Category Archives: Literature

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.

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

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.https://margaret21.com/2022/03/09/bookstack-challenge/

And https://bookishbeck.wordpress.com/2022/03/07/solidarity-with-ukraine/

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

.https://navasolanature.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/a-fertile-feeling-ms-peoni-broteri-getting-ready-for-rebirth/

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

War and Peace – Fiction, Truth and Reality

If I had just chosen to write my February post before the invasion of the Ukraine last week I would have written about my peaceful but busy existence on our Navasola woodland. And the coming of Spring with lots of bird activity, a range of butterflies and the rare wild daffodil, the Angel’s tear. I have also embarked on a reading challenge to read or for me re read War and Peace by Tolstoy. As I read it many years ago in my youth it was interesting to revisit and is also giving me some insight into the current crisis and the history of Europe.

View of Fuenteheridos and below a wild angel’s tear daffodil
War and Peace – Fiction, Truth and Reality

One of the reasons I like the blogging world are the different experiences and connections that build up. One longstanding one is with Steve Schwartzman and Portrait of Wildflowers. Botany was the first link and then his incredible knowledge of Spanish and the research he did trying to find the origin of the name of our local village, Fuenteheridos. On the surface it looks like wounds- heridos and fuente, a source of water, spring. Inddeed the village is a source of much water through twelve springs. Steve found the old word ‘feridos’ which is to do with irrigation and taking turns and sharing the water. I am going to share Steve’s recent post as he suggested to show solidarity with the Ukraine. I found this very moving and beautifully written by his father, Jack Schwartzman about leaving his homeland. Lilacs for me were part of my childhood home and they will now also remind me of those who have had to leave their homes because of war and tyrants.

This is the link to the War and Peace 2022 reading Challenge of Rebecca Budd.

The characters and the Russian high culture at the time is as intriguing and involving as I found it when younger. Tolstoy is certainly so skilled at writing and can immerse the reader within these different worlds. However, I have been intrigued by the narration about the battles of the Austrian and Russian Army against Napoleon in 1805. There is an ease of moving between characters and events. I have selected a quote below as Tolstoy shows such insight into truth and integrity. And as we know ‘the first casualty of war is truth.’

“Rostov was an honest young man who would never tell a deliberate lie. He set out with every intention of describing exactly what had occurred, but imperceptibly, unconsciously and inevitably he drifted into falsehood. If he had told the truth to these two, who had heard as many descriptions of cavalry charges as he had, had their own clear idea of what a charge was like and were expecting something similar, either they wouldn’t have believed him, or worse still, they would have assumed it was Rostov’s fault for not managing to do what was normally done by narrators of cavalry charges. He couldn’t just tell them that they’d been trotting forward together when he fell off his horse, sprained his arm and then ran as hard as he could into a wood to get away from a Frenchman. Besides, to tell everything exactly as it happened would have demanded enough self-control to say only what happened and nothing else. To tell the truth is a very difficult thing, and young people are hardly ever capable of it. His listeners were expecting to hear him describe how he had felt himself burning with excitement, stormed the enemy’s square defences, oblivious to everything, hacked his way in, mown men down right, left and centre, tasted blood with his sabre before collapsing from exhaustion, and all the rest. And that’s what he did describe.”

And as we know ‘the first casualty of war is truth.’ It seems also in our 21st Century that peace has also created a culture of lies, mis and dis information and there is a need for truth and integrity. I think Tolstoy gets quite a lot right about his character Rostov but later we do find out that Prince Andrei Bolkonsky appears to see through this fiction that Rostov is compelled to make up.

But I do not think young people today are incapable of telling the truth. Many of the young climate activists are trying to get the adults to understand and take on board the truth about climate change. Today marks another warning about how the climate crisis is going to bring more of the chaos we are already experiencing if we do not act together.

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/ipcc-climate-report-updates-un-b2024751.html

Lilac with pearls and house and solar panels in background.

Last of the summer flowers: And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Final farewell fotos of flowers  on the finca.  August 2014. Summer is passing…….

In August in Spain the weather is usually too hot and dry in the summer. The flowers start to fade and all seems rather dried out. Some flowers resist the parched conditions but most decide to allow their seeds to finish developing and be ready to disperse. This helps survival of the species  through a long dry summer. Deep roots keep the trees and other bushes in business.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare and a different interpretation based on the natural world.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate,

image
Hoary Mullein
image
Candytuft
Knautia  - small blue/ purple
Knautia – small blue/ purple

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

And sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, ( the very hot sun as in Spain?)

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; ( English weather with clouds in the summer!)

And every fair from fair oft times declines,

By chance or by nature’s unchanging course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Silene
Silene

Shakespeare’s sonnet reflects the transience of beauty with the beauty of summer. But nature like the focus of his sonnet has an everlasting and ever changing beauty, beyond the flower! This is my  interpretation of a sonnet often thought to be about love. Maybe it can be about the intricate workings of nature that go beyond the transient beauty of a flower or a young man or woman! When we understand the true beauty of a person or of nature we can truly appreciate the deeper aspects of love, life and the natural world. Or was Shakespeare just trying to immortalise himself or his’dark lad..y’ love  with words?  His words offer such richness and are open to interpretation and appreciation through the ages and to different cultures.
I think I have found another angle on this sonnet and an admiration for what goes on beyond our sight within the seeds creating the changing seasons.