Making Tracks

Weber, Matt. Making Tracks: How I Learned to Love Snowmobiling in Maine. Yarmouth, Maine: IslandPort Press, 2019.

Reason read: Christmas gift from my mother oops! sister!

Making Tracks thoughtfully combines a love of snowmobiling with an obvious respect for Maine, marriage, and mother nature. Part memoir, part comedy, Matt playfully tells stories and shares black and white photographs of his adventures riding with family and friends all over the great state of Maine. Despite the casual language, Matt is incredibly informative for beginners or those experts seeking advice on adventure riding in Maine. A list of resources is included. [As an aside, because the references include websites, it is always best to do your homework and make sure the links are still available.]

The title is a little misleading. Matt never hated to ride a snowmobile so the loving to ride came quite easily. He implies he was forced to love it when in actuality, his love of riding grew.

Favorite part: Tarzan. Without a doubt, Tarzan. My husband and I once found Tarzan hopelessly stranded amid sand and seaweed on a beach at low tide. His leash had gotten tangled around mid-sized rocks and no matter how he struggled, he couldn’t break free…and the tide was coming in, as it is bound to do twice a day. We did what any pet lover would do, and even though he didn’t need to, a grateful Matt repaid us in sea critters. Yum. Can’t refuse those things! But back to Making Tracks. It was touching to learn of Tarzan’s life, beginning and end.

Author fact: Confessional – Matt is “my” island neighbor when I am home-home. I have to wonder how differently I would view his book if I could have situational amnesia and forget my favored prejudice. True, Matt and I do not have a friendship per se; we have never had a meal together and we aren’t even friends on social sites, but I also know if my mother needed anything, anything at all, I could call Matt. He is just that kind of guy.

Second confessional: Weber’s book got me through a near two hour wait at the DMV. I was waiting to renew my license to get the all-important “real” identification card when their system ominously “went down.” Anxious employees wrung their hands and with eyes downcast, admitted it could be “hours” before it came back up. A few people who couldn’t stomach that kind of wait quietly gathered their things and slipped out the door. Me, I had no choice but to stay.

Book trivia: Making Tracks is super generous with photographs and includes a section on resources. I said that already. Meh.


Murder with Puffins

Andrews, Donna. Murder with Puffins. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.

Reason read: a book that takes place on Monhegan Island? How could I resist?

I will be 100% honest. I couldn’t finish this book. I couldn’t suspend reality high enough to believe anything about Murder with Puffins. It’s not the author’s fault in the least. I just know too much about Monhegan Island. I know for a fact no one would make the trek out to this remote island without making sure they have a place to stay, especially in the off-season. Everything is extremely limited so it’s not like you can pivot easily if your original plans don’t work out. It’s not as simple as hopping back on the boat either. Meg and Michael are looking for a romantic hideaway and they chose Meg’s aunt’s cabin on Monhegan. It is supposed to stand empty at this dismal, rainy time of year. Except this time Meg parents, brother, neighbor and aunt are all in residence. How could Meg not know that? The island is crawling with birders so there isn’t a single room available elsewhere… Then there is the islander who scares people off with shotguns and winds up dead. Someone Meg’s father is accused of murder and it’s up to Meg to clear his name. It’s a fun story. I couldn’t concentrate on the entertainment of it all because reality kept getting in the way. Oh well.

Author fact: Andrews wrote an apparently better book called Murder with Peacocks. Obviously, not on my Challenge list since Murder with Puffins is not either.

Book trivia: an additional hangup I had about this book ended up being the chapter titles. They are really corny. Here are a few: “They Shoot Puffins, Don’t They?” or “Round Up the Usual Puffins.”


September Summer

It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:

Fiction:

  • The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
  • Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.

Series continuation:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to continue finish the series started in January.

Early Review:

  • My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.

For fun:

  • The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.

Island Voices II

Various. Island Voices II: Poetry of Monhegan. Stone Island Press, 2014.

Reason read: a Christmas gift from my mother.

It is hard for me to read anything Monhegan related from a critical point of view. My mind instantly goes to what I know and love about the island, and if the poetry captured even a smidgen of that memory, I am instantly biased. Biased and definitely devoted. I have to wonder how someone completely ignorant of Monhegan would read these poems. Where would be his or her focus? What would stick in their minds as relevant or real?
Further complicating my review are my varying relationships with the poets themselves. True, Catherine Morocco and Marilyn Ringer are complete strangers, although I am sure I would recognize them by sight. Kate Chappell, Iris Miller, and Frances Vaughn I only know by long standing history and name. While I am more acquainted with Jan Bailey, Mary Kordak, Jan Kornbluth, & Joanne Scott, in truth K.K. Iannicelli and Judith Ponturo are island mothers. They could be my island mothers.

So. To review Island Voice II. I simply can’t. When I read about the ocean’s melodic drumming, I also hear Kathi’s wheelbarrow coming up the hard packed dirt road. When I see words about the salt, salt air I also see Judy humming in Winter Works. On the page the gulls may laugh overhear but I see Jan’s secret smile as another tourist tries on a wrestling mask. Queen Anne’s Lace blown bent backwards in Mary’s garden but all I see is her radiant smile. I admit it, I read the words but see the home.


January’s New Reads

A little something about the new year. I have absolutely no expectations of the year to come. No list of things I must pretend to accomplish. No run numbers, real or imagined. There has been an end to so many things. As a result I’m in day-by-day mode. Or, in the case of this entry, book-by-book. Here’s what I finished:

Fiction:

  • Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero
  • Any Human Heart: a novel by William Boyd (AB + print)

Nonfiction:

  • Italy and the Grand Tour by Jeremy Black
  • Another Life by Michael Korda
  • Book of Puka-Puka by Robert Dean Frisbie. (I am now reading An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale as a continuation to Puka.)

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright (finished the series)
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons (started the series). (I’m now reading Fall of Hyperion as a continuation.)

LibraryThing:

  • Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston. NOTE: I was supposed to receive this as an Early Review in 2014. When it didn’t arrive I borrowed it from a library two years later.
  • You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden (December 2016 batch)

For Fun:

  • Island Voices II by Poets of Monhegan Island ~ a gift from my mother.

October ’11 was…

What do you get when you add a vacation to two road trips and a freak snow storm in which I lose electricity for two days? Answer – a boat load of books read in one month; so many books that I haven’t been able to review them all.

In the first week of October I went home. As past posts can tell you I like nothing more than reading on an island, especially one on the tail end of a hurricane. There is something so book-worthy about a rain soaked afternoon or two by the raging ocean…
On Monhegan I was able to read:

  • Anil’s Ghost by Michael Onjaatje (e-book),
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (stolen from my childhood bookcase),
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (stolen from my sister’s childhood bookcase)
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (another e-book) and part of
  • The Stand by Stephen King

On a road trip to New York (to see Natalie Merchant ~ more on that on the Other Side) I was able to finish

  • The Stand by Stephen King and
  • Spy Trap by Edward Packard and
  • Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I started reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann when I forgot Immortality by Milan Kundera at work. I finished both those books and Last to Die by James Grippando during the freak snow storm/power outage (and to think people wanted me to come out with them because they had cable!!). As long as I candles and blankets I was in heaven.
But, probably the hardest book to get through was Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (another e-book). I started Altered Carbon the first week of October and slogged through it until October 27th. Talk about a complicated story! I am struggling with the review because the plot was so intense.

So, there it is. Nearly a dozen books for the month of October. True, four of those books were for kids (Phantom Tollbooth, Johnny Tremain, Spy Trap and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) but Altered Carbon, Last To Die and Buddenbrooks were “adult” enough to offset the kiddie stuff.

What’s in store for November? Well, considering I have no trips to Monhegan (or anywhere for that matter), Thanksgiving is this month, and we have a power back, I have no idea. ūüôā


“Two Tramps in Mud Time”

Frost, Robert. “Two Tramps in Mud Time.” Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays. New York: Library of America, 1984. pp 251-252.

Too many people have tried to analyze Frost’s poem, “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” giving me license to not even try.¬† Long, rambling, didactic essays have been written explaining Frost’s position on charity, society, and the psychological differences between need versus want. I will refrain. Instead I will look at the poem for what it meant to me. At first blush I took the poem personally. The words “mud time” in the title made me think of Monhegan. We have a whole season dedicated to muck and mire and mud – early spring when everything is thawing more quickly than the sun can dry up. This runoff of excessive, exuberant water creates deep, thick, oozing traps of mud. The kind of mud you sink 4-5″ inches in; strong enough to suck a man’s Bean boot right off his foot.
Then, there is Frost’s description of a fickle spring. I can relate. Here it is, a week into spring and we have a snow storm on our doorstep. April Fools we are for living in New England. If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute – as they say.

Another aspect of “Two Tramps in Mud Time” that I took to heart is the concept of loving your work so much that work is not the operative word to describe your actions. The narrator is chopping wood. Not because it is a necessity – winter is over. It is April and presumably he wouldn’t need to light another fire again until fall. No. He enjoys the physical labor of chopping wood. Love what you do. Do what you love. It’s something my father has (countless times) drummed into my head. But, along come two unemployed tramps, looking to take the narrator’s work away from him. They need the work whereas the narrator wants the work. Herein lies the psychological babble about questioning obligation, confronting humanity with charity.

BookLust Twist: Book Lust in the introduction (p xi).


July ’10 is…

Vacation! Vacation! Vacation! We have some crazy things planned. I simply cannot wait! Camping, hiking, music, craft fair, parade, family, friends, fireworks, boats, the ocean, mountains, swimming, lobster festival, Natalie, Monhegan, food, books and more books.

  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brien ~ taken off the list since I didn’t finish Master and Commander. Boo.
  • Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt ~ in honor of July being the most popular month to visit the ocean
  • Firewall by Henning Mankell ~ in honor of July being the best time to visit Sweden
  • Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes ~ in honor of the first test of the atomic bomb

I sincerely doubt I will get to the last book. For one, it’s over 800 pages long and for another, it’s at the end of the list. But, more importantly, it’s about the making of the atomic bomb. On vacation? I don’t think so!

I act like I’m going away for a month. Maybe that’s not a bad thing….

For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) I have an interesting situation. A book I was supposed to receive over a year ago arrived June 23rd. So, for July I will be reviewing What’s a Mother (in-law) to Do? by Jane Angelich.


December ’09 was…

Where in the world do I begin with December 2009? What a freakin’ crazy month! I only ran 4.49 miles for the entire month (ha!), but have a sneaking suspicion my knees are thanking me for the time off. Weather wise we had a few snow storms, but nothing too dramatic. I wrote more reports and conducted more reviews and put in more work hours than I care to admit. But, best of all, most memorable of all was the trip home to Monhegan. I haven’t even begun to write about that (which is strange because it changed my life). With everything going on, books were low on the list:

  • Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Wolcott ~ interesting but not my favorite.
  • Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle ~ memorable and moving, definitely one of my favorites.
  • Wonderboys by Michael Chabon ~ can’t wait to see the movie! I only have one question, “is the snake in the trunk?”
  • Soloist by Mark Salzman ~ amazing, amazing book. I’m a fan of Mark Salzman now.
  • The Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal ~ gossipy and girly, this was a fun one.
  • The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier ~ last book of the month…

From my list I didn’t get to Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. It should have been on my November list, not December. Woops!

Something of interest – I didn’t read any nonfiction this month. Hmmmm…


Dec 09 is…

December 2009 is promising to be an interesting month. I’m taking Kisa to the island for Christmas (his first winter visit ever – we’ve already consulted L.L. Bean twice). Doctors are weighing in on serious subjects (yours and mine) and I await every word with caught breath. It’s not always about me, but the waiting is just the same.
For books it is a simple month:

  • Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Walcott in honor of December being the best time to visit the Caribbean.
  • Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle in honor of Iowa becoming a state (Boyle was part of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He was also born on December 2nd).
  • Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling in honor of Native American literature month.
  • Wonderboys by Michael Chabon in honor of Pennsylvania becoming a state.
  • Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal in honor of Alabama becoming a state.

I don’t think I have any nonfiction for the month. Strictly imaginary but oddly enough, nothing about Christmas this year. For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I found out I am supposed to receive Then Came the Evening a first book by Brian Hart. I snuck a peek at some Library Journal / Amazon reviews and this promises to be a heartbreaking story.


October (2009) was…

October has always been my “hang on”” month. It’s the month I hold my breath for while waiting for September to release me. This October was no different. It started with a trip to Maine to see West Coast family (and a great foggy¬†run), a trip¬†homehome andandand Kisa got to go (yay), Hilltop got a much needed haircut, there were a ton of new Natalie sightings,¬†and, dare I say, the promise of a Hilltop Thanksgiving? The end of the month was a little stressful – a lump in the breast and a missing ovary. No wonder I read so many books and here they are:

  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ sci-fi story about a man who is kidnapped and taken to Mars.
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ coming of age story about a young girl who is a chess playing phenom.
  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle ~ a ghost story about a man who lives in a graveyard for twenty years.
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ a mystery about two unmarried women traveling through Egypt and being pursued by a mummy.
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ~ nonfiction about the role of women through the ages (up to the 1960s when the book was written). Oh, how far we’ve come!
  • House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier ~ a spooky tale about time travel.
  • When Found, Make a Verse of by Helen Smith Bevington ~ a commonplace book full of poetry, proverbs and excerpts.
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ a novel about small town life (read because October is the best time to visit New England).
  • The Natural¬†by Barnard¬†Malamud ~ a novel about a baseball player (read because October is World Series month).
  • In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu ~ a compilation of short stories all on the dark side (read in time for Halloween – you know…horror, fantasy, mystery, etc).
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: an American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie ~ biographies of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy in one book (read for Group Reading Month).

For fun, I am rereading Mary Barney’s Ring That Bell (2003) because I want to challenge my cooking and make every recipe in the book. So far I’ve cooked/baked my way through nine recipes.

For the Early Review program from LibraryThing I was supposed to read Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm. It hasn’t arrived as of yet, so it may very well turn into a November book.


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! ūüôā


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.


Snagged

Southern end

I hate this murky underwater apathy. This floating through things on tired waves of discontent. Lately, all I want to do is give it up. Why am I exhausted and who should I blame? Maybe it’s the dreams. At night I have nightscares that frighten me so badly I wake disorientated and confused. I struggle to ask myself why do I repeatedly have visions of bombers flying over Monhegan, dropping weapons of mass destruction?¬†Masked fighter pilots¬†spewing hundreds of rounds of bullets into people and places. We run, we scatter, yet there is blood. There is death I can’t explain. The sad thing is this. In my dreams I see them coming from miles and miles away. The sky is crystal clear, glaring and¬†brilliant blue. At first they are dots on the horizon, yet I¬†know who they are and what will happen when they arrive. I am powerless to stop it. As they get closer details emerge until I can see their faces. My dreams make them human and cruel.
Another repeat offended is the dream of drowning. Monhegan is hit with a wave as big as Texas. Again, there is that sense of foreboding. I can see it coming from miles away but I’m powerless to stop it.

Some say I want to destroy home. Some say I am started to dread the return, but what part I always ask. It’s true that Colorado started out as a joke, but has become more of a deep wishful thinking as time goes on. I fantasize about being snagged by the Rockies. I dream about being trapped miles from New England with no direction (or desire) to go home. Is that what I really want?