The Hollow Hills, by Mary Stewart, is the second of Stewart’s four-book saga about Merlin and King Arthur. This is my second reading but everything seems fresh because it’s been at least 30 years since I first read the books.
I was inspired after my recent trip to England. The history of the United Kingdom is fascinating with wave after wave of foreign invasions and seemingly endless wars for control. The Arthurian legend is just that, a legend, that dates to around the fifth century but is there a more compelling, romantic and tragic tale than this one? Merlin is a savvy, magical character (very similar to Gandalf…would Tolkien have borrowed?) and Arthur is a true hero.
I’m still enchanted and read long into the night. A favorite touching scene is when Arthur learned of his true parentage. After a victorious battle and long, treacherous night, Merlin and Arthur shared a glass of wine.
I had been casting round carefully for what to say, but now could find nothing. It was Arthur who broke the silence, not looking at me, turning the goblet round and round in his hands, watching the swirl of wine as if his life depended on it.
He said, flatly, and as if it explained everything, as I suppose it did:
“I thought you were my father.”
The Grave Gourmet, by Alexander Campion, features a French heroine with the romantic name of Capucine Le Tellier who is a lieutenant in the Police Judiciaire. Her husband is a restaurant critic and when Capucine isn’t busy solving murders, she is eating delicious meals all over Paris. While not very well written, the book is light and fun and makes me hungry.
A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf, and All Passion Spent, by Vita Sackville-West, are books I bought in the Sissinghurst Castle gift shop. Three friends and I recently toured the English countryside and its many gardens and had spent one lovely afternoon at Sackville-West’s famous garden at Sissinghurst. I’m fascinated by the woman herself. She was an extraordinary gardener and excellent writer and even though she remained married to Harold Nicolson throughout her life, she carried on two long-standing affairs with women, one of whom was Virginia Woolf.
The Opposite of Cold, by Michael Nordskog, is a coffee-table type book that details the history and tradition of the Finnish sauna (“…the word is pronounced ‘sow-na…’”). I was drawn to the book for several reasons.
Saunas themselves are, for the most part, small, simple structures and similar to my favorite type of building—a cabin. I lived in Ely, Minnesota, for a time in a one-room cabin with no running water. A weekly visit to the Ely Steam Bath was a treat…not only for the comforting heat but for the shower afterward. (Ely Steam Bath is still in business and is featured on page 136.) Too, Ely has a strong Finnish heritage and many shorelines are graced with sauna buildings. My brother, Bob, lives in Ely and married a half-Finn Elyite, Dea. Their shoreline is no exception with an authentic Finnish sauna built a few yards from the water’s edge.
Too, another reason for a sauna is mind and spirit oriented: …most appreciate best of all the condition that follows its completion: a feeling of buoyancy, limberness, and cleanliness that leads to excellent sleep and a fresh start at shouldering one’s worldly burdens.
The book has beautiful, evocative photographs by Aaron W. Hautala, a creative director and former art director from Brainerd, Minnesota.
I reserved this book from the library several months ago and it just now became available. I was getting rather impatient but the timing was, perhaps, serendipitous. The snow-covered saunas and jumps in icy lakes look very inviting during a brutal, mid-summer heat wave.