We can take our fear back

The Wolf Wilder, written by Katherine Rundell, is probably the best book I have read all year (although, to be fair, I often say this about the book I have most recently finished). There’s humour, there’s fear, there’s hope, there’s dancing, there’s wolf wilding, there’s a girl who, unwillingly, leads an uprising. You’ve got to read it! It is just the thing to be reading right now. Find it in the Young Adults section at the library.

‘I didn’t want a revolution. I just wanted Mama. I just wanted things to be like they were. And… Alexei,’ she grinned at him, ‘sometimes when you talk about revolution, it’s actually quite annoying. That’s something I found out–revolutionaries are annoying. But… Rokov didn’t just come for us, for me and Mama. He took Yana’s Paul, and that meant he took part of Yana too. He took part of Sergei, and Sergei’s only eight.’

‘Nine!’ called Sergei. Practically nine! Nine in a week!’ Grigory laughed, and cuffed his son around the head. 

Feo barely heard. ‘Rakov, he saw no reason not take the things he wanted. He thought fear was the most powerful thing in the world. He thought fear had the most kick–he thought we’d care more about being safe than being bold. But then… he took my Grey.’ Feo looked around the great square, at the golden domes around her, at the upturned faces. ‘And now I’d rather be bold. We’ve got to say, you do not get to take anything more. One person can’t do it–not alone–but all of us, us kids, we can take ourselves back. We can take our fear back. And I don’t know if we’ll win, but we have a right to try. The adults, they want us to be quit and careful, but we have a right to fight for the world we want to live in, and nobody has the right to tell us to be safe and sensible. I say, today, we fight!’

Also, the atmospheric and dream-like illustrations by Gelrev Ongbico definitely deserve a mention. They are gorgeous. You can see a few here.

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Three things: Walkies, climbies, and recipes

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This week I have re-walked some paths that once were a part of my weekly routine of grocery-shopping, playground-visiting, or getting-out-of-the-house-ing. I felt nostalgic walking to the supermarket with S. and pottering about on the way in the falling leaves, looking for pretty mushrooms. It wasn’t so long ago that I was doing this with L. (who only this morning said to me, “I just realised that going to school means never walking to the supermarket with you again. Hurray.” Also, that second picture above, I am walking so far behind, and thus able to see this lovely view, because I was tired of being hit with a stick by a five-year-old. So much for the shared romance of the family walk.)

Another layer my walks have taken on of late is that of climbing. Borderline parkour. I look one way and one child has scaled a stone wall and is deciding whether to lower himself into a private garden or to see if a tree branch will take his weight. I turn quickly to see the other one climbing onto a milestone and pulling himself onto a rickety street sign. It is kind of stressful… but also impressive.

Three recipes that we are all enjoying right now and seem very autumnal: Chickpea curry, Beef noodle pho, Baked dhal. Yum! All of these are slow but quick food, if you know what I mean. They don’t require hours watching a pot or strategically timing anything. Perfect.

Their eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment

How I wish it were the northern hemisphere going into spring now,  but instead of opening up to the world like a peonie in the springtime, I am feeling myself shrink inwards, with my knitting and a cup of tea in hand. I think of September as being a beautiful Autumnal month here, but this one has been rather glum and grey. There’s still hope for October though…

Peonies

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises, 
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace, 
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls, 
craving the sweet sap, 
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind, 
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies, 
and tip their fragrance to the air, 
and rise, 
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness 
gladly and lightly, 
and there it is again — 
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open. 
Do you love this world? 
Do you cherish your humble and silky life? 
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden, 
and softly, 
and exclaiming of their dearness, 
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling, 
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

from New And Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

Three things: Pea play, raspberry round 2, and no tomatoes

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My kids are 4 years apart. Upon learning this, people sometimes remark how easy it must be to have such a big gap. It may be because I am not a super-parent, but I haven’t found it especially easy. Sure, the older one is able to zip up his jacket, pee in a loo, and fetch me things when I need him to, but the emotional stuff (which I have found one of the hardest things in parenting) is tough. The other morning, I asked him to tidy away the pens he was using because his younger brother was using them to redecorate the bedroom… this was after I suggested that putting together a large puzzle while his brother was awake was perhaps not a recipe for fun… this was after he decided he would put the pieces of his dismantled (by younger brother) Lego creation up. He came to me crying, “there’s nothing for me to play with that S. won’t play with or ruin!” And it dawned on me why I spend so many of my waking hours outside. Outside is the great democratic space. Walking miles with my kids is an easier choice than sorting out indoor entertainment and emotions for them. We are all happy outside. We can all participate outside. However, life requires bouts of indoors so I was pleased to remember the activity that kept L. occupied for hours when he was younger. Dried beans on a sheet with a variety of pouring+burying objects. Both kids (and other kids) have loved playing side by side with the peas the last couple of weeks and the clean-up time is short. Huzzah! I, myself, like to stand on a layer of chickpeas and slide my feet around, giving my feet a massage.

More raspberries, y’all! My autumn fruiting ones are lovely and enormous. I appreciated them even more, simply because, being that apricot colour, the kids didn’t realise that they were ripe… so I got the first few handfuls. Ha!

Next year: no tomatoes. I grew tomatoes this year for the first time in Aberdeen. They required too much work. They were gross. I did not even get pissed off when I saw a magpie pecking through the plastic of the green house to eat one. Please quote these last three sentences back at me when I say to you next Spring, “oh, but there is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato ripened in the hot, hot sun and I am about to grow some”. Tell me that is true–there is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato ripened in the hot, hot sun–and tell me that I should go on holiday to Spain.

Lest we fully tap the reservoir of goodwill

I took a break from reading for a couple of weeks . Mostly because I can only manage one book at a time and I hadn’t finished the novel that I had started reading. It got all post-apocalyptic on me, and as I only read before bed and have a tendency to believe that the world is going to hell in a handcart at least once a week, I was losing a lot of sleep. (I don’t grow enough vegetables to feed my family! Will we be stuck in the UK forever?! I still can’t identify mushrooms correctly! I am not coordinated enough to spin my own fibres for making clothes with!).

I do intend to finish that book, but picked up another a few days ago to fill the empty space between brushing my teeth and falling asleep. Hillbilly Elegy has received a lot of press. It has been described as the “hillbilly” answer to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, and has also been said to explain the election of Trump. I am nearly finished the book and I can’t say that I feel any more convinced about how Trump will help the likes of the Appalachian people, but I did appreciate having glimpse into this culture and family history that is so very different to my own–reading J.D. Vance’s story was a real exercise in empathy for me… and that’s always a good reason to read!

Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right.

[…] For me and Lindsay, the fear of imposing stalked our minds, infecting even the food we ate. We recognized instinctively that many of the people we depended on weren’t supposed to play that role in our lives, so much so that it was one of the first things Lindsay thought of when she learned of Papaw’s death. We were conditioned to feel that we couldn’t really depend on people—that, even as children, asking someone for a meal or for help with a broken-down automobile was a luxury that we shouldn’t indulge in too much lest we fully tap the reservoir of goodwill serving as a safety valve in our lives.

from J.D. Vance’s Hillybilly Elegy.