A HOUSE FULL OF WINDSORS

A HOUSE FULL OF WINDSORSSometimes you come across a novel that reminds you of your own personal proclivity (and to better explain: a tendency to choose or do something regularly; an inclination or predisposition toward a particular thing.)

Those who regularly read my posts, know that I am quirky in some ways, one of them being that I have an interest (a slight passion?) about all THINGS BRITISH. But especially the Royal Family, the Windsors.

And most of you know that this started because of my name, which led me to read British history as if I were preparing for a Master’s Thesis, all while being encouraged by close family members who visited England and brought me memorabilia; all while discovering it was meaningful to cut articles about the Windsors out of newspaper, or save magazines with photographs, ask for books about their lives and watch royal weddings on TV.

My family didn’t mind too much, because if they questioned me on this rather strange proclivity, I could always say it’s just another way of learning more about HISTORY. 

But then, along came…

A FELLOW ANGLOPHILE  

Because the Internet connects you to people you would otherwise never meet, and thus connected me to Kristin Contino, who when it comes to this particular proclivity, this love of the family of Windsor, certainly has me beat.

Kristin’s many trips to England have been recorded with numerous photos. And when a major royal event was about to take place, she and her family once again made the trip, finding a spot near Windsor Castle and able to be up close and personal observing the pageantry of the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. After that, I knew I’d found an even more ardent follower of the Windsors…but that event was only the beginning….

Kristin has a reproduction of a bright red British Phone Booth in her home, not to mention those items which all of us seek out when celebrating the royals: tea towels for weddings; tea cups and plates; photos and books. I have a few. (See some of mine below.) Kristin? She’s the QUEEN OF COLLECTIONS. 

And then the final example of her passion, the arrival of Contino’s novel: A HOUSE FULL OF WINDSOR, a delightful story whose main character, Debbie Windsor, falls in love with a member of the landed gentry, Alan Percy—and whether it’s being enthrall to London or Buckingham Palace or her love for Princess Diana and everything royal, Debbie collapses into the arms of this tinged with royalty but not so gentle man—and bloody hell, she gets pregnant. First with Sarah and soon after, with twins!

But later, we find her back in the good old US of A, her marriage over, yet her desire still for all things royal filling up her house. Debbie has become a hoarder. She lives in a house full of windsor. And because she now has trouble navigating her rooms because of the overflowing bins of British mementoes, her three children know that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

Will Debbie find a pathway through her living room? Will Sarah, who provides the reader throughout the novel with her Sarah Says tips, have the answer? Maybe so, as her first TIP encourages readers to be ready for company, but then immediately acknowledges that in her family, “dirty secrets are best swept under the rug.”

I’m sure Kristin Contino had fun writing this book. Her photos of her trips to England, her love of those red telephone booths are testament to that. The novel is light-hearted and from page one presages a happy ending. Her characters make predictable decisions so that everyone is jolly and red-cheeked with happiness in the end. And the novel is clever, the hoarding is real, because when you’ve fallen in love with the photos of the Windsors and Princess Diana, it’s understandable that you might go for cheeky Alan, that rotter, who chases birds (that’s British slang for girls)—but in the end decides that bloody hell, you better let your children help you out so that life is cracking again.

A HOUSE FULL OF WINDSORS

 

Writers and where they live…  Part One

Writers and where they live…  Part One

The Santa Ana Winds of California

 

I’ve written a memoir of my early years in Chicago. I’ve written about PLACE (the house, the streets, the vegetation, the traffic, the people on the streets) because it colors so much of who we are. (You can reread my first post about PLACE here.)

No one can write fiction, a memoir, a biography without PLACE becoming a major character. Think of the wonderful selection of memoirs that have become best-sellers: Black Boy, All Creatures Great and Small, Born a Crime, Becoming, When Breath Becomes Air, The Glass Castle….all are filled with references to the place the author has lived, the streets he or she has walked.

And if you have moved during your life (I’ve lived in three different states) or even if you have remained in the same place your entire life (New York City, Colorado Springs, Huntsville Alabama, only to name a few) HOW DIFFERENT your life has been from the lives of others and from mine.

ILLINOIS 

Illinois is flat, flat. Even as a child, I knew that was in some way a detriment, as if flatness could be the butt of jokes. Then, after fourth grade, my amazing mother took me and my brothers to California! My uncle and cousins lived there, so why not! We traveled on the California Zephyr that runs from Chicago to San Francisco. WOW! Our train revealed parts of the country I had never seen: the plains of Nebraska, the Rocky Mountains (real mountains not hills), Salt Lake City (they washed our train there) and on to San Francisco: the trolley cars, the harbor, the steep streets.

Weeks later, after seeing the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque, New Mexico, we headed home on another train, the El Caspitan that runs between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Chicago. I met a girl my age on the train. I can’t remember where she lived, but it was a more glamorous place than what I was going home to. So when she asked me where I lived (flat flat Illinois) I said we lived near the “hills and the flats.” (a truly fourth grade answer) But it wasn’t a total lie. Beverly Hills, Chicago, is called “hills” for the following reason:

High bedrock under the retreating glaciers left the most prominent feature in the area, the Blue Island Ridge in South Chicago, a 6-mile-by-1-mile table of land that sits 25 to 50 feet above the adjacent flatland. Residents often identify their community as “Beverly Hills,” a reference to that glacial ridge just west of Longwood Drive, the highest point in Chicago. Wow, the highest point in Chicago …Even as a fourth grader, I knew that was something, and I lived two blocks from that RIDGE, which we called, “the hill.”

BEFORE AND BEYOND ILLINOIS

But after Illinois, there was Iowa (some hills) and then for the last seven years, California, I could see the bottom of a mountain out my window. But how does one, how does family gravitate to a place?

Again, the Uncle that moved there, his family, my cousins. We kept up the visits, weddings, touring. My brother moved there, and then one of my daughters did; grandchildren were born, and so yes, we did our California time and it was wonderful. I’ve written about California on this blog.

But I’m not alone, some of our most treasured authors have written about California, Joan Didion being one of them. Her works include: Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Play It As It Lays, The White Album, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. The last two volumes are diary-like, Didion trying to come to grips with the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and then the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo.

THINGS SO CALIFORNIA: The Santa Ana Winds 

If you have ever been in California when the Santa Anas blow, then you will feel them blowing in Didion’s passage:  

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.

WIND, FIRES 

What did I love about California? Besides being near my grandchildren…sunshine is ever present. It lifts your spirits, though there is something called June gloom, but that is infrequent. The blue sky is full of dry soft winds, now and then a jet stream (at least where I lived). There are pepper trees and jacaranda trees, roses everywhere. Some people say they help hold back the fires.

Because yes, there are fires. (And earthquakes, though in the 7 years we lived there, we had only two experiences: one when my desk kinda rolled; the other hardly felt. But we bolted our TV to the wall, used museum glue behind art hangings. We also had two large emergency canisters in our garage which we never needed.

Wherever people live, they adjust. Joan Didion writes:

Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.      

For instead of “fire and rain”, California has fire and wind–“It never rains in California, but Girl don’t they warn ya…

FINAL THOUGHT

As Edward Albee wrote: There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California. 

Next Week: Part 2

FRED CALLERI — HIS ART “Calls” YOU BACK.

FRED CALLERI -- HIS ART "Calls" YOU BACK.

There is just something about Fred Calleri’s work that speaks to me. Certainly, nostalgia is a thing that even touched me when I was younger. Why? Because I like remembering, I LIKE looking back, counting the blessings of my life, the people I love, the friends that I have had, the places I have lived. Remembering is a way to once again get in touch with the people who loved me, supported me. Or the times when I was called to be strong, to strike out, make change, believe in the paths I wanted to follow.

So when I found Fred Calleri’s art on the net, I got that “you’ve been there in your life, in your dreams” feeling. I wanted to know how and why he chose his subjects, placed them in comforting, nostalgic scenes.    I DID FIND THIS…

Fred Calleri’s experience at The Maryland Institute College of Art 1988-1993 was a watershed event artistically. The excellent training he received opened the window to all fields of art. ​Ironically, Fred took one painting class in college and only became seriously interested in professionally painting after the birth of his son in 1997. Then…in 2001…

after an extensive period in Graphic Design and Marketing, he decided to move to Flagstaff, Arizona, and take advantage of the history, scenery, people and especially the astounding light offered in the western regions of the U.S. What began to evolve was a blending of the representational with some quirky distortion, as well as an effort to create a deeper narrative within his work.

He writes on his website: ​I like to explore the figure, and representational painting in general. By adding a slight distortion, I am free to let the image create itself using each piece as a lesson that is used in the next piece. The historical or ‘period’ nature of the work lends itself to a style (and a palette) that I enjoy, and reaches back to a seemingly simpler time. This theme inspires me creatively. I use it as an opportunity, trying to incorporate the style into each challenge I confront.

As one looks at my work, it is easy to see that the subject matter of each piece can vary. (sometimes drastically). The things a person can find themselves doing in life also varies and I enjoy the challenge of injecting my figures into this world.

My influences are from a wide variety of genres, from The Masters to the great Illustrators and many Artists alive today. They remind me constantly that the journey never ends and there is great knowledge to be gained.

I work in a studio attached to my home in Santa Barbara. Using vintage reference photos, live models and imagination, the work is then created on Masonite Panel or Canvas. When using black and white references, much of the color is created from imagination.

Fred currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA. His work has been featured in: Southwest Art, International Artist, American Art Collector, Western Art Collector, Santa Fe Magazine, (NAZ) Mountain Living Magazine. Check out his website here: http://www.fredcalleri.com/home.html

ENJOY!!

Police: And My Interactions With Them

Police: And My Interactions With Them

Traffic tickets. What did I do wrong? Wanting to immediately defend myself. Not knowing how to act, what to do. I don’t have a weapon; I’m a female driving a car!

I’ve had four encounters with police and none of them felt comfortable. Why? Well it’s the police. Okay. The police make me nervous. But some of you reading this might have fathers, husbands, sisters, brothers who work in law enforcement. So, what’s my point?

Actually, it was made this morning in a column in the Chicago Tribune. Columnist Eric Zorn writes about his encounters with police and how we can improve things. But first let me tell you about mine.

FIRST: It happened on a circular drive in a shopping center in Matteson, Illinois. A policeman pulled me over. I guessed I was going 30 in a 20-mile zone. I immediately dialed my husband on my cell phone; he actually answered. Now the policeman is at my window, yelling at me to get off the phone. So, I did. FIRST ENCOUNTER, not going well.

He told me I had gone 30 in a 20. There was nothing more to say. He wrote out a ticket. I went on my way.

SECOND: I am now an RN, working at Mercy Hospital in Chicago. Around noon, before my shift, I drive to pick up my son at grade school. I pull up in my car along the schoolyard fence. Just as I do, a child FALLS of the swing that is at a great height. I leap from my car and go into the school yard to help this child. He is shaken, bruised, but he is okay. While I am caring for him, a policeman pulls up behind me and starts writing me a ticket. WHY?

He’s ticking me for leaving my car running….I am about 10 feet from my car, we are on a leafy street with no traffic. I go out and argue with him. It makes absolutely no difference that I was leaping out of my car to help a child. None at all. It would have been nice to just get a warning. But I don’t appeal the ticket. I’m too damn busy.

THIRD: In this same neighborhood, we have moved, remodeled a very old home from the 1920’s. New roof, windows, doors, newly poured patio. New gardens, not to mention every room in the house has new plumbing and we have a new boiler etc etc. BUT…

While purchasing wallpaper in the community, giving my address….the woman waiting behind me says right out: “Oh, you’re the house with the bush that grows over the sidewalk.” I look at her. Turn back, pay, leave the store. Thinking, what a b…..

We contact the village to pay for new sidewalk squares (it’s a corner house) so that people don’t trip while they are walking near our house.

But then it happens, the same policeman who ticketed me for helping a child, pulls up, rings my bell, writes me a ticket for the bush growing over the sidewalk. AND HE ISN’T EVEN NICE ABOUT IT, when I show him how we have improved THIS house, even redone the public sidewalk.

FOURTH: This last is the least of all three, yet in some ways it might have turned out to be the worst. It all depends on the person you are dealing with. 

Here’s why, and remember, no one has ever told me the rules. I am driving through the streets of Des Moines, on my way to pick up my son from his music lesson. I notice a police car is following me. Well, it’s not me, I tell myself. But when I pull into the parking lot, he does too, it’s me. I pull into a parking space, he pulls into the space behind me. So what do I do?

I do the exact wrong thing that I don’t know is the exact wrong thing, I get out of my car and walk back to him. His window is down—“You need to get back in your car.” I don’t think he yelled, but he’s angry. And it’s me, Beth Havey, who hasn’t done anything wrong. “Officer, what have I done?”

He gives me the same answer, get back in your car. I do. I wait. About five minutes later, he walks up to my open window.

“Your registration is out of date. You don’t have your sticker on your plate.”

“I’m so sorry,” I tell him, “I must have left the notice in a pile of mail. I will take care of this immediately.”

“And he, nods, walks away, so that after I get my son, I drive oh so carefully until I can get home and hide my car. I won’t drive it again until I have my NEW STICKER.

LOOKING BACK and FORWARD 

I’ve been driving for YEARS. For my 3-11 shift at Mercy Hospital in the city of Chicago. Back and forth from Des Moines to Chicago, alone. Many times to Iowa City, alone. Across country to California, with my husband. I’ve navigated the 405, the busiest road in California. BUT I HAVE NEVER BEEN TOLD THE RULES. I learned them through negative experience, and by reading the paper, watching video of others, watching police deal with Black men, Black women, young kids,  etc etc. Don’t get out of the car…Get out of the car!!

NO ONE TOLD ME THE RULES when I first got my license. And not when I renewed. The tests in California are always about SIGNS and more SIGNS. Same in Illinois.

ERIC ZORN writes that a new measure in Illinois, co-sponsored by three African American lawmakers, requires that the RULES OF THE ROAD manual include instructions on “appropriate interaction with law enforcement officers” during a traffic stop. They claim that these instructions are in the booklet. I don’t remember being tested on that point. Signs, all the tests are about signs. 

CONCLUSION: the following should be front and center:

  • If you can’t quickly pull over, activate your hazard lights to signal your intent to comply.
  • Don’t rummage for your license, etc don’t make a quick phone call about anything. These movements can alarm the officer, especially with the prevalence of guns in society. Instead, turn on your dome light if it’s night and put your hands on the wheel at 10 and 2.
  • When the officer asks for documents, tell this person where they are, move slowly.
  • Don’t argue with the officer. That never goes well. If you get a ticket, sign it, avoid arrest. Save your argument for the judge.

Zorn then says: But we as drivers should also know our rights. Such as:

  • The right not to answer questions about where you’re going, where you live or your immigration status as well as the right not to respond to accusations or insinuations of wrongdoing.
  • The right to deny consent to a search of your person or of your vehicle (though officers may conduct such a search anyway, if they claim probable cause.) This happened to a person I dearly love and he was arrested.
  • The right to learn the officer’s name and badge number.
  • The right to refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test if you are suspected of impaired driving (though such a refusal is almost certain to result in a one-year license suspension.)

My final thoughts are like Eric Zorn’s: courtesy and respect during a traffic stops can be and should be a two-way street. Lawmakers ought to put that in their guidelines as well.  

Also, I’ve been damn lucky! I was in a bad accident years ago. I made a bad turn. My daughters were injured. They are fine now, but it took me months to forgive myself. But that’s another blog post. https://boomerhighway.org/reclaiming-motherhood/

Please share your interactions with the police and how you handled them. 

THANKS to ERIC ZORN Chicago Tribune

photo  I Stock

 

Consider History: Yours and that of Others

 

Consider History: Yours and that of Others

As we grow our bodies change. And that reference is not just to our getting to adulthood. We are constantly growing and changing until we aren’t. Until we are dust.

Every day people die. Reading the news, we become complacent, change and often death becoming too familiar.

On the brighter side, moments in our lives present us with the ability to reach out to others, learn about the wider world we live in. The pandemic has accentuated the cocoon, though it also provided a time for us to read widely, talk to people we didn’t previously make time for, look deeper into our own lives, our own health and find gratitude. “Smell the roses” I guess.

OPENING UP is a familiar phrase in the political world we live in. BUT TRULY, it should often apply to us. We need to find ways to OPEN UP to the other: people, ideas, places, vocations, to name only a few.

HISTORY, THE WORD

Looking at the word it truly is    HIS STORY.  Or HER STORY. When you first see a medical professional, that person takes your HX–an abbreviation for HISTORY. A doctor, a nurse, cannot know how to treat you without a history. So it’s not just a word that students often groan and moan about when teachers move on to that subject.

Every day, all of our actions contribute to our own history. We are living it, creating it. And what is happening in the wider world has a profound effect on our lives, whether we consider that or not. RIGHT THIS MOMENT, people are being born who could possibly change the course of our very lives. Or become part of our lives. Truly, the future is a mystery. But our own history is not.

MY INTRODUCTION TO APPRECIATING HISTORY

It wasn’t a teacher putting a book down on my desk. It wasn’t memorizing dates. I became interested in the history of the world outside my home, neighborhood, when a photo of Queen Elizabeth appeared on the cover of LIFE MAGAZINE. I started asking questions about other places, other people. That brought me to the library where I checked out books, taught myself things about English, Spanish and Russian history.

For others, the world with all of its power and frightening change, might have been a sudden death, an accident, a fire, even the loss of a friend who moves away. WHY AM I LISTING THESE THINGS: because they Shake Up the circumstances within which we live. They are CHANGE AGENTS. They force us to look beyond the bedroom, the backyard, the TV set, the public school classroom.

MAKING CHANGE

Each of us is our own history maker. Who knows who will discover another element on the periodic table, or travel to another planet, or discover a medication that will eliminate surgery as the main tool to cure certain cancers.

The world is a wide and wonder–full place. Each of us is our own combination of walking histories. With the power of communication, we have shortened the time needed to educate ourselves about opportunities and advances. That is history IN THE MAKING.

FINAL THOUGHT

I decided to write about this topic when I saw people disregarding the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, people degrading him, taking one or two mistakes in his life and deciding that was his SUM TOTAL. No. It’s not. 99 years is complex. We make mistakes and we do what we can to make up for them. No one of us reading this can incapsulate the 99 years of Prince Philip’s life. We can’t even do that about our aging parent or grandparent. What we can do is read about the span of a life to see how that person responded to change. How that person rose to do good things, better things.

WE ALL HOPE TO BE THE PERSON who uses the gift of life to become a better person, to change, to reach out and be thankful for the opportunity to do so.

WHAT IN YOUR LIFE made you realize that we are only here for a while, that we need to do good things during our lifetime. 

 

Take a Walk, Awaken a Memory

Take a Walk, Awaken a Memory

Jacaranda Trees

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

Those amazing words are not mine, they were written by poet T.S. Elliot, part of his work THE WASTELAND, in which he invokes that painful sweetness of once again being part of the open world, of wandering a path, of stopping to smell the roses.

Despite everything we have been experiencing, we deserve spring, sunshine, hope. It is why so many writers write about spring—the season of renewal, new birth, plans for change. Spring has it all over New Year’s day when many good citizens are hung-over from partying. And I never got the point of that!

MEMORY & SCENTS

Poets and others write about spring, about scents. In a past post related to Mother’s Day, I wrote: CAN A SCENT TAKE YOU BACK. In the gift of a bouquet I encountered the bloom stock, which carried me back to the florist shop owned by my maternal grandmother’s people. I was back in that shop with its rows of glass doors, behind which you could pick a rainbow of plants, roses and other flowers.

In Bill Bryson’s well-researched book, THE BODY he writes:  “…the olfactory cortex…is nestled close to the hippocampus, where memories are shaped, and it is thought by some neuroscientists that may explain why certain odors are so powerfully evocative of memories for us.”

Has that happened to you? Spring, memory, nostalgia. Writers feel it, write about it. Others go outdoors and walk, run; children skip (masks and all as it is 2021). And yes this spring it might be harder to enjoy those spring scents, but here’s a tip: step off the path, move your mask, get a good nose-full. After all, IT’S time for some re-birth.

MEMORY and PLACE, TREES, BLOSSOMS

I am back in Illinois, living a mile from the home where I was raised. We had a lilac tree in our side yard. We had a garden of peonies up and down our front walk. Spring! Scents!

I know as I walk this neighborhood of memories, there will be lilacs and peonies, roses and lily of the valley.

Pico Iyer, also a writer, was born in Oxford, England, but has the good fortune of traveling far and wide. Missing Southern California, wondering what was now in bloom (the poppies, the jacaranda tress?) I found this on my desk. I save lots of stuff!

“Learning to find wonder everywhere is a talent I can as easily develop—and deploy—close to home as I can in Tibet or Cuba.”

But these are the words I had to save, having lived & traveled to Santa Barbara in springtime:

“Golden poppies will fill the slopes of Santa Barbara this coming spring. From my mother’s home I can spend hours just beginning to count the constellations. Those of us used to the dramatic changes of seasons can see the same shifts play out…and look forward to the jacaranda flowering above the streets in May. (Please enjoy the photo above!)

LOOK AROUND YOU…

So what is beginning to blossom and grow in your “neck of the woods.” Here, the grass is starting to green up and there are a few shoots pushing up from their garden beds.

FUTURE TRAVEL

Pico Iyer writes the following, which is TRUTH. Hold it close…

“To travel means, ultimately, nothing more than coming back home a slightly different person from the one who left. That’s as possible in 2021 as it was two years ago. The world is inexhaustible, if only we can open our eyes and look with more care at what we so often take for granted.”

Are you going on a walk today, in the future? Will your eyes well up with gratitude when we are once again blessed with greening and flowering? Mine will.

Waiting for the Night Song

Waiting for the Night Song

Truth hides in fissures and hollows, in broken places and empty parts. It can be buried, crushed, or burnt, but the truth will always rise.

These opening lines of Julie Carrick Dalton’s first novel promises the reader much, as she delivers a story that fulfills those promises. It’s a novel that takes you places that might be in your memory… the stolen yellow rowboat, the meandering lake. The two young girls in that rowboat picking blueberries, trying to discover things about a boy high up on a cliff. It’s a world where your best childhood dreams of danger, disobeying and taking risks come to life on the page.

In its opening, Waiting for the Night Song brings the reader to the mountains of New Hampshire where Cadence Kessler: Outlaw Entomologist, better known as Cadie, is examining the flora and fauna near Mount Steady. She is searching for evidence that a black beetle is killing the trees on the mountain side, thus creating combustible kindling in the already parched region—the areas future condemned to forest fires.

“The pea-sized creatures were killing off trees, leaving them as kindling in the parched woodlands. She stroked the delicate destruction with her finger. The beetles’ telltale blue fungus, the color of the autumn sky before sunset, stained the wood. The color meant death to the pine.” And thus we fall under the spell of Dalton’s writing, for in many ways this is a novel that is true to science, Dalton, a writer, an advocate for the environment has definitely done her homework.

The meat of the novel’s plot begins when Cadie gets a text from her closest and dearest friend, Daniela, her partner in the yellow rowboat, the vessel for all her secrets and longings. The text reads: They are questioning my dad.

Cadie must climb down her mountain, rush to help her oldest friend as this is Cadie, loyal, competent, eager for adventure, but holding within her a childhood secret she hopes she will never have to face.

At the novel’s beginning, we see the future Outlaw Entomologist being formed by the push and pull of her choices: should she follow rules or ignore them; should she push ahead with all her dreams and imagined plans or pull back. Rarely sharing exploits with her parents, she is the girl-hero, steady and sure of her choices, charging ahead with her big heart and her often impetuous decisions. She actually hits a bear with her car, and is still able to arrive on time to an important meeting about the black beetle. In real life, maybe. 

Cadie is a female Huck Finn, an eternal friend with a huge heart and eager mind who pulls you in. She’s a rule follower, her own rules —risking much to discover things about that boy at the top of the cliff; what his story is; and—after being pulled into a task she doesn’t want to be a part of, an eternal secret keeper: who will never reveal to anyone about burying the body. Cadie is young, scared. She keeps her mouth shut, hoping she can spare the lives and the futures of others.

As the story builds, Carrick Dalton not only brings the reader into the world of environmental worries, global warming, but also the world of undocumented workers—another reason Carrick Dalton has created this character: Cadie again being, the Outlaw Entomologist. 

But she is also the epitome of the best friend, she and Daniela creating the Poachers Code, an eternal bond that sets the stage for more adventures to come.  

1. Keep one foot in the water. 2. Never take all the blueberries. 3.Don’t kill bugs. 4. No witnesses. 5. Be kind to people who eat our berries. 6. No evidence. 7. Don’t throw a rock if you can’t see the target. 8. Lake water heals anything. 9. No matches in the woods. 10. Never tell.

If you think this is child stuff, it is, but it is also the platform for future events that will challenge lives, friendships and the trust we place in one another. The beauty of the Poachers Code is that Carrick Dalton’s story, her unwinding plot, tests and advances every aspect of the code. Grown-up Cadie falls in love with Garret, the boy at the top of the cliff, requiring that everything she believes about him will be tested. So will the plot, as it careens into one challenge after another, some attempts to tidy all story lines feeling forced and overwritten.

But the true beauty of the story lies in the friendships of Cadie and Daniela–and the author even tells us that Cadie carries a copy of Huck Finn in her backpack, where she sometimes presses leaves she has gathered. Yes! Those passages are the beating heart of the novel, allowing us to wander through the childhood of the two girls. Yes there has to be danger and dramas, even Huck Finn dealt with that. But as a story teller, this is where Carrick Dalton’s talent lies–probably emanating from her own experiences on lakes and mountains, her love of nature and the secrets that it holds. The challenge of writing about the future of our forests and that of undocumented peoples in our country is a big one. This novel has focussed on aspects of both, requiring story lines that twist and turn, at one point, causing Cadie to become super-human, dealing with a ripped leg, then getting stitches with no pain meds, but that’s okay, because Cadie is immediately off to save someone else. 

The heart of this novel is its portrayal of a friendship, one that began in a yellow rowboat, two young girls off to pick blueberries in a place that must be theirs, as life is wide open, the sun is shining and when you have a Huck Finn heart, everything is an adventure. The novel might wish for every reader a friendship like that of Cadie and Daniela–I had one. I hope you did too. 

Thanks to Net Galley for a preview of this novel. And thanks to Julie. I had the privilege of reading part of her novel very early in its development. Thanks, Writer Friend. 

 

THE USUAL AND THE NOT SO USUAL: UPDATED!  

The Usual and the Not So Usual Updated

If all goes as planned, when you read this post, John and I will be comfortably ensconced in our new home in Chicago. We might also have a few aches and pains from assisting the movers with unpacking, and we will definitely be tired. But if glasses of wine are poured and there are birds singing in our new back yard (yes, we once again have a back yard) we will be happy.

THE JOURNEY…

I write this the night before we leave, but when you read it, we will have driven from Henderson, Nevada to Grand Junction, Colorado, then to North Platt, Nebraska and then to Des Moines, Iowa where we used to live, and finally from there to Chicago.

I will always be grateful to my friends—all of you, for reading and commenting and keeping me feeling loved. Moving is challenging. Super thanks to my family and especially our three children and my sister-in-law Therese. We have “climbed a mountain.” Well not really, but figuratively. Whenever my dear mother had accomplished something that rose in front of her as a challenge (and it was now over) the mountain phrase was used.

But irony, we have left our mountains which we loved for seven years, and now will enjoy the waters of Lake Michigan—to drink and when possible just sit and enjoy; also the green of spring-summer, the color of autumn (my favorite season) and our two fireplaces in the winter. And this moment knowing that we are finally here and you are reading this is such a comfort.

VIRTUAL FRIENDSHIPS 

But that’s it, isn’t it. Friendship; communication. Knowing that I can communicate with you, whether I’m in California or back in Chicago, my ability to write and post being seamless. But I am also fortunate to have a computer and a phone, to be able to rely on such benefits.

Note: all of us are living in a time when we totally rely on people who help and serve others. And, we are living in a time when some in power look down on people who help and serve others. So wrong. The United States of America is blessed when we work together, when we help each other. It’s always best for us to be there for each other and not become warring tribes. It is best when we say thank you—as much as possible.

 YOUR FRIENDSHIP IS SO IMPORTANT…

And even though we might meet on the street wearing masks, your eyes glitter with friendship.  And even though we might long for hugs, your eyes tell me you care. And even though it seems like this virus will never go away—it will. If we all work together, if we all sacrifice. If we help one another.

Thanks for reading. From Chicago, sending a big hug. Photo Credit: TIME OUT

 

THE MOVE…

THE MOVE...

the garden…

The sense of it, the experience of it started with “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf. Parts of it read: 

But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The window panes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon

the walls, pendant from the ceiling—what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest well of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat softly.

A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass.

Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent…

AND I FOUND MYSELF…going to that place whenever I read A Haunted House, or thought about those roses and apples. That was the first lighting of my vision.

FROM VIRGINIA WOOLF TO…

The second was so opposite in its source! Yet I cannot remember the exact magazine, but it was either Country Home or Better Homes and Gardens. For when you fall in love with your own rooms, with your roses and apples, the sunlight on your carpet, the soft beating of safety when the sun departs and the moon glows in your window—a-ha, there are others who feel the same way about their homes. And they were reading the same magazines.

And so, this woman had a house in California. I do wish I’d saved the photographs. But in a major living area with tables and candles, with chairs and tea cups, she could open large doors of glass and smell the roses growing just beyond, in jardinières or window boxes, I don’t remember. And she was gracious and giddy about the bees that hummed just there, beyond the openness of her home’s windows and doors.

And I thought that lovely. I thought that so like Virginia Woolf, the image of crossing from the wooden floor planks of a house into the stones of the garden—the roses and sunlight bending inward, the bees behaving, possibly humming with the music that wafted outwards from a radio, a stereo.

Did I have that vision in my mind when, my patient husband, my patient brother and the real estate agent, took me from one place to another. Until. Until—there it was.

The day was cloudy, and the rooms smaller, but there was a large glass window and a door that opened to the garden, to the roses I would plant, the bees that I would summon, and the sunshine of southern California. And Virginia Woolf, the woman in the magazine, they would have approved.

But the trees did spin darkness for a wandering beam of sun. Though “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly. “The Treasure yours.” And again, the wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall.

There were moon beams and sun beams to warm the floor, the home, this harbor, this home. There was laughter and weeping, kisses and warm embraces—and music, downstairs and flowing up the stairs, all throughout and lingering. What remains of us—only worn and warmed places and those spirits, and all those words, so many words that weave us together.  

DEPARTURE, SWEET SORROW….

But now we depart California, bid this home goodbye, we eager to love another, a treasure of solid walls lightened by sunlight, brightened by roses, by flowers that bend to us in summer, and blessed by all those who have ever sheltered there and now will shelter us.

Leaving has its pain, but—as Joan Didion, who was born in California but now lives in New York City, wrote: A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest…remembers it most obsessively, loves it so radically that it remakes his image…

Goodbye California, I will miss you, always. Hello, Chicago. We return to the neighborhood where we were both born and raised. We will greet our son and future daughter-in-law who now live just a few Chicago blocks from us. And the photo above—this is my new garden, and there is that door that opens to it, that pulls the inside out and the sunshine in. And there is some sunny window where I will sit and write…

P.S. So now we wait for the machinations of business, for things like escrow. What a funny word! And for a while we will be staying in Nevada with family. I hope to keep posting every Sunday, as living is change and change can make for interesting writing. Be “safe, safe, safe”—– Beth

Goodbye…

KEEP READING—READING IS A GIFT

KEEP READING—READING IS A GIFT

Dear Reader,

The illustration above caught my eye, the awakening and vivid colors: she’s on a train (I like reading on trains, on airplanes, even if I’m a passenger in a long car ride) and the word LIFE on the magazine or book she’s reading. Like the apple on her tray, the cup of water—reading is life-giving, reading should always accompany us on our life’s journey. And notice the colorful stamps on her luggage, stamps people once used to reveal, to celebrate where they had been.

A bookcase full of books or a Kindle jammed with titles, does the same thing, celebrates where you have been. Because reading is always about taking a journey, about opening your mind and emotions to someone’s ideas.

DAILY NEWS SOURCES—NEWSPAPERS, THE NET, MAGAZINES, TELEVISION

 In today’s society, newspapers are struggling, but if you happen to subscribe to the magazine THE WEEK (I do) you will find major newspapers and magazines are still very important in pinning down stories that profoundly affect the bottom lines of our lives.

True, that many people now get the news online—or rely only on television news. But that doesn’t always provide you with an analysis, an interpretation to guide you through the pitfalls of opinion. When you READ, you can pause and evaluate a situation, you can compare the writer’s point of view to what You already know, what You have already read or an opinion You have maintained for a long time. Reading helps you grow, because it often challenges an idea or opinion you have held for a long time.

When you engage with a different point of view—that’s a good thing. Yes, we bring personal experience to almost every idea we encounter. But staying lock-step without looking around to investigate, might lead us to a dark place—or the wrong place.

And getting the NEWS isn’t always politics. News can be about an advancement in medicine, the pros and cons of self-driving cars or CBD oils, the latest advances in tech—anything you are currently interested in, anything that might change the society, the environment we share.

POETRY, ESSAY, NOVEL, NON-FICTION, QUIRKY

To stimulate your appetite for READING, I pulled some books off my shelves.

POETRY: Billy Collins, our poet laureate from 2001-2003; verses from ONLY CHILD (he wishes he had a sibling)

I would gaze into her green eyes

and see my parents, my mother looking out

of Mary’s right eye and my father staring out of her left.

which would remind me of what an odd duck

I was as a child, a little prince, a loner,

…and maybe we would have another espresso and a pastry

And I would always pay the bill and walk her home.

ESSAY: Marilynne Robinson, from WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? 

The U.S is in many ways a grand experiment. Let us take Iowa as an example. What would early 19th century settles on the open prairie do first? Well…they found a university, which is now about 170 years old. Agriculture became, as it remains, the basis of the state economy. How did the university develop in response to this small, agrarian population? It became…a thriving and innovative center for the arts–theater, music, painting and, of course, creative writing. ..the arts are the signature of the place and have been for generations.

NOVEL: Alice McDermott, from CHILD OF MY HEART

...all their interest and enthusiasm was reserved for the places they had left. Like exiles, their delight was not in where they now found themselves, but in whatever they could remember about the place, and the time, they had abandoned. 

NONFICTION: Margaret Robinson Rutherford, PhD from PERFECTLY HIDDEN DEPRESSION

As I’ve stressed before, the characteristics of perfectly hidden depression, in moderation, can be helpful. But when they begin to govern every aspect of your being, they can become a huge problem. It becomes self-destructive when your perfectionist critical voice is screaming at you nonstop in the background. 

QUIRKY: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS (quirky, because this little book of 48 pages could change the world.)

Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture… My own definition of a feminist is a man or woman who says, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.”

HAPPY READING, Beth

P.S. Thanks to amreading.com for the photo.