Another Kind of Almanac. A friend, who grew up in Pennsylvania, told me that his father had his own way of determining seasons: winter began on December 1; spring, March 1; summer, June 1; autumn, September 1. He thus varies about three weeks from the regular almanac. Though this practice may seem solipsistic to some, I like the idea. Why should we not follow our own seasons and celebrations of them?
Late Summer. Summer has become tired. Days are noticeably shorter. Blazing and baking heat have receded, though September here can be as hot as any other summer month. Crepe myrtle trees have finished blossoming, and the blossoms left, at least on some days, are muted in color and more noticeable because of the lack of other blossoms. The leaves of dogwood trees, even after rains, have begun to curl inward, seemingly tired of the outward thrusts of growth. Annual flowers in my hanging baskets have stopped blooming, and the leaves are dying.
Endings. We are good at celebrating beginnings: births, New Year celebrations, first signs of changing seasons. Do we do as well at celebrating endings? An inspiriring celebration of a life at a funeral service or a joyful wake in honor of the departed is always welcome. A celebration to end a season with thoughts of what has occurred can be a positive punctuation of time passing.
Notes on Reading. Fiction. Phillip Lewis, The Barrowfields. Hogart, 2017.
I am impressed at the craft and power of this novel. (1) Lewis makes references to Poe, and like Poe, he can sustain a mood that results in a powerful emotional response. For example, a mood of student jocularity caused me to laugh aloud at the conversation at a drinking party. A mood of sustained foreboding resulted in my eyes watering when I found the tragic outcome of one of the main characters. (2) The book explores family relationships and influences, both positive and negative, that children carry into their adult years. (3) There is an obvious love of dogs and horses. (4) There are moving descriptions of night skies at the ocean and in the mountains. (5) Lewis explores the idea of the relationship between home and identity, using references to Thomas Wolfe. (6) There are several deftly drawn memorable episodes: the despairing, noisome conditions in a nursing home; a book burning in the mountains, led by a nefarious preachers; lovers lost at night in the mountains, threatened by horses; a harrowing descent into madness because of depression and alcoholism. With vivid and convincing details, Lewis holds the reader’s attention throughout this well-written novel.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Adrian Owen, Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death. Scribner, 2017.
Are people in comatose, physically unresponsive, vegetative states aware? Research tells the author that about 20% of those he examined are.Is communication with them possible? Yes. The book explains recent breakthroughs that enable us to do so. The book also examines such ideas as the meaning of consciousness and its development in humans, the value of life, the arguments for right-to-die and right-to life movements, and individuality, and it projects further accomplishments in the field by the use of medical technology. Owen uses particular, relevant, and easy-to-understand examples to illustrate abstract and philosophical ideas. The book is thus informative, interesting, and provocative.