The Love of Lists


Monet’s Window


I love lists.  Ah, the moment I check off a task with an exaggerated flourish, there is an immediate sense of accomplishment.  Efficient, effective and documented, checklists give significance to the small, seemingly trivial actions that fill up our days. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is an excellent illustration for the merits of using this tried and true technique.

There is only one area of my life that I have difficulties with lists: books.   Here’s my problem. My reading lists are long – very, very long.  Every year, I add more books to an already over-burgeoning list from the previous year. I still haven’t made my list for this year and here it is February.

I am taking a different approach this year. I’m choosing books based on a theme that sparks my curiosity.  This year my thoughts turn to artistic endeavours, which I confess covers a huge area.  It all began when I read Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle.  Art records the events of history, the progress of technology, the dialogue of philosophers, and the social and cultural norms of a particular time.  Locked in the paintings and held within the words of a poet, are the stories of our civilization.

A happy thought is that there are so many books – we will never ever, ever, ever run out of lists.

Happy reading…


Another Year, but he is remembered…

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!”
Robert Burns

Robbie Burns was celebrated this past weekend with the traditional Address to a Haggis accompanied by the rousing sound of bagpipes.  For those of you who have not tried Haggis, please do – you may be surprised by how much you enjoy the “Trenching your gushing entrails bright.”  Never fear, there is vegetarian Haggis so all can join in the merriment.

A Facebook response to my tribute to Robbie Burns, was especially noteworthy: “Another year gone, but he is remembered.”  The truth of this comment is indisputable, which is confirmed by a recent CBC article, which states that Robbie Burns holds the third position on the number of non-religions statues after Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus; the Guinness World Records places Auld Lang Syne as holding the third place on most popular song in the world.

How did a man of humble birth who was home-schooled, become a household word and an inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism?  Perhaps it was his understanding of and compassion for the human spirit.  His poetry is direct, spontaneous, sincere; his themes as haunting as they are radical.  He spoke of class inequities, patriotism, poverty, cultural identity – issues that we struggle with 257 years after his birth.

Life does bring about an ending, but words cannot be contained.  They live on and stoke fires in the hearts and minds of those that follow.  When we read William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, we are reading words that hold the influence of Robbie Burns.  When we listen to Bob Dylan, it is good to know that he was motivated by Robbie Burns’ “A Red Red Rose.”  Even now, “Robert Burns, The Musical,” is a reminder of the endurance of the words of a poet.

Burns Monument

Gardens at the Burns Monument, Alloway


Gardens at the Burns Monument, Alloway

Burns Monument

Burns Monument at the poet’s birthplace, Alloway