Sunday, November 30, 2014

A book response

9:28 p.m. – I just finished reading Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven. Wow. What a beautiful book. I should have read it all in one gulp the day I checked it out of the new fiction section of the library, but I knew the minute I read the first chapter that if I didn't set it down and hide it from myself, keep it in places where I could only read in snatches, then I wouldn't have made it through the flurry and scurry of the second half of November. All I would have done is read. No writing, no baking, no visiting, no hanging out with daughter home from college

The book is due tomorrow, and my library kindly sent a notice reminding me that it's due, so I read the last hundred pages this evening. 

This book. I think I will return it and wait until the circulation desk checks it in and check it out again if there are no holds on it (since it's new fiction, I couldn't renew). 

I want to live inside this book. I want to dream it, eat it, bathe in it. I’d say that I wish I’d written this book, but I’m not that kind of storyteller. I'm a small writer who works in small increments: a single family, a year at the most, one town. But I adore reading large, grand-scale novels that pass through time and place, that go backward and forward, that introduce a lot of characters but never too many at once so I don’t get confused.

I love Mandel's language, the lyricism of her prose, the characters who each have distinct voices, so distinct that I could hear the timbres in my head as I read.

I love the remembering and the forgetting. I love the love, the community, the losses. I love even the way we were with some people as they died, their dying like adventure, not fearful, maybe something like what happened to my father when he died.

I love the character names, the town names, the movement, the music, the rhythm, the hope, the hope, the hope.

And this is why I don’t write book reviews. I can’t review books, especially not ones I love. All I can do is respond.

Read this book.

(note: as I said, I don't review books, so no "recaps" from me.)

Friday, November 28, 2014

alchemy and gratitude

Today, my tiny, immediate family plus one are celebrating Thanksgiving slightly late with a semi-traditional feast around 6 p.m. Four large potatoes bake in my oven, and the nutty scent of them makes me hungry for what they'll become after I slice, empty, beat, "doctor," refill and re-bake. I'll load them into my car, along with the pumpkin pie I baked yesterday, a container of feta cheese for Greek salad and something I can't remember right now. Then, I'll drive to the north of town where my husband lives, where our daughter is staying for the Thanksgiving break.

At the end of October, I rediscovered my love of baking when I baked a batch of Toll House cookies for my husband's birthday, a simple enough recipe that I've made a zillion times. The Wednesday before I left for Patti Digh's Life is a Verb camp Nov. 6, I baked him from-scratch banana nut bread as a thank you for watching my crazy kitty.

Last week, I made a batch of snickerdoodles; on Wednesday when my furnace died, I baked a batch of peanut butter cookies while the sweet repairboy fixed what ailed my now warm mechanical beast. Later Wednesday night, after dinner with my daughter and her papa, I baked Kourabiedes - a Greek butter cookie that my mother used to make at Christmas - as a gift for my Girl's girlfriend's family for their feast yesterday.

My Girl brought most of the tin of these powdered sugared delights back home last night, and I was sad that the other family didn't gobble them up the way my siblings and I and my parents used to devour them every holiday.

But it's all right. Now my Girl can take them back to school with her to help get her through the next couple of weeks, final projects and papers, final critiques of her work and her schoolmates' work. Art school isn't for the lazy or faint of heart (terrible cliche).

I was feeling sorry for myself earlier because I missed an opportunity to pop by her papa's house to visit late this morning, and by the time I was ready to leave the house, she was already off to hang out with her other family, where there are a couple more kids, where cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents are likely to show up at this time of year. She loves them all and they love her, consider her part of the family.

And I understand her wanting to be with this large batch of rowdy people. I am so quiet and reserved, all my siblings in Texas, both sets of her grandparents dead (her papa's mama died over the summer at the age of 97), her dad's siblings scattered.

We kind of suck when it comes to family gatherings.

I miss her, but I don't want to hold onto her when she can go off to experience this world of chaotic love and mayhem that we can't give her because it's just us.

Her father has made what I think of as an extremely generous offer. "She can stay with you over Christmas," he said today when I dropped off some groceries and a brown bag in which he is baking his chicken (incredible recipe, though I don't eat chicken or any kind of fowl).

"Really? Are you sure?"

"Yeah. And she can come spend a couple of days here with me while she's home if she wants to."

I'm so relieved. Because I had her all summer, I had told both of them that it was fine and fair and good and holy that she spend both Thanksgiving break and Christmas break with her papa.

And it was fine and fair and good and holy.

But I'm so relieved.

She won't really be here that much, but there's something about having her here even when she's mostly gone that fills my heart. She imbues the walls of my house with joy and her incredible spirit and lawdy is this mushy. Everything I write here has been mushy lately.

Also, I rather lost the thread of this post, which related to the alchemy of baking, how magical it is when all these different ingredients I slap together turn into these delicious morsels.

So there's a link missing from the post title to my ache when my kid isn't around that I'll figure out another day. I'm still suffering from my empty nest, still having a hard time finding out my next purpose in life now that my Girl is out bouncing through school, plotting her future.

I'm a little slow.

In the meantime, I'll continue writing (fiction and poetry), editing (freelance) and baking because baking makes me happy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

transition, transformation, transubstantiation (except, not)

Went to Patti Digh's Life is a Verb Camp (if you can afford it, try to go next year in September. Want the dates? Ask. I can't afford it unless someone pays me a lot of money to do stuff. Not willing to take a scholarship away from someone needier than I am), learned a lot. Laughed, cried, loved a lot. Wrote stuff. Made really bad art that made me honor that visual art is my kid's thing, not mine (she's in art school). Living is life, but if you're not living, it's not life. Pick up your flabby boney ass and do shit, woman! (This is addressed to me, not the general public, not that the general public reads my bad shit.) That's what I learned. Also, love. Love is good. Even loving people you don't know that well and aren't sure you trust that much is good. Always. Love = good.

There. Do not fucking care what anyone thinks.

It's been so long since I've written here that I can't remember how to post links. So. Damned Pathetic.

will fix later.