“Few forms of life appeal so strongly to the aesthetic sense. They are beautiful; they arouse curiousity; their elusiveness piques the imagination; and by constantly presenting new aspects they escape becoming commonplace.” Percy Taverner (Canadian ornithologist) in a letter written to Louise de Kiriline Lawrence.
Myrtle (yellow-rumped) warbler
Quote taken from Woman Watching: Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the Songbirds of Pimisi Bay by Merilyn Simonds; ECW Press 2022
I’ll start by saying the next three books I read for my prize winning challenge were all on the heavy side. All well-written and I learned a great deal about different places and times, but not exactly uplifting.
The first, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2021. The Edgar Awards are given by the Mystery Writers of America and named for their patron saint, Edgar Allan Poe.
Nine-year old Jai lives with his family in India where there are too many people, dogs, and rickshaws. A smoggy sky blocks the sun, but from his doorway he can see the lights of the city’s high-rises where his mother works as a maid. Jai loves to watch reality police shows, so when one of his classmates goes missing, he enlists the help of his two best friends to try and find her. It almost seems like a game as they question people and gather clues, but when other children go missing, they begin to realize that something sinister is going on in their neighborhood.
This was a tough read but I’m glad I read it. The author worked as a reporter in India for many years. She was able to interview and talk with children who worked as scavengers or begged in the streets. She soon learned that around 180 children disappear in India every day, so she wrote this book to give them a voice and to make others aware of this problem.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2020.
This story takes place in Florida in the 1960’s and is based on the history of a real reform school which operated there for 111 years. Elwood Curtis, abandoned by his parents but raised by his grandmother, Elwood believes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King–he is as good as anyone. Given an opportunity to enroll in the local black college, Elwood believes his future is bright, but when someone gives him what seems to be an innocent ride, his whole world comes crashing down.
Sent to the Nickel Academy, Elwood is hopeful that he can do his time, keep up his studies, and get out soon. Unfortunately, Nickel Academy is a place of nightmares rather than reform and hope. This is only my second book by Whitehead, but I love his writing and look forward to reading more of his books. The following quote is from Whitehead on how and where he got the idea for the book.
“This book is fiction and all the characters are my own, but it was inspired by the story of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. I first heard of the place in the summer of 2014 and discovered Ben Montgomery’s exhaustive reporting in the Tampa Bay Times. Check out the newspaper’s archive for a firsthand look. Mr. Montgomery’s articles led me to Dr. Erin Kimmerle and her archaeology students at the University of South Florida. Their forensic studies of the grave sites were invaluable and are collected in their Report on the Investigation into the Deaths and Burials at the Former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. It is available at the university’s website.” Colson Whitehead
The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Won the Pulitzer for Fiction in 2004.
“A man does not learn very well, Mr. Robbins. Women, yes, because they are used to bending with whatever wind comes along. A woman, no matter the age, is always learning, always becoming. But a man, if you will pardon me, stops learning at fourteen or so. He shuts it all down, Mr. Robbins. A log is capable of learning more than a man. To teach a man would be a battle, a war, and I would lose.” Fern Elston
Wow! I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. Again, another great piece of writing. Jones takes a few facts about Virginia in the early 1800’s & creates a county much as Faulkner did in his books. It’s a story about slavery, (including black people owning slaves), families, small towns, greed, love, hate, and everything in between. Though not as long as some books written like this, I could see it being serialized on one of the many streaming networks in the vein of Roots or Lonesome Dove. 5 stars
I have now covered nine of the twelve prize-winning books I challenged myself to read this year. (I am currently reading my twelth). It has been interesting to see which books have won prizes and which have come out on top from both the long and short lists. Obviously, much has to do with the judges which change from year to year. Does knowing a book has won a certain prize inspire you to read it? Especially (or maybe only) if it wins in a genre you prefer? Or does that even interest you at all? What does it mean for a book to win a prize? It definitely puts them on people’s radar and many which had been virtually unknown go on to become best-sellers. Fair or not?
So many good pictures this month, I finally decided to post in more than one part. These pictures serve as a personal journal for me since I have been very unorganized with keeping up with my pictures. Blogging on a regular basis helps me to remember which birds I saw in different parts of the year as I learn more about birds–how to identify them and their habits.
Fall is a fun time of year to look for birds (I’ll probably say that every season) as many are migrating. Trying to sort out the different warblers has been a challenge, but a fun one. I have to thank my birding friends on Instagram for helping me out at times.
October 5 was the last day I saw two hummingbirds. The same for last year. Juvenile males are the last to leave on their great journey and in this first picture, you can see the little bit of red the young male has on his neck.
The black-throated blue warbler was a first for me. He really is blue if you catch him in the light. One of my pictures on Instagram shows his blue. Unfortunately, it’s a bit blurry, so I didn’t include it here.
The downy woodpeckers often visit my feeders, but I still enjoy capturing them (in pictures) when I see them in the woods while out walking. They are one bird I don’t have a problem identifying!
I’ve only seen a black and white warbler two other times, but wasn’t able to get a picture either time. On this day, one landed on a tree right in front of me and gave me a few seconds to take a few shots.
The Cape May Warbler is one of those I can often confuse with others. This is a female.
This juvenile waxwing was hard to see in the trees, so glad to get a shot.
I had taken several pictures of this brown thrasher in the trees; at first, not even sure what I was seeing. Then he came out and gave me several nice poses. Not a bit shy.
The Great Egret and his reflection; looking contemplative.
Often when I’m out birding, I don’t pay much attention to the cardinals and chickadees because I see them so often. I’m glad I took this shot though as this male cardinal really stood out eating his snack in the yellow leaves.
Getting a good shot of the kingfisher is always a challenge I enjoy. They are so noisy and fast as they twitter across the water.
I hope you enjoy seeing some of these birds. October has been a good month, so more coming soon.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1
I’m sure I could have added a few more pictures, but these are my favorites. The highlight of the month was having a photo-op with a barred owl. As you can see, I took quite a few pictures. He seemed as curious to watch me as I was enthralled with him. To see more of my pictures, follow me on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/pmgilmer27/
What a Friend We Have in Jesus is a familiar hymn in many denominations, but it did not come about in one of the more conventional ways. I’ve researched and written about several hymns that were written by song writers who intentionally set out to write a hymn of praise and worship, but this hymn began as a poem meant for private usage and when first publihed, credit was not give to the writer.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
Joseph Scriven (1819-1886) was born in Dublin, Ireland (in 1819 or 1820, depending on who you ask) and graduated from Trinity College there. When his health did not allow him to enroll in the military, he emigrated to Canada at the age of 25 and became a teacher.
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer!
Scriven faced two different tragedies concerning two different fiancees. The first died in a drowning accident just before they were to be wed in 1844. This seems to have happened (my sources are unclear) while Scriven still lived in Ireland though he would have emigrated shortly afterward. In 1855, while in Ontario, Scriven had a second fiancee who succumbed to an illness before they could be married.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear!
Scriven wrote the words for what became “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (which he titled “Pray Without Ceasing”) for his mother, grieving in Ireland. He sent them to her as a poem of comfort. How it eventually became published is not known, as Scriven had not intended it for public use. Consequently, it was for some time credited to Doctor Horatius Bonar. It was while Scriven was sick and a friend was visiting that the manuscript was discovered among his things. When asked if he was actually the one who had written the hymn, Scriven replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Scriven spent the rest of his life trying to live by the Sermon on the Mount. His neighbors considered him odd because of his work with the poor and physically disabled. Sadly, though he gave and shared all he could, he still suffered greatly from depression. So much so that when he died from drowning in Rice Lake, it was unknown if his death was an accident or suicide.
As with any hymn we include in our worship of God, more important than its beginnings (for the writer is only a tool in God’s hand) is: how true to the Scriptures are the words? If we sing words that don’t honor Him, then we are certainly not worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth, and in fact, may be in danger of blasphemy or of breaking the third commandment.
So, is Jesus our Friend? One we can bring all our sins and griefs? Can we bring everything to Him in prayer and expect Him to care? I believe these two verses answer those questions very well.
“On the day I called, You answered me; And You made me bold and confident with [renewed] strength in my life.” Psalm 138:3 (Amplified Version)
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)
One Hundred and One Hymn Stories Carl F. Price; Abingdon-Cokesbury Press; 1923
Near to the Heart of God Robert J. Morgan. Baker Publishing Group
Sankey’s Favorite Hymns and Songs: A Selection and their Stories. (p. 131). White Tree Publishing.