Monday, May 30, 2011

spring reading list

I refer to the winter list several times this quarter, so here's a link if you want to refresh your memory or, if you are a new reader, see what I'm talking about.

Short list of authors, long list of books this time around.

The Devil's Eye by Jack McDevitt – this was the fourth Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath novel. The first three were reviewed in the winter list. This one also is from Chase's (his female pilot and business employee) point of view. After receiving a plea for help and a deposit of two million dollars from a woman who subsequently undergoes a mind wipe, Alex and Chase set off to discover why she wanted to hire them. Their quest takes them to a planet outside the solar system in deep space. I don't really want to say much more in case someone likes science fiction as much as I do and might be interested in reading these books but it was really good. A great culmination to the previous three (though I have found out there is new one out). If you can battle your way through the first 3/4ths of the first book, A Talent For War (at least I had to), it's definitely worth it and the next three. One of the reasons I like these books is that the character of the moment is just as likely to be female as male no matter what the part they play.

Rip Tide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – (the folks who brought us Brimstone and Dance Of Death also from the previous list.) This is one of their early collaborations, a tale about a search for pirate treasure. I had a hard time getting into it but I'm not sure if it was because of the writing or because I was distracted, which I was at the time. A pretty good story though.

Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – (my sister has a lot of their books) A much better tale about an archeological expedition searching for the Anasazi Lost City Of Gold (of the spaniard Coronado fame). There's a harrowing passage about their ascent up the side of the 'Devil's Backbone' with horses that made me put it down for a while. A good story though. I enjoyed this one a lot.

Fatal Error by F. Paul Wilson – the second to last installment in the Repairman Jack series. (see my post 'fall reads' for a synopsis of the Repairman Jack novels)

Jack: Secret Histories by F. Paul Wilson – the first of three young adult novels about Jack as a teenager as he makes his first 'repairs' and his first introductions to the 'mystery'. (Library books are being circulated so my reading is a little narrow of focus.)

Jack: Secret Circles by F. Paul Wilson – the further adventures of the young Jack.

Jack: Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson – Jack is discovering his life's work and he meets characters he will encounter again in his future.

Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell – historical fiction, mostly fiction since the history part is very far back. Nice little tale about how Stonehenge came to be built and how they (could have done) it, back when people lived in tribal groups led by a headman and the shaman and everything revolved around the gods.

The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – another really good story by this writing team. A most unusual meteorite, the largest ever found, is discovered on a desolate Chilean island at the tip of South America and one of the richest men in the world decides he wants it for a museum he is building. It's acquisition must be made quickly and secretly so he hires a scientist and an extraordinary engineering company to remove and move this 25,000 ton object, the heaviest object ever moved by humankind, which ultimately proves to be only partly successful. Good characterizations of an interesting group of people, two strong female characters are essentially the only women in the book. Has a bit of a surprise ending.

Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search For Love And Art by Gene Wilder – I usually just read fiction but Marc got this from the library and I had nothing else to read. I like Gene Wilder. He's always been one of my favorites but after I read this book it made me wonder why he thought it would be all that interesting. I mean, It was interesting to see how he got into acting and how his career progressed but I don't think his personal experience was anything more than average.

Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child – Scientists in the Arctic find a creature encased in ice. The company that underwrote their expedition produces nature documentaries and they send a film crew to tape the melting and revealing of the creature. Only it's not dead, just in a state of suspended animation. Chaos ensues, people die.

The Book Of The Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – the third in the 'Diogenes' trilogy that began with Brimstone, followed by Dance Of Death. In the third book, the true nature of Diogenes' intended crime becomes apparent and it's a race against time to foil the plot and catch the perpetrator. An interesting little twist at the end.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

learning birdsong

We have a mockingbird that sings at 5 AM. Of course he is not the only bird singing but he is the loudest. We hear him in the spring when we sleep with the window open. I think mockingbirds sing for the pure joy of it. I know that what he's really saying is 'look what a fine specimen I am ladies! see how varied and complex my song is! come be with me!' There has to be some joy in that, right? I think the mockingbird is the only songbird that changes its song and it is different from bird to bird and year to year.

(click on the link to hear the song)

Living out here, in the country with so much space around us and quiet, I can hear and listen to the birds a lot. When I hear a song or call I am unfamiliar with, I will try and locate the bird, maybe even understand what it is saying.

We have a lot of cardinals. Cardinals have several songs or calls that I have identified. They have their mating song which is a series of varied notes repeated and they have what I think of as their location peep, a single note alternating between pairs. Like saying, 'I'm over here and I'm OK'. I've heard a third call, but I'm not sure what it means.

I've been paying a lot of attention to the wrens lately, which I'm sure you know, and I definitely know their alarm call. It usually means that the cat is in the vicinity or Marc or I have come too close to a young one. When they were moving their chick around, they would let me know when the cat was too close and I would go fetch her inside for a while. They have an attention call, a sort of head's up, and a three note song. At least it sounds like three notes to me.

I know the rather distinctive call of the red headed woodpeckers that live around here and I know when the blue jays are exclaiming 'intruder alert!'. I know it's the crows when they caw and the hawks when they kee. I know the chickadees when they chick-a-dee-dee-dee, the mourning doves that mourn.

I'm trying to remember the song of the tufted tit-mouse but it still surprises me when I locate the source of the call.

So many others who visit but whose voices I don't know. The warblers, the sparrows, and the finches.

When you know their songs you know who they are even when you can't see them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm going to be MIA for a few days.

I'm trying to be more productive. It just seems like days go by and I haven't accomplished anything. I know that's not true but I'm just not seeing any fruits right now.

Heading into town for the day taking Mom's place at her youngest daughter's school play. Her son's graduation from Middle School is tonight as well.

My sister is have a barn sale tomorrow and Saturday. Her husband was a tool pack rat and when he couldn't immediately put his hand on something he would go out and buy a new one. Dozens of hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, shovels. Power tools and accessories, plumbing supplies, shop fans and kerosene heaters. You get the picture. She wants me there at 6:30. AM.

See you on the flip side.

Monday, May 23, 2011

M is for...

M is for...making, moving, menopause

I've already written plenty about making. And moving. The whole first year of my blog was pretty much about moving. So that leaves...

M is for menopause (sorry guys)

My mother, my maternal aunt and my sister all had hysterectomies so I had no role model for this inevitable transition in my life. I had no idea what to expect, genetically speaking, or even when I might expect it to occur. As it happened, it occurred quite early. I was 44 when I had my last period.

I always thought that was pretty young. Not that I missed having my periods or anything. I was quite happy for them to be gone especially as I was doing the river guide thing then and there is nothing worse than having to deal with that on a three day wilderness canoe camping trip. And believe me, there is something about being in the wilderness that will bring it on. I always carried supplies with me for our guests who were surprised by an early visit.

Kinda gives me a new appreciation for the ancient practice of sending the women to 'the tent' during their time of the month. I used to think of it as some sort of banishment for being 'unclean' but now I realize it was a vacation from all the work they had to do. Wish I could get a 5 day vacation every month.


Some women hardly notice menopause besides the obvious. For others it is a terrible time of changes going on in the body. Sort of like going through puberty, only backwards. For me, it was a long slow decline.

The first few years after the last event were blissfully non-symptomatic. I seemed to be more susceptible to the heat but I was hanging out in the desert all the time so what did I expect? Then one day, I felt this ball of heat start building up in my solar plexus, spreading out to all my extremities (sort of like an orgasm only centered higher up and not nearly as pleasant) until I finally broke out in a sweat.

Uh oh.

After the novelty wore off which happened at about light speed it became a decidedly unpleasant experience. I took to carrying around a japanese paper fan. Didn't matter where I was...home, grocery store, temple, standing in line to vote...out came that fan.

The Hot Flashes were accompanied by the Night Sweats. Throw off the covers, pull them back on, throw off the covers, pull them back on...all night. This went on for a couple of years. Eventually the HFs and the NSs tapered off and I would only break into a sweat as I drifted off to sleep and as I was waking up. Even that eventually stopped...mostly.

Except for the whole new general sweating thing.

I never used to sweat. At best, I'd perspire some, but rolling off your face sweat? Never. At 5'4” and 105 lbs soaking wet, I was always cold natured. My lips and nail beds would turn blue if I stayed in the water too long in the middle of summer.

So, in the end, that's what menopause did for me. Totally reversed my internal thermal settings. Which makes it a challenge here in South Texas where the summers were long and hot even before global warming.

I must say, though, it's nice to no longer be at the mercy of estrogen. I don't miss the monthly emotional roller coaster, the bleeding, the succumbing to the grip of lust.

Oh, wait.

Sometimes...sometimes, I miss it terribly.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Book Of Wren

I'm woefully behind in my reading. A day in the city, a week focused on work. Full size art work done for the two jobs, now just waiting on the glass.

The wren box is now officially finished. I know you all are tired of this particular piece, it has taken so so long to come together but I am very very pleased with it. I've been wanting to move into multi-media for awhile and I think this is a first good step in that direction.

The scroll, with the story of the wrens raising their little chick, is made of parchment vellum, wood, thread and tied with raffia. The seams in the parchment are sewn by machine but I had to do the sewing by hand around the sticks.

So here is the last, and official, picture of the wren box.

The Book Of Wren
8”w x 8”h x 3”d
glass, bronze, vellum, wood, thread, raffia

the scroll
4”w x 1”h x .5”d

the scroll unrolled (out of focus, I know, but I didn't realize it til after I had rolled it up and now it won't lay flat for another picture.)

the scroll in the box
(also not a great picture)

the story:

The Book Of Wren

The wrens are
very curious
about our shop.

I see them in there
quite frequently
poking around.

It's attached
to the studio part
of the house and
I watch them come
and go
through the open

Last year
a pair built a nest
in the shop
in the rag bag
hanging on a nail
by the door
to the studio.

Every time I went
out the door
the wrens would
dash out.

Eventually, they
got used to me.

They laid two
little eggs
in the nest
in the rag bag.

One day I came
through the shop
and saw a broken
little egg
on the concrete.

The nest was robbed,
with one little egg
still in it.

This spring, the wrens
built another nest
in the shop.

This time they built it
on top of the motor
housing for
the door opener
that doesn't work,
up close to the ceiling.

They hatched one little
baby wren.

When the baby
was brave enough,
it fell-flew
to the ground.

It's parents were ever alert
and they coaxed it
out of the shop, into
the natural world.

They shepherded it
they fed it
they watched over it
they moved it
looking for food.

They taught it
how to fly
how to talk
how to forage.

They fluttered down and
flew up
down and up
down, up.

They led baby wren
in a circle around
the house.

Every day
I could hear it
feed me, feed me.

One day, baby wren
into the lower
branches of a

Another day
the lower branches
of a tree,
tail feathers almost
grown in.

It follows after
mom and dad
feed me, feed

I track the wrens
every day,
follow their migration
around the house.

I am learning

I venture too close
and baby cries

The parents have
the little wren
on the ground now
most days,
it must learn how
to feed itself.

They know
I am no

all three wrens
were in the shop.

Perhaps next year
I will have two families
building nests.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

where's Jack?

And you thought I was kidding about the ladder.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

L is for...

L is for...laughing, language

I've been wanting to do a post on language for a long time. I've even started one. I'm really interested in how language evolves especially when I read British or Australian blogs and wonder what the hell they're talking about. I recognize the words, they are English, but the meaning totally escapes me. Well, maybe not totally.

Anyway this is not about that.

L is for laughing.

We like to laugh around here. It makes life so much easier. I can say that cause I have personal experience to the contrary. There were a lot of years around here when no one ever laughed. Somewhere along the way, with help, we made a paradigm shift. Not that we don't still have the occasional moment, but that's all it is, an occasional moment.


Laughing is good for you. It makes you feel better, boosts your immune system and helps you rid yourself of stress. People who laugh easily are less likely to have a heart attack. Plus it gives your internals and muscles a good workout and it's way more fun than getting on the exercise bike.

We all like to be around people who make us laugh, the person with the quick and easy quip. Marc's like that. You can generally kiss any conversation goodbye when he comes around because it will turn into a joke fest. One day, after a three day art show, the gallery manager came up to me to tell me how funny Marc is.

It must be so much fun living with him”, she said to me.

Oh, yeah. It's a laugh riot.

But I get mine in too. And it's important to be able to laugh at yourself.

Laughing is something we all do in the same language. A smile is a bridge across cultures, something we all understand without words.

But laughter has a way of popping out inappropriately as well. When we see something terrible, we are just as likely to bust out with a laugh than with a cry. At least I am.

One summer, my brother and I wanted to go water skiing but the bay was too choppy so our father crossed the bay to one of the coastal bayous. My brother was skiing and he crossed the wake just as our father started a u-turn. He was going pretty fast and the turn had the effect of slingshotting my brother around and slammed him into the bank. His momentum when he hit the bank flipped him up in a cartwheel, arms and legs akimbo, and flung him further inland.

I laughed.

It was funny. I couldn't help it.

My father was not amused. He yelled at me for laughing and was convinced he had killed his only son. As it turned out, my brother wasn't hurt except for a bruise or two, but the memory of seeing him spinning in the air still makes me laugh to this day.

Laughter is contagious.

I had a yoga instructor once who would have us laugh for one minute. Laying flat on our backs on our mats, she would say, 'start laughing'.

'Start laughing?'


Ok. Ha ha. Hee hee. And before we knew it the whole class was laughing genuinely at the absurdity of it all.

The thing is, we don't really need to know what is so funny when we are around someone who is laughing. Eventually, it will infect us too.

Live well, laugh loud and often.

Friday, May 13, 2011

rain and other stories

the cloud that brought the rain

After having storm cloud after storm cloud pass over us for months, we finally got rain yesterday. That may not sound like such a momentous occasion except for the fact that we haven't had any rain since January besides a sprinkle or two that didn't even get the concrete wet. It rained hard for about 45 minutes and then rained gently for hours. All the plants look very happy. Nourished. The birds are chirping loudly and on the ground this morning foraging for the bugs and worms. When I went out after the rain had stopped, I did not see a single puddle anywhere. The desiccated cracked ground soaked it up like a sponge. Instead of the hard dry surface, now the ground gives softly when trod on.

the sunset it left behind

I think I mentioned that one of the small hawks that patrol around here has built a nest in the very top of one of our pecan trees. I can only see it from one spot in the yard. Occasionally I see her sitting on the nest but I don't think she has eggs in it yet as most times I don't see her at all. Perhaps she is still building it. Those branches at the top of the tree are small and flexible and when the storm was blowing in, they were thrashing around like mad. She must have her nest jammed in there pretty good because it doesn't look like she lost a single stick.

My sister's catalpa tree is blooming. She planted this tree herself. This will be the last season she gets to see it though because she is selling her house and she has to be out by the end of June. Now that she is living alone, she doesn't feel comfortable being so far from town. Not to mention that the big house and two acres requires more maintenance than she wants to do by herself. She's got her eye on a place in town but they are still haggling over the price. In the meantime, I go over every evening and help her pack.

The corn in the fields has been green and healthy looking despite the drought. Our garden is doing pretty well too. Tomatoes, bell and banana peppers, zucchini, brussels sprouts (left over from the winter garden when they did not grow even half an inch), cucumbers, okra, pole beans. Still learning about this food gardening. Last year I planted bush beans. This year we planted pole beans because I got tired of having to bend over to pick the beans only, we planted too many beans around our single teepee of poles and our poles are way too tall. Now I'm going to need a ladder to pick the beans.

And finally, we've gotten some work in, two jobs, one on a fast track which, believe me, after months of no work, I don't mind at all. Job 1 is two shower enclosures for a vacation home and job 2 is two 5' x 5' windows and two door lites in a garden room. We'll be spending a lot of time in the city over the next several weeks.