Sunday, January 15, 2017

Que, Sera, Sera

The forecasting began over a week ago, “Cold front coming folks and moisture from the south means ICEY conditions.  We’ll keep you up-to-date.” Over and Over the words were repeated, “With Arctic air arriving on Friday and moisture from the Pacific and the Gulf colliding, the conditions can only mean disaster. Make sure you have your survival kits, stay off the roads, school closing are running at the bottom of the screen…..” Tension hung in the air, not ice.

Visceral memories of previous ice storms--four days without power, solid ice on roads, trees, people iced into their homes, and cell phones running down, created a mob effect at the grocery stores.

By Thursday I’d seen enough television to know that the area in purple could expect devastating effects from the ice; red meant three quarters of an inch of ice expected on power lines and trees for a moderate effect; orange meant enhanced; yellow meant slick; turquoise meant a glaze.

Remaining proactive whether about weather or daily life is important. What I question is the effect of sensationalism on our minds and bodies. Why do we allow the Media to create such havoc in our lives? We’ve been blasted from our comfort zone over national politics; the strife and division created by two simple colors describing who I am NOT—the Red states and the Blue states;  the what if’s and unknowns of change; of scenes of daily shootings on our streets and the continued holocaust in the Middle East.

Technology screams in tweets, peeps, gongs, swooshes, and sirens like a constant train of wrecks on the highway. And we wonder why it is so hard to relax and enjoy the moment.

Friday dawned cool, dry and refreshing.  We took Lucy to North base to run the fields and sniff the grasses while we walked a cool mile or more.  Suddenly, I thought now this is living in the now. The chilling North wind forced itself up my nose, opening my mind to the multitude of birds in the low grasses. A Killdeer fluttered away screaming in her protective mode; the Meadowlarks sang and ignored us; the Red-winged Black Birds swirled and circled around behind us; and dozens of UBBs (unidentified brown birds) fluttered and swarmed low to the ground, giving us a show like an MGM musical.  I forgot about the impending doom that never arrived.

Thanks to the descriptive words of Ivan Doig, I escaped part of the weekend reading This House of Sky, and realized that drifting
away to the mountains and valleys of Montana allows me to live in the fullness of the moment, much like meditation. Stopping my hands from rushing over the keyboard gives me brief moments of sparkle as I watch a tiny House Wren wag its tail while eating from the bird feeder outside my window. My husband steps in my Art Gecko room to tell me that the radar shows rain coming within the hour, I reply, “Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be will be, I’m sick of the radar you see, Que Sera, Sera.” He smiled, we hugged and giggled. Now that is a visceral moment of living in the now.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Intriguing Reading from 2016

In 2016 I joined two book clubs and continue to use my public library card monthly to read whatever my heart desires. As a result I’ve read too many good books to share one by one, so I composed this list in hopes of inviting readers to read these titles.

The Last Painting of Sarah DeVos by Dominic Smith
“She wonders sometimes if she isn’t painting an allegory of her daughter’s transit      between the living and the dead, a girl trudging forever through the snow.”

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
“…eyes that looked like slush in the streets…Like the Great Wall of China, most threats were already inside.”

 Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
“Nature, she knew, abhorred a vacuum, and these people, faced with an information vacuum, had filled it with their fears.”

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien
“We don't know others. They are an enigma. We can't know them, especially those we are most intimate with, because habit blurs us and hope blinds us with truth.” 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer Prize 2016)
“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.” Talking to Viet Thanh Nguyen

Commonwealth by Ann Pachett
“Our stories are us: to give them away is dangerous but, like those guns, stories don’t have to destroy.”

The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
“Life can tickle you in the ribs surprisingly, when it’s not digging its thumbs into them.”

Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Inspiring stories must have two elements: Tension and triumph; Triumph over adversity.”

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (National Book Award)  interview for National Book Award
“Cora… crawled toward the handcar, left leg in agony. The slave catcher didn’t make a sound...With her arm on the handcar she began to pump, throwing all of herself into movement. Into northness. Each time she brought her arms down on the lever, she drove a pickax into the rock, swung a sledge on to a railroad spike.”

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien (intriguing)

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien (intriguing, riveting)

“The oak tree driven apart by lighting…On the opposite side, young branches in leaf extended in all directions, a freak of nature, dead on one side and living on the other, a reason to hope.”

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
“All wars are fought twice.  The first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.”

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
“Sorrow eats time. Be patient. Time eats sorrow.” 

Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction. Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means.”

The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney
“Right now, it felt like there was nowhere for his thoughts to alight that wasn't rife with land mines of regret or anger or guilt.”

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan (memoir)
“…but what child can see the woman inside her mom, what with all that motherness blocking out everything else.”

Less is More, More or Less by Nathan Brown (poetry)
“Local Star--
He’s still as good as he ever was.
That’s why he’s still where he is.”

Still Life in Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
“It's a funny thing, hope. It's not like love, or fear, or hate. It's a feeling you don't really know you had until it's gone.” 

The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig (memorable and my favorite read this year)
“Oh, S&H, S&H…little green stamps, little green stamps! Sperry & Hutchinson does wonders for my purchasin’. My book is full at last, I better spend ‘em fast.”

Walking Nature Home (A Life’s Journey) by Susan Tweit (memoir)
“Ravens pair up for life, but every year they court each other anew, a lovely practice that humans might do well to adapt.”

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
“It is important that you know. I want you to set it down ‘Mikhal was in love with David.’ Nobody ever writes that about a woman. It’s always the man whose love is thought worthy of recording.”

Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy
Scott Turow says, "I was enthralled by it...It's true that there aren't many human beings in the world like Atticus Finch--perhaps none--but that doesn't mean that it's not worth striving to be like him."  .

Thoughts on Reading

My only regret is that I have not read a single book by the 2016 Neustadt Award Winning writer, Dubravka Ugresic

If you are looking for a reading challenge this year consider the Read Harder  Book Challenge at this website:  Reading Challenge 2017

As we grow up and encounter new peoples and situations it might behoove us to know that research now indicates that 
Literary fiction improves empathy , as opposed to popular fiction which does not surprise us or push us to think.  

I'm happy to reply to readers thoughts or impressions with any of these titles or considerations.  

Friday, December 30, 2016

What a Way to Go!

 The crisp winter sun warmed a living room filled with grown nieces, nephews, greats and grands, and a tree brightly gleaming for an early Christmas with Aunt Pat’s family.  One by one the children opened their gifts with joyous shouts, the adults chimed in as gift by gift opened to surprises.  Pat laughed and continued to direct who would open the next gift.  We loved her skills at directing the chaos of Christmas,  a classroom, or a school filled with teachers, children, and parents.  Pat took charge.

Her golfing friends from Prairie Dunes lovingly nicknamed her Madam President and Lemmon Drop. When she'd hug someone she admired she might say with a giggle, "I bet you've never been squeezed by a lemon before."  She loved it when we teased her because she understand that we knew her deep down inside.  We knew she loved children; she loved life; she loved organizing people. Her commitment to Civic Duty in Hutchinson, Ks made a positive impact for many.

More than anything she loved to play golf and bring friends to Prairie Dunes.  As the sometimes self-appointed greeter for generations of people coming through the doors of her beloved golf course, Pat beamed with pride. She was never short on her opinions.  One of her proudest achievements in golf came when she won the Jeanine Washburn trophy in 2003 and 2009. It had been her idea to celebrate her friend, Jeanine, by creating a trophy for the Senior woman who played the best in the annual City Tournament.
Trudy, Pat, Letty, Doris, Manon, LeeAnn, Pat Lemmon 2003

Putting was her favorite part of playing golf, and she secretly carried on conversations with the original designer of Prairie Dunes, Perry Maxwell, about the dastardly breaks and nuances of the greens. When her golf ball rolled in the hole you could see her blue eyes sparkle in delight.  However, her golf ball sometimes went sideways instead of straight ahead, causing much laughter by those of us in her group. One time she hit the ball on the heel of the club causing the ball to eject behind her on the left side. In a heartbeat Trudy and I leaped skywards avoiding a sharp blow from the golf ball.  As we stood stunned Pat merely looked at us and asked, “Why were you standing there?”  Why explain that we thought standing behind someone and a few yards up was generally a safe place to be!  After stunned silence there was laughter, and with Lemmon Drop you could count on her high pitch laughter. 
Ike, Pat Lemmon, Sonja. Book Club dinner

At book club she regularly  had a point to make. When we heard her words, "Now I have something to say."  We all turned. She waited until the room was silent, then with her strict teacher/principal look she’d hold the book up for us to see and state her mind. We might have disputed her opinion from time to time, but we remained focused on her when she spoke.  Madam President knew how to control the situation.

That early December afternoon after kisses and hugs had gone round the room for thanks and love, her niece Susan stood up to bring in the fudge that Pat especially loved.  Within the moment, Pat Lemmon, my friend, a woman respected by thousands, closed her eyes and slumped in the chair. A massive ischemic stroke had closed her eyes forever. 

I wasn’t there but I can only imagine the beauty of her smile and the gentle touch from heaven above.  She never regained consciousness and died one week later. Oh, what a way to go. 

How ironic, that her death found a way to lift my spirits and belief in the almighty’s timing.  We are watching my mother-in-law travel the long painful road to heaven, and our hearts  break each day as we see her life slowly fading away.  “Why,'  I’ve cried to God so many times, “Why does my mother-in-law have to struggle and suffer this long slow aging process.”  After hearing that Pat Lemmon, was uplifted in such peace and glory, like The Little Match Girl, I realized the truth in these words from Ecclesiastes 3:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Thanks for the memories Madam President.