Posted by: chartroose | April 15, 2009

April is the Cruellest Month…

…or at least it has been on this blog!  I’ve been reading and thinking about the most depressing things:  bullying, the Holocaust, the victimization of women, and now, to top it all off, a dying dog novel (which is the worst of all).  It’s a good thing that I love springtime more than any other time of the year, or I’d probably be ready to drive off a cliff by Friday!

In my last post, I promised everyone that I’d write about flowers and butterflies, so that’s what I’m going to do.  First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m a major butterfly fan, and if I were even more hippy dippy than I already am, I’d choose a butterfly to be one of my totem animals.  I had a “butterfly experience” many years ago that helped me change the course of my life.  I’m not going to go into details now, but the memory of all those beautiful little butterflies swarming around me during that pivotal time is still very fresh in my mind.  The butterflies looked something like this:

They were the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen, and there were hundreds of them!

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I live in a small stucco cottage which was built in 1950.  On either side of my front door stand two ginormous choke cherry trees.  They must’ve been planted right around the time the house was built, because their shallow roots extend all the way out to the sidewalk.  The roots will send up little saplings all over the yard which I have to chop down several times a year.  If I don’t do this, these trees will eventually “choke” out all other plant life.  In spite of their annoying habit of trying to take over the world, I love my choke cherries.  There’s a pair of mourning doves that park in them every once in awhile, especially during the winter: 

Last summer, older daughter trimmed the tree that I can most easily see through my picture window, and, as a result, I’ve been discovering new birds.  There is some type of woodpecker that goes rat-a-tat-tat on one of the larger branches every once in awhile. 

As soon as she hears this, my half-wild Siamese-mix cat will jump up and perch on the windowsill and make funny little pffft-pffft sounds in the back of her throat.  Nothing will distract her when she’s in her pffft mood, not even one of my vociferous dogs telling her to get down immediately!

The most interesting bird I’ve seen in the largest choke cherry is a kestrel.  I saw it for the first time early one morning a couple of months ago, and it has been in the tree twice since then.  I wish it would stay, because it’s so beautiful and so much fun to observe.  Kestrels look like this: 

Spring has been a long time coming this year, so my choke cherries are just now beginning to bud.  When they are in full bloom, their blossoms will look something like this:

    They’ll smell delicious too!

————————————————————————————————

I want to take a break from gloom and doom books, so after I’m done with the Garth Stein novel, I’d like to read something fun and carefree.  I’d like to dive into a couple of easygoing novels before going back to books that make me cry and want to drown my sorrow in drugs and alcohol (with a little bit of cutting thrown in for good measure).  Do any of you have suggestions?

If you leave a suggestion in the comments, you’ll be entered in a drawing for this cute little stained glass suncatcher: 

I’ll draw the winner’s name at around noon on Monday, April 20th.  Happy spring!

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Responses

  1. First of all, I am very sorry about your dog. I know that is not a good feeling – although I’ve never really had a pet.

    For some light, fun novels, I would highly suggest Mark Haddon. You’ve probably read The Curious Incident of the Dog…, which is superb. His novel, A Spot of Bother is hilarious, especially if you like stories about humorously dysfunctional British families getting together for a wedding.

    For complete brain candy, can anything beat Janet Evanovich? If you haven’t read any of her Stephanie Plum series, it will sweep away the April Ickies.

    Let’s hope for more of those May flowers a little early, eh?

  2. I can’t think of anything light and fluffy, so don’t enter me. I want to know if you took all of those beautiful pictures.

  3. Jennifer–Oh, thank goodness, my dog is NOT dying (I just now changed the wording in that sentence). My oldest dog is going blind, but it’ll be several years before I have to deal with that. “A Spot of Bother” is now going on my TBR list. I have read some of the Stephanie Plum series, and, yeah, I really thought they were great!

    Kathy–the only picture I took was of the mourning doves. The rest I got on google images.

  4. Ohh butterflies! It will totally ruin my reputation as a hard-ass non-girly-girl but I love the butterfly tent at our museum. And the butterfly exhibit at the Bronx Zoo – I literally had to be dragged out. It’s just so, I dunno, wondrous to have these tiny delicate creatures flutter against your cheek.

    Okay now back to my normal snarky self – my favorite bird – the maritime crow. The things are frikken huge and best of all they chase away the annoying budgie that the neighbor lets loose every summer. Seriously, these people just open the door and let it fly out, then for 2 straight months the damned bird sits in my backyard making budgie noises! Arrggghhh!!

    How depressing I was trying to think of my fave feel-good books – they’re mostly all dismal and morbid. The best I could come up with were – High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, Lust Lizard by Christopher Moore and Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop.

  5. What a lovely post! It’s been a trying day over here so I’m glad for butterflies and birds to make me feel better about life!

    Now, cheerful books? The one that immediately springs to mind which is light and charming and everyone’s happy is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. No idea if you’ll like it, but it’s very sweet and cute and IMO, perfect for a little break from the brutality of “meaningful” fiction.

  6. I would suggest “Educating Alice : the Adventures of a Curious Woman,” by Alice Steinbach. I just finished it a week or so ago, and really enjoyed it.

  7. David Sedaris always makes me laugh, but I’m not sure if that’s the light and fluffy is what you’re looking for since his stories are a little dark too.

    I just looked at all of the books on my shelf and none of them are really light and fluffy except the kids books. I have Eragon, The View from Saturday (very sweet book), and The Egypt Game.

    Also, It’s All Greek to Me was a light-ish travel memoir I read awhile ago.

  8. There used to be choke cherries around my mother’s house (not in her yard) but I never knew what they were. A woodpecker visits our yard, but I’ve never gotten a close look at him. Kestrels are beautiful. I’d love to see one up close, too. Sorry I don’t have a book suggestion.

  9. Okay, I’m NOT entering the contest, but I do have a few book suggestions.

    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks…not all sweetness and light, but not doom and gloom either. And young Frankie kicks ass.

    I’ll second the suggestion for Lust Lizard, just because it’s Moore (before he wrote the current fiasco) and because it’s set in a fictional version of where I live. I’m also a fan of Island of the Sequined Love Nun.

    And Dork Whore doesn’t have much to offer, but the title is awesome. It would probably make for a good review, too. I wrote mine before anyone read my blog. It’s hiding in the 2007 books read list.

  10. I’ve been enjoying magpies and cherry blossoms this month. Magpie nests are incredibly huge.

  11. Loved this post Chartroose! We get a lot of similar birds (obviously), but I’m too lazy to find out what they are, so now I know!

    Last year, I read a really well-written ‘literary chick lit’ kind of book called Hearts and Minds by Rosy Thornton. It definitely picked me up. 🙂 And I don’t know how you feel about Jane Austen, but her books always end on a high note, and they’re really funny too! 🙂

  12. This was such a great post 🙂 I’m a nature geek…along with being a geek of many other sorts, so I enjoyed all of the bird pictures. And that cherry tree rocks! I have to get one of those when I have my own house :p Hmmm…uplifiting books. I’m afraid I don’t read very many of those, but lets see…Little Grrl Lost by Charles de Lint is fantastic if you’re in the mood for YA. It’s a little angsty at times, but it’s a fun book. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is another fantastic YA book and if you want a graphic novel, Comic Book Tattoo is awesome!!! A bunch of short comics based on Tori Amos’ songs…loved that one.

  13. I like the idea of being ‘entered in a drawing’. Will you sketch me next to the butterfly if I win?

    Assuming of course that this was a mistake and the suncatcher is the prize, don’t worry about it – let someone nearer and who would appreciate it more win.

    However, I had to comment, just to say “your house sounds lovely. When are you inviting us all to visit?”

  14. Love the photos!

    Have you ever read anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Mary Kay Andrews? They’re two of my favorite authors and though they have a few misfortunes, the heroines overcome them in quirky and funny ways. (Savannah Blues or Ain’t She Sweet? are both really good ones).

  15. I love the photo of the flicker and the kestrel – since I’m such a huge birdwatcher. We spent Monday with my nephew trying to spot a black woodpecker but never saw it.

    I applaud your decision to give up The Kindly Ones – I think sometimes it’s just time to put a book down. Perhaps there is value in that particular book (perhaps not) but its not always worth the effort to get there.

    Hope the end of April turns upbeat. I happen to think Pride and Prejudice will cure just about any bad mood but I can’t remember if you like Austen or not, something makes me think you might not. How about contemporary, wacky and irreverant with The Fermata by Nicholson Baker? Or David Sedaris?

  16. I always rec some good ol’ Anne of Green Gables for cheer. And I just yesterday read something DELIGHTFUL! and full of great tender snarky (sort of) humor: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

    I just read Still Alice which features blue butterflies on the cover and are important to the story.

  17. I am on a permanent break, a lifetime break from gloom and doom books. :<) I had a quote on my blog once which says just what I feel:
    “One of my favorite people, Theodore Roosevelt once wrote the following to his son, Kermit, in 1905 (!):

    There is quite enough sorrow and shame and suffering and baseness in real life and there is no need for meeting it unnecessarily in fiction.”

  18. You’re so lucky to have beautiful chokecherries! Do you make chokecherry jelly in the fall? My house was built in the 50’s also but we only have really old cedars and pines. 😦

    As for light and cheery… the book I’ve just reviewed, Come, Thou Tortoise, is a delightful read. Or if you’d like an English mystery, Alan Bradley’s Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

  19. The butterflies made me think of “Sir Fleeting,” a story in Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds. It’s not the book to chase away a bad mood, but you might like that story. (For a light read, how about Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart.)
    Here’s how Groff described the story, as well as an accompanying soundtrack and beverage on the Large Hearted Boy blog:
    Sir Fleeting. A Wisconsin farmgirl becomes a rich old woman: her life, her love, Argentina, and those magical people in our lives we only think we know.
    Song: Banking on a Myth by Andrew Bird. I’ve been an enormous fan of Andrew Bird forever–I can’t think of another young songwriter who takes such immense risks, with such immense payoffs.
    Beer: Cerveza Diablo from the Jerome brewery in Argentina. I was tired of Quilmes (the Bud Light of Buenos Aires) the last time I went to Argentina and tasted this beer. It knocked my socks off.

  20. Beautiful photos. We have too many cats to encourage birds, but I do like them.
    For a little light reading, I’d suggest Mr Sir Terry Pratchett, or P G Wodehouse. 🙂

  21. Sadly, my reading is very similar to yours! Holocaust memoirs, the same Garth Stein book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, downers all!

    However, I can think of an author who ps pretty amusing! Have you read The Year of Living Biblically yet by AJ Jacobs? very funny–so is his first book, The Know it All. Check him out!

  22. Great pictures (but then, I’m a sucker for nature photos). FYI, the woodpecker is a yellow-shafted flicker.

  23. Despite not being very naturey, I loved this post with all those birds. Very pretty. And butterflies. I really love butterflies. My favourite place on earth for a long time was this butterfly house that I used to live near. They’ve since torn it down, but I still have great memories of being there.

    A feel good book? Wow. I don’t think I read many of those. How do you feel about YA?

    Oh, actually, have you read Stardust by Neil Gaiman? Would that be a feel-good book? I’m doubting myself now, but I really loved it.

  24. Anything by Alexander McCall Smith. My favourite series is his 44 Scotland Street set. There are pretty funny and really light and easy to read, but aren’t fluffy. (All of his books are actually.) There is a little boy in these books who is one of my most favourite characters of all time. I did an author review of McCall Smith a month back, if you want to check it out.
    http://nosebook.mapledesign.ca/?p=36

  25. I love butterflies too. Opened the door this afternoon to find a huge swallowtail sitting on my rose bush. I ran to get the camera, but it flew away before I could get a picture.

    I second softdrink’s Christopher Moore suggestion, but my vote would be for Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

    Anne Lamott is good too. I’ve read Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith and Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith and liked both. I am not a churchy, faithy, preachy person but I found both of these to be uplifting and funny and, mostly, I could identify a lot with the author.

  26. Thank you all! I’m making a new list, although I’m not sure which of your suggestions to put at the top. I might have to write them all down and close my eyes and point to one after another until the order is chosen.

    So, Verbivore and Fyrefly, is a Flicker a type of woodpecker? I was trying to find a spotted bird that looked kind of like the one in my tree.

  27. Beautiful pictures.
    Pick up some fun books and cheer yourself up! Serious books are all well and good, but you need some light heartedness every once in a while.

  28. is a Flicker a type of woodpecker?

    Yup!


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