Category Archives: sweetness

The Sweet Spot 4 – Books

There are certain books I read that I read for a dose of sweetness in an often cynical and devious world. I don’t mean that the writing is saccharine in any way. It is that the author has found a way to write a book readers will find interesting even though the main characters in the book view life more optimistically than many of us. They can accept the evil that people do without condemning the entire species. They are often people we would think of as simple, in the sense of not complicated, with a common sense approach to life’s dilemmas and an innate wisdom in resolving them. Often the issues they solve are not their own tragedies and peccadilloes but those of others. The # 1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith are stories about a “traditionally built” detective in Botswana, Africa who has a style of detection that is full of the kind of “sweetness” I am talking about, even though she is often able to ferret out some people doing very bad things. She sets them straight while visiting orphanages, raising two adopted children, keeping her secretary in line, helping her husband who owns the garage next door, and sipping bush tea. The Miss Julia books are also in this vein.

So anyway, I was in yoga class and I met Rev. Diane Bradshaw, a retired United Methodist minister. As we talked we found out that we were both writers and I also found out that Diane had written a book. By now, in fact, she has written two. These books have that same sweetness that I have been talking about and they are both available on Amazon, although there are only two copies left of the first one. She wrote the first book after her second husband died of Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband, Arthur Bradshaw was a veteran so she linked up with the VA for help with his treatment. She decided to keep a journal as this disease made its slow progress through the family’s life. It gave her an outlet for an excess of feelings, many of them resulting from the uneven care her husband received in the VA hospital. Arthur went through a period of belligerent violence which forced Diane to have him cared for in the hospital. She got sick and had to get strong again. But all along it was her goal to bring Arthur back home where he was happiest and she got a lot of help from the VA in this regard. Anyone who is caring for a loved one with a progressive and lengthy disease will find this book interesting and it may help them deal with the red tape they must deal with to keep a loved one comfortable either in the hospital or in the home. It is a brave book by a brave lady. This book is called I Am Arnold.

Diane’s second book describes her upbringing in the Roxbury section of Boston with a divorced mom and five children. Roxbury, which was a lower middle class neighborhood with little diversity when she was born, changed gradually to become a poor neighborhood full of diversity and a much more dangerous place than it was when her childhood began. Her mom was strong, and a good provider. Although they did not live a lavish lifestyle they were a solid family and once the children got involved in the structure of the Salvation Army they traveled a path that delivered them into productive adult lives. Diane talks about each of the five children in her family and we learn what happens to Diane and the other four children. There is no complicated plot. It reads like one of those ethnography books that were so prevalent in the 70’s or 80’s which described the rules used in various tribal societies. It is interesting as Diane’s story, but it is also interesting as a peek into a previous age in an America city. This book is also available on Amazon. Diane in her turn had a family of five children, many of whom we meet in the first book. The second book is called The Girl From 21 Wakullah Street.


The Sweet Spot

I have spent a lot of time lately keeping an eye on Washington, DC.  The dysfunction in our Congress is enough to turn me permanently cynical and tends to bring anger and frustration to the forefront of my emotional repertoire.  But lately some of the “sweetness “of life has been seeping into my senses. Maybe it is because it is summer and the scent of lilacs is still fresh in my mind and the peonies and roses are sending out their ambrosia, and the fresh, fresh smell of newly cut lawns greets me every time I step outside. Perhaps it is because water has become a liquid again and I can refresh my body in its weedy scent or its salty air. I can stretch my body out on the water’s gelid surface and feel my muscles pull me through the waves.
One day I just went to my back door to open it to get my mail and I couldn’t open the door because my back yard looked like a Disney movie. There was a brown bunny with white circles around its eyes chomping on the weeds under my raised flower bed. There were birds browsing through the lawn looking perhaps for insects, just one or two ornamentally scattered. There was another bird perched on my wicker loveseat looking for all the world as if he liked this vantage point. And there was a brown squirrel, tail crooked over back flitting here and there between the birds. I didn’t want to disturb this lovely sylvan scene so I waited for a while before I opened the door. Finally I opened the door quite quietly and not one of those animals even noticed. They didn’t hear me close it either. They just kept making my backyard look like Bambi or Cinderella and the “sweetness” of it made me want to hold on to the moment. Of course, I did not have my camera with me I am sorry to say.

The problem with life’s sweet moments is that they are often fleeting and may even be surrounded by less sweet events and interactions, but then there is that moment and in that moment seems to exist the entire meaning of life. Sometimes an entire day can be filled with sweetness or an entire evening or even, perhaps, a weekend. If life was this sweet all of the time would we appreciate it? Would fireflies make us linger a moment in wonder if we saw them every night?

The sweet spot is probably not the same for everyone, but I hope each one of us has one. It’s in that evening when you have dinner under the night sky and the air is perfectly balmy and bug-free and no one can leave the table. Everyone is so engrossed in the moment that no one notices time passing, content to be in that moment.

It’s in the sight of crisp white sailboats against blue sky and water.

It’s on the screen porch or at the summer cottage.

I want to think about sweet things this week before we get back to why there was an amendment attached to the farm bill to cut food stamps, or what the Supreme Court will decide about marriage or affirmative action this week, or if the immigration bill will ever meet with majority approval. Hopefully I’ll get enough of sweetness this week to refresh me so I can jump back into the fray.