Hope is a Thing With Mice

Monday Morning Musing

Good morning everyone. Time for a brief update and maybe a few haiku. Last night I was reading a book about the early masters of haiku. According to an old legend one of them, Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693) wrote 23,500 verses in a day. Can you imagine writing almost a thousand verses in an hour – using Japanese characters? Legend is a wonderful thing.

Would any of those be of sterling quality? (STERLING being the Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning.) I was inspired to do a few myself, but for sure mine aren’t very sterling. It’s not hard to dash off words, but it takes me time to write something that will even make sense.

winter nipping
a mouse squeezes into the warmth
heaven or hell
?

When the winds blow cold and there’s a nip in the air, hopeful mice are wont to creep into houses, hoping to find a cozy home for the winter months, hopefully with a food source not too far away–like a bowl of cat food on the floor. Last Friday I was sitting in my recliner reading, while my black cat dozed contentedly on my lap. Glancing up, I spotted one such hopeful mouse creep out from under our wood stove sitting in the corner of our living room. We have poison set out, but this must be a clever mouse.

brave mouse scurries
under my wood stove
wee Napoleon.

“Mouse, Angus! Mouse,” I screeched, and the mouse quickly disappeared. Angus opened his eyes and gave me a “What are you on about?” look. It didn’t take long, though, before both of our cats caught on about those little mouse feet scrabbling on the stones. I’ve moved the cat food elsewhere and our cats spend time by the wood stove these days, hoping for a Waterloo.

Fresh Snow

Winds are definitely whipping and winter is nipping today. After a mild spell most of last week, the temp dropped yesterday evening and a north wind picked up. Snowflakes were falling by the time we left church, just before 9 pm, and before long we had the makings of a storm. Fine flakes blew through the air all night; we’ve a nice amount this morning and more is falling as I write this.

“Hope is a thing with feathers…” In this case sparrows hoping for a few grains have found a bare spot on our driveway somewhat out of the wind. Our sidewalk is blown in ankle-deep, I learned as I waded out a bit ago to scatter seed for them.

lame magpie
bullied by his own finds peace

among the sparrows

Poetry Reading

“Hope is a Thing With Feathers,” the famous poem by Angie Dickinson, was one of the verses read at our Poetry night Saturday evening. I was hoping for a bit larger crowd but, apart from the readers and their partners, only five others attended. Hopefully next time… Renaming it “Literary Night” might draw more interest. I read a mixture of my own poems and short stories myself.

Click here to read one of them.

So Tomorrow Will Be Twitter Tuesday?

Now that Black Friday sales are basically done, I received half a dozen ads this morning telling me that today is Cyber Monday. Can anyone explain that? No, never mind…

I’m hoping this will be a better week for me. I was pretty wiped out last week, not sick but very weary. Energy level 2/10 kind of thing. I suspect my white cell count is on the rise, but we’ll see how this week goes. Hope is a thing with energy… 🙂 I’ve another phone visit with my oncologist Dec 12, which should give me a better idea how things stand.

Speaking of energy, it’s our youngest grandson’s 12th birthday today.

Image: Dessie Designs — Pixabay

Short Books or Fine Print?

Yesterday’s e-mail from GoodReads tells me that if I need to catch up with my Reading Challenge goal by the end of Dec, the answer might be to read a few shorter books. Makes sense. In fact I just read several children’s books and each one took me only a couple of hours.

Image: Engin Akyurt — Pixabay

One thing I enjoy about children’s books is the low emotional investment. Yes children have their woes, but rarely the tortured relationships and breakups you find in adult novels. Endings are usually upbeat.

GoodReads helpfully provides a list of fairly new releases they say are all quick reads, so I had a look through the list to see what was on offer, and decided that these were only shorter versions of the same novel-length plots. Speaking of woes, one book that caught my eye was Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. This is her memoir of growing up as one of the few Asian American kids at her Eugene, Oregon school. How she struggled with her mother’s high expectations of her; the treasured months she spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, of bonding with her mother, meeting the man she married, and later facing her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Checking this book on Amazon I noticed an interesting discrepancy re: e-book versus print edition. GR claims this story is 239 pages; Amazon lists the paperback as 416 pages. Hmm… How does one condense 416 pages into 239? Finer print on an e-reader?

This discrepancy led me to do yet more checking on their shorter books. Another on the GR list is Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. Length: 116 pages; 176 pages as a hardcover book on Amazon. I’ve never taken note of this difference before. I’m not sure who decides that stat anyway, as the size of font readers select for their own e-reader will make a huge different in the number of pages, right?

Now, if anyone’s trying to beat their Reading Challenge and looking for quick reads with interesting story lines, I suggest you check out some of Canadian author Jean Little’s books. Sadly they aren’t all available through Amazon; I think more are listed on Kobo and Canadian libraries will likely have paperback copies. Willow and Twig is a really good story; Look Through My Window, From Anna, Mine For Keeps, Stand in the Wind, The Belonging Place, to name a few, plus half a dozen historical novels from the Dear Canada series. I’ve read almost all of her books. The books by Beverley Cleary are good quick reads, too; Ramona Quimby and friends have their amusing anxieties and adventures we can all relate to.

If you really like something different in the historical line, you could take on Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World, by William Alexander. Came across this one in my wanderings this morning. A “social history” of the tomato from its discovery in the Aztec lands to becoming the most popular North American vegetable. Pricey book, though: $17 for the kindle version. Which has 321 pages; paperback, 320 pages. Same size font?

Enough musing about books. We had a nice mini-blizzard Saturday that knocked out the power in this area for six-and-a-half hours from mid-afternoon until about 8:30 pm. Temp was just below freezing, so we were quite snug with our wood stove going, but the outage disturbed plans for those gathering for the wedding here on Sunday morning. Church board members were asking for generators for the family supper at church and the youth gathering that evening. Kind of hard to play volleyball and eat in the dark. Not to mention that when the power’s out, so is the water supply. Another snow yesterday, light and fluffy. Temp -20 C this morning, so winter is here to stay.

Travel By The Book

I subscribe to BookBub so this morning I received my daily list of suggestions for possibilities that might interest me. Frank Zappa once said, “So many books; so little time!” I can definitely identify.

The book suggestions completely crossed the planet, going from Fatal North by Bruce Henderson–about the 1871 Polaris expedition–clear down to Antarctica by Gabrielle Walker. Everything you ever wanted to know about the South Pole explorations. Then we have The Art of the Compliment by Christie Matheson. probably something everyone should read. 🙂 And Peter Singer writes about The Most Good You Can Do.

The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy by David Halberstam would be a book for US political history buffs. The blurb says: “An in-depth examination of the political career, personal life, and untimely demise of Robert Kennedy.” Like most everyone during those years, I heard & read about the Kennedy family tragedies but now it’s “water under the bridge” and not high priority reading for me.

One writer has decided to time-travel, literally, to Victorian England. The Victorian Life by Sarah A Chrisman. Blurb: “Fascinated by the 19th century, one couple decided to fully commit to a Victorian way of life. From tending oil lamps to wrestling with corset laces, this charming and insightful read chronicles a modern exploration of a bygone era.”

Have these folks chosen an upper class lifestyle or do they give glimpses of life for the rest of society in that era? I have a book of written records made by various people back in Victorian England, describing the living conditions they observed among the working class and the destitute. The average George Brown, victim of the Industrial revolution, who had only a cup of tea yesterday, nothing today. Homeless men spending nights in a poor-house. Women doing men’s jobs–cheaper labour costs, you know–working hard in a factory for twelve hours a day, with a nursing baby strapped to their chest and a toddler or two beside them. Or a family in London’s East end in a slum where landlords rented by the day and if you couldn’t pay, your belongings–what few you had–were thrown out in the street so your apartment could be rented to someone who could. Corset laces were the least of their worries.

I’ve noticed that people who claim to be reincarnated weren’t, in their former life, an average Joe, Pedro the galley slave, Lizzy the overworked scullery maid, or Piers the crippled soldier. History is full of unknowns barely surviving, but the folks who claim to remember a past life were usually a famous/notorious SOMEONE. Biblical character, prophet, Rajah, Prince or Princess, doctor or scientist. I don’t know as anyone’s ever claimed a past life as a writer. 🙂

Time travel books work the same. The traveler’s dropped into an intriguing time in history and accepted by the locals. These from-the-future visitors always have the means to keep from fatal accident, starvation, or execution as a heretic or witch, until they head home again. Well, I suppose that’s fiction for you: writers have complete control of their character’s fate.

I believe that now and then we all need an accurate picture of life as it was way back when. Last night I was listening to the audio-book about Nicholas Nickleby and his life at Dotheboys Hall. Kudos to Charles Dickens, an author who gives us a realistic view of life for the lower classes of his day — and through his novels actually managed to change society’s attitude toward the poor. If we only knew it, we still benefit very much from what he accomplished.

BookBub, Book Cave, Reading Deals and various other outlets are ways for writers to advertise and get their books out to readers. There are lots more book deals but I have a very restricted list of interest. Subscribers can tailor their selections to their own interests when they sign up.

Rusty Nail

A verse reflecting on the death of Jesus

A Rusty Nail

I ran a nail into my hand,
The wound was hard to heal;
So bitter was the pain to stand
I thought how it would feel,
To have spikes thrust through hands and feet,
Impaled by hammer beat.

Then hoisted on a cross of oak
Against the sullen sky,
With all about the jeering folk
Who joyed to see me die;
Die hardly in insensate heat,
With bleeding hands and feet.

Yet was it not that day of Fate,
Of cruelty insane,
Climaxing centuries of hate
That woke our souls to pain?
And are we not the living seed
Of those who did the deed!

Of course, with thankful heart I know
We are not fiends as then;
And in a thousand years or so
We may be gentle men.
But it has cost a poisoned hand,
And pain beyond a cry,
To make me strangely understand
A Cross against the sky.

–Robert William Service

Smothered In Sauce

Sammi’s writing prompt this weekend is a real challenge:

And here’s my response:

“My cake flopped,” the newlywed lamented. “It rose so nice, then it caved!”

“Make some chocolate sauce,” Mom suggested. “Warm and thick, smother each piece of cake. That was Grandma recipe for flops. We loved it.”

It’s said that back in homesteading days seasoned cooks advised drowning inferior baking with whipped cream. Since they all had a milk cow or two, they had easy access to cream — and cholesterol was unheard of. I’ve modernized the idea. 🙂

Things that Crepitate in the Night

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was CREPITATE.

Never heard of it? Well, perhaps you’ve encountered some of its relatives:
CREPITANT – making a crackling or rustling sound
CREPUSCULE – Twilight
CREPUSCULAR – relating to or resembling twilight; active during twilight

DECREPIT – worn out or ruined by age or neglect
DECREPITUDE – the state of being decrepit
DECREPITATE – roast a substance such as salt to cause crackling, disintegrate audibly when heated – rather the opposite of popcorn. 🙂

CREPITATE and its cousins originated from the Latin verb crepitare: to crackle or rustle.

And now to use these crinkly words. Last night I read a short memoir from the winter of 1919-1920, one of the most severe on record here in western Canada. The writer told of how a family spent it in a log cabin near Olds, in the southern Alberta foothills. Ill use some of her memories as seed for my story.

Winter hit us early that year; snow came in October and stayed. Hit us hard, too; when it got cold, it stayed cold. Worse yet, we as a family had to move to an abandoned shack twenty miles away after a chimney fire damaged our home. We arrived on our wagon with our smoke-smelly belongings just before sundown and looked at the decrepit cabin that was to be our home this winter.

“Doesn’t look the best right now,” Mother said, “but hopefully it’ll be snug. It was home to another family just two years ago.”

Dad put his arm around her. “We’ll get a fire going and warm up the place. And we’ll do what we can to make it livable.”

My seven-year-old brother Willy and I eyed the steep hill not far from the house, thinking with delight about the sledding days we’d have.

The Rockies loomed in the crepuscule as we moved in, crunching through the deep snow with our stuff. While the last things were being unloaded, Mother began shifting the kindling wood beside the cook stove with the thought of making a fire. Crepitant sounds came from one corner and Father had to evict the first of our tiny tenants.

“We’re apt to see a few crepuscular critters come out tonight,” he said. “Skunks and raccoons move into an abandoned place pretty quick.”

Our problem didn’t come from skunks, thankfully. But once the house was warm we did hear smaller creatures crepitating under the floor boards and wondered what they were. A couple of days later as we were finishing our supper Willy dropped his spoon on the floor and forgot to pick it up. The next morning as I helped Mother set the table I noticed we were short a spoon. “Hey Willy, didn’t you pick up that spoon last night?”

He groaned and scrambled under the table to retrieve it. A moment later he held up something small and dark between his fingers. “Look! The spoon’s gone, but see this. An arrowhead. Wow!” He was thrilled with his find.

“Pack rats,” Mother pronounced. “Likely that’s the rustling we’ve been hearing. We need to be careful not to leave anything shiny laying around.”

A lesson we learned the hard way. Buttons, bottle caps, and other small objects left lying would disappear overnight and we’d find small, pretty stone in its place. We’d nod and say, “Our pack rats are trading again.”

Dad worked at making the shack as cozy as possible and Mother made it as homey as she could. Willy and I had great fun on that hill. It proved perfect for our sled and we the abundance of snow softened our tumbles when we rolled down. Near the top of the hill a poplar sapling stuck out of the snow and Willy decided one day to carve a big W in the white bark.

In spring we moved back to our house that had been “in the fixing” all winter. While we were happy to be home, we thought about the old cabin and one day in June we all got on our wagon and went to have a picnic on the hill there.

When we got to the cabin we were amazed to find there was no hill. Rather, there was a big slough full of cattails where the hill had stood. There were smaller trees around the slough, but the poplar we thought was a sapling turned out to be tree twelve inches around the base of the trunk. We knew that must be our tree, because Willy finally spotted his W – 25 feet up the trunk.

We spent all that winter playing on a huge hill of snow!