Thursday, 28 April 2011

Bluebell spring

I didn't get any pictures of Texas bluebonnets this year, so I offer you some English bluebells instead.
They are not at all the same thing, but they do belong in the very small category of blue flowers.
Rarer that you might think.

I have lots of thoughts about my Texas trip (which seems about as substantial as a dream now) . . . the Royal Wedding tea party that my daughter is hosting tomorrow . . .  the new class that I am teaching . . . all of the books I have read in the past month . . . and whoopie pies with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  These thoughts are Wordsworthian, though -- and I require a bit more tranquility (rather scarce at the moment) to bring them forth.

But how's this for immediacy?
I was in this bluebell wood just an hour ago. 
The sun was low in the trees, and there was a fragrant chill in the air -- an indescribable smell -- that is somehow the very essence of English spring.

I never saw bluebells when I was a child, and yet I perfectly understand Anne Bronte's description of them as a fairy gift.

O, that lone flower recalled to me

My happy childhood's hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers.

Somehow, I doubt that the blue markings on this tree mean:  "Bluebells!  Straight Ahead."
But I prefer to believe that is the case.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Gone to Texas

Just for fun, I made a Wordle from the writing I've done over the years about the annual trips to my home state of Texas.

The most frequently recurring words?
Texas.  drive.  bluebonnets.  Houston.  home.  parents.  cow.

Seems about right.

(Gone to Texas . . . April 2-20)

Friday, 1 April 2011


Are you the sort of person who checks out other people’s bookshelves?

(Do you feel an immediate affinity with those people who love the same books that you do?)

Earlier this week I had dinner in a lovely home. The sitting room had nearly all of the attributes of an attractive, cosy room: a wood-burning fire, soft sofas, interesting pictures, ancient (but good) carpets . . . but sadly, no bookshelves. I noticed it right away, and the absence somehow detracted.

Are you the type who believes that bookshelves are not only useful, but also beautiful?
(Furthermore, would you add this proviso: that the books must be obviously read and enjoyed . . . and not merely decorative?)

I’ve just counted:
Eight of the rooms in our house have bookshelves, and all of those shelves are overflowing.

In the recent de-cluttering drive, I managed (not without some pain and suffering) to take about five bags of books to the charity shop. Sadly, it didn’t make any visible difference to the crowded conditions as most of the discarded books had been stacked on the floor, hidden under the bed or crammed in my daughter’s closet. In our next house, I am hoping for entire walls of bookshelves.

(One commonality I’ve noticed about Oxford houses is that they tend to contain lots of books. Considering the ever-present temptation – there are a lot of bookstores in that small city -- I predict that an increase in my personal book collection is inevitable.)

There are public bookshelves and there are private bookshelves; some more so than others.
I don’t have what I think of as “properly” public bookshelves: nothing leather-bound or colour-coordinated; no first editions; no careful artistic groupings. Sadly, my bookshelves do not reach such lofty heights as would require a ladder. My “best” bookshelves do look more substantial, though. In their ranks you will see my nicer hardbacks, the lovely cloth-bound fairytales that I inherited from my father, the sturdy biographies and histories, and those books of a philosophical nature. My private bookshelves are junkier, and more various. Here lie the paperbacks, but also the most frequently read favourites.

Can a bookshelf be read like a palm, like a face, like a narrative of its own?

The pictured bookshelf is in my study – and in front of the shelf of enduring favourites (my Austens, Brontes, Colwins and Mitfords), you will find stacks of what I have read or written about recently.
There are also cards and curios, pictures and postcards . . . remembrances, really. When I think of the phrase “surrounded by my things,” I immediately think of books.

If you would like to share a glimpse of one of your bookshelves, please contact Malena of The Bookshelf Project.