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Beyond the Lone Islands

Thursday, 30 April 2009

More Wood Anemones

Here is a another picture of Wood Anemones in bloom, taken a couple of days ago, which shows better how they usually grow - lots and lots of them together under the trees.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Quotation of the Week (18/09)

The worst is not
so long as we can say
"This is the worst."

Shakespeare, King Lear, IV.I.27

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Carpe Diem

All of April so far has been unusually fine (and very dry), the mornings a bit chilly but some sunny afternoons feel almost like summer. Yesterday was one such day, 20°C (=68°F) in the afternoon. I spent the day at my parents' house outside town. Had some paperwork to sort out with and for them, but I also took the time to take a walk by myself through the wood down to the lake nearby. The wood anemones are in full bloom everywhere. I hadn't got my camera with me yesterday, but I insert a photo that I took two years ago. I picked a few flowers and brought back for my parents to put in a small vase, since they can't get out into the wood themselves now. I also sat a while on a fallen tree trunk down by the lake, and just listened to the sound of gentle waves lapping on a little sandy beach. When I got back to the house, we were able to have our afternoon coffee and tea outside. It is good to be able to "stop time" for at least a moment on a day like this, and just take in the sun, the spring flowers and verdure, and the sounds of waves lapping, and birds chirping.

Raven's Wordzzle #60

Ten Word Challenge: preparation, tic-tac-toe, splurge, auction block, the bitter end, milk, papyrus, when the parade passes by, bill of lading, stone wall

Mini Challenge: polar bear, 20 seconds, get it together, spasmodic, antiquity

My comment about this week's challenge:

I feel I'm kind of half-cheating this week in my mix of the words, but I didn't have much time. Half way through the first paragraph (last Sunday), I got a sort of emergency call myself, and then had to spend the rest of the week sorting out "real life" stuff instead, including both real emergencies or half-emergencies and false ones caused by technical problems as phones and alarm systems out of order... Today, looking back at the chapter I managed to put together this week, I think it almost sort of reflects my own week... (Well, except for the butler and the fire and the pool and whatever... But still...)

The Slumber Party Mystery

Chapter 6 - Fire alarm

With a spasmodic little jump, Bumblebee, the butler, carrying the tray with the ingredients for the Sunburst cocktails through the library, only just avoided tripping over the polar bear skin, which the General had bought from the auction block. The General sometimes liked to indulge in a splurge when it came to aquiring unusal objects from all over the world. Bumblebee sighed and picked up the Antiquity Journal from the desk and put it under his arm. He noted in passing that he must remember to water the papyrus plant in the evening. Then he went out through the open glass doors. On the terrace, he froze. It took him nearly 20 seconds to take in the scene and get it together: the sausages sizzling on the grill, the fire spreading through the dry grass, and the General lying motionless in his chair by the pool. Then he quite calmly put the tray down on the stone wall surrounding the terrace, took the jug of orange juice and splashed its contents over the worst of the fire, went over to the Generals deck chair, which was on wheels, and pushed it gently down the sloping ramp into the shallow end of the pool. Himself standing knee-high in the water, he took his cellphone out of his pocket.

At the fire station it had so far been a quiet afternoon. After having made preparations for next week's fire drill, Joe had read two chapters of a detective novel entitled "The Bitter End", played a few games of tic-tac-toe on the computer, and was just pouring milk into another cup of tea, humming "when the parade passes by" to himself (and thinking that no, he couldn't remember the lyrics properly…) when the alarm call came.

About the same time, the delivery van from the grocery store drove up in front of the General's house. The driver had been delayed because of some problems with a bill of lading back at the store.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Aches, Pains and Worries

"Aches, Pains and Worries"... When I created my blog in January, it was really as a kind of escape from these three words. But this last week they caught up with me again.

Since it seems my blog has somehow managed to gather a handful of followers over the past few months, it is perhaps time I at least mention that the APW:s are there. The Aches and Pains are concentrated to my neck, shoulder and arm; and they very much limit my ability to do things I like to do (including reading, writing and blogging), as well as all the things I don't particulary enjoy but that one has to do anyway... (It was a seemingly minor accident at work that started it, and I've now been in early retirement with disability insurance pension for five years.)

Right now, there are additonal Worries connected to suddenly having to take on sort of parental duties towards my own ageing parents. The W:s increase the A:s and P:s, and then in turn the A:s and P:s increase the W:s, and it quickly becomes a vicious circle... If I'm not able to spend as much time in the blog-world over the next few weeks as I have been doing lately, this is why.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Quotation of the Week (17/09)

Another quotation from Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, which I'm reading slowly...

"War's never a winning thing. You lose all the time, and the one who loses last asks for the terms."

(said by an old colonel, when the boys ask him to tell them about "a battle won")

Friday, 17 April 2009

Old Friends & Lyrics

Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends concert, 2003

My favourite songwriter since nearly 40 years is Paul Simon. I "discovered" him (Simon & Garfunkel) when I was 15, and I still listen to his/their records. The old LP:s I had, I now have on CD. (I still have the LP:s as well, but no record player to play them on...)

My previous post - "The Age Thing" - made me think of the lyrics to
Old Friends, from the album Bookends (1968)
(Paul, born in October 1941, was then 26)

Old friends,
Old friends,
Sat on their parkbench
Like bookends.

A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends.

Old friends,
Winter companions,
The old men
Lost in their overcoats,
Waiting for the sun.

The sounds of the city,
Sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends.

Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.

Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears.

Time it was
and what a time it was.

A time of innocence,
A time of confidences.

Long ago... it must be...
I have a photograph,
Preserve your memories,
They're all that's left you...

I loved Paul's music when I was 15 and I still do - so that part of myself remains pretty well "preserved"! Some of the early songs also bring back lots of memories; for example of old friends with whom I used to listen to the records and interpret the lyrics back in the 70's.

But I also love that he has kept moving on as a musician. Come to think of it, isn't this really a great illustration of what I was discussing in the previous post: a musician still playing the old music, but also continuing to write new songs and trying out different kinds of music and rhythms...

On his 2006 album, Surprise, 65-year-old Paul also discusses the problems of growing old:

It's a blessing to wash your face in the summer solstice rain.
It's outrageous a man like me stand here and complain.
But I'm tired. Nine hundred sit-ups a day.
I'm painting my hair the colour of mud, mud okay?
I'm tired, tired. Anybody care what I say?
No! I'm painting my hair the colour of mud.
Who's gonna love you when your looks are gone? God will.
Like he waters the flowers on your windowsill.

(from the song "Outrageous")

Raven's Wordzzle #59

Wordzzle #59 at Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: prefix, art festival, income tax, chicken noodle soup, jump rope, Dutch Treat, flowering plum tree, bats in the belfry, diamond earrings, tigers

Mini Challenge: book club, organic tea, the cow jumped over the moon, paragon of virtue, wench

This week I'm mixing all 15 words into one new chapter of my ongoing story.

Previous episodes:

Chapters 1 and 2 (Wordzzle 57) , Chapters 3 and 4 (Wordzzle 58)

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 5 - More about Diana

Back in his office, it began to dawn on Dr Adam Challenge how utterly stupid his panic reaction up at the Brigadier General's house had been. He also suddenly remembered the General having mentioned in passing recently, that his granddaughter Diana would be coming home for a weekend soon, to help him sort out some income tax problems. He looked at the invitation card again. Of course! While an invitation to a "slumber party" was quite out of character for the General, it would be Diana's idea of a joke…

Diana had been around 10 years old when she first came to live with the Brigadier General and his wife, after the tragic death of her own parents. She was as wild as her grandparents were strict. Adam remembered the shock he had had on his very first visit to the general's house, seeing what he thought was a dead body hanging from the flowering plum tree on the front lawn. It turned out to be a scarecrow that Diana had hanged there using her jump rope. Another time he had found her chasing the cats around the garden, pretending to be hunting tigers in the jungle – using a real bow and arrow from her grandfather's collection of various weapons. But the little wench's most renowned prank was probably the time when she managed to convince some of the elders down at the church, that they had bats in the belfry, and they took it very literally. A group of male church members had climbed up into the belfry to investigate, but of course found nothing. When they came down again, Diana had said, giggling: "Sorry, my mistake! Seems all the old bats are still down here…"

Among the "old bats" she probably included her own grandmother. This grand old lady, always wearing big diamond earrings, had been considered by the whole town to be a paragon of virtue, always organizing art festivals for charity and chicken noodle soup lunches for the homeless, and serving organic tea at the book club meetings held at her own house.

Diana despised her grandparents' lifestyle, but at the same time remained a spoiled child, never really showing any consideration for other people's feelings. Pranks continued to be like a prefix with her, even as she grew older. For example, if she invited someone to have lunch with her at a fancy restaurant, and encouraged them to choose the most expensive course on the menu, she would suddenly spring it on her guest when it was time to pay the bill, that she had intended it all along to be a Dutch treat. It had nothing to do with money, she just enjoyed watching other people squirm.

Yes, Adam thought to himself, if Diana set her mind to it, she'd soon have you convinced that the cow jumped over the moon… And now it seemed he had fallen for one of her tricks again. Inviting him to a slumber party in the General's name, and then arrange it so that he would find his host asleep when he arrived – that would be Diana's sense of humour in a nutshell. He suddenly began to doubt himself. He had not been able to feel the General's pulse, and had thought him dead – but what if he wasn't? And either way – how could he, a doctor, have just run away from the scene the way he did, just because he suddenly felt haunted by ghosts from the past? At least the fire, and his reaction to that, could not have been staged by Diana – or could it?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Age Thing

My "Quotation of the Week" for this week (16/09, see post below), from Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, is from a chapter about a 72 year old woman, who is trying to convince some children, that she, too, was once a little girl their age. She shows them some things she has kept – a ring, a comb, a picture – but they refuse to believe her. There is no proof, in their eyes, that the picture is not of some other person. In the end, it is the old woman who has to give in, remembering a discussion she once had with her husband (it is his words in the quotation). The only way she can become friends with the children is to "let go of her past" and agree with them that she has always been seventy-two:

At last they were good friends.
"How old are you, Mrs. Bentley?"
"How old were you fifty years ago?"

This is of course a little extreme, but dealing with time is a major theme in this novel: both children and old people are looking for ways to preserve their memories as well as catching the moment. (Making dandelion wine is one symbol of it: "Every time you bottle it, you got a whole chunk of 1928 put away, safe." )

When I first entered those lines into my quotation notebook, about being forever "trapped in the present", I was in my mid-twenties. Now I'm approaching my mid-fifties, and I'm still trying to figure out whether I really agree with the quotation or not. I do agree with the first sentence: "No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now." And probably, when I was nine, I found it hard to quite imagine what it would be like to be old. I do remember my grandmother showing me pictures of herself as a little girl, and finding it hard to really make the connection. As one grows older, though, surely the present self must still include all of the past selves? But at the same time we cannot go back; we cannot skip over the experiences we have already gathered; all we can do is keep adding to them, in the present. "You're in the present, you're trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen."

Click on the label Dandelion Wine below for more quotes from this book.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Quotation of the Week (16/09)

"No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now. Time hypnotizes. When you're nine, you think you've always been nine years old and will always be. When you're thirty, it seems you've always been balanced there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when you turn seventy, you are always and forever seveny. You're in the present, you're trapped in a young now or and old now, but there is no other now to be seen."
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Friday, 10 April 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #58

Some readers last week wondered whether I was going to continue with the same story. I decided to make it an extra challenge for myself to try. The plot is thickening; I can only hope for some really helpful words to come along to help sort things out eventually...!
Link to my post for last week (#57): Chapters 1 and 2

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 3 - Bumblebee
10 Words: acrobat; grocery store; ceiling fan; dandelion; bumble bee; alabaster; scissors; chartreuse; strenuously; cube

Bumblebee, the butler, watched the doctor's car disappearing down the driveway. Yes, he thought again, Dr Challenge really did need to get his car fixed. The sudden sound from the car driving off had startled Bumblebee so that he had dropped the scissors he had been using to cut the dandelion leaves for the salad. He bent down to pick the scissors up from the floor. Approaching retirement, he was certainly no longer the acrobat he had once been in his youth. He drew a deep sigh as he got up again. He hoped he would be spared any more such strenuously exhausting exercises today. It was really an extremely hot afternoon. But he shouldn't complain, at least he had recently got the brigadier general's permission to have a ceiling fan installed in the kitchen. He looked at his watch, and again out of the window. Still no sight of the delivery van from the grocery store. Well, the salad could wait; it was probably more important that he brought the brigadier his afternoon drink. He put a a bottle of Green Chartreuse, a jug of orange juice, three glasses and an alabaster bowl filled with ice cubes on a tray, and left the kitchen.

Chapter 4 - Diana

5 words: iPod; poison ivy; computer; interpreter; optometrist

From her room upstairs in the big house, the brigadier general's granddaugther Diana also watched Dr Challenge's car drive off. She made a wry smile to herself, put her iPod earphones back into her ears, and turned around to face the computer screen again. She had to screw up her eyes a bit to see properly, but she had an appointment booked with the optometrist next week. Diana was studying to become an interpreter, and today's assignment was to translate a text from a medical research conference from English into Swedish. Really, the facts one came across in these studies… On the screen she read:

If poison ivy is burned and the smoke then inhaled, this rash will appear on the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and possibly fatal respiratory difficulty.*
*quote borrowed from Wikipedia

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Personality Test

This month's discussion in Jo's Book Nook at The Leaky Lounge is about Part 1 of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. (Read more about Jo's Book Nook in the margin of my blog.) As faithful visitors of my Island of Voices know, I'm at present struggling on with The Silmarillion instead; but since I'm moving in the same world, I'm keeping an eye on the JBN discussions too. One of the threads there linked to a website which introuces a personality test based on the question: Which Lord of the Rings character are you most like?

I usually distrust tests like these, but after this one, I'm prepared to reconsider... *wink*

You are most like Galadriel. There's just something about you that people like. A sort of aura. You're very kind to people, and you like to help others succeed. You're not as candid as most people would like. You don't have to share your deepest darkest secrets, but be more honest about things! You're more mature than most people your age, so don't worry!

Following the advice to be more honest, I have to admit that the last sentence does worry me a bit. If I'm more mature than most people my age, that makes me feel really ancient...

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Easter Egg

I got this egg in an email yesterday. I have four similar paper ones in different sizes that I use as Easter decorations at home. According to the printed text inside the two biggest ones, they were made in "GDR" = the German Democratic Republic, so they have to be at least 20 years old!!

I like the Easter Egg as a symbol of rebirth, hidden secrets, "goodies", new possibilites... This year, I'm keeping my decoration Eggs empty, though. That can be seen as symbolic, too:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!"
Gospel of Luke, 24:1-6

Monday, 6 April 2009

Of Elves and Men (Silmarillion II)

I have struggled on with The Silmarillion: I am almost half way through now, which is further than I ever got before.

However, connecting back to yesterday's "Sitcom" post, I really do feel "lost among the elves"...

The major problem with this book is that there are more names than plot in it! Most people (individuals as well as races, tribes etc) appear under least two or three different names, in languages invented by Tolkien himself; and you also have to keep track of whether they are Valar (major gods), Maiar (minor gods), Elves (of which there are several tribes), Dwarves or Men...

It was helpful, though, to memorize the names of the Valar (see my first Silmarillion post), because now at least I recognize these when they appear among the rest. On the rare occasions when one of them turns up, further along in the history of Middle-earth, it gives me almost the same feeling as seeing an old friend in a crowd of strange people in a foreign country...

There is an index at the back of the book, and several genealogy tables of the Elves. It is still really hard to keep these apart, though - with names like Finwë, Fëanor (it was he who made the Silmarils, the precious jewels containing the light of the gods), Fingolfin, Finarfin, Fingon, Finrod... It is also a struggle not to mix up Noldor (a tribe of Elves) with Naugrim (Dwarves), or Vanyar (another tribe of Elves) with Valar (the gods)...

I wonder how Tolkien's mind worked. Has any other author, ever, bothered to make up such a vastly complex background for his fantasy world...? It is an achievement; but I can't help but wonder, from time to time - why??

A few chapters back, the race of Men was introduced. This will perhaps give you an idea of the general name confusion:

At the first rising of the Sun the Younger Children of Ilúvatar awoke in the land of Hildórien in the eastward regions of Middle-earth; but the first Sun arose in the West, and the opening eyes of Men were turned towards it, and their feet as they wandered over the Earth for the most part strayed that way. The Atani they were named by the Eldar, the Second People; but they called them also Hildor, the Followers, and many other names: Apanónar, the Afterborn, Engwar, the Sickly, and Fírimar, the Mortals; and they named them the Usurpers, the Strangers, and the Inscrutable, the Self-cursed, the Heavey-handed, the Night-fearers, the Children of the Sun.

Previous Silmarillion post here.

Quotation of the Week (15/09)

"You do things and don't watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you're doing and it's the first time, really. --- In other words you do an old familiar thing, like bottling dandelion wine, and you put that under Rites And Ceremonies. And then you think about it, and what you think, crazy or not, you put under Discoveries And Revelations."

Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Sunday, 5 April 2009

One-Minute-Writer: Sitcom

Today's Writing Prompt: Sitcom
"A sitcom is being made, based on your life--well, the funny parts, anyway. What is the basic concept, and what is the title?"

Today's writing prompt from The One-Minute Writer is a good one; but a hard one, since the show about Nothing has already been made (show within show – Seinfeld, season 4)…

How about The Island of the Voices? It is about this woman – let's call her Dawn Treader – who moves to an Island floating around in the vast sea of Cyberspace. She has a magic library, full of forgotten or half-read classics, which are prompting her to be picked up and read. In that way, they are made visible. So in every episode, she picks up a new book, and finds herself drawn into a new adventure. Sort of like in the TV mini-series Lost in Austen, which I enjoyed watching recently... In my sitcom, there could be episode titles like: Lost on the Moors (Wuthering Heights), Lost in the Labyrinth of Perplexities (The Mysteries of Udolpho), Lost among the Elves (The Silmarillion)… (See my Blog Archive for March and April 2009!) ;-)

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Links to Raven's Wordzzle 57

Last weekend, I happened to find my way to a "Wordzzle Challenge" at Raven's Nest, but got a bit mixed up about when and where to post what. To disentangle the confusion, here are the links for this week's challenge (#57):

Raven's Saturday Wordzzle Challenge #57
(This is where you find Raven's own contribution + links to other participants; and also the words for next week's challenge.)

My contribution, to which I have added a "Chapter 2" since I first posted.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Tolkien's Silmarillion (I)

The Gates of Sirion by Ted Nasmith, from Tolkien Calendar 2009
(picture copied from

Ever since I started this blog after New Year, one book has been stubbornly "stuck" on my "Currently Reading" list in the margin: Tolkien's Silmarillion...

I'm sure lots of people all over the world, just like me, also have a copy of The Silmarillion sitting on the bookshelf next to Lord of the Rings. What I'd like to know, is how many have actually read it? I bought mine in 1979 and have taken it out every now and again over the years (30 ?!), but never managed to get through it.

This New Year, I took it out again, because I bought a Tolkien wall calendar for 2009 with Silmarillion illustrations and quotes.

I was quite determined this time to get through it, and yet history repeated itself: I read a couple of chapters at the beginning of January, then lay the book aside for a few days... and the next time I picked it up, it had gone back to being just a confused tangle of strange names which meant nothing to me! I do love the sound of the text, and I can sense connections with both his Christian theology and other mythology deep down under all the confusion. But it's really hard to grasp who is who and remember whether they are gods or elves or whatever...

This week, I started over from the beginning again, and this time made a special effort to understand the first two chapters, Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, which introduce the Valar ("gods").
I made my own list, which I scribbled down on an empty page at the back of the book. This did make it a little bit easier to keep up when I entered the Quenta Silmarillion... in which I have now got as far as Chapter 9. Remains to be seen, though, if I will actually manage to keep going this time...

My list:
Eru / Ilúvatar - the One, the Creator
Ainu, pl. Ainur - the Holy ones - "angels"
Valar - the "Powers of the World" (Ainur descended into the world; reminding of the gods of for example the Greek mythology)
The most important Valar:

Manwë is the angel/god of the Air (Wind); the High King of the Valar; his spouse is...
Varda, Queen of the Stars.
Ulmo is the angel/god of Water, he "dwells alone".
Aulë is the angel/god of Earth, "smith and master of all crafts"; his spouse is...
Yavanna, "giver of fruits".
Melkor, also called Morgoth, was the angel/god of Fire - he is the equivalent of "Satan" in Tolkien's mythology. (He was one of the Ainur, but he went his own way and became evil. Satan, in Christian theology, is also a fallen angel, originally called Lucifer, which means light-bringer.)
Mandos (or Namo) is "Keeper of the Houses of the Dead" = Death; his spouse is...
Vairë, "The Weaver who weaves all things that have ever been in Time".
Lórien (or Irmo) is "Master of Visions and Dreams"; his spouse is...
Estë, "Healer of hurts and weariness"
Nienna dwells alone, she is "Lady of Grief and mourning", sister of Mandos and Lórien.
Tulkas is the Valiant, he stands for bravery and courage - he is strong, but impulsive; his spouse is...
Nessa, who is "swift as an arrow", and sister of...
Oromë, who is "Lord of the Forests and Hunter of monsters"; his spouse is...
Vána, "the Ever-Young" (Spring), younger sister of Yvanna (spouse of Aulë)
There are also "angel-gods" of a lower rank than the Valar, called Maia.

The "Children of Ilúvatar" are Elves (the Firstborn), and Men (the Followers).
The Dwarves were created by Aüle (the Earth-god)
The Orcs were descended from Elves that once fell into the power of Melkor ("Satan") and were imprisoned, enslaved and corrupted by him.
PS. Ooops... By mistake, I happened to first post this in my other blog (Through My Spectrespecs). I immediately removed it and put it here instead; but links to the wrong blog still show up in link lists, although the post has been removed. If any one wonders, the Silmarillion post belongs here, not in the other blog.


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