Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Beginning of Let's Pretend

When I took Josie to the library last week, I could see how ready she was to play with other kids. My plan was to take her again yesterday but it rained and rained so we stayed home and I was enlisted as the other kid.

"Will you play with me?" she asked ever so sweetly, handing me Dolly. 

So I did Dolly's voice: "I'm hungry, Josie!"

Immediately Josie grabbed a wooden plate that sits on the chest that is our coffee table (and a major play place,) heaped some coasters on it, and offered it to Dolly. "Here you go; I made you some banana pancakes." She pulled the plate back. "Wait a minute, I'll put some butter on them--in the middle and on top. Here you go."

So Dolly gobbled up the pancakes and then demanded watermelon.  Josie went down to the end of the chest and came back with a handful of watermelon which she plopped onto the plate. "Here you go."

Greedy Dolly gobbled up the watermelon and demanded blueberries, which the now slightly harried Josie supplied. Then Dolly wanted broccoli.

"We're out of broccoli, Dolly."

"I WANT BROCCOLI!" shouted the very bad Dolly.

"NO, NO, Dolly," said the completely exasperated Josie. "You are being rude."

At which Dolly went face down and began to cry. Josie picked her up and kissed  her. "Do you feel better now, Dolly?"

Dolly did.

I'd been thinking about those little kitchen sets they have for children to play with but we really don't have the space for one. And after playing with Josie today, I realized she doesn't need one. Her imagination supplies whatever's needed. 

I couldn't take pictures, alas -- too busy being bad Dolly. But at several points Josie was doing a perfect imitation of an over-worked mother--darting from Dolly to the imaginary kitchen, trying to keep up with the never-ending demands. 

We had fun.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Compassion is the radicalism of our time.

                                    The Dalai Lama

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Heat Wave . .

When I got dressed yesterday morning, I found myself picking up my earrings then putting them back, thinking, Nah, it's too hot for earrings today.

And it was -- though nothing near as bad as folks in other parts of the country are enduring.

We don't have air conditioning but make full use of fans in every room. We keep the south and east facing windows shut till the afternoon, and anything outside gets done early.  As does most cooking.

We had a nice rain around supper time that cooled things off -- always a blessing.  But the weekend is supposed to be even hotter. Dangerously hot in places.

A good time to stay inside, stay hydrated, check on pets and neighbors, and think, perhaps, about the snows of yesteryear. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Swimming Between Worlds and A Different Sun

 Tacker Hart is the swimmer and one world is Nigeria, where, as a member of an architectural team, he has embraced the rich culture and has been welcomed by the natives as a brother, only to be fired and sent home in disgrace by his white employers for consorting with the natives. 

The other world is Tacker’s hometown of Winston-Salem, to which he returns, feeling strangely adrift in the turmoil of the fledgling civil rights movement. His time in Africa has opened Tacker’s eyes to the injustices of segregation, but this new revelation is at odds with the white culture he is a part of. When he meets Gaines, a young African-American man who is involved in the lunch counter sit-ins and is one of the founders of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Tacker is challenged to put his beliefs into action.

 Tacker is also challenged by Kate Monroe, a young woman seemingly as adrift as he is. Torn between his desire for Kate, his need to affirm his beliefs by participating in civil rights activities, and a deep-seated longing to return to Nigeria, Tacker struggles to find his place between the two worlds. 

Kate, like many white young women of her time, is more or less oblivious to the current state of race relations and uneasy at Tacker’s growing involvement with Gaines and his fellow activists. The ensuing tensions build to a powerful climax that I found at once satisfying and inevitable. 

Orr’s descriptions of Nigeria are a feast for the senses and her detailed picture of Winston-Salem in 1959-60 rings absolutely true. Lyrical prose tempted me to linger, but the masterful story telling pulled at me and kept me turning pages late into the night. And when I finished, I wanted more. More of the fine writing and more about Nigeria. 

Fortunately, Orr has two more books out: a memoir of her own childhood growing up in Nigeria and her first novel --A Different Sun.  I leaped right in to the latter and wasn't disappointed. 

Set in the mid-1800's, the novel was inspired by a historical missionary couple in Africa. Working with the writings of these two, especially the wife's sparse and sometimes enigmatic diary, Orr conjures up a moving picture of a young woman, daughter of a Southern slaveholder and her older husband -- a driven man and a determined woman, testing their faith in God and one another in the exotic heart of Yoruba land.

As in Swimming Between Worlds, the matter of race is all important. The irony of sending missionaries to Africa to save the natives while ignoring the festering wound that is slavery in the States is enhanced as the missionary couple find themselves tolerated and, at times, saved by their native hosts.

As her husband alternates between trying to expand his mission and battling a recurrent illness that often renders him near-lunatic, the young bride struggles to cope with a growing  dependence on one of their native guides -- an ex-slave.

Orr's fine prose and piercing psychological observation, as well as the sympathetic characters, make this a near-perfect book. Also highly recommended.
Elaine Neil Orr

Wednesday, July 17, 2019