…shielding my eyes from the brightness of the window, from the day I am not yet awake enough to meet.
Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Day the Falls Stood Still
Well, that’s just life during a global pandemic, is it not? It’s hard enough at the best of times to great each day with unbridled enthusiasm (especially if you happen to be resolutely NOT a morning person, like me…) let alone when we are living through a once-in-a-lifetime worldwide crisis that makes each day seem to bleed into the next.
How are we supposed to meet the day when we aren’t even quite sure what to call it? Monday? Friday? Wedursday? What month are we even in?
I would apologize again for missing a post just after finally committing to a schedule I thought would work for me but, well, what’s the point? Who even knows what year it is anymore.
Don’t worry, though, this post isn’t going to just be all doom and gloom. I promise.
Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in the spring
Vladimir Nobokov, Mary
Perhaps it is because it is springtime, or because this latest lockdown truly does feel as if it may be one of the last, but I found that Nobokov’s concept of nostalgia in reverse greatly influenced what kinds of articles and blogs resonated with me this month.
Whether it was a longing for a lifestyle I have never perfected (fitting writing into my daily routine); an urge to continue traveling the world…heck, even browse a bookshop at my leisure; or the deep desire to use my inherent privilege to help make a positive and notable difference in this world for those who have been marginalized for too long.
I felt pleasantly detached from reality, as though I were walking a foot or so off the ground.”
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn
And here we are again, a month or so after the last post returning to the beaches of Normandy. Now that I am re-reading my travel diary from this trip, I think this might be a four-part as opposed to three-part post. I want to devote all of Part Three to Juno beach, being Canadian.
While an interesting premise, the writing was not great.
I should have heeded my gut-feeling when the very beginning of the book started with an unlikely tale of the author being surrounded by adoring teenagers removing their headphones to listen to him wax poetically about the history of the brewery nearby.
And yet, I kept on reading.
The back cover describes it as “frothy and delicious, intoxicating and nutritious” and though I would agree that these words are accurate to describe Guinness as a beer (I’m a fan!) I’m not sure they apply to the book they ostensibly describe. The writing was certainly frothy, sure, but there was not much that was either intoxicating or nutritious in this book.
As someone who has studied history for over a decade, I realize I have a certain preference when it comes to non-fiction books about history. I recognize that there are many different ways to weave history in prose, and not everyone likes to wade through thousands of footnotes, but I found that in this book, the treatment of history was overly superficial.
It seemed to be that a lot of presumptions were declared as “likely” facts, and much of what was written seemed to be a re-hashing of what has already been explored in the books Mansfield praises glowingly in his bibliography.
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. Still, I did learn a few things!
Looks like I’ll have to pick up all the books he mentioned for a deeper dive into the history of Guinness and the family that created it.
Yet no certainty is possible. We must accustom our eyes to the twilight
Peter Ackroyd, Foundation
When I sat down to write this today I confess that I was completely unsure of what day of the week it was. I had all the best intentions to start scheduling posts ahead of time (I even have an ambitious schedule of post already brainstormed and posted on a lined sheet of paper on the wall beside my desk) and yet, so far, this level of organization has eluded me.
Now, one might ask, does not the fact that Monday begins the workweek give it some kind of dreaded importance making it an impossible day to forget? Perhaps for most this is the case but since I have decided to forgo the 9-5 existence in order to stay home with my little Aria, the days of the week have accordingly lost their typical structure leading to days that feel full and fast on their own as opposed to simply things to get through until the weekend rolls around once more.
But what about my husband? Doesn’t his work schedule make it easier to remember what day of the week it is? Another good question, hypothetical reader of mine. Yes, Louis does work full-time at a more typical 9-5 type job which necessitates remembering the existence of Mondays. However, since we have been slogging through this never-ending pandemic, he has had the great fortune of working from home which means Sundays are not capped off by a desperate attempt to be under the covers at a decent hour in preparation for an obscenely early wake-up call. His hours being a bit more flexible, and minus the typical commute, Mondays have lost their ubiquitous “beginning of the work week blues” and have now become only a bit more structured than the two glorious weekend days.
What is the point of all this, you ask?
Another great question!
Only that I meant to write this post yesterday and quite literally forgot it was Saturday. That’s why.
So, after that loquacious beginning, lets get to today’s topic. Shall we? It’s related to all this, I swear.
Wisdom may be rented, so to speak, on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
As I was going through my book of quotes today (woefully out of date as it is since my novel reading has fallen drastically over the past few years…) I came across this sentence written by the brilliant Canadian author Robertson Davies – one of my husband’s favourites!
What struck me about this quote was the image of a price for wisdom. For me, that price seems to be time as I have so many things I am curious about, so much I wish to learn, and yet all of this takes time. Time which is hard to find as a first-time-mom working from home during a pandemic.
With a sigh that seemed to come up from the soles of the feet, he rose…”
P.G. Wodehouse, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
I’ve made the executive decision to divide my rather long and emotional tale of my trip to the beaches of Normandy into several different posts. I do this not only in consideration of your time, dear reader, but also your mental health – especially as we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. I have a feeling this series will run to 3 or 4 posts and I hope you will join me for all of them.
They settled, just for one blessed instant, on a place that held love, not loss.
Louise Penny, A Still Life
I promise this entry will be much lighter than the last few chapters of my travelogue have been – finally focusing on a sense of peace and awe instead of destruction! Savour it well because the next one will tell of our visit to the beaches of WWII fame. And that one is a doozy.
After taking in as much as possible of the information about Caen’s experience of the Second World War, we turned away from this beautifully tragic city towards our next destination: Bayeux.
For where can one find more noble distraction, more entertaining company, more delightful enchantment than in literature?
Muriel Barbery, Elegance of the Hedgehog
As my motivation to write returns in leaps and bounds, so to does my willingness to drink deeply of the fountain of literature. For me, literature does not only mean fiction but blogs, articles, non-fiction, op-eds, anything in the written word that piques my curiosity.
From here on out, on the first of every month I will be publishing an account of the most moving, interesting, fascinating, striking pieces of literature I read over the course of the last 30 days. In trying to keep these entries as short as possible, I’ll attempt to stick to a quick recap of what struck me about the work and a favourite quote. No promises that these blogs won’t be characteristically long though…
Ridley’s heart sank within him. Physicians say that this cannot happen, but editors know a sensation which may not be described in any other phrase.”
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
Re-reading the last travelogue I published, so long ago now it defies reason, I was struck by the intense emotions which had been inspired by my research into the bombardment of Caen during World War Two. Before even embarking on the tale of my 2015 trip to France, I had known that many of my recollections would result in revisiting the hard feelings which accompanied almost all of our war-related outings but I confess I have been surprised by how much these musings have affected my psyche. So much so that often weeks or months pass before I feel that I can once again return to those days filled with, yes, adventure but also intense explorations of the human suffering that was the constant soundtrack to the World Wars.
Even now, all these weeks since I posted my last travelogue, I find I have to give myself a few moments to digest the thoughts and feelings laid out so honestly in my travel diary before I can even begin to craft another post.
And so, without further ado, we return to Caen, France to finish up the tale of our visit to that glorious if pained city in November of 2015.