What am I living for? and What am I dying for? are the same question

Tried to do some relaxing yesterday afternoon. I am stressed and exhausted from the last few weeks and found relaxing a bit tough. Relaxing for me looks like alternating between practicing piano and reading. I developed tension in my neck and a weird headache that really didn’t leave me until the middle of last night. Sigh. Usually I am able to practice and read comfortably.

Oh well.

Finished The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.

This book is sneaky. It starts out feeling a bit vapid and goofy in its plot premise which is another Atwood relatively near-future vision. In this one, we follow some characters who are navigating their way in a consumer nightmare to odd solutions the chief of which is a religious cult which combines liturgical calendar and ecological beliefs and concerns called the Gardeners.

Early on, Atwood flips back and forth in time so that we do know the Gardeners stilted religious beliefs about an impending disastrous “Waterless Flood” (as in Noah) does actually take place and that at least two of the main characters miraculously survive a world-wise disease pandemic that kills most humans.

In between narrative chapters, Atwood places sermons that the cult leader, AdamOne, gives are liturgical meditations in such feast days as “Saint Euell of Wild Foods” (That would be, you guessed it, Euell Gibbons)….

“Creation Day” which makes clear that the Gardeners are not “creationists” but scientists.

These homilies are in AdamOne’s voice and serve not only to explicate Atwood’s dystopian idea of a weird cult but also move the plot along with the timely references AdamOne makes to the community’s ongoing struggle to survive. Each of homilies ends with a Gardener “hymn” from the fictional collection, The God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook (St. Euell’s ends: “The Holy Weeds are plentiful/And beautiful to see—/For who can doubt God put them there,/So starved we’ll never be?.”) In the afterword Atwood says someone has set these hymns to music and that people are free to use them in their (ahem) devotions.  But after looking at the website, it seems basically set up to merchandise (link:www.yearoftheflood.ca/ca/music/)

At first the Gardeners seem very eccentric and out of step with the urban environment in which they are living. They are holed up on a roof and practicing guerrilla gardening.

Atwood does manage to tell an interesting story.  I interrupted my reading of it so that occasionally I had trouble remembering personalities of the characters. By the end of the book it occurred to me to re-read it to get a better grasp of this well-told story. If I do, I will want to purchase my own copy and mark it up.

Here are a few of places I noted in my library copy (I use stickies…. hoping they don’t damage the books the way that some librarians complain about…).

“On Predator Day we celebrate, not God the loving and gentle Father and mother, but God the Tiger. Or God the Lion. Or God the Bear. Or God the Wild Boar. Or God the Wolf. Or even God the Shark. Whatever the symbol, Predator Day is devoted to the qualities of terrifying appearance and overwhelming strength, which, since they are at times desired by us, must also belong to God, as all good things belong to Him.

“As Creator, God has put a little of Himself into each of His Creatures–how could it be otherwise?–and therefore the Tiger, the Lion, the Wolf, the Bear, the Boar, and the Shark–or, on the miniscale of things, the Water Shrew and the Praying Mantis–are in their way reflections of the Divine.” p. 346

I have always loved William Blake’s images of Christ the Tiger. Atwood cites him as an influence on her “hymnody.”

“Nature may be dumb as a sack of hammers, Zeb used to say, but it’s smarter than you.” p. 366

“What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.” p. 326

I put the page number in for my own benefit so that I can get back to the context of these quotes if I get my own copy of this book.


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Real Food Recipes: Mini Mascarpone Fruit Tarts « Not Dabbling In Normal

The second of two articles my niece, Emily, has written for the website, Not Dabbling in Normal: Committed to discovering life without adhering to ‘normalcy.’


Libyan Tribal Alliances Could Be Qaddafi’s Undoing – NYTimes.com

Reading this helped me a bit with Juan Cole’s description of the historical differences and contexts in the North African countries experiencing change right now. The tribal part of the history of Libya is fascinating and important to what is happening there right now.

Hugh Martin, Composer of Judy Garland Hits, Dies at 96 – NYTimes.com

This guy wrote “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” Judy Garland made him change the original lyric from “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/it may be your last” to “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Let your heart be light.”

The saddest part of this obit for me was the fact that Martin became a Seventh Day Adventist before he died and rewrote his hit to begin “Have yourself a blessed little Christmas.”

What can I say?

Donny George, 60, Dies – Protected Iraq’s Artifacts – NYTimes.com

It’s possible you might remember this guy if you were following the Iraq war. He was on the ground trying to protect Iraq’s invaluable archaeological stuff. I like the fact that he was a drummer for a rock band in his spare time.


Leo Steinberg, Art Historian, Is Dead at 90 – NYTimes.com

This guy sounds very interesting. I  might give this book he wrote a try at some point.

Obit describes it this way: “The book grew out of a question that had apparently occurred to no other modern scholar: Why is it that in so many Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child, the infant Jesus’ genitals are actively displayed to viewers both within and without the picture?”


Global Water Dances

The chair of the dance department yesterday mentioned that she is organizing the local “Global Water Dance” that will take place June 25th at 5 PM at Tunnel Park. She asked me if I would be interested in composing some of the music to be danced to. I said yes.

Global Water Dances


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