcher's efforts to understand and find a solution to the problem.


An attempt to reintroduce the 'Alala, or Hawaiian Crow, to the wild has failed in its first effort. Thirty of the birds had initially been released but they have not had an acceptable rate of survival. Finally, the five remaining birds were recaptured and brought back in order to prevent the extinction of the species. Further study is needed to try to aid the birds' survival in the wild.


Finally, Margaret Renkl makes a plea for voters to consider the health of the planet when they go to mark their ballots.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: A review


I have not read Yaa Gyasi's first novel, Homegoing, but after reading this, her second, I certainly intend to. 

The main character in this book is called Gifty and she shares some biographical information with her creator. Both are children of Ghanaian immigrants to the United States and both grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. It is not clear if any of the other parts of Gifty align with the author's own but any character created by a writer must be informed to some extent by that writer's life experiences. 

Gifty is a brilliant neuroscience graduate student at Stanford. The focus of her research is a study of reward-seeking behavior in mice. Her choice of subject was suggested by her obsession with her brother Nana's struggle with opioids and his subsequent death as a result of that addiction. Her mother's response to her son's struggle and death was to sink into an almost catatonic state of depression. She finally leaves Huntsville, where she has little support, to stay with her daughter at Stanford. Her depression continues and she spends most of her time in bed with her face turned toward the wall.

The one bit of support that the mother had in Huntsville was from the Church of God that she attended. When she first came to Huntsville, she did not understand that she might need to search for a Black church, so the church that she chose had a White congregation and pastor. Hers was the only Black family there. One wonders how her life might have been different if she had found a Black church to attend. When her son fell victim to addiction after a doctor had prescribed OxyContin for a basketball injury, the church members were unsurprised because "their kind does seem to have a taste for drugs." But she stuck with that church through the years and the pastor at least did provide some care and concern for her. Even after she moved to California, Gifty would contact the pastor to try to help her mother deal with her sadness.

As for Gifty's father, he was out of the picture by then. When Gifty was a small child, he had returned to Ghana for a "visit" from which he never returned. He subsequently divorced his wife and remarried in Ghana. Gifty's mother had raised her two children alone in a strange country.

The book's narrative progresses in an elastic time frame. It stretches back and forth from Gifty's childhood and her brother's death from an overdose to her experience at Harvard and the rest of her elite education and encompasses her mother's own suicidal depressions. The back and forth of the narrative seems to mirror the rhythms of a depressive life, one that is not able to leave behind the shadows of the past. At one point, Gifty refers to a study of schizophrenics in India, Ghana, and California in which the voices that the subjects heard were found to be quite different. The voices heard by the Indian and Ghanaian subjects were friendly, sometimes belonging to friends or family members. Those heard by Californian subjects were harsh, hate-filled voices of violence and intrusion. The way that mental illness was experienced seemingly differed from one side of the ocean to the other and depended very much on the surrounding culture. 

Gifty remains something of an enigma to the reader. Although we know the outlines of her brilliant performance as a student and her drive to understand and possibly find a way to cure addiction, her interpersonal experiences remain a bit vague. We do get to know her best through her interactions with her lab partner, Han, but most of her other relationships and feelings are only seen through a glass darkly. The mother is actually the one who is most richly portrayed. Gifty calls her a "matter-of-fact kind of woman, not a cruel woman, exactly, but something quite close to cruel." She is, in fact, an extremely vulnerable woman who puts on the cloak of stoicism as a defense against the wounds of the world.

The story of Transcendent Kingdom is of two women learning to survive in a hostile environment and of somehow maintaining their primal connection in spite of all that the world throws at them.  It is a story that is told brilliantly.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Poetry Sunday: End of Summer by Stanley Kunitz

Summer does not typically end for us in September. Instead, it lingers through most of October and even sometimes into November and December. Wearing shorts on Christmas Day is not unheard of in these parts. But at the end of last week, we did get a glimpse of autumn and were allowed to hope that 90 degrees F days might be over for a while. Daytime temperatures hovered in the 70s and at night dropped all the way into the high 50s. Higher temperatures will likely return this week, but it has been nice while it lasted.

Stanley Kunitz in this 1953 poem celebrated the changing of the seasons. I was particularly struck by his reference to "the unloved year." If ever a year was unloved, it is 2020.

End of Summer

by Stanley Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.
I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.
Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.
Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

Friday, October 16, 2020

This week in birds - #422

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

A Red-tailed Hawk views the world from the top of a utility pole, backed by an October blue sky.


Winter is the peak season for feeding birds in one's yard. Here are some hints about how to do that more effectively.


Earth just recorded its hottest September on record since at least 1880. The year is now on track to possibly become the hottest year on record, breaking the previous record set in 2016.


The Pantanal wetland in Brazil is still burning. Roughly a quarter of the ecosystem has been consumed by wildfires that have been exacerbated by climate change.


A slow-motion ecological catastrophe is occurring at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California-Oregon border. A massive outbreak of avian botulism has killed 40,000 birds so far, mostly waterbirds that gather in the refuge is vast numbers during migration. 


Climate change is causing irreversible shifts in the Asian ecosystem. The Central Asian steppes are being transformed into a desert and perhaps permanently reducing the biodiversity of the region.


When a whale collides with a fast-moving ship, it is generally very bad news for the whale. A new technology called Whale Safe aims to reduce such encounters and make the oceans just a bit safer for sea mammals.


A study by a group of Harvard researchers has found increased radiation downwind of U.S. hydraulic fracturing drilling sites. The significantly higher radiation levels pose a potential health risk to nearby residents.


Bar-tailed Godwit image courtesy of The Guardian.

A Bar-tailed Godwit flew 7,500 miles in a non-stop flight from Alaska to New Zealand breaking the previous record for such avian flights.


The rapid intensification of hurricanes as they near landfall has been linked to the warming ocean currents that have accompanied climate change.


Historically, smalltail shark populations had been among the most abundant of fishes in Brazil, but rampant overfishing over the past 40 years has transformed it into a critically endangered species. It is now perilously close to extinction.


The Arctic region is unraveling faster had been predicted and could well be in an irreversible death spiral. Without drastic action to control climate change, it may be too late to save the Arctic as we know it. 


One of the helicopters making water drops over the huge Creek Fire in California had a close encounter with a Western Screech Owl. The owl actually flew into the cockpit of the copter and sat on the console looking at the crew, seemingly unconcerned. After resting for a few minutes, the bird flew out again.


A global review has found that governments are falling far short of protecting enough of the right areas of their ecosystems to protect biodiversity. 


A mystery regarding the Bearded Vulture that has been causing a stir with its tour of the UK in the past few months has now been solved. A genetic analysis of some of the bird's feathers shows that it is a female bird that was hatched in the wild in the French Alps in 2019.


A COVID-19 outbreak at Utah fur farms has killed 10,000 minks, but a state veterinarian says humans are not at risk from the eruption of the virus.


Birds with large eyes that are adapted for seeing in the darker parts of forests are more affected by artificial lighting in human-altered landscapes and are less able to compensate for it.


The International Energy Agency confirms that solar is now the cheapest electricity in history with technology cheaper than coal and gas in most countries.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2020

Welcome to my zone 9a garden in Southeast Texas. Here's what's blooming this month. 

Tithonia, aka Mexican sunflower, with a grateful bumblebee.

Coral vine.

The lycoris, hurricane lilies, or better known as naked ladies have bloomed sparsely this October. I think they were affected by our long dry period.
Evolvulus glomeratus, 'Blue Daze' groundcover.

Another groundcover, wedelia.

The Cape honeysuckles have bloomed gloriously all month but they are almost spent now.

Clerodendrum bungei, 'Cashmere Bouquet' aka Mexican hydrangea.

Even some of my succulent plants on the patio have been blooming.

Duranta erecta with a few blooms and its berries called "golden dewdrops."


Turk's cap.

The chrysanthemums are only just beginning to bloom.

'Calwell Pink' rose.

Blue plumbago.

Some of the crinums are getting in a few last blooms before taking their rest.

Hamelia patens, aka hummingbird bush.


'Old Blush' antique rose.



Still a few aster blossoms left.

The jatropha got moved to a new location in the spring and apparently it is happy there because it has bloomed profusely all summer long.

Last but hardly least, my 'Lady of Shallot' rose continues to bloom.

Thank you for visiting with me this month. I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and well during this pandemic and that your garden is flourishing. Be sure to visit Carol of May Dreams Gardens, our host for this monthly meme. Happy Bloom Day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny: A review

The latest in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series takes the inspector and his wife out of their little Quebec village of Three Pines and on to Paris. They have gone there to be with their daughter Annie who is about to give birth to their granddaughter. Both of the Gamache's children and their families live in Paris now and Annie's husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second in command, has left police work and is employed in the private sector. Also in Paris is Gamache's elderly godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz. So, it is family reunion time in Gay Paree.

The happy times come to a brutal end when Horowitz is run down by a van while crossing the street. The driver then speeds away. It was all witnessed by Gamache who is sure the "accident" was no accident. Horowitz survives, just barely, and is taken to the hospital in critical condition. When the Paris police seem skeptical that the hit and run was a deliberate attempt on Horowitz's life, Gamache decides to do his own investigation, assisted once again by Beauvoir. When Armand and his wife go to Horowitz's apartment and find a dead body there, a man who had been murdered, that clinches it - an attempted murder and now a murder. It can't be a coincidence.

The investigation into these events takes Gamache and Beauvoir all over Paris, from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the lowest basements of the Paris Archives as they search for the reason for the attacks. There are multiple surprises along the way, some dating from as far back as World War II and the history of the French Resistance, all of which is still very fresh in French memories. The two investigators trace the source of the attacks all the way back to financial moves that were being planned by Horowitz and they learn that betrayal is rife in the world of big finance. Corruption runs deep there and seems to have infected parts of the government, including the police. Whom can they trust?

In a Louise Penny mystery, the story is never just about investigating a crime, or even primarily about investigating a crime. The main point of the story is always about human relationships and about honor in those relationships. The most important thing always is to honor one's family, whether it is one's blood family or the family that one constructs of the friends and people that he or she cares about. That has never been more evident than in All the Devils Are Here where, in fact, all the Gamache family is here and is a part of the investigation. The bonds of family are strained by the challenges they face and by old hurts and resentments but in the end the bonds of honor hold. That seems to be the message that Penny wants to leave us with here: As long as we keep our honor intact, we can face anything and overcome any obstacle. It's a nice sentiment. I'd like to believe it.

At the end of the book, Penny once again gives us a glimpse of the village of Three Pines and all its quirky residents. It feels like coming home.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars