Even Crazier Times Than Usual

America is even crazier than usual! Now there is not just the daily spewing out of tweets from the Whitehouse, we have hysteria from the pundits regarding the Democratic presidential primaries, and Coronavirus has begun to infect the country.

A good antidote to all the craziness is to escape to our house in Corpus Christi. There we have no TV or internet, only the sound of birdsong or a dog barking in the next garden, and the main decisions of the day tend to be whether to go to Starbucks for a coffee, where to take the dog for a walk and which restaurant we might like to eat in that evening.

Another antidote is to lose oneself in a book. I have been lucky to read three terrific books lately and each has taken me (blissfully) into a completely different world.

In the first book, “My Antonia” by Willa Cather, I found myself in mid-19th century Nebraska, a time when the first immigrants began arriving in that part of the country, and in this case a Bohemian family who befriended an orphan called Jimmy. The second was the magical “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett, an author I had never read before but whose writing reminded me of Latin American authors. And the third book, Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men” about Louisiana politics in the 1930s, Mike gave me years ago but for some reason I had never read it and I was surprised how apt it still is today. I loved reading these books but “My Antonia” is closest to my heart. During the first year or two of my own immigration I sometimes wondered, on seeing my German Apfelwein jugs on our library shelf, or visiting one of the German towns in the nearby Hill Country, how it was for those early settlers and whether they ever felt homesick. “My Antonia” answers these questions most poignantly.

Another antidote to all this craziness is to take our dog Leia out for a walk. I am surprised at how many new walks we have discovered together since she first came to live with us last May. One or two are even in our immediate vicinity. Not long ago, one chilly early morning, she and I discovered a beautiful, wooded limestone creek behind a new housing estate and the light was so clear the empty creek shone a bright white. As we stumbled along it I saw something move and suddenly about eight deer sprang over the creek and then disappeared out of sight. Just beyond the creek a track led to a railway line and yet more deer. Only freight trains run along that particular track now. The freight trains all tend to be covered with graffiti as well as the American flag. In the poorer parts of town, on the south side, the trains run right up close to the houses and the orange trees in the front yards, without even a barrier in between. Once I saw a freight train trundling by one of the historic missions and the driver got up and waved out of the window at me.

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