Sunday, July 25, 2021

Overnight to Iceland

Greenland from the window of the plane.

Hotel window view. It’s a foggy, rainy day in Reykjavik.
The hotel has wireless access. Maybe not the ship, which we
board this afternoon.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

With any luck...

The National Geographic Explorer

With any luck, tonight we will fly to Reykjavik, Iceland, and tomorrow we will board the National Geographic Explorer for a trip to see mostly wildlife, and also a few other sights. A photo from our previous expedition on the Explorer shows the ship in the background, and a colony of penguins in the foreground. No penguins this time -- but maybe a few good Northern Hemisphere arctic birds and animals.

In these uncertain times, our family motto remains "You're never there until you're there." We are aware of a number of issues, especially bureaucratic, that can arise in the next 24 hours. But we have hope that we'll be there and that the trip will be a success!

We may be without internet access some or all of the time, so there may not be many blog posts until some time in August. I won't be visiting other blogs or leaving comments, and I won't be linking to other bloggers after today. If you see nothing here, there's a good chance that we were lucky! (I have one post about another subject scheduled to appear while we are gone.) But you'll hear from me again next month. I wish you all lots of summer fun and good health, and no problems with bureaucracy!

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Birthday Post

My birthday cake!

Driving to Virginia Today

Driving through Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, on the way to Fairfax today we noticed this mural.
We are at the beginning of a long trip — Fairfax is our first destination.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

A Report on Food Insecurity

The topic of hunger and how it affects people around the world is of great concern to me. A recently published report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has a very detailed study of this topic on a global scale, including possible ways to address the issues. This study is 236 pages long, published online here

I do not have the stamina to read the entire report, or even much of it, but here is a summary, from the foreword, of the unimaginable scale of the problem:

"This year, this report estimates that between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020 – as many as 161 million more than in 2019. Nearly 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million people in just one year. No region of the world has been spared. The high cost of healthy diets and persistently high levels of poverty and income inequality continue to keep healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people in every region of the world. Moreover, new analysis in this report shows that the increase in the unaffordability of healthy diets is associated with higher levels of moderate or severe food insecurity." (p. 6)

I learned about this here:

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Huron River Bridges

A deer is standing under this decorated bridge (lower right)

Update: Map of Parks Along the Huron River 

The photos above are from Dexter-Huron Park. I live in Ann Arbor, and I often go to these parks.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Anaïs Nin in Paris and in Ann Arbor

Author Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) lived in Paris from 1924-1940, and was famous for her relationships with a variety of literary, psycho-analytic, and artistic figures there, especially with the American author Henry Miller. I was thinking about Paris and the writers' presence in the cafés of Paris, especially at the Dôme, which she frequented.

No matter where she was or what she was doing, Anaïs Nin constantly took notes in her diaries, a series of notebooks that were always with her wherever she went. A heavily edited multi-volume version of these diaries, published from 1966 through 1974 brought her to the attention of the growing feminist movement. Many women who were "raising their consciousness" embraced her as a feminist spirit who defied the male point of view that predominated literary publications of the time. 

Anaïs Nin's feminist credibility was boosted by the editing decision that all traces of her husbands (one of them a lifelong husband who supported her Bohemian Paris existence, the other a bigamous husband whom she lived with later in a separate parallel life in California) were completely omitted from the published versions of her diaries. In the 1970s, many of her obscure writings, especially her erotic writings, were also published or republished in popular editions.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1973. At the peak of her popularity, Anaïs Nin made a splashy appearance in Ann Arbor; I attended her lecture at an overcrowded auditorium on the campus. I remember her, a small figure in a large dark-colored caftan. I remember her calling on the audience (virtually all women) to repeat her name three times: ANNA--EES, ANNA-EES, ANNA-EES, to be sure it would be pronounced correctly, because, she said, women were naming their daughters Anaïs. 

I wonder what happened to those babies, and if they still have that name. The Ann Arbor library has several clippings from that time, as well as images of our most famous mural in which Nin is pictured with several other writers:

Another find from my attic. Other than rearranging my shelves, I doubt if I have touched these since the 1970s.

What's happened to the reputation of Nin now? An article in the Guardian a few years ago explains that brief quotations from her pontificating works have become ubiquitous as Internet memes! This long article traces her various lives -- including the double life she led in the 1950s, when married to two men at once, and caught when both of them claimed her on their income tax returns. 

The conclusion of the article:
"To blur the boundaries of life and fiction, as Nin did, has gone beyond being an acceptable tactic of experimental writers, and is now practiced by reality-television producers and popular novelists alike. Similarly, for a woman to write about her sex life hasn’t been shocking since the invention of Blogspot. Self-publication, too, has lost nearly all of its stigma, thanks to the fact that 'real' writers and civilians alike are expected to do it.

"Her polarizing personality, too, would have been at home in 2015: Nin was once called a 'narcissist' for gadding about in eye-catching thrift-shop costumes and dramatic makeup. Nowadays, that’s the day-to-day work of celebrities. The close personal connection Nin sought with her fans – toward the end of her life, she abandoned writing so that she could answer every one of her thousands of fan letters – is now the entire purpose of social media....

"The rehabilitation of Nin is taking place not because her work has changed, but because the world has changed to make room for her work. Like many great and 'mercilessly pretentious' experimentalists, she wrote for a world that did not yet exist, and so helped to bring it into being."

In the ongoing July event at Tamara's blog, there have been very few mentions of Nin and her many works about Paris, though she would be a wonderful source for this event, so I thought I would share these few thoughts of mine.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Beautiful Utility Box

Ann Arbor, Michigan, South University Avenue.

… and some very ordinary graffiti which I may have showed you before.
Sharing with Mural Monday.

Photos © 2021 mae and len sander.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Café du Dôme, Paris

André Kertesz, 1925, Le Café du Dôme, Paris. 
"Well, we'll meet again shan't we? Of course we shall. It would be a pity not to meet again, wouldn't it? Will I meet them at the Pékin tomorrow for lunch? I have an idea that I shan't be feeling much like Chinese food at half-past twelve tomorrow. We arrange to meet at the Dôme at four o'clock." (Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight, p. 42)
What was the Dôme? Founded at the turn of the 20th century, this was the café most popular with the artists, writers, and intellectuals of the inter-war period -- Ernest Hemingway, Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso, Anaïs Nin, Man Ray, Henry Miller, Gertrude Stein, Walter Benjamin, and so on. Also there: hangers-on who wanted to see the famous people. 

In Jean Rhys's 1937 novel Good Morning, Midnight, the narrator is an English woman who is staying temporarily in Paris at a rather seedy hotel. (Very similar in many respects to the central characters of the two earlier Jean Rhys novels I wrote about last week.) As she wanders around Paris, she remembers her life there quite a bit earlier, in the mid-1920s, and also experiences the Paris of the mid-1930s.

Her rather pathetic Paris wanderings often end up at the Dôme:
"I'm not going to any beastly little bar tonight. No, tonight I'm going somewhere where there's music; somewhere where I can be with a lot of people; somewhere where there's dancing. But where? By myself, where can I go? I'll have one more drink first and then think it out. 
"Not the Dôme, I'll avoid the damn Dôme. And of course it's the Dôme I go to. 
"The terrace is crowded, but there are not many people inside." (p. 65)

And later, she begins to talk to a man sitting at a table opposite to hers at the Dôme. She points out to him: "You want somebody very rich and very chick." He says "Yes, that's what would just suit me. And beautiful." And she answers: "But my dear, you're not going to find that at the Dôme." (p. 72) 

Good Morning Midnight makes reference to many other cafés and small restaurants in Paris, both in the narrator's 1930's frame story and in her flashbacks to her life in the 1920s. She mentions the Ritz Hotel (but never goes there), the Deux Magots. the Closerie de Lilas, the Select... many more. But somehow, she always comes back to the Dôme. (For a list of famous cafés during this era see: "The Lost Generation: Cafés in Paris.)

Eugene Atget, Café du Dôme, 1925.

Len and I ate breakfast at the Dôme a few years ago, when staying nearby.
Although the location and the decor are kept the same, the Dôme is now a very
high-priced seafood restaurant, not at all a meeting place for intellectuals.

In some ways, as I read Good Morning, Midnight, I felt as if I was reading yet another version of Jean Rhys's first two books. However, the character in this one is somewhat more developed and self-aware, despite being just as pathetic and helpless. Her constant need to ask for money, and to get people to buy her food, as well as to sympathize with her, is sad, and illustrates her desperate state. Sometimes her depression makes her not want food, though she manages to drink alcohol constantly. Sometimes in the flashbacks to earlier times she spent long times without a real meal, or she had to smuggle food into her hotel room when she had no money for a restaurant. Her hunger is often vividly described.
"I start thinking about food. Choucroute, for instance -- you ought to be able to get choucroute garnie here. Lovely sausage, lovely potato, lovely, lovely cabbage.... My mouth starts watering violently. I drink half the glass of Pernod in order to swallow convenablement." (p. 81)
"We go next door to a place called La Napolitaine and eat ravioli. Warming me. Eat slowly, make it last a long time... I've never been so happy in my life. I'm alive, eating ravioli and drinking wine. I've escaped. A door has opened and let me out into the sun. What more do I want. Anything might happen." (p. 118)
It's hard to describe the desperation of this character. And hard to read her very depressing story. Very different from the happy dreams and memories of Paris that are being shared this month at the blog event Paris in July. I'm also sharing all these beverage photos with the bloggers at Elizabeth's weekly blog party.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Ann Arbor Art Fair

Bicycles are on my mind because of the Tour de France.

The fountain by Carl Milles was a welcome sight. Last year they never removed the winter covering,
thanks to the pandemic. Now it's back to normal.

The fountain and the iconic campus Bell Tower.

Artist Ray Kenyatta

This year's poster.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair has been an annual event every July since 1960 -- except for last year when everything, yes everything, was cancelled. The welcome decision to hold a fair this year was made very late. The size of the fair is much smaller than in the recent past, and the fair only lasts for three days. I didn't see any food trucks in the usual food vending area, so I suspect that outdoor dining was cancelled as well. The Ann Arbor Potters Guild participation seems not to have happened this year either.

We walked through quite a bit of the fair this morning, and my favorite photos are above. We were also very charmed by two artists: Ray Kenyatta, who makes silk screen images from his photographic negatives; and Radim Schreiber (, who photographs insects, especially fireflies. We bought one of Schreiber's works.

Today was Day 1, and it wasn't very crowded. I hope the artists do very well. 

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Happy Bastille Day!


Celebrating all things Paris this months for Tamara's blog event Paris in July, I thought someone should mention that it's Bastille Day! Last year I posted a detailed remembrance of the two times I've spent this significant holiday in Paris, including these images from the July, 1989, issue of Paris Match.

The Most Amazing Bird Photos

The 2021 Audubon Photography Awards have just been announced this week. I've been looking at these images, and I'm especially impressed by how many common North American birds are in the winning photos. 

If you love to look at birds and bird photos, you'll enjoy the following two articles:

Here is one I like, from the 100 photos shown at the Audubon website:

Golden-fronted Woodpecker by Danny Hancock, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX

Monday, July 12, 2021

Jean Rhys in Paris

From my attic bookshelves…

Jean Rhys (1890-1979) wrote about life in 1920s Paris in a rather dismal way in two of her novels: Quartet and After Leaving Mr. MacKenzie. A long time ago, I read these books, and they've been sitting on my attic bookshelves for decades! I have also ordered a copy of Rhys's book Good Morning, Midnight because rereading these two books has made me want to read more. Her later book, Wide Sargasso Sea, is also on my shelf, but it's about another time and place.

The action in the books takes place at the same time and on the same streets and neighborhoods as the exciting and Bohemian life of the famous creative artists and writers of the early 20th century: Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and so on. Rhys mentions the streets and famous cafés around Montparnasse, the quays along the Seine near the Latin Quarter, and the bookstalls along the river. She describes several seedy and poorly-heated hotels and rooming houses -- even one where the landlady is too cheap to install electric light! Lace curtains on small windows in hot airless hotel rooms mentioned in the books all evoke my memories of long-ago Paris hotel stays.

The biographies and legends of the enduringly famous creators who lived there have made 1920s Paris familiar. However, no character in Rhys's books is at all creative or connected to the creative worlds of Paris, though they may be vaguely aware of it. At the center of each book is a sad and damaged woman, living a not-very-respectable life, with no artistic contacts or accomplishments. Both books develop a psychological portrait of an unmoored, undisciplined, often bored, not-very-introspective, and easily dependent person. Both novels portray the drift from one man to another, as the women become more and more unable to cope with life. Although intensely aware of the disapproval of other people, neither of these characters can manage to establish a better way to lead her life — or even to imagine such a life. Somehow, Rhys makes these lost women highly interesting to read about.

Marya, in Quartet, is an English woman who has lived in various countries throughout her adult life, always on the margins. At the beginning of the book her husband is sent to prison, leaving her adrift and without any money. She connects with a couple, the Heidlers, who take her in and more or less coerce her into an affair with the man, while Lois, the wife, more or less watches them. All three crave excitement:

Marie Laurencin: "Three Young Girls in Dance."
"Lois said in a high, excited voice that she was bored to death with Montparnasse. 
"'I'm bored, bored, bored! Look here. Let's go to a music-hall, .... Something canaille, what?' 

"Two naked girls were dancing before a background of blue and mauve which was like a picture by Marie Laurencin." (Quartet, p. 85-86)

Paris today still has much in common with the Paris of the two novels, though availability of very cheap places to live disappeared quite a long time ago. At the beginning of After Leaving Mr. MacKenzie, the main character, Julia Martin, another Englishwoman, lives in a very cheap hotel on the Quai des Grands Augustins. The hotel card listed the amenities of central heating, running water, and rooms rented by the day or by the month. Julia's room was surprisingly clean, and had wallpaper depicting a bird and a lizard. The bed was comfortable, and the chambermaid would bring coffee and a croissant each morning for breakfast. Julia spent much of her time in her room, but went out for meals around the corner on the Boulevard Saint Michel and other locations in the Latin Quarter. 

Many years ago on my first visit to Paris, I stayed in a very very cheap room in the same location on the quay -- a tiny, poorly-furnished hotel room with a shared toilet. The book definitely brings back memories! Paris changes slowly, but I suspect by now the hotels in that area have been upgraded quite a lot. At the website today, I see a nearby hotel for $147 per night, which still seems pretty cheap. The web photos of the accomodations look beautiful; of course there is a full en-suite bathroom for each room. 

Another hotel, in Quartet, was described along with Paris weather:
"August was a hot, oppressive month, the sun beating down on sleepy streets, the cafés and restaurants nearly empty, the staircase and passages of the Hôtel du Bosphore and its fellows pervaded by an extraordinary mixture of smells. Drains, face powder, scent, garlic, drains. Above all, drains." (Quartet, p. 127)

Reading these books about Paris, I experienced a feeling of strange juxtaposition between things that have stayed the same and things that have changed. Songs the characters play for dancing include "Yes, We Have No Bananas" and "If You Knew Susie" -- that is, the songs of the twenties. In a country town, the characters get a ride from the train station to their hotel in a horse-drawn cab. But so much of the atmosphere is totally familiar, like images in a dream: even the disapproving hotel maids and supercilious waiters; even the smell of drains. Sometimes while reading I wondered momentarily if the details were anachronistic -- but that's impossible, because the books were written at the time, not recently. And because Jean Rhys's biography includes Paris experiences very much like the story of her characters.

Do you want to read about romantic Paris adventures in a beautiful, welcoming city? Do you want to read about unexpectedly great meals in amazing little bistros? Do you love to learn of likable and idealistic characters succeeding despite some not-too-terrible obstacles? If that's what you want, don't read these books!

Finally, I want to thank Nadia, the blogger at "A Bookish Way of Life," for reminding me about the work of Jean Rhys, and thank Tamara of "Thyme for Tea" for hosting the blog event Paris in July. 

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Around Ann Arbor

Yellow things in the park: a goldfinch near the railroad tracks.

A yellow lane marker for little boats.

A yellow skull at practice.

A yellow flower with a fuzzy bee.


Drone’s eye view of the Huron River.

Spider in my backyard.

In the Arboretum: pink flowers

The Huron River also flows through the Arb, a favorite Ann Arbor spot.

The owners said this white dog doesn’t like to be muddy.
It was drinking from the river in quite a dainty way.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.