Bountiful Books

For a few years, I was not really reading much (for me) and enjoying it less and less.  I'll explain why in a later blog post, but, now, I just want to enthuse about all the great books that we've been reading lately.

LordValentine'sCastleYounger son is reading one of my favorite fantasy novels, Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg.  I last reread it 4 1/2 years ago (while healing from knee surgery).  I wanted to reread it again so that I could discuss it with fresh details.  The local libraries didn't have an available copy so I ordered another one from Amazon.  Older son is filling out his book collection with family books that he'll want a copy of whenever he moves out on his own.*  I told him that I could either order the book for me and give him that copy as a used book, or I could order it for him and borrow it right away.  He wanted a copy with the same cover photo (right) as the one we have so I ordered a used copy which will be his when I'm through with it (and which is in better shape than our copy!).

Dear husband is reading Kraken by China Miéville.  I'd like to eventually read it, although older son and dear husband have cautioned me that it has more violence in it than I usually read.  I shouldn't read it at bedtime then.  I made that mistake with American Gods by Neil Gaiman - an excellent book, but not one to wind down with.  I ended up reading half a Regency romance to get myself calmed down enough to sleep after that!

Older son is reading Iron Council, also by China Miéville.   I'm wondering which one of us will get to Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane first.  That came this week.  I don't usually order hardbacks, but it's his newest book, it was on sale for half price at Amazon,** and it would have taken a long time to get from the library.  The Durham County Library has 29 copies and 116 holds (Chapel Hill Library:  6 copies and 42 holds)(Hmmm... Orange County Library is down to 11 holds on 6 copies).

DiscoverersDaughter read Daniel Boorstin's The Creators when she was homeschooling in high school.  Younger son loves science and also likes reading about explorers so I was going to get Boorstin's The Discoverers for him to read.  I thought it was the shortest of this series of books.  

At the Chapel Hill Library, I found that I was wrong.  At over 700 pages, it's only 100 pages shorter than The Creators.  The Seekers is actually the shortest of the three at 351 pages.  I got The Discoverers out anyway just to take a look at it and see if I wanted to recommend it to younger son. 

However, I got it out a week before the opening night of the musical so I didn't get around to checking the book out right away.  After a few days, it disappeared from its spot on the kitchen island because younger son decided to read it.  He's enjoying it, and, if he's still reading it by the time can no longer be renewed, I'll just order a copy.  It would be a good book to have (I was surprised we didn't already have it since we have the other two).  

My books... of which there are a lot.  I've kind of gone crazy reading this last half year since I've started really enjoying it again.  I've been keeping track of what I've read/am reading in Goodreads, and I'm currently in the middle of twelve thirteen books.***  

I've been getting allergy shots since last March, and I've had a few reactions.  I always wait in the office for about 45 minutes to make sure I don't have a reaction.****  It's a wonderful time to read.  In my allergy shot bag, I currently have On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs:  Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing.  It's the sort of book that I only read a chapter or two of at a time and then think about it.  I just finished The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley.  This Robin Hood story started a bit slowly, but it turned out to be as beautiful a version as I'd expect from her.  I'm also reading Oh Myyy!:  There Goes the Internet by George Takei which is as funny as I expected.

[Later addition:  I'm now also back into reading Adventures with Old Houses, which younger son recently finished.  It's a large book to bring into the allergist's office.]

LittleBigAt the times when I have the most attention (which is not when I might be having an allergic reaction) and ability to savor a book, I'm reading Little, Big, one of dear husband's favorite books, and a beautiful fantasy, and Amadeus.  

And, at various other times, depending on what I feel like at the moment, I'm rereading Going Postal, another wonderful Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, and reading Lackadaisy, a graphic novel recommended by other family members, It All Turns on Affection, essays by Wendell Berry, and Searching for God Knows What, which I've posted about before and which got buried under a pile of other books.  

I used to read while eating breakfast, but younger son has gotten past the sleep-until-ten-am part of his growth spurt so Hiking NC's Blue Ridge Mountains, which was my breakfast book, is still unfinished.  

I stopped reading out loud when younger son hit his growth spurt and started sleeping in.  I had been reading The Sword and the Stone out loud at breakfasts (back when he ate breakfast later than I did).  We both recently mentioned that we need to get back to that.  

I injured my hand back in June, and gripping anything hurt - which means no spoons, spatulas, etc.  Since I couldn't cook, I read out loud to dear husband while he cooked, and then, of course, the guys came in and listened too.  I read parts of Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson, which is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time.  Since then, I've read essays in The Art of the Personal Essay and The Americans:  Fifty Talks on our Life and Times.  

Last weekend, however, on a rainy Saturday evening while dear husband was making dinner, I started reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making out loud (post here), and all the guys enjoyed it.  

What a wonderful world to have so many books in it!



*  No current plans, but his intern job ends this fall. 

**  If you follow an author on Facebook, you find out these things.

*** I started another before finishing this post.

****  You only have to wait 20 minutes, but I hate having a reaction on the way home so I wait longer.

"The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" - Catherynne M. Valente

CircumnavigatedFairylandIn September's world, many things began with pan.  Pandemic, Pangaea, Panacea, Panoply.  Those were all big words, to be sure, but as has been said, September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying. - p. 51

Some of the most common reviews don't affect me at all.  I don't really care what the New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, etc. think about a book.  

I do look carefully at books recommended by some of my favorite bookstores - Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, and Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville.  I love to browse in their "Recommended" or "Staff Picks" sections.  At Malaprop's, the staff member whose tastes are the closest to mine usually has her recommended books at the bottom right hand end of the "Staff Picks" shelves.  

That's where I found The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (back in June when I had my vacation in Asheville).  Granted, I was already looking for it because of a review that they'd had in a Tumblr post.  Unfortunately, I can't find the exact post, but it highly recommended the book and said to ask any staff member if you couldn't remember the title while you were there.  

The book had three recommendations which also almost sold me on it right away.  Neil Gaiman's recommendation was on the front cover, Tamora Pierce's was on the the second page, and Peter S. Beagle's was just below hers.  When three of the most creative fantasy authors recommend a book (and I don't know if I've ever seen another book recommendation by Peter S. Beagle), then I look at it very seriously.*  

Recommendations aside, I always read the first few paragraphs of a book.  If I love the writing style, the plot isn't actually as important to me - or... maybe it's that, if I love the writing style, liking the plot seems to flow naturally from that (as long as the plot isn't too depressing/gory/etc.).  If I don't like the first few pages, I'll read a bit from various points in the first few chapters.  If I don't like the writing style, I probably won't finish the book.  

The first paragraph charmed me:

 Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents' house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.  Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her and flew to her window one evening just after her twelfth birthday.  He was dressed in a green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver's cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes.  It is very cold above the clouds in the shantytowns where the Six Winds live.

 I bought it at Malaprop's.  It continues to charm me, and I'm about 1/4 of the way through.  It's one of those books that I only read when I have lots of energy and attention so that I don't miss any little detail.  

However, I'm not sure I'm going to continue where I am.  I was reading it this evening, and realized, about the time that I got to the quote at the beginning of this post, that it would be a beautiful book to read out loud. 

Younger son is 14 yo now so, before June, it had been a while since I read out loud.  In June, I injured my hand and there were lots of things I couldn't do, including dishes and cooking.  I started reading out loud to dear husband while he was cooking, and younger son and older son usually ended up in the kitchen listening too.  So far, I've read many chapters of Let's Pretend This Never Happened** by Jenny Lawson, which is a hilarious book, and the first chapter of The Americans:  Fifty talks on our life and times by Alistair Cooke,*** which is as thoughtful as you'd expect from him.  

I think I'll start reading this new fantasy out loud soon.  

*  Here are the three reviews:  

  • “A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom.”—Neil Gaiman 
  • “September is a clever, fun, strong-hearted addition to the ranks of Bold, Adventurous Girls. Valente’s subversive storytelling is sheer magic.”—Tamora Pierce, author of The Immortals series 
  • “When I say that The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making reminds me simultaneously of E. Nesbit, James Thurber, and Eva Ibbotson, I don’t mean to take anything away from its astonishing originality. The book is a charmer from the first page, managing the remarkable parlay of being at once ridiculously funny and surprisingly suspenseful.  Catherynne M. Valente is a find, at any age!”—Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn

** Also bought at Malaprop's on vacation.

*** Bought at The Book Exchange on vacation.  It was a wonderful vacation for bookstore browsing!


Some of the books I bought in Asheville, and a bit about The Book Exchange

"In many countries, and Britain used to be one of them, a reporter is a potential enemy.  The Americans, however, feel it is better to have a friend in print than an enemy.  And this, too, is a great danger, for nothing castrates a reporter so easily as flattery."  - "Telling One Country About Another (Marth 2nd, 1969) - First Chapter in The Americans:  Fifty talks on our life and times by Alistair Cooke

When I was in Asheville visiting my daughter, earlier this month, there was a day or two of near record heat.  First thing in the morning, I'd wander around outside, but, eventually, I'd go in search of air conditioning.  One afternoon, I spent an hour and a half reading Little, Big in the branch library near where she lives until the rain came through and cooled everything down.  

Another late morning, after getting overheated, I cooled off by wandering around The Book Exchange in the Grove Arcade.  The store is sort of like a snail shell - you keep going through rooms that are arranged going round and up and in until you get to the end room.  

Children's books (also books about music and film)


This room and the next one have Art, Architecture, and Design.  

I've spent the most time in this room (the end of the spiral on the inside).  It's nice and cozy, and it has a wonderful book on U.S. Art Deco architecture which I looked at this time.  The S & W Cafeteria building, the first building in the section on the Southeast, is just a block away in Asheville:


I had already picked up Alastair Cooke's book, a selection of radio talks for the British about the United States in the 1960's and 1970's.  As you can tell from the quote, it's a very pithy book.  I read the first chapter out loud to dear husband this evening while he made dinner.  I injured my hand earlier this week so I couldn't be much help in any other way.*  

I also bought Let's Pretend This Never Happened at Malaprop's while I was there.  Two weeks ago, I started reading it out loud to the guys.   I read until I was almost hoarse because the book was so good. It's written by Jenny Lawson, who writes The Bloggess, a hilarious blog.  

Back to The Book Exchange - I also bought Adventures with Old Houses by Richard Hampton Jenrette, whose hobby is restoring old homes - very expensive old homes, which he restores with meticulous accuracy.  These include Edgewater, on the banks of the Hudson River,** and two houses in the Carolinas which I won't name because dear husband hasn't read the book yet.  He goes into great detail about buying and restoring the houses and about their history.  Younger son, who has always been interested in engineering and design, is reading it right now.  

* I can type a bit, but anything involving any gripping or lifting is painful.  

** I love the library.

"The Magician's Elephant" by Kate DiCamillo

MagiciansElephantI had forgotten we had this book so, when I recently found it on the shelves, I read it right away.  It's a lovely children's book about an elephant who appears magically and the lives that get intertwined and changed as a result.  

I love this quote:

...he knew, without knowing how he knew, how to sing.

He knew how to construct a song out of the nothing of day-to-day life and how to sing that nothing into a song so beautiful that it could sustain the vision of a whole and better world.

"Jesus Loves Me..."... this I know?

IMG_8542Since I became a Christian again in college, for the most part, I haven't had difficulty with the idea of God as a loving Father.  I think it's because my father was so loving that it seems totally natural.  

I've been reading "Searching for God Knows What" by Donald Miller lately.  I like the way he describes the Biblical stories, not just in an analytical way, but really getting into the emotions and what things meant to people.*  I was totally stopped, however, on page 139:

And so when I consider the way I am treated by Christ, the degree of kindness with which He guides me, I know that as Napoleon said, I would die for him because he threatens me; I would die for Him because he loves me... [emphasis mine]

I still can't get into, or over, the italicized phrase.  I haven't resumed reading the book, and I won't until I can get past this idea.

At first I was surprised at myself.  Of course, Jesus loves all of us.  That's what it's all supposed to be about.  Jesus is supposed to be the loving, Human Face of God.

However, I realized that, deep down inside, that wasn't my picture of Jesus.  

How do I have a view of Jesus that varies so much from my view of God?  

I went back to my original impression at the top of this post.  If I could, in some way, understand God's love by looking at my father's love, what did I have Jesus tied to?  It didn't take me long to figure out.

Jesus started the Church/church.  That kind of puts him, in a Catholic sense, in the same place as the Pope, who would (when there is one again) definitely disapprove of me because we've used birth control and now dear husband has a vasectomy.  

Okay, what about in a Protestant sense? No help there.  Jesus ends up, subconsciously in my mind, linked to some leaders of local churches - ministers, priests, preachers, etc.  [By the way, I'm discovering all these assumptions I had that had never totally reached my conscious mind before.  This isn't something I ever consciously put together.]  These particular leaders speak very authoritatively and often are very good at raining down judgment.  There are some preachers I've heard that made me feel like I'm definitely one of the "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" (by God) [Romans 9:22].

In fact, I realized that I've incorporated every story where Jesus is angry into my view of Him, but not the stories where he is gentle.  

One of the ministers I've known that was the best at raining down judgment was at the church we went to when I was in college.  I knew that I wasn't everything that women were expected to be at that church.  If I saw him coming down a hallway, I'd hop into the nearest Sunday School room and become engrossed with the bulletin boards.  I didn't want to encounter his judgment.

I realized that this is the sort of thing that I have Jesus linked to in my head.  Subconsciously, I've concluded that Jesus is Someone to avoid because of judgment.  

I've read all the verses where Jesus is loving and gentle, but I can't hang anything on them.  They're in a story, but they don't enter the real world for me.  

I have known gentle ministers and priests - both men and women - so that's not it either. 

I have no conclusion to this post, just wandering thoughts (and a window box from Charleston).**


* The sermon last Sunday was like that.  It was my favorite sermon I've heard at our church.

** We were there for half of last week for part of older son's last Spring Break.  Daughter is home on Spring Break this week!

"The Night Circus: A Novel" by Erin Morgenstern

TheNightCircusI find it difficult to write book reviews.  When I'm in the middle of a book and all enthusiastic about it, I don't know enough to write a review (and the time to take to write a review conflicts with actually reading!).  Once I'm done, I'm off to another book.  

I'm only about halfway done with The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, and I won't be finishing it anytime soon.  I only read it when I have lots of attention - never when I'm the slightest bit tired.  If I find my attention wavering in the slightest, I put it down and wait for another day.

It's that beautiful.

I don't want to miss a single word.

It's difficult to describe.  You feel like you know the characters very well, but they don't chatter all the time, out loud or inside their heads.  There's tension in the story, but it also feels perfectly balanced.  It's unlike any other book, but it feels like what a book should be.  It's like a dream you remember vividly.    

Here's the Amazon description:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

It's a good description of the basic plot, but it doesn't give a feel for the book at all.

I don't like to know much anything about the plot of a book so I've taken to reading the first sentence of the description and the first paragraph, or the first page of the book.  In the last few years, I've realized that writing style is very important to me.  If I like the way the first paragraph is written, I'll probably like the book.  Here is the beginning of The Night Circus:


The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

But it is not open for business. Not just yet.

Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe...

I'm very lucky to have it in hardback - my Christmas present from daughter.  

The part of me that likes to discuss wants to finish it quickly so I can hand it on for the guys to read, but I'm not rushing at all.  

The Chapel Hill library has a few available copies, though, and I have some books to return there...



Ex Libris - Anne Fadiman

ExLibrisI have a number of blog posts in my head and lots of vacation photos on my computer... and carpal tunnel in my hand, which means that I can't spend much time on the computer.  

However, I have been spending lots of time reading.  Last night, I started reading Ex Libris:  Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman.  She used to be the editor for The American Scholar, and dear husband eventually dropped his subscription (after she was forced out) because it was no longer thoughtful or beautiful.  He loved the American Scholar under editor Joseph Epstein (the editor before Anne Fadiman who wrote under the name Aristides) because it was thoughtful and sharp-witted.  He loved it under Anne Fadiman because it was thoughtful and beautiful.  

Ex Libris is about her lifelong love of books, and it's wonderful.

I enjoyed the first essay, Marrying Libraries, so much that I read it out loud to the guys after lunch today - sitting outside in the warm, North Carolina, October sunshine by all the hundreds of chrysanthemum flowers.  Here's the opening of the essay:

A few months ago, my husband and I decided to mix our books together. We had known each other for ten years, lived together for six, been married for five. Our mismatched coffee mugs cohabited amicably; we wore each other's T-shirts and, in a pinch, socks; and our record collections had long ago miscegenated without incident, my Josquin Desprez motets cozying up to George's Worst of Jefferson Airplane , to the enrichment, we believed, of both. But our libraries had remained separate, mine mostly at the north end of our loft, his at the south. We agreed that it made no sense for my Billy Budd to languish forty feet from his Moby-Dick , yet neither of us had lifted a finger to bring them together.

    We had been married in this loft, in full view of our mutually quarantined Melvilles. Promising to love each other for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health--even promising to forsake all others--had been no problem, but it was a good thing the Book of Common Prayer didn't say anything about marrying our libraries and throwing out the duplicates. That would have been a far more solemn vow, one that would probably have caused the wedding to grind to a mortifying halt. We were both writers, and we both invested in our books the kind of emotion most people reserve for their old love letters. Sharing a bed and a future was child's play compared to sharing my copy of The Complete Poems of W. B. Yeats , from which I had once read "Under Ben Bulben" aloud while standing at Yeats's grave in the Drumcliff churchyard, or George's copy of T. S. Eliot's Selected Poems , given to him in the ninth grade by his best friend, Rob Farnsworth, who inscribed it "Best Wishes from Gerry Cheevers." (Gerry Cheevers, one of Rob's nicknames, was the goalie of the Boston Bruins, and the inscription is probably unique, linking T. S. Eliot and ice hockey for the first time in history.)

    Our reluctance to conjugate our Melvilles was also fueled by some essential differences in our characters. George is a lumper. I am a splitter. His books commingled democratically, united under the all-inclusive flag of Literature. Some were vertical, some horizontal, and some actually placed behind others. Mine were balkanized by nationality and subject matter. Like most people with a high tolerance for clutter, George maintains a basic trust in three-dimensional objects. If he wants something, he believes it will present itself, and therefore it usually does. I, on the other hand, believe that books, maps, scissors, and Scotch tape dispensers are all unreliable vagrants, likely to take off for parts unknown, unless strictly confined to quarters. My books, therefore, have always been rigidly regimented...




Reading Challenges: 2011 and 2012

On the one hand, reading challenges don't make much sense for me.  I tend to read what I feel like, and I don't want to make reading into another chore.  Currently, with dear husband out of town for the third week in a row, and with the gloomy weather we've had this week, I'm cheering myself up by reading The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

[I started this post last week.  Currently, I'm 3/4 of the way through The Fifth Elephant, and this week has been sunny and warm.  Dear husband gets back at midnight - the fourthe week in a row of traveling.]

BluebearOn the other hand, I find reading challenges to be an interesting... not focus for, but maybe comment on my reading.  For instance, I started The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, by Walter Moers, in November.  It's an episodic book, and very imaginative so I don't want to rush through it.  It's also 700   pages.  Near the end of the year, it was tempting to read shorter books so that I could reach the 100 books in a year challenge that I set for myself.  I didn't give into temptation or change the way I read, but I reached 100 anyway. 

Usually, 100 books in a year wouldn't be difficult for me since it's only about 2 books a week.  However, last year's summer musical was the most intense yet, and I was reading a trilogy of long books (Inkheart/Inkspell/Inkdeath, 2000 pages altogether) at the time.  My book rate went way down.

I also did a library challenge - 50 library books in a year.  Since in past years, I've gotten a majority of my reading from the library, I didn't think this would be a challenge at all.  However, dear husband gave me a box of Regency Romances for Christmas last year, and also I've been reading lots of fantasy recommended by older and younger son from their bookshelves.  I only read 37 library books last year, which, for me, may be an all-time low (well, all-time since about 2nd grade... or maybe earlier)!

This year, I'm going to do a few challenges.  First, I'm going to do the 100 books challenge again.  I'm also going to do the "Read X books from your shelves" - for me, that would be not counting Regencies, and from my shelves, not my sons' shelves (though, obviously, I'm still going to read from theirs too).  That challenge is for those of us whose bookshelves languish while we read the latest library find.  I think I'll try 15 of those.  Lastly, I'm going to read 10 essays - in books, not online.  This challenge is from the blog, Books and Movies.  I love reading essays so the challenge for me with this one will be actually getting around to posting about the essays.

I finally finished up my list of books read in 2011.

Vacation: Blowing Rock, NC & the Blue Ridge Parkway

No internet, except for, every evening, laboriously checking Ray's Weather Center on my stupid not-smart* phone. 

No computer for most of it (I did bring the netbook along so I could look at the photos on my camera, but gave that up after one try.  I didn't want to look at a screen). 

No TV. 

No ads of any kind except for those in the two issues of the Mountain Times and the one issue of Our State that I read. 

Lots of outdoors, hiking, and weather (more on that later).  Lots of time with family and long conversations after meals, or on mountaintops, or by lakes.  Younger son and I did two puzzles and played numerous games of Blokus and Carcassonne - all of which he won.  This is a new development. 

HismajestysdragonI read His Majesty's Dragon, which older son had recommended.  I heavily recommended it to dear husband.  He read it in a few days, and then he turned around and read it out loud to younger son.  I listened to it also - that's how good a book it is.  It's kind of like Master and Commander but with dragons. We're still quoting from it. 

Older son and daughter were both there for a few days on their fall breaks (you know how HAPPY that made me). We did their favorite hikes those days.  We repeated the Rough Ridge hike (below) again later.

I took over 1200 pictures.  I got some new filters for the camera so I was experimenting with them.  That's why I thought of looking at photos on the netbook.  Instead, I'll be looking at the results over the next few days. 

2011_10_12_7823csWith the new filters, this sunset photo over Price Lake turned out better than it usually would.

The sky is bluer with the filters, and the distant mountains are much more apparent (Blue Ridge Parkway viaduct around Grandfather Mountain). 

The weather ranged from tank-top-and-shorts hiking weather (in the 70s near the Bass Lake at the Cone Manor)...  2011_10_18_8175cs freezing temperatures while wandering through a fairyland of rime ice on Mt. Mitchell...


...and these were only two days apart!

Dear husband says that I'm not ready to come back from any of our October vacations, but, to me, it felt like it was even harder this year.  I've been running for months, and it took me most of the two weeks of vacation to slow down and relax.  I found it much harder at first to really focus on reading like I usually do on vacation, although, by the end, I was back to my usual rate of one book a day.

Now that I've slowed down, I don't want things to go back the way they were.

Of course, the first few days back have to be focused on getting cleaned up, organized, and going through mail and e-mail (Note to self:  Turn off Freecycle e-mails next year.  They were half of the 700 e-mails I had).  After I get settled in, I have to rethink how I do things.

Even though we had a wonderful walk around Hillsborough last weekend and good conversations with neighbors, I still wasn't ready to get back to our regular schedule.  I didn't really get used to that until Monday evening when I drove to Broadway dance.  I headed past Duke's East Campus and all the joggers & walkers on the trail that dear husband and I like to walk in the winter.  Then I passed the spot on Broad Street where we watched the parade last month.  I turned on to Ninth Street and parked in front of Francesca's - where we've gotten ice cream since before I was pregnant with older son. That's when I was happy to be back where I... belong?

We danced All That Jazz** in class, and I sang along. 


* Said with great affection.  I don't want a phone that sends me e-mail, or effortlessly gives me the internet.  

** 1:40 to 2:40.




....yes, I like what the filters do with the colors...


Flat Top Mountain trail, Cone Manor