This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There’s a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

What I read

I’ve made mention before of my love for all things Three Pines and Inspector Gamache, but Louise Penny’s ninth Gamache novel How the Light Gets In has got to be my favorite. I settle into these novels like a long awaited homecoming. That quaint village,Three Pines. The scones and licorice pipes and scotch and bacon. Neighbors through thick and thin. And all those heady references to literature and history. Fairy-tale like, to be sure. But like fairy tales, the books are familiar and I return to them again and again.

In How the Light Gets In we have the murder of the last remaining Ouellet quintuplet. (The Ouellet’s were, Penny tells us in an end note, inspired by Canada’s famous Dionne quints.) Constance Ouellet visits Myrna shortly before Christmas to reconnect with her former therapist and promises to return. Instead, she’s found murdered in her small Montreal home. But we also have the culmination of Gamache’s battle against his immediate superior Chief Superintendent Francoueur, who, previous novels revealed, has taken up Pierre Arnot’s vendetta against Gamache. We witness the extent to which Francoueur has turned the homicide division against their Chief Inspector and how he has fallen in their esteem. Exhausted by the conflict and all but admitting he has been bested, Gamache goes so far as to tender his resignation.

Or does he?

Of course, part of the charm of the Gamache mysteries is the resolution–and Penny outdoes herself in How the Light Gets In. I spent the better part of a rainy day racing through these pages, curled up in my recliner, blanket tucked around me: a little slice of Three Pines right there.

What I lived

It should probably come as no surprise that right about now, I’ve got an irresistible urge to plant three pine trees somewhere in my yard.

Used book with a message

But I have a city lot and I’m already trying to rein in my yard as it is. I need to make it more manageable so that I can continue its upkeep on my own for as long as possible. (Professional lawn care is so expensive.) I’ve spring-cleaned the beds and borders, and I’ve got a landscaper coming to reposition some plantings and remove some brush. (She’ll also add a much longed for raspberry border behind the garage!) The raised beds are planted, albeit much more conservatively this spring. Heck! I even seeded over some bare spots on my lawn.

For years I’ve told myself the story that I don’t have a green thumb. (“I can’t grow a darn thing!,” she lamented.) I ceded all that to my ex-husband a decade ago. But I’ve been trying to rewrite some of the stories I’ve allowed to limit me. Because really? Yes, my peas might be straggly–my herbs might need more sun–the mulch I used might not work … but what have I lost, really? Some time. A little money. Ok, a lot of work. The question might better be what have I gained? And the answer to that question is simple. I’ve learned. What not to do. What to do differently. My vision just might take some time.

Now that’s some kinda metaphor for life right there.

Last week I also read the much-talked-about Midnight Library. I had been hesitant to read it because the novel seemed to oversimplify a pretty heavy idea: what if you could try out the many different lives you might have lived and choose from among them? My used copy arrived with this sticky-note attached and I was almost ashamed of my book snobbery. But, alas, I’ve not reviewed it because I wouldn’t know what to write. From my perspective, the novel takes a meaty stew of a concept and reduces it to jello: crystal clear and much too sweet.

As I read I couldn’t help mutter to Nora Seed as she agonized over her choices, “There’s no magic bullet, no perfect world. Just deal with your shit, girl, and get on with life!”

I guess all this is to say that that’s what I’m trying to do with this life I have that I never expected. Rewrite the stories I’ve told myself that no longer fit. Dream of Three Pines. Plant some tomatoes. And get on with it.

2 thoughts on “A Perfect Offering

  1. Carol Foerch says:

    Yes! Do plant pine or evergreen. We have a few and enjoy their progress and beauty with snow. We decorated one for December festivities.

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  2. hbsuefred says:

    I agree with you on The Midnight Library. However, I do want to check out one of Matt Haig’s older nonfiction works, The Comfort Book. I’m interested to see how it compares with The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life: Create All That You Need with Just What You’ve Got which I wrote about in my most recent post https://hbsuefred.com/2022/05/05/excuses-excuses/

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