Saturday, September 25, 2010

Snapshot: The Burren

The Burren is situated south of Galway in County Clare. The name derives from "bhoireann" Irish for "stony place." This karst limestone region, composed of limestone pavements, is eroded in a distinctive pattern known as karren and crisscrossed by cracks known as grykes. Underneath it all you find caves and rivers. At first glance it appears a barren land, but upon closer inspection teeming life becomes apparent including rare wildflowers such as gentian, orchids and bloody cranesbill. It has also known death rife as it is with megalithic tombs and villages abandoned during An Gorta Mor (The Great Famine). Home to people for thousands of years this is a place of celtic crosses and a ruined Cistercian Abbey as well as where local farmers graze their animals come winter. Best of all it's bordered by the Atlantic ocean - a perfect combination of rock and water - making it one of my favorite places on earth.


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

- Seamus Heaney

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Snapshot: Patricia Polacco

I first read a book by Patricia Polacco when I came across her unforgettable picturebook Pink and Say. Over the years I've enjoy her books - her stories as vivid and compelling as the illustrations - with one of my all-time favorites being Mrs. Katz and Tush. She has given eloquent voice to the experience of being learning disabled. Polacco is from Michigan just south of where my parents now live. After many years in Oakland, CA she has moved back to the farm where she lived as a little girl. Her love of her farm childhood, love for her elders and their stories, commitment to and celebration of diversity as well as her sheer pleasure in art, animals, books and storytelling all give me great joy. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book review: Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi & Laurie Becklund

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam by Zainab Salbi and Laurie Becklund

The question "why did they stay?" haunts Salbi's memoir. She asks how Saddam Hussein "managed to make decent people like my parents complicit in their own oppression."

Future books will offer a more historically nuanced view of this time, but this memoir will continue to be read, exploring it does how, by barely perceptible stages, decent people make accommodations in a horrific regime.

Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International, an organization that assists women victimized by war.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Poem: Stanley Kunitz

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each way.

- Stanley Kunitz