Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Circling the Sun

Nearly eight years ago, I read a book called "West With the Night," written by Beryl Markham. I included it among my favorite books of 2008 and said the following about it on my blog post:

 West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. As I write this I am still a few pages short of completing this memoir by a remarkable English-born woman who grew up in and lived most of her life on the African continent, mainly Nairobi, Kenya. Markham, who was born in 1902 and died in 1986, first published this work, her only book, in 1942 and it was not well received. It was, however, re-published in 1982 after someone found an obscure review written by none other than Ernest Hemingway, in which he praised Markham’s prose and lamented the fact that he would never write as well as she. This has not been one of those “I can’t put this down” types of books for me. In fact, it is only about 300 pages long and it has taken me almost a month to read it. But I would not think of not completing it. As I read the story of this rogue farmer-turned-horse-trainer-turned-pilot, I am fully aware that I am reading beautifully written narrative that is totally worth the effort.

Fast forward to a month ago, when I picked up a paperback on Wife's bedside table called "Circling the Sun" by Paula McLain. McLain is the author of "The Paris Wife," a fictional account of the life of Hadley Richardson, who was Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Since I had thoroughly enjoyed that one, and noticed "Circling the Sun" was by the same author, I thought I would give it a try too.

I asked Wife about it and she said yes, it was definitely a good read. She said it was also historical fiction (like "The Paris Wife") and had references to the folks from "Out of Africa" -- a book I never read and a movie I never saw.

What she didn't tell me is it is written from the point of view of Beryl Markham, as if it were her autobiography.

While "West with the Night" was largely about Markham's unlikely and historic flight across the Atlantic, with references to her life in Africa as a farmer and horse trainer, "Circling the Sun" gives a detailed account of her life from childhood. She moved to Kenya from England as a young child with her parents, only to have her mother and brother return to England, after which she was raised by her father and a housekeeper who became the companion of her father.

As a child, she became close friends with a native Kenyan boy who was a member of one of the local tribes, and their friendship lasted her entire life.

She learned farming at a young age and became an expert and sought-after horse trainer. She had a series of disastrous relationships, including a marriage she spent years trying to get out of, and another one that was a marriage of convenience. She gave birth to a son who was essentially taken from her and raised by her boorish mother-in-law.

Her one true love (as one would believe from reading this book) was a safari hunter (from "Out of Africa") who would never make their relationship exclusive.

And she became a pilot and flew across the Atlantic.

There is much, much more, and this book filled in many of the blanks from "West With the Night." (And of course, after eight years, I had forgotten a lot).

Although it is fiction, I am confident in the author's extensive research on, as I wrote eight years ago, "this remarkable English-born woman."

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fall? Really?

          "Record or near-record warm temperatures."

           That has been what we have been repeatedly hearing from our weather prognosticators here in middle Tennessee.

           We have had maybe a few days with highs in the 70s, or a tad below, since the official beginning of fall September 21st.  But for the most part, our fall has been more like a mild summer, with highs in the low to mid 80s, pushing 90 degrees some days. It has also been extremely dry. We need rain in the worst way.

           People try. They have put mums and pumpkins on their porches and they even wear sweaters.

           They drink pumpkin-spice lattes, apple cider and Oktoberfest beer, and some are even building fires in their fireplaces.

            But the reality is it's still really, really warm. We are running our air conditioner at our house and I'm still wearing shorts. I can't make it cool just because I want it to be.

             The mornings are very nice, cool and crisp, and are really the only indication that it is fall rather than summer. But other than that, you could have fooled me.

            It has been a busy fall season (according to the calendar) for Wife and me. She arrived back from Paris a week ago Friday, and I met her in Atlanta that afternoon. We stayed at Older Son's and DIL's home that Friday night, although they were in Dallas for a wedding.

              Younger Son had been working in Florida the previous week, and flew into Atlanta Saturday morning. We picked him up and headed for Auburn for the Auburn-Arkansas football game, and met Daughter and SIL there. This is the fist time we had seen Younger Son since his relocation to Indiana in August, and it was very good to see him and be with him. We brought him home with us on Sunday and he stayed here until Wednesday.

               Wife is gone again this weekend, helping host a wedding shower in Little Rock for the daughter of longtime friends, and also spending some time with her parents. I spent the morning at a board meeting for the non-profit where I serve, and then stuck around to serve lunch to the homeless men. It's always a good experience to get a glimpse of the clientele and remind me why it is so worthwhile to give my time and resources to this organization.


               This Monday is Halloween, and Wife and I will stay home and answer the door for the trick-or-treaters. We might be inviting some of them to come inside to get cool! (High Monday is to be 85).



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Funny how it all works

It has been a different kind of weekend for me.

Wife is out of town -- out of the country, to be exact.

Over a year ago, she and and some lady friends started talking about a trip to Paris. Wife, Daughter and I went in 2013 and Wife just didn't get enough and once she found some friends who were interested in going -- sans husbands -- well, that's all it took.

As I have mentioned, Wife is quite the planner, and planning trips is right up her alley. She is looking toward retirement in the next year or so and while I don't know if she would want to be a full-fledged travel agent as such, she could certainly have a second career as a trip planner if anyone would be interested in enlisting her.

For some reason, she has the patience and intuition to sift through everything that's available on the Internet and travel books (Rick Steves, Fodor, etc.) and plan itineraries. I have been the beneficiary of this skill of hers (see recent post about our trip to Canada, and other previous posts) and now, three of her friends are traveling with her and enjoying her abilities.

That's not really the point I'm making here. The point I'm making is how incomplete I am without Wife around.

Now, I'll be the first to admit when she tells me about one of these adventures that doesn't include me, I have a sense of anticipation. I'll do just what I want, and just when I want to -- that is what I think to myself.

But I quickly find that those things are somewhat limited.

Yes, I stopped at my favorite craft brewery Friday afternoon before coming home. I always envision myself striking up a conversation with someone and becoming the life of the party . . . but truth be told, I'm an introvert, and I go in with a book or a newspaper in hand, happy to respond to someone who might initiate with me, but way too uncomfortable to start that interaction myself. The result: I enjoy the latest offering of the brewery, read my book/newspaper and come home.

I have friends. I really do. But I rarely feel comfortable calling and saying meet me at so-and-so, or anything of the sort. It's that introvert thing again. I really love people, but they make me tired, and I'm hesitant to initiate something I might end up wishing I had never started in the first place.

Which makes me, I am without a doubt, a perfect candidate for counseling or psychotherapy should I ever decide I'm that messed up (and I'm sure I am).

I have gotten a few things accomplished this weekend. I cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday morning, removing the crisper drawers and washing them, and discarding a few items that had long outlived their shelf life.

It's post-season baseball time and college football is right in the thick of it, so I watched some of that.

This morning I skipped church (I'm sorry about that, but it's that insecurity thing again, much preferring to have Wife sitting next to me) and opted instead to trim all the shrubs in the beds in front of the house.

This afternoon I went to a hipster coffee shop and since I don't drink coffee, opted for beer instead.

No, I have not drunk myself silly this weekend. Moderation in all things.

But if these times do nothing else, they remind me of how I am so much better with my better half.

I am so happy for her that she can make trips like this. I really am. And I would never for one minute deny her going.

And it's not like we have one of those marriages where she bows and scrapes -- quite the contrary. I'm very much an egalitarian and have never worried about who does the laundry or the cooking or the yard work (although she's a much better cook and I've told her if she'll cook, I'll gladly do everything else, which is laughable).

It comes down to the fact that we have been together 32 years, and I miss her.

Kind of funny, really. When our three children were all still at home and we were in the midst of raising them, and the occasional few days might come up where it was just me at the house, I could hardly believe my good fortune.

Yes, it's funny how that seems now.