a link to an interesting PBS interview with author eric weiner

Getting to the link for the interview is a sneaky two-step process which will cause you to pass through a blog I’ve started that’s dedicated to reading. I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about the “deplorable” state of current best-selling lists (literary, mass market, the whole kit, caboodle, baby and bath water).  I’d love to know what you think, what you’re reading and why, what you fall in love with or throw to the floor in disgust or snow blind boredom.

Go to Good Light Comfortable Chair. There’s only one post there so far, so that’s the one where you’ll find the link to the Ray Suarez interview on PBS Newshour from December 26.

 

bright side of a fever

I think I’ll call it the “immersion effect.” Happens when a person with chills, fever, congestion and sore muscles tries to read a book on their Kindle while lying prone on a couch dressed in sweats and covered with a blanket. This happened to me a few days ago. I think it was Wednesday, but am only recently back to a fully alert state, so frankly, I’m not sure what day it was.

My head felt like it was several sizes too large for my neck, full of a viscous substance that sloshed and threw me off-balance when I tried to walk. I had downloaded Eric Weiner’s new book, Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine. This temporary and mercifully brief  illness was the perfect foil for an interactive experience with this book. Read a page or two, drop the Kindle on my belly when I fall into a deep sleep; dream about what I read as though I were going through the experiences with the author, then stir, read a few more pages with burning eyes, drop the Kindle and repeat. I read the whole book this way over several days.

Weiner’s own quest began after a brief hospitalization where, at one point, a nurse asked him, “Have you found your God yet?”  That question was the seed from which his book sprouted. Self-described as a “gastronomical Jew,” Weiner explores microscopic slivers of versions of 8 religions, including Sufism, the Catholic Franciscans, Kabbalah, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shamanism, Wicca and Raëlism. A chapter was just about my limit before my stylus-wielding finger slid off the screen and “plop,” I was off again into an immersion experience blending sleep with what I just read.

I’m not quite ready for prime time yet, but the fever is gone and I’m stumbling around in more or less a straight line. But the reaction to Weiner’s book has stayed with me: it’s a  whole-wheat cake with some frosting; not ooey-gooey, but with a few too many fruit and nut clusters. I woke up after the last chapter wanting to run, not walk, down to the old church, Christ Episcopal, and soak up the dark wood, stained glass, sky-painted dome, earnest parishioners and a rector who is a very complicated simple man — the best shepherd for his flock I’ve yet seen — and know perhaps for the first time, that I have found my home.

low-brow mind candy

Okay, I’ve cleaned the pantry, mopped the kitchen floor, and gotten my head screwed back on halfway straight. Time to pull ye old manuscript out of the drawer and dive back in. Buck has shown me up big time in the completing a manuscript department. He completed the first draft of his novel on Christmas Day, and we’re talking words, baby, somewhere around 225,000. I ought to know, ’cause my classically trained fingers typed every one of them. The boy’s already talking sequel, oh my Lord. But first, there’s the not-fun of editing. Heh — that should keep him busy in his own corner for a few days.

Meanwhile, I’m back on the beach with my characters: Bree Morgan, Jess Harper and a two-legged pond scum named Bo Perlis. Just read this excerpt  and you’ll know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my book aspires to be low-brow mind candy.

Excerpt from Eye of the Storm

Longleaf Shores, Florida

Well, now ain’t love grand. When Bo Perlis chuckled, a nasty sound came out of his mouth, gritty like old coffee grounds. He didn’t sound amused. He leaned against a post, right leg cocked at the knee so that his boot heel rested against the wood piling. Perlis lit one cigarette from the butt of another, and occasionally lifted a small pair of Leica bird-watching binoculars in Bree’s direction for a closer look. He had caught her and the Mayor’s conversation thanks to a small deer hunter’s “bionic ear.” He continued to observe Bree until she got up from the table and walked back toward the parking lot.

Shit. I hate the damned beach. Perlis left the pier and stepped as lightly as he could from the beach back to the asphalt parking area, trying to avoid getting sand in his pointy-toed boots.

He pulled in a few cars behind Bree’s red pick-up truck and followed her back across the bridge. He broke off when she turned in to the gated entrance at Balconies on the Bay, punched the key pad and disappeared from sight.

Perlis drove on a few blocks, and then pulled into the busy parking lot at Sam’s Seafood. He found an open space at the back of the lot beside a scraggly looking scrub oak. His nondescript rental car looked like half the other vehicles in the lot. By now, it was fully dark and right in the middle of the restaurant’s dinner hour. Perlis lowered his window, turned off the ignition and flicked a cigarette butt onto the pavement. Then he pulled out his cell phone and punched in the one number he had on speed dial.

“Report.” The voice creeped Bo out the first time he heard it. It was sultry and breathy like a Marilyn Monroe clone. The client used some kind of voice changer software. Bo suspected the client was actually male, but there was no way he could know for sure.

“I found the girl.”

“And?”

Damn, that come-hither voice was distracting. “Nothing suspicious. Acts like any young kid on their first job. Spent the day at the beach participating in a community hurricane drill; then made out on the beach with the Mayor, got into an argument with him; he left; she drove back to her condo. End of story.”

“Did you say ‘mayor’?”

“Yeah. He looks like a kid, too. Must be the youngest mayor in America.”

“And the argument?”

“Don’t know for sure. Something about her job. It’s real windy out on the beach and I didn’t catch every word.”

“Her phones?” The voice had a slight southern accent, but Perlis couldn’t place the region.

“Got her land line at the condo. No luck yet with her cell.”

“Not a matter of luck, Mr. Perlis. Skill. The cell phone is critical. Nobody under thirty uses a land line anymore. I was told you could do this. Do not disappoint me. Get it done and report back tomorrow.”

That was the longest speech Bo had heard from his client so far, not that he was crazy about the content. “Will do,” he said, and disconnected.

Goodnight, Marilyn. Jeez, that’s weird. Bo put the phone back in his shirt pocket and reached under the seat for the pint-sized flask he kept filled with Early Times. He took a long pull, recapped it, lit up another smoke and drove away from Sam’s Seafood in search of a drive-through double cheeseburger and fries. Bo hated any type of seafood: fried, stewed or nude.

 The End (of the excerpt) — thanks for killing a few brain cells to help a struggling wanna-be novelist.

on the receiving end of love

Do you remember how old you were when, on your own, with no encouragement or instruction from a parent or anyone else, you spent your own hard-earned money to buy someone you love a gift?

I was on the receiving end of this treasure last night. Buck, too, when in a quiet moment of a family Christmas Eve supper, she stole us away to give her gifts in the privacy of my dimly lit study. She knows how much I enjoy my morning coffee. The mug with my initial is the only one I’ll use from now on. And for her granddad, there were two framed 4×6 photos of the two of them together. Oh, Buck melted. It was a moment. A demonstrative gesture of love — not  dutiful filial devotion — from a grown granddaughter to a grandfather, is rare, dazzling and unforgettable. I love her even more for this.

I’m thinking about this young woman as I savor fresh hot coffee in my new cup, and  how she has separated herself from the pack in so many excellent ways. She has a big heart and she’s not afraid to use it. I have come to believe that she also has a wise old soul. Her mom called her “Buddha baby” when she was an infant.

You’re a gift, Andie girl.

comfort and joy

Christmas outfits for Chance, almost 11 months old.

Nothing like buying adorable clothes for an 11-month-old baby girl and her 4 year old sister to shape up a person’s attitude.

Yesterday was tough. I finally went back to Spanish Trail Veterinary Hospital to pick up Maggie’s ashes. I put it on my “to do” list to try to fool myself into making it emotion-neutral: 1. Spanish Trail 2. Christmas shopping 3. Publix grocery. Of course, the two days I spent before the “errand” preparing a small book for the hospital staff of funny/sweet Maggie stories and photos of Maggie mountain hiking with us, walking the woods, helping to host a dinner party, and playing around the pool didn’t exactly set the stage for an emotion-neutral errand to pick up the small, tasteful container in a very nice burlap and evergreen shopping bag containing the eternally condensed version of the Ambassadog of Goodwill.

All the kids at Spanish Trail converged on me with hugs. I call them kids. They’re 20-35 years old, probably. Terrific kids. We cried and we laughed. We celebrated Maggie. They had only known Maggie at the end of her life, when she was sick and in pain most of the time. It was important to me that they know this last part was not all of her life; that she was some kind of magnificent dog with a big, active life and a vibrant personality; a champion and the best friend two human beings could ever have.

Stuffed animals come out of hibernation every year.

It rained yesterday. We had a tornado warning until 5 p.m. I needed windshield wipers for my eyes while I tried to focus on shopping for the little girls, my great-grandchildren. Here I am, a 60-year-old woman with no children who hates shopping (and doesn’t know much about it), driving around with blurry eyes in a high wind and heavy rain, on a shopping expedition for children’s’ clothes. I think I would rather be on a quest for the Holy Grail. It would be easier.

Wrapped (or at least bagged) gifts for Jorja, the 4-year-old.

It was wonderful to get back home, damp and windblown, but safe. Buck arrived a few minutes after I did. He and his son Richard had shared lunch and a good, long visit. Richard lives in D.C. now and is thriving in his career and loving the urban life. Rides his bicycle everywhere. He’ll be over Christmas Eve, along with the rest of the gang, for our traditional lasagna supper.

The brass quail and their rosy crystal egg stay for a while each Christmas in a golden nest.

This morning the kitchen is bright and bubbling and so am I. Onions and garlic were chopped and sautéed in olive oil first thing. My fingers smell of them when I drink my first mug of coffee. And then, one by one, ingredients are added to the cauldron to make the lasagna meat sauce. My breakfast was a pink grapefruit and a couple of spoons full of the sauce. The sauce will stay in the refrigerator overnight and then warm up for assembly with the pasta and cheese layers tomorrow.

The rain has cleared out and taken with it the oppressive humidity. I even wore a light jacket over my gym shorts down to the gate this morning. I’ve communicated with my brothers and sisters, each of whom I deeply love. I think we’re all really just beginning to know how to love each other. Younger brother Steve is out of the hospital again and back home, hopefully facing a hospital-free new year and strength to work in his garden. Tomorrow night with Buck and my step-kids, grands and great-grands from 11-months to 53 years will be joyful, loving chaos. Lasagna, red wine, chocolate, singing and hugs. Lots of hugs. I found this marvelous quote at a lovely Scottish Episcopal blog, love blooms bright.

This is the irrational season  when love blooms bright and wild.  Had Mary been full of reason  there’d have been no room for the child.

— Madeline L’Engle

Merry Christmas all y’all, and best wishes for a happy, healthy new year full of grand adventures. I am listening to the classic Christmas channel on Pandora while I write. All of a sudden, Christmas has come into my heart, and it feels like miracles are possible.

caligraphic tree

Photo taken at Longleaf Preserve near Pensacola, Florida 12-15-2011

The squarish cut-out place in the bark where wood shows through looks man-made. That’s what drew me to this tree at first, although based on its location on our property, that seems unlikely. Then I became fascinated by the shiny brown substance that has filled in other wounds. It is hard to the touch, almost like dry paint. It probably isn’t a true mystery, only that I do not know how it came to be the way it is.  It evokes calligraphy.

Feather in the Wind

feather in the wind

When I run the third of a mile to the gate for the morning newspaper, as I did this cool morning, the wind in my ears keeps me from hearing an owl in the stream bed, the skitter of squirrels in the scrub oaks, the whoosh of turkey wings when I startle them from their roosts in the trees. But when I poke along in the woods, it’s a mindful walking that takes in all the forest wants to offer. It’s a treasure hunt; an endless buffet for the soul.