What I've Been Into - Winter 2016

Hello, friends.

So tell me: how is it where you live? Here we are in Minnesota already on the declining side of a short and warmish winter. There were cold spells, certainly. But really: Not that bad. It all was made immeasureably better by the fact of a small child and sleds and hills and a backyard marsh that was made to be explored in snow pants and boots. It is something strange that we remember so little of what it was like to be very young, because it is so full of wonder. I wish I could recall more of my own early experiences with snow, with animal tracks, with a full moon through empty trees leaving rectangles of light on the wooden floors. But that is part of the joy of parenting, I suppose. A selfish part. The living again through another younger body. In any case, it has been a sweet season.

Winter has also brought us fewer house projects, and therefore more time for reading, writing, lazy mornings, hearty meals, and occasional adventures. I'm ready for spring, and very eager to get back out to my gardens and see how they fared both the winter and my novice attempts at autumn planting, but I'll not rush it. These slower months are good for the soul and the body. 

More from me at another time. For now, hello and good afternoon and my boy just turned three and where does it all go but straight into our hearts.

  1. Felicity by Mary Oliver -- Her latest book of poems. They were, by and large, brief and lovely and true.
  2. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff -- I didn't love this one, or sometimes even like it, but I couldn't stop reading, which says something about the power of the storytelling. This was my first Groff, and I will read more of her.
  3. Between the World and Me by Ta'Nehesi Coates -- This one slayed me, as it has been slaying readers all over the world since the moment it came out. I read it right before Martin Luther King Day, and I immediately recommended it to several of my students. It's a hard read. Not exactly uplifting. But racism is still alive and noxious, and we shouldn't be allowed to not struggle with that truth.
  4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang -- I read this graphic novel because the sophomores at my school were reading it, and I wanted to be in on the conversation. I liked it. It was an interesting take on assimilation and cultural identity. What I liked best, though, was the fact that my almost-three-year-old-son was so pulled in by the images that I got to read it with him. Eeeeeee! The experience made me giddy at the prospect of all our future reading together.
  5. Home by Marilyn Robinson -- Robinson's Housekeeping is one of my very favorites, and I enjoyed Gilead a lot, too. So I was a bit disappointed with this one. I just couldn't get past the pages and pages of early dialogue about making meals and forced politeness. I stopped about halfway through.
  6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley -- Also couldn't quite get into this one. I think I just wasn't in the right mood. Maybe the next time I travel to Switzerland? I also got about half-way through and quit. Time is gold, people! I used to never never never quit a book, but there is something sensible about moving on if a text isn't moving you.
  7. Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington -- The actual writing of this narrative left something to be desired, but it is an incredible story of Aboriginal girls escaping and evading their white captors. I'm told that I need to see the movie.
  8. The Bluejay's Dance: A Birth Year by Louise Erdrich -- Of course I read every sentence of this with pleasure. Beautiful language. Insightful. Real. Made me remember both the wonder and extreme exhaustion of early motherhood. How much easier it is now! How fragile and godly it was then. Erdrich, as I've said in various other places, it the closest thing I have to a literary hero, so experiencing her way with words in a nonfiction form was a delight, and it gave me all kinds of ideas for my own writing.
  9. Field Guide to Flash Fiction by Dinty Moore -- Haven't yet read the whole thing, but it's a fantastic craft book. This is mostly what I've been writing lately. Plus, many of the chapter/essays were written by former professors at Vermont College of Fine Arts, so that's fun.
  10. O Pioneers!, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Great Gatsby, and lots and lots of poetry -- all curriculum rereads.
TV & Movies:
  1. Star Wars 4 & 5 -- It's completely unpopular to say so just now, but I've never been much of a Stars Wars fan. I re-watched 4 and 5 alongside my husband, who does love the franchise, with every intention of making it through 6, too. But, you know, two was enough for now.
  2.  Downton Abbey, Season 5 -- Not as good as earlier seasons, but after acquiring a pretty significant fireplace of our own with the purchase of our new house, we find ourselves interested in the scenes where there is and isn't a fire blazing. Fire is a signifier.
  3. The Martian -- Lately my husband has been oh so interested in all things Elon Musk (man of Tesla and SpaceTech fame). Are you and I going to live on Mars in thirty years? My guess is no. But I'm no astronaut-botanist. Whatever happens, I'm paying attention now. Good movie. 
  4. Ex Machina -- Again with the Elon Musk theme (who is additionally connected to artificial intelligence, I guess?). Disturbing film, in a necessarily unsettling way. Well-done.
 Finds & Arrow Signs:
  1. "The Shut-In Economy" -- A fascinating article, which both repelled and fascinated me. As a working mother who often feels there isn't enough time in the day for, well, much of anything besides working and mothering, I'm pretty tempted to give some of these apps a try.
  2. "Tonic" at Mamalode
  3. "First Leap" at Brain,Child -- This one just came out today (hooray!). I'll probably write more about it later, because it's a special piece to me for several reasons. It's about learning to read.
  4. This story - "Absence"  - and this essay - "Worlds Upon Worlds: On Growing up Book-Rich" - by the wonderful, talented, and insightful Kate McCahill.
  5. This Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers list (including fellow VCFA alum and friend Robin MacArthur for her upcoming collection Half Wild. Hooray!)
  6. This in-door trampoline -- Because: everyday, people. Everyday. 

Spring is almost here! Stay warm.


  1. I love these lists you put together. I always either add to my own, or am heartened that I'm not the only one who can't get into something like Frankenstein. You're right... life is too short. :)

  2. I read that article about "The Shut-In Economy." Interesting that "shut-in" used to be used to refer to the elderly who wanted to get out and about and couldn't. Personally, I think if Dante were alive today, he might have included that life in his "Inferno." It sounds ghastly, and I'm unapologetically moving in the other direction.

    I've had a post in my files for some months, titled "Shut in by the Storms of Life." The article will make some interesting fodder for it.

    Happy spring!

    1. Something to think about, for sure. It's amazing to me how easy it has become to shut ourselves away. I try to imagine what it all means for the future of all of us -- what things will be like in, say, even twenty years -- but I don't know. Either my imagination fails me or I just don't want to think about it. Although, I probably should.

      I look for that post, Linda!

  3. It was a disappointing winter here in New England. Warmer than average for sure. More rain than snow. Time to move on to spring and summer, although just today I heard it was going to snow off and on this coming week just to keep us on our toes.


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