Frost, Robert. “the Road Not Taken.” The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
This is such a simple poem with such a complex meaning! But, having said that, how many people have used this poem to explain the things that they have done; the decisions they have made? My uncle read this poem at his brother’s funeral. His message was clear – my father, seven years his junior, chose a much different path than him or even the rest of the family. My father chose love over money. Happiness over family. My uncle offered this poem as an explanation for why they weren’t close as brothers but I also think he was (finally) voicing how proud he was of that courageous decision “to take the road less traveled.” It’s the last line that drives the point home. It has made all the difference. I know it did in my father’s short life.
Reason read: National Poetry Month. Need I say more?
Author fact: Robert Frost is one of the best known, best loved poets. We also associate Frost with New England but he was born in California.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Sandburg, Carl. Complete Poems. “The Road and the End.” New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1950. p 43.
I see a solitary traveler planning to face whatever comes his way on his journey. He has anticipation of the road ahead and the hours spent going down it. I say anticipation…for he hasn’t left yet. “I SHALL” indicates a plan to do so. The capitalization indicates a determination; a desire to convince someone (maybe himself?) he will eventually leave. It’s a nod to nature. Perfect timing for the changing seasons and hopefully, the warmer weather.
I took this poem personally as I have been slow to start training for my 60 mile cancer walk at the end of May. The apathy I was feeling spread into neglecting my favorite charity event. For the first time in five years I haven’t walked down my road of training the way that I should be by now…to say nothing of the fund raising (which sucks, by the way).
Favorite line, “in the silence of the morning.” Can anyone guess why?
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month…as I’ve said before.
Author fact: Carl Sandburg died two years before my birth. He is the second Chicago poet I’ve read this month.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers Tales in Verse” (p 237).
October 2012 was started out to sea. We landed on Monhegan sandwiched between the bustling start of Trap Day and the slowing end of tourist season. As a nod to the death of summer we readied our psyches to the coming winter. The island had shed its summer greens and stood cloaked in red rust brown and burnt yellow hues. Hiking the trails was at once magical and sobering. It was easy to curl up with a good book every night and read for at least two hours straight (something I never get to do at home unless it’s an off day). And speaking of the books, here they are:
- Persian Boy by Mary Renault ~ a continuation of the series about Alexander the Great. I started this in September to keep the story going.
- Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ~ in honor of Halloween (duh). Probably one of my favorite books of the month. I read this in three days.
- The Outermost House: a year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston ~ in honor of October being Animal Month. The best book for me to read on an island; finished it in three days.
- Lives of the Painters, Vol. 1 by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of October being Art Appreciation month. This was just ridiculous to read. There were a lot of errors according to the translator. I ended up skipping every biography that had a contradiction or error in it.As a result, finished it in two weeks.
- Hackers edited by Jack Dann ~ in honor of October being Computer Awareness month. This was cool to read. I read three stories a night and finished it in four days.
- The Dialect of Sex: the Case For Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone ~ in honor of breast cancer awareness month and strong women everywhere. I didn’t completely finish this, but I got the gist of it.
- The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan ~ in honor of the Amsterdam marathon taking place in October. I read this in four and a half days. Easy and very entertaining!
- The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd ~in honor of Ackroyd’s birth month. This was short, a little over 200 pages, but I took my time reading it – almost three weeks!
The audio book I chose for October was The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell. This took forever to listen to! I felt like I was constantly plugged into the story. I listened to it on the drive home from Maine, to and from work everyday. even while I was working out, while I cooking. It was a great story, worth every hour between the earphones. Can’t wait to read other Mankell stories!
For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I read Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave Introduced French Cuisine to America by Thomas J. Craughwell. While I thought I would enjoy this book (TJ is one of my favorite past presidents and I’m wild about food) it fell a little flat for me. I stopped reading on page 200. I also started reading Clay by Melissa Harrison. It was refreshing to get a first-time fiction from LibraryThing!
One thing that I failed to mention about October (and this is related to the books) is that I am back to requesting books from other libraries! Yay yay yay! This was halted in June of 2011 because we were switching ILSs and at the time I figured it would be a good opportunity to read what was on my own shelf and in my own library. Now, nearly 17 months later I am back to having hundreds of libraries to order from. Thank gawd!
We ended October with a freak storm people were calling Frankenstorm in honor of being so close to Halloween. Although we prepared like hell we saw little damage, thankfully. My thoughts and prayers go out to those in New Jersey and New York. It’s sad to see my old haunts get battered around so…
Beston, Henry. The Outermost House: a Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1988.
Even though Cape Cod is nothing like Monhegan Island this was a great read for vacation.
Henry Beston built a two room house on Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Originally the house was designed to be a summer getaway cabin but after two weeks Beston decided to see what it would be like to spend a year on the beach. During that time he wrote a memoir of the experience, recording everything he saw, heard, smelled, touched and experienced. As a result he published The Outermost House which became a best seller. Along the lines of Thoreau, Beston was enamored with living the simple life and experiencing nature in it most raw form. There were many times I found myself agreeing with Beston or being envious of his adventure. Even the storms that blew up the beach produced fascinating fodder for Beston’s book.
Favorite lines: “On its solitary dune my house faced the four walls of the world” (p 9), “Listen to the surf, really lend it your ears, and you will hear in it a world of sounds: hollow boomings and heavy roarings, great watery tumblings and tramplings, long hissing seethes, sharp riffle-shot reports, splashes, whispers, the grinding undertone of stones, and sometimes vocal sounds that might be the half-heard talk of people in the sea” (p 43) and one more, “Wraiths of memories began to take shape” (p 216).
Author Fact: Well, this fact isn’t about Beston. It’s about his house. His cabin on Cape Cod was named a national literary landmark until it was destroyed in the blizzard of 1978.
Book Trivia: Beston’s wife wouldn’t marry him until he had finished The Outermost House.
Reason read: October is National Animal Month.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Wild Life” (p 244).
Is it okay for me to say I am glad May is over? May was the search for a new boss (we found one), a 60 mile walk for breast cancer awareness ($180,000 raised) a funeral/memorial/burial – whatever, and just a little time for books. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Carry on, Mr Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham ~ kind of reminded me of other historical biographies for kids. Read in one week.
- Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan ~ in honor of Asian American heritage month.
- Of Men and Mountains by William O. Douglas ~ in honor of deadly Mount Everest. I read this in one weekend (up to Maine and back)
- Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl ~ (probably my favorite book of the bunch. I now want to see the documentary).
- Death of Ivan Ilich by Leo Tolstoy ~ in honor of May being a good time to go to Russia (I’ll take their word for it).
Here are two I didn’t finish:
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ~ this was a reread so I don’t feel bad I didn’t get through it again this time, and
- China To Me by Emily Hahn ~ I got the point after 120 pages. Since Pearl mentioned this in three different Lust books I feel as though I have to give it another chance…maybe another time.
For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program:
- Letters to Kurt by Eric Erlandson ~ read in one weekend, and
- The United States Coast Guard and National Defense: a History from World War I to the Present by Thomas P. Ostrom ~ I didn’t get through this one either which is really sad since I wanted to enjoy it.
So, there it is in a nutshell. Not a ton of good reading. More unfinished stuff than I’m used to. Oh well.
Douglas, William O. Of Men and Mountains. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1950.
William Douglas loved the outdoors. There is no mistaking that. He also had an enthusiasm for sharing that love with others. From a young age Douglas found a friendship with the mountains outside his home in Washington state. The mountains of Adams and Rainier became his getaway retreats. As he states in his forward (p x) to Of Men and Mountains, “I learned early that the richness of life is found in adventure.” Amen to that. His book combines the history of the mountains with Douglas’s lifelong enthusiasm, making it an infectious read. He covers the mountain adventures of his entire life, from boyhood to adulthood and I wanted to get out and hike immediately after hearing them.
Favorite quotes: As someone who walks a lot I appreciated Douglas’s love of hiking. “It was good to take long steps and feel the stretching muscles at the backs of my knees” (p 54).
Other quotes I liked: “It is in solitude that man can come to know both his heart and his mind” (p 90) and “The experience had a deep meaning for me, as only those who have known stark terror and conquered it can appreciate” (p 108).
Reason read: Mount Everest was first climbed in the month of May hence a book about a mountain read in May. Incidentally, Everest claimed another life this week.
Author Fact: In addition to being a wilderness enthusiast Douglas was a judge in his spare time.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” (p 64).
Barnes, Scott P. It Must Be…(A Grand Canyon Trip): Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011). Charleston: 2011 [ISBN 9780615444055].
In the interest of full disclosure I must admit this upfront. Scott is a dear friend of mine. Gawd, that makes me (and him!) sound ninety years old. Let me rephrase. Scott has a piece of my heart, forever and always. As you might have guessed we were lovers, best friends, roommates, and even classmates at one point. We have 25 years of history. He is, and will remain, the only “ex” with whom I can have an intelligent conversation. To be more blunt, he is the only ex I talk to. Period.
All that being said, I found It Must Be to be a tease, disappointingly short. That was my very first thought upon seeing its size and opening its first pages. It was my last thought when I finished reading it the first time; well after I had seen and imagined its potential. My mind exploded with the possibilities for this slim missive. To say that I wanted more, more, more is a good thing. But, in the end I changed my mind about it all. First, let me back up and write a proper review:
At first glance It Must Be looks like a self-indulgent diary. One of those “vanity press” books when one wants to see themselves in print. In reality It Must Be is an unflinching look at our greatest natural resource, water. Specifically, the Colorado River. Hidden in the journal of a winter adventure down the Grand Canyon Barnes plays devil’s advocate and dares to ask about man’s wanton waste while recognizing we need water for work and for play beyond sustenance. It Must Be speaks to the naturalist, the avid boater, the ecologist, and the historian, but his most obvious audience is the artist. Brilliant color and detail explode from nearly every page. Canyon walls come alive in shades of red and blue, black and green, while the river’s ever-changing energy is captured in the same. While It Must Be is short and sweet (46 pages cover to cover) its final message is loud and clear, “how much do you need?”
Here are the places I thought could have had more “meat.” Barnes mentions Matkatamiba and Havasu Canyon as being highlights of the trip (p 22). I wanted to know why. What made these places worth mentioning? Also, I was intrigued by “mailboxes on page 37. Even though this is a “gimmick” that has been done in the past, I would have enjoyed a sample “note,” something to delicately lift from an envelope, unfold and read (think Nick Bantock). I had questions about these notes (beyond the obvious what did the notes say?), like ‘were the notes weathered and fragile?’ and ‘Were the notes dated and if so, how old was the oldest note?’ As I mentioned before, I thought It Must Be ended way too soon. I wanted more description. What was it like to have those majestic canyon walls crowned over your head? Maybe photographs instead of just a link. More visuals. More stories. Sights. Sounds. (Lights, camera, action!)
But, then again, no. Maybe not. Maybe the point was just what it was, a simple reflection on a meaningful trip. Maybe you as the reader are meant to hunger for more. Maybe the goal was not to satisfy a curiosity but to create one?
Favorite quotes, “Humans fool ourselves, so our desires must be” (p 2, if It Must Be had pages), “We cannot control what we don’t know” (p 10), and “The river must be allowed to flow” (p 30).
Favorite pages of art – 12, 20 & 33.
Author Fact: Barnes has a wicked sense of humor that is laced with sarcasm. It Must Be has hints of that bite.
Book Trivia: It Must Be is part journal, part retrospect, part sketchbook, part didactic, part lecture, and all heart.
Bohjalian, Chris. Water Witches. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1995.
This is the story of environmentalists against developers. The storyline is simple. A Vermont ski resort needs to expand in order to stay in business. They are looking to clear trees and tap into a river in order to build more ski trails and man-made snow. That means obtaining permits and permissions. For lawyer Scottie Winston, working for Powder Peak, this means more jobs for the community…or so he says over and over again. Is he trying to convince himself? The trouble is Scottie is married to a water witch with minimal skills. More so, his sister-in-law is considered the most talented dowser in the country. Her abilities to find water, and even missing travelers is legendary. She is marrying the region’s most vocal environmentalist who opposes Powder Peak’s expansion. To make matters worse, Scottie’s own daughter is proving to be an even more accomplished water witch than her aunt…Scottie must chose between his job and his family especially when a drought complicates things not only for Powder Peak but for the entire community.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Ecofiction” (p 77).
Note: this review is lame because somehow I lost the one I thought I had already written….I didn’t have the energy to write it twice.
Zwinger, Ann Haymond. Downcanyon: A Naturalist Explores the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995.
When I first heard about Downcanyon I was romanced by Nancy Pearl’s description of it in More Book Lust, “Even if you’re not actually doing down the rapids of the Colorado, this book will make you feel as if you are” (p 173). I don’t know what I was expecting after reading that quote. Something pulse-pounding and riveting, I’m sure. I was sort of disappointed.
Downcanyon is a wonderfully illustrated down-the-river adventure, but I would suggest using it as more of a reference book or guide than a white-rapids read. The map is fascinating and it was certainly fun to read the travels along it. But, my favorite parts were the rest areas, the stopping for the night. Zwinger took that opportunity to focus on the flowers, the reptiles, and the animals and the rock formations. It is here that Zwinger zeros in on the very nature of things (the foraging and nesting of bumblebees, for example).
Another pleasing point to Downcanyon was the addition of quotes from other explorers before each chapter. It’s as if Zwinger is giving a nod to those who went down the Colorado with far less in every sense. Less equipment, less experience, less education. Those who went before were more daring, more adventurous, and without a doubt, put themselves in far more danger. Downcanyon is the exploration of the Colorado River for Zwinger and Zwinger alone.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Nature Writing” (p 173).
April is all about getting the garage ready for gardening. April is the confidence to pack winter clothes and get the snow tires off the car. April is leaving the heat off and taking off the sweater; driving with the windows down. The birds are getting louder and the mornings are coming earlier. I’m hoping to spend some time outside reading. Here are the books I hope to conquer:
- Affliction by Russell Banks~ In honor of two different times: March (Banks’s birth month) and April (National Sibling Week is in April).
- Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King ~ In honor of National Dog Month
- Downcanyon: a Naturalist Explores the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon by Ann Haymond Zwinger ~ in honor of Earth Day and nature writing
- Belshazzar’s Daughter by Barbara Nadel ~ April (believe or not) is the best time to visit Turkey (weather-wise, political ramifications aside).
- South Wind Through the Kitchen by Elizabeth David ~ April is National Food Month
If there is time:
- Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory by John Feinstein ~ April is Youth Sports Safety Month
And of course, April is National Poetry Month so as usual I am trying to read as much poetry during this time frame as I can. I can’t go without saying Natalie Merchant is releasing “Leave Your Sleep” this month – a collection of poetry centered around children and childhood. Natalie once said it was poetry written for, about, and by children. I guess that sums it up nicely. One poem she included on her album was one I already read for the Book Lust Challenge: “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program I have an interesting (and well-timed) nonfiction: Fundamental Weight Training by David Sandler. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping it will be user-friendly and very informative.
McCullough, David G. The Johnstown Flood. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968.
I have no idea what possessed me to read about two large scale disasters in the same month. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 cost the United States over 3,000 lives and was entirely a man-made nightmare, The tragedy of May 31, 1889 cost the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania over 2,000 lives and was a combination of man and nature coming together to create a different kind of nightmare. I instantly thought of Hurricane Katrina descending on the levies of New Orleans.
In the case of the Johnstown Flood, it was the man-made dam that held back the waters of Lake Conemaugh. As long as the dam held, the bustling valley town of Johnstown below was safe. While the dam was surrounded in controversy – those who thought it was perfectly safe versus those who thought it needed a makeover – no one could have predicted the amount of water the heavy rainstorms of May 31st, 1889 would bring. By midday the dam was in serious trouble. Despite frantic efforts to bolster its walls, by late afternoon it was too late and the dam gave way. It was impossible stop the deluge of millions of tons of water rushing down the mountainside. In a matter of hours an entire town was demolished. McCullough does an amazing job tying personal stories with the facts of the events. His recreation of the chain of events is stunning and almost unbelievable.
For some reason, it’s the examples of innocence right before the disaster that touched me the most. “The distance between the two houses was only about five feet, so he [Horace Rose] had put some candy on the end of a broom and passed it over to her [Bessie]. That was so successful that he next passed across a tin cup of coffee to Bessie’s mother in the same way. She was just raising the cup to her lips when the first crash came” (p 145).
The truest line of the book: “All ordinary rules of decorum and differences of religion, politics and position were forgotten” (p 187). Isn’t that what happened after September 11, 2001?
BookLust Twist:From Book Lust in the chapter called, “What a (Natural) Disaster” (p 124).
Who would have thought I would enjoy digging in the dirt so much? Hand me a house complete with a hoe and I’m a happy girl. Who knew? Every morning I find myself standing on the stoop, checking the vital signs of my transplants, keeping tabs on the roses. I pluck wilting blooms from the hanging planter, willing more flowers to take their places. Bring on the color. Every night on my way to check the mail I double check my geraniums. My fight-breast-cancer pink blooms. Check for bugs. Check for dry soil. Do you need anything, I ask them. Water? Bug spray? Food? There is peace in all this puttering and pampering.
In the middle rhododendron bush a mother robin had built a nest. I had a perfect view of her from my window. Over time as I watched her sit on her eggs I would myself just how many babies did she have? I spied every day, hoping to catch a glimpse of her skyblue family. They hadn’t hatched by the time I went away, but when I came home three loud mouthed, scrawny, bald babies squawked from their cozy perch. Strange how a family of common birds could fill me with such caring. I kept a careful watch over them until one day the nest was silent. Empty. The babies had flown. Or so I hoped.
Out in the back there is a spindly dogwood (“It’s a tree and a bush, sir.”) that I have been mothering. When my mother was in town we noticed a strange vine had wrapped its tendrils around its fragile limbs. Invasive and attacking, this vine was literally choking the life out of my dogwood. We, my mother and I, set to work with a fierce counterattack. Armed with sharp (pink!) clippers we chopped and slashed our way through the vines and freed the dogwood tree from captivity. Since then I have been diligent in keeping the vines at bay. I hack anything that comes near.
A good friend has a garden of herbs on her front steps. I envy her because she grows all my favorites: cilantro, italian flat leaf parsley and basil. Could I do the same? the thought crosses my mind nearly everyday. What about the cats? The rabbits? And someone said something about a wild boar…something I need to think about.
So for now I will tend to my dusty miller, my roses – trees, bushes and flowers. This garden that has brought me a different kind of relaxation, a separate peace, if you will. Who knew?
Balf, Todd. Last River: the tragic race for Shangri-La. New York: Crowne Publishers, 2000.
This just came in for me. Not only is this a BookLust mention, but Todd Balf is a Massachusetts man. I’m curious about this (nonfictional) story because I have a near & dear friend who does the whitewater thing. When I’m not worried about him cracking his skull open, I’m proud of him.
EDIT: I’m still reading Here First so River will just have to wait. 11/21/06
11/23/06: I gave up on Here First so I could jump into Last River.
11/25/06: Wanna hear something weird? Back when I first ordered Last River I said I was curious about the story because I have a friend who kayaks. I’m 60 pages into it and already Balf has mentioned HACKS, which my friend is a member (okay, president), and Falls River where my friend lives AND the very house my friend lives in. It doesn’t take much to excite me. I know I won’t see his name in this print, but it thrills me to know I’m delving into his world.
11/27/06: I finished Last River. Once I really started reading I couldn’t put it down. Was it the sense of imminent doom? I did know someone would die tragically. Balf was clever never to let on who would meet his doom on that monstrous river. I think that was part of it, but I think it was more out of fascination for Balf’s respect for the Tsangpo Gorge and everything that went with the October 1998 expedition. I have a deep rooted respect for the places I’ll never see, the things I’ll never do and the dangers I’ll never comprehend. This book opened my eyes to a different way of life: a life challenged and driven and obsessed by whitewater. In the end, I think I understand my friend a little better too.
Booklust Twist: Categorized as “Adventure By the Book” the kayakers are called, “gung-ho”, (Book Lust, p.8).