Reading Away my Summer Days

Land snail in Kickapoo park, IL by Ellen Schneider a.k.a E.A. Lawrence

Since my last blog post I have made great progress on my reading list. I have past the halfway point in Tale of Genji, I finished reading L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon trilogy, I’m several chapters into Cannery Row by Steinbeck, and I just finished another chapter in The Voyage of the Beagle. Summer is in full swing here in the upper Midwest and I hope to go frolicking in nature with my SLR camera soon.  In the meantime, enjoy some of these images from my archives as E.A. Lawrence (my nom de plume)  and some reflections edited from my reader’s journal. I have so many pages about Genji that I will be putting that in a separate post.

Emily of New Moon Seriesby L.M. Montgomery

Knarled wood Marquette, MI by Ellen Schneider


I am halfway through Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery. It is as beautiful, disconcerting, haunting, and splendid as the first book. Already I can see that many of my predictions for Emily’s life are coming true. I do find the competition between Teddy Kent and Dean Priest for Emily’s heart rather fascinating. The triangle eternal, as filled with cross purpose and heartache as it ever is. Somehow I can’t help but think that Lucy Maude Montgomery and I could have been chums, real friends. Through her books she has ever been my friend; I can’t help but think that the woman behind the words was just as much a kindred spirit.


Today I finished Emily’s Quest. Emily’s tale was delightful. Her story turned out just as I thought it would and yet still better too. I love her friendship with Ilse Burnley. Both women were drawn so well, they felt so real. I love it when books describe warm friendships between women, it helps me appreciate my own dear women friends all the more. I love the rapport between Ilse and Emily; the way they can talk and quarrel and laugh across time and distance. L.M. Montgomery knew much of friendship and pain and love and the Alpine Path to fame. So much wisdom is contained in these three slim Emily books, they smote me with their brilliance. I copied out this example from Emily Climbs:

Emily’s diary: “But I found some other lines that inspire me–I have written them on the index-page of my new Jimmy book.

” ‘He ne’er is crowned with immortality who fears to follow

where airy voices lead.’ ” [Keats]

Oh it’s true. We must follow our ‘airy voice,’ follow them through every discouragement and doubt and disbelief till they lead us to our City of Fulfilment, wherever it may be.”

It is true, as true as true can be. If it wasn’t such a lot of letters I would be tempted to cross-stitch the whole quote. Someday I will buy the series. Also on my someday list is reading L.M. Montgomery’s biographies and autobiographies. I want to learn more about this heroine of mine whose literary efforts have filled my life with so much beauty. I’m very glad I read the Emily books and I’m just as glad to be done with them for now too. I think sometimes too much beauty and arrows of insight close to the heart can be a little painful.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Red-back salamander in Kickapoo Park, IL by Ellen Schneider


I started reading Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I am on chapter seven or eight. I love Steinbeck’s way with words. I love how he can create a sense of place with economy. His style isn’t flowery (what a departure from Montgomery!). He doesn’t drizzle words like glaze on a doughnut– a shiny coating that fills every doughy-pore and spills over to pool on the pan. Steinbeck just makes a dang tasty doughnut. I particularly love the way he describes the tide pool collecting trip and the level of detail he spends on each denizen of the pool. I thought his description of the hunting octopus was especially good, “Red with rage…evil goat eyes.” Octopi do have goat-like eyes but I never would have thought of that myself. I only have ~150 pages left to read. It seems clear to me that Steinbeck’s marine biologist training influenced his prose immensely in this piece. Not just in the setting, he clearly knew this place and its fauna well, but in his ability to convey great detail in clear, succinct prose.  Somehow that just makes me essentially happy.

Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

Darwin has been discussing mammals and reptiles of South America. I didn’t realize that in his day a toad was considered to be a reptile. I couldn’t help but chuckle about that, I am a great enthusiast of amphibians. I love the little seeds of his great Theory of Natural Selection that are sprinkled amongst the entries of his adventures. It’s not much, just enough to be suggestive of the cogs starting to turn in his mind. Comments about fossils in South America resembling other fossils in other parts of the world. A note about fauna in this southern continent bearing a marked physical and ecological resemblance to other creatures observed leagues away and what could that mean? Just little seeds but it is as exciting to read these hints and ponderings as it is to watch an oak seed germinate and reflect to what lofty heights it will stretch.

Of course Darwin is going through “uncivilized” country. I’m so versed in the history of our American westward expansion that it was a bit of a shock to realize that the natives of South America did not have it any easier. I don’t know why I thought they did. Perhaps a foolish optimism that hoped that humanity was recognized and respected elsewhere even if it wasn’t here in the territory of the USA at times in our history. The Spanish forces in Brazil are attempting to eradicate the native peoples of South America and Darwin encounters these efforts as he makes his way cross-country. These forces are brutal, killing women and enslaving children just to prevent “breeding,” as if these people were rats rather than human beings. Indeed, that is exactly the attitude of the conquering forces. I found myself ridiculously pleased at Darwin’s repugnance and discomfiture at these efforts. It’s nice to know that figures of personal respect, like Darwin, actually were worth respecting in this important matter. From his remarks it is is clear he is anti-slavery and disgusted at the treatment of the native people by the Spanish.  Darwin must have been horrified at the way unscrupulous people manipulated his scientific ideas towards the evil ends of eugenics in his later years.

I don’t recognize a lot of the names Darwin uses for organisms he encounters. One of these days I will have to sit down, make a thorough list, and spend a couple hours googling for information. It would be nice to have a visual to imagine as I read Darwin’s accounts. I hope none of the animals he’s talking about have gone extinct though I suppose it is inevitable that some have by now.

Wood Frog in Kickapoo park, IL by Ellen Schneider aka E.A. Lawrence


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