Happy St. Patrick’s Day – a literary list

Dublin - Dublin Castle 2

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are some of my favorite Irish or Celtic reads of the past few years to share with you. Many of these books are available at the Maine Irish Heritage Center Library in Portland, a real treat for all things Irish.

http://www.maineirish.com/cultural-services/library/

 

Johnson, Margaret M. The new Irish table: 70 contemporary recipes. San Francisco, Ca. : Chronicle Books, 2003. We’re going to cook some of these recipes for our St. Patrick’s Day feast tonight, including Haddock in Cider, and Colcannon. But just looking at the pictures is a delight!

Adam, David. Cry of the deer: meditations on the hymn of St. Patrick. Wilton, Conn. : Morehouse-Barlow, 1987. These meditations are based on the eternal certainties of the Christian faith, as acclaimed in the translation of the hymn of St Patrick known as The Deer’s Cry. A good reminder to us that St. Patrick’s Day is named after a saint, who is probably rolling over in his grave knowing that his saint’s day is for many an excuse to drink all day.

Barker, Matthew Jude. The Irish of Portland, Maine: a history of Forest City Hibernians. Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2014. Matt’s passion is all things Irish, especially history and genealogy. This book is a great read about a fascinating aspect of Portland’s history and ethnic groups.Dublin - cross

Cronin, Deborah K. Holy ground: Celtic Christian spirituality. Nashville, TN. : Upper Room Books, c1999. Deborah Cronin writes, “My encounter with Celtic Christianity has been a journey to islands…” No wonder I like this book!

Taylor, Patrick. An Irish country doctor. New York, NY : Forge, 2007, c2005. Similar to Cornwall’s Doc Martin, a city doctor practices medicine in a small eccentric country village. This book is the first in a series by an author who used to practice medicine in rural Ireland before immigrating to Canada.

Severin, Timothy. The Brendan voyage. New York : McGraw-Hill, c1978. Tim Severin and his crew recreated the mythical journey of St. Brendan, “The Navigator,” and his gang of Irish monks from Ireland to Newfoundland by boat. Great armchair reading but a journey we would never want to undertake – a lot of miserable days at sea. But a great way to learn about voyages, building a skin boat, weather patterns, Iceland, ice packs, etc.

Knight, Elizabeth. Celtic teas with friends : teatime traditions from Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Perryville, KY : Benjamin Press, 2008. For someone who likes tea and all things Celtic, this is a perfect fit. Celtic Teas with Friends provides that history in anecdotes and stories alongside practical advice on how to host unique and colorful tea parties.

Murphy, Dervla. Wheels within wheels. London: Murray, 1979. Dervla Murphy is one of my favorite travel writers – I loved her book “Full tilt: Ireland to India with a bicycle.” She is an amazing writer and traveler – truly fearless. Wheels within wheels is her autobiography, about her life before she set out on her bicycle adventure in her early thirties. Well-written, humorous, and interesting.

Fitzgerald, William John. A contemporary Celtic prayer book. Chicago, IL : ACTA Publications, [1998]. A wonderful book to take you through the week, with prayers for each time of day every day, as well as prayers for certain occasions including “prayer to the divine marriage broker,” “prayer of the divorced,” “prayer of single parents,” “blessing for a journey,” and “blessing of children.”Dublin - head

Llywelyn, Morgan. Strongbow : the story of Richard and Aoife : a biographical novel. New York : TOR, 1996. A story based on true events of twelfth-century Ireland follows the adventure of Richard de Clare, a great Norman knight, and Aoife, a free-spirited princess who is sworn to protect her people. One of my favorite Irish writers, Morgan Llywelyn’s books are a great way to learn about Irish history through fiction.

 

The Maine Photo Project – as seen through the eyes of Long Island and Long Islanders

LICL exhibit on photography 1

 

Announcing a new exhibit at the Long Island Community Library (glass case between the main room of the library and the small meeting room)

 

The Maine Photo Project, a statewide collaboration among museums, galleries, historical societies, and other nonprofit cultural organizations across Maine, celebrates the 150th anniversary of photography.

 

This exhibit reflects the history of photography through the collections of the Long Island Historical Society, as well as private collections. From daguerreotypes to digital photography, Long Island has long been photographed – people, places, homes, ferries. The exhibit is supplemented with antique cameras from private collections and books from the collections of the Long Island Community Library.

 

Open during library hours – see the library website for hours: http://library.long-island.lib.me.us/

LICL exhibit on photography 2

 

Love in Maine

Valentine cookies

Looking for a literary, artistic, or historical spin on love this month? All sorts of options are available, right in Portland, Maine!

The Maine Historical Society is offering this month “Love in the Longfellow House: Couples Guided Tour,” complete with champagne, chocolate, roses, and valentines.

http://www.mainehistory.org/programs_events.shtml#event_463

On February 18th, I’ll be sharing some of our historic valentines at a Maine Memory Network presentation:

http://www.mainehistory.org/programs_events.shtml

Just a block away, at the Portland Public Library, on February 14th is an afternoon of “frightfully good tales that will add chills to your holiday of otherwise hot romance:”

Our Bloody Valentines: Love Notes, in which the Tuesday Mayhem Society, a group of local authors centered in Lisbon Falls, who are dedicated to carrying on the literary traditions of Poe, Lovecraft, Bradbury, and King, will be exploring the concepts of Love, Sex, and Murder through our fiction and poetry at the Portland Public Library: http://www.portlandlibrary.com/events/bloody-valentines-love-notes-tuesday-mayhem-society/#sthash.KWFWnVPB.dpuf

And, if you haven’t had your fill by then of twisted love, you can head down the hill to the Osher Map Library for a Valentine’s Day celebration at 5 p.m. which includes a talk on “Mapping Desire: Erotic Imagery in Old World Cartography.” Osher Map Library Acting Director Ian Fowler will present an enticing lecture covering the representation of love and the human body in cartography through the ages.  Cash bar and tasty treats will be served.

https://www.facebook.com/oshermaps

Finally, if you need a little guidance in writing a love letter, head to the Glickman Library at USM for a workshop by Arielle Greenberg on “How to write poems for your lover(s),” hosted by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance:

https://www.facebook.com/oshermaps

Happy Valentines Day from the Long Island Community Library!

MHS Book Group: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Another great book group is being offered at the Maine Historical Society, in conjunction with the current MHS exhibit on

Home: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland

Tuesday, January 27 – Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MHS Book Group: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, ca. 1880 (MMN #5417)

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, ca. 1880 (MMN #5417)

Facilitator: Larissa Vigue Picard, Director of Education

Join us this January through May for our sixth annual MHS reading group–a great opportunity to engage in literary discussions about history and connect with members of the MHS community.

“Home Is Where the Heart Is” takes as its stepping off point the 2014-2015 MHS museum exhibition, Home: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland. Session readings explore themes of home, family, place, immigration, and community in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with a historical resonance. There are even a couple haunted houses in the mix!

Books must be acquired on your own and include Tracy Kidder’s House, Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, Terry Farish’s The Good Braider, and George Howe Colt’s The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home. A number of additional short readings (essays, poetry, and a short story) will be provided as handouts or are available online.

WHEN: Tuesdays 1/27, 2/24, 3/24, 4/28, 5/26 @ 6:30PM
WHERE: MHS Lecture Hall
COST: $20 MHS members / $30 non-members (includes handouts/resources, facilitation, and refreshments)
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Friday, January 23. Registration is required; space is limited. To sign up, email lvpicard@mainehistory.org for a registration form and copy of the full reading list, drop by the MHS museum store to register on-site, or download the registration form and full reading list.

Favorite books of 2014: a top 10 list

Bath Book ShopWhat were the favorite books that you read in 2014? Once again, it was hard to decide on my top 10, given the amount I read in a year, but I think these are the stand-outs, in no particular order. I tried to choose 5 fiction and 5 non-fiction, to give some variety.

 

*Come spring / by Ben Ames Williams. This is a classic Maine book, which takes place in Union, Maine. Written in the 1940s, it tells the story of the early settlers, in the form of a novel. Although this is a long book (over 800 pages) it keeps moving (see blog for September)

 

*A barn in New England : making a home on three acres / by Joseph Monninger. I picked this up at the Chebeague Island Library, on their booksale shelf. Beautifully written book about home, as well as a love story.

 

*Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Frye : a novel / by Rachel Joyce. Harold takes an unintentional pilgrimage from one end of England to another, to visit a dying friend. This very British book appealed to my love of the idea of pilgrimage, as well as a wonderful story with real characters.

 

*Walking home : a poet’s journey / by Simon Armitage. Another walking book, but this time a true story of poet Simon Armitage’s trek from north to south on the Pennine Way, in which he trades an evening of poetry for a place to stay. (See blog post for April)

 

*The art of racing in the rain : a novel / by Garth Stein. This is such an unusual book, written from a dog’s perspective. Really interesting story, with a sad but beautiful ending (which we expected).

 

*Orange is the new black : my year in a women’s prison / by Piper Kernan. Through a series of bad mistakes Piper Kernan, a Smith College graduate, ended up in a women’s prison in Connecticut. This book will offer a new perspective on life in prison. The author continues to work towards prison reform. (See blog post for January)

 

*Sheen on the silk : a novel / by Anne Perry. I really appreciated this book for the time period, of 13th century Istanbul, and the religious struggles of the day. It also tells the story of a woman physician disguised as a eunuch, and includes some mystery, intrigue, and a love story. Although overly long, it still was an interesting read.

 

*Blue plate special : an autobiography of my appetites / by Kate Christensen. More than just food, Kate, a Portland, Maine, author, takes us on a trek through her life – I found this to be a page turner.

 

*Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb : a novel / by Melanie Benjamin. The Maine Historical Society has a menu signed by Mrs. Tom Thumb, Lavinia Warren Bump, which inspired my interest in reading this book. This fictionalized account of her life is a fascinating view into the life of a young woman in Middleboro, Massachusetts who longed for something more than being sheltered in small town New England – and she got it!

 

*An altar in the world : a geography of faith / by Barbara Brown Taylor. I read several spiritual books this year – it was hard to choose among them but since this is the most recent, it’s fresher on my mind. Gently written, Barbara Brown Taylor walks us through various spiritual practices, such as walking on the earth, paying attention, living with purpose. This is the kind of book I could read over and over.

 

Happy New Year from the Long Island Community Library – may 2015 bring you many wonderful books!

 

The snowmen are here!

Snowmen 1Well, it may not officially be winter on the calendar, but on Long Island winter has arrived, with snow on Thanksgiving. So, to celebrate the season, we have a lovely winter exhibit of snowmen, collected over the years by Penny Murley. Stop by the small exhibit case, between the library and small meeting room, and say hello to this wonderful collection of snowmen.

Snowmen 3

Adirondack libraries

A recent vacation in the Adirondack mountains of New York found us, as usual, visiting libraries.

Some we only saw from the outside: the lovely stone library in Brandt Lake is no longer used as a library, but offers a picturesque photo opportunity.

Adirondack libraries - Brandt Lake

Lake Placid’s library was located on the main street, and offered a box of “free” stuff on the porch steps.

Adirondack libraries - Lake Placid

Raquette Lake’s library had steps from the water and tucked in a grove of trees.

Adirondack libraries - Raquette Lake

But some libraries we were able to visit inside. One was the Adirondack Museum’s library.  Yes, the museum had closed for the season a month earlier, but thanks to a brilliant tip from a friend, I had previously e-mailed the librarian, Dr. Jerold Pepper, to ask for a tour. Jerry not only showed us his wonderful library full of great books and fabulous manuscripts, highlighting such characters as Winslow Homer and the Roosevelts, but he also gave us a behind the scenes tour of the closed exhibits, including boats, carriages, and sleds. There are some interesting commonalities between Maine and the Adirondacks, including history and art. (Both Rockwell Kent and Winslow Homer spent time in Maine and the Adirondacks). We also enjoyed Jerry’s perspective on life in that region, an area “forever wild.”

We also stopped into The William Chapman White Memorial Room/Adirondack Research Center in the basement of the Saranac Lake Free Library, and chatted with the slightly overwhelmed looking librarian, who was cataloging tuberculosis patient cards. Saranac Lake was known as “the Western Hemisphere’s foremost center for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis,” from the 1890s through 1950s.

Adirondack libraries - Saranac Lake

Both libraries gave us a glimpse into the history of the area. Visiting libraries on vacation can be a great opportunity to get a flavor of the community, whether exploring exhibits or meeting people in the community, including visitors who come to our own island library.

Writers’ Houses

Here is a fun website to peruse through:

http://writershouses.com/

Founded in July 2010 by writer A. N. Devers, Writers’ Houses is an online publication dedicated to the exploring writers’ spaces and art of literary pilgrimage. It includes houses all around the world, even Kenya! (Karen Blixen House and Museum).

One of these days I will make it a goal to visit all these houses. But for now, you can start with two in Maine: the Sarah Orne Jewett House in South Berwick and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Wadsworth Longfellow House black and white rear

Come Spring by Ben Ames Williams

Union common

My birthday road trip this year was to Hope, Freedom, Liberty, and Union. My favorite of these wonderfully named towns was Union, with its beautiful downtown common. There were several visual cues in the common referring to “Come Spring,” a novel by Ben Ames Williams published in 1940, which tells the tale of the first settlers of Union, then known as “Sterlingtown.” Sterlingtown became incorporated as Union in 1780, when there were 19 families. “Come Spring” fictionalizes the story of these families.

Despite being 866 pages, the book kept me interested throughout with good characters, humor, and mostly the wonderful descriptions of every day life in these early days of Maine settlement. It also contains one of the longest courtships I’ve ever read in fiction, a wonderful love story, and a strong and likeable main female character.

Union map

In Union’s common is a map of Sterlingtown, which can be found in the book endpages, as well as a plaque under a tree dedicated to Ben Ames Williams (1889 – 1953). What a treat to “discover” a Maine author (Williams vacationed in Maine, and set several of his works there) whom I have not read, especially after visiting Union. I need to return there again, now that I’ve read this book that further explores the history of Union.

Union tree

Sunset Cruising on Casco Bay

Deborah Clark cruise photo

My husband, daughter, and I enjoyed a wonderful boat cruise aboard the Blue Nun motoring around Casco Bay last Tuesday evening courtesy of Steve and Chris McDuffie.  They generously donated the trip as a raffle fundraiser for the Long Island Library and my husband won the prize.  Steve asked us where we wanted to go and since we had never seen Portland Head and Two Lights from “the other side,” we decided to boat down the coast to Cape Elizabeth.

The weather was perfect with a warm breeze and clear skies. Chris surprised us with some delicious snacks and my husband was able to snap several beautiful photographs of the area. As I took in the surrounding landscape and wildlife with binoculars, my daughter quizzed Chris on the local history and happenings of the islands.

On the return leg of the trip, we spotted the new Nova Star ferry coming in to dock at Portland’s Ocean Gateway Pier and a friendly harbor seal poked his head up to check us out. Steve took us around the back side of Peaks Island and with one last look at Fort Gorges, we got back to Portland just in time to take in a lovely sunset. We all had a marvelous time. Thank you to the McDuffies for making a two-hour boat ride such a memorable occasion.

Deborah Clark, Raymond, ME (with photographs by Craig Clark)

Deborah Clark cruise photo of Steve and Chris