Monday at the Lake

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Yesterday we snoozed and read and stitched and drew and drank adult beverages and sat on the beach and sat in the water and ate corn on the cob and watched Poldark and the mystery after it and got a good night’s sleep.

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Every time I come here I find more photographs, even when I think that I have exhausted all the photographic potential after literally hundreds of photographs over many years.

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My eyes focused on small things on the beach. What made these tunnels? What made these tracks? I haven’t seen a single anole yet, which is disturbing.

I sat directly on the sand and watched the ants scurrying around. There are still several different kinds of ants here and as far as I can tell they live at peace with each other.

One large black ant was carrying an insect wing a little larger than he was. He would circle around and around with it over a pile of driftwood and bald cypress needles and other flotsam. Whenever he left the pile to walk across the bare sand he scrabbled about with his legs and it seemed that he couldn’t get a firm foothold, so he returned to the pile. I noticed that the other ants who were not carrying a load had no problem walking on the sand. He wouldn’t let go of his burden and he couldn’t get where he wanted to go while he was carrying it.

Take what you will from that. I found it interesting.

If there are duplications or mistakes in this post, the corrections will have to wait. My connection is wobbly.

Another Week at the Lake

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Of course, I mean Lake Waccamaw. I might not be here now. This could have been written one week ago and scheduled to post this week. Ya never know with me. I like monkeying around with dates and times. Wish I could do that on Facebook!

We rolled in mid afternoon yesterday. I meant to leave earlier but I’m having serious insomnia problems. Hopefully that will be corrected down here but not yet. At least I will be able to take a nap whenever I need it.

Today will be a quiet day. I brought down projects. I’m missing some key components, though, so I’m happy I brought more than one. Dyepots, indigo kit, madder, cochineal, watercolor paper, iron, little loom, alchemist’s apron, pockets and trinkets, check.

Reading: “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart. A historical female crime fightin’ novel from an author that I began following online a long time ago. I love books set in the early 20th century and this one hooked me from the first page.

Next on deck: “Four Souls” by Louise Erdrich, another favorite writer.

Finishing up: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I think that I will put a folding chair in the water and read this one. I always bring one small paperback that I’m willing to sacrifice to the Wave Goddess if she demands it. This has been a deeply satisfying re-read.

“A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s gumption.”

Love it.

Family rolling in tomorrow and maybe today. A few friends dropping in later this week. One of them is only a week out from a family tragedy so I hope this place will be healing for her too.

The house has air conditioning now but we turned it off and opened the windows. So far the weather forecast is great, but we know by experience that the lake creates its own weather.

My old Kindle is not playing nice with Flickr right now so more photos will be added later.

More tomorrow. Or was it last week? Ah, a mystery!

Saturday morning coffee pot post

It is technically still morning. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do this morning. The cool breeze on the front porch is delightful and it is so nice to share that space with my cats. Pablocito has taken to sleeping on the swing since Diego has won the battle of territory over the cat tower. I set up a table with a cushion next to the cat tower and Diego has claimed that too. It is odd that Pablocito rules the cat food bowls but Diego is Top Cat in all other things. Anyway, I’ve been re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I made another pot of coffee.

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Mr. Wiggleworm wouldn’t hold still.

I managed to make even more room in the studio this week, and several of my plastic containers are heading to Reconsidered Goods or Goodwill, thanks to a gift from ZhaK of several cigar boxes and tins and candy boxes and a basket. I tackled the dreaded top drawer of my mother’s dresser which I have been filling with whatnot on top of her stuff, and as most objects of dread are, it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. After four years I think I am coming to some peace about my mother’s passing.

Fringeless, the online class by Rebecca Mezoff and Sarah Swett, begins on July 9. I took apart my copper pipe loom with the idea that I’d use the pipes for dyeing, and then realized that I would need it for this class. This is the pipe loom that I had the problem of it torqueing under tension. I glued the joints back together with super glue, except for the connection with the feet, which I want to be able to remove or adjust, and I hope this will help the torqueing problem, otherwise I will be be looking for someone who will solder it for me.

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My mind is calming down. I’ve been able to sleep better. Thinking about aging in place more as I’ve realized how difficult it would be to emigrate somewhere that is not hot and humid. We still plan to visit Portugal and Spain next year. I will try to talk Sandy into limiting it to Portugal. I’ve learned that the temptation to do more often leads to me feeling frustrated and exhausted. Sandy has always “had eyes bigger than his stomach” in most things, and while it is easy for him to convince me to go wider (who doesn’t want more of a good thing?), I am more of the opinion that it is better to go deeper.

The silver maple tree was supposed to be in the process of coming down today, but we had a miscommunication with the arborist, so it has been rescheduled to August 2. That was probably a good thing since a big storm came through yesterday and blew a lot of my tomato cages over. I will need to go out and stake them today. The high is only supposed to get up to 77 degrees today! So nice after days of 90 plus and humid, and we get to give our AC and fan motors a break.

I can’t decide what to do next in the studio. My hands are hurting from too much mouse use at work and game playing and book holding so I think that I might get the sewing machine out, see if it forgives me after the accordion book project. If not, maybe it’s time to open up my mother’s Singer cabinet. I will head down to Lake Waccamaw for a spell later and that will be a great place to hand stitch and dye, if I am good to my hands now.

Okay, that’s enough. The church bells are playing hymns (ARGHHHHHHHHHH) and so I know that it is noon. I also know that the name of the song is “The Church’s One Foundation” and I see and hear the inside of Bear Swamp Baptist Church, my mother and father next to me in the pew. This might seem comforting to others. I hope that one day it might be that way for me, because I do not foresee us moving from here nor do I foresee the church stopping its twice daily hymn playing.

But the day is beautiful, the flowers in the hugelkultur bed are beginning to bloom, and the garden is calling. This is a good place. I am lucky to live here.

Favorite Books: Adult Fiction

I had to break this down between adult and children’s/YA fiction because it was too hard to come up with a combined list that was short enough for a blog post.

“Lonesome Dove”
Larry McMurtry, 1985

It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.”

“A man who wouldn’t cheat for a poke don’t want one bad enough.”

“Pea Eye loped up and unfolded himself in the direction of the ground. ‘Your getting off a horse reminds me of an old crane landing in a mud puddle,’ Augustus said.

I almost hate to recommend this one, because it spoiled me for so many books afterwards. This book was so great that Sandy and I competed for reading it, so one of us bought a second copy. So funny, so sad, so thrilling, so horrific, so romantic. It’s got it all. I wish I had not read it so that I could read it again for the first time.

In general, I weathered even the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons. Or I would look out the windows. In winter, when the windows were closed, the church seemed to admit the light strictly on its own terms, as if uneasy about the frank sunshine of this benighted world. In summer, when the sashes were raised, I watched with a great, eager pleasure the town and the fields beyond, the clouds, the trees, the movements of the air—but then the sermons would seem more improbable. I have always loved a window, especially an open one.

Wendell Berry is one of my favorite fiction writers and poets. He writes a lot of nonfiction as well, but I relate better to his ideas through his fiction and poetry. I read all of the Port William books with love, but Jayber Crow is probably my favorite. A minor character in the other novels and stories, the barber of Port William tells his own story and the stories of other beloved characters in the community. The Mad Farmer Poems is my favorite collection of his poetry.

“Cloud Atlas”
David Mitchell, 2004

…Only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!’ Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

“So do not fritter away your days. Sooner than you fear, you will stand before a mirror in a care home, look at your body, and think, E.T., locked in a ruddy cupboard for a fortnight.”

“Nothing is more tiresome than being told what to admire, and having things pointed at with a stick.

The best way to describe this book is taken from a review I read somewhere – the structure is like a set of Russian dolls. Once you understand that, it’s easier to follow. Many people give up on this one after the second story begins. Please give it a try – they do get some closure. The time frame goes from 1850 to far into the future and then back again in descending order, and the stories range from adventure to murder mystery to humor to sci-fi/fantasy, all linked together by one birthmark in the shape of a comet. I was stunned that they even attempted to make a movie from this book. Considering the challenges, the movie wasn’t bad. I have since read everything Mitchell has published, and this remains my favorite.

“Fair and Tender Ladies”
Lee Smith, 1988

Oh, I was young then, and I walked in my body like a Queen.”

“Then I started crying for it seemed to me then that life is nothing but people leaving.”

“I will remane forever your devoted Ivy Rowe.

Lee Smith is one of my favorite novelists and this is my favorite book by her. Just looking up the quotes for this post made my heart begin to swell for the love of Ivy Rowe. I have an autographed copy and it is one of my most precious possessions.

The Poldark series
Winston Graham, 1945-2002

He thought: if we could only stop here. Not when we get home, not leaving Trenwith, but here, here reaching the top of the hill out of Sawle, dusk wiping out the edges of the land and Demelza walking and humming at my side.”

“Hers would be the perpetual ache of loss and loneliness, slowly dulled with time until it became a part of her character, a faint sourness tinged with withered pride.”

“‘Tedn’t law. Tedn’t right. Tedn’t just. Tedn’t sense. Tedn’t friendly.’

Sadly, I am on the twelfth and last book of the Poldark series, Bella Poldark. I’m going to take my sweet time reading it, too. A lovely Cornish soap opera, this is, but well-written. I stopped watching the newest Poldark series after season one and began reading the books, because I like to form my own vision of the book before seeing a movie or series based on it. Needless to say, I have no problem visualizing Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark, though:

So, on to the next bodice-ripping series,

The Outlander series
Diana Gabaldon, 1991-

Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.

Yes, I know it’s trash. It’s delicious time-traveling trash, though. I stopped reading after the fourth book, “The Drums of Autumn.” That was years ago. These books are so huge that I wanted to read something else in my lifetime. Maybe I wanted you to know that I don’t just read philosophy and self-help books! One day I’ll watch the series, probably.

On the same theme:

“The Time Traveler’s Wife”

Maybe I’m dreaming you. Maybe you’re dreaming me; maybe we only exist in each other’s dreams and every morning when we wake up we forget all about each other.

Audrey Niffenegger, 2003

Betcha didn’t think that I was such a romantic, huh?

The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan, 1989

So this is what I will do. I will gather together my past and look. I will see a thing that has already happened. The pain that cut my spirit loose. I will hold that pain in my hand until it becomes hard and shiny, more clear. And then my fierceness can come back, my golden side, my black side. I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter’s tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is a way a mother loves her daughter.

And everything else by Amy Tan, but I suppose this was my favorite.

The Plague of Doves
Louise Erdrich, 2008

The music was more than music- at least what we are used to hearing. The music was feeling itself. The sound connected instantly with something deep and joyous. Those powerful moments of true knowledge that we have to paper over with daily life. The music tapped the back of our terrors, too. Things we’d lived through and didn’t want to ever repeat. Shredded imaginings, unadmitted longings, fear and also surprisingly pleasures. No, we can’t live at that pitch. But every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware. And this realization was in the music, somehow, or in the way Shamengwa played it.

One of the most wonderful things about Louise Erdrich is that she has written a constant stream of related books and I haven’t read them all yet. This was the last one I read so I picked it.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop here. I’m sure there is someone fabulous that I missed. The list will never be complete – at least I hope not.

Favorite Books: Nonfiction

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
Robert Pirsig, 1974

‘What’s new?’ is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question ‘What is best?,’ a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.”

“Author’s note: What follows…should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.

The first philosophical book that punctured my mind’s shell and led me to think seriously about the cultural American norms of quantity over quality, and fall in love with the foundations of logic. I was assigned this book in Governor’s School in philosophy class but I only skimmed it then. I was 17, in the English concentration, so I had a lot of other reading to do. I came back to it a few years later, a much better age to read this book. It needs to be read thoroughly and slowly. I am re-reading it now.

Also, back in my brief middle management days, I insisted on hiring a manager based almost solely on her answer to my question “What is your favorite book?” The woman who conducted the interview with me thought I was nuts, but the applicant’s answer of the above book got her the job with no management experience and she was fabulous at it.

“The Four Agreements”
Miguel Ruiz, 1997

Be impeccable with your word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t take anything personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t make assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

This is a life-changing book, a small, powerful book that helped me break my social phobias. I was assigned this book in a graduate class around 2005. I keep a copy of the summary of the Four Agreements above on my office wall where I can refer to them often. These agreements seem simple, but they are difficult in practice. Don’t let the cultish sounding “Toltec wisdom” and some of the more new-agey prose put you off. Give it a chance.

“Up in the Old Hotel”
Joseph Mitchell, 1992

The best talk is artless, the talk of people trying to reassure or comfort themselves, women in the sun, grouped around baby carriages, talking about their weeks in the hospital or the way meat has gone up, or men in saloons, talking to combat the loneliness everyone feels.”

“You can hate a place with all your heart and soul and still be homesick for it.

It would be natural to assume that I love this book because Joseph Mitchell is from my hometown and he was my grandfather’s cousin. I didn’t know about him, however, until after he died in 1996, which kills me because I think that he and I would have had some great conversations. For years all I knew about “Cousin Joe,” as my family referred to him, was that he “wrote for some magazine up north.” It wasn’t until I googled him that I learned that magazine was the New Yorker, and that he was internationally famous! He was another fish out of water in Robeson County, North Carolina, but he also could not put his hometown away. I could write a whole post about Joseph Mitchell, but I won’t. Arguably, this book should be on my fiction page. He is known as a news reporter and essayist, so I’m putting it here. This anthology contains pretty much everything he wrote. Read it. It’s fascinating.

“The Botany of Desire”
Michael Pollan, 2001.

When I first heard Michael Pollan interviewed about this book on NPR, I knew that I wanted to read it, but I had no idea how much it would change my ideas not only about agriculture and plants, but the entire relationship of humans with nature. In a nutshell, we have co-evolved with plants.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Annie Dillard, 1974

Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.

Another book for my re-read list. After I first read it, I pronounced it my desert island book. That was a long time ago and I need to see if it is still true. I suspect that it might be.

“Peace is Every Step”
Thich Nhat Hanh, 1990

We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.

A book that helped me get through my undiagnosed panic attacks in the 90s. I learned to love washing the dishes, and I stopped to breathe when the phone rang. A sweet, simple guide about mindfulness.

“Bird by Bird”
Anne Lamott, 1994

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

This book is about so much more than writing. After I read it, I went on a tear of reading Lamott’s fiction, and bought several of her other non-fiction books. Sadly, I’m not as crazy about the others. But her writing about writing? Wonderful stuff. I know professors who regularly assign the chapter about shitty first drafts.

The Snow Leopard
Peter Matthiessen, 1978

The sun is roaring, it fills to bursting each crystal of snow. I flush with feeling, moved beyond my comprehension, and once again, the warm tears freeze upon my face. These rocks and mountains, all this matter, the snow itself, the air – the earth is ringing. All is moving, full of power, full of light.”

“Have you seen the snow leopard? No! Isn’t that wonderful?

When I was working for minimum wage in a small bookstore, I could not imagine that I would ever have enough money or time off to travel beyond the occasional weekend camping trip nearby. I sank into travel literature like it was manna from heaven. This book did double-duty by feeding my anxious heart with the teachings of Buddhism as well as transporting me to the land of Nepal.

Outside Lies Magic
John Stilgoe, 1998

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, experts advised men to have their kitchens painted apple-green. The experts believed that apple-green quieted nervous people, and especially wives beginning to think of suffrage, of careers beyond the home. Today the explorer of color schemes finds in old houses and apartments the apple-green paint still gracing the inside of the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and the hallways of old police stations and insane asylums.

This small volume took me back to a free-range childhood in which I was a fearless bicycling explorer of the woods, crumbling old buildings, and back roads of my rural hometown. That child still exists within me, and she still has questions about light poles and doorknobs. Full of surprising microhistory that you probably never considered, reading this book will make you look at the ordinary world in a different way. It is a favorite of public historians for good reason.

To be continued…