Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Snapshot - Lake Champlain and Sights From the Bike Lane

This past week, SB and I took a little camping and biking vacation. A couple hours north of us, we found a camp site along Lake Champlain just outside of the center of  Burlington, Vermont. The city has extensive bike trails and maps for bicycle tours in the area.  We rode along the lake and through a chain of lovely city parks that were full of interesting sculpture and structures.

This beautiful wooden sculpture is about twenty feet tall and looks out over a park right in the center of the city. From the park, there are stunning views of the lake and the Adirondack Mountains across the water in New York State.

Further south on the bike trail, there is a wayside green space with a stone henge constructed that allows one to clock the Earth's astronomical movements through the solar year. Very cool.

It's in a quiet area and makes you feel really reverent. When we came upon the site, there was an elderly woman just completing her morning Tai Chi meditation and movement. She smiled and quietly gathered her bag and walked on down the path.

We parked our bikes and walked to the center of the henge to note the different positions of astronomical events within the Earth's year.

Coming back through the city on one of the bike lanes, I saw this house and fell in love with all its gardens and window boxes ... so pretty! The entire yard is extensively planted front, sides, and back! One evening when we were driving back to our campground from the city, we passed the house and the man who lives in it. He was out deadheading the flowers. What a labor of love, huh?

Back on the bike path, we found a house of a different sort ... this incredibly cool treehouse! I could just imagine playing pirates or Robinson Crusoe in and around this beauty! It is called the Forever Young Treehouse.

Late one afternoon, we drove away from the lake and passed out into the dairy farmland that surrounds Burlington. I made SB pull over to take pictures of the meadows and fields and the views. When I took this field vista, I felt something plop on my foot. I looked down and there was a little spangled frog that was all bright green and golden designs. He was hopping around, hunting for the crickets that were chirruping in the grasses.

Later, we came upon a herd of young heifers hanging out in the shade and munching the sunny perimeter. They all turned to stare at me like I was some crazy fool ...

The air was hazy with heat and humidity. We headed back to the campground so we could cool off with some shade and cold beers and cheese and crackers ... but not before I snapped a mountain vista of Camel's Hump from the car, as we whizzed along Rt 89.

Ahhh ... vacation. Dirty feet, sweaty clothes, damp sleeping bags, woodsy camp fires, simple food, and beautiful views. Wouldn't trade it for the world, but I'm glad to be back in my comfy bed and hot shower! Until next summer ... hope your Labor Day weekend is shaping up to be a good one!

My Saturday Snapshot joins others at Melinda Ott's website, West Metro Mommy Reads ... click on the link to see what others are sharing this weekend ... see you next Saturday!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Snapshot - Faces of Fenway

 Earlier this summer, my husband and I went to a game at Fenway. We are rabid Red Sox fans and we always look forward to catching a game and doing a WHOLE lotta people-watching. It seems like every game at Fenway is sold out and when there's a break in the action of the game, the cameras really come out. Last time we went, I decided to take pictures of the picture takers because, well ... doesn't it always seem that the photographers are never getting their pictures taken ? I'm the photographer for our family and there are precious few photos of me in the albums over the years. Ahem ... and the ones that are there are very rarely complimentary.

Anyway, every time there was a break in the game, I snapped a few shots of people snapping shots.

Some folks never leave their seats to catch a shot. They just aim and shoot and then spend time editing right their in the ballpark.

Some folks take group shots and have a great time doing it!

Other folks take the long view.

Still others take forever to get their shot and end up fighting the aisle traffic.

Yup, Fenway gets photographed from every angle!

So where are the shots of me? Well, you know there are none because after all, I'm the photographer. This Saturday Snapshot joins others at Melinda's blog, West Metro Mommy Reads Check out what everyone else is contributing today!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Mag 182 - Mami Wata Sings

Mami Wata Sings

The bonds that tie you up tight
Are nothing to the surge of the tide.
Just relax, my dear. Float light.
Look to the sky. Enjoy the ride.

Feel your troubles unwind and flick
Harmless against your arms.
Look to the light. It’s no trick.
The water washes away all harm.

Then, my dear, float free and think
Smile about the morrow’s plan
Draw a deep breath. Curl and sink.
Then, kick upward. Swim for land.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

A dysfunctional childhood in an unhappy family creates a troubled man. Recently retired and lost in a troubled marriage, Harold Fry receives a letter from a woman he once worked with. She is residing in a hospice, suffering from cancer and she has written Harold to say goodbye. The specter of the loss of an old work mate spurs Harold to write a letter in return, but on the way to post it, a strange thing happens. Harold is inspired to go see his friend, Queenie. He does it the simplest way he knows how; he sets off on foot. Thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage that will take Harold Fry much farther than his feet could ever carry him. His is a mental, physical, and spiritual pilgrimage that, in its solitude, forces him to trod old paths of memory and confront his 'ghosts in the closet'.

Along the way, Harold meets the most amazing group of people and each spur him to reflect on issues that he has buried deep rather than confront. Some people help and inspire him and some make him retreat and repeat mistakes of his past that, on the second go around, he is able to evaluate with more honesty and self-reflection. Always, this story is written with gentle humor, candor, and yes, some pain for it digs deep into the joys and sorrows of marital relationships, parenting, family dynamics, and society's foibles.

A very good read ...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Zealot - The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth ... Reza Aslan

I really have been enjoying this book. I ordered it the minute I heard the review of it on NPR's evening show, All Things Considered. Shortly after receiving it in the mail, I plopped it on my pile of  'up next books' and went on to finish a few other books. It was during that time that the book got 'picked up' by the mainstream news and certain websites that began the rant about its author being a Muslim, it's blasphemous questioning of the validity of Jesus as The Messiah, the anti-Christian undermining motive of the author, et cetera, et cetera. Bullocks all!

This book, I am finding, is a pretty straightforward presentation of historical research on the late Roman and early Christan eras, the literary history of the Bible as compared to other documents that reference the early Christian movement and the authors of the documents that came to be placed in the Bible, educated speculation about Jesus and his family and followers, and analysis of the terms and words used within the Gospels that open the Bible to more interpretation than has been given the typical person.

I welcome books like this because they make me think beyond the time-worn lessons that I grew up with in Sunday school and in countless sermons and religious discussions. I believe that my faith in Jesus and my God have not been shaken. They have been re-evaluated and found as strong as ever. The analysis of the texts and words of the Gospel open new windows of understanding of the world in which the Christian movement began, took form, and mirror so many of the continuing issues that confront us to this day.

There are certainly other books about Jesus that I could read, but this one came along at this moment in my life. It has spurred me to put down some of the frivolous things that I occupy my time with and look back to the roots of my faith. Is that a bad thing? I think not. Does it matter who wrote the book ? No. So I wonder ... what's all the hub-bub about?

Saturday Snapshot - Sunny August

It's that time of year! Sunflower August ... all the windows are opened to a cool breeze that heralds fall days to come! The perennial gardens are starting to look tired, but the marigolds and sunflowers pick up the slack.

The neighbor's honeybees are busy flitting over the flowers and my husband has started hauling the seasoned wood toward the wood boxes in the shed behind the kitchen and out behind the wood shop.

Meanwhile, I can the tomatoes that come from the garden and bake pies with all the berries and stone fruits that are so plentiful right now ... and I take photos.


These shots made their way into posts on my food blog and over to my Facebook page. The colors are just so cheerful and vivid and I have been trying to counteract all the political grumbling and off-color jokes that make their way onto the Facebook Wall of Notifications ... what can I say? I'm a Pollyanna.

Yup ... we're busy little bees here in the grey cottage on the hill. It's late summer and we're getting ready to button things up for autumn's arrival.  But we're not too busy to enjoy the blue skies and the cool breezes in our little place on Earth!

Here's hoping you're enjoying your little spot too!

This happy little post is being shared with others via Saturday Snapshot over at Melinda's blog West Metro Mommy Reads ... hop over and see what others are sharing!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Sixth Man - David Baldacci

David Baldacci. He's so prolific a writer! And I had never read one of his books until a house-bound friend of mine pushed this title at me, saying, " This is the perfect book for a rainy week, Susan! You can stay in bed and read 'til you want to get up." Sounded like sound advice to me!

The thunderstorms that have passed through and rainy days have given me time to put my feet up and soak up the storyline that Baldacci delivers. In this case, his private investigators , Sean King and Michelle Maxwell happen into the world of international surveillance, national security, private sector security development, data analyses and counter-terrorism, and secrecy within government agencies ... well, THAT seems a timely topic for journalists AND novelists.

Ex-Secret Service agents, King and Maxwell are hired to meet with an ex-law professor of King's to confer on a tough homicide defense case. Off they go to an isolated federal detention center in rural Maine to meet the lawyer and his client. In the backwoods of Maine, on a desolate road, they happen upon what looks like a disabled driver who has pulled to the side of the road. Uh- ohhhh ... turns out it's the law professor. Turns out he's had a bullet put between his eyes. Turns out this case investigating strange goings on concerning an alleged serial killer who has 'clammed up' may be more than meets the eye. Turns out this is the first in a series of strange deaths, close calls, infuriating encounters with government wonks, and more double dealing and odd connections than you can shake a stick at. Heck, the confusing use of government acronyms is enough to make me take notes so I can keep things straight! The story, though, is intriguing enough to make me keep turning the pages.

I have always been encouraged to pick up Baldacci's books by my brother. He's a reader of intrigue from wayyy back. I've always resisted because of my squeamish stomach and my love for the more staid genre of historical fiction, but I must admit that while trying to expand my reading variety I have found a winner here. I like the chemistry between the two PI's. I like that their dialogue is quick, snappy and true to how good friends yack about things. It smacks of an old Bogart flick, but I like that. I like the pace of the story and I like that Baldacci is good about using characters' inner dialogue to explain political and security issues from a couple different perspectives.

I'm a newbie to Baldacci's work, but I sense that these two main characters have been central to other books that he's written. That would explain how well their personalities are developed, their tight dialogue and the 'backstory' comments that work their way into things. I may have to test my intuition by picking up some of his other titles to see if he continues to hold my interest. Like Dan Brown, he's got a way with a fast-paced intricate plot line. No wonder he's so wildly popular with the reading public.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Poetry Jam - Hero Worship

Hero Worship

We’ve been trying from the start
To make our mark on high
Read the stories, dress the part
Watch the movies, sigh …

See our heroes postulate
Assert the moral truths
Nod and self congratulate
Drive back villains, forsooth!

Then we grapple with what’s here
Wipe popcorn grease away
Laugh while brushing off the fear
And step into the day

Music fades we head for home
The credits still roll on
Kids recount their favored scenes
We hum the hero’s song

Those brave exploits of virtue
Though, remain with us o’er time
Courage, strength, and fortitude
In heart and mind enshrined

This week's theme of heroes was picked by Brian, an old stalwart here at Poetry Jam ... I've had fun thinking about all my movie super heroes ... head over to this week's Jam and see what others are contributing! 

Image credits for the mosaic above go to various on-line film sites and Wiki links. I have reproduced the images within the mosaic, but receive no monetary fees or professional credit for the composite image. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Antonio's Wife - Jacqueline DeJohn

A first time novelist pens a story with its roots firmly in the author's past - a story of immigration from Italy to the rough tenements of New York City, a story of arranged marriages, social norms so strict that the sins of the parents are firmly passed on to their innocent children, a story about different kinds of love. This sounds like an opera, yes? Well, there's opera all wrapped up in this complex tale too.

Jacqueline DeJohn has penned an emotional tale based on the mysterious details of her grandmother's passage to America from the hills above Naples. Her main character, Mina/Maria Grazia comes to America as a mail-order bride. Settled in the tenements and new to a marriage that she hoped would bring happiness and escape from her 'past life', Maria becomes a seamstress for an opera company in Manhattan. Her marriage deteriorates around her into a frightening and abusive calamity and she pins her hopes on saving pennies from her pay to escape this second traumatic chapter of her young life. It is at this moment in life when Francesca Frascatti, a renowned Italian diva comes to the opera house to sing Tosca. This flamboyant singer needs a dresser and Mina is given the job. The story line takes a dramatic and operatic turn at this point and never stops careening toward a passionate, murderous, emotional, and yes, operatic, finish.

This novel, while dramatic and over-the-top coincidental, meshes together the characters, details of the history of New York City geography, famous names from the early 1900's, and the general themes of ethnic discrimination, immigration, the development of 'the Black Hand' aka Mafia, issues of women's rights, the history and development of opera as entertainment in America, the politics of Tammany Hall, and the development of crime investigation techniques. It's full to brimming ... like a good opera with an ending that takes a great deal of finagling to reach ... like a good opera.