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July 31, 2009

Favorite Quote Friday


I've decided to start a new weekly post, sharing some of my favorite passages here with you. I have dozens and dozens jotted down in various book journals — I could easily post two or three a week, but I think I'll stick to one at a time.

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. (The Catcher in the Rye)



I read this in June of 2001. Here's the brief "review" I wrote in my journal:

I never read this in high school (or college) and decided it was high time I did. Thank goodness it was a fairly brief story. I thought it was terribly dull! Perhaps I missed the underlying themes, but even a follow-up read of the Cliffs Notes left me wondering what all the hype was about. Rating: C+ (4/10) OK, but don't recommend.

July 29, 2009

Library Loot




Library Loot is an event hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at Reading Adventures.






In an effort to post here more regularly, I decided to start participating in Library Loot. We'll see how it goes. With all the books I have stacked up around the house, I really shouldn't be visiting the library. However, my face-to-face book group has chosen The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for our August selection and I decided to borrow a copy rather than add to my toppling stacks. Of course, while I was there, I snagged a few more books that I've been keeping my eye on at work. Now to see if I actually read them. Here's what I found:


Knit Two by Kate Jacob

And now that I have it, I realize I didn't really want to read this one, but rather Comfort Food. I didn't care too much for Friday Night Knittinig Club, so back to the library (unread) this will go.

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons

I'm hopeful that this will be as good as Colony!

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

I've heard about this one here and there, but really don't know if it's my cuppa tea. We'll see.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I started this a couple of days ago, but so far it hasn't grabbed my attention. I may have to give the audio a try.

How about you? Do you use your library? Have any recommendations?

July 28, 2009

Blue Water



Blue Water by A. Manette Ansay
Fiction
2006 Harper Perennial
Finished 7/10/09
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)



Product Description

New York Times bestselling author A. Manette Ansay delivers the unforgettable story of two families united by tragedy -- and one woman's deeply emotional journey toward a choice she'd never thought possible

On an ordinary morning in Fox Harbor, Wisconsin, Meg and Rex Van Dorn's lives are irrevocably changed when a drunk driver slams into Meg's car, killing the couple's six-year-old son, Evan. In a town in which everyone knows everybody else, it's no surprise that Meg and the driver, Cindy Ann Kreisler, were once the best of friends. Now, as Meg recovers from her own injuries, she and Rex find themselves unable to cope with their anger and despair, especially after Cindy Ann returns -- with a mere slap on the wrist -- to the life she lived before the accident: living in a beautiful house, enjoying her own three daughters, all of whom walked away from the accident unharmed.

Mornings, we woke with an ache in our throats, a sourness in our stomachs, that had nothing to do with Evan. The truth was that, with each passing month, he was harder to remember, harder to see. I felt as if I were grasping at the color of water, the color of the wind or the sky. And this only made me angrier. My mind returned, again and again, to Cindy Ann, to what she'd done. When I passed Evan's room, the closed door like a fist, I thought about how Cindy Ann had destroyed us. When I saw other people's children, I promised myself that someday, Cindy Ann would pay.

In their rage and grief, Meg and Rex buy a boat to sail around the world, hoping to put as much distance between themselves and Cindy Ann Kreisler as possible. Adrift in the company of other live-board cruisers, Meg tries to believe that she and Rex have left their bitterness behind. But when she returns to Fox Harbor for her older brother's wedding, she is forced to face the complex ties that bind her to the woman who has wounded her so badly. For, as Meg knows better than anyone, Cindy Ann has secrets and sorrows of her own, dating back to the summer of their friendship.

Impassioned, insightful, and beautifully written, Blue Water is the story of people learning to face the unthinkable -- a compelling affirmation of the human potential for forgiveness, redemption, and grace.

After spending two weeks cruising the San Juan Islands with my husband, aboard my dad's boat two summers ago, I picked up a copy of Ansay's lyrical novel after hearing high praise from fellow booklovers. I was a little hesitant to read it right away, though, as the aspects of grief (or to be more specific, anger) might be all too similar to my husband's and my personal situation with the loss of our daughter. Feeling the longing to be out on a boat again, and yet with no cruising planned for the near future, I decided to give Blue Water a try. I was pleasantly surprised that the details of Meg and Rex's grief were not gratuitous or maudlin. If anything, the death of their son and the sorrow that followed merely provided a backdrop to the story, with the emphasis on their anger and desire to move away from their community. While some may find the sailing segments dull or monotonous, I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the novel, fondly remembering the tranquility of life aboard The Lady Mick.

On ocean sailing:

Forget what you've read about the ocean. Forget white sails on a blue horizon, the romance of it, the beauty. A picnic basket in a quiet anchorage, the black-tipped flash of gulls. The sound of the wind like a pleasant song, the curved spine of the coast—

—no.

Such images belong to shore. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the sea.

Imagine a place of infinite absence. An empty ballroom, the colors muted, the edges lost in haze. The sort of dream you have when you've gone beyond exhaustion to a strange, otherworldly country, a place I'd visited once before the months that followed the birth of my son, when days and nights blurred into a single lost cry, when I'd find myself standing over the crib, or rocking him, breathing the musk of his hair, or lying in bed beside Rex's dark shape, unable to recall how I'd gotten there. As if I'd been plucked out of one life and dropped, wriggling and whole, into another. Day after day, week after week, the lack of sleep takes its toll. You begin to see things that may or may not be there. You understand how the sailors of old so willingly met their deaths on the rocks, believing in visions of beautiful women, sirens, mermaids with long, sparkling hair.

The crest of a wave becomes a human face, openmouthed, white-eyed, astonished. The spark of a headlight appears in the sky, edges closer, fades, edge closer still. There's a motion off the bow, and I clutch at the helm, catch myself thinking, Turn!

But, eventually, I learn to let my eyes fall out of focus. Blink, look again. Wipe my sweating face. There is nothing out there but gray waves, gray waves.

Clouds. A translucent slice of moon.

Space.

As much as I loved cruising the San Juans, the idea of being at sea for months (or years!), sailing on the wide open ocean has no appeal to me. Too much can go wrong.

...Lightning split the sky like glass, glittery pieces scattering across the dark water. I ran through the cockpit and down the companionway, the sound of the wind rising, thickening, reminding me of the tornado I'd seen once, as a child, touching down in my grandmother's fields. Safety lines hung at the foot of the stairs; I tossed a set up to Rex.

"Portals and hatches!" he shouted.

"Got 'em!"

The ocean was pitching now, a confusion of waves that splashed through the open portals. One by one, I screwed them shut, clinging like a monkey to the grab rails. I'd just reached the forward hatch when Chelone pitched forward into what seemed like an endless trough. A torrent of water knocked me down and I rolled beneath the table, sputtering, banging my head against the brass pedestal. More water poured through the companionway, flooding the bilge; Chelone's engine sputtered, died. One by one, the floorboards covering the lockers began popping up, sloshing around like small, wooden rafts. Pulling myself onto the sodden settee, I wedged my torso between the table and the bulkhead just as the rain began: staccato, fierce, a battery of bullets. Abruptly, the forward hatch snapped shut, cotter pins stripped by the weight of the incoming water. Momentary darkness. Chelone pitched again, an interior wave rolling into the forward berth, soaking the mattresses, the bookshelves. And then, rearing back, we were swept into a chorus of lightning bolts, bright, singing spears hurling into the sea.

At the very moment I thought of the mast, there came a sound I couldn't have imagined, a sound I would hear only once again in my life. A boom that seemed to reverberate within my very cells, recalibrating flesh and muscle and bone. Blue wires of electricity crackled through the air. My forearms tingled; in an instant, the fine sunbleached hairs were singed away. I thought about Rex, my parents. I remembered, oddly, intensely, a small gray kitten I'd found, half-starved, when I was ten. Evan popped a red crayon into his mouth, spit out the bloody pieces, and I bit into an ice-cream cone, half vanilla, half chocolate, a soft serve Dairy Castle twist. Something was about to happen, something important, I was certain of this, and then Toby's words came back to me, as if he were whispering in my ear.

Are you sure this is the hill you want to die on?

As quickly as it had come, the storm passed over us, continued on its way. I wriggled out from the table, calling, "Rex! Are you up there?"

"More or less."

Yep. I'll stick to calmer waters, thankyouverymuch!

Ansay's prose is engaging and poetic. I quickly became engrossed in the story, but restrained myself from finishing too quickly so I could read it on our trip to Oregon earlier this month. It was perfect for the flights out and I finished just before we touched down in Portland. I'm anxious to give some of her other books a try. I know Vinegar Hill was a big hit, but I'm also intrigued with her memoir, Limbo.

Be sure to check out Ansay's beautiful website/blog. I just discovered she has a new book out this summer. I work in a bookstore! How did I miss this release?!

July 22, 2009

Catching Fire


Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins
Fiction - Young Adult
2009 Scholastic Press
Finished 7/6/09
Rating: 2.5/5 (Average)




**SPOILER ALERT -- If you haven't read Book One (The Hunger Games), the following product description has a major spoiler.**

Product Description

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

I was so excited when an ARC of this sequel arrived at work. I could hardly wait for my turn to get a chance to read it. As you might recall, I thought The Hunger Games was a terrifically fun, addictive read and I couldn't wait to see what was in store for Katniss, Peeta and Gale. Unfortunately, I struggled with this book, frustrated with Collins' need to spend an overwhelming amount of time on the back story. It took well over 200 pages (of a 400 page book) to finally capture my interest. I typically give a book at least 50-100 pages before I'll toss it aside, but I stuck with it (as I did Stephenie Meyers' New Moon), hoping to discover a great story beneath all the excessive padding. I'll admit, once a certain situation was revealed, I was hooked and, once again, completely addicted to the read. And, the ending left me longing for more. However, I have my doubts about reading the third and final installment. I haven't read Meyers' Eclipse or Breaking Dawn and I'm certainly not losing any sleep wondering what happened with Bella and Edward and Jacob.


July 18, 2009

Home Safe



Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
Fiction
2009 Random House
Finished on 6/27/09
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)



Product Description

In this new novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames—recently widowed, coping with loss and grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her—is beginning to depend far too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, and is meddling in her life, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Helen’s problems are compounded by her shocking discovery that her mild-mannered and loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. The Ameses had painstakingly saved for a happy retirement, but that money disappeared in several large withdrawals made by Helen’s husband before he died. In order to support herself and garner a measure of much needed independence, Helen takes an unusual job that ends up offering far more than she had anticipated. And then a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery that causes both mother and daughter to reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

"Maybe Freud didn't know the answer to what women want, but Elizabeth Berg certainly does," said USA Today, and that special gift of understanding shines through in this remarkable new novel. Home Safe is an exquisitely rendered story about mothers, daughters, and finding new richness in the stages of life, in one's family, and in oneself.

Hurray!! After a few disappointments, Berg (who was once my #1 favorite author) has written another winner! It's been 15 years since I first discovered Talk Before Sleep, and in spite of a few lackluster novels, I've remained a faithful reader, always hoping to find another gem. I've enjoyed reading her blog, which is full of wonderful personal stories that make me laugh and tug at my heartstrings, and am so happy she's found her writing mojo again. As I read, I kept wondering how much of Home Safe is autobiographical. I discovered the following on Berg's blog:

What's it About?

Helen Ames is a writer who has recently lost the ability to write. And her husband. And her nestegg. Now she's worried about losing her daughter. The book looks at the nature of creativity, the mother/daughter relationship, and the surprising places one can find love and meaning.

What was the inspiration?

For the first time in my life, I was having difficulty writing. My older daughter said, "Why don't you write about that?" The other inspiration was my younger daughter. I drive her crazy, but she likes me anyway.

On finding passion in what you do:

She gives her class their next assignment: Eavesdrop on a conversation; then use it to inspire a conversation between two characters you make up. Through dialogue only, give the reader an idea of how each person looks. She watches them eagerly scribble their assignment down, and becomes aware of some kind of spreading warmth inside her. At first she is alarmed, wondering what that is. But then she recognizes it. Happiness.

On writing:

When Suzie introduced Helen, she told the audience that one of the best things about books is that they are an interactive art form: that while the author may describe in some detail how a character looks, it is the reader's imagination that completes the image, making it his or her own. "That's why we so often don't like movies made from books, right?" Suzie said. "We don't like someone else's interpretation of what we see so clearly." She talked, too, about how books educate and inspire, and how they soothe souls—"like comfort food without the calories," she said. She talked about the tactile joys of reading, the feel of a page beneath one's fingers; the elegance of typeface on a page. She talked about how people complain that they don't have time to read, and reminded them that if they gave up half an hour of television a day in favor of reading, they could finish twenty-five books a year. "Books don't take time away from us," she said. "They give it back. In this age of abstraction, of multitasking, of speed for speed's sake, they reintroduce us to the elegance—and the relief!—of real, tick-tock time.

There was a time when I would buy every Elizabeth Berg novel the minute it came out in hardcover, but lately I've resigned myself to borrowing them from the library, as I did this one. I didn't want to take the risk of spending money on something I may not want to keep. But this one is defintely worth owning! If you've enjoyed Berg's earlier works (Open House, The Year of Pleasures, Ordinary Life, Never Change), I can assure you that this one won't disappoint. And doesn't it have a lovely cover?!

It will probably be another year before Berg publishes another novel. Until then, I guess I'll just have to read her blog. She really cracks me up sometimes. Maybe because I see a lot of myself in her actions. Here's a glimpse at her most recent post:

June 24, 2009

Just back from an evening walk around the neighborhood. It was about ten thousand degrees today, with about 400% humidity, and at 8pm, dogs' tongues were still hanging out far enough to be streetsweepers. People were sitting at outdoor restaurant tables drinking wine and patting their foreheads with dinner napkins. Children were listlessly standing around on the playgrounds. As I walked past houses, I was engaging in my favorite practice of looking into people's windows and I got CAUGHT, and it was very embarrassing. I was going past a place where people in a second floor condo had used fabric on their ceiling, they'd gathered it tightly together in a very beautiful and interesting and harem-ish way and I was staring and staring up at it and then all of a sudden I noticed a man in another window of the room staring back at me. His hands were on his hips and he did not appear to be smiling. Or waving. Or friendly. Well. What would you do in a situation like that? Turn and walk away? That would be the sensible thing to do. Not me. I kept staring, but I shifted my gaze just SLIGHTLY to the right, so he would possibly think I was looking at something else. The outside brickwork on his condo, perhaps. Someone who lived next to him. Or, you know, maybe an airplane. THEN I walked away.

Oh, those fireflies tonight, flitting around the gardens. I wish I were a together and technically competent person who carried a camera at all times, one that could take pictures at night, and I would have taken so many lovely photos and posted them on my website so that you too could be magically transported. But I had no camera. And also I forgot how to put photos on here, but I'm going to learn again because I have to put up a photo of my dog, Homer. People think the dog on my website with the halo over his head is Homer, but it is not, that dog is Toby, best dog in the world, who died, hence the halo, you see.

I am reading a galley of Lorrie Moore's new novel and mama mia, is it good. It is GOOD. And she makes you laugh out loud, so she gets even more points. Next up is Suite Francaise, which I STILL haven't read but now I have to because Elizabeth Strout, who wrote Olive Kitteridge told me she loved it and I love Olive Kitteridge so what can I do?

I'm thinking a fragrant, lukewarm bath is in order. Summer pajamas. Then the books. I wish I could read by fireflies, like I did as a little girl one summer night when I was nine. I loved it. The fireflies did not, I think. I let them all go the next morning and not a one of them looked back and said, "Hey, thanks for the hospitality. Loved the holes you punched in the jar lid."

Also, I wish we could have fireflies in winter. Wouldn't THAT be pretty? Those little lanterns against the snow? Someone once said to me, "Boy. You sure wish for things a lot." And I said, "SO?????" I should have said, "I wish it wouldn't bother you so much."

Yep. Women's fiction. I'm sure my husband would be bored with Berg's blog. He'd read this and think, huh?! Well, I happen to like it. She has a way of turning the ordinary into something special.

Off to find my blogging mojo. I think I left it on the plane out to Oregon. Oh, yeah. We were on vacation last week. I had a great time at our mini family reunion in Depoe Bay. Fifteen of us had good times eating lots of homemade tortillas and clam chowder (not together!), climbing to the top of Cape Kiwanda (a huge sand dune) in Pacific City, kayaking on Devil's Lake, playing hours of Mah Jong, watching the whales cruise by just off the bluff at Little Whale Cove, hiking through Silver Falls State Park (10 waterfalls!), enjoying the gorgeous Oregon Garden in Silverton, and... getting addicted to Facebook. It's been almost two weeks since I last posted here! I have three more reviews to write/post and I hope to get some photos up from the trip. Don't go away. I'll be back!

July 5, 2009

Taking Lottie Home



Taking Lottie Home by Terry Kay
Fiction
2000 William Morrow
Quit on 6/19/09
Rating: DNF





From Publishers Weekly

Set in Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century, this latest novel by the popular author of Shadow Song is an evocative, atmospheric and elegiac story of an uncommon woman and the three men she loves. Lottie Augusta Barton, "angel of the lonesome," is born in a tumbledown river house in Augusta. To escape from her troubled family, she takes to the road in 1904 with a traveling salesman. On the train, she meets Ben Phelps and Foster Lanier, baseball players just cut from the Augusta Hornets. Ben, nearly as sweet-natured as Lottie, is on his way home to a good job in a dry-goods store in his home town of Jericho. Foster, drunk and down on his luck, takes up with Lottie and they both join a traveling carnival. To Ben's surprise, when the carnival comes to Jericho, Foster's strange generosity sets Ben up as a local hero in a carny baseball game, and almost kindles romance between Ben and Lottie. Several years later, when Ben is engaged to his boss Arthur Ledford's daughter, Sally, he hears from Lottie; she and Foster married and have a son, called Little Ben, but Foster is dying and would like to see Ben again. Ben goes to Kentucky, and ends up bringing Lottie and her son to stay in his mother's house for a time, when both fall ill. The townspeople flutter around Lottie, whose radiant, serene presence draws them to her like moths to a gentle flame. A local lowlife attempts to blackmail Lottie with her carnival past, but Arthur Ledford, who's come to love Lottie, rescues her. Ben takes her home to Augusta; then he returns to Jericho, marries Sally and never sees Lottie again. Little Ben comes back, though, and in an epilogue, his daughter, the story's offscreen narrator, adds a poignant twist to the narrative. Though slow at the outset, this affecting novel glows with warmth and sincerity, and manifests Kay's customary ability to pull at the heartstrings.

Meh. I gave up after 32 pages. I knew it wasn't going to grab me, even after skimming ahead a few pages. However, I have a copy of To Dance With the White Dog in my stacks and will gave that a try instead.

July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

(To view a prequel to this shot, click here)

I hope everyone has a fun & safe holiday. It rained on and off all day yesterday, but that didn't deter any of the neighborhood kids (big and little) from shooting off an arsenal of fireworks. Annie was not a very happy dog.

July 3, 2009

Still Life with Chickens


Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea by Catherine Goldhammer
Nonfiction - Memoir
2006 Hudson Street Press
Finished on 6/18/09
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)



I did not have a year in Provence or a villa under the Tuscan sun. I did not have a farm in Africa. Instead, my diminished resources dictated a move to a run-down cottage in a honky-tonk town where live bait is sold from vending machines. But as luck would have it, in a town where houses rub elbows, I came to live at the edge of a pond beside a small forest. I came to a place where a thousand dragonflies the size of small birds fly over my yard in the summer. In a town where everyone knows everything, I came to live in a place no one knows exists.

Product Description

For the millions who loved A Year by the Sea comes a memoir of a woman who awakens at midlife to find wisdom in a most unlikely place

In this lovely, unconventional, often funny memoir, we meet Catherine Goldhammer, newly separated and several tax brackets poorer, forced by circumstance to move from the affluent New England suburb of her daughter's childhood into a new, more rustic life by the sea. Against all logic, partly to please her daughter and partly for reasons not clear to her at the time, she begins this year of transition by purchasing six baby chickens-whose job, she comes to suspect, is to pull her and her daughter forward, out of one life and into another.

As she gradually transforms her new house, nine hundred feet from the sea-with its tawdry exterior but radiant soul-tile by tile, flower bed by flower bed, as she watches her precocious twelve-year-old daughter blossom into a stylish and sophisticated teenager, and as she tends to the needs of six enigmatic chickens, Catherine's life starts to slowly shift from chaos to grace. Beautifully written and ultimately inspiring, Still Life with Chickens is an unforgettable lesson in hope, in starting over, and in the transcendent wisdom that can often be found in the most unlikely of places.

My dear friend Nan wrote about this book two years ago and I was immediately intrigued. I found a lovely hardcover edition on a bargain table and quickly snatched it up, only to have it gather dust on one of my bookshelves. I'm not sure what prompted me to finally pull it from the shelf, perhaps the pretty cover art with the billowing sheets on the clothes line. Or perhaps a recent discussion over dinner with a good friend about eating locally, the benefits of organic food, and raising chickens. Plus, I'm a sucker for any book about living by the ocean.

This is the story of my foray into the salvation of one sorry house and garden and one slightly tattered soul. It is the story of a small house on a big piece of land, by a salt pond, nine hundred feet from the great Atlantic Ocean. It is the story of a time that began as failure and turned into grace for a mother and a daughter and a small, determined dog. And, in what started as a bribe and then became a love story, it is the tale of my reluctant ownership of six two-day-old chickens who came to live with us here, on Dragonfly Farm.

I have absolutely no desire to raise chickens. I'm quite content with one dog (and not so content with the dozen plus rabbits living in my back yard!). I have a good friend who has chickens and is very generous, giving me all the fresh eggs I could possible need. So I read this book more for Goldhammer's account of moving near the ocean and beginning a new life with her daughter rather than for the nuts-and-bolts of raising chickens. And therein lies my disappointment with this book. Other than a chapter or two, the majority of the book is about the chickens, not the house. What kept my interest (and made me laugh out loud) were the little tidbits about restoring the house. I do not like house "issues." I do not like watching workers make repairs or rennovate my house. I'm a worrier and I can only imagine what lies behind the walls and under the floors of this old house.

They proceeded to pull wires out of the walls. They moved the refrigerator and did something behind it. They conferred with the window guy. Either it couldn't be done, in which case they would take back the window, which was ghastly expensive, and put in one that would fit the space between the wires, or it could be done, and I would be living with chaos either way, a wall stripped down to the wood, the house filled with cold air and fog moving in off the ocean.

and

Chris and Scott were outside pulling siding off the house. I could hear Christ whistling. I found this reassuring. They didn't seem to be worried at all. Now Rick was whistling also. I returned to my bedroom. I heard drilling. I heard cursing. I heard sawing. I could no longer tell who was talking. "Beautiful," said someone, but he sounded sarcastic. The exposed wood on the inside of the house had looked good, solid, and free of rot or mold. I still didn't want to see the outside. Our life in this house was about to change. It would be like moving in again, to the house I had imagined when I bought the house it was.

Rick was pounding something through the ceiling.

"I don't know why these guys used to use this junk," he said. I hoped he didn't also say that it was rotting. I thought I might stay in my room forever, with my hands over my ears, mute and invisible. I was going to wait until they had cut the hole for the window and had seen everything there was to see. I was going to wait until the worst was over. Until there were no more problems. The plumber would come. The plasterer would come. The counter would come. The floor would go in. We would have a sink. We would have a stove. We would be able to cook, although only one of us really liked to. Then I would come out, bank account depleted.

Fear is a poor companion. It gives no rest. It had been with me for some time, and I was weary of it, but I didn't know how to rid myself of its company. "MEDITATE," I wrote at the top of my list every day, and every day I didn't. I had a hard time sitting still in the most restful of times. Now, in these times, full of stress and worry, sitting still was nigh impossible. I made some effort every day to take a couple of deep breaths and get a sense of my head actually being attached to my body. At all other times it was a free-for-all in which the tornado of my anxious thoughts won handily over my body, with its aching leg and need for rest, and spun wildly into the unknown. I would learn, eventually, that everything did work out. It would have been nice to have known in the process, while the pipe with the sock in it was still sticking through the ceiling.

At about three, when I had to leave to pick up my daughter, I walked out of my bedroom and into the kitchen to see the window guys standing there eating steaming subs, looking at the pond through a ten-by-four-foot hole. My dog sat on the floor next to them watching them eat.

About the chickens:

Some days it is hard to say just what is so attractive about chickens. They are not the cleanest of creatures. They are poor housekeepers. They are sometimes mean. They constitute a farm chore. More than other animals, in my experience, with chickens there's always something. Something wrong with the coop, the roost is too low, the ventilation inadequate. You run out of bedding. You run out of food. You run out of grit, or scratch, or sunflower seeds. They need more protein, they need more calcium, they need more grass. They get dirty, or they get worms, or mites, or fungus. Their toes fall off. Their beaks fall off. Their feet fall off. Their combs fall off. One famous chicken, Mike the Headless Chicken, lived for eighteen months without a head. He has his own Web site. Otherwise everything that can go wrong seems to. The crop impacts, the vent prolapses, the eggs go spongy. And everything, everything, wants to eat them.

Yep. No question about it. I don't need chickens. I don't want chickens. But, I wouldn't mind a house by the ocean. Even if it needs work.

To read more about raising chickens, visit Nan's posts here and here and here.

To read about Mike the Headless Chicken, go here.