Thursday, June 27, 2013

Biker Book Club

I participate regularly in two book clubs. In one we spend half of the meeting talking about the book before we break for food and laughter. 

In the other, we talk about the book, but the percentages are more like  10% discussion and 90% dinner. Throw in a glass of wine, too.

I chanced across a book recently that I won't read and would never recommend to either group.  The genre is "biker fiction" and the characters are intent on drinking, riding motorcyles, and swearing. 

So why am I mentioning it? Because the author is clearly imaginative. While neither his novel's style or his theme appeal to me, what caught my eye was the front page of "randomly selected, impartial reviews." 

I read them because they were so funny.  And then read them again before I caught on that he'd written them himself. Here are some samples:

"Being a book critic is a pretty easy job. I mean, you don't need a hard-hat or gloves or anything. But face it, you have to read a LOT of books; and most of them are BORING!”  (My middle schoolers would have agreed.) "This new Shovelhead Red story makes work so much fun; I feel guilty about cashing my paycheck!"   

You won't find that admission in the Wall Street Journal.

The next one is allegedly written by "Left Lane Lenny,” a road-dog (that’s motorcycle jargon for an enthusiast) and columnist. His fictitious magazine is MyTurn, a "magazine for fat white guys who own motorcycles." 

 Lenny actually sounds a bit like Dickens. "A peek back in time. A peek into the future."  He adds description that reminds me of Gulliver's Travels  "A rollicking tale of travel and adventure." 

He goes so far as to declare the book, "One of life's great mysteries revealed.” It reminds me of author Carlos Castenada,  promising enlightenment through shamanism and mind-altering drugs. 

 The style and tone changes when a reader describes the book. "Wonderfully scripted word-portraits, and unreal character development virtually put me there! What a delightfully wrought tale of unfettered, unimpeded freedom." 

Ironically, the imaginary fan is Inmate #123456, published in Later: a magazine for condemned guys.

The last commentator is Mangler, president of the Bikers Who Actually Read Books Club. He declares that his members had better agree or be thrown out because they are "too ignorant of quality biker fiction ta be clutterin' up the club an' drink' OUR beer!"

I studied literature in college and wrote many paper on notable works. I realize now my analyses were were immature and unoriginal. Professors, I apologize.

Roy Yelverton, the author of the novel and the endorsements, has done a far better job than I.  He created a diverse group of personalities in just a few words. (Authors call that characterization and I wish I could do it!) There is a variety of tone and style. 

These phony commentaries are witty and clever.

 I bet if the anonymous book critic, Lenny, the inmate, Mangler and I had a book club, we’d agree on that.  

How would you describe your book club? What kind of books do you read?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sprigs: Ditch Lilies, Time for Their Congenial Visit

It's time for the ditch lilies. 

 For you dry climate folks that don't have them, they grow wild in ditches.  Their large orange heads on tall stalks provide a patch of color along the roads.

I've transplanted them to several large empty spaces in my yard that needed consistent green foliage and a mass of color early in the summer. 

Some folks think they're common, but I find them congenial, like a friend who drops in for a visit every year. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vacation--Dutiful or Duty-free?

When I was a child our family vacations weren't vacations for my mother. 

If we were driving cross country to visit my grandparents she had to pack clothes for 4 kids. She filled the ice chest with milk for breakfast, lunch meat and cheese for lunch, repeat for dinner. Then she had to pack bread, miniature cereal boxes, snacks, and plastic dishes.

Then she'd alternate driving with my father for 48 hours with only road-side stops. She was exhausted before we started, and by the end at least one of us had thrown up in the car from motion sickness. 

Once we traveled with an infant, and had to haul all of the stuff moms once used to make their own baby formula. My two year old sister got into the box and poured Karo syrup (an ingredient in the formula) all over the quilt padding in the back of the station wagon. At the next gas station I held the edges of the quilt up while Mom stood at the small rest room sink and tried to scrub out the sticky mess.  

It was the same for camping vacations, but there was less driving and more gear.  Still, she frequently spent the first day in the tent recuperating.

I didn't want to repeat that with my own family so we didn't camp. I didn’t count trips to visit family out of state as vacations. It wasn’t until I got a job with a major airline, and gained inexpensive flight privileges, that we finally got to take real vacations.

It’s a vacation if:

I did help clean-up.
1. I have abandoned my residence and my regular life style. I am living in a house someone else decorated. I take a shower in a bathroom I didn't have to clean. Someone else prepares a delicious dinner for me as well as does the dishes. 

2. I shake loose the tendrils of shoulds and oughts that grow on the net of daily routine. I strive to be "a being free from duty" (Latin vacationem)

3.  I give myself permission to be self-centered and indulgent.  My only responsibilities are to be considerate of others and clean up after myself. 

4. I can start the day with a bike ride on the beach, end with wine on a screened porch. I get to see new places and try new things. Last year I tried boogie boarding. 
coffee beans

This spring I learned a little about coffee farming in Guatemala. My world expands and my perspective is stretched. 

5. I don’t feel guilty if I read in the middle of the day.

6. I go home before I have to vacuum or change the sheets.

And it's even better if I go someplace that doesn't speak (much) English!

I don’t know what your criteria is, but I hope you get to take a vacation this summer. What was your best vacation ever, and what made it so? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sprigs: Beach gardens

Wherever I am,  I scout out gardens. Recently I scoped out a few small gems at Sunset Beach, NC.

This has a nice variety of plants in a very small area. 

 The lawn ornaments complement this
small garden. Notice the textural
differences in the plants.

Lots of ivy in the tree adds to the charm.

As I fight to regain the ground lost to rampaging weeds, small gardens are looking really good to me!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nudge or Shove?

Do you ever hear a still, small voice that nudges you to act? 

A very talented college student I know was suffering with an untreatable brain malady. The crippling pain  frequently confined her to a hospital bed at home.  She had to put her dreams of graduation and medical school on hold. I suspected she, and her mother, were battling fear and anxiety. 

For several months I ignored the recurring thought that I needed to call. I was ashamed of myself, and cowardly put it off again. 

When I finally spoke to the mother she was grateful. I apologized for my  delay. She repeatedly  said that the call came at just the time she most needed to share the burden with someone else. I  was humbled to realize my call was more than a polite token. For her, it was significant encouragement.  

Another friend told me that she was prompted to visit an ailing member of her church. She delayed, and he passed away. She was sorry that she'd missed the opportunity to give him a big final hug. 

She took a walk on the beach to think through her remorse. She said she recognized the nudge had come from God, and she asked him to boost the nudge to a shove next time. She was really upset by her failure to act. 

Then she found a whole sand dollar. For Christians the sand dollar is a symbol of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. The ultimate message of His ministry is forgiveness. It was appropriate that she came upon a reminder of His continued work in her life. Now she has an object that reminds her of the lesson she learned: listen and act. 

Have you acted, and been blessed by the result? Conversely, have you ignored the prompt and regretted it? 

 Don't delay to make what could be a divine appointment.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sprigs: Peas--a toothy green smile

Strawberries are finished.
Peas are ready, and I can't resist their green smiles.

This is my first year with a  substantial crop. 

I grew Sugar Snap, from Johnny's Seeds. The pods are sweet, even when the peas have matured.  The vines are about 5' tall, supported on net strung between metal fence posts. But they are so prolific I had to lasso them to the poles.

Bill eats them raw with hummus. I found a quick, tasty oven recipe that keeps them crunchy but adds a roasted flavor. Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

I'll be smiling until they're all gone.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Exponential Joy: A Double Rainbow

Last week sudden thunderheads released the rain with the force of a fire hose. It splashed off of our shed's metal roof, bouncing high and then gushed off the edges. The house gutters clogged up and the overflow created a continuous band of waterfall the length of the porch. 

The storm moved east rapidly, trailing softer rain with the sun blazing in the west. Anticipating the rainbow we headed outside.  As we watched a second arc formed outside the first. 

The inner bow colors intensified and the bands widened like watercolors spreading on a damp page.

I haven't seen many double rainbows. The only other one I remember was on the high plains in Colorado, with no trees in sight, so it seemed like it filled the entire sky. Neither time did I notice that the order of the colors are reversed in the second rainbow.  As soon as I read about that phenomenon online I examined my photos for confirmation.  (link to secondary rainbow.)


I don't quite understand rainbows enchant us. Even though we know what conditions will cause a rainbow, we find them surprising. And two rainbows magnify the pleasure exponentially.* 

Maybe it's the sense that our lives still hold potential to astonish us, that our daily paths can branch off to the unexpected and unknown. 

Rainbows revive a sense of wonder, create a catch in our breath, affect an appreciative pause in the midst of routine. No wonder Dorothy sang about them.

I hope you have reason to marvel today, rain or shine.

*(I don't really understand all of the math, I just know that it means something gets big faster. If you really want to know, follow the link.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sprigs: Repurposed Wind Chime

I love taking a break from gardening and listening to my wind chime.  It's made from old pieces of silverware. They clang softly, like small bells. 

I imagine the individual pieces sitting on dining room tables for Sunday dinners and holidays. Maybe great Aunt Gertie received that pattern for her wedding in 1906. Perhaps a mischievous little boy stabbed his cousin with that fork.

If you're interested in an chime for yourself, email me and I'll connect you to the creator.