My Mission...Not Impossible...Make Mississippi Read!
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Ibby Bell gaped at all the bright colored houses and wrought iron fences as they rolled slowly down Prytania Street in the Garden District of New Orleans. In her excitement to get a better look at the some of the mansions, she started to readjust her position on the green vinyl. Mistake. That embarrassing noise was coming from below her bare legs as she tried to move her sweat-cemented self from the front seat.
“Li-bar-tee Bell! Mind your manners,” said her mother, Vidrine, as she pulled in front of the dilapidated home. “You want to make a good impression. Right?”
Ibby grimaced as she looked at the once glorious home. It was a two story Victorian with an imposing cupola on top. Above the cupola sat a weather vane that was no longer vain. The racing horse would not turn into the wind. The horse’s hoof sat forever trapped in rust and one side of the propeller laid pointing to the sky in the gutter.
Her eyes fell down to the second story where she could see a window covered over with plywood in the turret. An old Oak Tree was leaning so close to the space that one could imagine the Spanish Moss tickling the house. Ibby figured it must have caused the broken window.
Ibby could barely make out the rocking chairs and swing on the front porch from the overgrown azaleas that pushed through the wrought iron enclosing it. She turned back to her mother, “Yes, Ma’am.”
Vidrine looked her in the eyes and asked her to repeat what they practiced. Ibby looked down and said, “I am to hand her Daddy and tell her it is a present from you. Aren’t you coming in?”
“No, darling. We have already talked about this for hundreds of miles.”
Ibby took the green handled urn from its place of honor between the two of them and opened the car door. As soon as she placed her red sneakers on the curb, Vidrine gave her a little push. She stood, urn in hand, and shut the door.
Once the car door was shut, Vidrine wasted no time leaving. She yelled out, “Now don’t forget to tell her what I said!” as the car squealed into the curve. Ibby turned toward the house wondering why she had to meet her grandmother alone.
Dollbaby is a unique story set in 1964 New Orleans by first time author, Laura Lane McNeal.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
One of my favorite memories at Como Public Library was Community Helper Day. All the little first graders from Como Elementary would file into the library for a tour. Activities included throwing things in the book drop (always fun), scanning books to make the beep, and pushing the book cart around. They left with a book bag filled with coloring sheets, crayons, candy, and a library card application.
At the time, Como Main Street included the police station, firehouse, city hall, library, doctor/dentist office, restaurants, and bank. You could watch the little ones centipede to each building and wave at the helpers who greeted them smiling. It felt like an important day.
Cloverleaf books’ Community Helpers series, published by Millbrook Press, uses a unique author/illustrator combination to assure uniformity. Half of the eight books were written by either Gina Bellisario or Bridget Heos. The four illustrators have two books to their credit and are Cate Atkinson, Mike Moran (no relation), Ed Myer, and Kyle Poling. All illustrators obeyed a round, long, or triangular face rule and maintained the same color pallet.
These picture books all begin with Let’s Meet a … followed by the corresponding helper. Helpers include a construction worker, dentist, doctor, firefighter, librarian, police office, teacher, and veterinarian. Since there are eight, teachers can read two a day for four days with a tour at the end of the unit.
The series format is uniform and includes three chapters, an activity, a glossary, and further readings. The chapters for Librarian are “The Spy,” “No Shushing Allowed!” and “A Computer Wizard.” The activity is finding a book and the glossary has words like catalog, e-book and troubleshoot. The further reading section suggests the website kidsclick.org.
I particularly like the Construction Worker book. They are building a new school for the children complete with a playground. Oh, but that is in the future. Right now it is a mound of dirt where they can play "King on the Mountain" wearing fake-plastic orange construction hats.
The activity is to construct a graham cracker house using peanut butter. What a mess! I would read this book in the afternoon and reserve the activity for close to last bell. A little less messy would be to hand out blue construction paper and let them draw up blueprints for the house using chalk.Don’t forget we look up to you, community helpers. After reading this series, you will have even more admiring eyes.
Community Helpers (copy)
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
As she threw it down on the tile floor, she knew it was not right. It was a reflex she could not control. To be honest, she had no memory of holding anything until it left her hand in a violent trajectory. What had the man said? Did I just agree to meet him over 600 miles away on Monday?
Mary Byrd Thornton looked at the mess on the floor. Instantly, she was remorseful. A relief rushed over her as she realized she might have held something else. What if it was one of her precious Spode pieces? It would have made a more satisfying crash. Did he mention more information? It was 30 years ago. How could there be more information?
She sank to her knees and started the process of gathering the pieces. Evagreen, her help, would disapprove seeing the mess. For some reason, Evagreen always looked at her with a certain disdain. Her husband and two children could do no wrong where Mary Byrd could do no right. How did the detective even get her phone number?
“I knew this crap would break,” she said aloud. Just like Teflon that can be scratched and stainless steel that stains, this miracle of modern life is after all, man-made. In the corner, she noticed that a sliver had violated one of her expensive off-season cantaloupes. Ignatius, her cat, must have knocked it off the counter and rolled it into the corner for a private consultation.
Seeing the stabbed cantaloupe triggered her memory and her tears. Oh, how her brother must have suffered. Over her shoulder, she felt the presence of Evagreen. She slowly stood drawing her feelings inward as she showed some of the bigger shards to Evagreen without looking her in the eyes, “Look, Corelle does break.”
Flying Shoes is the first book by Oxford author Lisa Howorth. Set in a Mississippi college town like Oxford, she fills the pages with characters and places that are oddly familiar. One obvious example is her character L. B. who sits in his gold Dodge truck with a lit cigarette precariously stuck to his bottom lip. Readers will picture Larry Brown as the scene unfolds.
This work of fiction seems so real, I found it hard not to believe main character Mary Byrd and the author Howorth are not one and the same. It does not help that the book jacket informs readers about the unsolved murder of the author’s stepbrother before turning a single page. But, this story is more than true crime, it is a true Southern yarn.
Flying Shoes (copy)
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Three new concept books with an Asian flair are sure to delight your toddlers for hours. These easy books come with a catch, though. You and your mini-me(s) must be willing to read aloud about a Panda waxing and waning over seasonal changes, or be able to perform a proper search for a downtown dragon, or dress in all black and slink around the house as you pretend you are a ninja.
Hi, Koo! is another great book from Caldecott honor recipient, Jon J. Muth. The book features a panda named Koo who looks to be the most limber creature in the world. In the warm watercolors on glossy paper, he can be seen mid somersault on one page and being lifted off his feet by wind on another.
The book has three different elements all working together to tell the story. First, each page contains a Haiku. Haiku is a type of Japanese poetry. The simplest form in use is the 5-7-5 format as in 5 syllables for the first line, then 7 syllables for the second, and 5 for the ending. It makes for an interesting beat when read aloud.
Second, each Haiku contains a capitalized letter. The first page begins with, “Autumn, are you dreaming of new clothes?” Next page begins, “these leaves fall forever my Broom awaits”. As you can guess the next letter will be “C” until the alphabet is complete. It is a subtle A-to-Z list that can be overlooked until they are ready to learn.
Third, the book introduces children to the concept of seasons. The words Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer are to the side of the action on the first page of the season. Hovering out of the scene, these words look to be an afterthought added after the book was produced. The effect allows for additional subtlety for teaching.
“Have You Seen My Dragon?” by Steve Light brings the city to any country child. Our tiny hero begins his day by asking the doorman, Have you seen my Dragon? On the right side of the page is a white “1 Dragon” in a bold black banner. Everything in the two-page scene is pen and ink, but the dragon is painted a deep green.
The second page states, “Maybe he got hungry and stopped for a hot dog.” The pen and ink represents a hot dog cart with pedestrians eating. On the upper right corner is “2 Hot dogs” encased in black like the first page. The only color comes from the two hot dogs. The book continues on until we reach “20 Lanterns” in Chinatown. A map is included.The last book in the Asian trilogy is Ninja! by Arree Chung. Our 5-year-old hero displays the attributes of a Ninja by being courageous, strong, and silent. Gather the equipment needed and put on the dark clothes and see how many family members you can sneak up on. Chung designs video games during the day and writes and illustrates children’s books at night. Sayonara!
3 Asian Concept Books (copy)
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
My husband has a favorite quote he loves to spout after seeing a cat’s eyes glow unworldly. “Who has not seen Satan in their sly faces?” The quote is from True Grit by Charles Portis and describes how his main character, Mattie Ross, distrusts cats when compared to the innocence of ponies.
Please, do not get me wrong. My husband loves cats. It wasn’t an overnight change, though. It took time before he learned the benefits. Our first cat, Lucy, was also his first attempt at getting to know the smarter pet. The discerning pet that picks its owners very carefully, our Lucy was slow to love but loyal to the core.
Hubby thought it incredible that I could get Lucy to play fetch with a bread twister or hide-n-seek in the monkey grass. She came when she was called and greeted us when we came home. She even flicked her tail when excited, reminding us of a dog’s wag. Yet, when her eyes shifted, Bam! He would utter it without even knowing, “Who has not seen Satan in their sly faces?”
Willie Morris was the same way. He grew up with all manners of dogs and loved them with delight, but he was about to marry a cat lover! He didn’t just dislike cats, he loathed them. How in the world would he be able to function with a cat in the house?
The dreaded day happened on what was supposed to be a joyous and calm Christmas. The cat came from under the tree with a little red bow around its neck. A gift from his grown son David to Willie’s new bride, the kitten was found cold and starving on the side of Highway 51 in the Delta. I picture Willie lifting his feet off the floor in disgust.
She was named Rivers Applewhite after one of Morris’ childhood friends who is also featured in his book, My Dog Skip. He was allowed to name her since he was obviously left out of the gift giving loop and his bride was smitten.
Rivers grew to be a smart cat, but she was no dog. She did not play fetch. She did not come when called. Instead, she took to hiding. Once she was found nestled between The Brothers Karamazov and Down and Out in London and Paris.
Willie was also unable to get her affections. “When I picked her up, she would not stay with me. Why could she not at least show even the most modest indications that she was happy to see me and to greet me when I was gone for several days? This puzzled and angered me. ‘Cats ain’t dogs,’ I would shout accusingly at the Cat Woman.”Rivers soon gave birth to a cat that forever changed Willie’s mind about pets. My Cat Spit McGee is a mature look at a man’s struggle to accept the cold, hard fact that he was becoming a dreaded cat lover.
My Cat Spit McGee (copy)
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
She was quiet, shy, weighed 95-pounds soaking wet, and worth $300 million. She owned mansions in Connecticut and on Santa Barbara’s East Beach. She owned a 215 acre ranch in California called Rancho Alegre. Her three apartments on 5th Avenue in Manhattan overlooked Central Park. One apartment was the entire top floor of the building.
All properties were staffed and maintained. All were meticulously furnished with antiques, tapestries, dolls, and oil paintings from France. Renoir, Degas and Monet hung amongst art created by the single owner whose teacher was the famous artist, Tadé Styka.
The Santa Barbara mansion that sat atop a mesa overlooking the Pacific was purchased in 1923. The original building did not meet the family’s standards and in 1933 a French Georgian with 27 rooms was built. The estate was called Bellosguardo, meaning beautiful lookout in French.
Behind the mansion sat city property that was bought in 1928. The ugly city lagoon was turned into a bird sanctuary with a beautiful lake and three man-made islands in memory of her older sister who died at the age of 16 in 1919.
A black, 1933 Cadillac limousine and a gray-green, 1927 Rolls-Royce sat motionless in Bellosguardo’s garage. They were once used to transport the owners from the train station when they debarked from their private Pullman car.
Bellosguardo lawns were pristine. The rose garden was considered the best in California. The last event on the grounds was a quiet garden club meeting in 1961. Inside the music room laid two French harps on their sides and two Steinways covered in silk. The library was floor-to-ceiling books with emphasis on Japanese art and culture. On the corner wall hung a self-portrait of the owner as she looked in her 20s.
The main residence for Madam was the apartment, 12W, on 5th Avenue overlooking Central Park. She stopped visiting Bellosguardo after her mother died in 1963. The following year, she renovated her bedroom to look exactly like her mother’s French décor in 8E.
Author, Bill Dedman, found the “mysterious world of Huguette Clark” in 2009 after house hunting frustration led him to the most expensive property for sale in Connecticut. The grounds keeper told Dedman that the mansion has been unoccupied since it was purchased in 1951. He had never even met the owner.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, by Bill Dedman is readable nonfiction that does not make up scenarios. Based on family or court records, the book stays away from imagined conversation and sticks to the facts.
Was the woman who liked to play with dolls of sound mind? It will take reading the last page before readers can decide.
Empty Mansions (copy)
at 4:18 PM
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The more I read Willie Morris, the more I like him. I am alternating between North Toward Home and My Dog Skip. What tickles me is that he is an early recycler. He took stories from his 1967 memoir, North Toward Home, and repackaged them into the commercially successful 1995, My Dog Skip.
Morris received Skip while in the third grade. The dog was a distraction since Morris seemed confused over the loss of his aunt Sue. He writes that he stood in front of her casket trying his hardest to memorize her face. There was a mole under her eye that he had never noticed in conversation. He stood long after the family moved to the cars and she was wheeled out.
Some of Morris’ happiest memories dealt with his grand aunts, Mag and Sue. Both were “old maid” sisters living with his grandmother, Marion, in Jackson, Miss. For Morris, Mag and Sue were endless entertainment.
When Morris was eight he sent off for an “ultra-mike” for two dollars. It looked like a regular radio mike and when hooked into an electrical outlet would allow the user to broadcast their voice from the family radio.
“I would hook up this instrument in the back room while Mag and Sue sat listening to the radio in the parlor. Then I would say, ‘We interrupt this program to bring you a special announcement. The Yankees are coming! They are ten minutes away from Raymond! I repeat: the Yankee soldiers are on their way!’ Then Mag and Sue, holding their dresses above their knees for better running, would leap out of their chairs and dash to my grandmother: ‘Marion, Marion, did you hear? They’re comin’! They’re on their way!’”
Marion calmed their spirits and told them it was just the boy playing around. Morris said they would go back to their chairs in the parlor and listen again to their show. After a wait of 2-3 hours, he could do the same thing again and the aunts produced the same reaction.
It was Percy, Marion’s trusted house servant that recognized Morris’ sadness. After the casket was shut and the burial in the old family plot through, Percy consoled him with, “Now don’t you be sad.” He took little Morris’ hand and led him through the doors of Woolworth to reward him with a toy.
“That day I remember I promised myself that if Percy ever died, I would shoot myself, with the pistol my father kept under his mattress at home. But I knew that Percy would never die.”Skip joined the family two weeks later.
North Toward Home (copy)
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I am so excited! Northwest is offering the first ever author study and hometown tour featuring Willie Morris this Fall as a continuing education class for local educators. Participants will receive 1.5 continuing education units (CEUs) for two short classes and a day long trip to Yazoo City celebrating his writings.
The two classes will focus on five books: Good Old Boy, My Dog Skip, Good Old Boy and the Witch of Yazoo City, North Toward Home, and Conversations with Willie Morris.
The tour of Yazoo City will start with a visit to the Sam Olden Yazoo Historical Society Museum, a walk in Glenwood Cemetery where the witch of Yazoo and Morris are buried, lunch at Ubon’s Barbeque (a Memphis in May award-winning treat), and walking amongst the historic homes and churches that Morris mentions in his books.
In the last two weeks, I have met some truly nice people who thought the world of Morris. Jesse Kelley, an instructional librarian at Delta State, volunteered to help with the first class because he has read everything Morris wrote and wants to learn more. Our scholar for the second class is Dr. Katherine (Kate) Cochran. She knew him and his wife, and teaches his works in her Southern Literature class at the University of Southern Mississippi.
I had lunch with Larry Wells, owner of Yoknapatawpha Press, who was excited that Morris was being taught at NWCC. Over chicken salad, he shared many stories about Mississippi authors such as William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, his wife Dean, and himself. Wells has written three novels: Rommel and the Rebel, Rommel’s Peace, and Let the Band Play Dixie. He edited and published the photo-biography, William Faulkner: The Cofield Collection, and scripted a TV film documentary Return to the River (Mississippi ETV) which won a 1994 Emmy for Best Regional Broadcast.
Larry and his late wife, Dean Faulkner Wells, taught English at Northwest from 1975-79. In 1978 Morris asked them to contact Chancellor Porter Fortune and see if Ole Miss would be interested in hiring him.
Willie Morris was the first writer-in-residence at Ole Miss, but before he accepted the position he needed reassurance about the move. He struggled with the idea of moving from the constant on of New York City to the possible off of Oxford. It took an Ole Miss tailgate party and football weekend to convince him that Oxford could be just as exciting.Throughout our meal, Larry portrayed Morris as a brilliant but sometimes eccentric writer, and a highly creative practical joker, but also a gentle soul who thought the world of Mississippi and its people. He and Morris were driving to Oxford from Yazoo City when a Miss. highway patrolman stopped them. After the officer read Morris’ license, he asked if he was speaking with the author Willie Morris. Larry said this was the happiest he had ever seen Willie, not because the officer did not ticket him but because he recognized him.
Literary Tour - Willie Morris - Fall 2014 (copy)
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
I am the proud co-caretaker of two wacky pets - one cat, Sandy, who eats five times a day but weighs 5lbs. and one dog, Taylor, who would eat the cat if she smelled like bacon and who weighs a whopping 75lbs. They both travel indoors and outdoors with ease as long as the magic wood with windows moves.
What if they did not get along, though? Would our house turn into a war zone like in Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall? Mr. and Mrs. Button go out on separate chores around town and come back with respective pets in this picture book. Dog represents Mr. Button’s choice and Cat acknowledges Mrs. Button as servant.
Unfortunately, Dog and Cat must share the same room in the house and it soon becomes a hassle for Cat is a clean freak and Dog is a slob. Battle lines are drawn and walls are built to separate the two, but to no avail. Both lose out when another pet with human vocal chords moves in.
What would I think if my slim Sandy turned into a 20 lb. cat in a month? Is that My Cat? by Jonathan Allen has such a cat with fluctuating weight issues. She is now too slow to chase mice. Her tree skills are rapidly diminishing. She can no longer fit through the cat flap. This cat has gone from “ready to play” straight to nap. Allen’s picture book explains with a surprise ending.
Thank goodness we got Taylor as an adult dog who was no longer in the teething stage. Shoe Dog by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Katherine Tillotson has such a little dog who is in full-fledged teethe. Every shoe brought in the house soon leaves in the trash can. Shoe Dog thinks his name is Bad Dog. How will he ever get to the “Land of Upstairs?”
Matilda’s cat would also like to be in the “land of upstairs,” but Matilda will have none of that. Matilda tries activity after activity with her cat and nothing seems to work. It is a long list that slowly gets marked through as it is determined that Matilda’s cat really likes to nap in the new picture book by Emily Gravett titled Matilda’s Cat.
Fred has the opposite problem. He may be allowed in the “land of upstairs,” but he takes advantage of the situation. Same with our Taylor as the last walk for the night sees her rolling in something dead or jumping in a watery ditch. Time for Bed, Fred! by Yasmeen Ismail shows Fred rolling in mud before lights out. Bedtime just turned into bath time for both Fred and Taylor.Shout out to all those people associated with Human Societies in Tate, Panola, DeSoto, Lafayette, and Tunica. You guys do an outstanding job!
New Pet Picture Books (copy)
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
I am having what I will remember forever as "the summer of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry." It started out as a dare from my hubby, “I bet you cannot read this 800-plus page book in two weeks,” he said.
I smirked. My mind calculated 50 pages a night plus an extra 25 pages a weekend and I could knock this title out in less than two weeks. No problem. Well, I am currently on page 608, and I started mid-June.
I wanted to write about Lonesome Dove last week, but two things held me back. First, it is almost 30 years old. Published in 1985, I am officially the last person to have read this Pulitzer Prize winner. Second, I do not necessarily like writing about books that I love. It is in some weird way an invasion of my privacy. Must you know everything I read and enjoy? Can I not keep back a couple of my treasures?
With 32 novels penned, 77-year-old McMurtry will forever be the author of Lonesome Dove. Forget, Terms of Endearment and his Oscar winning screenwriter award for, Brokeback Mountain, McMurtry created a one of a kind character in Augustus “Gus” McCrae that will haunt the dreams of unborn-readers centuries from now.
I have good news! McMurtry has written another cowboy book titled The Last Kind Words Saloon. It is his version of the 30 second fight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. The story is from the good guys' (Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday) point of view.
I gained this information from an interview in the May/June 2014 Mother Jones magazine. The funny thing. The interviewer asks about four questions of McMurtry’s new book at the beginning of their talk and then jumps to a slew of questions about Lonesome Dove and his Texas life.
McMurtry states, “One of the reasons I wrote Lonesome Dove was to try to understand my father. My father's reaction to the hardships his mother endured marked him for life. They left Missouri and came to our family home. There was nothing there when they arrived, but there was a stream. My father saw his mother carry bucket after bucket after bucket of water up from that stream to the house. She had 12 children. It made him intolerant of my mother, because she was not as competent as his mother.”My summer of Lonesome Dove continues for a couple more weeks. A friend has promised I can watch her DVD of the series after I finish the book. And, you can bet, I will finish it.
Lonesome Dove (copy)
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Have you seen the video, What Does the Fox Say? It first appeared on YouTube September of last year. Since its debut, over 400 million people have watched it and tried to imitate the noises the fox makes. This fox is very unique and a little jazzy.
Musician brothers Bard and Vegard Ylvisaker make up the band, Ylvis, pronounced Elvis. They are also comedians with their own talk show in Norway. Christian Lochstoer, managing editor for the boys, helped them write the song and produce the video.
It is a simple song based on the fact that fox noises are unfamiliar to most humans. We know that a cow moos and a cat meows, but what does a fox do? We have a frog croaking and a bird tweeting, but the fox is sly. What sound does sly create.
This fox says, “Ring-ding-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!” or “Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!” You will hear it say, “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!” and “Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!” Like I said, he is a very jazzy fox. At the end of the video, the animated fox comes out and does a little dance while scatting, “Boo-boo-bop-weydo!” Apparently, foxes scat.
Enter the highly popular children’s book, What Does the Fox Say? illustrated by another Norwegian, Svein Nyhus. This Simon and Schuster production uses the lyrics of the song and borrows the masquerade party atmosphere from the video as a back drop for the wacky red, yellow and gray scenes involving oddly shaped animals.
In the music video, the brothers sing and dance while wearing fox outfits similar to a team mascot. Most of the revelers are also clad in mascot-like animals such as a dog, mouse, elephant and bird who dance around the foxes in an odd line dance that emphasizes the different animal paws/feet.
Amongst the dancing, sits an older man in a rocking chair with a little girl on his lap. As the boys sing “A-hee-ahee-ha-hee!” the man attempts to read the same words as if they are coming out of the picture book. In the book, it is a frog reading to two chicks and a fish in his bowl. The rocking chair is reaching to the sky as the frog looks to be horizontal and tongue-tied.
I say, grandparents beware! This is a messed up, crazy noise making book and you will need to watch the video before attempting the fox’s vo-SCAT-ulary.
What Does the Fox Say? (copy)
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
My mouth is watering! Every time I pick up Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey through the Soul of the South by Susan Puckett with photographs by Langdon Clay, my stomach growls. Having fixated on the scrumptious crawdaddies on the cover, I am surprised drool does not stream from my mouth.
Not only does this book rouse my hunger for the various and unusual foods (tamales and kibbee) of the region, but it rouses my desire to hop in the plane and day-visit each and every destination. A little known fact: when you fly into a small airport the fixed-based operator usually has a courtesy car to offer you. Most are beat up ex-police cruisers, but these cars are good enough to get one to town and back. Put a couple of dollars in the tank and Bob’s your uncle.
Anyhoo, the book’s format is as if the reader is starting in the north and traveling south. The first night’s stay is Memphis “fancy” at the Peabody with a list of walkable good eats. Go right across the street to the Rendezvous or climb the fire escape to Itta Bena on Beale. Hail a taxi to Cooper and Young for the communal tables of the Beauty Shop or sit at Acre Restaurant, the hottest gastronomic ticket in town. It’s all good!
The author includes recipes for barbecue accompaniments such as Leonard’s Memphis Style Slaw and Alcenia’s (on North Main) Sweet Potato Pie. Want to freshen your palate before the meal? She provides mixers such as the Peabody Hotel’s Blue Suede Shoes Martini and The Presbyterian. Sorry, pit masters, no barbecue secrets are divulged in these pages.
Next stop, Tunica and environs such as Uncle Henry’s Place Inn and Restaurant at Moon Lake or The Hollywood, a honky-tonk that opened 1969 in bustling Hollywood, Miss. Puckett points out that both Hollywood and Moon Lake have literary ties with Grisham mentioning the former eatery and Tennessee Williams speaking of the latter.
The one Hill town mentioned is Como. I chuckle at the words “hill town” having run every road in that small berg and the one hill is when I cross the railroad tracks, but I digress. I enjoyed reading the Longreen Fox Hunt and Blessing of the Hounds Breakfast section with the Longreen Fox Hunt Hot Curried Fruit recipe as an old-fashioned accoutrement. Speaking of old-fashioned, the Tomato Aspic recipe is on page 162.Other towns on the stop include Cleveland, Greenville, Leland, Greenwood, Yazoo City and Vicksburg. I am dying to try Lusco’s in Greenwood, which sounds like the secret garden of culinary delight. Susan Puckett is a native of Jackson, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to fund the Puckett Family Journalism Scholarship at the University of Mississippi.
Eat Drink Delta (copy)
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
It has been two weeks since finishing “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg, and I still talk about it to anyone who will listen. Sheryl Sandberg is the current COO of Facebook.
I find the gender studies Sandberg presents fascinating. For example, a Harvard Business School case study that is based on Heidi Roizen was changed slightly to judge reactions based on gender. Roizen is a venture capitalist described as using her “outgoing personality…and vast personal and professional network [that] included many of the most powerful business leaders in the technology” to build her success.
In 2003, two professors took this case study and gave it to their students as two separate case studies. Students were handed the exact case study with either Heidi or Howard being the one difference. They were then asked to rate their impressions of the two.
The good news is that the students found them both to be competent workers, but that is where it ends. Howard is a person they want to hang out with after work. They can see themselves having a beer or even going on a weekend fishing trip with Howard. Heidi, not so much. She seems a little egotistical and not really a team player.
The research clearly showed, “success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less. This truth is both shocking and unsurprising: shocking because no one would ever admit to stereotyping on the basis of gender and unsurprising because clearly we do.”
As late as 2012, “Science Faculty’s Subtle Gender Biases Favor Male Students” by Corinne A. Moss-Racusin states, “when evaluating identical resumes for a lab manager position from a male student and a female student, scientists of both sexes gave better marks to the male applicant. Even though the students had the same qualifications and experience, the scientists deemed the female student less competent.”“Lean In” is based on a 2006 TED talk that Sandberg gave titled, “Why we have too few Women Leaders.” Start with this 15 minute presentation that is chocked to the gills with discuss(able) points and then pick the book up and prepare to be wowed. If it helps, I picked it up as a skeptic myself.
Lean In (copy)
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Did you stand a little taller, April 14, this past Monday? You should as a Mississippian. Our very own Greenwood native, Donna Tartt, won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her third book The Goldfinch. The Pulitzer website states the award is given, “for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”
From the publisher Little Brown (since I have yet to read it), “Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.”
High praise comes from the Pulitzer jury who states, “It is a beautifully written coming-of-age novel with exquisitely drawn characters that follows a grieving boy’s entanglement with a small famous painting that has eluded destruction, a book that stimulates the mind and touches the heart.”
Upon hearing the news, Tartt said, “"I am incredibly happy and incredibly honored and the only thing I am sorry about is that Willie Morris and Barry Hannah aren't here. They would have loved this."May I say, we are “happy and incredibly honored” to have raised such a talented Mississippian in Donna Tartt!
Mississippian wins 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction (copy)
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
|The Storied South|
William Ferris has a new book out titled, The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists. It is his early interviews with noted movers and shakers in the late 60s through to early 90s, and not all were Southern. The book includes his original recordings of the interviews on CD and his Super 8 videos on DVD.
Readers will hear familiar voices like Eudora Welty, Alice Walker, Bobby Rush, Walker Evans, William Eggleston, Carroll Cloar, and William Dunlap. They will also find some surprises with Charles and Pete Seeger, Sterling Brown, and Dr. John Dollard.
Take some time to revisit the Agrarian Movement with the voices of one leader Robert Penn Warren, one follower Cleanth Brooks, and one detractor John Blassingame. In Robert Penn Warren’s interview I read that Faulkner was loved by the Agrarians and Warren cited Fletcher, Ransom and Owsley. In college, I learned they hated Faulkner thus my distaste for them.
As a resident of Como, MS, I also like Warren’s comment, “During my time as a student and teaching in the South, parties were almost always either playing charades or poker or tale-telling. Andrew Lytle was a great actor and a great improviser of tales. He was one of the best raconteurs and conversationalists I have ever known. There are only a few people who can even touch him. Stark Young could and Lyle Saxon in New Orleans could.”
Pete Seeger’s interview was eye opening probably because I am more familiar with his children’s book, “Abiyoyo,” than his activism. His father who is also interviewed taught him the importance of folk music and Alan Lomax hired him—for $15 a week—to listen to “old commercial records of the twenties.”
Seeger wanted to improve his banjo playing and what better place than the South. He “learned to hitchhike” in 1940 and hit the road with a little trick from friend, Woody Guthrie. Sit at a bar nursing one beer with your banjo slung over your shoulder. After a while, someone is bound to ask if you can play. Woody said hang back and be reluctant. “Well maybe a little,” and keep on drinking your beer. “Finally, somebody is going to say, ‘Kid, I got a quarter. Play me a tune.’ Now you start playing.”Seeger crossed the great Suwannee River in the sky this past January, but this interview feels like he is talking directly to us today. William Ferris’s rapport with all his subjects emits a back porch, talk amongst friends, feeling and we have access to rare and fun Southern stories.
The Storied South (copy)
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Bruno and his family have recently been uprooted from their beautiful home in Berlin to a shabby salt box in the country of Germany. It all happened after a dinner with the Fury and his beautiful blonde companion who sat across from his mother.
The next morning, Bruno came in from breakfast to find the family maid, Maria, digging through his closet. In the room were four large boxes and she was pulling out clothes. He was in shock and upset because someone was going through his possessions. He hoped she would not find his secret stuff.
Bruno went downstairs to ask his mother if he had done something wrong. He would understand if his sister, Gretel, had been bad. All the family considered her a Hopeless Case and had caused nothing but trouble for him anyway, but to ship him off instead of her seemed wrong.
Mother calmed him down with the news that the whole family is moving away. Not just him, but Father, Mother, Gretel and all the help are going on an adventure. She continued to explain that the Fury gave Bruno’s father a very special job and the family is moving to support him.
All excitement was lost when Bruno got a good look at the new house, though. He went from a staircase he could slide five floors all the way down to a three-storied banister that was bound to cause splinters. His room was tiny, too. Way smaller than his sister’s room and with only one window he had to stand on his tippy-toes to see out.
This new house was the only one on the block. Not like his home in Berlin that was on a tree-lined road with his best friends living next door. No more Karl, Daniel and Martin. It looked like Bruno would have to make new friends and he was worried since there was no other house in sight.
Well, that was until he looked out the window. Standing high as he could on his toes, he could see little boys, skinny fathers, and even old grandfathers. Where were the little girls, mothers and grandmothers? He did not know, but somewhere in this group of pajama wearing guys there was bound to be a friend.This is the beginning of the 2005 book titled, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by Irishman John Boyne. He writes the story as it unfolds from a nine-year-old German boy’s perspective. Prior to the prejudices that may taint Bruno later, readers experience the Nazi side of the fence at a concentration camp.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (copy)
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Northwest’s first Author Rodeo Round-up has been a joy to organize. The experience is humbling, though. We are surrounded by all kinds of talent and I am a slacker for not knowing.
My first awakening was from author Margaret Eubanks. She has written two books, Whispers (2006) and her new book Goodnight, Sippi, I Love You. Her Amazon page states, “It is her desire to share Sippi’s story, hoping it may help other pet owners. A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to help abused, neglected, and rescued animals.”
Margaret introduced me to friend, Nancy Millikin Tubbs, who edited her Sippi book. Nancy has six books under her belt. The Invisible Bridge, written after the death of her husband; Unconditional Grace, a book of prayers; Hummingbird Inn, a mystery with historical romance included; The Key of Nostradamus, about, you guessed it, the key of Nostradamus; Rustic Breads and Spreads, a cookbook, and Fresh and Crispy: Journal of an Italian Walking Tour, about her humorous first trip abroad.
What is more humbling to a librarian than finding a local author who has written 17 books? Linda Rettstatt’s website states she writes women’s fiction and mainstream romance novels, though her latest release is a paranormal romance involving a writer, a ghost, and a murderous hunter. She is a Pennsylvania Yankee currently residing in Northwest Mississippi where she has yet to report an Elvis sighting.
Diana Anderson honed her craft while growing up in southeast Oklahoma. She explains on Goodreads, “As a child, I made up stories in my head while working in the peanut fields on my father's farm during the long hot days of summer.” She has written five books and will be bringing her latest, Famous in a Small Town. Readers can expect a southern, dark mystery-thriller with a touch of romance and humor.
Dr. Rachell N. Anderson is on the Northwest Board of Trustees. She has authored 10 books. Her most recent are: Before Our Eyes, a chronicle of the healing advantages of watching psychotherapy between a client and a therapist in an open forum followed by, The Legacy Continues: Writing Healing Stories, Run Turkeys, Run: 50 Years of Celebrating Family a memoir and Cultivating Cotton: From Field to Runway.
This is only a small taste of the talent that will be on the Northwest campus this Saturday. We will have 20 authors and two publishers. Stop by and meet Dr. David Ball, Lisa Cockrell, Dr. Mike Cockrell, Rev. Ray Cross, Pam DeLoach, Jody Dickson, Dr. Cassandra Hawkins, Thomas Herrington, Shane Louwerens, Sharon Morgan, and Merle Temple.
This is only a small taste of the talent that will be on the Northwest campus this Saturday. We will have 20 authors and two publishers. Stop by and meet Dr. David Ball, Lisa Cockrell, Dr. Mike Cockrell, Rev. Ray Cross, Pam DeLoach, Jody Dickson, Dr. Cassandra Hawkins, Thomas Herrington, Shane Louwerens, Sharon Morgan, and Merle Temple.
Author Rodeo Round-Up 2 (copy)
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I woke up to rain again. How many days since the last time I saw the sun, I cannot tell you. The musk, mold and dampness that surrounds me is heavy like being pulled down by the weight of thick kudzu. I have to get out of this house for various reasons. My sanity being number one.
I now carry on conversations with Dog and Habana. They both came to me, Dog after the first storm when the line was drawn and Habana in the middle of a level five looking for shelter. The horse has a name only because it is tooled in the leather of her saddle. Dog came to me without a calling card.
This morning is no different as I open the door and urge Dog out to take care of business. With coffee in hand, I tell him to report back if there are changes in the weather. He smirks. Even he realizes the rain will never end.
Another big one is coming, too. Last night I found myself cowering and scratching at my ratty beard with every blow to the roof. I need to get supplies before it really hits.
Joe, my contact to the other side of the line and supplier, always quizzes me on reasons for staying in this mess? Go north, he tells me, but it is not that easy. No one waits for me up north. My family is here. The visits are all I have.
I walk back through the hall and place one hand on the plaster that blocks the entrance to our bedroom. It was my last chore after burying her near the Magnolia. Those trees are so strong. I watch the wind throw the branches to the ground repeatedly, but they bounce back like a fresh fighter weaving in the ring.
The plaster feels damp with moisture, but a warmth spreads through my fingers and into my hand inching its way past my wrist and into my arm. Is this a real or imagined sense? I can no longer tell. I must get out of this house.
She tells me to go, too. We will be fine. Habana whinnies in the background and the spell is broken. I walk back to the kitchen placing the mug on the counter then grab a cap. I hunch in the rain to save my front from getting wet and run to the barn. She is ready for open pasture.Mississippi native, Michael Farris Smith, shares an apocalyptic adventure filled with foreboding in his first book set near the lawless Mississippi coast titled, Rivers. I sense the ghost of Capote rearing his Southern Gothic head amongst the sad Larry Brown trash. My feelings toward this book are all warm and fuzzy, though. It is destined to win awards.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Excitement builds as our first ever Author Rodeo Round-up at Northwest nears. We have a great group of panelists and an eager collection of local authors rounded-up. One panelist in the group is key because of her ability to tackle tough issues making her work very accessible to readers.
We first met Julie Cantrell at a Reading Roundtable event sponsored by Sycamore Bank in 2013. Members read her book, Into the Free, and were impressed with her main character, Millie. Millie is the product of an alcoholic father, suicidal mother, and an unethical preacher.
Cantrell explained, “Sometimes, readers ask me why I choose to write about dark topics such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, betrayal, and hypocrisy. My answer is simple. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by struggle in some significant way. So my goal as an author is to explore these human journeys and to remind each reader that we are never alone in our suffering.
I also hope to show readers that recovery is possible, and that faith is the key to healing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life, love, and the redemptive power of forgiveness. I realize, as Millie points out in “Into the Free” that forgiveness is a heavy word. To forgive someone is never easy, especially when we seem to have been hurt beyond repair. And let’s be honest…who hasn’t?
I know too many people who have been violently attacked, verbally abused, emotionally destroyed, or sexually victimized. I know soldiers who have sacrificed limb and life, left their families, entered the battlefield, and returned with wounded body, mind, and spirit.
I also know parents who have lost their children to addiction, wives who have been betrayed by their adulterous husbands, men who have sold their souls to the fantasy of porn, and children whose parents have hurt them in ways too horrific for our imaginations.
Best friends and coworkers betray one another, fractured families carve deep ravines between loved ones, and the race for wealth, fame, or power lead many well-intentioned individuals to corrupt and selfish paths.
But despite all the hurt in this world, here’s what I believe. Honest people trust others. Joyful people love others. Secure people see only the good in others. Selfless people take great risks in order to help others. Genuine people never turn their back on others. Grateful people do not envy others. Kind people do not intentionally hurt others. Humble people celebrate the success of others.”Cantrell will discuss her latest, When Mountains Move, Mar. 29 at 2 p.m. in the R.C. Pugh Library at Northwest Mississippi Community College as part of the Author Rodeo Round-up.
Author Rodeo Round-Up! (copy)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
At the end of January, the American Library Association (ALA) announces their award winners for the previous year. Because Northwest supports a strong Early Childhood Education program, the library is expected to purchase those award winners for their students. The program concentrates on serving children younger than five years of age.
Goodie! This year’s Caldecott Medal winner is nostalgic, dusty, informative and loud. I am talking about Locomotive by Brain Floca. In the soft watercolors enhancing Floca’s drawing, readers will feel like they are looking at old tintypes. He even includes his own drawing of a tintype on the title page.
Let me regress slightly and tell you first about the Caldecott Medal. According to ALA, the medal is named in honor of 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott and awarded annually to an artist with the most distinguished American picture book for children.
I believe Randolph Caldecott would be proud to hand his award personally to Floca had he been alive. Floca’s work is set in 1869 during the Victorian Era. Caldecott did his best drawings enhanced with watercolor just like Floca between the years 1861- 1879.
“Locomotive” opens with men in various maneuvers hammering down a spike as American workers connect east to west by rail. Listen to the noise from Floca’s words.
“CLANK CLANK CLANK! Men came from far away to build from the East, to build from the West, to meet in the middle. They cleared the rocks and dug the tunnels. They raised the hammers and brought them down—‘Three strokes to the spike, ten spikes to the rail!’ CLANK CLANK CLANK!”
The next page shows a crowed train station platform in Omaha, Nebraska. At the end of the stage stands a mother, older daughter and younger son all bending over to see the approaching train.
“Hear a clang of the bell, hear the huff of an engine—her crew is bringing her out! Clang-Clang-Clang…See a puff from her stack—a puff of smoke, a smudge in the sky. CLANG-CLANG-CLANG! Here she comes! See a puff, a smudge, a cloud …WHOO-OOOOO”
Through Floca’s artwork, he studied with David Macaulay who illustrated Castle and Cathedral, one rides No. 119 through the west, arriving at Sacramento, California where the family joins their father.This picture book will delight old and young as they ride the exquisitely drawn rails. All Aboard!
Monday, February 24, 2014
Most everyone has read a version of The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh. I read the autobiography while at school in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Plenty of ladies have read The Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and quoted passages in garden and civic clubs across Mississippi. Lindbergh the Pulitzer Prize winner by A. Scott Berg is an extraordinary read.
My point? Lindbergh makes good reading and The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin is destined to be a book club darling. This historical fiction gives readers an insight to what it might be like to be married to one of the most famous characters of the 20th century. A brilliant concept since we all want to get into that active brain of his and roll around.
I was once asked who I looked up to as a young woman pilot. Must be Amelia Earhart, right? My answer was short and sassy. No! She got lost. My hero was Lindbergh from the start. I cannot imagine how I would react if I saw him in person. Probably like the rubes in Benjamin’s book.
Even after it came to light that Lindberg supported Hitler and his anti-sematic views, I still had a connection with the man. His achievements outweighed his wrongs like the scandals of our times with baseball, football and basketball. I still saw him in a god-like persona.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh makes me jealous, too. How irrational is that statement? Not only did she become his wife, but she became a pilot in the golden age of flight. Not many women can lay claim to flying twin engine airplanes just because their husband needed a nap while in flight.
In Benjamin’s book, readers will get a real sense of the married couple’s life. Lindbergh’s responsibilities are to fly the plane. Anne must cook, clean and plan their cross Atlantic trips alongside him and at times he is extremely demanding. Even the day after they wed, he gets out the charts and explains to her that she will become a pilot. She is the only person he trust.
It is the 1930s. Who does Anne have to admire other than her husband? Amelia Earhart and Poncho Barnes would have been the most famous, but she could not compare to these record and rule breakers. I doubt they would have given her the time of day. Sometimes her loneliness seeps off the pages and begins to fill your hands.I treasure this book alongside those mentioned in the first paragraph. To step inside Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s shoes is an incredible experience, even if it is imagined.
The Aviator's Wife (copy)
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Mental health is a tough issue and in the forefront for those of us who work with the public regularly. Some of my favorite stories come from the time I worked at a local public library. Some regulars had peculiar habits that were related to a slight trace of paranoia. The two I mention today are no longer with us having passed at least 10 or more years ago.
The first I will call clock man. He was extremely well mannered and always dressed to the nines. To look at him, one would see an aging man (think Cab Calloway with a pencil mustache) but nothing out of the ordinary.
As was his habit, he came around two in the afternoon to make copies. These copies were campaign advertisements or donation letters from non-profits. Usually Republican in nature, we shared polite conversations about the party and current national politicians.
Everything seemed normal until he started to insist that his pocket watch be placed on every copy made. Every copy made. Unless donating, this type of mail we file 13 daily, but he stuffed the copies made back into the free return envelopes and sent back.
The second man was a dear friend of mine who knew his thoughts were controversial. We had all kinds of fun and fights, but neither of us held a grudge. His favorite “theory” was the useless eater theory. He believed the contrails flowing from the back of airplanes was a form of high altitude crop dusting, but instead of plants it was a government plot to poison children and the elderly, i.e., useless eaters.
I speak of two harmless and much-loved individuals protected by a small town community, but what if these individuals are teenagers and the community much larger? We are lucky here at Northwest because of the small community and the support system for these types of problems. We can identify an individual who may not be showering or eating regularly and get them help.
I talked about Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith last month. The 16-year-old main character loses her mind in the short span of two months. In Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan’s descent is faster.
She opens the book with a preface. “At first, there’s just darkness and silence. ‘Are my eyes open? Hello?’ I can’t tell if I’m moving my mouth or if there’s even anyone to ask. It’s too dark to see. I blink once, twice, three times. There is a dull foreboding in the pit of my stomach. That, I recognize. My thoughts translate only slowly into language, as if emerging from a pot of molasses.”Cahalan is going mad, but at least in a hospital setting. This memoir is a non-stop unbelievable ride as you spiral down with her believing there is no relief for her burning brain.
Brain on Fire (copy)
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Christina Baker Kline has a hit on her hands with her 2013 book titled Orphan Train. It may no longer be on the bestseller list, but book clubs will eat it up for years to come.
According to Kline’s blog, “Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by luck or chance. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?”
Orphan Train runs two different time lines. The book opens in modern day Spruce Harbor, Maine and Molly Ayers is in trouble. She was caught stealing a book from the library and has been assigned community service. This does not bode well with her foster parents; especially, Dina who is looking to get her moved on for various reasons.
Molly knows that she is skirting the comfort zone of her agreement with Ralph and Dina. Dina’s quick to tell her that other foster parents will not take in a known shoplifter for the trust issues alone, but Molly is 17 now and soon the foster system will be all but a bad memory.
What’s the big deal anyway? It was Jane Eyre, the ugly copy. Who would even miss it? The paperback was too new and the hardback too clean, so Molly slipped the dog-eared, yellow-highlighted, crispy brown papered copy into her coat. The librarian should thank her for doing the weeding.
Because of this action, Molly will spend the next 50 hours cleaning the attic of an elderly woman, Vivian Daly, in the nice part of town. “But she’s not sure about this idea. Stuck alone in a musty attic day after day, going through some lady’s trash?”
As you can guess, Vivian Daly is our little orphan train rider, Niamh Power, who leaves New York City and ends up in Minneapolis in 1929. Her shock of red hair and freckles marks her as Irish and undesirable to most that look her over. The Claddagh necklace that still resides on her neck today also served to ward off even the kindest of strangers.Both Molly and Niamh then Dorothy and finally Vivian are characters that will pull at your heart strings. With 60 years of difference in their ages, their common ground is measured in acres not feet.
Orphan Train is a remarkable novel bringing this little known history back to Americans.
Orphan Train (copy)
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
It was a breezy spring day and I was running the runway. The runway is 5,000 feet and the parallel taxiway make a two mile loop when you add the space connecting them at the ends. It is a calming run and once my Pandora is rocking nothing will stop me.
The storm the night before had left a breeze perfect for practicing crosswind landings, and I was enjoying the comical landings my green husband was attempting in our tail dragger. I once had an instructor show me how he could land on one wheel in crosswinds and maintain that wing down stance until the speed finally bled off and we kissed the runway.
Back to my breezy spring day and running the runway. Every 50 feet is a runway or taxiway light. I use the lights to mark off start/stops for speed work sometimes by running faster in between them or alternating leg drills. Not on this day. My goal was to log 8 miles and fight against the breeze while running north.
I was at the end of my run and the sun was starting to set, when I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye, a bird hopped twice on a runway light and then landwd. Not that unusual, but it looked like it had a broken wing.
As I got closer to the light the bird took off and landed on the next light. I saw a flashing of the super long tail that must have been the broken wing look. When I neared it again, I paid even closer attention as it took flight and the pink of its underbelly was caught by the light of the setting sun. It was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!
I rushed to the college library to find a Peterson or Sibley bird book with more on the elusive bird and I found, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds sitting amongst the group. Curated by former poet laureate Billy Collins and illustrated by David Allen Sibley, the cover features this beautiful bright bird created in watercolors and ink.
In Collins’ introduction, he discusses what he calls “the phenomenon of poems about birds.” It extends back to the earliest of writings and may have occurred as late as the poetry writing workshop given any night of this week. And, why not? Birds symbolize so many things such as freedom, a closeness to God and bad omens.What a beauty I was treated to that day, as the bird stayed one light ahead of me. What a beauty you will be treated to while reading this rare collection of poems.
Bright Wings (copy)