Category Archives: Curiosities

Judge a Book By It’s Cover?

Fungus! Every country child, at least in my generation, were taught not, repeat NOT, to snack while roaming in the woods. I never did and as a consequence never had my stomach pumped. Unlike others I’ve know.

Fast forward to yesterday roaming along Kingsway in Vancouver with my host Michele. An area packed with East Asian shops and restaurants. Shops packed with dried medicinal herbs and piles of fungus. We lingered in a doorway and I was tempted. We went in. The image below is of dried Reishi but neither of us were tempted! Brewing instructions talk of a bitter taste. No surprise.

Fungus are one thing people are quite another. We can at least learn to have compassion and not recoil when a sight or sound or smell has us turning away.

Oscar – therapy cat. Video

An elderly woman died
this very morning.
A cat curled up
beside her feet.
The cat
insisted.

RIP
Mom.

And there is a now famous cat called Oscar who lives on a dementia floor in a facility on the East Coast of America. He too curls up beside patients close to death.

The book, Making Rounds With Oscar provides a window on all those; family members, care staff, doctors and the patients touched by the devastating impact of dementia. I found myself educated on the subject while being enthralled and charmed by this remarkable cat.

With thoughts for family, friends and strangers who are supporting and caring for the elderly and infirm. And for all that is involved when somebody dies.

Canine Friends and Human Enemies

Well, it turns out dogs are not just our best friends they, at least, regard us as their relatives. Closer to humans than their own kind! Link.

And:

Cats feature in most charming ways in the film, The Cats of Mirikitani. Another story of rescue and transformation in this case of an elderly Japanese man found on the streets of New York drawing cats for a living. A talented artist discovered, his story told including an insight into the Japanese Internment camps in America during WW11.

So much suffering and SO hidden from view, then and now. Jimmy Mirikitani at least ended upright and walking forward. We can do that too.

Reflections of a reformed reader

I read books once pre monastic years ago. A time when physically holding something still, a book, for extended lengths of time wasn’t tiring or stressful. Or at least didn’t notice! The other day I bought two books on a whim at a charity shop and I’m nearly through the second one. No serious consequences physically or in other way that I can tell. The difference from then to now is this. I’m not devouring the books, I’m savouring them, taking small bites and chewing well! Taking in just a few pages at a sitting and not rushing on skimming lengthy descriptions to get to the action. The  blueness of sky and the rasping of water over rock, the whispering wind in the quivering aspen etc. etc. Or jumping to the end to find ‘what happens’.

These particular books need nursing too – they are charity books. Paper backs are not constructed to last, my copy of Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage was published in 1990, it’s showing it’s age.  Before I start to read I have to gather the loose pages into two handfuls – the binding is shot. The pages are a pleasing tone of brown, brittle to the touch and smelling as only old books can.

In my room at Shasta these past days, or weeks is it, I’ve ridden long and fast across southern Utah, listened to Lassiter’s spurs clinking across Jane Withersteen’s cool enclosed and safe courtyard surrounded by Cottonwoods and snuck up of them thievin’ rustlers holed up in Deception Pass. Zane Grey put words to the West and then we got the Western movie. Later.

You might think I’m wasting my time and that’s how I regarded books – time wasters. Until recently. There is now both a joy and an education in reading I’ve greater appreciation for and that comes from my efforts of writing this blog. Just the construction of sentences and the use of words circ 1912 when ‘Riders’ was first published is breath taking. I’d not dream of putting words together like Zane Grey does, not dare. But now I might give it a try, be more daring, more adventurous.

Somebody I know and respect said ‘Readers write and writers read’. It’s a symbiotic relationship past the obvious and there is deep purpose in reading, in writing too. This evening I bumped into a thinker and writer who answering the question. What is literature for? in an animated video. It turns out we would be lesser people in every respect for not having read books. So much for my early prejudices around reading. Reading is good for you – therefore I’ll not read! Or I’ll use reading to escape pain, well into the wee hours.

Number four reason for reading:

IT PREPARES YOU FOR FAILURE
All of our lives, one of our greatest fears is of failure, of messing up, of becoming, as the tabloids put it, “a loser.” Every day, the media takes us into stories of failure. Interestingly, a lot of literature is also about failure — in one way or another, a great many novels, plays, poems are about people who messed up… Great books don’t judge as harshly or as one-dimensionally as the media…

But the real clincher for a reason to read is this:

Literature deeply stands opposed to the dominant value system — the one that rewards money and power. Writers are on the other side — they make us sympathetic to ideas and feelings that are of deep importance but can’t afford airtime in a commercialized, status-conscious, and cynical world.

Spare a thought for those writers beavering away alone in a basement, rejections outnumbering acceptances, family and friends looking on. – Wondering, worrying some. Them writers I know are humble people and I think it is the writing that makes them so.

Between Quiet and Solitude

Pegasus Books, Berkeley.
Pegasus Books, Berkeley.

This photograph has been deliberately fuzzed. That’s how my mind was and generally is when in a bookshop of any size. I’m an admirer of book covers, the design and fonts used, the colours and lately the plastic covers. Shining paper is giving way to mat flexible plastic. Feels good in the hand. But, I rarely look inside. I’m not there to buy I’m there because the door’s generally open and I’m irresistibly drawn into the cavern of yet to be explored delights. But, I don’t get past the covers, often.

I know a genuine writer who writes real books, which have been published. The most recent one Every Blade of Grass as a Kindle edition. At Pegasus I made a half-hearted attempt to find him on a shelf, his books, but not having my glasses cut the project short. He says that writers are readers and more importantly, for me, that readers are writers. Aspiring to be a genuine writer I guess I’ll have to get past the covers sooner rather than later. In the mean time books covers are lovely.

But that wasn’t what I had intended to write about tonight. I was sent a link to the most incredible story which I’ve been READING, on and off, for most of the day. The title of the news article is The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit. It is an amazing story of a twenty year old chap who camped out in the woods in Central Maine…for 27 years. He survived by stealing food and supplies as well as books and magazines. It is a gripping tale. I was anticipating a sad ending but no. He went to jail, got a seven months sentence and let out on the understanding he wouldn’t return to the woods. He went back home to live with his mother.

When asked what insight he had into life truths while he was alone in the woods he eventually said, Get enough sleep! Then…

He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn’t be saying more. This is what he’d learned. I accepted it as truth.

“What I miss most,” he eventually continued, “is somewhere between quiet and solitude. What I miss most is stillness.”

Thanks to Julius for the link.