Don Quixote Rides On

I was just in the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s Mt Tam in Marin County in the distance. It’s sunny, which is pleasant, but the cloudlessness of the California skies are a problem too—the whole state is in a serious, five year drought. My husband and I are visiting in-laws of various generations and are being inaugurated into sharing our shower water, collected in large orange plastic Home Depot buckets with the potted plants on the deck.

And of course that’s Don Quixote in the foreground. Who else could it be? His skinny, irrepressible and idiotic courage is known to most of us, even though the chances we’ve read Cervantes’ brilliant novel are about nil.

Weightlifting for (Old) Dummies

I’ve been in training for the last year and a half. Training, as in lifting weights, pulling on handles connected to weights, pushing on rollers and pads connected to weights, holding weights and balancing on one foot, not to mention holding the weight of my own body on bars over my head or pushing my prone self off the floor—the various methods (and their underlying sameness) go on and on. And for a change, there are a million ways to do crunches.

Remember December

We’re come around to December in my 1946 Farmer’s Almanac. The month and year of my birth—when I became one more American white person to burden the planet’s resources. December’s Almanac entry advises us to mend our broken tools and spend more time with our kids:

“You may be surprised at the clear-headed, practical wisdom of your younger generation and

their gentle understanding of their parents. Companionship will teach you all something.”

Mentoring: Telling it like it is

Ah yes, mentors. Those people who pick you up when you’re down, who point out the error of your ways in such kind tones that you actually hear what they are saying, who can always find a perfect metaphor or a tiny piece of scintillating dialog buried in your drafty mess of mismatched words.My desk Well, sometimes. Sort of.

              I would have to say that the most valuable mentoring I’ve ever received has been of the “Danger! Do Not Enter!” variety from battle-scarred professionals of the publishing world. These experienced warriors had no compunctions about ripping the rose-colored glasses right off my face and grinding them to dust in front of my naked eyes.  There have been three of them; their influence on me will never go away. One is a best-selling author, one an agent and one a publisher.

A Strange and Restless Month

Apologies for not getting around to blogging on the 1946 August Farmers Almanac entry—August is like that, very distracting with all that sunshine and grilling salmon and visitors and gardening. Now that I look at the 1946 August calendar for farmers, I see it touts the value of the herbicide 2-4-D, which we know today as one of the ingredients of Agent Orange.

Moving right along, the September entry appears similarly uneasy, but unusually poetic. Autumn must do that to people:

Summer Afternoon–most beautiful words in English language

On the Turkish Aegean Coast in early June

On the Turkish Aegean Coast in early June

As I was on vacation until a week or so ago (see picture! our boat! still pinching myself–it can’t be real!) June and July go together on our meander through the 1946 Farmer’s Almanac. It’s the summer effect—summer expands time into endlessness and compresses it into one beautiful afternoon. It’s best to go with the flow.

The June entry in the Almanac begins: “This is the month of young love and young leaves. Look for trouble on both. Get your sprays ready,” and ends with “Keep the weeds down now and from now on you’ll have clean sailing—maybe.”

The Merrie Month of May

Even the Farmer’s Almanac is feeling cheery in May. My 1946 edition (the year of my birth; although in May I’m still hanging out in my mother’s uterus) takes a break from telling farmers to get on with their chores. I notice in this entry an extraordinary number of commas. Seems as if we don’t sprinkle them about quite so much these days.

But the idea of foraging and eating fiddleheads and wild turnips is on the cutting edge of the trendiest restaurants and chefs around the world in our twenty-first century. Noma in Copenhagen has for several years been considered the best restaurant in the world, and much of what they serve is exactly this sort of thing.

Advice for April

The rhodie is the Washington state flower

The rhodie is the Washington state flower

Continuing my meander through the 1946 (the year of my birth—although in April, I’m not yet in the world) Farmer’s Almanac, the April advice seems as if it could be written for 2014:

April is the month of showers (or snow flurries) sandwiched haphazardly between the gales of March and the langors (sic) of May. With one foot on the threshold of spring and one at the backdoor of winter, it hangs uncertain which way to fall—and it’s never what it’s cracked up to be.

Baby Porcupines in Tomato Sauce

The month of March has crept up on me from behind and turned me into a slacker. Why? Because I have a goal this year to review the 1946 Farmer’s Almanac at the beginning of each month. Why 1946? Because that was the year I was born. The newsy bits and advice from the 1946 Farmer’s Almanac give me a peek into the sorts of issues that concerned and entertained Americans like my parents—besides, in their case, taking care of their darling first born.

ZIPS goes wandering

One of the unfortunate things about having your children grow up and leave home is not just that they grow up and leave home, but that you no longer have an excuse to hang out in the children’s section of bookstores or read children’s picture books on a daily basis.

Lucky me to be writing about Chris Marsh’s new book ZIPS GOES WANDERING. Talented Chris has written and illustrated this story of an adventurous baby zebra, who like all explorers, runs into friends and foes and learns something about himself along with way. And, like all daring travelers in little children’s story books, Zips comes home safe and sound to his Mum.