Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.
January 20, 2014
Tags: order, movement, absurdity, advice, attic, bacteria, balance, bartering, bathroom, book, broom, business plan, castile soap, cleaning aversion, cleaning lady, cleaning service, cloth, culture, doctor, duster, environment, exercise, friend, garage, German, germs, gym workout, habits, hall, hiring, house-cleaning, Internet, math, microfiber cloths, mindless exercises, mop, New Year, physical exertion, resolutions, responsibility, resource, room, Simple Green, sink, smut, soap, spraying, swiffers, toxic chemical, tutoring
These times, I am finding myself often thinking about why people change their habits. Because I am offering ideas for better health – but if people will adopt my ideas, is really up to them. Nothing I can do about it – beyond making a convincing argument.
It is not a good idea to make resolutions when you kick-off the New Year. Resolutions, when they work, are more like pimples coming to a head: They solidify because something convinces you that it is true, or overdue.
If you make a resolution because the New Year starts: What has the New Year got to do with it?? If you can’t stand anymore how you feel, or how somebody makes you feel, or how the days of your life fly by unused – that resolution has a chance to stick.
A resolution I recently decided on was to clean my house myself. After finishing my last book. I was out of shape, exercise-wise, and yearning for moving more, desperate to get out of my chair and move my limbs: Writing health books wasn’t healthy for ME! In the end, my need for more physical exertion more was stronger than my cleaning aversion.
Which is an enormous change for me: Even as a student, without a penny, I hired a cleaning lady, bartering for her services by tutoring her son in math. Everything for not cleaning!!
Start with a business plan, I told myself. I divided the bathrooms and the rooms and the hall and the garage and the attic evenly on the days of the week. Online, one can find marvelous advice about how to clean this and that and everything – if not always true to reality: “Wiping the sink: 30 seconds”. Now – this advisor must never have seen a German addressing a sink with soap and cloth, not to mention a German doctor well-versed in the hazards of bacteria and other germs (my next book is exactly about those little critters)! So, yes, it takes me longer. But afterwards, as we say, one can EAT from it!
Besides the Internet, my friends are great resources for advice. Swiffers, mops, microfiber cloths – a whole new world is out there. I use only castile soap and Simple Green. Spraying them on (in a diluted form) and letting them soak for a while will get rid of the hardiest smut, without harsh, environmentally toxic chemicals. And without scrubbing.
An absurd cuoture: We hire out cleaning responsibilities, but then go to a gym workout to do some mechanical, mindless exercises. For so many years, I had so bought into the idea of a cleaning crew that I never realized the absurdity. It was a knee-jerk habit – one just hires somebody. I have friends who told me that cleaning is beneath me, and that I should rather write more books. Don’t worry: I will. But for writing well, I need the balance of moving my body: And I will do it with broom, mop and duster.
November 16, 2013
Tags: order, food, water, allergy, aloe vera, apples, artificial colorings, attention, balm of Peru, bell & hot pepper, carbs - white, coconut oil - virgin, comfort food, conditioner, cortisone, dermatologist, disease - chronic, dairy, disfiguring, eczema, eggplant, fat - bad, food elimination, gluten, gut, heart, inflammation, itch, label, make-up, nightshades, nuts, ocean, ointment, pruritus, personalities, potato, preservatives, probiotic, psychological theories, rash, remedy, shampoo, skin, soothing, spices, stress, sugar, sunburn, sunlight, swimming, tomato, vitamin D, wisdom
Today, in a New York Times blog, I published a version of this:
One remedy does not work for all - that is the wisdom coming out of these letters. Seeing a good dermatologist and soothing your skin with some cortisone and/or other substance stands at the beginning.
Leave out gluten, dairy, nuts, nightshades (tomato, bell & hot pepper, eggplant, potato) - they are, in my experience, the worst offenders. But I have seen people react to spices, artificial colorings, preservatives, even to apples. Use nothing on your skin than virgin coconut oil, aloe vera gel (best directly from the plant), and your prescription ointment. Try to avoid make-up and read the labels of your shampoo and conditioner: Balm of Peru is only one ingredient that lets rashes bloom! Take a probiotic and vitamin D, and go out into the sun as often as possible - but never to the point of reddening or burning.
Then listen to your body - to the itch? What food makes you itch? What activity? Because every body is different, and my itch is not your itch. As soon as your itch gets better, avoid the cortisone cream, and go all coconut oil.
If your body itches consistently after a certain food, eliminate it - it is hurting you. Eczema is an inflammation of your skin (often on the basis of your gut being inflamed, too). And every bit of inflammation lowers the threshold for the itch, and a new allergy.
A lot of psychological theories are floating around – that certain personalities get it, that one gets it during stress, and so on. I think it is probably the inferior food we fall for in times of stress – comfort food that is loaded with sugars, white carbs and bad fats,. And when you have a chronic disease and an extremely itchy, disfiguring rash – yes, you might seem odd to so some people …
When you have healed, try to introduce some of the eliminated foods again - very, very cautiously. Some you might have to leave out forever, or may have them only very occasionally.
Go swimming in the ocean, whenever you can! - And my heart goes out to you poor thing!
September 29, 2013
Tags: herbs, food, water, alcohol, allergy, aloe vera, Andrographis paniculata, ankle, antibacterial, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anti-germ, bacteria, bathing, berberine, black seed oil, brain, calf, cannabinoid receptors, Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone, capsule, cheek, cinnamon, clay, cleanliness, coconut oil, cow, craziness, culture - bacterial, day care, diet, donkey, dosage, endangered species, Europe, experimenting, forehead, fragrance, frankincense, Germany, gold, goldenseal, goldenthread, head, healing agent, honey, honey-colored crust, impetigo, infection, Infectious Disease, injury, Iran, itch, lanolin, life-threatening, limb, Maine, Manuka honey, mosquito bite, mud, myrrh, nape, neck, neem, Nigella, ocean, olive leaf extract, Oman, oregano, primary care provider, proof of principle, propolis, rash - infectious, Russia, salt water, salve, Sankt Petersburg, scientist, sheep fat, shlep-sh***, skin infection, stable, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, tea tree oil, thigh, Three Magi, tincture, traveling, trunk, turmeric
Early July, in Sankt Petersburg/Russia, I was bitten by a mosquito. Not paying attention, I must have scratched the bite, and when I looked next – about a week later – my right ankle showed the telltale sign of a honey-colored crust: Impetigo!
Impetigo is an infectious rash, usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. Since we were traveling, nobody did a culture, we never will know who the culprit is. For first aid, still in Russia, I dabbed tea tree oil on it – too late, as it turned out; I should have treated the mosquito bite thus!
At home, two weeks after the bite, for healing I added some herbs, taken by mouth: Olive leaf extract, oregano, Andrographis paniculata and neem. The rash got paler, but by then it had spread up my right calf, to both of my thighs, and to my forehead and right cheek. Tea tree oil immediately removed the itchy spots from my face, but the rest stalled – not getting better or worse. – It is interesting to note that impetigo usually spares the trunk; it prefers head and limbs. I conclude those bacteria don’t like it hot …
With all infections, it is a good idea to clean up one's diet - no sugars, dairy, and as few white starches as possible. Mine was already pretty good; not much I could do here.
We traveled to Maine. Bathing in the salt water every day was soothing, and accelerated the healing (careful if you try this at home: Some warmer oceans easily might carry offending bacteria!). But then it slowed down again. In my desperation, I applied mud from the edge of the ocean once a day – because in Europe muds and clays are thought of as healing agents. It sure didn’t look pretty – my legs were blackish, peeling and scattering dried mud wherever I walked and sat and lay – especially in my bed. But mud greatly helped: Every day the rash looked a bit paler, and felt less itchy.
In case you think I am a crazy doctor going off the cliff: All along I was in contact with my primary care provider, who happens to be specialized in Infectious Disease. Because I have many, many allergies to antibiotics, and because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, he thought it was worth to try alternatives. So, mud it was. I even took a jar full of mud home when we left Maine after the summer. But the jar soon was empty – and the rash blossomed again. I added propolis, black seed oil (Nigella) and to berberine (the yellow dye makes goldenseal and goldenthread antibacterial; but goldenseal is an endangered species, so I don’t use it) the mix of herbal capsules that I was taking by mouth; not all at once, but every three hours one of the herbs, while awake (dosage is found on the bottle).
An Iranian friend of mine wrote me that her grandmother would use a salve of turmeric and sheep fat (lanolin) on skin infections. So I made a salve with turmeric, adding cinnamon for fragrance, and Manuka honey for good measure (Manuka honey got excellent results in trials in killing bacteria). However, I used coconut oil instead of lanolin, because I had coconut oil in the house, it smells better than sheep fat, and it is known for having antibacterial properties itself.
Things healed nicely – until I noticed new lesions at the nape of my neck, where I must have scratched there – despite fussy cleanliness throughout. Presently, I am steeping myrrh in alcohol for a tincture; another friend recently had brought me myrrh and frankincense from Oman. Tonight, I will use this tincture for the first time. Mainly I am looking for replacing the turmeric with something less colorful – I am doubtful if I will ever be able to wash the yellow color out of my bed sheets … - And, yes, the Three Magi valued myrrh and frankincense as highly as gold! Why? Because of their anti-germ abilities, which was needed in ancient times when you lived with cow and donkey in a stable. Not to mention that frankincense binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
Against the intense itch, I am also using the jelly inside of a huge old aloe vera plant I grow on the windowsill. It soothes the itch, and seems to help to reduce the angry red.
Why going to this length (approaching three month) to treat an itchy – but luckily not painful – rash? Part is, of course, my many allergies. Another part is that the rash is not life-threatening – I have some room for experimenting. Also, I am not a kid in a day care situation who might spread the infection to other kids. And mainly I want to find out if curing this rash by herbs alone is even doable; finding proof of principle, as scientists say.
It’s not nice having an ugly rash. Adding ridicule to injury: In Germany, I was told, the slang word for this very unpleasant and persistent impetigo is “shlep-sh***!” - One could not have come up with a more suitable term!
Oh, and stay posted to find out if the herbs finally will work!
September 26, 2013
Announcing my new book:
The Diabetes Cure - The 5-step Plan to Eliminate Hunger, Lose Weight, and Reverse Diabetes for Good!
Go to the "book" page, and you will find a link that will get you immediately to the Rodale website. For a year or so, the book will be available only through Rodale's direct mailing. Afterwards, it will come out in a Rodale paperback, with wider distribution.
This book contains so much healthful advice. If you suffer fatigue or cravings, weight gain, mood swings, and a thousand other ailments from our crazy modern food and lifestyles - this is the book for you. Let me know how you like it!
September 9, 2013
Tags: food, water, antibiotics, bike accident, Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones, bone soup, broth, bowel health, calories, carrot, celery, celeriac, cheap food, carrot, chicken soup, clavicle, collar bone, elbow, Europe, fat, fracture, frozen shoulder, garlic, Germany, hair, heal-all, husbandry, immune system, ligament, lovage, meat, mending bones, nails - fingernails, non-fattening, onion, organic, osteopenia, osteoporosis, oxtail, parsley, peppercorns, processed food, ribs, salt – herbal, scapula, shank, shoulder, shoulder blade, sick animal, simmering, skeletal appendages, snack, strengthening bones, tendon, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, war, warming food, winter
Somebody in my family was in a bike accident and broke a shoulder – the collarbone as well as the shoulder blade. Ouch!
From my childhood in Germany, I remembered the heal-all properties of bone broth. Bone broth has all the ingredients a bone needs for knitting together again because bone broth is simmered for hours and hours – days, actually – until everything good in the bone now is swimming in the broth. Proof: If you try to eat the bones, they are soft and can be eaten like just another piece of meat. I find them just as tasty – but opinions differ here …
This is how you make a bone soup: Take beef bones like shank, oxtail and/or ribs. If you add chicken, it is better to have an old bird than a young one – the bones are stronger in an older bird.
Cover the bones with filtered cold water in a lidded pot, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmering. For taste, I add herbal salt and black peppercorns in a tea ball. If you don’t like the taste of bone broth very much, add whole onions, garlic and carrots. Since the broth is reheated and simmered every day for a few hours until eaten up, it is not appetizing to have other vegetables in there – they would cook into a mush. But vegetables won’t hurt because all of them carry the minerals bones need to grow strong. – Before you serve the broth for the first time, cool it down and remove all visible fat from the top. Not that the fat is not healthy; most people just don’t like it swimming on their soup. – The meat can be eaten, or be discarded. All its goodness (or most of it) is now in the broth.
Make sure you buy organic meat and bones only. The detrimental effects of meat are not so much caused by meat – as vegans and vegetarians think. Unhealthy effects of meat seem to be related to the sick animals we eat. Sick animal come from bad husbandry. Bad husbandry requires medications like antibiotics to make the animals look healthy – but they aren’t. How can we expect health from a sick cow or a poorly chicken? Lead stores in bones - so make sure you get animals that were raised and fed in a natural way.
Bone broth is not a good source of all amino acids, but provides three essential amino acids, namely arginine, glycine and proline. Also it is rich in gelatin – once your broth cooled down, it separates in fat on top and the jelly below. Besides strengthening your bones – not only in a case of fracture, but against osteoporosis and osteopenia too – bone broth is said to be good for general bowel health and the immune system because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, it is also good for skeletal appendages like tendons, ligaments, nails and hair, and it “greases” the joints. It calms the mind and promotes sleepiness. Unfortunately, none of these benefits have been proven by science because there are no studies published on this subject – at least not that I am aware of (and I looked!!). In past times, however, broth was always given to sickly people and patients recuperating from major illness. It fell out of fashion with easily available and processed foods – that doesn’t mean bone broth won’t work. But don’t assume that so-called chicken soup from the store would have the same benefits. It won’t.
Making a bone broth is no work at all – and once it is in the pot, you have a snack always available. A non-fattening quick, warming snack, that is, and highly satisfying. With few calories. And cheap – in Europe bone broth was always used widely during and after wars, when food was scarce. The simmering broth on our stove will likely be served much longer than the bones need to be mended; I can make a new batch every few days – no sweat! It is good, warming winter food, too.
P.S. 9/17/2013: We did some experimenting in the kitchen, and indeed one can add vegetables to the bone broth without getting it mushy. Indeed, the vegetables make it even more tasty. Celeriac root and celery greens can be cooked for days without getting mushy. Same with carrots. And some tough herbs like parsley and lovage. As the ingredients will not be eaten - only the broth - you don't have to cut anything.
The results are also superb: The healing goes well, and since the young man is moving his arm constantly with micro-movements (without the slightest weight bearing, of course - he does not even have a frozen shoulder or elbow.
September 5, 2013
Tags: food, abscess, African-American, ageing, armpit, axilla, bloating, boil, cancer, cheese, chronic diseases, dairy, diabetes, diagnosis, digestive system, Diseases of the Gut Show at Your Skin, disfiguring, female, fish oil, fistula, genetics, gluten intolerance, gut, hidradenitis suppurativa, hormones, inflammation, inflammatory, lumps, Mediterranean, non-foods, obesity, overweight, painful, pilonidal cyst, pizza, probiotics, prognosis, pus, rash, relapse, resolution, skin disease, sugar, sweating, sweat glands, sweets, swelling, vegetables, weight loss
Less than a month ago, a young woman in her mid-twenties called me for “lumps in my armpit”. Now, that can be a thousand different things, not all easy to diagnose, some with dire prognosis. So, I told her I needed to see her.
She came, and the diagnosis needed one look only: Hidradenitis suppurativa. This poorly understood skin disease can’t be confused with any other: The patient has multiple red swellings and scars in the axilla, sometimes at other areas, too. You could describe it as boils in the armpit. They are painful and disfiguring. Conventional medicine describes them as inflamed sweat glands (which is what “hidradenitis” means, and suppurativa means “leaking pus”). They are similar to boils, pilonidal cysts, chronic abscesses, fistulas and different kinds of cysts. They might be exacerbated by hormones, excessive sweating, and overweight. Genetic factors clearly play a role – hidradenitis suppurativa is more common in females, and in people of Mediterranean and African-American descend.
Medicine might not understand the cause of it, but any layperson can see that hidradenitis suppurativa is a highly inflammatory disease. This young, pretty woman was slightly chubby – not badly, indeed. But I advised her to eat more vegetables with olive oil, and leave out all sugars and dairy products, as the most inflammatory foods. She also was bloated and had a family history of gluten problems, so I asked her to leave out gluten, too; at least for a few months. I also recommended anti-inflammatory fish oil and probiotics to help her poor, inflamed bowels to heal.
What happened to the young woman? - Within two weeks, she was dramatically better and had lost some pounds, and all the bloating. I never counsel to lose weight; I recommend a better diet, and the weight loss will follow automatically. She was happy about the result.
Unfortunately, then she went to a party where she indulged in all the wrong foods, including pizza, cheese, and sweets. The boils immediately recurred. I was not worried about the relapse: It only confirmed what she had learned: That what she eats has a beneficial or not so beneficial effect on her digestive system, and her health. – Her choice, really.
I know that at this age, all the young woman wants is to look good and be able to were a sleeveless top, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I will make a prognosis – even if I might not be around to see the result: If this twenty-five year old will be able to stick to her resolutions (at least most of the time), she one day will be vibrant fifty-year old. If not, she will go the way most people go in our society that adores foods that I’d call “non-foods” – and she will experience obesity, diabetes, cancer and the myriad of chronic diseases that seem to pop out of nowhere as we age. – Let’s see which way she chooses …
July 28, 2013
Tags: food, water, air, alpine, animals, aroma, Austria, basil, bell flower, biodiversity, bulbs, burdock, bush, buttercup, cilantro, coltsfoot, cranesbill, crocus, dandelion, diversity, Earth, Europe, eyebright, farm, fresh, heal-all, garden, Germany, Good King Henry, grazing, Great Britain, Grimming Mountain, growth, Hamburg, harvest, healing power, health, hedge, herbal, humans, kitchen, limestone, lovage, meadow, meadowsweet, mowing, nutrients, ocean, oregano, parsley, plant, plantain - broad-leafed, plantain - narrow-leafed, poisonous, pollution, polyphenol, primal, processed, red clover, rosemary, Russia, scilla, silverweed, skiing, soil, species, stinging nettle, storage, Styria, sub-alpine, sun, supermarket, sweet Annie, tea, thyme, travel, tree, underground, vital, yarrow, hiking, vacation
People vacation in Austria – skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer. I never considered summer vacations in a land-locked country like Austria, because, originally from Hamburg/Germany, I am a child of the ocean – of all the oceans. But I am just back from one of the high meadows in Styria, smack in the middle of Austria. And what I found: a primal meadow.
The alpine meadows high up there, facing the Grimming Mountain, have been mowed twice a year, for hundreds of years, probably thousands of years. The plant diversity is unimaginable. In an article I read some years ago that in Great Britain the age of a hedge can be estimated by how many different tree and bush species grow there; roughly one species is added per decade. I imagine it must be similar with these ancient meadows, mowed over year after year, different plants moving in all the time, enhancing biodiversity over time. The converse is also true: If we abandon regular mowing and/or grazing – as often now is the case on the steep and hard-to-reach meadows, and in light of shortage of labor when the young people move into the cities for a “better” life – we will lose this biodiversity. And might regret it too late.
Because I was exhausted from my Europe travels through Russia, Germany, Austria, I brewed myself an herbal tea from the plants of the meadow right after arrival. The underground is limestone that let so many plants thrive: yarrow, meadowsweet, narrow-leafed plantain, stinging nettle, heal-all, broad-leafed plantain, red clover, eyebright, silverweed, Good King Henry, dandelion, sweet Annie. To which I added herbs from the kitchen garden: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lovage, basil, oregano, thyme. Of course, other plants grew there that where not useful for my tea as they are poisonous, like cranesbill, coltsfoot, bell flower, buttercup, and a variety of spring-flowering bulbs like crocus and scilla that were now out of bloom. The tea had a gorgeous aroma, and I felt better and stronger immediately. Wish I could take such a meadow home!
My garden at home, lovely as it is, does not come close. Its plant variety is not as great, the individual plants are not as sturdy, their green is not as deep, their aroma is not as overpowering. From this exceptional plant health we can assume that their polyphenol content is higher, and that their healing power is greater. Mostly, it is the strong sun out there that enables such a lush growth. But also the absence of pollution of air, soil and water so prevalent where we live. Earth just isn’t that primal anymore as it is high in the alpine and sub-alpine meadows. I am coming home with a new yearning, namely to preserve what we have, and perhaps even return our planet to more health. Because, the life of plants, and animals, and humans are closely interwoven here on Earth, none can survive alone.
In my books, and here on the blog, I am touting fresh foods over processed foods. Fresh does not only mean harvested recently and stored for not too long, but also containing a high amount of vital nutrients. Up there, in the mountain meadow, I learned that degrees of freshness exist: Fresh from the supermarket: good. Fresh from your garden or directly from the farm: better. Fresh from an alpine meadow: best.
July 18, 2013
Tags: food, movement, Another Unproven Pearl- Fat - The Happiness Food, anti-depressant, brain, butter, butter fat, carbohydrates – simple, cholesterol, coconut oil, coffee, cream - whipped, depression, endomorphins, exercise, Europe, fat, fat-phobic, ghee, happiness, happiness molecules, ice cream, obesity, oil, olive oil, pudding, sugar, suicide, Vienna, weight, World War II
Studies have shown that higher fat deposits in the body are found in people who have major depression. But is eating fat the reason of depression? Or is it moving and exercising less? (We know that movement manufactures endomorphins – happiness molecules) Or is it that anti-depressants increase weight? (A well-known and lamentable fact).
Eating good fats – even in higher amounts – does not necessarily make you fat. Fat increases satiety, and fat seems to make people happier. At least, some people – and I am definitely among them. As a child, I would arm myself with a spoon and raid the pantry, eating butter as if it was a pudding or ice cream. As it was after World War II in Europe, and food was scarce, my family was not happy! Today, sitting in a Vienna park, I was drinking a coffee with whipped cream, I was happy. Of course, sitting in a park on a sunny day might be reason alone to feel good, but the non-sweetened whipped cream clearly added to my happiness.
Our brains are mostly fat. No wonder that my brain likes whipped cream. Unfortunately, I have not found any studies supporting my theory. Except that it is know that too low cholesterol might lead to depression and suicide. But in our fat-phobic society, many people deny themselves healthy fats: butter fat (ghee), olive oil, coconut oil - on the whole, we prefer the sugar high to the deep satisfaction of fat happiness. If you ask me, we should deny ourselves sugar and simple carbohydrates (meaning: ice cream!). But we should bathe our foods in oils and good fats, and should indulge occasionally in whipped cream. Fat doesn’t make fat. Sugar makes fat. Not moving makes fat.
Anybody who wants to study this??,
June 1, 2013
Tags: order, bamboo, Beethoven - Ludwig van (1770-1827), dancing, diabetes, direct mail, falling in love, house cleaning, hurdy-gurdy man, lawn, military band, pachysandra, piper, pub music, Rodale - publisher, roots, street music, String quartet op. 131, What Do a Book and Beethoven and Bamboo Have in Common?, wisteria, wormwood, writer
This morning, I listened to music while I was cleaning the house, after months of neglect. It was Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartet op. 131. I can’t help myself but I always think about Beethoven as writing street music: A piper comes around the corner, creating excitement. A military band is heard from afar, then is coming nearer – the brass glittering in the sun, and the tune tickling the ear of little Ludwig. Coarse pub music lures with a rhythm that makes your feet stamp. A hurdy-gurdy man takes your penny and plays an ear worm that won’t leave your head for weeks to come – or never (Beethoven wrote this late in life). None of Beethoven’s music seems to show the street influence better than this quartet, if you ask me – and I am not an expert, just a listener. And then, in some passages, the street music stops, and you hear all the longing for a better life in young Ludwig’s soul. For all these reasons, I think LvB still speaks to us. At least to me.
But that was not even what I wanted to talk about. Yesterday, it seems to be official now, my diabetes book (as my part as the writer is concerned) was finished, as per today I am not allowed to make any more changes. The book is supposed to come out in August – initially as a “direct mail” product from Rodale’s, my publisher. It will take a full year before they will release it as a paperback and will show up in stores. Of course, it is available at Rodale's before.
I am exhausted, clearly. And elated. I have an idea for (and the first pages of) a new book, but I am not sure I still have the strength to go through with it. Give me a few days to recover – and to clean up the house!
Another thing that happened today: With a friend, I spend the morning in the garden, trying to kill a bamboo that had sprung – and burst – the pot we had planted it in about two years ago. Or, I have to say, my friend worked and I talked – that’s probably the more truthful description of our endeavor. My family were in love with the bamboo at one time – until I noticed new strong shoots coming out beyond the circumference of the pot. My worst fears have come true: We followed one of the roots three yards into the lawn! Remember, I already have a beautiful wisteria that is crisscrossing my perennial bed with shoots thirty yards long (no lie!), and pachysandra that’s my bane, and wormwood that creeps deeper and deeper into my flowers. – That’s why the bamboo has to go – and don’t tell me, after you fall in love with a bamboo that I didn’t warn you! And, of course, I will plant one root in a pot on the terrace because I don't want to live without the beauty of bamboo.
May 17, 2013
Tags: order, Are You My Mother?, adventure, author, book, book store, child, coin - ancient, comical, coming-of age, community, community of readers, Eager - Edward (1911-1964), favorite books, fractions, Half Magic, Harry Potter, Internet, magic, math, non-reader, reader, sad, teacher, two-day delivery, Where the Wild Things Are, wish making, world literature, Wurzel – Sue
In writing group this week, Sue Wurzel read a touching piece about a book she had read as a child called “Half Magic”. Several group members immediately recognized the title as one of their all-time favorites, too, and gushed and cooed and enthused until I – not having grown up in this country - felt I had missed out on an important piece of world literature. While the others were still evoking the book glowingly, I ordered it online (I know, I know, - I should support my local book store – but I admit that often my impatient enthusiasm gets the upper hand).
The “half” in “Half Magic” pertains to an ancient coin that fulfills your wishes – but always only by half. And wouldn’t you believe it: With half magic, the two-day delivery was cut in half – it never happens! - and the book arrived the very next day!
And by next morning – following in the footsteps of millions of kids before me who must have read it late at night, with hot ears – I had finished reading the book. It is magical, and I want it still to be around for many children generations to come. Thanks to the internet for that!
In “Half Magic” four children have hair-raising adventures owing to the magic coin. On the sly, they also learn about math and fractions. But what sets this book apart: In the very first pages, the author Edward Eager (1911-1964), creates a community of readers around books he loves and has no scruples to advertise. That is as if Harry Potter would admit that “Where the Wild Things Are” or “Are You My Mother?” were his favorite books ever.
All we readers know, of course, that this community of readers is deeply divided from non-readers in the world, and the Sue Wurzel’s story this week covers the exact moment when one little girl finds out that her respected teacher belongs to the other side – to the non-readers. A poignant moment of coming-of age, sad and comical at the same time.
“Half Magic” also is a funny book, with funny situations. But the four children, their mother and “a little man” are real people, coming each into the world with their own agenda, and taken seriously. There’s nothing funny about being the always-overlooked middle child, or the boy without a father. We understand the children’s dreams and fears, but we laugh at their clumsy, rash wishes with their unexpected consequences.
If you didn’t read “half Magic” as a child, your education somehow has been thwarted, and you should make good on it straightaway! And if you know a child between six and twelve that thrives in the company of books – this is the book for her! And if you know a non-reader – this might be the present that lures him into our community!
Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!