Sunday, December 23, 2012

Learning Courage

Twelve years ago I would hardly leave the house after a snowfall. If snow fell, even flurries, when I was out and about I would rush home. I hated to leave the house with even a small amount of ice on roads. I had Jeff drive me to work for years on snowy days. I was scared. I lost sleep on nights snow was predicted. I worried endless over forecasts. I had the Weather Channel constantly up all winter. I was truly afraid of snow.

We had a blizzard this past week with 10 inches of snow and 40 to 50 mile an hour winds. I woke up Thursday morning, the height of the storm, and cleared off my car. I let it sit and warm. Then I drove to work. Slowly, ever so slowly, but I drove. I won't tell you that it was fun. Many of the streets hadn't been plowed at all. The ones that had were skating rinks of ice. When the wind it, the car skidded to the side. It was terrible. I was one of a dozen people who made it into work. It was announced at 7:30 that the state offices would be closed until noon, an unheard of thing (in 13 years we've only closed once).

The next day I also got up and drove to work. I've ingrained in myself that not going is not an option. The commute was far better than the day before but still slick. Still slow. As I sat at my desk I listened to people come in and talk about how terrible their drive in that day was. I listened and in the back of my head I thought "yeah but yesterday was worse". And I realized that I was now one of the brave ones in the office. I was one of the people who drove in terrible weather. It wasn't that I was not afraid, far from it. But I did it. And I started to think about the definition of courage. It's not being unafraid, as I always thought. It's about being afraid but doing what you're afraid of anyway.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Darts

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly but I am a pen and paper type of person. E-readers certainly have their place in society but it's not in my hands. I love the feel of a book well made, or an old book that has survived the decades. I love the weight of a book as it rests in my hands. I'm partial to fountain pens and well bound journals. I love the scritch-scratch of a nib across rough paper. And a couple years ago I discovered one of my favorite new book tools: the book dart.

 Stephen King's On Writing with about a dozen book darts to mark quotes.

Book darts are tiny strips of metal that fold over with a point on one end. Just that simple. They are used to mark a quote, an interesting point, or a unique fact in a book. I bought my first set about 10 years ago and quickly ran out. I bought more and ran out of those. I find a lot of interesting quotes and facts. So a couple years ago I decided that I would write down those points and reuse the darts. I bought a commonplace book (a book for keeping miscellaneous facts, quotes, bits of trivia...) and hand write all things I find into that journal so I can re-pull the darts. Each time I read a book I mark lines and quotes I like, then when the book is finished, I copy the quotes and pull the dart. I have the information I want but don't need to buy a lifetime supply of darts.


I own eight sets of darts now so I went out to find something to store them in. Something portable that I could carry with me constantly and have available when I read. I found this wonderful beat-up antique box in one of the antique stores in town. The Y&S company still makes licorice but they now make it under the trade name Twizzlers. I love the well-used look of the box. The same way I love the feeling of hand copying my quotes and facts into a beautiful wood covered journal. And to make all that seem more archaic and romantic, I use the fountain pens for a lot of my copying. I feel a bit like a Luddite but that's not the reason for it. I just love working with the books and the darts and the pens. There's something tactile about it. It makes me feel a bit like a scholar.

 A jumbled pile of book darts, ready for use. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Boy and a Bear In a Boat

 The American cover, the one I have

Only twice in my life have I finished a book, taken a big deep breath, and then reopened it at the first page to read again. The first book was Charlotte's Web and I was only nine or ten. I so badly wanted Charlotte to be alive again that I started the book over. And cried the second time. I almost restarted Kushiel's Dart when I finished it but regained my sanity as I stared at the 800 or 900 pages before me. On Sunday I read a book called A Boy and a Bear in a Boat. I put the book down, smiled, and instantly picked it back up to start rereading. The first reading had taken me 2 hours. The second one was shorter.

I'm not sure how to describe Dave Shelton's book. The plot, quite simply, is about a boy and a bear and the boat trip that they take together. The boy wants to cross to the other side and the bear is the captain of the boat. They set off on their journey but before long the boy realizes that they are lost. Hopelessly lost, unless you ask the Bear. He knows exactly where they are at. He even has a map (it looks like the image below). So they keep going. And from that, a number of adventures happen. They find sea monsters, The Last Sandwich, tide anomalies, and abandoned ships. It's a book with both a comic no one understands and a ukulele. It's an odd story (blissfully odd). But that's only part of it. It's a story about attitude, friendship, and the unwillingness to give up.

The UK cover, which is so perfect that I will need to find a copy, no matter what cost. 

The book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse always leaving me with an incredible feeling of peace whenever I finish it. I've read it many times over the course of my life. Always when I need to be mentally cleansed. It's a book that restarts my brain. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat might become my new cleansing book. The lessons that this book teaches are simple but I remember feeling completely changed after reading it. It's a bit story, a bit zen koan, and a bit magic. We never find out the boy's name or the bear's name. The boat is named but that's about the only character that has one. We learn what we need to know about the characters though. When I finished I loved Bear the same way I loved Charlotte all those years ago. He was a wonderful character. And the boy grew so much during the course of the book that I wanted to cheer for him. I closed this book (I won't tell you the ending) and I felt completely at peace. It's a magical book, even if I'm still trying to puzzle it out.

10 Things I Learned This Week

1. Puppy Chow (or Muddy Buddies) might be the easiest food in the world to make and one of the most addictive. I've been banned from bringing it back to the office.

2. Last minutes guests can often be the most fun. Thanks Josh for a fantastic weekend! I'm glad you took me up on my offer to visit.

3. No matter how many times I say "I have too many books" or "I have too much yarn", I don't seem to believe myself.

4. The mall sucks during holiday season. Sucks! It's pretty bad the rest of the time, but during the holiday season it makes me want to slit my wrists.

5. I am a series reader, no matter what I've said in the past.

6. A Song of Ice and Fire might be one of the best series I've ever read. Period. (There Jon, I said it.)

7. Apparently, given the right video game, I will gleefully club baby seals.

8. Even the thought of some meats makes me ill now. And although you won't believe me, I still haven't craved bacon, once.

9. Jim Carrey may have been the only bad part of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events (the film). The tone was right, the kids were cast perfectly, the guardians were wonderful, and Timothy Spall was an inspired choice. I enjoyed the film. Carrey as Olaf...not so much.

10. Some books are like calm waters for the mind. They reinvigorate you, they calm you, and they make you wonder. Those are the ones I keep to reread every couple of years. I've found another one (more on that in my next post).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch



So I have a confession to make. It's kind of a big one, so you should probably sit down. Or if you're already sitting and are at work, be prepared to hold in that gasp. Here goes: Hi, I'm Cat, and I'm a grinch. Christmas is not my favorite holiday. In fact it's one of my least favorite. I don't find this time of year magical. It's more stressful for me. I don't dream of a white Christmas. And honestly I can't stand Christmas music. There I said it. I'm a grinch.

I love Christmas lights but I think they should go up the day after Thanksgiving and stay up until the end of February. I think they are the perfect bit of light in what is a terrible, dark, cold time of the year. But I don't put up a tree (gasp), I dislike the crowds at any shopping area, and I'm certainly not decking any halls. I make it a point to not make anyone else miserable at this time of year but honestly I'm really glad when it's done. I only feel a great relief the day after New Years.

I like wrapping presents but I like that any time of the year. I will watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Chuck Jones's The Grinch, but other than that I instantly change the channel whenever a Christmas show comes on. And the one radio station in town that started playing Christmas music 24/7 the day after Halloween was instantly banished from my pre-set stations.

I'm not sure why I dislike this holiday so much. Perhaps it's the fact that it happens in winter. I'm not a fan if you didn't know. But I don't honestly mind a good snow day, when I don't have to go anywhere. Or perhaps it's because Christmas is slowly eating away at Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year. I hate that businesses are now opening on my favorite day. I liked at least one day of rest from our consumerism. Or perhaps my issue with Christmas is just that it has become unavoidable. I can't have a conversation lately without someone talking about their decorations, their most recent present buying trip, or their Christmas tree.

I feel a bit like a Scrooge but I just can't keep silent anymore. I have twenty more days of hearing nothing but Christmas. And I'll listen, and smile at your excitement. I like passion in any form. But don't look at me askance when I tell you that I don't have a tree up. That I haven't finished my shopping, or really started, and that I don't have my Pandora channel set to carols. I'll raise my glass of hot chocolate after the new year. Until then, I'll be the grinch in the corner, not liking Christmas a lot.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quotes

My little sister got me started on a collection a couple of years ago. She mentioned that she keeps a book with quotes that she likes. I looked through her quote journal and instantly decided that I needed to do the same. So I hunt for bits of wisdom to add to my collection. I've gathered quite a few and they all hold a special place in my heart. I have a beautiful wood-covered journal that my mother bought me that I knew was too lovely to hold my own words. So I started using it as a "commonplace book". It's a journal for keeping all the interesting fact, quotes, and ideas that I have. I mostly use it for quotes I like. I thought I'd share a couple of them with you. I'll do this periodically. I can't be alone in my love of quotes.

"Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear, and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dreams. Water them with optimism and solutions, and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dreams."   ~Lao Tzu

"The finiteness of a lifetime adds intensity to our search for truth, for beauty, for happiness, for love, for ourselves. I've begun to understand that death lends meaning to life, that it adds weight to the choices I make about how I want to live and who I want to be."    ~Jill Fredston

"I care not how humble your bookshelf may be, nor how lonely the room which it adorns. Close the door of that room behind you, shut off with it all the care of the outer world, plunge back into the soothing company of the great dead, and then you are through the magic portal into that fair land whither worry or vexation can follow you no more."     ~Arthur Conan Doyle

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."    ~Dorothy Parker

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinctions between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. It's enough for him that he does it well."     ~L.P. Jacks

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Games of Thrones



Since I've gotten home from St. Louis, I've done nothing in the evenings except read. I come home, say hi to Jeff, and plop myself down on the couch to read. At 11 or so I'll move upstairs and then read until I either fall asleep or read until I think I'm going to have problems waking up the next day. To say that I've been a little focused is a bit of an understatement.

I've been told by at least half a dozen people that I need to read at least the first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Jeff had received the book as a gift last Christmas and it's been sitting in my stack. So last week I picked it up. And I was immediately sucked in. The characters are all so unique. Throughout the book I would fall in love with different characters. Eddard, Tyrion, Arya, Catelyn, and Jon Snow all have been favorite characters at one point or another. They are each so well described and their individual stories so fascinating. The book follows the Starks of Winterfell, the lord, his lady, and their five children, as they set out into a very well described fantasy world. Each has their own role to play in just this book and I know that those roles will be every futher expanded as I read the rest of the series.

Martin tells a story that's both raw and truthful, which is a tough thing to say for a fantasy series. The word he creates falls its own set of rules beautifully. Magic exists in small doses but it has it's place. Dragons and other creatures have or do live in the world. But each part of the book rings true. Martin creates a history for the world, a mythology for the world, religions, and enough ruling classes that sometimes they are a tad tough to keep straight. He does provide an overview of the houses in the back, but you're so focused on the Starks that I didn't find I had to consult it often. The book has political intrigue (a lot of political intrigue), a fascinating family story, myth and legend, war, and a bit of sex. It's everything I enjoy in a good book and I can't wait to continue on and find out what happens next.

Yep, I'm a series reader again. I broke my rule with the His Dark Materials trilogy, and shattered it with the A Series of Unfortunate Events series. I already the next book of the Song of Ice and Fire series and after a small break I'll dive back into that one. But it won't be tonight. I should probably catch up on the housework I've been ignoring since I started the first.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Trip

Jeff and I spent the holiday in St. Louis visiting family. We drove down on Thursday and made it just in time for dinner. We left Sunday morning. In between we spent tons of time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their adorable little guy. Here they are below. This is Jeff's younger brother's family. They hosted us this trip and did so wonderfully.


We did some shopping on Friday. Not much (I'm not a Black Friday fan) but trips to JoAnn's and Barnes and Noble made me happy. My sister-in-law wanted to make a couple fleece tie blankets as gifts. We managed to get the fabric and complete both blankets in one weekend. Here's my wonderful sister-in-law playing around in JoAnns.


Friday night we went to Jeff's older brother's house for dinner and some wonderful wine. My sister-in-law has introduced me to a number of great wines over the years and this night was no exception. I think between us, she and I must have drank a bottle and a half each. Great conversation, great food. A fun night.


Saturday we went to the zoo with my little brother and his fiancee. It was a bit cold out so the zoo was really quiet. But the animals were active and we made good use of the heated indoor houses. The bird house was Jeff's favorite, it was so quiet you could hear even the quietest birds call. We were the only ones in there for most of our time. The lions were playful and fun to watch. It was a great trip.

The weather was perfect the entire trip and it was great to see family. We don't get down to St. Louis near enough so it was nice to have a longer visit to catch up. We'll hopefully get back down in the spring. But it was a wonderful trip.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Foodscapes


I'm sure you're all tired of seeing food at this point. After the huge feast that is Thanksgiving, there are days and days of leftovers. And dinners with family. And extra pie in the fridge. I'm sure you're thinking that you've seen enough food for a lifetime. Or, if you're like me, you never get tired of food. Particularly not when it is as well presented as these foodscapes.


Carl Warner is a U.K. based photographer who creates landscapes out of food. Almost everything in these scenes is edible. He takes very traditional looking scenes and finds the exact right ingredient to make them out of edibles. According to his website each set takes a couple of days to build and then Warner takes photos of the foreground, background, and the sky separately. Like any organic setting, the food deteriorates quickly so he has to work in stages.


Warner started as a still life photographer and then began to branch out into these arranged landscapes. His work has been used in numerous advertisements and he even came out with a book of his work. I just love the inventiveness of these images. Every part of the picture offers such wonderful detail, which makes for complete images that are creative and simply amazing. The images can be dramatic or serene but they are all wonderful to look at. And all made of food.

Not sure why but this simple scene is my favorite

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Stacks

There's a reason I don't reread my books that often. It's below.


This is my bookcase of books that I haven't read yet. Not just one of the shelves, the whole case is unread. This isn't even the whole case. There's one more row below of oversized books. Books come and go from the case but it's never empty. And often books will stay on there for years before I finally get to them. Buying books is a matter of moments, reading them is slower.


This is my stack of books that I haven't read that don't fit on the bookcase. Currently they are sitting in boxes in my closet but I drag them out occasionally to pick from them.

As you can see I have plenty to keep me occupied. I could choose not to buy or borrow another book for two years and I'd probably still have enough reading material. I've accepted that I'll never read all the books I want to read. But I would like to one day empty the bookcase above. Of course that would mean avoiding the library and the bookstore. So, it's probably never going to happen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rereadings

I'm sure it won't surprise any of you to know that I read a lot. And I mean a lot. I spend much of my free time with my nose stuck in a book. What might surprise you is that I don't reread. Ever. I can list on one hand the number of books that I've read a second time or more. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse gets reread every couple of years. I think of that book as a re-grounding. I read it to refresh myself. Pride and Prejudice has been read at least four times. Charlotte's Web gets pulled off the shelf occasionally, and yes I still cry no matter how many times I read it. I've reread two others for a book club I'm in. Other than that, nothing gets reread.

I once started a book only to find within the first three chapters that I had read the book in high school. The whole plot flashed back to me and I put the book down and moved on to something else. Something new. But this weekend I started a book that I was pretty sure I'd read before. It's a memoir about reading called So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson. I was sure I had read it years ago and every once and a while I would get flashbacks of chapters. But it never came back to me fully. I read her discussions of books and had the odd sense of deja vu that comes with rereading but even up until the end, I never remembered the book enough to put it down. And it wasn't in my LibraryThing (I'm CatB if you're interested). So I read the book for perhaps the second time and enjoyed it.


The moment I put it down I grabbed another, and this one I knew I had read. I picked up Russell Hoban's The Mouse and His Child. I read this book as a child and it had the biggest impact on me. Here was a book that was on the surface about a wind-up mouse and his child, trying to find some friends and evade an enemy. But even as a child I recognized that the book was so much more than that. It was an allegory. I saw the discussions of infinity and trying to define Being and cause and effect and the book intrigued me, even at a young age. So when I found out that the book had been reprinted with illustrations from David Small, one of my all-time favorite illustrators, I made it a point to find a copy. I had glanced through the book after buying it but didn't plan to reread. After all, it was the illustrations I was looking for. But today, after finishing one potential rereading, I purposefully picked up the book and read.

And the book lived up to its memory. I loved it for a second time. The story was familiar, but I was amazed at how much I had forgotten. There were characters that I hadn't remembered at all. There were subplots that hadn't meant anything to me as a child and were therefore forgotten. And the ending surprised me. I'm not sure how I had forgotten it. Although the characters were the same I read this like a brand-new book. And it got me thinking. I wonder how many of my childhood favorites would be worth going back to reread? How many stories have I forgotten enough of that they would be worth revisiting? I might have to go through my shelves. And create a stack to reread. After all, if it hadn't been for the illustrations, I would never have picked up this wonderful tale again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nostalgic Musical Interlude

The summer before my junior year of college was one of those great times that I look back at nostalgically. I was living alone at the time, working to pay my own bills by cleaning apartments. I would wake up at 5 each morning, clean apartments until 2, then go home and write until nearly 11 or midnight. It was the most productive time in my life. And I loved it.

The soundtrack for that time in my life was Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily, Violent Femmes, the music from the film Evita, and Indigo Girls. I think I wore most of those cassettes out (remember those?). I would pop a tape in and listen while I cleaned. When I got rid of most of my tapes, those were the ones I kept. They were just too special to me.

This afternoon, as part of my desire to get back to myself, I've set my Pandora radio streaming to Natalie Merchant. And it's been so energizing. Pandora (seriously I love this service) offers me not just Natalie, but Sarah McLaughlin, Jewel, Dido, The Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, and The Sundays to name a few. It is the soundtrack of my college years. I'm reminded not only of the songs I loved that I'd forgotten about, but about those years of my life.

No matter what happens in my life, music has always been an energizing force. I have songs that make me think of middle school, high school, college, my early years of dating and marriage, and my more recent days. A single song can take me back. You can tell my mood by what song I'm singing. And if I'm alone, I'm always singing. Today it's Life is Sweet by Natalie Merchant.

Hi

Hi there! I'm Cat. You might remember me from blogs such as Ancora Imparo and Yet Another Children's Book Blog.

This is me, on the left, back when most of my time was taken up with writing and reading. Back then I was young and immature and passionate and far happier than I have been recently. I've been struggling a lot lately with depression. People who see me day to day probably wouldn't have noticed but it's been there. Sapping my energy and taking away my passion. And I haven't been feeling like myself. So I'm going to get back to the things I love the most. And you're all welcome to join me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Venting: Literally and Figuratively

Right now there are six industrial strength fans running in my kitchen. The noise is so loud that I'm camped out upstairs. This morning as I was just about ready to pack my lunch for work I noticed that the floor was shiny. It was reflecting the light we have in the bathroom. Thankfully I turned the kitchen light on before walking in. Otherwise I would have soaked my feet. There was a good inch or so of standing water all over the floor.

Instead of packing lunch I woke Jeff up, grabbed some towels and headed back downstairs to start the long process of mopping up my kitchen. We filled buckets with gray water and hauled them outside to dump on the lawn. We got good use out of the new mop we bought last month. With Jeff using a sponge and me using the mop we were finally able to make headway on the mess. Just as we had gotten mostly under control, our neighbor rang the doorbell and pleaded for help. She was in the same situation. Water everywhere. We helped mop out her kitchen as well.

With the water gone I headed out to work (I'd told my boss I'd be late) and left Jeff to wait for the sewer company. They arrived about 9 and quickly realized that there was a blockage in the main building line. We had taken the brunt of the mess along with our neighbor. Four other units were also affected but with much less damage. Jeff called a company to come in and clean up and they're the ones that set up the fans. They're also the ones that realized that the underfloor was soaked and that the vinyl flooring would have to come up. So not only do we have the charge of the clean-up but we'll be laying in a new floor and new baseboards. An expensive and very frustrating morning.

So right now I'm venting... along with the kitchen. It's hopefully getting dry, particularly the walls. And I'm starting to accept things the way they are. I won't have a kitchen for  probably a week and a half. Jeff and I will be looking at flooring tomorrow. I have the frustration of not being able to use my downstairs bathroom comfortably. And of course the added expense. The only positive is how incredible Jeff has been through this whole thing. He's been the one to deal with the insurance company (we don't have sewer coverage), the sewer company, the cleaning company, and shopping to make things simpler for me. He's been a godsend today. I hope I cool off before the floor dries. Otherwise it's going to be a long frustrating week.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Here's Looking at You, Kid

It's one of the most famous lines from the classic movie Casablanca. Or at least the most famous line that people get right. "Play it again, Sam" was never uttered in the movie. But I digress. I don't know of any movie that has more classic lines than Casablanca. Most of which come in the last 10 minutes as Rick tells Ilsa that she needs to go with her husband.


My sister introduced me to Casablanca when I was in high school and I have loved the movie ever since. It's one of the first black and white films I ever owned. It's a story I rarely get tired of watching. The odd part is that the love story is wonderful but it's not my favorite part of the movie. This is film filled with characters, unique personalities who steal a couple scenes and are never seen again. It's a movie that seems alive beyond what the camera lens is focused on. Simpering Peter Lorre, Louis the police chief, Sam with the magical voice, and a mix of other noble characters and scoundrels. Rick and Ilsa is a sweet story, but it's the side characters that draw me to the film.


Last night I got to see the movie on the big screen. One of our local art theaters screened it for the whole week and my mom and aunt suggested that we go. Even though I hate the theaters I couldn't pass up the chance to see that famous cafe on the big screen. As an audience, we laughed at the subtle wonderful jokes. I nearly cheered at the playing of the Marseilles. And I lost myself in a movie I've seen well over two dozen times. It was magic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Experiment

For two and a half weeks I've been spending many of my nights in front of the TV. I'm a huge Olympics fan. I want to catch every minute of coverage I can. It didn't matter which sport, I was watching. And now I've gotten used to coming home and settling on the couch. I've been out to dinners and running errand this week but the moment I come home I'm again planted on the couch, reading Facebook updates and watching whatever show is on.

And my last post was all about unplugging. It was about taking time away from electronics and feeling freer. But here I am tonight, sitting in front of the TV again. And it's taken me well over an hour to write these two paragraphs because I've been distracted by the moving pictures. It should never take me more than an hour to write a paragraph. I should never have so little concentration or focus.

So tomorrow I'm starting an experiment. No television for a week. I'm going to try to concentrate on reading, writing, and other hobbies. I haven't been knitting as much as I'd like. I haven't been writing much at all this recently. I've been working on a fascinating book for almost two weeks now, which is incredibly slow for me. I'm not focused. And I'm hoping that this experiment will show me if my concentration issues are TV related. Or if nothing else I hope I get something done. It's an experiment. It may not work. But I assume that it will be worth the effort. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blackout

Jeff and I were watching some Olympics coverage (because I can't get enough of it) last night after dinner when suddenly the TV went black. And the AC turned off. And all the lights. We had a big storm the night before that had knocked out some power but we had been spared. Now tonight, with little more than a breeze, we were out.

So of course we did what everyone would do. We poured glasses of Baileys and sat out on the patio. Since the power went out at 8 we got to sit and talk and watch the darkness descend. It was heavenly. There was nothing to do and nothing we had to do. Most of the neighbors had done the same thing, sitting out on their patios with glasses of wine and relaxing.

And for a moment I thought about what it must have been like before the internet and TV. Now I was alive before there were personal computers. I remember a time where we didn't have the ever-present internet to entertain us. I never knew a time before TV. But sitting out there last night I found myself hoping that the lights didn't come back on for a while. I loved the undistracted time just watching the world grow darker while listening to people talk. Watching the trees blow in the breeze and listening to the cicadas. I loved the darkness and the sense of security of sitting in the dark. It felt safe and cozy. Eventually Jeff brought me a candle and I sat in the faint candle-light and wondered what the world would be like without television and email and constant distractions. I've decided that it would have been amazing. Then the lights came back on.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Recent Visitor

Ever since I put up my bird feeder I've had regular avian visitors. I started seeing birds only 17 hours after putting up the feeder and have rarely had a break since. I love seeing the chickadees, finches, nuthatches, cardinals, woodpeckers and sparrows that flock to the feeder. I have a rabbit that has started coming in the morning, along with numerous ground squirrels and squirrels. But none of them is as exciting as what Jeff saw when he looked out the window this past week.


He was watching Olympics coverage when he heard something loud out the window. He glanced out to see this beautiful bird above. It's either a juvenile Sharp-Shinned hawk or a juvenile Cooper's hawk. They look very similar at this age from what I know. The yellow eyes tell me that this is a juvenile. They'll turn a beautiful red as she ages. From the size I think it's female. She's a bit bigger than a crow which is the average size.


Jeff tells me that after sitting up on the fence for a bit, the hawk flew to the ground and spent some time sunning. It spread it's wings out and hunkered on the ground. No doubt it was waiting for some of the regular sparrows to come back. Coopers and Sharpies regularly eat feeder birds. So this pretty bird was waiting for a meal. After Jeff sent me a text with a picture my next question was whether it had found a meal or not. I'm excited that it's hunting my area. I love that not only does my feeder attract small birds but the big predators come by extension. Such a beautiful sighting. While I wish I'd gotten to see it but  I love all the pictures Jeff took for me.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dragon's Lair

For those of you who don't know (and I pity you) Dragon's Lair was a stand-up arcade game that came out in the 80s. It was a unique game in that the graphics were far and away better than anything we had ever seen before. They were like an animated movie. It was spectacular. It was also insanely hard. I don't know anyone who's has ever made it past the first few minutes of gameplay. Your character Dirk approaches the door of the castle and....you die. I had no idea how. You just died. As I shoved quarter after quarter in the machine I (finally) managed to sidestep the daggers that came out and open the door after which...I died. Over and over this went. I bet you I would blow $20 in quarter on this game...every time I saw it. And I never did get past that door. I was both infuriated and obsessed.

I won't tell you how much time and money that I wasted on Dragon's Lair when I was a kid. It was more money then time though. When your gameplay experience is only 10 seconds long it doesn't add up to much time playing. But the graphics kept drawing me back. As you know I'm an animation junkie and this was Don Bluth's work. I loved this game and I hated it.

This was actual gameplay graphics

When Jeff and I were in Disney World we went to DisneyQuest, their four story arcade. After you paid the door admission, all the games were free. I parked myself at Dragon's Lair and managed to get past the door to find the skeleton, which killed me. Jeff pulled me away to ride the bumper cars or something, and for that I thank him. Otherwise I could still be standing at that machine today, trying to see what's beyond that skeleton.

It was Jeff who saved me again as we stood in GameStop and I noticed that they now have Dragon's Lair for the Wii. It's the original game, plus sequels for $25 used. I begged. I pleaded. I whined. It wasn't pretty. I wanted that game. It was Jeff who pulled me away again. But I still think about it. Playing Dragon's Lair on the Wii, able to spend as much time as I need to advance in the game. Finding out what the sequels were like. Although I'm still confused as to how you can have sequels for a game no one ever won...or played more than 10 minutes on.

Monday, July 30, 2012

We'll be moving on, cabbie

The title is a line from The In-Laws. The original with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. Peter Falk is a CIA agent whose son is about to marry Arkin's daughter. Arkin is a mild-mannered dentist, until Falk drags him into a South American mess. In one scene the two are being shot at when they discover a taxi-cab. They climb in and Peter Falk casually tells the driver, "we'll be moving on cabbie." It's a great line mostly because of the casualness in Falk's voice and Arkin's hysterics. I haven't seen it in years. I'll have to watch the movie again.

I was trying to think of how to start this post and the line came to me. This past month has been a bit tough for a bunch of reasons I won't go into. Nothing terrible just not the best. Every time I've sat down to write a post, I've thought about how silly it all seems. And then I've shut the case on my laptop and done something else. I just wasn't ready to talk.

Tonight I'm ready to get back to blogging. I have artists to share and adventures to tell. I'm relaxing finally and I'm coming to terms with the fact that I don't have to write anything I don't want to. I've been holding myself back waiting for the right mood, right topic, right situation. I'll be moving on, cabbie.


(Seriously, rent it. Hilarious. One of Falk's best and Alan Arkin is hysterical as straight man. Don't bother with the remake. )

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Underground New York Public Library


The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung
As a librarian and a lover of books, I love to see other people reading. As I keep hearing about the death of books and how less people are reading, I keep a look out for people who are bucking the trend. I'm a huge fan of paper books and although I have no issues with e-readers,  I think that you lose some of the connection to the book. Plus when I see a reader, I often try to peek to see what book they are enjoying. That's tougher with an e-reader.

(Left) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, 
(Right) The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Because of this love for paper books, I've become a huge fan of the blog, the Underground New York Public Library. The blogger (Ourit Ben-Haim) is a photographer who travels the New York City subway, taking pictures of people she finds reading. The Reading Riders are then posted along with the title of the book they were reading. It's a fantastic blog that offers people watching, reading suggestions, and a reminder that print books are not yet dead.



 Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The blogger is a street photographer and most of the subjects are not aware that they are being photographed. I love how absorbed in their books they seem. When a photo cannot be taken unaware, the blogger is careful to explain the project and then ask the person to go back to reading. Once they are engrossed again, that's when the shot gets taken. It's all about catching a reader in that moment of engagement with the book. They always look so much more relaxed than the other riders. It's a wonderful image of the diversity of readers and their books of choice. Plus I come away from this blog with a ton of new books to read. Perfect.


Great Short Works of Dostoyevski

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Art Festival Surprise

My brother was in town from St. Louis this past weekend. Jeff and I spent most of our weekend with my brother and my parents, visiting and catching up. I don't get to see my brother nearly enough and it was wonderful to spend some good quality time with him. We had dinner with them on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday we caravaned down to Kansas City with my brother to watch the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Royals. The stadium was 60% red at the game. No one can ever say that Cards fans don't travel well.

On Saturday though, Jeff and I started the morning with an indulgence. We picked up cupcakes from a cute little place in Valley Junction, the historic shopping district in West Des Moines. With cupcakes like Peanut Butter Double Chocolate and Fizzy Mai Tai it was tough to pick just one. I ended up with a raspberry cupcake with a lemonade based frosting that was incredible. We ate out on the covered patio while watching the rain come down.

In the afternoon, the rain cleared up. The boys (my dad, my brother, and Jeff) went out golfing. My mom and I headed downtown to check out the Art Festival. Each year the Des Moines Art Festival includes some really fantastic artists, some good food, and a wonderful atmosphere. It takes place in the downtown sculpture garden so if you're not checking out the art, you can walk through some very unique sculptures.

As we were walking through, my mother found a woman who creates butterflies out of paper. They look incredibly realistic. We had to peer really close to the glass before we could tell that they weren't real butterflies and were just made out of paper. The artist even sticks each sculpture with a pin to make it more realistic. Since my mother collects butterflies (real ones) she bought a small Blue Morph Butterfly sculpture to hang next to the real one she has at home.


Then we walked past a mixed media artist that had my attention. She had a number of painting which were lovely but it was the journals that caught my eye. Gena Ollendieck (from Cresco, IA) creates wonderful pictures, leather bound journals, and photo-albums that are covered with found objects that tell a story or evoke a mood. Here's some information about her. Her pieces are unique and each one is lovely. I found at least six or seven journals alone that I would love to own. I was oohing and ahhing to my mother about one of the journals when she declared that she would buy it for me. I argued with her, a bit. They were not cheap journals. But she kept telling me how beautiful they were and how wonderful it was to support artists, something I believed as well. I have to admit that I only half-heartedly argued. This was one of the most beautiful journals I'd ever seen. And when the artist wrapped the journal in brown paper and handed it to me, I couldn't stop holding it. I brought it home and showed everyone there. It's now sitting on a table in my library. I'm not sure if I'll write in it or use it as a photo-album. I do know that I feel incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful piece of art. Thanks Mom!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Friday

Since I haven't been posting regularly, I haven't done a poetry friday in a while. So here we go. I have this poem saved on my computer at home. I struggle with it occasionally. It both energizes me and depresses me. Let me know what you think of it.


A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(what the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist)

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   "Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
   Finds us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, --act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
   Learn to labor and to wait.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hummingbirds


This is my computer's wallpaper. I have about 30 dozen hummingbird pictures in my iPhoto. I just love the birds. This one is from my parent's backyard. They have a Lantana that gets regular hummingbirds. The other ones are from my feeder. I started feeding them with premade food but then started making my own food after hearing some concerns about the premade stuff. Sugar and water is all you need to attract them and is quick and easy to make. The red dye isn't needed and actually may be bad for them.



I love how bold these birds are. I can sit less than 2 feet from the feeder and they will come. I can hear the buzzing of their wings and their chirps as they swoop past my head. They hover and feed so close without fear. For a tiny little bird, they offer a lot of beauty and boldness.



Monday, June 18, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

I started writing this last week. It just never got posted.

I think I was 12 or 13 when I first read The Martian Chronicles. I remember asking my dad for something to read and since I'd already worked my way through Dune and Ringworld, he must have thought he'd suggest another of his writing heros. I do remember that it was summer and that I stayed inside curled up on the couch reading the book. I was entranced. I'm sure I knew the world colonization but it was the emotions that made me unable to put the book down. The wonderful mix of loneliness, uncertainty, fear, joy, and discovery was what made each story sing. I read the book in two days. And since then I've always loved Bradbury.


On my shelves upstairs I have The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, Forever Summer, Fahrenheit 451, I Sing the Body Electric, and One More For the Road. He is the author that I've owned the most books by. He's the author that never once disappointed me. Even his odd mysteries in the last couple years have a charm for me. So although I knew he was older (91 when he died), I don't think I ever really expected him to die. Or at least I hoped that I would get to shake his hand once before he did. Now that won't happen. I was a bit upset when Maurice Sendak died earlier this month. But I cried when I found out Ray Bradbury was dead. It seemed impossible.

Since his death I've been reading obituaries and tributes to him. I've read a lot of people gushing about him, and only a bit of it was about his writing. Ray Bradbury was a man who wrote every day of his adult life but who still took the time to answer much of his fan mail with a real letter written out on his typewriter. I've seen wonderful examples of letters he sent to his fans filled with anecdotes, advice, and encouragement. I've read people talk about how amazing a friend he was. And I read the sheer human emotion that he wrote with. I have a section of quotes in my quote book dedicated to him. He's said so many wonderful things. He is a huge fan of libraries and stories. And he's been an idol of mine since that summer over two decades ago when I finally realized how good writing could be. I'm sad that he's no longer with us. But I hope that his legacy (both as a writer and a person) lives on.

Stuff your eyes with wonder...live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. 
See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. 
--Ray Bradbury

We are all cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Transit

I had dinner with my parents on Tuesday at Macaroni Grill. As we sat at the table eating pasta, my dad kept leaning up to glance out the window. I noticed him doing it but it took me a couple times before I finally ask. He said he was checking to see how sunny it was. Dad's an amatuer astronomer and what I didn't know is that the Transit of Venus over the sun was taking place right during dinner. My dad had thought ahead and brought a solar filter.

When he finally noticed the clouds pass, he got up from the table, grabbed his binoculars and solar filter, and headed outside. Within a couple minutes he was back, beaming. After that, we each took a turn taking the filter and the binoculars out to look at the small dark ball passing in front of the sun. With the binoculars I could clearly see Venus and was able to pick up a decent sized sun spot as well. We just had to position the filter at the end of the binoculars and then locate the sun in the binoculars. We could look all we wanted without harming our eyes. It was partly cloudy so we had to time our visits just right. But we each got to see it. The last transit was eight years ago. The next one won't be for 105. I'm just glad Dad gave me the chance to both see and appreciate this rare event.

A NASA composite image of the transit. Love the solar flares below.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blast From the Past

I'm fascinated by how memories work. While standing in the shower this morning I had a sudden burst of memory about a guide to a book series that I never read. Well I read the guide, just not the series. I'm sure my mother thought they were too adult for me or something. It was a series of books following a royal family in a fantasy world. I remember spending hours with the guide, looking at the characters and reading up about them. Considering I had never read their stories I wonder why this particular book and the characters fascinated me so much. But it had, and I knew that I had to find the book again.

I spent my shower trying to figure out anything about the guide that I could remember. I didn't remember which series it referenced or what the title of the guide was. I could only remember that the authors last name started with Z. Promising beginning huh? I ran through the list of Z last names I know. My first thought was Zindel but I knew that wasn't right. Then Zelinsky came to mind. But it certainly wasn't Paul Zelinsky, one of my favorite children's book illustrators. Then the name Roger popped into my head. And I instantly knew it was right. I knew that was the first name of the author. Zelazny quickly followed. Seriously, how do I know these things without conciously knowing them?


A brief internet search found me not only the series, but the guide. Roger Zelazy is best known for his Chronicles of Amber series. He mixes mythical characters into his fantasy novels to create a superhuman royal family whose exploits the books follow. The Wikipedia page tells me that there were 10 original Amber stories. Again I haven't read a single one, although I have The Guns of Avalon on my shelf to be read for some odd reason. The guide I was thinking of was The Visual Guide to the Castle Amber. At least I think. I can't for the life of me remember the title. But I know the cover above, and I would know the pages in an instant. Each character had an illustration and a biography. I remember reading about the brothers and sisters and seeing the images. It's a book that I pored over. And now I have to find it. I must own this guide. Even if I never read any of the books that inspired it, I know I have to own the guide, something I read and loved 25 years ago. I just have no idea why it popped into my head this morning. Memories are funny things.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Squirrels and Squinties

Today I did an experiment. I sat outside and knit on the front patio. I set out some seed on the ground stretching from the feeder right up to my feet. I was curious to see how close the creatures and birds would get. I sat still, mostly. I avoided looking directly at them. I sat and waited. I got a lot of knitting done. The birds came down while I was there but wouldn't get any closer than five feet. They were wary of me. But slowly the squinties (It's a Des Moines name. Ground squirrels to the rest of the world) and one large grey squirrel started creeping closer.

Squinty
They started as far away as they could get and within an hour I had a squirrel sitting at my feet, less than a foot away from me, eating seed and watching me. I always wanted to be a Disney princess so that birds and small animals would flock around me. I wanted to be close to nature. Today I was close enough to squirrels and ground squirrels that I could have petted them. And trust me I thought about it. But as the squirrel inched closer and closer I started to worry. Rabies, rodent bites, and crazed creatures running up my pant leg ran through my mind. And for a moment I was nervous at the proximity. But it was an experience that was well worth any worry. If only I had gotten pictures.

Squirrel (albeit a red squirrel)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Blame Jack Gantos

A month ago or so when I stopped writing the blog I mentioned that I was doing a lot more creative writing. Journal writing in particular. At the time I talked about my beautiful fountain pen that I've been overworking. I talked about enjoying the feel of paper. I'm sure I even mentioned how journaling keeps me sane. But I know I didn't talk about my greatest influence that got me back into creative writing (although stopped my blogging for a while), Jack Gantos.

I picked up Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos on a whim. The cover artwork was originally off-putting but I had heard good things. So I picked it up. One morning I sat down with a pot of coffee and the book and didn't stop reading until I was finished. I'd never heard a voice that fresh. Joey, the narrator, jumped off the page. He was quirky and confidential and I loved him. He's an amazing character, honest and messed-up. And the writing was so fresh. I devoured the book. Then I started learning more about the man who created it.

The interviews I read or listened to with Jack were all about journals. Jack has been journaling regularly since he was young. Almost all of his novels have come out of those journals in some way or another. I'm jealous. In a moment of madness 10 years ago I tossed all of my journals up to that point. I still regret that. Jack describes writing as "blue-collar work" and keeps a very dedicated writing schedule. And I found that inspiring. Not only have I been reading through all his books, but I've started journaling daily. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I stop at the library on the way home from work for 40 minutes or so of writing. On Saturday and Sundays I sit down in the early morning hours with my coffee and  my notebook to write. I'm not sure what all will come out of it book-wise, but I know that I feel more productive, more creative, and certainly saner.

I'm about half finished with Jack's oeuvre and have not been disappointed by a single one. I laughed until I cried at sections of Jack's Black Book. I was horrified and worried through Hole in My Life, Jack's memoir of being in prison. He has a unique voice that I haven't read before. But it's his habits that got me thinking. I found him inspiring, in terms of his teaching and as an example. And because of that inspiration I have been doing more of my own work. And for that I thank him.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

3 Weekends in 3 Paragraphs

I'm going to try to fill in the gaps of the last three weeks using only my weekends. My weeks have been nothing but work and writing but my weekends have been filled. The weekend of May 12th and 13th included the culmination of three years of very hard work for Jeff. He graduated as an actuary that weekend. To celebrate, Jeff's parents came in to visit. We spent Saturday at the Farmers Market, shopping, and then having dinner and playing games with my parents. Sunday was the graduation and then we spent the evening at my parents house to celebrate mother's day with both mothers. My parents cooked steaks and we had a wonderful feast. Both sets of parents, both of my sisters, and Jeff and I spent the rest of the afternoon eating, talking, and playing games. It was a fantastic weekend. I couldn't be prouder of Jeff. He's worked very hard in school and I was proud to see him walk across that stage.


Jeff's parents left Monday morning and on Friday morning Jeff and I jumped in the car to head south. My nephew Callen was celebrating his first birthday and his parents were throwing him a party. We got down to St. Louis just in time for dinner and then a movie with Jeff's parents. The next day was the party. There were quite a few people there, including some family I hadn't seen in awhile. They provided lunch and then cake. Callen got his own cake to destroy and eat. Below is one of my favorite pictures from the day, although the picture I got of the cake in his bellybutton is right up there. After cake we relaxed on the front lawn, talking and sitting in the shade. Callen wasn't terribly excited about opening presents so we helped out a bit. And then had dinner. It was one of the most relaxing afternoons I'd had in a while. The next day we had breakfast with everyone and then headed home.


This last weekend was of course the long holiday weekend. Friday night I left work for join my brother, his family, and my parents for dinner. We sat and chatted after dinner until late. The next day we met for some shopping and lunch on the patio at PF Chang's. While sitting there, a heron landed at the pond. We all had a wonderful lunch and then some book shopping (my favorite). After lunch we headed to my parent's house for nerf wars, sidewalk chalk, and fun. I have a blast playing with my nephews and niece. I got shot with nerf darts, started a pretend bakery with my niece, and decorated my parent's driveway. The next day was lunch at a taco place in town, then I went to the theaters with everyone to see Avengers. The movie was incredible. I loved the humor and the dialogue. Joss Whedon is a genius. It was one of the first action movies I've seen where the banter was not only good but actually overrode the action. It was hilarious. I hadn't been to a theater in years but this was worth seeing on the big screen. After dinner that night my brother and his family left to head home. I spent Monday reading and Tuesday at the golf course with Jeff. Four days of fun. I came back to work relaxed and refreshed. These last three weekends have been busy but wonderful. And those are my last three weekends. Trust me, my work week have been much less interesting.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Little Wonders

I'm listening to Rob Thomas's song Little Wonders on repeat on my computer. It's my third time through. I think I'm trying to force the message into my head. It's Memorial Day. Jeff is out golfing and I keep flitting from thing to thing. I keep feeling that I should be productive. In fact I always feel like I should be productive. One of the stupid parts of my practical (some say too practical) nature. So today I'm reminding myself that it is all about those small quiet hours that make me so happy. And instead of being practical and productive I'm sitting on the front porch with a good dark beer and my notebook jotting down any silly thing that comes into my head. It feels good.

But I know that I've been shirking my blog. It had started to feel like work. And I don't want that. I have a billion or so posts to write (I might be give to hyperbole) but for today, I will just leave you with this. Happy start of summer. Remember that it's all about those small sweet moments.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Random

I'm apparently having a bit of trouble focusing. My last post was just random things I've learned last week. The previous post was about why I wasn't posting. And this post is most likely going to be a set of random things that are striking me this evening. So without further ado, here's my brain.

I worked out the last two nights instead of blogging. Yesterday I worked out so intensely that I was dripping with sweat. Literally dripping. Ewww huh? I took a quick shower last night and then dropped into bed. Even with the warm room and the outside noise I slept like a baby. This morning I woke up and was wide awake instantly. I bounded out of bed, sang in the shower, dressed quickly, and then drove in to work with a huge smile on my face. I felt incredible. I was just more alert. For the record that lasted until 3 this afternoon. Stupid 3 p.m. slump.

Last night I also got a chance to see Erik Larson speak. He was in town as part of our library's AVID program, Authors Visiting in Des Moines (yes I know that should be AVIDM, but really that's just not as cool). He didn't do much reading, but instead he talked to us. He told us about his inspiration, his research (his books are meticulously researched), and his previous experiences as a writer and a presenter. He had a great sense of humor along with a great sense of history. After the talk he signed books. I had brought Isaac's Storm for him to sign but my mother presented me with a copy of his new book In The Garden of Beasts so I got that one signed. Now I can't wait to read it.

Tonight I've got laundry to do and then I'm planning to finish my current book. I've noticed lately that many of my books are focusing on frozen climates (must be because the weather has been so nice). I'm currently working on Rowing To Latitude by Jill Fredston which is about her and her husband's summer trips rowing in areas around the Arctic Circle. They have seen whales up close, encountered bears, and dealt with both pack ice and glaciers. Suddenly I want to learn to row. And I want to travel along these shores. I love the wildness areas they see and wouldn't mind finding my way there. Before that I was reading The Adventurer's Handbook which touched on Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Jeff and I have been enjoying Frozen Planet (except for the exploration segment. Too many inaccuracies for my taste). I thrilled at the discussions of Svalbard and Norway in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. I'm sure I'm forgetting something snow and ice related but it just seems that its been a major focus for a while.

Lastly I leave you with a random tufted titmouse, contemplating his toes. Not sure why. It's just more randomness.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom

Things I've Learned this Week

1. When asked to do two weeks worth of work in two days, it's only possible if you get other people involved.

2. Nothing really takes two weeks if enough adrenaline and caffeine are involved.

3. Knitting will wait and I won't forget how to cable.

4. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick can be read in an hour and should be read...by everyone.

5. "Hey Bear!" yelled at the top of your lungs is apparently an effective bear deterrant (Rowing to Latitude--Jill Fredston)

6. It is possible to drink two 12 cup pots of coffee in a day. Not advisable but possible.

7. A 3 mile walk at night with the person you love can cure most stress.

8. My legs are a bit out of shape and don't really enjoy 3 miles.

9. There is nothing better than sipping coffee and reading great books while sitting out on the patio.

10. Even after reading four books in one week, I will still not be tired of reading.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Heading towards Luddite

I used to have five blogs that I tried to write on a regular basis. Two of them were co-authored with a good friend. One had only two postings for months before I finally deleted it. The two that I've kept up with mostly are this one and my children's book blog. But it's been months since I posted on my children's one. Months. I still get hits on it but I haven't bothered to write a new review in almost half a year. I'm beginning to think that it is dead.

But I've tried hard to keep up with this one. I've started strong and then slowly slacked off (love the alliteration). I went from posting four or five times a week to only once or twice a week. Now I find I haven't posted in almost ten days. It's beginning to worry me.

It's not that I haven't been writing. I have. But I've been doing most of it in a different format. My journal is getting a good workout lately. I've inked many, many pages over the last 10 days. I'm moving back towards paper and pen. And not just any pen, a beautiful Sailor fountain pen that my dad gave to me years ago. It's been sitting in a drawer gathering dust and clogging up.

So this week I dug it out and cleaned it up. I filled it with fresh ink and now I can't stop using it. I sat at Caribou this afternoon with both a book and my journal. Normally the journal gets neglected while I read. Not today. I put down my book several times so I can pick up that glorious pen and write more. I love the sound that it makes as it scratches across the page. I love the flow of the ink and the way it looks in my hand. I love the way my words look more elegant from the pen. On the computer they suddenly seem duller. So this is just to say that I'm apparently stepping back into the early 1900s to focus on paper and pen again. I'll be back soon. I'm sure the luxury of this beautiful writing instrument will wear off eventually. But right now I'm not in any hurry for that.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Passion and Madness

I've been drinking cheap red wine in the bathtub which means that this will be more maudlin and romantic then I mean it to be. It never fails. Give me a bottle of red wine and I will write you sonnets. Or at least feverishly slave away with words like the great poets of old. I wonder what's in the wine to make me do that.

I'm reading a book about reading (my favorite subject) and the author is talking about poets. Not just any poets but the masters of romanticism. Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire. Poets that I used to read (in translation of course) and dream of passion and madness. Years ago I bought a greeting card that had the phrase "passion is a form of madness". I bought it for the saying. I was a young romantic. I wanted that passion. I wanted to be that starving artist living in a garret, selling poems to buy cheap red wine and a meal that night. Some night (like tonight) I still do.

But as I read this book I remembered a picture. I don't know if I've posted it here before and I know that tonight I won't be able to describe why this photo pierced my soul. Why I printed a copy and moved it from house to house. Why it used to sit above my writing desk. The simplest explanation is that this photo (by Felix Nadar in 1856) captured the passion and madness of Charles Baudelaire. I've loved this photo my entire life. From the moment I first saw it I loved it. I knew I needed to have a copy. I can't really explain way. It's terrible quality. It's blurry and odd, but I love it. Something about it speaks to me. And some days I understand what it's saying.


The Start of Something Wonderful


I have a three foot long by one foot deep "garden" in which I can plan whatever I like. A good part of the land is taken up by Roderick, my lion (thanks for the name Keith! I can't think of him as anything else) and the other part I am starting to experiment with. The lilac bushes that the association pulled out are starting to come back and I'm leaving them. The lilacs were some of the main reasons I moved here. I planted a nice looking hosta that requires almost no care from me. But the last planting is the one I'm the most excited about (Jeff would say obsessed about). Strawberries!!!


I planted a half dozen strawberry plants last year in April. They were still too new to bear fruit last year so I "patiently" waited through the year for this spring. Three of them survived the winter, although two others are trying. Suddenly I'm starting to see a mixture of the little white flowers that strawberries grow, and another kind of stalk. The berries are still green and very small but they are the start of something wonderful. In May I will have fresh organically grown strawberries. I'll be able to harvest my own food, which has been a dream of mine for years now.


I'm already thinking about planting more strawberries and trying to do some potted raspberries. My father learned how to Bonzai an orange tree, with the possibility of full size oranges. I tried planting spinach last year that failed miserably. But these little plants, so green and beautiful, make me want to plant more food. To actually produce a crop of something. Until then I'm going to gorge myself on homegrown strawberries. Well at least once they become ripe.