January Was…

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.

For fun:

  • 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! 🙂


The Letters (with rants)

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.


Bird Song

Lone dad

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.


From There You Are Not

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…

DSCN0205
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…


Before the Beginning

Morning Harbor

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.


Stalkerish

Dust sticks to wet paint

Doesn

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!