Nature Walk + Thoughts for the Week

Well, it’s finally come – the end of a long, much needed, and memorable weekend.

Today my family and I went for a walk at a local bird reserve.  We’ve been going here for over a decade; it’s like visiting an old friend now.  Autumn is the best time to see it, though already a lot of the maples have lost their leaves.

After a short detour through the woods, the trail opens up to the tidal flats, home to plenty of sea gulls, mallards, and Canadian geese.  I’ve always thought this looks like something out of Middle Earth.

Though a cold day, it was a great way to unwind and mentally “reset” before the coming week.

Speaking of which, work has been pretty exhausting, and I’m trying very hard to stay positive.  Rapid changes and new responsibilities are the challenges right now.  I hope things will get easier by January.

To offset the stress, I’ve been alternating between several books:

  • The Concept of Anxiety – Kierkegaard, aforementioned
  • Open Letters – Václav Havel
  • Manalive – G. K. Chesterton.  (So far disappointing, to be honest.)

If you’ve never read Havel, I suggest dropping everything (as soon as is convenient) and reading “The Power of the Powerless” which you can find online.  Though a political piece, it can be read apolitically as well.  It is a call to “live within the truth” – as profound as it is simple, and as terrifying as it is essential.  I have started reading some of his other work in Open Letters and finding it just as excellent, so far.

Kierkegaard I shall soon finish; only about 26 pages to go.  It is tough to read, because in The Concept of Anxiety he is replying to a myriad of other philosophers (e.g. Hegel) and I am lost most of the time.  It seems like a book I’ll want to reread in the future.

I have found one quote I like very much.  It’s reminiscent of Myshkin’s “even in prison” quote from The Idiot, although a little less fanciful:

But life is rich enough if one only knows how to see.  There is no need to travel to Paris and London – and it does not help if one cannot see.

It’s something I believe in wholeheartedly. 

Life Lately (Podcast & Blog Update)

Hi readers and listeners – just a quick life update…

I mentioned recently my non-blogging life has been very busy in the last month or so.  What I didn’t anticipate was taking on many new responsibilities at work, very suddenly and unexpectedly.  By November, depending on how things turn out, I may not have much free time; and whatever I have, I need to spend on NaNoWriMo, to finish my novel-in-progress. 

So, in order to make this adjustment easier possible, I’ll be taking another unplanned break from podcasting, starting next week, with no ETA on its return. 

via GIPHY

I plan to keep blogging, if sporadically.  I have at least one new review to share – Lord of the Flies – which should be coming here pretty soon.  Also, I don’t plan to quit reading, so you can expect at least a monthly check-in with those reviews. (Reviews are much faster to publish, to say the least.)

Really sorry to anyone who’s been following along with Season 3.  It’s a tough choice to make…I just don’t want to sacrifice the quality of content for “finishing out” the season.  I hope once things settle down, I’ll be in a better place to get back into it again. 🙂

Reading and Podcasting: Behind the Scenes – Episode 29

How did I first get into classic literature, let alone podcast about it? This week’s episode features a glimpse into my reading life and podcasting journey, as well as some tips and technology which have helped me along the way.

Opening quote is from South by Sir Ernest Shackleton.  It has no bearing on today’s topic; it’s just a nice quote on a topic that’s been on my brain.

Links:
Classics Considered on Instagram – Follow to get sneak peeks of future episodes!
Noonlight Reads – My all-purpose reading blog.  Links to my stories can be found here.
RSS Owl – A free, open-source RSS / blog reader
Lithium (app) – Useful for reading Project Gutenberg ebooks on an Android tablet
OneNote Online

My Sherlock Holmes Obsession – Episode 27

Today I take a nostalgia trip back to the time I first met Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective has impacted my life in many ways, from violin playing to overcoming social anxiety. I also share my thoughts on a number of adaptations, including the Jeremy Brett TV series and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock.

Links:
Opening quote read by David Clarke (LibriVox)
Opening music – “Ambush in Rattlesnake Gulch” by Brian Boyko (Public domain, FreePD.com)

Constructive Rest and the Sad History of Orchids

Since starting my 9–5 desk job a few years ago, my already poor posture has deteriorated quite a bit, due to hunching in front of two monitors all day.  The 8 hours at the desk is not the only problem…when I get home, my first instinct is to switch to my personal laptop (for blogging, etc) or curl up in a chair to read.  Neither of these activities helps my posture, of course.

POSITION OF SKELETON IN GOOD AND POOR POSTURE - NARA - 515194

I’ve had this problem for years but only recently became seriously concerned with the longterm effects.  While I’ve tried exercises/stretches in the past, I’m convinced that stretching in itself is not enough.  Breaking it down, the first problem, I feel, is simply how to give my back a rest.

The last couple of days, I’ve been experimenting with “constructive rest,” part of the Alexander Technique (which I have not done, but probably could benefit from).  It’s as simple as can be – you just lie down on a flat surface with your knees bent and your head slightly propped up.

Me, I can’t just lie down and do nothing.  I have to be reading, or watching a video, or something.  So during my “constructive rest” time – about 30 minutes a day – I have been listening to a LibriVox audiobook called About Orchids, a Chat by Victorian writer Frederick Boyle, read by Peter Yearsley.

One of these days, I will talk about my love of orchids, which actually has a literary origin.  For now, suffice it to say I have recently purchased a new Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) and was happy to find a Victorian “chat” about one of my favorite flowers.  Boyle was a lawyer and journalist who had a penchant for orchids, and listening to him talk about them in an educated, yet chatty fashion is really enjoyable.

Vanda Sanderiana

A sad thing I learned was the troublesome, sometimes disturbing history of how orchids came to Europe in the 19th century.  Boyle talks of orchid importers chopping down whole, perfectly good trees for the sake of literally a few orchids clinging to the branches.  He lists a slew of orchid collectors who died on the job, while trekking through difficult terrain to find specimens.

The honest youth, not very strong perhaps in an English climate, went bravely forth into the unhealthiest parts of unhealthy lands, where food is very scarce, and very, very rough; where he was wet through day after day, for weeks at a time; where “the fever,” of varied sort, comes as regularly as Sunday; where from month to month he found no one with whom to exchange a word.

Boyle explains how small the payoff was due to trouble with shipments.  The orchids had to be carefully packed and sent down from the mountains to the port on pack mules.  This was not the worst of it.  An orchid importer could lose up to 1000£ if a batch of orchids did not survive the sea voyage.  (Orchids are rather sensitive to temperature and water). 

All in all, I am left with mixed feelings about my beloved orchids.  I do not feel such risks and waste are worth transporting a tiny, inanimate creature from one part of the globe to the other.  On the other hand, now we have orchids in grocery stores, so I benefit from that history.  I’m glad I did not have to choose one way or the other, because I can understand the collectors’ obsession, even if I can’t condone it.

Martin Johnson Heade - Orchids and Hummingbirds (14994490788)
Martin Johnson Heade – Orchids and Hummingbirds, [CC BY 2.0 ],
via Wikimedia Commons, Irina, 2014-09-08 22:03