Monday, May 18, 2009

Little Surprises

I knew today was going to be a good day. Yesterday's unnatural cold and clouds were being swept away by a suddenly more generous Mom Nature as I headed out to the mail box, and I saw a bluebird (that only happens once, maybe twice, a year). Down the hill toward town, two flickers rocketed up from the grass, their little red Cardinal caps clearly visible in that brief second. Growing between the curb and Second Street, a weed displayed a cascade of church bell-like white flowers, as handsome as his cousins living more luxurious lives in their mulched flower beds.
I wasn't prepared for a life-size Tin Man in the yard of a little brick house, chopping wood with his gleaming chromed axe! The facial expression, the tin bow tie, the bend of the knees -- it was extraordinarily well done. His oil funnel hat was the perfect size.
The other day we went to the Camp Hill library to read magazines, but since I had left my glasses at home, I wandered down to the basement where on a table there are usually free magazines and books to take away. I could hardly believe it when I discovered an old book I've been searching for, and it was in perfect condition. What a find! It's Summer Wind, by Norman Douglas, published in 1917, a somewhat fussy Edwardian novel set on Capri wherein European gentlemen and women generally waste their time and yours being verbose and self-consciously witty (very much like several deservedly forgotten works of Robert Louis Stevenson ). In the second half, however, the ironic treatments of aristocracy, culture, and religion are well worth getting to. Capri has been better described in The Story of San Michele, but I'll read anything about the islands of Our Sea.
The reason I pounced on it is that it is on THE LIST that I carry around of music, books and movies recommended by other writers or artists I've enjoyed -- it's sort of a long-term game to find these things. I have been disappointed, though: The Stones of Summer and A Clockwork Orange, for example, were highly recommended, and they gagged me. Lawrence Durrell, resident of several Mediterranean isles and author of loving books about them, mentioned Summer Wind and another called Granite Island, which I have never found a trace of. Nor have I found Durrell's own Bitter Lemons. While I already have a pretty large collection of books about islands, I must keep searching for these obscurities, for the game will go on.
And a little surprise can turn up anywhere!

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