This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,716) on Friday, August 9, 2019.
Living well, as any sensible person knows, is not just a matter of diet and exercise. It’s a whole range of behaviors, attitudes, habits, and choices.
Susan Saunders and Annabel Streets, two women who have looked deeply into the science of living well, give us 25 things we should do or give serious consideration to as the birthdays begin to pile up. Here’s just one:
Exercise in green space. Trees produce phytoncides which help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and boost immunity. The microbes in forest soil have been found to reduce depression and may contribute to the health of our microbiome. A 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the benefits, but researchers have found that a weekend in the woods improves immunity for up to a month, while a short afternoon run or walk somewhere green means better sleep at night. Source: Happy ever after: 25 ways to live well into old age | Life and style | The Guardian
The list isn’t for the lazy or faint-hearted. Chances are, however, you are already doing many of these good things. And particularly if you’re a walker, you’ll be interested in the item below.
Have a great weekend.
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Arthur Ashe and his hard road to literary glory
Arthur Ashe we remember as a tennis star whose quickness and grace on the court masked a concentration and preparation that few athletes have matched. Ashe’s tennis career was cut short by health problems, and his life ended tragically early because of a medical accident.
Ashe was many things besides a tennis champion. Among them, he was an author.
Ashe wrote and co-authored a number of autobiographical volumes, inspirational books, and instructional books on tennis. His most interesting work, however, is hard to classify. It was a three-volume history of black athletes in America under the general title of A Hard Road to Glory.
The idea of doing a survey of African-Americans in athletics came to Ashe after he had retired from tennis. A noted bibliophile and collector of books on African-Americans, Ashe was teaching at Florida Memorial College when he realized there was a dearth of material on black sports figures in history. Bright and learned as he was, Ashe was not a trained historian, and his lack of credentials hindered him in gaining the interest of any major publisher.
The initial response did not deter him, however, and he continued to develop the idea.
In 1983, he landed a contract with Howard University Press, which gave him an advance of $10,000. The entire project would cost Ashe far more than that — by one account, Ashe spent $300,000 — because information and sources were often scattered and obscure. Ashe worked with a team of researchers and sought information in a variety of ways.
It was, to say the least, a daunting task.
Ashe persisted, convinced of the importance of the project. As the information flowed in, Ashe began to construct a manuscript, writing sections and then sending them to friends, colleagues and respected scholars. The feedback he received was mixed. Ashe was not a professional writer, and most of his previous books had been co-authored with people who were.
In November 1988, the three-volume work was published, and its existence was heavily promoted. Ashe wrote a piece for the New York Times (November 13, 1988) that ended with this paragraph:
Proportionately, the black athlete has been more successful than any other group in any other endeavor in American life. And he and she did it despite legal and social discrimination that would have dampened the ardor of most participants. The relative domination of blacks in American sports will continue into the foreseeable future. Enough momentum has been attained to insure maximum sacrifice for athletic glory. Now is the time for our esteemed sports historians to take another hard look at our early athletic life, and revise what is at present an incomplete version of what really took place.
Ashe’s volumes on the black athlete received mixed reviews. His scholarship and his writing were criticized, and many reviewers simply did not know what to make of what he had done. Was his trilogy an encyclopedia or a good set of stories? Those questions have persisted throughout the life of the book.
Ashe’s life ended tragically five years later. He died of HIV as a result of a blood transfusion. He was 49 years old.
Much of the information for this article comes from: David K. Wiggins. “SYMBOLS OF POSSIBILITY: ARTHUR ASHE, BLACK ATHLETES, AND THE WRITING OF A HARD ROAD TO GLORY.” The Journal of African American History 99, no. 4 (2014): 379-402. doi:10.5323/jafriamerhist.99.4.0379.
Interested in watercolor? Help me with American Watercolor magazine
If you use this link, I will get credit for asking you to join. If I get five of you to sign up, that makes me an “ambassador” and thus eligible to have my work considered for their website.
The site itself has a lot of good watercolors and artists and is a delight to look at.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Get healthy, happy, creative, and smart: get up and . . . stride
The benefits of walking as an exercise are well-known and well-documented. Besides, it’s easy to integrate with life activities and requires no special facility or equipment.
But does it make us smarter? more creative? happier?
Shane O’Mara, a neuroscientist and author of the book In Praise of Walking, believes that it does and cites evidence — both scientific and anecdotal — to support his belief.
Walking around the mall or the park or wherever awakes the spatial functions of the brain that stationary exercise does not. The things that we see and take in while we are walking put us in a different place, both figuratively and literally.
And that, in turn, can change our outlook and personal habits and attitudes. O’Mara’s thoughts on walking are contained in a recent article by Amy Fleming in The Guardian:
He cites a 2018 study that tracked participants’ activity levels and personality traits over 20 years, and found that those who moved the least showed malign personality changes, scoring lower in the positive traits: openness, extraversion and agreeableness. There is substantial data showing that walkers have lower rates of depression, too. And we know, says O’Mara, “from the scientific literature, that getting people to engage in physical activity before they engage in a creative act is very powerful. My notion – and we need to test this – is that the activation that occurs across the whole of the brain during problem-solving becomes much greater almost as an accident of walking demanding lots of neural resources.” Source: ‘It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier | Life and style | The Guardian
This is a fascinating article, especially for someone like me who has always been a dedicated walker. My wife and I usually walk twice a day and cover between three and five miles. We do this every weekday. On weekends, because of altered schedules, we do less, but we still try to get in at least one walk a day.
We walk in the same places — we have two designated spots in different parts of town, one of them a lovely park with lots of trees, greenery, and streams. We go at a fairly rapid pace — striding, you might say — and even though we walk in the same place, it’s never the same.
So, I think there is a lot to what O’Mara has to say. Read this article and see what you think.
Verse and Vision: Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Back on track this week, I have produced another Verse and Vision video, this one featuring Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s poem “Ulysses.” The poem was written in 1833 but not published until Tennyson brought out his second volume of Poems in 1842. The poem is linked with the sudden death of Tennyson’s dear friend Arthur Henry Hallam in 1833. The blank verse poem is one of the very few that Tennyson never revised after its publication.
You can see the video here: http://bit.ly/tennyson-ulysses
The poem was suggested to me by newsletter reader and good friend Jennifer S. If you have a suggestion or idea, let me know. A complete list of the videos I have made so far is below the signature of this email.
Josepha J.: Thanks, Jim, it is always so interesting to hear about your bees collection. May I suggest that might just video record what you are doing with the bees and post it on youtube. I am sure it will delight many other bee enthusiasts as well. I would have thought that with climate change the amount of honey and bees would have dropped off as we are approaching the third quarter.
Vic C.: I have always loved — and used — Twain’s comments, especially in speeches. The ability to express one’s thoughts in such a comprehensible manner is, to me, astounding. Along with Twain, I enjoy Sir Winston Churchill’s enormous volume of commentary and Philip K Dick. The latter’s “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” conveys more than a simple statement to one who really thinks about it. Periodically, I recall the quote and it always stops me in my tracks. I do enjoy your comments and they always bring cheer to me.
You can watch a video of the creation of this painting while I recite “Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson here: http://bit.ly/tennyson-ulysses
Best quote of the week:
Helping those in need
Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Bouton’s ‘Ball Four,’ mystery recommendations, and Mark Twain’s delight: newsletter, July 26, 2019
Verse and Vision
I am always open to suggestions about poets, poems or topics for videos. I’ve received several and would love to have more.
Meanwhile, here’s the complete list of videos I have made since the beginning of April:
Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: http://bit.ly/tennyson-ulysses
1492 and The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus: http://bit.ly/lazarus-newcolossus
To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: http://bit.ly/lovelace-toalthea
The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: http://bit.ly/tennyson-lightbrigade
The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howe: http://bit.ly/howe-houseofrest
Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott: http://bit.ly/scott-lochinvar
Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner: http://bit.ly/ole-bert
O Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman: http://bit.ly/whitman-ocaptain
In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson: http://bit.ly/RLStevenson-2poems
To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell: http://bit.ly/Marvell-CoyMistress
Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer: http://bit.ly/Thayer-CaseyattheBat
The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: http://bit.ly/HWL-TheOldClock
Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe: http://bit.ly
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray: http://bit.ly
My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: http://bit.ly/EBB-myheartandi
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe: http://bit.ly/poe-theraven
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare: http://bit.ly/shakespeare-sonnet18
And more are on the way.
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