Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Old Things

I still cook with my grandmother's cast iron skillets. I use her long-handled granite ware colander almost daily to wash fruit. In her day, they were just everyday kitchen items. Today, while some might see them as collector's items, I value them for their longevity and continued usability.

I like the solid feel of things in my hand. I value a hand painted pitcher given to my mother as a wedding present, an ornately decorated jar belonging to my great grandmother, an egg scale used by one grandfather, and a bugle from another.

In these days of transitory things, of items from the dollar store, Walmart or Target that decorate your house and then are sold or thrown out with the vagaries of changing taste, I still value solid things from the past. Things made well, that are still useful fifty, seventy-five, one hundreds years later.

And sometimes, when I am filled with self-doubt about why I write, I remember that I really, really, really love books. Real Books, with a front cover and a back cover and bound pages in the middle.

Because writing, like so many things now, is becoming transitory. Blogs and interviews and emails and instant messages - it is all like so much dust in the wind. Pictures, too, are now hosted on online web servers, or kept on memory cards or computers or saved on our social networking sites. Will there be no more boxes of photos with names hastily scribbled on the back, so that future generations can hold them up and wonder who was that boy at the birthday party, and is that really Jimmy when he was five years old?

So for me, as we get ready to ring in a whole New Decade, I'm happy to say that I still like Old Things. Like this book with my grandmother's name written inside.

It has lasted more than 100 years.

And when I struggle for months and years over a novel, trying to get the words just right, I guess it's with the hope that I might be making something of value - something that will last. Maybe even 100 years or so. So that decades from now, someone from a future generation might pull one of my books from a bookshelf, carefully open the pages, and say, "Hey, my grandmother read this book a long, long time ago. Look! She wrote her name inside."

Wouldn't that be cool?

Happy New Year, Everyone, and may you all find things that you value.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Reading List

What do I love about Christmas? I get to shop. And what do I most like to shop for? Designer clothes? Nah. Expensive jewelry? Nope. Tools? Not really.

My most favorite thing to shop for and give is BOOKS.

I love to paw through bookstores, online sites, and even my own bookshelf looking for just the right reading material for everyone on my gift list. Books are easy to wrap, easy to send, they smell delicious, and they can entertain, uplift, inspire and delight.

Want to know what I got for kids on my list this year, ranging from six to sixty something? Hint, if you are reading this before Christmas and you have a package from me - STOP READING NOW so you don't spoil the surprise! With that disclaimer, here goes:

* If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, by Laura Numeroff
* Pony Scouts, Really Riding! (I Can Read Book) by Catherine Hapka
* The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt
* The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (2 copies)
* Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
* A Bridge Too Far, by Cornelius Ryan
* Not Your Mother's Weeknight Cooking, by Beth Hensperger
* Enjoying Where You Are On The Way To Where You Are Going, by Joyce Meyer
* The Nightly Book of Positive Quotations, by Steve Deger
* Farm Tractors, by C.H. Wendel
and finally, a book published in 1940 which you must read if you love dogs,
* Lassie Come-Home, by Eric Knight

Merry Christmas Everyone, and Happy Reading To All!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Horses and Long Winters

Last night I was complaining about the long winter, and how the chores of feeding, cleaning, and watering horses continue, day after day even when there are sometimes weeks and months when I don't ride. I miss riding. This fall, I was just getting my old horse, Buddy, back into shape and he was turning into a darn good trail mount. And then two things happened: Hunting Season, which tends to keep my out of the woods, and then Winter.

Our weather here in the Pacific Northwest doesn't look so bad as I watch the news this morning and see a blizzard barreling down on the East Coast. Still, I spent all last week bundling up like the abominable snowman just to go outside and do chores in our single digit weather. (And thank God for electric stock tank heaters).

Today, the temperature in our barn read 44 degrees. Relatively balmy, all things considered. I could almost get the old horse out and ride him, but Christmas is exactly one week away and I have so much yet to do. So instead, I clean the barn, watch old Buddy lick every last morsel from his grain pan, scratch my donkey inside her ears, and give my horse one last hug for the day.

The sun is making a brief appearance through the low clouds. Did you know that birds sometimes sing, even in the winter, if the sun comes out? And I realize that these peaceful moments with my livestock, outside in the fresh (and sometimes brisk) air are what center me in life. They are my moments of peace and of oneness with nature.

So as I gear up for a day of traffic and crowded stores and last minute shopping, and then to my computer and banging out words in my manuscript, these moments with my horse nickering softly to me, of listening to the sounds of birds waking up to their day ahead, are what give me the strength to get through life.

Riding is one of the enjoyments of owning a horse. But oh, there are so many more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Beatles

The other night I watched Paul McCartney on television, in a replay of a concert last summer at Shea Stadium in New York City. It brought back a lot of memories. The old boy still has the chops.

I use the term "old" loosely, because although he's a few years older than I am, we are basically from the same generation. The Beatles were huge back in their day. Their music has had such a lasting influence on generations to come, and I can't think of anyone who hasn't been impacted by one of their songs. And there seems to be a whole new generation of people who are now Beatles fans, as evidenced from the throngs of all ages of people cheering Paul on at the concert, where he played with the original Beatles 44 years ago.
The Beatles were a true phenomena, not only in music, but on our culture. Right about then was when the term "hippie" first started coming into common use. I remember when they first played on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. "Who are those mop-heads?" everyone asked. "Look at that long hair!" Yet looking at the pictures now, they were relatively clean-cut.

I was never one of the screaming, rabid fan girls adoring the Beatles. And I never saw them live in concert. (Although I was lucky enough to see Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Peter, Paul and Mary, George Strait, and Merle Haggard all live on stage.)

But I did buy and cherish their records, and I was influenced by their music. I remember being at the guitar or the piano trying to figure out the intricate chord changes in "Yesterday." This was long before you could go online and find them - there was no online :-) I remember sitting around with a group of people trying to pick out all the harmony parts to sing on "If I Fell." And smiling whenever I turned on the radio and heard "Here Comes the Sun."

The song writing team of Lennon and McCartney wrote some of the most memorable music of several generations, and it's nice to see that it's still popular. If I had to pick a favorite song, it would be hard to choose between "Yesterday," "Hey Jude," and the haunting "Norwegian Wood."

Yeah, watching Paul McCartney perform brought back a lot of memories.

So here's a question - what's your favorite Beatles song?