You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2007.

I may not live in a small town, but my goodness, sometimes it feels like I do.  Saturday morning saw me and the mom meeting up at my library’s plant sale.  So of course I knew everyone there, and snagged a lavender and rosemary and some kind of succulent and a nifty purple-ish green houseplant for the roommate’s birthday.  Oh, and a tomato, but that happened at the Waldorf school sale, across the way.  It was a regular plant sale extravaganza.  Now, time to sit back and see what all those random things in the garden turn into.  I’m 99% sure they’re not weeds, but beats me what they really are.  The “let things go to seed” method of gardening.

Sunday afternoon found me and the mom, again, at the farmer’s market.   It was the first day of the season, and we peered into every booth and examined every vegetable (okay, there weren’t many vegetables yet).  We got beets, cukes, a few gifts, renewable energy, local-ish pork sausage, and local sheep’s milk feta with herbs & olive oil.  Oh. My. God.  I’m looking forward to lunch so that I can spoon some of that squishy heaven over pasta.  All the cheese vendors were sample-happy, which was quite to my liking.  There was also a lamb stand, which I’ll have to scope out next time.  Of course, I ran into a few more coworkers and knew the musician performing.

I feel an itch to bake a crisp with last year’s frozen fruits, but I might need to lay my hands on some rhubarb first.  There are beets that need roasting, and cups of coffee that need drinking, and A Northern Light to read.  Not to mention two more stories to learn and a heap of dry cataloging theory articles to read.

*Robert G. Ingersoll – thanks, Quotationary!

Did you know that Jessmonster anagrams into Jest Sermons?  Now you do.

I’ve discovered a great thing to do with challenged books.   If rumor has it that they’re lacking in moral fiber, just take them to your neighborhood pub and read them over a beer and some fries.  That’s what I did to The Bermudez Triangle after work on Wednesday.  I tucked it in my bag and walked it on over, and we sat down at the only free seat and ordered ourselves a pint and sprinkled malt vinegar on our fries and listened to the large group of people singing oldtimey ballads and such.

No, I’m not kidding about that last part.  I was just tucking into the books and the fries when I hear them burst into song.  At first it sounds like they’re just singing on a whim, perhaps they had a few pints too many, but they sound far too good for that.  Turns out they’re a group that gets together and sings traditional English songs and such.  Because they just kept singing.  So I had musical accompaniment for all that moral fiber.  I mean, beer.

Next up on the reading list was The Mysterious Benedict Society, and I’ve just thought of the perfect child to recommend it to.  It felt like a cross between The Westing Game and A Series of Unfortunate Events…with fab illustrations at the beginning of each chapter.  In fact, I would’ve liked to see more illustrations and perhaps the text cut down a wee bit.  I kept thinking “surely I must be further along than this.”  But no.  Plenty of riddles and smart characters and adventure and orphans, all good, but I didn’t particularly attach to any of the characters.  But fun all the same.  Great names.  An island called Nomansan Island.  A character named Kate who would prefer to be known as The Great Kate Weather Machine.  I was able to read through the cryptic messages pretty quickly but I felt totally stumped when it came to some things – like the note at the end saying that you can figure out Mr. Benedict’s first name “if you are acquainted with the code.”  What code?  I feel very dim.  Also, there’s a character named Ledroptha Curtain – a name that you know must be a reference/puzzle, like Nomansan Island – but for the life of my I can’t figure it out.  I’m off to explore the website in the vain hope that all will be explained to poor me.

Today was Get Back on That Bike Day chez Jessmonster.  I admit, I was reasonably terrified.  I defy that bit of folk wisdom about never forgetting how to ride a bike – and I had bruises last summer to prove it – so it was a challenge getting back on after half a year of whining that it was too cold, rainy, windy, etc. to ride. Thankfully, half a year is not enough time for even me to forget how, and I had a lovely, sunshiney, slightly sweaty ride to the library and back (nearly 4 miles total).

Apparently though, one measly bike ride is enough to exhaust my energies for the day and leave me unable to complete any reading for school.  Which is really what I OUGHT to be doing.  But, oh look, it’s almost time to go to work.

Just got around to tallying reading totals for April.  Slim.  Twelve titles total, 3 adult and 9 children’s/YA.  Only one audiobook.  A goodly chunk of historical fiction – only 3 were actually contemporary settings.

Favorite of the month is definitely Peace Like a River, although that Attolia rereading scheme was Addiction of the Month.  So far in May I’ve knocked out a book a day, something I’m not likely to keep up as I’m trying to catch up on schoolwork this week, a light snack of bibliographic records.

The solution to my overflowing bookshelves seems to be lending, so borrow away.  I’ve got a lovely copy of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf which, true to recommendations, I loved.  I was torn between loving it for a glimpse into a culture I don’t know – Muslims in America – and for a culture I do know – religious outsiders.  Plus, they’re in Indiana, and I’m an Indy export.  There was a scene at the end, when Khadra goes back to a gathering of the community she hasn’t been with in years, and what she thinks is precisely how I often feel about my own church community:

Wrong they may or not be, but still.  I would not have a single one of them harmed.  I’d–I’d–here the melodramatic Syrian in Khadra waxes lyrical, I’d give my life to protect any of them, if it came to that!  Well, or something.  Something pretty close to that.  Wrong and mulish they could be, but dear to her, and maddening and conformist and awful, but full of surprising beauty sometimes, and kindness, and, then, just as full of ugliness and pettiness and, overall, really quite mediocre mostly.  But no, some were really quite remarkable, possessed of nobility and courage–yet the pride, the pride of holding themselves above the way they do, and thinking they know.  In the end, then, they were just so very human and vulnerable, like anyone else.

Jenna, I think you’d enjoy.  You can have it when you return The Thief – wait, I lent you something else, too, yes?  Oh right, The Woman in White.  I kinda forced that one on you.

On the bookshelf/next to my bed:

  • The Changeling (autographed!)
  • Now is the Hour
  • Roller Skates
  • Perfume
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • The Case of the Missing Marquess
  • Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading
  • The Fortress of Solitude (in the car)
  • The Double Bind (in the process of going on the ipod)

Which is not to mention all the holds piling up in my basket at work…
*Patrick Wilson, “The Bibliographical Universe”

I know I’ve lost some of my self-consciousness when I can sit (at dusk no less, that glorious time of peering into lit windows) at the dining room table, mere feet from the sidewalk, with my headphones on, recording a story.  You can’t tell a story without making faces.  And gesturing.  Even when you’re just recording your voice and sending the file to your professor.  People walk past and look in and there you are, clearly talking to yourself, except with a microphone/headset and, mama, why is that lady talking to herself?  Because she’s taking a storytelling class, silly child.

I’m in love with all the ways that stories start.  Once upon a timeMore years ago than you can tell me, and twice as many as I can tell you…Once there was and was not a poor peasant…Here is a tale, how old I cannot be telling…Long ago and far away…  Once, in the golden time…Once upon a time what happened did happen, and if it had not happened this story would never have been told…Pure magic, I tell you.

I find it surprisingly difficult to pick stories after reading them.  I’ve got a heap of collections from the library, and I can read through them and think, “great story.”  But I end up picking the ones that I’ve actually heard.  Small wonder, considering it’s an oral tradition.  They call it oral for a reason.   I just did The Peddler of Ballaghadereen for class.  I’m sure you’ve heard it, or one like.  It’s one of those stories where you reach the end and think, “aha, this story.  Now I know it.”

So this is the quick version.  There’s a peddler in a tiny village, and he has a garden with a fabulous cherry tree.  Remember the cherry tree, it will be important.  But he’s simple and foolish and he lets the rabbits and blackbirds eat up all his fresh, local, seasonal produce.  And he gives away most of his peddler stuff to the kids, who love him.  So he ends up poor and hungry in the winter, when St. Patrick comes to him in a dream and tell him to go stand on the bridge in Dublin, where he will hear what he’s meant to hear.  Of course it takes three dreams to get the peddler on the road (we all know better than to listen to just one dream, come on) and he stands there all day in the cold, nearly dead from hunger.  And this innkeeper asks him what he’s doing, and it turns out the innkeeper had a dream, too.  To go to a village called Ballaghadereen and dig under a cherry tree and find gold.  But of course the innkeeper is too smart to do something like that.

But I’m not letting the birds get all the cherries.  We can share.  I’ve just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle  and now I’m chomping at the bit for the farmer’s markets to open and the cherries to ripen, and the raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and tomatoes and yes, even the zucchini.  I started the book feeling like they were preaching to the choir, but a few chapters in I got up to examine the contents of my fridge.  Sure, I try to buy local produce, and I like my organics and my raw milk and trying to have a garden, but I ended up realizing I was not the choir and it was a lovely preaching.  Kate, you’ll love the bit about turkey mating.  There were several things I wanted to write down & quote, but I was too busy speeding through it to stop.  You’ll just have to borrow my copy and read it for yourself.

I was also hungry through most of the book: consider this your warning.  Good thing it wasn’t released in the middle of winter.  At least now those fresh things are starting to pop up.

I can’t really say I was productive, since none of the things that need to get done got done…but I do have these and a pan of biscuits to show for my afternoon.

You walk home from babysitting (“why is it called babysitting?  We’re not babies.”  “And I don’t sit on you”) and consider making a detour to the store, but you’re not quite sure what you need.  So you go home, a hint of thunder, and make a fresh pot of coffee and eat French toast leftover from breakfast, with strawberry jam, and then there’s lightning out of the corner of your eye, and a real proper roll of thunder.  You can only think of it as majestic before a sheet, literally a sheet of hail swings across the street.  It’s hard not to just sit and watch it, framed in your dining room window, with your chair so neatly pulled up to the view.

Assertive weather is useful.  Makes you grateful for a snug roof and dry feet and the days that are easy to be out in.  Probably not as useful for the seedlings in your garden, the mystery sprouts shooting up to remind us what you planted last year.  Will those be sweet-peas in the corner?  You can’t be troubled to look them up and find out, better to wait see.

You’re pretty irritated with your audiobook.  Are his hands cold? Are they still?  Is he still like marble? Like stone? Still perfect? Now is he perfect? Is his hair still bronze? Because you mentioned it a minute ago and I was worried that he’s sped off and dyed it. Still bronze? Whew. But is he still cold?  Like, marble, right?  Yet, like Leila says, it’s hard to put down.  Or turn off, as the case may be.

(April Modern Letter, sent off at the last moment on the 30th)

Odd how you can go along not really thinking about things, and then someone asks “how have you been?” and all of a sudden you have to stop and consider, how have I been?  The answer isn’t immediately there, ready to be presented.  You’ve just been going along, good and bad.

Which reminds me of my near-constant efforts to work on being a friendlier person.  As in, not the one that scowls at you.  Not outgoing, mind you, that would be heresy to an introvert.  Not necessarily Friendly.  But…friendlier.   It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

I’m currently listening to two very different and absorbing audiobooks.  Plus reading an absorbing book.  It wreaks havoc on my brain sometimes, the transition.  I might be at home reading The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf and considering the modest lowering of the gaze as a form of flirting amongst Hoosier Muslims (and how well I would fit into that – I can lower my gaze expertly!) and then I’ll drive to work listening to Fortress of Solitude which washes over me in waves of delicious phrases like “Isabel was a knuckle” (can’t you just picture her?) and finally I’ll be at work with the ipod and listening to the high school-vampireness of Twilight (what’s with vampires these days?  I am so beyond not getting it as a genre, but I enjoy specific titles, like this or The Historian).  It hurts, I tell you.  And now will I crawl into bed and read for a bit or listen for a bit?

May Day…I ought to scan pictures of the old gang with our flower and leaf wreaths on our heads.  Those were the days, the May Pole and the flowers.  I would gladly go back to grade school for a few days, especially if it consisted mainly, as it does in my memory, watercolors, knitting, freeze tag, French and German lessons, beeswax sculpture, and singing.  Oh, and stories to explain things like division.

May 2007
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