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Archive for the tag “Celebration”

celebrating hiking

Pino TrailHiking is absolutely one of my favorite things to do, so even though the weather has not been conducive to hitting the trails lately–nor has my schedule–a series on celebration has to include it. Here are accounts of four hikes on (mostly) my favorite trails in the area.

Pino Trail

Pino Trail is my go-to hiking trail for two reasons. (1) It’s just over a five-minute drive from where I live. (2) The variety and the views never get old. These photos were taken on a short solo hike on a late afternoon in the summer, with the temperature around 94 degrees in the unshaded stretches. I went out by myself to see how the ribs I’d bruised the previous week handled my day pack and the heavy breathing from a little extra exertion.

This trail is very popular, but during my two hours out there I encountered fewer than half a dozen other people; apparently the heat kept everyone else away. My bruised ribs proved not to be an issue. In fact they felt better after the hike than they did before.

pino1

pino2

pino3

While I love all the gorgeous vistas from this trail, the shot directly above is my favorite.

 Cienega (“Wet Meadow”) Trail

This hike was definitely not a hit. On the way up, my hiking partner and I heard the growl of either a black bear or a mountain lion, and on the way down I took a minor spill on the uneven, rock-strewn path.

On the plus side, we gained 1,750 feet in a little over two miles, moving under continuously blue skies with a scattering of bright white clouds, in very comfortable conditions. The view from the top was amazing. A stone outcropping provided convenient level seating for a snack break (watermelon and almonds) and the opportunity for us to take it all in–along with a few photos, of course.

cienega1

The less said about the trek down, the better. Of the wildflowers in bloom, sunflowers dominated. There were also more butterflies flitting around than I’ve ever seen anyplace outside the Butterfly Pavilion at the Botanic Garden.

sunflower

geranium

Tree Spring Trail

Tree Spring Trail, one of the most enjoyable trails in the area, is located on the eastern side of the Sandias, which makes it a cooler and more comfortable hike in the summer. My hiking companion and I started from Tree Springs trailhead off Crest Highway, hiked up to the crossroads where Tree Spring Trail meets 10K and Crest trails, and then meandered along 10K for a while.

tree spring1This hike was a winner, even though the trails are popular for mountain bikers, and we had to do a lot of scrambling to get out of the way. I couldn’t believe the profusion and variety of wildflowers.

wallflower

mariposa lily

Piedra Lisa (“Smooth Rock”) Trail to Rincon Spur

The weather gods provided an absolutely perfect day for hiking this trail, most of which is in the open. The temperature ranged from low 70s to mid-80s, the sun shone brightly, and there was nary a sign of rain.

Piedra Lisa Trail is on the same side of the mountains as Pino Trail, so the terrain is similar, but being north of Pino it offers much closer views of the landmark shield, prow, and needle. My favorite, however, was this sphinx-like “rock face.”

piedra lisa1There were lots of gnarled dead trees along the trail. At one point I turned around to see this row running down the side of a hill.

piedra lisa2

The number of wildflowers was surprising. I managed to get a few halfway decent shots and to identify a couple more species–both purple.

aster

verbena

The mountains and sky seem much closer from the perspective of the trail. They’re a good reminder to look up from time to time, to check out the distant view. Sometimes you need the wide-angle lens.

piedra lisa3

A Gal and Her Camera:

piedra lisa JC

Photo courtesy of Lee (Thanks!)

 Armijo-Faulty-Cienega Loop

After parking in the small lot before the Cienega Canyon trailhead, my companion and I backtracked up the asphalt, getting the hardest part of the hike over with right away. We picked up Cienega Horse Bypass Trail, which eventually merged with Armijo Trail, which offered some dramatic views. Armijo Trail was also where we encountered this little guy (or gal?):

collared lizard

Armijo Trail ends at Faulty Trail, which runs 8.7 miles altogether, but is an interior or connecting trail, so you can’t get to it directly. We could have gone either north or south, and chose north to make our loop. The terrain on both Armijo and Faulty was up-and-down, which was unusual and very welcome. Most of the time you figure on going UP. And then coming back DOWN. A portion of Faulty Trail follows an actual fault called Flatirons Fault.

armijo1

I can’t get enough of this place. It’s awe-inspiring, wild, and restorative all at the same time.

armijo2

I think it was on Faulty where a fellow hiker warned us he’d seen a bear off-trail about 200 yards back (in the direction we were headed). Just before Faulty crosses Cienega Trail, there is a short, very steep descent against the north face of Cienega Canyon. The views were spectacular! I failed to capture the grandeur, but I did succeed in making it down, which was sufficient accomplishment.

After the short leg of Cienega Trail, we snacked at an actual picnic table, then crossed the asphalt road to check out Cienega Nature Trail. We were reminded that Cienega means “wet meadow.” The area was very different from the trails we’d been on across the road. Green. And open.

armijo3

Lastly, we hunted for Acequia Trail for a bit before finding and following it in the direction of the parking lot, thus completing the loop. Pine cones abounded. And my friend Lee waited patiently while I took yet another photo.

armijo4

This very pleasant hike was five miles in all. It’s one I would definitely do again.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating short stories: fjord of Killary

fjordIt seems counterintuitive, but short stories are more difficult to writeat least to write well—than longer works. Although I’ve written all my life, short stories are a form I have yet to master. Maybe that’s why I admire and celebrate really good short stories. It takes skill to pick readers up, quickly orient them to another world, and immediately immerse them in it.

Some contemporary short stories leave me wondering what the point was, but occasionally I come across a story that sparkles all the way through the reading and lingers in my memory long afterward.

Fjord of Killary, by Kevin Barry, which was featured in The New Yorker several years ago, is one such story. I tore it out of the magazine and held onto it, which is why I still remember it.

It begins: So I bought an old hotel on the fjord of Killary. I was immediately taken by the off-hand tone, as if the narrator were relating this tale to a friend or acquaintance, perhaps in a bar. He continuesIt was set hard by the harbor wall, with Mweelrea Mountain across the water, and disgracefully gray skies above. Disgracefully gray skies are something I can relate to. I’m listening. It rained two hundred and eighty-seven days of the year, and the locals were given to magnificent mood swings. I can picture this place and its inhabitants already, just three sentences in.

On the night in question, the rain was particularly violent–it came down like handfuls of nails flung hard and fast by a seriously riled sky god. As well as being wonderfully descriptive, that sentence might very well be perfect. I was at this point eight months in the place and about convinced that it would be the death of me. End of first paragraph. We readers are set up with everything we need to know. And we know something is about to happen. If we are too dense to figure that out, though, he then says: “It’s end-of-the-fucking-world stuff out there,” I said.

One of the things I like about this story is that all the characters who speak talk the way I do when I’m not self-censoring. To wit, local funeral director, John Murphy, speaking to no one in particular, in these three successive paragraphs: “I’ll bury anythin’ that fuckin’ moves,” he said. “Bastards, suicides, tinkers,” he said. “I couldn’t give a fuckin’ monkey’s,” he said. While the casual cussing certainly isn’t the only thing I like about the story, it does make me feel comfortable. I could fit right in with those folks, at least for an evening.

And the last sentence is an absolute gem, one of those things that may not have occurred to you before, but that you realize the truth and humor of as soon as you hear (or read) it. It’s a bit of a celebration all by itself—especially for those of us of a certain age. But I won’t spoil it. Here’s the link to the complete story in The New Yorker.

kevin barryKevin Barry was born in Limerick in 1959 and now lives in Dublin. He’s published sketches, columns, and stories for a number of newspapers in Ireland, England, the U.S., and elsewhere. His short story collection, There are Little Kingdoms, won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2007. His first novel, City of Bohane, about “a small and murderous West Ireland city,” was published in April 2011 and reviewed by Pete Hamil in The New York Times.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating fresh flowers

flowers1There’s something about having fresh flowers inside that changes the atmosphere and brightens even a gloomy or overcast day. I have a lot of plants around my apartment, but I really miss the flowers when I don’t have any. The empty vases seem so…empty. Cut flowers often feel like an extravagance, so I don’t get them every week. But I make a point of getting some at least once a month.

About 10 years ago, I discovered the Alstroemeria. I love these flowers, which are commonly known by nearly as many names as the colors they come in: Peruvian Lily, Lily of the Incas, Parrot Flower. The supermarket across the street sells them in bunches of five stems, each stem with its own bouquet of blooms.

flowers2The ones in the pictures are a mix of cherry and cherry and white, a good choice for spring. I’ve also seen them in shades of purple, lilac, white, yellow, orange, deep red, and many subtle variations and combinations thereof.

Two bunches are enough to fill a large vase as well as a smaller one that sits on the sideboard in the dining area. Sometimes there’s even a sprig left over for the bud vase in my bedroom.

Having fresh flowers always—always—feels like a celebration. They remind me that I’m rich, at least in spirit, no matter what else I may lack or may be under the impression I lack.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating wine

sidewaysI’m no oenophile (connoisseur of wine), by any means. But I always enjoy a glass of red. Unlike Miles, Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways who refuses to drink Merlot, almost any red wine will do. But I definitely have some favorites.

Tempranillo

Yesterday evening, I attended an event at Scalo Northern Italian Grill in Nob Hill (the one here in Albuquerque, not the one in San Francisco) and the happy hour reds included Cubo Tempranillo. Oh, I’ll have that! I said.

According to the Total Wine & More Guide to Tempranillo Wine:

The Tempranillo (tem-prah-NEE-yoh) grape is as important to Spain as the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is to the Médoc. The great reds of Rioja and Ribera del Duero are Tempranillo based. This versatile grape is capable of yielding big, full-bodied reds with firm tannins and loads of complexity to very light and easy-drinking wine with light tannins. Typically Tempranillo yields red wines with red-fruit flavors, which include cherry and ripe strawberry with rustic nuances of leather and earth. With substantial oak aging such as the Gran Reservas of Rioja, Tempranillo produces elegant and complex wine with multifaceted layers of flavors. Also known as Tinto de Toro, Tinto Fino, and Tinto del País.

I can neither confirm nor deny the firmness of the tannins or degree of complexity of the glass of wine I enjoyed last night, but it was very, very nice. I haven’t encountered Tempranillo often, but every time I’ve tasted it, I’ve always wanted more.

Malbec

Malbec is another wine I will usually choose if it’s available. The Total Wine & More Guide to Argentinian Malbec Wine says:

The flagship red grape of Argentina, Malbec [MOWL-beck] was once popular as a blending grape in Bordeaux, where it is still one of the permitted varietals. Malbec plays a supporting role in many appellations in South West France and especially Southeast of Bordeaux, in the region of Cahors, where it is the primary grape and is referred to as “the black wine,” due to its deep, dark color.

Nowhere does Malbec’s star shine as brightly as it does in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The ripe and plush Malbec wines of Argentina feature dark fruit flavors of blackberry, blueberry and black raspberry and supple tannins, with nuances of violets and toasty oak in the more expensive offerings. Blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah add additional complexity.

1629

Winery_1But New Mexico has it’s own history of wine production, and my current favorite red wine is locally produced. Casa Rondena Winery is located in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The facility includes several buildings with indoor and outdoor tasting areas. You can hang out in one of them, bring your own picnic to enjoy on the grounds, or—if you can afford it—even get married there.

Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I’ve been treated to all of the Casa Rondena reds, the absolute best (and most expensive) of which is:

2009 1629 – A true Casa original: 50% deep dark Syrah; 41% dense, soft tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% spicy Tempranillo; – blended and named in honor of the first vinifera plantings in North America, right here in New Mexico!

The first time I enjoyed a few sips of this wine was at the end of a tasting. It was near closing and the owner, who happened to be behind the bar, wanted us to experience the effect the size and width of a wine glass can have on the way the wine tastes. So he gave us several more samples of this fantastic wine in various glasses. I hadn’t had dinner yet, but I kept on sipping, to the point where I got a bit tipsy.

Periodically my friend, who belongs to Casa Rondena’s wine club, will pick up a bottle of the 1629 and we will enjoy it together whenever we have something to celebrate. It just seems too good to have on an ordinary day. But maybe that thinking needs to change. Maybe we ought to use the wine to turn an ordinary day into a celebration. I’m game to give that a try if she is.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the desert

desertI’ve called New Mexico home for close to 14 years. The first time I visited the southwest, I was smitten with the wide-open skies, the abundant and ever-changing light, and the subtleties of the desert landscape. I even liked the heat.

The beautiful description of the desert that follows is courtesy of my friend Bob Walling, who—in addition to being a very fine writer—is also a former corporate trainer, university lecturer and British travel professional. Thank you, Bob.


April 2015

Chamisa, sage, Morman tea, rabbitbush, broombush, desert rose, paintbush, cholla, prickly pear, scruboak are names to be spoken gently in this land of wind. These inhabitants of the desert enter the eye as quietly and gently as a Navajo person entering a room. Like the Navajo entering they seek harmony with their surroundings without disturbing the air. These plants take little from the land but without adding the silver of the sage, orange-red of the paintbrush or the white of the desert rose the painter’s palette would have missed the honest colors of the desert.

The words buttes, canyons, arroyos, and barrancas, stand as linguistic witnesses to the parade of visitors to this space during the last 400 years. Modern man’s attempt to give names in his language to the violent evidence of a land in turmoil–  land of volcanoes, eruptions and earthquakes. Travelers driving, travelers towing silver bullets, travelers pulling Winnebagos nearly as large as some of the villages they are named after pass down the road, and travelers with their life’s belongings stowed in the back seat traveling 75 miles an hour gawk sideways at the evidence of this geologic violence and hurry through as if the violence might be latent and intent on occurring again. The desert, as it appears at this speed looks like a colorful crime scene of scattered eruptions, deep cuts running blood red and jagged evidence of an angry god. Older people seem to be drawn to drive across the landscape, silent observers in metal boxes to this violence thrilling the eye with color as they once thrilled the body on a rollercoaster.

coyoteIt gives up only the obvious to these visitors in its colors of reds, oranges and browns and keeps concealed the silvers, chartreuses and greens which it keeps tucked close to the land. The rushing motorists soak the eyes with colors already obtained from National Geographic.  The sun bleaches the landscape to a one dimensional panorama. The language of the desert is subtle not read easily by the person passing hurriedly to some unknown destination. The desert speaks in profiles at sunrise and shadows at sunset and the barking howl of the coyote when least expected. The coyote speaks like a desert wind, first barking like a dog and then breaking into a lonely howl which causes a tiny shiver of melancholy in us the lonely audience. The coyote is the loon of the desert, looking like a dog at a distance, just as a loon looks like a duck at a distance. It is in their calls that both establish their lonely independence.

The wind is the storyteller of the desert. The wind wraps you up in a constant conversation, sometimes gently nudging you to think about yourself here and sometimes violently telling its story with wild gusts that kick up foreign thistles across the road. Visitors huddle from the wind when it gusts, make way quickly to their cars and take flight as if the wind’s story is too harsh a tale to be heard by gentle folk. It is the wind that tells us the story of the buttes, sings songs that are deep inside us and gestures with wind language to tell us where best to walk.

Many visitors come here to find purity in a world become too complex at home. Here they hope the colors are true and primeval, but the desert is the world and it is complex. The desert is a multi-cultural experience composed of the tracks left by people and animals that weren’t there four hundred years ago like the tumbleweed from the British Isles, the Russian Olive from Europe, the sheep, horses, and cows from Spain, and the river bed of a canyon yielding the spring buds of the tamarisk. Only the orange of the buttes is native and original here.


This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the music of poetry

music of poetryIt’s still April; still National Poetry Month.

Poetry and music often come together in unexpected ways. Poet Dorothea Lasky said:

The music of poetry is a delight for the mind.

When it’s read out loud—or set to music and sung—it’s can also be a great delight to the ear.

i carry your heart with me

Poem by e.e. cummings/performed by Michael Hedges (with David Crosby and Graham Nash singing harmony) from the album Taproot. Cummings is my favorite poet and Hedges is a wonderful musician.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

the song of wandering Aengus

Poem by William Butler Yeats/performed by The Waterboys from the 2011 album An Appointment with Mr. Yeats. A surprising find. According to Mike Scott’s track guide, “This lyric conjures in my mind’s eye a moonlit wood on a hallucinatory night in some old Celtic dream time, and the bard Aengus, silver-bearded, wandering out on his quest. This music is the soundtrack to that vision.” Flute solo by Sarah Allen.
.

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

adventures of Isabel

Poem by Ogden Nash/performed by Natalie Merchant from the album Leave Your Sleep. I love the energy, the arrangement, the words, Merchant’s voice…everything! It’s my favorite tune on the album.

Isabel met an enormous bear

Isabel, Isabel, she didn’t care
bear was hungry, bear was ravenous
bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous
bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you
Isabel, Isabel, she didn’t worry
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry
Washed her hands straightened her hair up
Then Isabel ate the bear up

Once in a night black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch
witch’s face was cross and wrinkled
witch’s gums with teeth were sprinkled
Ho, ho, Isabel! old witch crowed
I’ll turn you into an ugly toad
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry
showed no rage, showed no rancor
turned the witch into milk and drank her
Oh yeah,

Isabel!!!

Isabel met a hideous giant
Isabel so self reliant
giant was hairy, giant horrid
One eye in the middle of his forehead
morning, Isabel, giant said
I’ll grind your bones and make my bread
Isabel, Isabel, she didn’t worry
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry
nibbled on his zwieback that she fed off
When it was gone, she cut the giant’s head off

Isabel!!!

Isabel met a troublesome doctor
punched and poked till he really shocked her
doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills
doctor’s satchel bulged with pills
doctor said wow Isabel
Swallow this, it will make you well
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry

Took those pills from the pill concocter
Then Isabel cured the doctor, yeah, oh yeah

ozymandias

And now for something completely different.

Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley/performed by JJ Burnel (bass guitarist for the English group, the Stranglers) on the “b” side of his single, “Freddie Laker.” (Lyrics included in the video.) I confess to having once stolen a book from the public library–and it was the collected works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. I memorized this poem. I was in high school, but still, what was I thinking? What I’m thinking now is that this is actually pretty cool.

celebrating the senses: hearing

tree fallingIf a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it makes a sound? This has been a question debated by philosophers. Define sound…define hear…define tree. (I kid philosophers, but I once listened to a philosopher spend quite a long time trying to define is.) Now that scientists are weighing in on the tree question, the answer appears to be, as with many other questions, yes and no. And I’m OK with that.

Sounds are vibrations that travel through the air as waves. That puts me in mind of this song by Ray LaMontagne.

So let’s celebrate air, too, which not only gives us breath (and life) but also sound.

As I was thinking about identifying some of the sounds I like, I realized it would be easier to rattle off a list of sounds I don’t like than a list of sounds I do like. So the sound of silence definitely ranks near the top for me. (Having no sound coming from my computer processor is especially good.)

I also realized there are several sounds I like, but only in moderation. For example, I like the sound of rain now and then, but living in the Pacific Northwest would make me crazy. I like the sound of birds singing in the morning, but too much of it and it turns into birds making racket in the morning. I like the whisper of wind through the trees, but not the roar of the gale-force winds we get in New Mexico in the spring.

Other good sounds:

  • Laughter, which is a celebration all by itself
  • A fire burning in a fireplace
  • Popcorn popping
  • My cat purring; also the noise she makes at birds in the tree outside our window
  • All kinds of music

Music is definitely my favorite source of sound. I don’t know that I could pick a favorite (or desert-island album), but No Sun in Venice by The Modern Jazz Quartet comes close. Here’s Venice from that album.

I’ve noticed that sounds can wake me from my internal reverie and bring me back into the world faster than anything else. That’s something I appreciate, even if I may not always celebrate it when it happens.

What sounds do you enjoy most?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating coffee and coffee shops

coffee2How did people get by before they figured out…coffee! And how did our species advance before we created coffee shops? I have at least two or three coffee shop get togethers (social or work-related) every week. (And now I want to publicly apologize to Lorena for spacing out our coffee date last week. Not that it’s an excuse, but by the time I got to the end of the week I was surprised I’d actually made it. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for coffee.)

In Albuquerque we have Starbucks conveniently located in every corner of every quadrant of the city, so that’s always a popular choice. They have good coffee, but their baristas have an unfortunate tendency to creatively interpret your order.

satellite coffeeFlying Star is another popular choice with locations all over the city. Indeed, their slogan is “You’re never far from a Flying Star.” Strictly speaking, Flying Star is a restaurant, and Satellite Coffee is their coffee-shop brand. I have two Flying Stars and one Satellite within 5-15 minutes of my home. There are more Flying Stars than Satellites, but they know coffee (Satellite’s slogan is “passionate about coffee”), so it’s reliably good at both places.

Napoli is a one-off coffee shop that is farther away, so I don’t get there very often. They recently moved into a new space that I really like. If they were closer, I’d make it my go-to spot. Obviously their coffee is excellent.

As is the home-brew that I’m drinking as I write this post.

java joe'sI also want to give an honorable mention to Java Joe’s. I’ve never actually been to their physical location, but they have a stand at the downtown growers market which I used to frequent on Saturday mornings. That was years ago, but I still remember how wonderful their coffee was. It almost made getting up in the middle of the night (or so 5:00am feels to me) worth it. And the fresh-baked scones were pretty amazing, too.

There are lots of other coffee joints in Albuquerque, some of which may be superior to the ones I patronize. So in order to fully celebrate coffee—and coffee shops—I’m now making a point of systematically checking them out. I see a lot more coffee in my future, and that means a lot more to celebrate.

How do you feel about coffee and coffee shops? Do you have a favorite coffee shop hangout?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating a few beloved books

BD1234-001There’s something wonderful, both comfortable and exciting, about rereading a favorite novel. I know people who claim never to read a book (or watch a movie) more than once. I believe them, but I don’t understand them at all. It’s impossible to get all there is to get from a really good book after a single reading. You might as well say you’ve heard that piece of music before so you’re never going to listen to it again. That makes no sense.

I’ve read all of these books more than once. In the case of One Hundred Years of Solitude, I’ve lost count of the number of rereadings. (But I can remember some of the physical locations I was in when I read it.) The writing still entrances. The characters still live. The story still captures my attention.

But first…

Early November. It’s nine o’clock. The titmice are banging against the window. Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times they fall and lie struggling in the new snow until they can take off again. I don’t know what they want that I have. I look out the window at the forest. There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake. It is starting to blow. I can see the shape of the wind on the water.

—Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses

Birdsong strikes up and musters in the first soft press of dawn. Starlings, sparrows, magpies, meadowlarks, blackbirds. There is the flush and shuffle of feathers. Throat tunings. The hollowing chitter of beaks. Bursts of flight. Wrens, flycatchers, cowbirds, crows. Complaint. Exultation. They work the meadow grass, the cottonwoods along the creek, the open barnloft, alive in tilting sweeps of hand-size shadows. The raptors float silently a thousand feet above, turning, spiraling atop the early-morning thermals, hunting the edge of the ebbing night.

—Mark Spragg, The Fruit of Stone

The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant’s table—the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial. Some in the gallery would later say that his stillness suggested a disdain for the proceedings; others felt certain it veiled a fear of the verdict that was to come. Whichever it was, Kabuo showed nothing—not even a flicker of the eyes. He was dressed in a white shirt worn buttoned to the throat and gray, neatly pressed trousers. His figure, especially the neck and shoulders, communicated the impression of irrefutable physical strength and of precise, even imperial bearing. Kabuo’s features were smooth and angular; his hair had been cropped close to his skull in a manner that made its musculature prominent. In the face of the charge that had been leveled against him he sat with his dark eyes trained straight ahead and did not appear moved at all.

—David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.

—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

The nights are clear, but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation.

—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

In order to pay off an old debt that someone else had contracted, Austin King had said yes when he knew that he ought to have said no, and now at five o’clock of a July afternoon he saw the grinning face of trouble everywhere he turned. The house was full of strangers from Mississippi; within an hour the friends and neighbours he had invited to an evening party would begin ringing the doorbell; and his wife (whom he loved) was not speaking to him.

—William Maxwell, Time Will Darken It

Glorious! Now I just have to decide which one of these stories to delve into again next.

How do you feel about rereading books? Do you have favorites that you’ve reread more than once?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating bright things redux

sparkleThe world is full of poetry.
The air is living with its spirit;
and the waves dance
to the music of its melodies,
and sparkle in its brightness.

–James Gates Percival

One cold, dark winter afternoon when the temperature never rose above freezing all day and I felt trapped inside my office in front of my computer, I looked around the room at all the bright things I’ve put here.

I won’t go so far as to say say my world is full of poetry right now, but there’s a hint of its brightness here and there.

Butterfly

Butterfly

Lizards

Lizards

Suncatcher

Suncatcher

Tiger

Tiger

Mandala

Mandala

Vase (underwater upside down)

Vase (underwater upside down)

Reality (ala Brian Andreas)

Reality (ala Brian Andreas)

Good Advice!

Good Advice!

A bit of brightness landed on that one. Happy Saturday!


Note: This was originally published in January 2013. If anything, my office (a/k/a my playroom, at least on a good day) is filled with even more bright things.


This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

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