Rest in peace, Mary Oliver

I have no idea how it happened, but the poet Mary Oliver died last week and I didn’t find out until today. Oliver wrote nature-heavy self-carey type stuff that I generally avoid these days, but it’s beautiful and merits another look. I read her work obsessively when I was in high school after an English assignment to read one of her poems – possibly this one, my favorite:

The Journey


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

What’s funny is that I don’t think I fully understood it until now. That happens a lot with books I read in high school. Fifteen-year-old-me related it to my Teenage Angst, and it fueled so much bad poetry. I’m glad I threw most of (all of?) that away.

Anyway, it appears to be high time I dive back in and read a collection or two. There’s a good chance I have one at home from twenty years ago.

Ye Olde Annual Book Post

I’ve read so few books this year that this should, at least be easy. My current count on Goodreads is 28, which will hopefully be 29 before January 1 if I finish Lord of the Rings in time. I’m currently around 45%, so we’ll see how that turns out. I should also probably note that a few of these were children’s books, so that count should probably be smaller.

I was about to link to all the others, but then I realized that all of those posts are in an unlinkable nether region somewhere in Palmer’s domain. Maybe I should dig them up, but I’m not going to because I’ve Moved On from the book blog. Except that I’m currently writing a post about books.

As in the past, I’ll list the books and rate them. Bold means I really liked them, italics means I didn’t like them, and no emphasis means they were good enough.

The Books

  1. God – Reza Aslan
  2. Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft
  3. Cooking up a Storm – Staff of the Times Picayune
  4. The Black Tides of Heaven – Jy Yang
  5. Adulthood is a Myth – Sarah Andersen
  6. Syllabus – Lynda Barry
  7. Winter – Ali Smith
  8. Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
  9. Wildlife – Richard Ford
  10. It Devours! – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  11. Last Look – Charles Burns
  12. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents – Terry Pratchett
  13. A Piece of the World – Christina Baker Kline
  14. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  15. Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
  16. Found Audio – N.J. Campbell
  17. Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
  18. Artemis – Andy Weir
  19. The Bird King – G. Willow Wilson
  20. Honor Girl – Maggie Thrash
  21. My Father’s Dragon – Ruth Stiles Gannett
  22. Christmas in Camelot – Mary Pope Osborne
  23. Monet Paints a Day – Lucy Danneberg
  24. Claude Monet – Catherine Nichols
  25. Linnea in Monet’s Garden – Christina Bjork
  26. The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree – Stan Berenstain
  27. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
  28. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
  29. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien (assuming I finish it in time)

That’s definitely more wins than losses, which is good since there were so few.

And the winner, you ask? Probably Sing, Unburied, Sing. I’m disqualifying Lord of the Rings because I’ve read it before, or those three novels together might have won.

My least favorite, by far, was Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry. The format is awesome, and it’s colorful and super nice to look at, but it’s infuriatingly dumb.

Next year, I’m hoping to hit 50 again. 2018 has been busy, and I’ve been finding lots of stuff to do that doesn’t involve reading. I’ve pretty much stopped using Facebook, so hopefully I can invest my reclaimed time on reading – or at least something more worthwhile than staring at my feed.

#Artober 9: Birch Forest!

I really like this one! It’s definitely my favorite Artober painting so far. It’s 5×7 gouache on watercolor paper, based on this photo from Unsplash, my favorite source of free-to-use images.

I painted this one at work, and I’ll probably hang it there. It’s an example of what I want to do with my painting classes – what I hope I’ll get to do next year. Acrylics are most approachable, but I find more watery mediums easier to work with, and gouache (especially the acrylic variety) is far less intimidating than watercolor.

img_9025In other interesting news, I got this book today. I preordered it from Our Amazonian Overlords around March when it was announced but forgot about it until I got a shipment notification the other day. I’m super excited. It weighs in at a whopping 700 pages, so it’ll take a while to read. I hope it’s better than his last novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which I didn’t especially like.

Now, to descend into the world of kittehs and wells.