Showing 181 - 190 of 209 annotations tagged with the keyword "Nature"

Outside Passage

Scully, Julia

Last Updated: Aug-17-1998
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled, A Memoir of an Alaskan Childhood, this spare, compelling work recalls young Julia's difficult and unusual life in a splintered family living "at the edge of the world." When Julia was born in 1929 the family had just moved to Seattle and entered an economic crisis--"somehow, my father had been bilked out of their money." (17) The marriage went downhill as poverty and the father's serious illness compounded an underlying conjugal incompatibility.

Julia was only seven years old when she and her older sister Lillian found their father dead--a suicide. "Nothing is said about how my father died, or even, in fact, that he is dead." (8) Not long thereafter Julia's mother, Rose, without any explanation or advance warning, left the girls at the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum; there they remained for two years. Rose went to Nome, Alaska to try to find work. "Meanwhile, I strive to be a model orphan. I do all my chores . . . I'm quiet, do well in school, am extremely polite. And most of the time, I'm afraid." (33)

There follows another stay in a different orphanage. Here "I never hear my name . . . No one ever touches me. And, in my memory of that time, that place, I am always alone." (72) Finally, they join their mother again in a remote mining outpost of Alaska where Rose operates a roadhouse. Moving with the seasons back and forth between the outpost and the city of Nome, Julia's life takes on a semblance of normalcy. The environment is strange but interesting, the men who frequent the roadhouse are rough but friendly--there is a sense of camaraderie.

As Julia reaches puberty she becomes subliminally aware of a relationship between her mother and the owner of the Nome liquor store, Cappy. Cappy is married--his family is back in Seattle. There is never any open display of affection between Cappy and Rose, but he eats his meals with them and is almost a surrogate father to Julia and her sister. Suddenly Rose decides to move the family to Fairbanks. Here there is a "secret scenario" that Julia only pieces together many years later. As the events unfold in Fairbanks, Julia knows only that her mother is "distracted, not there." And that a man "carrying a small black satchel" comes to the house and leaves her mother moaning in bed.

Once more, Rose leaves her now teenaged children behind as she returns to Nome. It is wartime and Lillian and Julia find jobs at the military base in Fairbanks. As suddenly as they came to Fairbanks, they are summoned back to Nome--no questions asked, no explanations given. Cappy's son is missing in action. Once again, Julia cannot understand the silence, the absence of grief displayed--"Isn't anybody sad? Isn't anybody upset?" (181) Rose's relationship with Cappy quietly ends.

As Julia finishes high school she fantasizes about leaving Nome, going to college, becoming a journalist--fantasies inspired by Rosalind Russell's role in the film, His Girl Friday, and by Sinclair Lewis's critique of small town life in the novel, Main Street. "I begin to discern, vaguely, tentatively, that somewhere there exists a world where the accepted language is the one that Sinclair Lewis speaks--a language of ideas and, even, of feelings." (212) Indeed, as the book jacket notes, the author graduated from Stanford and became a magazine editor; she lives in Manhattan.

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Of My Death

Guillevic, Eugene

Last Updated: May-18-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is a series of short meditations on death. The poet begins by surveying his surroundings, "Here / the air is sharp-edged / like the air will be / at the end of your days." But, no, the poem is not about the abstract subject of death--the poet encounters his own death. "At least I won't have to / know myself then, / won't have to see my own corpse."

Encountering death is itself a journey, "Each lap of the journey / dangerous, / the destination / kept secret." Yet he realizes that the meditation, the journey, has "nothing in common with / what the end of my days / will be." Death is irreducibly unimaginable and alien.

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Cold Mountain

Frazier, Charles

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel chronicles the long journey home of a Civil War soldier, Inman, to Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The story begins in a military hospital, and Inman's neck wound, a long difficult-to-heal horizontal slice received in battle, is drawing flies. Inman is a moral man, and the brutality and killing he has witnessed on the battlefield lead him to leave the hospital AWOL and journey secretively, by foot, back to Ada, his love.

The trip is perilous; Inman is subject not only to the difficulties of near starvation and a poorly healing wound, but also the cruelties of people he meets along the way. However, every so often, he is also succored by compassionate people, such as the goat woman who provides the cure for his neck wound, if not for the wounds inside. Intertwined with Inman's story is Ada's: her preacher father dies of tuberculosis, leaving her utterly unable to provide for her own basic needs on the farm. Fortunately, a self-reliant young woman, Ruby, joins Ada on the farm, and helps transform both the farm and Ada.

The book details the ways of nourishment: physical (precise descriptions of food, its paucity and preparation) and nonphysical (themes of love, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual questing underpin the book). Cold Mountain itself provides both types of nourishment by offering hope, goals, shelter, food and a place where love and forgiveness are possible despite the savagery of man.

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Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A middle aged woman goes backpacking for the first time in 14 years after losing her leg in an automobile accident. As she recounts the excursion, with its difficulties and exhilaration, she reflects on the ways her life was changed by losing her leg, and the emotional journey she has taken since the accident. She concludes by thinking about how to find power despite her vulnerability, how to adjust and accommodate, but never compromise.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This thoroughly researched book helps us understand John Keats's life and work in terms of his medical training. Goellnicht argues that, contrary to some critics' view that Keats was "anti-scientific" or "anti-intellectual," Keats incorporated much of the knowledge gained from his six years of medical training into his poetry.

The book begins with a chapter of biographical information about Keats, emphasizing the nature of medical training in the early nineteenth century, but includes Keats's self-diagnosis of tuberculosis. The heart of the book consists of four chapters, organized by scientific topic, which relate the specifics of Keats' s medical training to his writing: Chemistry, Botany, Anatomy and Physiology, and Pathology and Medicine.

Excerpts of Keats' poetic and epistolary writing are examined in each of these chapters in light of Keats' scientific and medical knowledge. For instance, in the chapter on Botany, the uses of specific botanical species in his writing are examined in terms of what was known of materia medica (see annotation for Ode on Melancholy. Furthermore, the author explores Keats's interest in plants and trees as metaphors for life, such as his interest in "the flower as a vital, but passive, being that exists in a state akin to negative capability."

The author concludes the book with a summary statement about each of the chapters (e.g., " . . . from pathology he adopted the approach of viewing aspects of life, in particular love and poetic creativity, in terms of morbid and healthy states . . . ") and also the caveat that the book is not meant to in any way diminish other profound influences on Keats, such as his interactions with other Romantic poets. Goellnicht notes, however, that Keats himself united the worlds of medicine and poetry in his poem, "The Fall of Hyperion," in which he describes the poet as a physician.

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May's Lion

LeGuin, Ursula

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

May's Lion is really two stories in one: the first is narrated by a woman who knew May, the story's protagonist, when the narrator was a child, and she retells the story May told her about the time a sick mountain lion came into her yard. Uncertain of what to do, she called the sheriff's office. Police officers shot the lion because, according to May, "there was nothing else they knew how to do."

The second story is the narrator's fictionalized recounting of May's story. In this version, May (now called "Rains End") finds the lion in her yard, and in spite of her own fear she believes he has come for a reason. She offers the animal a bowl of milk, and sings softly to soothe him. She realizes "He had come for company in dying; that was all." This she offers him, and the lion dies there in her yard.

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film is based on Anton Chekhov? play, Uncle Vanya (see literature annotation). It started out as an acting exercise and the actors worked on it for five years before the actual filming was done. The film is set in a crumbling Times Square theater, where the actors perform with no costumes and very few props. Andre Gregory plays himself, the play's director.

The story centers on a provincial Russian family whose lives are all upset when an aging professor retires to their country estate, bringing along his beautiful young wife, Elena (Julianne Moore). The result is that he is dissatisfied and people are brought together who are bored and in love with people who can? love them back. Astrov, the family doctor (Larry Pine) who falls in love with the young wife, is more interested in ecology than in medicine.

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Medicine Circle

Bascom, George

Last Updated: May-20-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the fifth, and final, collection of poems by the surgeon-poet, George S. Bascom, who practiced for over 35 years in Manhattan, Kansas. The poems cover a wide range of topics in a variety of forms, ranging from free verse to sonnet. Many of them are concerned with the poet's medical experiences, both as physician and as patient. The poems arising from Bascom's own illness with prostate cancer are among the most effective in the book; these include, among others, "Operation," "Carpe Diem," "I With My Death," "Notice," "Metastatic Disease," "Progression," and "Medicine Circle." "Gloris," "Post Op," "7-2-59," and "Lydia" are fine evocations of patients and patient care.

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Summary:

The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.

Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.

Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.

For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.

We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.

Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]

Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.

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Parasite

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Feb-05-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

On surface, this metaphorically endowed poem details the life cycle of a tapeworm, beginning as a tiny resident in the "protective slime" of mucosae, eventually outgrowing the host, and overrunning the environment as it attains a "philosophical dimension / in which it's the only form of matter. . . . " The parasite shrinks again into "little spores of embecile agreement" which wait for another chance, another cycle of growth and power. The parasite metaphor works beautifully for a wide variety of social and political phenomena the poem does not identify.

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