An easy way to marvel at the night sky

… or the early morning sky, in my case.

For almost a week I have noticed a extra-bright light in the still-dark southeast sky before I go to work. At first I thought it was an airplane; it’s not uncommon for me to stand out on my balcony and see a brilliant light in the sky heading toward me until it is almost overhead, and then turning north to the airport.

But this one just sat there, blazing. Was it a comet? I didn’t remember hearing about a comet, but was curious so I Googled it. I landed on Time and Date’s  “Planets Visible in the Night Sky” .  There on the The Interactive Night Sky Map you can see what the night sky looks like–at this very moment, at your exact location. And there was my bright light and the crescent moon exactly where I saw them.

The Interactive Night Sky Map

The luminous orb turned out to be my old friend, Venus, “the morning star” whom I’ve long admired. But I still didn’t know why it seemed so much brighter than usual.

I got my answer on EarthSky.org:

Venus is brightest in our sky around the time it passes between us and the sun. Astronomers call this its “greatest illuminated extent”. In 2018, Venus will reach its greatest illuminated extent in the morning sky on December 1 or 2, 2018. You can read more about it here.

PikWizard

And also, by coincidence, it turns out that right now there is a comet we can see! Wirtanen, the last comet of 2018, will be visible throughout December. In my area, the best time to see it is from about 7:30 to 9:45 PM.

 

Ah, the sky!

Such joy to the eye!

In you we can see

Eternity

 

Seek the one who fashions the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the deep darkness into morning, who darkens day into night, who calls out to the waters of the sea, pouring them out onto the surface of the earth: the LORD is his name. (Amos 5:8)

 

Image at PikWizard is licensed under CC0

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Banff Bison – Sustainability in Canada’s Ecosystems

Ever since I learned about Canada’s ecosystems while researching my book Respect Our World-SustainabilityI have had the topic on my radar. I am very thrilled about Parks Canada’s announcement that after 140 years of absence, bison have been reintroduced to Banff National Park!  Right in my backyard!

This is not only an ecological triumph, it is also a move to show respect and a spirit of reconciliation with our First Nations people throughout the country, who are very near and dear to my heart.

Treat yourselves to an inspiring story, and some gorgeous scenery in this video!

 

 

Making it Merry Again

The simple act of receiving a Christmas card means someone remembered you,

that you are cared for, and that you are not invisible.

When my friend Barb initiated a wonderful tradition in sharing the joy of Christmas cards with homeless individuals, the initial goal was to collect 80 cards. As it turned out, 80 was “a drop in the merry bucket” as over 1200 cards came in from all across Canada, UK and the USA in a little over three weeks!

I’m joining in the merriment again this year, and hope you’ll been inspired to snail-mail a card! And you could have the children in your life send a card (here are Samples of Cards sent by children).

Here is some more information on the website, and I appreciate Barb’s Resources page for help in composing messages. Here is a link especially for teachers.

How to send a card:

  • Purchase a Christmas card or hand-make one (see FAQs for suggestions) .
  • Include a simple handwritten Christmas message, inspirational thought or note to let the receiver know they are cared for
  • Signing the card with your first name is essential to provide a personal connection
  • Mail your Christmas card by December 10th (or November 30th if you are outside Canada) to:

    MakeItMerry
    P.O. Box 96107 West Springs
    Calgary, AB
    T3H 0L3

 

If you pass this along, even more joy can be spread!

Thanks everybody!

Culture, geography, history and inspiration – Chinese Immigrants in Canada

From as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by other cultures and eager to know about countries around the world.

This fascination has led to traveling, learning about global holidays, attending pow-wows…

…writing to overseas pen pals, learning Scottish Highland dancing, volunteering at a First Nations wilderness camp…

…AND writing about other cultures!

Immigration to Canada – Then and Now is a new series of educational books published by Beech Street books. I was thrilled last winter when Red Line Editorial invited me to write one of these books, and am celebrating receiving my author copy of Chinese Immigrants in Canada!

An Educational Experience

What an educational experience it was for me to learn about this strong, determined, resourceful, industrious ethnic group in Canada. I have enormous respect for the Chinese immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese people who battled hardships with dignity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Canada and immigration, until I began gathering information. What a valuable experience!

Let me encourage you to “go back to school” and have a look at some of the fascinating people groups in your country. I’m sure you will be as inspired as I am at their journey and accomplishments.  Here are some links to whet your interest!

 

 

The History of Immigration to Canada

The History of Immigration to the United States

The History of Immigration to Britain

And here is a link showing another children’s educational book I wrote for Beech Street Books about sustainability.

If you or someone you know is a teacher or librarian, and are interested in these books, you can purchase them at the publisher’s website, or on Amazon.

Lonely Lily: a vintage children’s book by Mary L. Code

Lonely Lily or The Shepherd’s Call, a tiny thin book published in the U.K. in 1893, gently tells a sweet but powerful story of faith.  It is written for children, but nevertheless fascinated me with its suspenseful telling of the inner journey of hearts, from despair to comfort.

I am struck by how much more serious children’s lives were when this book was written, and how mature the themes in children’s books were, compared to today. It is heart-warming to see the traits of diligence, patience, duty and faith demonstrated in this story.

The beautifully designed front cover of Lonely Lily gives the image of a girl pondering, as she stares out the window at the moon and stars

 

The story

Grandmother Parfitt, an “old, silent woman” lives a reclusive life in an attic apartment with her granddaughter Lily, “a fair, pale flower, pale from the atmosphere of smoke and heaviness” in their city.

Life had dealt Grandmother much bitterness and regret through the deaths of her husband and children, neglect from those from whom she expected kindness, and the theft of her treasures. She has drawn away from others and wants Lily to do the same.

Lily loves to hear about her grandmother’s happy days living in the beautiful country of Switzerland, and one day wonders if heaven is like the countries where she’d been. Grandmother tells her she shouldn’t worry about such things at her young age and senses that Lily is lonely.

Soon Lily is allowed to spend time with Rose, a girl who lives in the same building, and through her family starts to get some answers to her questions about faith. Yet “the child felt alone and ‘outside’; and still she did not see the hand that would guide her [to heaven], nor hear the voice that was saying ‘Come unto me’.”

It wasn’t until Lily was invited to Annie Spencer’s to hear weekly Bible lessons that Lily finally understood God’s kind invitation. Annie, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is afflicted with a spine condition that causes her constant pain, yet she welcomes a group of girls to visit every Saturday. After her lesson, she senses that Lily has questions and takes her aside for a quiet talk. Then Lily understands that God forgives, and promises not to send anyone away who comes to Him. Finally, she loves Him for sending Jesus to die for her sins, and is comforted. Lily is no longer lonely.

After a torrential rain, Lily’s granny returns from work cold and drenched, and becomes seriously ill. Lily reads to her from her new Bible, which brings hope to Granny for her feelings of regret. She feels sorry for her hard heart and how she had done cruel wrongs in her life. Grandmother realizes that God can love and forgive even her, knows Jesus is her Savior, and forgives those who had done her wrong. After granny’s peaceful passing, Lily is taken in by Rose’s loving family.

About the book

I must admit that it was a sad book, even though good things happened at the end. Quite a serious book, especially for children, it is nevertheless a beautiful one.

My edition, published in 1893, is called the New Edition. The original was apparently published in the 1860’s.  My copy has an interesting inscription: “To Lillian From Rudi”. Did Rudi give this to Lillian because her name was similar to Lily? No inscription date is written, which is unusual.

Judging from all of my online searches, this seems to be a rare book and relatively unknown author. I only found one copy of it at AbeBooks that seems to be an authentic copy of the original printed book.

I found only one of the author’s books, Left at Home , on Gutenberg.com. The OCAC/WorldCat lists several copies of all of her books in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

I found no information on the author, which is surprising because my copy lists four other books she had written.

 

Do you have any similar gems to share?

Here are three of my previous posts about other vintage children’s books if you’d like to check them out:

Sam’s Mission , by Beatrice Marshall, published 1892

The Little Hunchback Zia , by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the author of the well-known The Secret Garden and A Little Princess), published 1915

Junior Instructor Encyclopedia , first published 1916

 

Stumbling upon Don Quixote in a German Palace

When I posted my thoughts about the classic novel, Don Quixote, I never dreamed that within one week I would see 17th and 18th century artistic renderings of the story on the walls of a palace!

On our summer trip to Germany, my friend and I decided to go to the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin. This palace was built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte.

In one of the first rooms we walked through, I noticed the scene in a tapestry–the tell-tale helmet on one tall slim character and the round character on a donkey–could this be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? Yes!

Made in Paris, the tapestries were presented to Prince Henry, the brother of Friedrich the Great, as a gift from Louise the XVI of France. Imagine! This book, written by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605, was so popular that 18th-century artists created huge paintings and tapestries to depict the scenes, and kings gave them to other kings as presents.

 

History of the Don Quixote tapestries from an information plaque in the palace

 

 

And a glorious painting filled the ceiling, showing the windmills Don Quixote imagined to be giants…

To the best of my ability (typing in the correct letters into Google Translate), the French text curving under the ceiling mural translates in English to “Don Quixote led by madness to be a wandering knight.”

What a strange and thrilling experience to see that the author (1605), the artists (tapestries 1763-1784) and all of us today were all reading the same book!

One note about the palace, and something that made me proud to be German. The palace — like so many cities and churches and palaces all over Germany — was severely damaged in World War II, and rebuilt starting in the 1950’s. Thank you, Germany, for that determination and devotion to restoring the breathtaking beauty in art, music, architecture and gardens throughout your land!

Faulkner’s Favorite – Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

I regularly recommend this novel as one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the pleasure of this story!

Actually, the full title of the novel is El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Low-Born Noble Don Quixote of La Mancha). And, apparently, this was William Faulkner’s favorite book; he read it once a year, and Don Quixote was his favorite character.

I didn’t know all this, however, when I sat down unenthusiastically to read it. Because the description made it seem so dry, irrelevant and archaic, I had to “make” myself read Don Quixote, because I wanted to read more of the classics of English literature, and this one makes it to the top of many lists.

Don Quixote did not start out with a bang, as many novels do today. In fact, I felt that throughout the book there was no clear main plot or building suspense. Rather, there were little vignettes of humorous adventures as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza travel, believing they are knights, trying each others’ patience, and trying the patience of those they meet, giving and receiving blows in some cases!

Once I got used to the pace of the story, I sat back and enjoyed every minute of it. What is so endearing is how their ridiculous antics are taken very seriously, and our pair are given respect and honor, even by the royal family who ultimately has the power to bring them success or leave them a failure. I found myself rooting for them, hoping beyond hope for their success, although their quest seemed destined for defeat. By the end, I was sad to leave these two “companions” of mine, Don Quixote, knight errant, and Sancho Pansa, most loyal friend, for whom I’d grown so much affection!

Don Quixote is one of the books you can find in most any library or bookseller, and I hope you give it a try!

Would some of my previous reviews of classic novels interest you?  Here are The Bridge of San Luis Rey, My Antonia, The Inheritance and Pride and Prejudice.  And here are more books to entice you in my post last month. I trust one of these will catch your eye!

Happy summer reading!

 

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza” by Jules David]

 

Summer Reads–Don’t Miss the Greatest Books

If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?

The Greatest Books

If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.

Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).

All of them were fascinating. Who knew?

Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).

It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.

Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.

That was the beginning.

These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.

I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!

And here is a list for classic children’s books.

What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge?  One or two from the list each year?

Happy reading this summer!

My appreciation to the following for open source images:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Books.jpg

https://pixabay.com/en/book-teacup-nature-summer-reading-2388213/

What Did Lucy Read?

What literary works have had an effect on you? Who are your favorite writers, and how have they influenced your perspectives or improved your life?

Have you ever wondered what literary works influenced your favorite writers?

I recently read The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1899, about the woman considered Canada’s most widely read author, who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series and many other books.

I picked it up because I love to read journals in general, and also because I know that the author took great enjoyment from spending time outdoors, enjoying the natural environment on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

This photo of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site

of Canada is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

I wanted to read about her experiences there, and was curious to know what influences and lifestyle produced such a successful author. Was it the solitude of living in a remote area? Did she have siblings, or did she enjoy a quiet household? (Yes, no, and yes.)


This large book seemed daunting, and I didn’t think I’d read the whole thing, but I couldn’t put it down until I’d read the last page. Her style of writing is so engaging —even in her journals.

Throughout her journal entries, she mentions books that she is reading. I was excited to find that I have read a few of the books she read! Here is a partial list of the most well-known titles, about a third of the complete list. (And by the way, as she was born in 1874, she would have read these books between the ages of 14 and 24!)

The Aeneid

The Bible

The Ascent of Man

The Diary of Virginia Woolf

(Ralph Waldo) Emerson’s Essays,

George Eliot’s Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals

King Solomon’s Mines

Last Days of Pompeii

The Last of the Mohicans

Midshipman Easy

More Tramps Abroad (also called “Following the Equator”)

Paradise Lost

Quo Vadis

Rip Van Winkle

The Scarlet Letter

To Have and To Hold

Vanity Fair

With classics such as these under her belt as such a young age, it’s no wonder she produced such quality writing of her own.

Which ones have you read? If you are interested in reading some of these books on the list for free, electronically or online, you very well might find them at Gutenberg.org or Archives.org.

And if you like reading journals and diaries, here are some of my previous posts about some interesting ones:

Mark Twain’s Exerpts from Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary

The Diary of Anna Green Winslow

The Real Diary of a Real Boy

Illustration from a 1908 publication of Anne of Green Gables

 

 

The Spring 2018 Calgary Used Book Sales are just around the (snowy) corner!

There is still snow on the ground, but if the used book sales are happening, it must be spring! Two huge book sales offer Calgarians the opportunity to support worthwhile causes. I have attended these for at least 10 years, and always find great deals and unique books.

#1 – May 2-6, 2018 RESET Society book sale at Crossroads Market

RESET (formerly Servants Anonymous Society) is having its 16th Annual Book Drive and Sale on May 2-6, 2018, at the Outpost Tent at Crossroads Market.

Looking for vintage books? This one is my pick for finding vintage treasures! They are in a special enclosed area in the back right corner, very nicely organized.

One Weekend Only!

Wednesday & Thursday, May 2 & 3, from 3pm-8pm
Friday to Sunday, May 4 – 6, from 10am – 5pm

Heading to the Book Sale with Calgary Transit? There is a stop located @ 26 Ave 11 St SE for route 24 and 302.  For more information or to volunteer, email info@resetcalgary.ca or call 403-237-8477. The proceeds from this book sale help RESET provide great supports for vulnerable women and their children.

 

#2 – May 11-13, 2018 CBC Calgary READS book sale, Calgary Curling Club

The impact of this sale on Calgary’s children is enormous, as it provides help for increasing literacy through proceeds raised by selling huge quantities of joy-filled books for adults and children.

Calgary Reads is committed to working with parents, educators, corporate partners and the community at large to foster a joyful relationship with reading in all children in Calgary and beyond.

Such worthy causes!  I hope you’ll join the fun and find some treasures!