Full Spectrum by Adam Rogers

Yesterday my review of Adam Rogers’ fabulous book, Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern, was one sentence from completion. I had shared the span of history, biology, geology, commerce, physics, light, and more that he wove together in his exploration of color.  I had written about the other books about color on my shelf: Catherine McKinley’s  Indigo in which she traces this marvelous color from the dye pots of ancient Africa to the runways of 21st century Fashion Week and Simon Garfield’s delightful Mauve, the accidental invention of which by 18-year-old chemist William Perkins in 1856 gave way to mass-production of color by marrying chemistry and chroma. 

I’d written about Rogers’ clarity in explaining complex theories and even more complex science and how he managed to edge in humor as well.  He called the brain “think-meat” and offered up sentences such as, “The oscillation between seeing and learning is a steady hum in the background of human history.” There was also this sentence which I offer you the next time you are at a coktail party (remember those?) and want to impress: “A material’s refractive index is the ratio of speed of light in a vaccuum to speed of light as it moves through that material.”  I wrote how Full Spectrum arrived full of mystery. A deliver from Amazon with no note from the sender.

You know where this is going, don’t you? One sentence from completion my review fell victin to that sickening sleight of hand we all know too well. My review disappeared. Into the ether, over the rainbow, off the canvas for evermore.  So instead, I give you what Rogers says of Full Spectrum: “This book will roughtly folloiw the back-and-forth of color beetween — to be reductionistbout it — physics and mind.”  It is not a fast read, but it is a fascinating one.


PS Turns out my son saw a review of the book and thought I’d enjoy it. He was spot on.

PSS Also turns out that back in June I had tucked away in my “To Read” file a WSJ review of Full Spectrum. I love it that my son and I remain on the same wavelength.

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There is Magic in the World…

…and the Heavens listen.  This is a “stop the presses!” moment.

Our daughter-in-law texted late last night that today at five would be a good time to read to Olivia and do music*.  When Martin told me, I realized I’d need to get to the library for some new books to read. This morning  I received a delivery from Amazon.  At the bottom was a book I don’t even remember ordering.

I reached for What Do You Know? by sisters Aracelis Girmay and Ariana Fields (I mean with names like that they have to be magic women!), opened it, began to read, and tumbled into that special place of mine where gratitude spirals from my very depths like the best fireworks you’ve ever seen.  Gratitude for these talented women, gratitude for my capacity to feel so deeply, gratitude for the years (two) and conversations (1000) that brought this book into being.

From the blurb: “What might a bear, a farmer, a historian, some goats or courage respond when love askes, ‘What do you know?’ ” Turn the page and be surrounded in wonder and astonishment. Reach the farmers’ pages and delight in the illustrations. Read the answer of courage and know that when you read this book to your children and grandchildren you will be teaching them life’s most difficult lesson in an unforgettable way.

That’s all I’ll say.  Except for this: Order this book today. Visit Enchanted Lion Books.  They are an amazing publisher of the art and philosopy we call children’s books.


* Martin finds incredible music videos to enjoy with Olivia.  Their repetoire spans opera, Broadway, ballet and symphonies. One of their favorites is Shostakovich’s opera The Nose which contains a scene of dancing noses.


I have classified this post in three drawers: Grandlife, Bookshelf, Kids @ Heart because the book is so wonderful I don’t want anyone to miss it!

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Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

The women photographed and featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style are eye candy and inspiration for the rest of us. Cohen has made a career of photographing and celebrating fabulously put together women d’un certain age.

There is Rose, a centenarian who isn’t dressed until she is cinched with an iconic belt and clasped with string of outrageous beads. Tziporah Saloman’s canary yellow beanie, Bakelite bracelets and canvas espadrilles are the perfect foils to her perwinkle and maize tunic. “And sometimes it’s a fine line from costume to chic so I am for the latter and work on it until I achieve it.”

The women who caught the author/photgrapher’s eye, steal my heart on every page.  Their delight in their own sense of style and creativity shimmers in each image and sends the message that style never goes out of style and that age is never a barrier to being beautiful.

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What I’m Reading

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo; to which book next shall I go?

I never understood when people would tell me they were in the midst of three books. I do now. I’d had a library hold on Martha Beck’s book on  for a while , so when it was my turn I began reading it even though T.J.Thorne’s Behind the Magic Curtain arrived the day I attended the author’s book talk on Zoom.  Full Spectrum’s arrival was a mystery. A plausible one, but a mystery just the same. I have a shelf in my office devoted to books about color. There is Indigo, In Search of the Color That Seduced the World. There is Mauve. There is Colors, What They Mean and How to Make Them and the magical The Secret Lives of Color a scintillating book whose design is as wondrous as its text.  I didn’t order Full Spectrum although I could have.  I didn’t order it. There was no gift note. I even wondered if it was meant for someone else. I double checked;  nope, the package was addressed to me. Whoever sent it, knows me well.

I dipped into Full Spectrum yesterday. Of all my color books, this one promises to be the most science-y.  (Mauve runs a close second.). Author Adam Rogers opens with tectonic plate action from the Devoninan period then segues into a story about rockhound priest William Gregor’s (1761 – 1817) discovery of titanium. Four pages later I’m learning the words ommatidium and rhabdom, parts of what Rogers refers to as “the butterfly’s very weird eyes. They have that multifaceted compound bug thing…” Mine or not, I am going to enjoy this book very much.

Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity, Finding the Path to Your True Self sounds like big promises for trendy, vague, and ubiquitous personal fulfillment goals. But Beck delivers. Using Dante’s Inferno as a literary Mapquest of sorts, Beck invites readers on a four-part journey toward the gift of personal integrity. Each stage(The Dark Wood of Error, Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise)  presents thought exercises, journalling topics and gentle mirroring of univeral human pitfalls and foibles. One exercise alone helped release me from a lifelong and utterly false subconscious assumption. I’m still mulling this one over, probing my inner terrain for its absence, marveling at the sense of freedom that has taken me quite by surprise.

T. K. Thorne’s Behind the Magic Curtain is the book closest to my heart. Subtitled Secrets, Spies and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civils Rights Days, it recounts those who sued the Klan and won; wrested rule of the city from its racist leaders; and worked tirelessly, and often under threats of violence, toward justice and racial equality. Thorne includes many stories of my grandfather’s part in the actions of the time.  As I read, I am coming across names I remember hearing him mention at the dinner table and in phone conversations afterward. Reading her book I find myself  feeling my grandfather’s presence so keenly. It is a blessing.

So, that’s what’s on my nightstand these days.  What’s on yours?


PS My wonderful son sent me Full Spectrum. Makes this mystery gift even sweeter.

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Botanicals, Intimate Portraits by Laurie Tennent

Along Birmingham’s Rouge River Trail,  local photographer Laurie Tennent gave our city a marvelous art installation, City Bloom: Birmingham. The nearly three-mile trail features over a dozen of Tennent’s botanical portraits. I joined a tour of her work sponsored by our synagogue. Laurie became a professional photographer by accident. Two of them in fact. She planned to  become a marine biologist and had enough credits to graduate high school a year early.

Then came the accidents: she was thrown from the the back of a pick up truck, breaking her back. While recovering from that she was stung by a  man o’ war. Setting aside early graduation, she spent senior year taking art classes.  She fell in love with photography, applied to Detroit’s Center of Creative Studies, and  the rest is history.

Laurie Tennent’s flower portraits, all done in her studio under very controlled lighting, are magnificent.  Installed along the trail, the photographs, printed on metal and enlarged to 30″ x 40″ or bigger, become part of the landscape. Ferns rise leviathan-like from the forest floor; a curl of veronica takes center stage amidst a stand of woodland maples; astrantia shimmers white in the sunlight.

I had promised myself that I was simplifying this month. NO book purchases. I made it six days into June. This is so much more than a book. It is a journey of wonder, on the trail or off. Check out Laurie’s work at Laurie Tennent Bontanicals.

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For the Mother Within Us

A few years ago, I sent a copy of this little book to a dear friend’s daughter when she became a mother.  I liked it so much I ordered a second one possibly to keep, possibly to give again. I tucked it away for safe keeping and as so often happens, I just came across it.

The drawings are a bit more twee than I remember, but the quotes still ring true and beautiful. Editors Natasha Tabori Fried and Lena Tabori include blessings from every land and culture — Ireland, Egypt, China and Native American traditions. There is advice from Dr. Seuss and Antoine de St. Exupery and wisdom from Ecclesiastes, Euripides, and e. e. cummings. Among the blessings from various religions I was pleased to see some of my favorite Jewish blessings, including one known as the Traveler’s Prayer. Covid kind of put that one on ice, but soon… How fun it must have been for the mother-daughter editors to create the book together, organizing their finds into blessings for mealtime, nature, weddings and of course motherhood, to mention a few.

Mother’s Day has come and gone. A Mother’s Book of Blessings is a sweet one to enjoy year-round and to gift to a new mother. Or an old one if you are still so blessed!


T’filat HaDerech, the Traveler’s Prayer (complete text)

May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, Who hears prayer.


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