Sunday, May 18, 2008

April in May

It is a bit of a puddleglummy day, which seems to be the way of it for the Victoria Day weekend almost every year. Why is that? In April we had June-like weather, but on the May long weekend there are frost warnings and reports of blowing snow?

Weather notwithstanding, I decided to take a wee walk. Spring rain seems particularly well suited to walking somehow. And, I've been experimenting with taking pictures in the rain lately and wanted to try some shots at the park when there wouldn't be any wedding parties monopolizing the pretty flowers!

I think this is the best I got. I've been working on capturing the raindrops on the blossoms. Still needs a little work I guess.

This morning I also finished reading The Birth House, by Ami McKay.

This was a fascinating and beautifully written account of the changing world of reproduction, and women's health in Nova Scotia during World War I. The main character, Dora, is a midwife, and the story is told in something of a scrapbook style. Focusing on the events of the kitchen and church hall, the story is still infused with the happenings of the wider political arena. Dora finds herself caught up in the struggle of women trying to control their own health through the time of pregnancy and birthing. It is that beautiful combination of small story, and large theme. Of storytelling and big ideas. I really enjoyed it.

I took a history course on women's health care in Canada, mostly dealing with the 1800s, during university, and I found that fascinating. This story touched on similar themes. In one memorable scene an obstetric doctor diagnoses the main character with neurasthenia (or hysteria), and the doctor treats her using a precursor of a vibrator. Yes. The doctor does this to the patient. This was common practice. Crazy! (To find out if you suffer from hysteria, visit this: - it turns out that I am, indeed, a hysteric. Dang that staying out past 8pm!). There are a lot of other details about the official healthcare system at the time that make me very glad not to have been around then. On the other hand, the communal and caring nature of the female driven, unofficial healthcare system feels to me like something we have lost in our time, and should really be working to recapture.

It also made me want to learn to read tea leaves. Luckily, the website allows you to do it online!

And if you need another reason to read this novel, think about this. This is the book that took down The Da Vinci Code. Yes! This is the book that knocked that terrible piece of horridly bad writing off the #1 spot on the Globe and Mail bestsellers list. Take that Dan Brown!

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