I finished Nault’s The Noonday Devil last night. Really good stuff, and I’ll almost certainly be returning to it in the future, and the sections on the various remedies for acedia, in particular. When you see something described and then named, and then you look around and realize “oh so that’s what that is”, you feel struck first by surprise and then by, well, sheepishness. They knew what they were about fourteen centuries ago. There is nothing new under the sun.
One of my other Christmas books was a guide to gardening with native plants, a subject I’ve gotten more interested in as time has passed here. We live on a small bit of acreage and I’ve let several parts of it “go wild,” principally because the areas are rocky and difficult to maintain but partly because they also serve as a bit of privacy screening from the road and surrounding houses. Watching the local plants, shrubs, and trees take back over has been a lot of fun. I’m cutting less, to be sure, so I’ve got that going for me. Many local insects, birds, and other critters have moved back in. I’ve used a nifty iPhone app called Seek to ID the local plants and found quite a few of them in this gardening book. Using the native species honors the spirit of the place, and also makes concrete the dictum of “the right plant in the right spot.” I don’t want to have to coddle things or beg them to grow. I’d rather they sit right where they’re supposed to be. I already have some ideas about moving some passionflower vines, and there are enough elderflower bushes nearby for cuttings. If I left a few of the rocky areas revert back to something like the cedar glades that are common for this area, why, I’ll have even less grass to cut. Everybody wins.
I’ve also just started The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages, by François-Xavier Fauvelle. So far it’s fantastic. The chapters are short, beautifully written, and heavily documented. In the midst of an interminable grey and rainy winter, you could do a lot worse than peer through the stained-glass window that Fauvelle has carefully reconstructed and gape in wonder.