What I’m Reading

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Almost Everything–Notes on Hope 

by Anne Lamott

“I am stockpiling antibiotics for the Apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen,” Anne Lamott admits at the beginning of Almost Everything. Despair and uncertainty surround us: in the news, in our families, and in ourselves. But even when life is at its bleakest–when we are, as she puts it, “doomed, stunned, exhausted, and over-caffeinated”–the seeds of rejuvenation are at hand. “All truth is paradox,” Lamott writes, “and this turns out to be a reason for hope. If you arrive at a place in life that is miserable, it will change.” That is the time when we must pledge not to give up but “to do what Wendell Berry wrote: ‘Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.’”

-Review on penguinrandomhouse

I love Anne Lamott’s writing.  She is profound, funny, self-deprecating, and so very wise.  We listened to her read Almost Everything on a long car ride.  Here’s one of many humorous but pithy thoughts that stuck with me: She quotes Ram Dass, who said, “If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.”

One tiny complaint: Anne Lamott doesn’t read aloud well.  She’s too monotone for my ear, but that didn’t stop me from buying a copy of the book and savoring it slowly, again.

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The Magician (Secrets of the Immortals)

by Michael Scott

After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Home for Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenelle is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Niccolo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He’s after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenelle. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year-their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophecy is becoming more and more clear.

-from the Goodreads review

Having read The Alchemist, I had to find the next book.  Since I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t know that this was a series of six.  I suppose I’ll make my way through all of them eventually.  Right now, though, I must find out whether Sophie learns to control her powers, and if Josh’s powers are awakened. Lots of magic in Scott’s book, with Greek mythology thrown in.

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The Wicked King

by Holly Black

I consider Black a truly masterful writer.  The language flows, and the plot has so many twists and turns that I’m left open-mouthed.  There has to be a third story, because I can’t believe that our dark heroine, Jude Duarte, will accept the fate that ended this book. Truly a great read.

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The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Greatest Self

by Nick Ortner

Say what you will, my experience is that tapping (aka Emotional Freedom Technique) works.  I took advantage of Ortner’s offer to purchase this workbook for a mere $4.95.  So far, I’m on Day 2, and I woke up feeling more positive and less grumpy than I have in quite a while.

In the first chapters, Ortner explains the scientific basis for tapping and cites the research that corroborates the technique.

I freely admit that I’m one of those people who likes to try out different diets and self-help strategies.  When friends scoff about tapping, I think, “But WHAT IF it helped?” What if the pain in your shoulder, your self-doubt, your stuckness, diminished or even–gasp!–went away entirely?

Tapping works for me.  What if it works for you?


Flamenco Live!


Passionate and powerful!  Lyrical and graceful!

Anna dancing Spain

Flamenco has its roots in a gathering of cultures from India to Morocco to Spain.  The rhythms are complex; the lettras speak of love and pain, but some are clever and funny.

Come immerse yourself in this amazing art form!

Mark your calendars and don’t put off getting your seats, as last year’s show sold out. Tickets are available through the Unison website:

www.unisonarts.org  or call the office at 845-255-1559



Seelie or Unseelie Fae and The Cruel Prince

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When a good story is also educational, the reading pleasure multiplies.  Author Holly Black of The Cruel Prince opened new vistas of faerie for me.

the cruel prince

In the kingdom of Elfhame, the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts come together to swear fealty (or not) to the new High King.

What are Seelie and Unseelie Courts?

Here’s Faeriepedia’s explanation:

The Unseelie Court consists of the darkly-inclined fairies. Unlike the Seelie Court, no offense is necessary to bring down their assaults. As a group (or “host”), they appear at night and assault travelers, often carrying them through the air, beating them, and forcing them to commit such acts as shooting at cattle.

In addition to the faerie courts, author Black weaves in other faerie beings: sprites, hobs, pixies, pookas, nixies, and merrows.

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According to faeriedust.moonfruit.com:
Faeries seem to fall generally into four categories:
  • Air: Winged faeries and sylphs.
  • Earth: Dwarves, gnomes and pixies.
  • Water: Undines, mermaids and sirens.
  • Fire: Salamanders.
In my books, the Karakesh Chronicles, I’ve included faeries and sylphs, dwarves and selkies.  I’m delighted to learn that there are so many more faeries to put into stories!
Black’s descriptions of the faeries fascinated me.  Some had pointed, fur-tipped ears, tails or black claws or green skin, all on a basic human body.  There were interesting faerie facts, perhaps only occurring in Elfhame, such as faerie females being fertile maybe once a year.  Black’s faeries enslave mortals with magic, working them cruelly.
Jude Duarte, the protagonist in The Cruel Prince, is a flawed main character.  The choices she makes are surprising, clever, and sometimes appalling.  Yet we still root for her as she slides deeper and deeper into the intrigue and power struggles of the kingdom.
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Artists imagine faeries in many ways:

  unseelie 1

I’m taking a reading break from Faerieland, but I’ve got Black’s The Wicked King next in  line.
And remember The Karakesh Chronicles, available at
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The Korobushka was the first folkdance I learned.  I was in fourth grade.  I had an unusual teacher that year.  Mr. Holabird played the bagpipes.  Along with the third grade teacher, Miss Simpkins, he taught us some folkdances.  We kids were sure they would get married, but they didn’t.


We learned a few more dances that year: the Troika, Miserlou, and maybe the Salty Dog Rag.


In high school, we had a folkdance unit in P.E.  The teacher assigned small groups of us to learn a dance outside of class.  Two of my friends and I learned Ahavat Hadassah from Dani Dassa, the owner of Cafe Dansa on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles.

By the time I got to U.C. Irvine, I was a hard core folkdancer. Hora Mamtera was my favorite dance.  It was so expansive, so wildly energetic, and took up so much space.

After leaving Irvine, there was a short dead space of dance until I moved to Santa Barbara.  Still a sleepy, seaside town, Santa Barbara was a folkdancer’s heaven.  We danced almost every day of the week.  Tuesday dances were at U.C.S.B.  Wednesday we danced at Oak Park, outdoors on a wooden platform that creaked and groaned under our weight.  On Fridays, the dancers took over the Plaka, a Greek cafe near the beach.  In between the belly dancer and the owner’s table dance, we folkdancers provided free entertainment to the diners.  I stretched out one glass of retsina from 8:00 to past midnight.  It was glorious.

On Sundays, we’d recovered enough to spend the afternoon dancing on the grassy strip along the beach.

Eventually, I joined an amateur Balkan dance troupe, Zdravitsa.  Here’s a version of Daichevo.


This last link above is of Aman, a professional dance troupe out of U.C.L.A. dancing a kopanitsa.  To be a member of Aman was the height of accomplishment.

Today, in my golden years, I’m blessed to be able to keep on dancing, here in New Paltz, N.Y., with a group of seniors as passionate as myself.



What is more hopeful than a house plant?

Yesterday, I saw a slender stem lifting up from our prayer plant.  Sure enough, this morning, one flower had bloomed atop the stem.  fullsizeoutput_20e3

What sort of pollinator could this plant hope to attract, sitting by the sliding door in our house?  A fruit fly?  And yet, it flowered. (And yet, she persists.)

The prayer plant (maranta leuconeura) is native to tropical forests in Brazil.  It prays by folding its leaves at night, like a pair of praying hands.  The red-veined leaves remind me of dragons’ wings.

Persistance or optimism?  To flower in a place so unlike her natural environment seems like hope to me.


The Green Man

L3x6lkXiR4OaxPmfAFfJIQ                                                                                                                    Claremont, California

The Green Man, known as the Leshi in Eastern Europe, is an ancient pre-Christian deity found in many cultures.  In early times, winters were hard and long, the forest spread wide and was often dangerous, and folk revered the Green Man, symbol of rebirth, spring, and new growth.

The Leshi is a character in Book V of the Karakesh Chronicles.  He has the ability to shift his shape from the old man of the forest to a young, attractive fellow.  This youthful Leshi, feeling lusty in the spring, begets a son with—well, I’ll keep that a secret until the book appears in print.

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Take this link for more about the Green Man:


I find it fascinating that hundreds of years later, artists and writers are still creating works depicting the Green Man.  Here are just of the few representations that appealed to me.

greenman in Nuthurst  Green man in UK

Green Man by Toin Adams in Birmingham, Eng

by sculptor Toin Adams, Birmingham, England