“New Year’s” never has been that meaningful to me, coming as it does in the middle of the year’s school activity. It would seem more intuitively meaningful if it happened in the spring. But this year’s ending finds me noting some new things sprouting up even in the bleak midwinter. For instance, we visited a new nature preserve today. It was in Elmira, and there was a nice nature center/museum with some animals and exhibits as well as 10 miles of trails. It’s been a…Continue Reading “Tree tales, muted colors, birds, and musings”

It’s the season for lists, and here’s mine. It includes a few (4) of the chapter books I read to my daughters. Alcorn, Randy. Safely Home. Berry, Wendell. “Fidelity.” —. “The Boundary.” Blanchard, Ken and Spencer Johnson. The One Minute Manager. Bowditch, Eden Unger. The Atomic Weight of Secrets. Brooks, Geraldine. March. —. People of the Book. Burgess, Thornton W. Now I Remember: The Autobiography of Thornton W. Burgess. Bush, George W. Decision Points. Challies, Tim. The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital…Continue Reading “Books Read in 2011”

A Wing in the Door by Peri Phillips McQuay is by turns a beautiful and a frustrating book. It narrates the fate of a female red-tailed hawk taken illegally by a would-be falconer from her nest when only a month old. The hawk — named Merak — is confiscated by Canadian authorities and kept at a rehab for awhile to be “untamed,” then released at a conservation center. McQuay and her husband, a naturalist at the center, live on site and observe the bird over…Continue Reading “A Wing in the Door”

We went for a walk on Christmas Eve morning. On the way to the trail, we saw this guy hunting for his breakfast. He posed for us in a variety of postures. He looks chilly with his feathers all fluffed, doesn’t he? He changed branches after studying us coldly for a few minutes. Then he flashed his lovely feathered pantaloons, and flew away with a few piercing “Keer!” calls. My husband was convinced that he was saying, “Merry Christmas!” I’m not so sure, though. A…Continue Reading “Christmas Eve hawking and walking”

Last year, I wrote a post about the reasons I love Handel’s Messiah. It’s one of the posts that was lost when I switched hosts. But again I’m thinking of this sublime weaving of art and truth, delighting in it in my kitchen, in my car, and with my children. On Sunday, my husband was called into work before church and was there all day. He called and invited us to meet him for supper at Friendly’s, and on the way I popped The Messiah…Continue Reading “The Messiah”

My pastor mentioned Outliers in a Sunday school class. He’d read part of it, and it sounded interesting. I picked up a copy at the library to read, but I wasn’t expecting it to provoke so much thought or to have such an impact. It’s really given me a lot to think about. “Outliers” are exceptional people — people who excel far beyond the norm in some way. Malcolm Gladwell takes a number of such figures — software gurus, pilots, hockey players, lawyers, geniuses —…Continue Reading “Outliers”

The girls and I read Elizabeth Goudge’s I Saw Three Ships last year for Christmas, but it didn’t wow any of us. In fact, none of us even remembered it. This year was different. It’s a short chapter book, and we read through it in a more concentrated way than we did last year, in two sittings. It charmed us. Here’s the plot summary from the jacket: Little Polly Flowerdew lives with her two maiden aunts, and she is absolutely sure that something special is…Continue Reading “I Saw Three Ships”

After writing this post about the role of experts in the morphing of the Christmas season in area public schools, I read Alice’s post about how Christians are partly to blame. She makes some great points about Christmas being meaningful to Christians, but not to people of other faiths, or of no faith. Our church has done Advent Conspiracy projects for the last two years, and one of the first points made in the Advent Conspiracy video is that the Christmas story is ours to…Continue Reading “Afterthought”

When we talk about the death of the novel, what we are really talking about is the possibility that empathy, however minimal, would no longer be attainable by those for whom the novel has died. If the novel has died for the bureaucrats who run our country, then they are more likely not to pause before engaging in arrogant, narcissistic, and foolish policies. If the novel has died for men (and some publishers and critics say that men read fewer novels than they used to),…Continue Reading “Literacy and empathy”

I’ve been thinking about this article I read yesterday. It’s about the multicultural holiday season in the public schools. The basic gist is that public education no longer operates under the benighted view that Christmas is about Christmas. Now, it’s about “instruction that teaches students about the variety of cultural celebrations this time of year.” At one point, a principal mentions that some parents want to see more emphasis on Christmas: But for the most part, he said, parents understand and accept the way the…Continue Reading “Off limits”