March Madness and Reading Inspirations – War and Peace Part Two and Bookstack challenges.

We have definitely had a mad March with all the weather and political changes but the rain is thankfully and finally falling. Let’s also hope for a peaceful and just outcome soon.

As many of you know this area of Andalucia should have a high rainfall in the mountains but there has been a nine month drought and less rainfall in the Autumn time. How the plants and trees survive is a wonder. But under the ground there are vast aquifers and the water table is rising again. We must not overexploit this and I will post further on our community’s local demonstration and the plight of the UNESCO biosphere, the Donana Wetlands.

This March we have seen the plum trees blossom at the beginning and the cherries near the end. Other plants flowering are the wild viburnum and yellow gorse along with the yellow rock rose – Halmium trifolium. And a good variety of birds are now busy. My husbands sharp eyes spotted a small bird of prey from the window. It was neatly poised on a overhanging bare branch of the ivy clad oak. Ahh.. very beautiful but was near the water bath we leave out where there had been a flock of pretty long tailed tits. He has also spotted a mistle or song thrush preening itself in the trees. turdus viscivorus or turdus philomelos. These have become quite rare in the UK and we have not seen many here either so that was welcome,

Below is a beautiful festoon butterfly or l’arlequin in Spanish – Zerynthia rumina. We saw this on the ground and just missed treading on it thanks again to my husbands sharp eyes. He is definitely a bird and small animal spotter. This butterfly is now quite rare in Spain. Its caterpillar feed on the rather dainty dutchman’s pipe or aristolochia pistolachia. A plant quite easily missed but very important for this butterfly’s lifecycle. One of our naturalist friends was very angry once when trying to raise the chrysalis of these butterflies to improve numbers. Just on hatching near her lab there was a lot of gylyphosate spraying where the plants for the eggs ad the caterpillars grow. Hopefully now there is more awareness of the needs of different animals and their ecosystems and use of such pesticides is being phased out.

With March being wet we have spent a lot more time inside and so I have read on with War and Peace and am now halfway through this tome I read all those years ago. There is so much more to understand now and I am always googling the place names to know where everything is. Although when I first read this in the 1970’s the Nuclear Arms Race and Mutually Assured Destruction were key concepts and real threats.

I began re reading this before the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia and will admit was a little bored by the opening with the high society of Moscow and St Petersburg. War and Peace is set during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s, just over 200 years ago. As I invest again in the characters and am reminded of some incidents I am more aware this time of the sections about war. For one of the main characters, the idealist Pierre Bezuhov his desire for a universal truth and humanity still shines as he is undermined by fellow freemasons who belong to the order merely for self advancement and not for ideas of universal peace. It is also about War and Love as there is a lot of falling in love and betrayal in the high ranks of Russian society.

But does this book give me insights into the Russian mindset? I think not but it certainly portrays the society of the rich and powerful and the personal and public politics are something Tolstoy does comment on in many different ways. At the moment I am gripped as the Russian army retreats to Moscow and the devastation brought by armies and war affects all of the people in its path. Tolstoy did not like the politics that drove these wars and I feel clearly puts this forward and also shows an understanding of those with no power – the ordinary soldiers and the peasants. The character Pierre has large estates he inherited in the regions around Kiev/Kyiv and his desire is to give freedom to the serfs who work on his land. Tolstoy shows how Pierre’s idealism can be corrupted by those ready to take advantage. It took until the 1860s for this feudal lord and bonded worker/slave/serf to be overcome.

The bitter irony now is the impact of modern warfare on people in the neighbouring Ukraine and who once would have fought as part of the Russian army against Napoleon and Hitler. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a call for both peace and justice.

Reading for me is a way into other worlds, places, people and I have always enjoyed fiction books about the places I have visited or lived in. In that respect good translations are needed so we can have insights into different ways of being and thinking in this world,

I wanted to refer to Margaret21s Bookstack Challenge in response the war in the Ukraine and chose 5 books from my shelves.


It turned out like this.

The Blind Assassin followed by The Dark Night of the Soul. These two might speak for themselves but as like so many books on shelves I have not read this Margaret Atwood novel…yet! But have dipped into this psychology book of the suffering mind and soul. El Otro Arbol de Guernica- The Other Tree of Guernica where Hitler ‘practised bombing civilians in the town of Guernica – as a warning of modern firepower from the sky and support for a military coup. After this trial came the Blitz and the new warfare against civilians which tragically continues today.

Kate Adie as a well known journalist and often on the frontline this book does show the compassion of humans often in very difficult circumstances. Tolle’s book has a spiritual consciousness based slant towards the kinder world that we need to work towards within us and without us. Let’s hope that we will come through this madness of March 2022 and really work towards the change needed for peace and prosperity for all life on earth. War and Peace went missing from my shelves and am reading it with kindle but it would be there!

And in order to end with a celebration of the natural world below are 5 books from my shelves that have influenced my writing about nature.

Tarka the Otter was a book I read as a child and did reread while I was writing my novel about the animal world. Williamson was suffering from trauma from WW1 and cared for a wild otter that disappeared one day. In his search for this loss arose the novel about Tarka. Not an easy read but well worth it for understanding the life and trials of otters as they were hunted to extinction in the UK. There is recovery now and even a few beavers.

The Cloud Spotters Guide was given to me by a good friend and it does balance understanding the technical formation of clouds and their names with art and literature. So we were well suited.

Spiritual Ecology is a collection of essays about our relationship with the natural world. Joanna Macey has an article and one of her workshops inspired me to write this blog about nature.

The Genius of Birds was another gift from a friend who read my novel in one of its early drafts. The book takes you into all the latest research on birds and their intelligence and social groupings.

Weeds and Wild flowers by Alice Oswald was a major inspiration for me to write poetry. Ms Peony Broteri is the poem in its first form featured early on this blog and about this time as the wild peonies are just budding and ready to bloom for April and May


The missing book is Wildwood by Roger Deakin and must be on another shelf in the UK or I gave it away. Roger Deakin spans walnut wood for Jaguar cars, the wood sculptor David Nash, the wild origins of apple trees in Kyrgystan and Australian aborigine culture. This book led me to Robert Macfarlane’s writing and in particular Wild Places and the beautiful Lost Words for children and the young at heart.

In difficult days when all seems mad there is much to inspire us and give hope and each little drop of kindness to others will give rise to a more peaceful and just world. Solidarity with all suffering from war and the after effects and all those needing climate justice.

Wild peony forest January/February
Peony bud March to April

15 thoughts on “March Madness and Reading Inspirations – War and Peace Part Two and Bookstack challenges.”

  1. I so love your blogs and have for many years. I’m sitting outside, under a porch, with my home-grown rooster, Speckles, who is sparring with his father through a grate. We’ve had a rainstorm, but it’s over, now, and I need to do a rooster-flip so Squire and my hen, Tweety can get out and forage.

    I do want to tell you that I’ve taken Dostoyevsky’S “The Idiot” down from my shelves to re-read, in light of current events. Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, seven years before Tolstoy, but was exiled to Siberia because of his affiliations with writers critical of the tsarist regime.

    More later. The sun has come out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh your roosters sound fun. I just have the wildlife because we go back and forward so much now to the UK. The delights though of grandchildren and how fast they grow. Yes, that era of Russian Literature was certainly expansive and had much to respond to with the power of the tsar and the continuing of serfdom. One insight for me is how this authoritarian rule there even now creates such economic stagnation. Stuck in a swamp again and the brutality stinks.


      1. SMiles Dear
        What Heaven Spells

        For ReaL ON EartH
        Naked Nature


        Clothes oF LieS iN
        Ignorance All Human
        Clothes Pandemics
        Of CuLTuRES

        And Kill

        Each Other
        And The Rest
        Of The Only
        Home We Will
        Ever Now Be

        Most To Even
        BREaTHE Free Now☺️🏝

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your responses to the Bookstack Challenge, and thanks for taking it on. I hoped others might, but … there you go. I too am about half way through War and Peace and echo many of your thoughts on it. As a book which I struggled to get into, I’m much more immersed now, with the present war giving it an added bitter-sweetness for the reasons you mention. In hopes you get your rain locally, before the Long Hot Summer starts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Margaret, it was an interesting challenge with an intriguing response by the books. Helps reflection if not actual action on current events. Both are needed. Yes will do some posts re this book I think but have heard from Katherine Otto who has picked up Dostoevsky. So many Russian writers have faced challenges beyond our understanding and exile and imprisonment. Rain is falling!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed this deep delve into the season where you are and into your reading mind!! I have the Cloudspotter’s Guide on my shelves and loved Wildwood. I’m in the process of re-reading all my fiction to weed out some of my books – an interesting process. A few are so ‘of their time’, others not bad but not worth a spot on my shelves and others I still love! I have maybe a dozen left to read before I can read some of my new books πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like a good idea. I find so many of my good books have disappeared?? And am left with ones I am yet to read. I have a small shelf of favourites. Not sure where Wildwood went. Cloudspotters is always worth returning to and today we have had a lovely mix of cirrus threads and cumulus in a paler blue sky.

      Liked by 1 person

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