January started off and ended with a head cold (damn you, kisa), a really nice dinner party, a re-commitment to the houses HOUSE (glutton for punishment that I am), a re-commitment to charities with a big one – training for a 20 mile walk for Project Bread, a huge re-commitment to friendships and huge changes at the library. For books it was:
Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January.
Red Death by Walter Mosely in honor of Walter’s birthday being in January
Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge in honor of both Elvis and P.F. celebrating their birthdays in January.
Devices and Desires by P.D. James ~ in honor of mystery month.
The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill
Edith Wharton: a Biography by R.W.B. Lewis ~ in honor of Edith’s birthday on January 24th.
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman ~ in honor of Barbara’s birthday.
The Letters by Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger ~ a story that partially takes place on Monhegan. How could I resist? This is the blog that was plagarized by some dumb-azz.
30 pages of Nutritional Wisdom ~ a Christmas gift from my sister.
So I didn’t get a LibraryThing Early Review book in January. That’s not a big deal. I have certainly gotten my fair share over the course of the program so I’m not complaining. I do have to admit, I feel a little guilty. For the first time ever, I am really late publishing the review for the last ER book. Maybe that had something to do with it…who knows?
ps~ I did get one for February, or so I am told! 🙂
Rice, Luanne and Joseph Monninger. The Letters. New York: Bantam, 2008.
Not on any Challenge list. Not a must read from a friend. Not a gift. Not an Early Review book from LibraryThing. Not even something I would ordinarily pick up on my own. Nope. I read The Letters simply because part of it takes place on Monhegan Island. There I said it. I’m a sucker for my island. Put it in print and you have a loyal reader. Such is the case of The Letters.
It’s a creative concept for a storyline: two parents torn apart by the accidental death of their son. The father (Sam) is obsessed with seeing the place where his son (Paul) perished. Driven by that obsession he makes a pilgrimage into the Alaskan wild where his son’s plane crashed. The mother (Hadley) artistic and alcoholic, find herself in equal solitude on Monhegan Island, a tiny (586 acre) island off the coast of Maine that really does exist. These parents are as far away from each other physically as their marriage is spiritually. Their story consists of letters written on the brink of divorce – volleying blame back and forth. Through these letters, not only does the anguish of losing Paul wring itself out, but histories are revealed. Grief is only a fraction of the bigger picture.
Being a one-time Monheganer I enjoyed Hadley’s letters from the island. I often seek solace on its rocky coastline ten miles out to sea. Her description of Cathedral Woods was dead on. I was disappointed she couldn’t stay 100% true to factual details, though. To my knowledge the island has never been home to squirrels or raccoons and the deer population was annihilated (for lack of a better word) in 1999. I suppose Rice and Monninger to beef up the animal population of the island for added charm. Or something. But, my biggest disappointment came when Hadley fell on the rocks. I don’t think I will be ruining the plot by revealing this, but Monhegan doesn’t have a clinic that someone can just pop into to get ace bandages, ice packs or even aspirin. The island operates on a beautifully orchestrated volunteer system. It’s not as formalized as it used to be thanks to a lack of funding, but when someone is hurt or falls ill on Monhegan there is an urgency felt by everyone. The entire community will band together to bring a fallen tourist, a mid-seizure epileptic, the about-to-give-birth pregnant woman, to safety. I feel Rice and Monninger missed an opportunity to emphasize how similar Sam and Hadley’s rural landscapes really are, despite being at opposite ends of the country. They both fall ill and while their ailments are different the lack of convenient treatment is the same.
Lines that said something: “I hated the drinking because it erased the woman that I loved” (p 35).
“It’s when you start preferring email with a man five miles away to talking to your husband that you know you have a problem” (p 54).
“It shrieks when its not howling” (p56). Talking about Monhegan wind. Amen to that.
It has taken me some time to come to terms with her passing. Doesn’t seem right. More than doesn’t feel fair. I’ll say it yet again – cancer just isn’t fair.
They came to the island as love birds; a dating, doting couple. Binoculars and a sense of biology, they came to the island year after year to love the birds. The years gave way to marriage, kids, property, and a dog. A sense of belonging to the community became so strong the island couldn’t remember a time without them. It was as if they had always been there.
I don’t remember the first time I met her. It was that long ago. I can only remember her as I last saw her four months ago. Feisty and forcing fresh baked cookies on us, she commanded from the couch. Slipping water through a straw she surveyed the world outside her kingdom. A huge picture window afforded her a priceless view. She smiled as she watched a pheasant family creep jauntily through the high grass. Father pheasant’s neck arched and stretched searching for bugs, pecking as he went. His eyes were bright, watchful and wary. He paused as if to say I know you are there and she paused, the glass lifted halfway to her lips, as if her stillness could keep him there.
Binoculars, books and Bean gear. She was always ready for the birds. She kept a journal of the season’s best spyings. A log of feathered friends encountered throughout the seasons. As she grew sicker, too ill to hike her ornithology conquests had to be counted from the couch. Her bird’s eye view of the birds was limited to the ones who came to her big picture window. Mostly it was the pheasants. Soon she could tell us how many families were in the area. How many babies were born that year. Always the pheasants. They became her friends. That is why when I see a family of pheasants I will always think of her.
I take pieces of you home with me. Little by little, piece by piece. Do you feel yourself diminishing? Do you sense yourself growing smaller? Stealing from home to make a home away from home home. Scouring shorelines for colors of sea tossed glass, speckled, inexplicably beautiful rocks, broken buoys of red and gold. Like a song about romance I steal them all home with me. Vain attempt to bring me back to where I am not.
I cannot bottle the heavy salt air. I cannot take the earthy decay of fallen leaves. I have to leave the sunsets of gold behind. So, instead I take the glass, the rocks, the shells. Bottled and bowled I keep them, cherish them in my home away from home.
October is Halloween! For anyone who knows me, Halloween starts on October 1st and runs for 31 days. This is the way it should be. I have a whole big box of Halloween stuff and every October 1st out it comes. Okay, so this year it was a little early. I bought a tiny skull completely off timeline, too! The skeltons, black cats, bats, witches, goblins, and of course, my fave – jack-o-laterns!
October is also another chance to slip away to Monhegan for a handful of days. Home Sweet Autumn Home. For music it’s Sean, of course. There are other trips, I’m sure. Just ask Joe.
For reading, here’s how it stacks up. For the Book Lust Challenge:
Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler ~ in honor of Anne’s birth month
Artimis Fowl by Eoin Colfer ~ in honor of National Fantasy Month
Big If by Mark Costello ~ October is the best time to visit New England
Carry On Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse ~ in honor of Wodehouse’s birth month
Crime Novels: American Noir of the 30’s and 40’s by Horace ~ in honor of Crime Novel month
That’s about it. Pumpkin Fest later. Big charity walk for breast cancer on the 26th. Natalie’s birthday…
This is the time of morning I wait for. The air is still. The harbor rolls gently, causing the moored boats to nod to one another solemnly. One or two people wander by quietly. Somewhere, a truck starts up and birds mutter to themselves. There is quiet activity, a gentle buzz. The island is alive but at the same time it feels as though everything is barely stirring. Muted almost as though under water.
When I was a kid, no more than five or six, I used to sit on the top step leading up to our apartment. I would listen for the early morning coo of the mourning doves, watch the early bird birders with binoculars slung around their necks. The light was magical at that time of day. I remember waiting for something. Even now I couldn’t tell you what.
My husband can sit in front “Sunrise Earth” all day. Have you seen it? I don’t know who thought up this programming, but more importantly I’d like to meet the person he or she sold the idea to. It has got to be one patient person. I can just imagine the sales pitch: “I’ve got this great idea for a television show! Cameras record the sunrise…in real time. No soundtrack, no narration. Just the sun rising from different angles. We’ll capture bugs stirring, birds chirping…maybe the sound of water if it’s in the shot.”
Really, that’s all the show is about. Watching the sun rise. A bug may land on a twig for a few minutes. A bird might buzz a camera. A nearby brook may be gurgling away. That’s about it. For some (many?) it’s the equivalent of watching paint dry.
Me, I would like to see an episode filmed from my tippy top stair. Bring me back to the beginning – before the beginning of another busy day.
I was perusing someone’s photos the other day when I got that eerie feeling they were a bit stalkerish. You know, that ‘Wow, that is really intrusive’ feeling. My only problem was I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt that way. I was enjoying the photographs until I got to a certain one that seemed to go overboard, get too close. The next one was more of the same and so I stopped looking – turned away from the discomfort I was feeling. I don’t think I’ll go back.
My experience with the photos got me thinking about home and the levels of intrusiveness I felt there. Early in our vacation Kisa, the boys and I were hiking the island. We stopped to catch our breath at a very popular landmark, and to enjoy the view. Of course there were tourists on every side and their conversations were easily overheard. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to live out here,” one woman exclaimed. “All these people walking through their back yards.” I snickered and Kisa cast a knowing smile. For years he has been hearing my gripes about tourists taking advantage of such an unusual place. They walk across private porches, set up easels in the middle of the only road, have lunch in obvious backyards, let their dogs dump in vegetable gardens. This attititude of I can do anything while I’m on vacation has been long debated. I’m not bringing up anything new. But, it made me wonder – what makes separates fan from fanatic, tourist from terrible? In the picture above a woman has set up her easel on the dock. Look for the hat by the door of the silver truck. This dock is where 3-5 trucks converge to pick up island supplies, luggage, etc. It’s a more that busy, hectic place. In the bigger picture another woman has set up her easel in the shadowed portion of the road. Not only that but she has chosen a dangerous corner where she isn’t all that visible. She and the woman on the dock are lucky they didn’t get sideswiped!
Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.
I have to admit I picked this book up by accident. I was vacationing and needed a quick book. Something to pick up while I waited for the pasta water came to a boil, or while the boys were still sleeping. I remembered this being part of the Challenge and decided to see if I could read it in less than 36 hours.
Devil in a Blue Dress is Walter Mosley’s first book and kicks off the Easy Rawlins series. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is a black war WWII vet prone to violent flashbacks. In the beginning Devil in a Blue Dress he is fired from his defense plant job and doesn’t know how he’s going to pay the mortgage next month. By the second chapter Easy has been hired to locate a missing girlfriend, a devil in a blue dress, as they say. Throughout the next 200 pages Easy faces his share of violence, sex, racism and mystery but in the end, discovers a new found career – private investigations.
My favorite line: “He put up his hand as if he wanted me to bend down so he could whisper something but I didn’t think that anything he had to offer could improve my life” (p25). It’s that kind of sense of humor and sarcasm that carries Devil in a Blue Dress. You don’t realize that Mosley is telling you more than a story. He’s giving you a social commentary on what it meant to be a black man, riding the line of poverty in the 1940’s.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Walter Mosley: Too Good To Miss” (p 169).
They say the house has lost its character. Lost its charm. It’s no island home. Home no more. Electrified. Modernized. Resized. Beautified.
Italian tile bathroom. Slate counter tops. Stainless steel appliances. Wide arches. Leather couch. Tiffany window panes and copper hanging lanterns. Piece by piece, bit by bit, this artist’s home is dismantled, broken down and built back up as a modern day palace. Real nice. Someone said. Classy said another. At least they kept the artwork…Gone are the kerosene lamps, the rustic galley kitchen, the cozy rooms with creaking floors. More windows to let in the light. Less trees to block the wind. Everything is open, has flow.
There is a reason why the word “bittersweet” exists. Such negative and positive rolled into one mouthful we struggle to swallow. Bitter because the changes are so modern. Sweet because the changes are so modern. Room by room it’s a child growing up. Rooms like faces changing.
I am all messed up. Turned inside out and tired. Really, really tired. Here’s the deal. I went home with a reading plan in place. I knew everything I wanted to read and even the order in which I would do all this reading. I even made a big deal about lugging all that stuff home. It didn’t happen. I got to Maine and everything fell apart.
In a stream of excuses here’s what happened: I didn’t bring the right books. I didn’t bring enough to books. I chased my nephews around instead of turning pages. I scoped out the neighbor’s new porch. I gorged on blackberries and crab apples. I couldn’t make time for the library let alone the internet. I held hands with my husband. Hiked huge hills with great friends. Watched sunsets with a glass of pino between my knees. Ate savory and sweet scones from Sweet Bob. When I did pick up a book it wasn’t one on my list (Islands by Anne Rivers Siddon comes to mind).
So, here’s the deal. I just escaped paradise. I’m just back and I’m just out of sorts. I don’t want to take a shower for fear of washing away my island residue. Last night I slept with the light on because the silence on the street was not the silence of the ocean. For once, the cat wasn’t the compatible companion. I have no clue what books I am supposed to be reading for September. I have no clue and right now I don’t care.
So, September is: slogging through tons and tons of email. (Yahoo = 234, Google = 565, LibraryThing = 3, work = 199, RealEstate = 66). September is Rebecca Correia on the 12th. September is Sean Rowe’s new album. Otherwise, September is slow to start.
My sister asked me if I was ready for next week. Am I ready? I have been mentally ticking down the days, practically the hours until next week. Too bad it’s the end of next week that I have to wait for. The wait can kill me.
I’ll start off by making the drive to Portland. Part of me wants to load up the billion ME/CA only returnables and finally make a return on them (think of all the nickels I’ll get! They might pay the parking meter…) Then maybe I’ll be able to get through the basement…
Then it’s a boat trip to Peaks. I’m tempted to bring running gear because the run ways out there are so beautiful. It’s a crazy mix of ocean, pines, pavement, big luxury houses, small shacks, horses, wildflowers, dirt and sea salt air. Different scenery than what I see everyday and different is good. Very good.
Babysitting the Bebe. I’m sure my sister is worried. I haven’t dealt with a child under the age of 30 in over a decade. There’s a voice in my head that reasons, “how hard can it be?” while another counters, “there’s a reason you don’t have one yourself.” Oh yeah. So, I’m looking forward to being a cool aunt trying to stay calm. I’m only half kidding.
Then. Then. Then! There is Monfreakinhegan. CanNOT wait to get there. It’s been almost a year. A full fukcing year. I tell anyone who will listen I am never doing that again. Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day & Columbus Day. Those will be my dates next year. Count on it.
It is awful to wish the summer away. To look forward to Labor Day…but I can’t help it. The time has (finally) come for me to go home. And I haven’t been there since last October! August is all about going back to the island. I’m bringing a truckload of books:
All is Vanity by Christina Schwartz (in honor of Womens Friendship Month)
Boy with Loaded Gun by Lewis Nordan (in honor of Lewis Nordan’s birthday)
Far Field by Edie Meidav (August is the best time to visit Sri Lanka, believe it or not)
Dog Handling by Clare Naylor (August has a “woman’s day” so I’m reading what Pearl calls “chick lit”)
Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (National Language Month)
It seems traitorish to think that the island’s library won’t have any of these books, but I can’t take the chance by assuming they do…and here’s the funny part- I don’t leave until the latter half of the month. I’m acting as if I won’t read a word before then! I’m actually hoping to have All is Vanity and Boy with Loaded Gun finished and off my list before leaving.
I scored another LibraryThing Early Review:
Blackbird, Farewell by Robert Greer. I am excited about this new book for odd reasons. For starters, I love the title! There is something about blackbirds. I love how they are associated with something dark and ominous. Dangerous. If you ever get the chance, check out Jamie Wyeth’s art. He has some great blackbird paintings. I also love the song ‘Blackbird’ (Jerry Garcia’s version is my favorite). Nearly everyone who has ever made me a mixed tape has put that song on one for me. I don’t know why…Maybe they have insight about my broken wings and the need to fly? Anyway, this book doesn’t have anything to do with blackbirds….funny.
August is also a Police concert (awesome, awesome, awesome by the way – blog coming soon), more trips to see Sean Rowe, Swell Season in my back yard, maybe Rebecca Correia. Should be an interesting month! Speaking of flying, I hope it does!
I think the fates know I am homesick. Every so often I am surrounded by the reminders of where I really would like to be. Little reminders are dropped just outside my periphery. I catch glimpses of where I miss. A few weeks ago my family meandered around Boston, looking for a decent place to eat. By chance we stumbled on (and into) a cute noodle place with exotic offerings like seafood pad thai and mango curry. It wasn’t a first choice but we chose it. The tablecloths were nice. Fresh flowers on every table. Calming colored walls. Pleasant atmosphere. Within a few minutes someone noticed the paintings. Look! There’s home. The bell, the boat, the lighthouse. Same old in an unexpected new place. And there’s another. Same scene from a different angle. The wedding site. Art on the walls but more to me.
Yesterday I got an email from a professor in New Jersey. He wanted to know my opinion on a legal database I’ve only used once. His signature on the email was a link to a tiny art gallery in a town I used to frequent (way back in the day). Curious, I clicked on the link and was confronted by the colors of home. Red House. Pink Carina. Gray fishhouse. Yellow cochrane. The artist was asking $1,000 for each painting. It was if Jersey had never seen the coast of Maine.
Last night someone from New Hampshire invited me to an artist’s reception. He thought I would like the poppy paintings. Reminiscent of Georgia big flowers. That sort of thing. While trying to figure out the schedule (could I fit it in?) I noticed the gallery featured another artist I know and like and well, almost dated back in the early 80’s. Woops. Small world not really.
So, all of these reminders are here for a reason. Telling me to go home. Urging me to sit by the sea. Soon enough.
I have lost my way home. In every sense of the word it is gone. Let’s start with the obvious. No trek to Maine. No boat ride. No getting back to good. Not this time. I will mourn a Memorial Day not on Monhegan. A junkie without her fix, no cure for the homesick. I don’t know what to make of this.
My current address is slipping away. My days there are numbered and all of a sudden I have this urge to be a homebody in this home. Soon, what I call mine will be someone else’s rent. I spent the weekend cleaning closets and scrubbing floors. Like visiting a dying friend I wanted time with my kitchen. For a mid~morning brunch I made a Maine inspired stratta. Homemade bread from the weekend before, spicy vegetarian sausage, crisp green broccoli, sweet Vidalias, creamy eggs+Tabasco+milk, a sprinkling of sharp cheddar cheese. Baked until golden and puffy. More hot sauce for me. For dinner I explored Mexico with a pan-sauteed mix of shredded golden potatoes, spicy Mexican sausage, shiitakes, cilantro and Vidalias. Served with homemade roasted tomatillo and garlic salsa. From scratch flour tortillas. I’m learning to control steam, if there is such a trick. And just to get ahead on the weekday dinners, roasted (skin-on) chicken, smoked with oak chips and cloves of garlic. I’m imagining that will be added to a white bean chili (served with the leftover salsa, of course) and maybe a twisted chicken salad…something smoky and sultry. Trying to reclaim something that isn’t mine. Is not.
The Other Home doesn’t exist yet we sat in front of a loan officer just the same. We spoke the language of calculations. Questions in the form of dollars were answered with quotes. Bank statements and pay stubs. Numbers spilled from our lips easily, as if we memorized our speeches and imagined our lasting impressions.
At the same time we gathered up the dollars to downpay our vacation. Home away from Home. To look forward to the date is to wish summer away, and yet – yet I cannot wait. We’ll start in the cottage of our honeymoon and end in Big Brother just across the way. I’m already tasting lobster and luna.
Such an odd place to be. I’m laying down the disappointment of missing homehome while prepaying on a later visit; I’m turning away from our here and now while it’s still our address and planning payments on an unknown one. We haven’t gone anywhere but I have lost my way home.
I have been hiding behind book reviews and poetry for days on end. Two poems for every one book. Reading like a fiend seems to suit me. Sorry.
I’ve started to tell you about the weirdest things ~ Kisa murdering the ladybugs in the bathroom, the end of N&ZY, my heartbreak over a breakup, the amazing work I’ve done with MSR, the crap I’ve been handed at AIC, how homesick I am, how little I’ve run, the need to hear my music again (go where we haven’t I don’t dare), Natalie, Germany, Sin City, Taka Tak, being stood up, being letdown, sex in my city, Comic Book Tattoo, Darfur, Boston Celtics, wine, angry black man, gun to my heart, arthritis and friends too far away.
I’ve started to tell you about all these things. Yet, I can’t. Instead I tell you about what I’ve read and read and read.