Beautiful Indeed

Well, I’ve been real tempted lately to pen an essay about the repressive, heads-up-their-asses people in my country who continue to believe in demagogic, riot-inciting Donald Trump and embrace his outrageous lies about the 2020 election having been stolen from him.

On the other hand, I haven’t been real tempted lately to have my blood pressure head into the stratosphere. So, I’ll stay calm by moving in my semi-natural direction. Towards the light, you dig. What follows, therefore, are a few words about beauty, a quality I found a couple of weeks ago in, among other things, a book, a song and some flowers. Away we go!

First up, the book: Local Girls is a collection of stories, by Alice Hoffman, about Gretel Samuelson and her small circle of relatives and friends. The stories are presented chronologically, and appeared in various publications before being gathered and published in one volume in 1999.

Not exactly a novel (some stories are narrated by Gretel, the others are in the third-person), but close enough, Local Girls follows Gretel from age 11 or 12 into her mid-20s. It’s set in suburban Long Island (which is near New York City), and is not the happiest of tales. Drug addiction and serious illness are among the book’s prime themes.

Nevertheless, drollness permeates the proceedings, partly by way of the sharp observations and bon mots of Gretel, her best friend Jill, Gretel’s mother Franny, and Gretel’s adult cousin Margot. Overall, Local Girls struck me as hard-as-nails realistic, despite the inclusion, unnecessary in my opinion, of some mystical occurrences. (Hoffman, I gather, is known for doing this in her works.) The book took me by the arm and then spoke intimately to me. It is damn well alive.

What got to me more than anything about Local Girls is the absolute beauty of much of its language. Time after time Hoffman took my breath away. Before ending this short discussion of Local Girls, I’ll leave you with three examples of Hoffman’s way with words.

It was a bad summer, and we all knew it. We liked to phrase it that way, as if what was happening was an aberrationa single season of pain and doubtinstead of all-out informing people that our lives were falling apart, plain and simple as pie.

She had been thinking about sorrow for so long she was amazed to hear the sound of love. What a foreign language it was. How odd to an ear unused to such things.

The streetlamps cast a heavy glow, the light of a dream you’re not quite finished waking from.

Yes, Hoffman has more than got the touch.

Now for the song: I’ve seen Brandi Carlile on a couple of TV shows and heard her music pretty often on the radio. I think she’s good but certainly not great. However, her recording Save A Part Of Yourself, is another matter. To me, it’s fab. The song, which Carlile co-wrote and sings lead on, was released in 2012.

Save Part Of Yourself concerns a love relationship that, though ended, has not been forgotten by one of its two parties. She hopes that her ex will not throw away memories of her. Such a lovely composition, so tender and imbued with longing. Yet, it also sparkles. That mandolin riff that enters five seconds into the tune, those handclaps, the joyful whoo-hoo-hoos. I for one cannot resist them.

Save Part Of Yourself’s main message, I think, is that remembrance can help us heal and make us better individuals. Who would argue with that? Here it is, following which we’ll turn our attention to flowers.

The day in which I am described as a knowledgeable identifier of flora isn’t about to arrive any time soon. Yeah, on a good day I’m able to look at a tulip and say, “Yup, that’s a tulip.” Ditto for a pine tree and a maple tree. But my scope doesn’t extend all too far beyond that. Still, that doesn’t stop me from going out to admire nature’s wonders. Hell, I’d be heartbroken if I couldn’t.

And I’m glad when my botanical expertise expands. Such as when I learned last month that a flowering plant I was gazing at during a visit to New Hope, Pennsylvania, a funky, former artists colony to which visitors often throng, was an example of a hydrangea bush. The plant impressed me. Thus, while walking and driving around my town a few days later I kept my eyes open for hydrangeas. And I found some, photographing two of them. Hydrangeas, I believe, were at the height of their flowering powers in my region (greater Philadelphia) at the time that I took these portraits. The flowers are sincerely beautiful.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments. Mucho gracias.)

157 thoughts on “Beautiful Indeed

  1. liliannemilgrom July 7, 2021 / 12:27 am

    It’s great when you read a book that ropes you in with its damn beautiful language… As for hydrangeas, I near killed mine but they took pity on me and flowered this year 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Audrey Driscoll July 7, 2021 / 1:42 am

    Those look like happy hydrangeas, Neil. I have to make sure I remember to water mine, especially since we’ve had hot and dry weather, which they don’t like.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sheree July 7, 2021 / 2:21 am

    I too love hydrangeas – such a wonderful array of colours

    Liked by 2 people

  4. johnlmalone July 7, 2021 / 2:47 am

    you’re learning all the time, Neil, about flowering plants and we’re learning with you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. andrewcferguson July 7, 2021 / 3:32 am

    ‘The book took me by the arm and then spoke intimately to me.’ Lovely. Good taste in song and plants, too. Hydrangeas do well in this part of the world (the Hydr bit is a clue; they liike a bit of rain)

    As Lynette says, the same plant will change the colour of its blooms depending on the soil – sometimes even different parts of the same plant being shades of pink or blue! A fascinating plant.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Paddy Tobin July 7, 2021 / 4:52 am

    In essence, you have turned you back on some of the crap of the world and then sought out and enjoyed those things which appeal to you, which you enjoy and which bring you happiness. Music and I are only on passing acquaintance while I enjoy reading and find great happiness in plants, especially enjoying wildflowers. Perhaps, it is a turning away from many thinks of this world which don’t appeal to me and finding my contentment elsewhere!

    Liked by 3 people

      • Paddy Tobin July 7, 2021 / 4:02 pm

        Yes, indeed, very important – and to be not too bothered about other things!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. tylerus July 7, 2021 / 5:34 am

    Pretty flowers, pleasant post. A breath of fresh [countryside] air….

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Martie July 7, 2021 / 6:45 am

    I so agree with your intro and as usual, I enjoy your reviews, this is the first summer the deer didn’t eat my hydrangeas. I’m thrilled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 1:51 pm

      You know, I guess I didn’t pay too much attention to hydrangeas in the past. I won’t make that mistake again. As for Trump and his followers — well, my opinions about them are pretty clear.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. swabby429 July 7, 2021 / 7:19 am

    I love hydrangeas because for some unknown reason, I associate them with the Victorian Era. That period of time fascinates me in the same manner that books like “Local Girls” touches our consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Marie Q Rogers July 7, 2021 / 7:51 am

    There’s a cell phone app, Plant Net, that’s helpful identifying plants. You take a picture and send it in. It doesn’t always identify everything, but often it’s spot on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 1:55 pm

      Hey, Marie. I recently got a similar app. It’s called SEEK. That’s how I learned the name of the hydrangea that I saw in New Hope.

      Like

  11. imperfect dabbler July 7, 2021 / 8:20 am

    In the 80s, dried hydrangeas took over the decor scene and I’d often drive around looking for someone to a hand over a few from their bushes. Not! Lovely reads especially anything with the word “pie” as it has me drooling.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. joylennick July 7, 2021 / 8:26 am

    Thank you, Neil. A welcome breath of ‘the better air’ away from the Pleonexia* of most of the world at present Best wishes Joy x (*New word learned today meaning monetary greed.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Paula B July 7, 2021 / 9:45 am

    Thank you for the book recommendation. As Ann said above, the beauty of the written word can really elevate a tale. As for Brandi Carlisle, this household puts her in the “great” category. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 2:03 pm

      Only fairly recently did I realize just how popular she is. I need to listen to more of her music.

      Like

  14. SandyL July 7, 2021 / 9:50 am

    Ahh … but it is purifying to get those thoughts out. The trick is to let loose just enough to ease the pressure and not explode 🙂 But I agree, lighter is nicer and the music goes a long way to making it so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 2:05 pm

      You know, I was able to let off a lot of steam with the story’s opening paragraph. And it pretty well sums up my feelings about Trump and his followers.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Jacqui Murray July 7, 2021 / 10:01 am

    So glad you skipped politics. The country is evenly split on both sides and neither is open to discussion on their opinions. So good books and flowers is time better spent.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Robert Parker July 7, 2021 / 10:22 am

    Hi Neil – I think Brandi Carlisle is very talented and it’s been interesting to listen to her trying out different styles.
    That Alice Hoffman quote about streetlights is killer, really excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sarah Davis July 7, 2021 / 11:00 am

    I love Alice Hoffman and just downloaded Local Girls and I am listening to Brandy. Thanks for the recommendations. Needed some good things and there was your blog. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 2:09 pm

      Hi, Sarah. I hope you’ll enjoy Local Girls. I don’t know if it’s similar to her other novels. One of these days I’ll read another of her works.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Helen Devries July 7, 2021 / 11:34 am

    I like hydrangeas…though after years in France I still think of them as hortensias…and they take well here, but Leo has set his face against them as suburban…so we don’t have them!
    If I could chase down a lace cap varoety he would change his mind, but the nurseries here are so disorganised that you have to fall on things by chance.
    Don’t tempt your blood pressure…the people concerned are not worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 2:12 pm

      Afternoon, Helen. In a bit I’m going to google the lace cap type of hydrangea, to learn what they look like. Maybe I’ve seen examples of them in my town or nearby towns. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. eden baylee July 7, 2021 / 11:40 am

    The hydrangeas are beautiful. I have white ones, but I really love the pink and purple. Yours look healthy.

    Nice song by Brandi too.

    😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 2:14 pm

      From yours and other comments, I’m learning that hydrangeas are really popular. I’ve seen white, pink and purple ones. I wonder if they have additional colors too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • eden baylee July 7, 2021 / 7:59 pm

        i think they have more, but these 3 are the most common. Just gorgeous, showy flowers!

        Liked by 1 person

  20. JT Twissel July 7, 2021 / 1:29 pm

    I haven’t read Hoffman for a long time. So I can’t comment. I can’t identify most plants. Although I did take Botany in college. Didn’t stick.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 2:16 pm

      I sort of envy people who can name almost any plant they see. I’ve been using an app called SEEK recently. It doesn’t always specify the plant you want it to identify, but maybe half the time it does.

      Like

  21. chattykerry July 7, 2021 / 1:44 pm

    It is a particularly lovely hydrangea. They blossom between pink and blue depending on the soil they are in. Why can’t these Trump supporters go back under the rock from which they came?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Rosaliene Bacchus July 7, 2021 / 2:34 pm

    Thanks for the review of Hoffman’s Local Girls. I’ve never read any of her work. This one sounds like a compelling read. I’m also no expert at naming our numerous flowering plants and trees. The hydrangea bush does have its own charm. A neighbor had the pink and purple variety, but the plant did not survive our last major drought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 3:36 pm

      Not long ago I got an app called SEEK, which helps identify plants. It doesn’t always provide specific answers, but overall it’s pretty good. I used it last week to identify petunias.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter July 7, 2021 / 3:35 pm

    I see others have already mentioned the colour changes in hydrangeas: we have one which started life as a pink pot plant, and when it grew too big we planted it outside where it became blue. I think it’s to do with acidity levels in the soil. Sadly, it has failed to flower at all for the last few years, so it might be due for the chop.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. sniderjerry July 7, 2021 / 3:38 pm

    Hey there Neil, Peace and Love – today – on Ringo Starr’s birthday. Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

  25. kegarland July 7, 2021 / 6:23 pm

    I’m glad you decided not to talk about he-who-shall-not-be-named.

    This book sounds like writing I’d enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Barbara R July 7, 2021 / 6:56 pm

    Interestingly, hydrangeas were THE choice for a seaside flowering bush along the New Jersey coast 50 years ago, but then it fell out of favor. And now it’s back! They are busily planting them in front of multi-million dollar mansions along the coast. Funny how personal taste in flowers and bushes change over the decades!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 8:06 pm

      Good to hear from you, Barbara. That’s a very interesting observation. I wonder why that happened. Maybe some big-name people got into hydrangeas, and the word spread via Instagram and the like.

      Like

  27. Joyce HAMILTON July 7, 2021 / 7:17 pm

    Beautiful flowers….good song!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 7, 2021 / 8:08 pm

      Via this essay, I’m discovering that there’s a lot of love out there for hydrangeas. Thanks for stopping by, Joyce. Take care.

      Like

  28. tanjabrittonwriter July 7, 2021 / 7:45 pm

    I’m glad you are filling your soul with beautiful songs, literature, and flowers, Neil. They are perfect antidotes to ugly politics.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. alhenry July 7, 2021 / 11:04 pm

    You gotta a GRAND SLAM going here Neil!

    First hit: The Alice Hoffman excerpt: “It was a bad summer, and we all knew it. We liked to phrase it that way, as if what was happening was an aberration—a single season of pain and doubt—instead of all-out informing people that our lives were falling apart.” Is there anyone who has survived the twin debacles of TheRUMP and the loooong months of COVID only to find themselves swamped in the current Democracy stress test, while simultaneously struggling with unsurvivable global warming temps, who cannot identify with that???

    Hit #2: the Brandi Carlile song. As you say, “Save Part Of Yourself’s main message, I think, is that remembrance can help us heal and make us better individuals. Who would argue with that?” Who indeed?

    Hit #3: Hydrangeas. “The day in which I am described as a knowledgeable identifier of flora isn’t about to arrive any time soon. Yeah, on a good day I’m able to look at a tulip and say, “Yup, that’s a tulip.” Ditto for a pine tree and a maple tree. But my scope doesn’t extend all too far beyond that.”
    I so hear you–and I have a huge garden!!! But hydrangeas are especially cool. I “discovered” them because for the last 5 years, my daughter has sent me a Mother’s Day bouquet packed with blue hydrangeas. Knowledge is a beautiful thing.

    So, where’s the fourth hit–the thing that makes this a GRAND SLAM? Your recent blog recommendation to check out Bruce Springsteen on Broadway. Ed and I watched it last Sunday and IT WAS GREAT!!! I literally laughed and cried. The Boss still reigns! So a BIG thanks from Ed and me for putting out the word on that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 8, 2021 / 7:39 am

      Morning, Amy. Thanks a lot for the thumbs-ups. You know, for a long time I’d known about Netflix having filmed a Springsteen On Broadway performance. For some reason I didn’t want to watch it. But I decided to give it a go after I wrote my recent Bruce story (but before I published the story). Bruce is an amazing guy. More likely than not, he and the band will be on the road next year. The world needs them to do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. annieasksyou July 7, 2021 / 11:33 pm

    We have hydrangeas that are blooming too, but they’re a different lovely color than the ones you’ve captured—ours are blue.
    Always intended to read Alice Hoffman. Now I shall. And the whoops and clapping did not disappoint. Thanks, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 8, 2021 / 7:42 am

      Morning, Annie. I probably will read more by Hoffman fairly soon. I have something in common with her: we both grew up on Long Island.

      Like

  31. The Artist's Child July 7, 2021 / 11:53 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation. Alice Hoffman is a wonderful author. I read her book Practical Magic years ago. The film adaptation with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock did not do it justice. Lovely photos of hydrangeas. We have a similar shrub which has always been in our garden. You just prune it hard after flowering and it keeps coming back with beautiful pink blooms every year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 8, 2021 / 7:45 am

      Hello there. Speaking of films: last night my wife and I watched Cleo from Five To Seven, a French New Wave movie from 1962. I liked it quite a lot. It’s got an offhand, real feel to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Artist's Child July 8, 2021 / 7:56 am

        Sounds good. Love 1960s French films.

        Liked by 1 person

  32. gabychops July 8, 2021 / 3:33 am

    I am so glad that you have found me. You liked my post “I AM HERE TO WONDER”, I think, you will like the next after called “SPRING INTO SUMMER IN MY GARDEN”. There are plants there that you haven’t seen like that anywhere else, there are hydrangeas pink and blue too.

    By now you know that I love your Bruce, The Boss, stories, would it be possible to mention my post
    “I AM HERE TO WANDER” to Bruce. I am his great admirer, if you do I would try my best not to die of happiness!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

      • gabychops July 8, 2021 / 8:37 am

        If you do you will be my HERO!!!

        Perhaps, you could warm Bruce’s heart, as he is such a special, nice man that his music made a huge difference to a young man who drove the whole week up India, driving and listening to Bruce’s music in the Himalayas!! He is a great admirer from his boyhood admirer of The Boss. His music made his difficult childhood bearable.

        In fact, he is still driving down to New Delhi. Cannot wait to tell him of you, and your kindness.

        A big THANK YOU!!

        Joanna

        Liked by 1 person

  33. George July 8, 2021 / 5:03 am

    Life is too short to let toxic people send your blood pressure skyrocketing. Keep moving towards the light, Neil.

    I hadn’t heard of Alice Hofmann, but that extract is wonderful. I must check Local Girls out (the book I mean—before I get myself into trouble).

    I’m proud to say I did identify the flowers as hydrangeas from the photo (before I read your text below). We have some in our garden. They react to the iron content in the soil so if you bury a load of old rusty nails around their roots, you can turn pink hydrangeas blue. Now I sound like an expert, even though the total extent of my gardening knowledge is contained in that sentence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 8, 2021 / 7:49 am

      George, even though only one sentence contains all of your gardening knowledge, you know more about gardening than me!

      Liked by 1 person

  34. gabychops July 8, 2021 / 7:45 am

    Thank you for looking up my post about my Garden.

    Any comment on the tsunami of roses in the front?

    Thank you.

    Joanna

    Like

  35. Laurie Graves July 8, 2021 / 10:15 am

    After the year we’ve all had, we need as much beauty as possible. I’ll be checking out that book.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Ken Dowell July 8, 2021 / 7:55 pm

    Ahhhh. So much better than focusing on Trump and how moronic it is to believe him.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. selizabryangmailcom July 9, 2021 / 3:58 am

    So happy you detoured away from orange insanity and went instead toward beauty and light!

    I love your write-up of Hoffman’s book and your understandable admiration of her gift with words.
    It’s on my list with so many others !!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 9, 2021 / 8:40 am

      Hi, and thanks for visiting. I was at the library yesterday and thought about getting another Hoffman novel. But I decided to wait a bit. Later this year I probably will read more Hoffman.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. Jane Sturgeon July 9, 2021 / 6:08 am

    You have found your own moments of joy, Neil and then shared them. Thank you. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  39. talebender July 9, 2021 / 12:40 pm

    We could all do a lot worse than turning to literature, music, and beauty to restore ourselves. Thanks for this happy interlude.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Alyson July 9, 2021 / 5:52 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation – Always looking for new authors of quality. The extract is beautiful indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 10, 2021 / 10:58 pm

      I didn’t watch, read or listen to the news too much when Trump was in office, because he sickened me so much. He still does, but at least he’s not in the White House.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. Michele Anderson July 10, 2021 / 5:50 pm

    Your posts Neil are always so right on, and entertaining, and this one didn’t disappoint 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  42. candidkay July 11, 2021 / 12:19 am

    I love that you gave us examples of Hoffman’s writing. When I read a really good writer, I feel like I pick up on their voice. And I write better myself because I can hear the rhythm of good writing. Do you know what I mean?

    Liked by 1 person

  43. viewfromoverthehill July 11, 2021 / 12:41 am

    I love when you find yourself going back to reread something, not because you didn’t understand it, but because it was written so beautifully you want to experience reading it again. Beautiful writing? Try reading Joy Kogawa’s ‘Obason’. Reading is definitely my thing…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 11, 2021 / 9:30 am

      Thanks, Muriel. I’ve made note of that book. I’m always on the lookout for good books to read.

      Like

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