Yes, I know that summer is not officially here until the 21st of this month. Classes and the madness of our first school year in schools ended on what seems a very distant May 23rd. We in Houston, joke that we live in the armpit of Texas, -one of them at least. But it’s true, y’all! Problems like reconsidering your choice of deodorant are acutely real.
In case you didn’t know, we were a full time homeschooling family from birth until their 6th and 8th grades this year. I also substituted taught during the school year after 14 years of doing only some teaching at the co-ops we’ve been part of while our time of home educating. For the last two years, my life pace seemed to have reached speed light. I joke about this, but last summer, I was already out of breath when we all had to jump into a school year in the middle grades, coming from two weeks in Spain in which I went to see my mom right after she was released from almost a month at the ICU. She almost died. But didn’t. My husband was at an important junction in his life regarding his health. The daughters went through an intense time. It was one of those seasons in life that try us and shake us.
This summer, in just a few weeks, is truly a balm, a huge blessing.
Typical of some of us when we don’t have deadlines or time constrains, given free time we still move very fast, -Houston inertia. We’ve been to the pool several times, to the water park, the girls have had countless sleep overs, we’ve had lots of meals together, outings, eternal trips to Walmart (our big superstore we hate/love), lazy mornings, lots of reading time for me, -though too lazy for reviews-, conversations with friends through Voxer or messenger, coffees and the movie of rigor this summer, Aladdin. Yeah, it was good, in case you ask. But there is not where my heart lays. More on that later.
I’m having time to read, time for projects, and time to rest. Hopefully, I’ll have time for leisure too. Actually, while cleaning my nightstand, I saw my abandoned commonplace book, and I got to reading some of the quotes in it, and found this one on leisure:
Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude -it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind; a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” in each and every one of the three aspects under which it was analyzed: work as activity, as toil, as social funcion… For leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude.
Josef Pieper. Leisure: The Basis of Culture
According to Pieper, leisure is an attitude of mind. I conclude one may enjoy leisure in the middle of a busy season, but it’s also fair to say that, though not the result of external factors, some conditions must be in place to engage in it. Free time, to me, is enabling me to engage in leisure.
Those seven pictures you see are the result of one of my longed wanted projects. All of them are meaningful to me. This is my bedroom wall. I plan to keep populating it. From the top left, the ships one is my own photo of Malta from December 2008. Middle top is a bought canvas of a place that could be Spain, Italy, I don’t know. We bought that and other rolled canvas in Malta, and framed them here. Top right, in black and white, it’s a pencil drawing of a Mexican street and fountain. 17+ years ago, when I retired from the classroom, the mom of a first grader I taught came to school the last day with this frame.
Bottom row, left, a black and white photograph by Ansel Adams. Who doesn’t love his photos of nature. You can see it better here. I have not been to Sierra Nevada. One day, maybe. Next, in the white frame, two images, top one the famous “This is not a pipe” by my adored Magritte. Who doesn’t love Magritte?, and bottom, this evocative, mysterious and captivating painting by De Chirico, “Mystery and Melancholy of a Street”. And who doesn’t love De Chirico? Okay. I’m stopping that now. Next to it, a close up of Vermeer’s “The Little Street”. Last, bottom row to the right, Norman Rockwell’s “Moving Day”.
I haven’t been to a museum in ages. Must put a remedy to that this summer if possible!
Before kids, my husband and I used to watch shows together. Now I remember those days with fondness. I’m back to having some movie times with him. Our taste is night and day. I’m willing to compromise. I propose a movie, he the next.
My first pick was The Tree of Life, by Malick. It’s a movie from 2011. My friend Travis recommended it to me. The book of Job, -or the problem of pain-, is present in it. Malick’s first movie was Badlands, from 1944. It’s next in my list. You can see a bit about his style here. It’s my type of movie. My husband… not so much. But, love it or hate it, the quality and artistry is there. It’s a movie classic, not your run of the mill movie. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to conceive films as anything beyond entertainment. But if you like films to be more than visual candy for the eyes, if you are opened or intrigued by the philosophical, the beautiful, The Tree of Life is your movie.
I was mesmerized and moved by how he could convey so many universal experiences through such an intimate and personal account.
About my reading life. Cause, I always have to talk about my reads. I’d say I’m back to reading my favorite blogs written by you! I’m going to do an informal shout out at the risk of missing some of you.
Judy writes at Another Perfect Daughter. I always enjoy her insights on the scriptures. She focuses her mind on events I usually glance at when I read them. It’s like pointing a magnifying glass at a stamp, and finding details you didn’t know they exist.
Lotz is a New Yorker who has lived in Madrid for several years. I adore all his posts, from his book reviews, to his travel log posts. His last one on poetry, truth and beauty, was fascinating. He’s such a deft writer, has a sharp scholarly mind, -which is sadly unusual these days-, and has this zest for life that’s contagious.
Chris at Calmgrove is a generous soul. I’m always so inspired after visiting his blog. He is a gentleman who is, true to his motto, “exploring the world of ideas through books”.
Katie writes at Never Not Reading. She’s a recent find and an instant cherished blog. I like her youth, her sense of humor, and she’s a fellow public school teacher. Okay, I’m only subbing, but believe me, my heart is that of a teacher.
Brona is an Aussie blogger. My reading friends are all over the world. I believe that keeping in touch with all of you, and reading your thoughts teaches me more and helps me build up my understanding of the world more than watching the news.
Janakay, at You Might as Well Read, is a constant source of culture, art, nature, and a Henry James’s fan. You can’t read her posts and not get hooked to her sense of humor, and her finely tuned compass when it comes to sharing everything from trips to museums, to her studies pursues, or her latest walk in nature.
My dear friend Maria came back to the blogging scene not long ago with Skúmaskot. Many years ago, we worked together in translating Charlotte Mason. Those were good days. I’m glad Maria keeps writing about books and life.
I follow, my feed informs me, 75 sites. I can’t read it all or always, but I try. There’s many of you I haven’t listed here. My apologies. I didn’t intend for the list to be exhaustive, just a summer sample.
As for the summer books. I keep saying this year is odd. But good. I am reading less quantity, but I’m feeling more myself in my choices. Less restless to move on to the next book, and more committed to finish some good books. I may not get to all of those, but I like to force myself to do this. If it’s I who forces herself to finish some titles, it’s well with me.
It’s possible I have a not very defined goal but a guideline that has been present in my late reads. I believe this year I’m leaning towards more modern writers than before. Second half of the XIX century and more XX century as well. I’m late to the game. This is nothing new to you, but I’m finally connecting the dots. Modern and postmodern literature is difficult, as much as modern and postmodern art. And films.
I’ve been mulling on the theme of violence. Again, late to realize there’s a conscience treatment of violence and ugliness common to artistic expressions of the new times. It’s possible that along with the impostors, the ones who just want to provoke or bring us down to their evil with no purpose other than to burden us with their selfish pain, there’s a genuine attempt to open our eyes to questions, problems, experiences, using art as the vehicle to dignify all that. Even violence in language. -in movies, music, books and art-, when abstracted and shaped into an archetype, could constitute genuine expressions of our issues.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to read/watch/partake of much of what’s out there, but I’m finding my way through some important pieces that are becoming an important part of who I am and help me challenge my beliefs and remove my biases. There’s a deep understanding of ‘the other’ in much of these new offers of the art of our times.
The second movie, the one my husband chose, was pathetic, ha ha ha. A Netflix movie for 12 year old people. Not even, (I’d rather have my 12 year old watch something else). Pabulum. I’m ashamed of telling you which one it was, but I know you would ask. Rim of the World. The next thing I made him watch, (and this time he liked it), was Bundersnatch, the one episode of Blackmirror I watched when it first came up. I made my oldest daughter watch it when it came up. I was obsessed with it. And it was great to watch it after with my husband.
My husband claims that I overthink Bundersnatch and The Tree of Life. Duh! What’s the fun if you don’t overthink it?
That’s all for now. (I have a teen daughter waiting for me to give her driving lessons and so far and against predictions, I’m loving our time together).
How’s your summer?, or approaching winter if on the South Hemisphere?