Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

Not so much a ‘pithy quote’ but a general reflection. As mentioned, a while ago, I’ve been reading and writing a lot of haiku lately. Originating in 16th Century Japan, most traditional haiku has been written by Buddhist monks (Basho, Issa, Chiyo-Ni, etc.) and contain Buddhist themes. Not surprisingly then, many ‘How to’ books suggest budding haiku poets practice Buddhist spirituality to ‘clear the way’ for inspiration (meditation, quieting the mind, surprising the self, minimising attachments, etc.).

For a range of reasons, I take issue with many (but not all) aspects of Buddhism and so wanted to find a different approach to seeking inspiration for my haiku. And I think I have found one. Given that the purpose of haiku is record a moment or feeling (traditionally, from nature) with brevity, purity, and accuracy, I have come to see haiku as polaroids of God’s providence. Moments lovely orchestrated by a benevolent sovereign Deity which the poet has the honour of experiencing and recording.

As a result, haiku reading offers a window into this providence as experienced (even if not recognised) by others, and my only humble compositions an opportunity to worship my Lord. Even if he never explicitly appears in the verse, they are all dedicated to him.

Spring rain:
Everything just grows
More beautiful.

~ Fukuda Chiyo-Ni


Just watching a documentary on Hemmingway - such an unappealing character. At one point Abraham Verghese commented on a troubling review Hemmingway wrote of the book from Here To Eternity. That reminded me of a wonderful book I read written by Verghese, Cutting For Stone. The most prominent characters were doctors, surgeons actually, which might be of interest to @Randy and @jpm. Oh and the author is a surgeon himself. I can’t remember a lot. Something about twins but I remember being spellbound. Anyone else read that one?

Verghese is a very good author, empathetic especially in the book I read by him…“My Own Country,” about treating HIV in East Tennessee (he was an infectious disease doc). I had the opportunity to work in the same town, hospital and with some who worked with him a few years after he left, in 2004-5. In fact, my health system just had us complete a course on implicit bias constructed in part by him. I have not yet read “Cutting for Stone,” though I will some day. Thanks for the reminder.
One of my favorite works by Verghese is a TED talk about care of even the hopelessly, terminally ill always requires empathy and patience.


Thank you for the recommendation! I’m putting a hold on it ASAP. The Cutting For Stone book took place in Ethiopia and the twins were immigrants from India, so another cross cultural theme. Cannot wait to get into a book I really care about again. The Tree Grows In Brooklyn book is pretty dull. A book of remembrances that add up to little more than a peek into a different time and place.

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Really enjoyed the book, though thought the ending a bit too contrived. We visited Rome and wanted to go by and see The Ecstasy of St. Theresa but never made it by as so many sculptures so little time.

One too many coincidence. Still it kept me engaged plus there was the culture in a new place to discover. Indians really get around and given their emphasis on family and education often do well.

This isn’t exactly pithy, because I’m going to include the whole poem, but I read it today and really liked it.

why some people be mad at me sometimes

by Lucille Clifton

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning language everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.


Finally have gotten into @Randy’s recommended Being Mortal. Should probably be required reading for everyone at retirement. I’m reading it with great interest both for myself and my wife. My doctor is away for a week and I don’t want to fill up her email box but when she gets back I think I’ll look into what Kaiser offers by way of geriatric care. Good to know what to look out for. There is a senior living place on the other side of the park from us. So now I’m imagining renting out our place if it gets to be too much and somehow collaborating on the garden.

Looking back for Being Mortal book by Atul Gawande I happened to notice the Year of Wonders book @Christy mentioned and this time I put a hold on it.

I did finally finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is not a tightly crafted novel. Periodically it kind of wonders around like a dog looking for a scent. Still there is a wealth of detail about growing up poor in my grandparent’s time and one gets a sense of how immigrants require a few generations to transition from an illiterate generation to one that values reading and on to one that is pushed to make it through a formal education. Of course many Jewish, Indian and Asian families seem to come with a high value on family, education and service and get established sooner. My mother’s family would have had the experience of starting with little education or wealth. Interestingly, my father’s mother taught womens physical education at a college before taking up with my ne’er do well, son of preacher grand father who fathered a big family with her before deserting them at the start of WWI. So even families who make a certain amount of progress can backslide.


I don’t recall if anyone has mentioned “Life of Pi.” I wonder what you think, if you have read it. Thanks.

I’ve only seen the movie, Randy. But I’ve seen it on many most - recommended lists. As good as the movie was the book is almost always better.

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Thanks. Yes, I have read the book but not yet seen the movie. It was certainly deep and thought provoking

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I really enjoyed the book, and thought the movie was good, but difficult to understand if you had not read the book. It has been a while since reading, probably should re-read.

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Just put a hold on a book a friend recommended. Very pleased to see I am only number thirty-something on the wait list. I’d bet good money that @SkovandOfMitaze has heard of it or read it already. If I find something I think may be of interest here I’ll post something … eventually. Below find the Goodreads review:

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

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Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures


Merlin Sheldrake (Goodreads Author)

4.41 ·

Rating details · 5,659 ratings · 943 reviews

There is a lifeform so strange and wondrous that it forces us to rethink how life works…

Neither plant nor animal, it is found throughout the earth, the air and our bodies. It can be microscopic, yet also accounts for the largest organisms ever recorded, living for millennia and weighing tens of thousands of tonnes. Its ability to digest rock enabled the first life on land, it can survive unprotected in space, and thrives amidst nuclear radiation.

In this captivating adventure, Merlin Sheldrake explores the spectacular and neglected world of fungi: endlessly surprising organisms that sustain nearly all living systems. They can solve problems without a brain, stretching traditional definitions of ‘intelligence’, and can manipulate animal behaviour with devastating precision. In giving us bread, alcohol and life-saving medicines, fungi have shaped human history, and their psychedelic properties, which have influenced societies since antiquity, have recently been shown to alleviate a number of mental illnesses. The ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in break-through technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘Wood Wide Web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems. Yet they live their lives largely out of sight, and over ninety percent of their species remain undocumented.

Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into this hidden kingdom of life, and shows that fungi are key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel and behave. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them.

Edited to say that when I walked over to the library to finally return Being Mortal I found I had another hold ready, Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders which I think was one @Christy recommended. Took a quick peek at the first page and got a favorable impression. The first section has the title Leaf-fall 1666. Checking the back cover I read it was a plague year. How fitting to come to as our own pandemic wraps up (knock on wood).


Ive not read that one yet. But I’ll definitely add it to my list. I want to first read the book “ Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest” by Suzanne Simard. She was one of the initial pushers of the whole Mycorrhizal Networks scene. Was one of the influences for the Avatar movie.



Couldn’t drag it out any longer. I finished Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was worrying after having read reviews in which readers wanted to give it ten stars up until about p. 265 and then just 1 thereafter. I’d worried what would happen to these characters she’d brought to life out of the 1600’s and made me care about. Lets just say there is a flurry of surprising events in the last chapter which are a bit jarring. Even in the Epilogue there are unexpected events and characters revealed we hadn’t met until then. Some might say the happily-ever-after exceeded what was necessary but after living through the plague (and the bumpy last chapter) it was gratifying to see the scales begin to balance away from the horrific.

The main characters are the new rector of the village church and his wife along with their maid. Actually the maid is the most central character and the one through whom we experience the story. She starts with much less of practically everything than the other two but then they turn out not to be the ideal couple they seem. The plague is hard on everyone’s faith, to say nothing of their sanity. The rector’s faith takes the biggest hit and I have to think the leadership role he has taken on is partially to blame. At the end the maid describes her faith as “that flimsy, tattered thing that is the remnant of my own belief. I see it like the faded threads of a banner on a battlement, shot-shredded … I have told [my new husband] that I cannot say I have faith anymore. Hope, perhaps. We have agreed it will do for now.” My observation is that her self-honesty and refusal to project certainty she does not feel is what allows her to persevere better.


Rereading “ The Nature of Oaks” by Doug Tallamy and definitely enjoying it. These particular pages are on a cousin insect of Cicadas called Oak Treehopers. I definitely will start to look for them. Names off one species, Platycotis vittata, that remains with their eggs snd offspring until the offspring marries as an adult. So top notch parents in the insect world. It’s the species on the right that has a bit of a monarch color scheme.

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I’ve been curious to know if anyone around here has seen the cicada that are seemingly coming out all over the US. Apparently the only feed on deciduous trees so no crops should be in danger. In areas such as yours where there is a lot of ground water I wonder if an insect that will require ten or more years underground to develop can survive?

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I think where I live the majority are all annual species. We don’t even have the millions in a few acres like some places.

It sounds like it can be deafening in places.


Sometimes I am drawn to post here because I’ve just finished a book that made an impression on me and I want to share something from it. But this time I just read a couple paragraphs that made me think of things @Christy has written of about narrative and story, but in this paragraph the author is responding to someone she’d been in relationship with but left hastily some years before. I guess when one is an author of fiction one might think about ones life as a story one is telling, and in some sense perhaps that is true of all of us though I rarely look at it that way. The book is Transit by Rachel Cusk, the second in a trilogy. After the paragraphs I wanted to share I think I’ll include a blurb from the cover jacket which helps me understand what I like about the book.

‘I thought everything had worked out perfectly for you,’ Gerard said slowly. ‘I thought you were living the perfect life. When you left me’ he said, ‘what made me sad was the idea that you were giving your love to someone else when you could just as easily have given it to me. But for you it made a difference who you loved.’

I remembered then Gerard’s unreasonableness and childishness in the old days, his volatility and occasional exhibitionism. I said it seemed to me that most marriages worked in the same way that stories are said to do, through the suspension of disbelief. It wasn’t, in other words, perfection that sustained them so much as the avoidance of certain realities. I was well aware, I said, that Gerard had constituted one such reality at the time those events had occurred. His feelings had to be ridden roughshod over; the story couldn’t be constructed otherwise. Yet now, I said, when I thought about that time, these discarded elements - everything that had been denied or willfully forgotten in the service of that narrative - were what increasingly predominated. Like the objects I had left in his flat, these discarded things had changed their meanings over the years, and not always in a way that was easy to accept. My own indifference to Gerrard’s suffering, for example, which at the time I had barely considered, had come to seem increasingly criminal to me. The things I had jettisoned in my pursuit of a new future, now that that future had itself been jettisoned, retained a growing power of accusation, to the extent that I had come to fear that I was being punished in direct proportion to something I hadn’t even managed to assess or enumerate. Perhaps, I said, it is never clear what should be saved and what destroyed.

And from the inside flap of the cover:

Filtered through the impersonal gaze of the its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change.

I did enjoy the first book Outline but no where near as much as this second book. The first book carries the “impersonal gaze” of its author to an extreme that could only inspire respect. This one makes me care more about the author as a character in her story.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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