[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 7 Jun 2015 11:06:11 -0700

I have divided missives into "Sunday Somethings," of late mostly about
chickens, and "Carry Ons," which are miscellanies about the oddness of things.
Inspired by a woman whose work I've been reading for years, I'm trying
something different. In a magazine I subscribe to, she writes of her life on a
small Scottish island. Maybe I'll eventually get out of your hair and start a
blog. Years after the fashion has passed.

We had a relatively mild winter. In Portland this may mean a good year for
plums, as well as snakes. When playing tennis with my wife as partner I'm
always careful not to say what I'm thinking. And yet she knows. Ditto, the
dog and the plum. The dog's fine, but I've been thinking for a while that it
might be better to cut the plum tree down. And lo! Plums coming out all over.
Also snakes. Relatives who live in a different part of town have also seen
more snakes this year than in the past few.

Dipping my way through Steinbeck's letters, I noticed that in pre-publication
"The Moon is Down" outsold, "The Grapes of Wrath" two to one. This could
simply indicate that by then Steinbeck was more famous than before, but I'm
wondering if it tells us something else? I think literature and art history
courses ought to mention such information.

June tenth is National Iced Tea Day, which may get more publicity this year
than D Day (though I did see a photo of "veterans and re-enactors" together).
Iced tea was invented by an Englishman, Richard Blechynden, who attended the
St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. He couldn't sell his hot tea, so he tried an
alternative. I hate the stuff.

There's a glasses cleaning cloth in our house which illustrates a principle of
object collection. On a trip to Cornwall to camp with cousins, I was looking
after two daughters and a newly-hired car. This would be years ago, when the
girls were in their early teens. On the plus side of the ledger, I'd made the
transatlantic trip without mishap. On the negative, one slight thing...I'd
forgotten to bring a glasses-cleaning cloth. I could of course have gone to a
linen shop and bought a brand new tea towel, washed it, trusted that it
wouldn't scratch the lenses, but an old cloth is more likely to be soft, so I
headed for a charity shop, located a linen napkin that had seen plenty of use,
bought it. We have cloths around the house that are better, so I expected to
leave this one in England. When I was putting the sheets away last week, I
came across it, ten years on, still counted among our chattels. When next you
come across something sold as having belonged to someone famous or important,
bear in mind she may have bought it in a thrift store in Cornwall.

Before leaving home last year, one daughter did us a favor and organized our
linen cupboard. She pulled the whole pile out, re-folded and sorted her
sheets. I have tried to support this lovely, tidy work, but I am not naturally
a tidy person. I once "failed folding," which is to say I was working in a
menswear department in a store in Piccadilly. Seeing how I'd done the
sweaters, the supervisor immediately assigned me new tasks and had someone
re-fold everything. We've had guests recently so the pile of sheets needing to
be folded was quite tall. I started in, believing others in the household
might offer to help. Alas, everyone was too busy. With the task half done, I
walked away for a day to see if this might tempt them in. Nope. All still too
busy. I finished up as best I could, but my folding skills have not improved
with practice. When done, I realized I'd made an error. I should have piled
according to size. Did I then want to unfold and refold singles, fulls, king?
I did not. In they went, as was.

The only poultry incident this week was unusual confusion about who was doing
what. I was telling our piano tuner about the chickens and so looked out the
window to see what they were up to. None in view. Most odd on a sunny day.
Usually they'd be lying out, trying to de-bug their wings. I went to see where
they'd gone and found the answer was, "Nowhere." On account of no one having
opened the cage door first thing in the morning. Everyone assumed that someone
else had done it. If the birds were irked, they hid it well.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: