1. A tourist family walks past me one morning. The mother, hugging her pre-teen daughter to her hip, beams down at her proudly. The girl looks delighted. This strikes me as an Our Town moment, so I’m preserving it in history for the two of them here.
2. A trio of babies came into my world this week. One, Audrey, is six months old and belongs to Dini, a video journalist friend from the last political campaign. We hadn’t seen her since her son was a baby (maybe three years ago?) until we ran into them Sunday afternoon on our walk home from the farmers’ market. Two others were born this week: Derek to a college friend, Lunesse, and Jack to a colleague of mine, Angelique.
3. Not wanting to miss the early-morning lunar eclipse this week, Rudi and I set our alarms for 5:30 a.m. We rise silently and dress and head outdoors. Not surprisingly, we cannot see the area of the sky necessary from our corner, so we zig-zag down the road to a clearing. Low clouds have rolled in along the horizon, obscuring the pre-dawn sky. “It definitely looks darker than usual over there,” I say hopefully, pointing toward the west. Rudi agrees but also suggests we will probably not see much more than that darkness and that we should return home to bed. We stumble back to the Burrow and are asleep almost immediately.
I hate to turn my back on a book. This is not to say that I have finished every book I’ve ever started. That would be laughable. Ha! (See?)
You could fill my apartment with the books I’ve left unfinished. Possibly, you could fill my whole building.
But that’s different.
I read multiple books at once. What I pick up at any given moment depends on a variety of circumstances that include mood, location, and political atmosphere, as well as how much I’m enjoying something. What that also means, of course, is that I have many books that I’m not reading at any given moment.
Sometimes I have to give a book back to the library before I’ve gotten back into the right moment. Sometimes a book doesn’t fit where I am in life right then and it goes back onto the shelf for something to change. Other times, I get bored with a book, and it simply fades away with the understanding that I may change my mind someday and recall it to me.
But it takes an extraordinary book for me to intentionally decide that we must part ways.
Since I moved down to D.C. four and a half years ago, it has only happened once before. In that instance, I was reading Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel. In that instance, I’d reached a remarkably stressful point in the story, a point where if the author proceeded as I suspected she was going to, we would not be able to continue having a civilized conversation. So, after much thought and angst, I asked her to leave.
Today’s decision was equally stressful, although it ought not to have been.
The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, one of the latest books in Lilian Jackson Braun’s mystery series, was deplorable. It was riddled with grammatical and punctuation errors, almost as if someone had shot the book through with an AK47 of bad English usage.
Flow was lacking. Not just from section to section or chapter to chapter, but from sentence to sentence. You know how when you’re exhausted, you sometimes misread things so that they make utterly no sense? Well, the book was just like that, but it didn’t seem to matter how well-rested you were when you picked it up.
The margins were about two inches wide. The book was only 208 pages or so. I stopped somewhere around page 80 and no murder had yet occurred. I consulted the book flap, thinking perhaps I’d accidentally picked up a series of vignettes, as opposed to a mystery. But no! a murder was still to happen and to be solved in the 130 remaining pages.
I almost felt like the publisher called up the author and said, “You are the only writer left on the face of the earth, and we have hordes of angry, voracious readers holding our families hostage. Please send us anything you have.”
“But I’ve only just put together notes and briefly sketched out some ideas. It’s barely 50 pages of material.”
“It doesn’t matter. Send it over now.”
“Well, maybe after I’ve written some transitions and run the grammar-check…”
“No! Please! We don’t have time for that! Lives are at stake! We’re warming up the printing presses as we speak.”
Short of a scenario like this, I can’t understand why this drivel was published. (Incidentally, neither can anyone who reviewed the book over at Amazon.)
Yet, because I am a reader and I, to a certain extent, define myself in this way, it was almost painful to decide to close the book permanently and escort it from the premises. I asked friends how long they gave a book. I mulled it over. I spent more time thinking about the decision than it would have to finish the book, but I just could not force myself to pick it up from my desk and start reading again.
Life is short, after all, and books are plentiful. I’m fighting a losing battle to keep up with everything I want to read; it would be a shame to intentionally waste an extra moment on something so unworthy of my reading time. I’ll try to keep that in mind for the next time.
Paula at Basset Knitter and Carole at strange little mama both very sweetly named me a Rockin’ Girl Blogger recently. It was a terribly sweet move on their part and I’d like to ask you to visit both of their sites because their blogs are filled with children and knitting and animals and scenery from places far from here (as well as illnesses and divorces and the realities of living that they both deal with gracefully and with humor).
I’d also like to continue the accolades by honoring a few other rockin’ girl bloggers from various walks of life:
Dianna, a.k.a. RunningChick, was my office mate in Connecticut for many years and the first person I knew with a bona fide blog. I don’t run, especially long distances, and someone would have to be chasing me with intent for mortal harm to make me run even the short distances she puts in on a regular basis, but still I read every post she “pens.” Her style is entertaining and her energy and enthusiasm is inspiring. This passion has recently become a career path for her and she’s currently in school learning to do physical therapy. Plus, you’ve just got to admire a girl who can fall off her bike, land on her face, take an ambulance ride to the hospital, and be back on the saddle again in less than a week. Those Tour de France riders have nothing on her!
Edited to add: Di lost one of her beloved dogs, Jake, this morning. Please send her some love if you can.
Clare at Three Beautiful Things helps to make the blogosphere a nicer place. You routinely hear talking heads on tv making snide comments about bloggers, but it’s obvious they’ve never seen the impressive work that Clare has done. She comes up with three beautiful things every day to put up on her blog. She does it without fail, and when she’s away from the computer, she still notes them and posts them upon her return. It’s always so encouraging when I see her list every morning (the advantage of the England-D.C. time difference) and she’s one of the blogs I look forward to the most. She recently won a book deal focusing on a similar topic and I look forward to hearing how it progresses (and when it’ll be available).
Camille at BookMoot is a children’s/young adult librarian, and I love learning about new books on her blog. (She’s the one who made it imperative that I read Rick Riordan’s work.) Her school district starts up tomorrow and she links to some on target suggestions for parents.
Jen at Prepare to Meet Your Bakerina gives me yummy recipes, as well as a glimpse into her life in NYC. She shares her successes and her failures in life (and she seems to always have a lot going on), and I toast her for her bravery and honesty in doing so. (Now, if we could just convince her to put fingers to keyboard a bit more often…)
Chris at Stumbling over Chaos writes about knitting and books and online contests and hers is the blog I leave until last every morning when I’m reading my RSS feed. I am afraid, however, that she will have to share her honors with the other participants of her blog, Mayhem and Chaos, who get the best lines.
These are not, by far, all of the rockin’ girl bloggers out there in my life; these are merely five, chosen somewhat at random to represent the blogs I read. I have some dear real-life friends with blogs I love who shouldn’t feel slighted for not being on the list. Other wonderful bloggers have already been similarly honored. One reader who used to have a rockin’ blog has made the personal decision that life ought to come before blogging (!!!) and shuttered the online house. Other readers without blogs also rock. And I know some pretty rockin’ guy bloggers and readers, too. So take this as merely a suggestion of some fun places to visit. I know I enjoy seeing who others link to and look forward to more similar entries in the future.
We kicked off the weekend tonight with a sultry evening in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, where we went to picnic and listen to the weekly summer jazz concert. Okay, listen might be a strong word. Passively enjoy a jazz pianist playing in the background while we and our neighbors chat and eat, perhaps would be more accurate.
John, Rudi, Sweetpea, and I had a nice evening. We drank wine and Orangina and ate oodles of food — chips, hummus, pita, dolmas, baguette, crackers, cheese, dates, membrillo (Spanish quince paste), olives, cornichons (is this just a fancy name for gherkins or is there an actual difference?), and CakeLove cupcakes in a variety of flavors.
The only thing that could have made it a nicer evening would have been a lower humidity level. Seriously, it felt like you had just entered the overheated indoor pool at the Y. The ground was soaked and by the time we headed home we were all remarkably damp. I was wet enough that I tried to use the hand dryers in the ladies’ room to dry my butt off with. I was not successful and walked home three miles in sopping wet capris.
Tomorrow is supposed to remain humid, but to add in the joy of soaring temperatures. The heat index is rumored to approach 110 degrees mid-afternoon. Hooray. I may never leave air-conditioning again.
No, wait, that’s not true. I have plans tomorrow night. Our friend Phillip turns 30 this weekend and we are going over to party with him and to assure him that, indeed, a cane, ear trumpet, and cataracts are not far off in his future.
Sunday, Rudi is heading off for an early-morning century and Sweetpea and I are talking about going to catch the Indigo Girls out at WolfTrap that evening. It may happen or it may not; it probably depends on a number of factors including how tired we are of being outside in a sauna.
But I’ll tell you one thing: If we go, I’m going to wear waterproof pants.
I’m still feeling snuffly and a bit cotton-headed, so I’m going to give you three more beautiful things as I mull over other things I’m supposed to be working on and sip my tea:
1. As I walk into the coffee shop by the office, their radio starts to play a song and I immediately think of Grey Kitten. At first I think it’s a song from Aladdin, but then I realize it’s “Somewhere Out There,” which is from An American Tale. Now that we live 2,693 miles apart (give or take), we don’t get to see movies together very often, but when we were both teenagers we used to see them regularly — sometimes every week — so I have a number of songs that make me think of him.
2. I am alone for lunch today, so I go down to the corner park and sit at an outside table with my iPod and my knitting. A fluffy little sparrow, hoping for a handout, perches on the chair opposite mine and eyes my lunch greedily, and I contemplate for a moment asking him to dine with me. Instead, the woman at the table flirts with him by throwing him bread crumbs.
3. Because I’ve been knitting only socks and baby items recently, I’ve been used to plodding along on US2 or 3 needles. My current (secret) project is worked on US8s and I find that it is flying off the needles. In the heat, I don’t want a big project that will sit on my lap, but this week has been cooler so I don’t have to resort to tiny objects. When the temperatures soar towards 100 on Saturday, I won’t be working on the big project, but it’s nice to think it’s waiting here for me as September comes around the corner.