It takes an island… #Arran #Scotland #friendship

A most amazing community and a heartfelt tribute. Thank you, Barb for doing this. This is a celebration of life.

Barb Taub

Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.
—A Bottle and a Friend, Robert Burns

A thank you letter to Arran.

Some weeks ago, I turned to Arran, the small Scottish island I call home, for help. Two friends and I had hoped to get together on Arran last April. Because of the pandemic, we postponed it to this year. But between continuing covid restrictions that left me marooned in Italy, and life-threatening health issues that came up for each of my friends, we realized that wasn’t likely either. (You can read about their personal, sad, funny, and amazingly life-affirming cancer journeys on Mary Smith’s Cancer Diaries and Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.)

The solution, for anyone who has ever lived on Arran, was obvious. I posted a message on the island’s…

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SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY: Memory lane…

When recently WordPress reminded me that this, my second blog, had reached its ninth anniversary, I decided not to re-post the original post but to share once again a place that is special to me.


Upon arriving in Paris, many are drawn to such destinations as The Eiffel Tower, Cathedral Notre Dame, La Louvre or one of many other Parisian landmarks. However, when I first arrived in Paris my first stop was to a landmark English Book Store in the Latin Quarter.

Located across the Seine from Cathedral Notre Dame, this haven for readers and writers is a living legend. The focus of this bookstore is English-language literature. It has served as not only inspiration but also home to writers for decades. In its current incarnation, it honors the past and the work of the original owner, Sylvia Beach. Miss Beach was responsible for publishing authors who had previously been unsuccessful in their attempts to be in print such as James Joyce. The advent of WWII closed the doors of the original Shakespeare & Company begun by Miss Beach. Miss Beach managed to keep the bookstore open through 1941 and the fall of Paris. However, the war had taken its toll.

After the war, American, George Whitman was not eager to return immediately. Instead, he enrolled in French classes at the Sorbonne. He amassed a large collection of books and his apartment became a lending library. After discussions with a friend, he found an apartment in the location where the bookstore still stands and turned that into a bookstore library. He used the name Shakespeare and Company in honor of Miss Beach and all that she had achieved.

There is a sign that you will see when you enter the shop that sums up George’s philosophy in life. “Be not inhospitable to strangers least they be angels in disguise.” George Whitman took in many hungry writers and shared his home and his life. There were beds among the books and often pancakes with George himself. His story is truly amazing and bears future reading.  The list of authors who have received inspiration and support at Shakespeare and Company is like reading a list of who’s who in the literary world for the past century. George and his daughter continue to support writers. Visiting authors, late night poetry readings are just some of the delights that are waiting for you.

In his novel, Time Was Soft There, Canadian journalist Jeremy Mercer chronicles his time living and working in the bookstore. It is food for any reader or writer’s soul. Unless the copy you find, of Jeremy’s book, is as old as mine, the re-printed edition is under a different title, Books, Baugettes, and Bedbugs. When you are planning that trip to Paris, put it on your list of musts.

This writer was thrilled when the shop took a few of my first poetry chapbooks on consignment and still have the receipt as a treasured souvenir of my first trip to France. I look forward to returning to Paris and to Shakespeare & Company. Fortunately, this time I won’t have to worry about buying more books than will fit in my suitcase…

Sadly, shortly after the original posting of this article, George Whitman traded the flesh and literally became one of those angels. His daughter continues her father’s work and I encourage everyone to check out the website put together by George’s daughter, Sophie, and the group who has banded to support the ideals that George and Sylvia Beach shared. https://friendsofshakespeareandcompany.com/

Company.

Bisous,

Léa

#BookReview of WRITEDOWN by Margaret Elphinstone et al #Lockdown #Galloway #Scotland #RBRT

I’m only a few pages into my copy and already recommending it to friends and family. And, I haven’t even read any of Mary Smith’s words yet… I love the whole idea and hope that others will pick up the gauntlet in their communities.

Barb Taub

In my last post here, I talked about the ‘forgotten’ flu pandemic of 1918. The coronavirus seems an overwhelming force across the globe, and I wonder what its legacy will be. After reading the incredible new group lockdown diary, Writedown, one thing I’m sure of is that this pandemic will live in our collective memory. 

One of the contributors to Writedown is also one of my favorite writers, Mary Smith. (If you haven’t had a chance to read her incredible Afghan adventure serial diary, give yourself a treat and start with this one, take a look at some of her funny and heart-tugging books here, her blog series My Dad is a Goldfish about caring for her father with dementia, or most recently her ongoing cancer journey.

I invited Mary to describe the Writedown project, and here’s what she shared.


Author Mary Smith, one…

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Quotations on Intellectualism

Thank you, Charles. In the midst of the insanity around us, the reason is whispering its message.

charles french words reading and writing

 

 

Isaac_Asimov

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

                                                  Isaac Asimov

 

George_Orwell_press_photo

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

                                                   George Orwell

 

Philip_Plait_2007

“I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

                                                      Phil Plait

 

“For democracy to…

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Edge of the Wilderness

Randall, this just maybe my all-time favorite post from you. It speaks to me on so many levels. Thank you.

Global Sojourns Photography

“Standing on the precipice of a wilderness unknown. Alone. Resistance, both past and present, pushes from all sides.” I stare at the words written and wonder what it would feel like to walk along a razor’s edge, day-after-day, your existence always in the balance.

My room fills with the warm yellow hues of the evening sun inviting me for a walk, but I am paralyzed. Mystified by this invisible force of power used to manipulate people. Used without empathy. Used without acceptance of responsibility.

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From the American Indians pushed around in the 19th century, to the American People pushed around outside the White House just a few months ago in the 21st century ~ use of force, power without responsibility.

I’ve come to realize while this is a beautiful world, rich in love and life, it is a beauty balanced by hardship for those not in power.

There’s a sentence…

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Echos From Shadows of The Past…

“The Law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.” – Bertolt Brecht

“A man who sees another man on the street corner with only a stump for an arm will be so shocked the first time he’ll give him six-pence. But the second time it’ll only be a threepenny bit. And if he sees him a third time, he’ll have him cold-bloodedly handed over to the police.” – Bertolt Brecht

In 1933 the Nazis seized power, and like many German dissidents, the writer Bertolt Brecht had to leave. After several moves, he ended up in Denmark where he and his family accepted the offer of a house in a remote village. It was there that he penned an essay which quickly began appearing in different European cities. The journal responsible was Unsere Zeit (Our Times). It was even smuggled into Germany and distributed under a plain cover. The title “Statutes of Reich Association of German Writers.”

The actual title of this work was “Funf Schwierigkeiten beim schreiben der Wahrheit,” which translates to “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.

Brecht went on to say that if one chooses to oppose lies and ignorance, and to write the truth, there are five difficulties that you must overcome.

The real title of the essay was “Fünf Schwierigkeiten beim schreiben der Wahrheit,” or “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.” Brecht wrote:

“These days, if you want to struggle against lies and ignorance, and to write the truth, you must overcome at least five difficulties. You must have the courage to write the truth when everywhere truth is repressed. You must have the wit to recognize the truth, though everywhere it is concealed. You must have the skill to make the truth into a weapon. You must have the judgment to choose those in whose hands the truth will be effective. And you must have the cunning to spread the truth among such people.”

While the obstacles he faced were epic under fascism, they are also present in the lives of writers who have suffered exile, had to flee their homes and also for those who live in countries that claim to be democracies when they are not. Today we live in a world where fascism is rearing its ugly head. In some countries more than others, it is quickly become the rule of law in some parts of the world.

I believe that it is time to dust of Brecht and to committ to exactly what type of writer each of us will strive to be. Remembering his circumstances and reading his words, I shall endeavor to follow his ideals.

The Courage to Tell the Truth

It seems obvious that, as a writer, you should write the truth, in the sense that you ought not to suppress or conceal anything or deliberately write things that are untrue. You ought not to bow down before the powerful or betray the weak. It is, of course, very hard not to bow down before the powerful, and it is highly advantageous to betray the weak. To displease the possessors means to become one of the dispossessed. To pass up paid work or to decline fame when it is offered may mean being unpaid or unknown forever. This takes courage.

Any truth worth writing is one that those in power do not want you to tell, and the enemies of truth will try to exact a price. They will leak your personal information to the press or to your enemies. They will dox you. They will try to make it embarrassing or frightening or dangerous to tell the truth. A man who corrupts whole countries gets less prison time than a woman who votes by mistake. This is what power means.

In times of oppression, there is usually much talk about elevated matters. To write that you are “in the resistance” feels dramatic and important. You can get the feeling that you are a truth teller, because truth ought to feel dramatic and important. What is this feeling of drama? Surely, it must be the truth. In such times, it takes courage to write of low and boring matters such as food and shelter, access to healthcare, the rights of refugees.

When every channel is blaring the message that strong feelings trump knowledge, and that a man without compassion is more deserving of attention than one who cares for others, it takes courage to ask: Who profits? When all the talk is of who is a real American, it takes courage to ask: Who is unreal?

It also takes courage to tell the truth about yourself, about your own defeat. You lost. They are drinking your tears. Many of the oppressed lose the capacity to see their own mistakes. It seems to them that the persecution they suffer is itself the greatest injustice. The persecutors are wicked simply because they persecute; the persecuted suffer because of their goodness. But this goodness has been beaten, defeated, suppressed. It was therefore a weak goodness, a bad, unreliable goodness. For we cannot accept that goodness must be weak as rain must be wet. Weakness is not goodness. Goodness is not a weakness. It takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good, but because they were weak.

Naturally, in the struggle with lies we must write the truth, and this truth must not be a lofty and ambiguous abstraction. When we say of someone, “She spoke the truth,” we imply that some people said something that was not the truth—a lie or a generality—but she said something practical, factual, undeniable.

It takes little courage to mutter a complaint about the triumph of barbarism in a place where complaining is still permitted, even prized. Many writers pretend that the guns are aimed at them when, in reality, they are merely the targets of influencers, trackers, and ads. They shout their generalized demands to a world of friends and followers. They insist on a generalized justice for which they have never done anything. They ask for generalized freedom: Alexa, make the government change.

These writers think that truth is only what sounds good. If the truth turns out to be difficult or dry, they don’t recognize it as such. Because what they crave isn’t the truth but a feeling and a status: the feeling of truth, the status of being a truth teller. The trouble with them is: they do not know the truth.

Upcoming Post: The Wit to recognize the Truth

Bisous,

Léa

LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN

Please, open your heart and feel each word.

“When I was five years old, my mom always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wrote down “happy.”They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – Langston Hughes

LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN

Langston Hughes – 1902 – 1967

Let america be america again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today-O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home-

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa\s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?

Surely not me? The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay-

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again-

The land that never has been yet-

And yet must be-the land where every man is free

The land that’s mine- the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s ME-

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me

And yet I swear this oath-

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We the people must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain-

All, all the stretch of these great green states-

And make America again!

*******

Bisous,

Léa

A little Lamb…

” We gain nothing by being with such as ourselves. We encourage one another in mediocrity. I am always longing to be with men more excellent than myself.”               –  Charles Lamb

“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and have to have it found out by accident.” –  Charles Lamb 

“I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.”  – Charles Lamb

The Old Familiar Faces

I have had playmates, I have had companions,

In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days,

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,

Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies,

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a love once, fairest among women;

Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her –

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man;

Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;

Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like, I paced round the haunts of my childhood

Earth seemed a desert I was bound to traverse,

Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,

Why wert not thou born in my father’s dwelling?

So might we talk of the old familiar faces –

How some have died, and some they have left me,

And some are taken from me; all are departed;

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

Charles Lamb 1775 – 1834

Bisous,

Léa

Le deuxième café

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” – Pierce Brown, Golden Son

Le deuxième café

There is a second café now, in

Villeseque

C’est petit

Not so grand as the first

Cosy – like that favorite old sweater

Clung to on autumn’s first chill

Across the road, a large wooden table

Around it are six stools – room for twelve (stacked nearby)

Another small table just outside the door

The pattern is repeated inside

Tapas, wine, beer as you like

No extra charge for welcoming service

From your first visit,

You have come home

Bisous,

Léa

Hard Work and the Good Life

Randall is one of my favorite bloggers. There is always beauty, inspiration, and each post filled with life. If you are not familiar with his work, give yourself a gift that is only a click away.

Global Sojourns Photography

Cool, quiet days in a small village in the middle of Bohemia come to life in a way I imagine they did centuries ago. The smell of wood stoves, sun rays making their way through the mist, and people preparing for a good day of hard work.

The work is exhausting but full of vitality. Energy created by the confidence of giving each day the best, a hallmark of a successful life. Faces of workers mapped with lines, each etched with a tale stretching back in time. One day falling into another, each story taking us to where we are now.

Days constructed with skill, hands crafting together a life of quality to stand the test of time. In the end, if everything goes right, life will be made a bit easier for those who carry on after we are gone.

Small miracles surround us daily, people who embrace the…

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