Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading Poetry On a Busy Day

Sometimes, when you have too much to do, you just have to walk away from it all and read a few poems.  I think the world would be a lot better place if everyone read poetry every day.  Even a little bit.

We are reading "Forty Rules of Love" by Elif Shafak in our book club.  Since it is partly about Rumi, a Sufi mystic and poet from the 12th century, I wandered from that to a book of poems by Rumi. One poem leads to another and I ended up with a few old favorites by Ted Kooser and Naomi Shihab Nye.  Really, you can't be in a bad mood after you have read poems by Kooser and Nye.

"Walk around feeling like a leaf,
know you could tumble at any second.
Then decide what you want to do with your time."
---from The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye
Rumi says "there are thousands of ways to kneel and kiss the earth."  This afternoon, my way is to read poetry and watch the sun play in the trees behind my house.

This pensive gentleman sits in a park in Vancouver.  He struck me as a symbol of waiting when I took the photo.  Maybe he was listening to his inner poet as the leaves tumbled around him on a lovely autumn day.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last Lake Day For Now

We are home again in Omaha for a few days to catch up on mail and see what's going on down on the prairie.  We had a great last day at the lake.  Bright sun overhead and the lake with a glass-like surface.  My sweet husband carried the kayaks down to the dock and we set off for a paddle.  The neighbors were watching eagles fish in the lake and rumor had it that you could see their nest from a swampy area across the way.  We found the nest but no activity to report yet.  It's way up in the top of a dead tree and  we will have to wait for babies to start peaking over the top to see anything.

We meandered around the edge of the lake for a while, playing tag with a loon.  We guessed that we might have gotten too close to her nest and she was leading us away.  June is the time of babies on the lake and you have to be respectful. 

Right before the sun went down, my hubby popped into the cabin and asked, "do you want to see something neat?" We made one last trip down to the bank where he had made the following discovery.   We only stayed for a quick peak.

It's a nice image to carry home.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Parenting, A Messy Affair

This nest greeted me when I arrived at the lake.  It was empty and a broken shell lay on the ground below it.  I'd like to think the baby robins hatched safely and flew away but more likely, the eggs were robbed from the nest and the parents flew off.  Parenting is a risky business.

Yesterday, our daughter was worried about a math test (and who wouldn't be).  We talked to her several times.  I think she calmed us as much as we calmed her. In the end, it went fine.  By 10 p.m., we were tucked into bed reading, feeling lovely after a good lake day and decided to check in with our son in Chicago.

"I'm a little under the weather," he said after the hellos.  Hmm.  "What's up?" I asked.  He had been coughing for a week and had a temp of 101.  "Have you called the doctor?" I asked, my voice rising slightly.

At this point,  D's dad, hearing only my end of the conversation and knowing that I am given to over-reaction, got on the line to sort things out.  The next thing I hear from him is "You need to be seen first thing tomorrow."

OK, this is a smart, capable 23-year-old with friends he can call but I still felt like I should be up checking flight information to Chicago.  There is something about being a mother, whether they are 3 or 23.  You just want to get your hands on them.

We turned out our lights and said good night.  At 3:30 a.m. my mom alarm went off.  That middle-of-the-night gut check.  What if...what if.... Nothing you can do but that doesn't stop you from worrying.

This morning the sun is out.  D says he feels better and is headed to work.  I'm doubtful but he's 23 so I guess I have to let him make that decision.  He patiently answers my text queries and reassures me that he is alive and well.  So OK, little birds.  We made the best nest we could.  Spread those wings and fly.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Giving Car

When I drove this Explorer off the lot in 1995, I couldn't have been happier.  It was the first brand new car I had ever driven.  I felt safe and smug as as drove down the highway in my oh-so-special car.

My history with cars isn't great.  As teenagers, my sibs and I shared a string of very used cars.  One Ford was famous for the passenger-side door that swung open when you made a sudden left turn.  But gas cost about 35 cents a gallon and we lived in a small town, so we just made lots of right turns.

I had a used VW bug that I adored as I finished college.  It was the first car I owned.  The wind whistled through the front (engine in the rear) on cold days but it was intrepid.  And you could park that puppy anywhere.  Believe me, I did.

For a while I drove a little Datsun that backfired so loudly when you shifted on winter mornings that it set off all the car alarms up and down the street.  I took a wicked pleasure in waking neighbors in the Denver neighborhood I drove through on my way to work.   If I was up, they should be too.

But the Explorer was a good family car.  It only stayed new until the first time the kids dumped pop all over the backseat, which they managed to both do it the same day.  How is that possible?  And soon reports surfaced about tires exploding and roll overs at high speed.  Hey, nothing is perfect.  We had lots of good trips to the lake and back.  It hauled lots of groceries, plants and made trips to the lumber yard.

When our son, D, turned 16, he became the driver of the car we now called The Exploder.  It mostly went to school and home.  Cautious describes his driving style for those first few years.  He added some stickers to the back window to mark his territory but otherwise, left it unscathed.

When he left for college, the famous Exploder passed on to E, our daughter.  Her driving style at 16 was interesting, to put it mildly.  Instead of stickers, she added dents.  Somehow the garage was never a big enough target for her.   Every week seemed to bring a new addition to the car.  By this time, we were resigned to using it as a practice vehicle.  It was safe, it was dirty.  Better to practice on this one.

E got better. She is now a responsible driver.  And the Exploder?  Like the 'Giving Tree', it has given its all, but not quite.  We are still wringing a little more use out of it up at the lake.

I have to admit that, as bookseller, I really don't like that book.  I mean, what is the point? Let someone take advantage of us until we are used up?  Or that it is OK to do that to someone else? Don't ask me.  But looking at the rusty old Exploder parked out back, I couldn't help but tip my hat to Shel Silverstein.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For Every Child, A Trail To Walk

If I ever run for office (God forbid) my campaign slogan will be "For Every Child, A Trail To Walk." I'll explain.  Just down the lane from our cabin, a lovely retired couple created the Coffee Walk Trail.  They named it that because you can walk it in about the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.  It's surrounded by lovely green forest and loops back on itself so that you can't possibly get lost.

They marked the beginning with a gnome and added a small bench along the way.  Then, slowly, other little creatures began to show up along the trail.  Neighbors added treasures and each year the trail has a slightly different, more enchanting look.

Last year, my seven-year-old niece, Miss P came to visit us here for the first time.  One of her delights was to walk the trail.  We did it over and over again.  At first she stayed close to "The Aunties" as she called my sister and me.  We made a game of finding all the little decorations.  On each walk she became more sure of herself until she was leading us, racing ahead and pointing out her own discoveries.

Miss P will return for a visit in July and I'm guessing she will head down the lane soon after she arrives, to make sure the Coffee Walk Trail is still there. She will know the way this year and we can follow her.

So for every child: you should have a place to run ahead, where no one has to shout 'be careful.'  You should have some enchantment in your life so you can dream that anything is possible.  You should have traditions to look forward to year after year.  That wonderful moment when you hold your breath and wonder, is it still there and then you see that yes, the path is still there, still open to me and I know the way.  Come on, I will show you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not now, I'm reading

It's cloudy and cool, with a forecast of rain today.  You know what that means.  Where is that stack of books?  I want to make every day constructive so I plan on 10 or 15 minutes of house work followed by five or six hours of reading.  The dogs won't let me sit forever.  I will have to stand up and move around  but before too long, whatever book I am reading will begin the siren song and I will find my way back.

I am an eclectic reader from way back.  I just finished 'The Sisters Brothers' by Patrick de Witt. It's a western where horses fall off cliffs and men shoot each other without much thought.  Who would have thought?  Even the cover is sinister but deWitt is a clever and engaging writer and I never once thought of giving it up.  I went from that to 'R My Name Is Rachel' by Patricia Reilly Giff.  It's the kind of book I would have loved as a kid.  Set in the depression, it tells of a family pulling together against long odds.  Who can resist those scrappy little heroines?  They just pull up their knee socks and soldier on.

There is so much talk lately about what kids should read and about how the YA literature is too dark.. I say just let them read.  Let them read anything and everything.  How will they know the good from the bad without something to compare it to?  Let them be passionate about literature and their favorite authors.  That's a topic for another day.  Right now I feel a book calling to me.  Even Ernie is classy enough to snooze by the bookcase.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ambushed by Joy

In Northern Minnesota you expect to be wowed by the mirrored surface of the lake and the song of loons and infinite variety of green in the roadside.  I love the stillness.  There are days early in the season when I can sit for an hour and never hear another sound created by a human voice or machine.  That is amazing in this world.

Sometimes though, you find a surprise, like the one above.  I was tooling down the road and had to stop when I saw the horses lined up like kiddie calvary. The question that came to mind was 'why?'

The place was a little rustic to say the least but I figured I really ought to knock on the door and ask permission to take a photo so I hopped out of the car and walked up the long drive.  I could see a small house, opened to let in air. Someone had to be at home.  Then I got my second surprise.  Up closer to the house, tucked away from the road, were lovely gardens. Flowers of all kinds were overflowing sweet beds and inventive potting like a tea kettle were everywhere.

I never did find anyone at home but I couldn't resist snapping a few photos.  Joy comes when we aren't expecting it and it's best to take advantage of it.  Besides, I could see a copy of "Where The Sidewalk Ends" on a table in the main room and anyone who reads Shel Silverstein would have to be OK, or at least wouldn't shoot a visitor on sight.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

From The Lake

It takes about three cloudy days in a row and I begin to wonder why I should bother to get out of bed.  Then a good hot shower and a strong cup of coffee later and life begins to seem somewhat worth living again.  Really, is the sun that important?
Of course cloudy days are easier to take here at the lake, where the loons call and, looking up, I catch the arc of a great blue heron passing overhead.
As Wendell Berry says "When despair for the world grows in me........
                                       I come into the peace of wild things......
                                       who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
                                       I come into the presence of still water.
                                       I rest in the grace of the world and am free."
I wonder about the phrase 'forethought of grief.'  I think he knows that early morning worry that can creep in if you let it on a cloudy morning.  There is enough grief in life without planning ahead for it.  Better to drink strong coffee and try to stay in the present.  Rest in the grace of the world.