A Thousand Words

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They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

But.

There’s no sound in a picture. There’s no rush of wave or waterfall, no chuckle of river over stone, no insect thrum, no call of gull or crow, no rustling leaves, no still forest hush.

There’s no smell in a picture. Not of warm, root-riddled earth. Not of cool green brush. Not of silvery blue lake spread from horizon to horizon. Not of rock nor sand nor moss nor pine.

Pictures are so small. Half the time I wanted to take a picture, it was because felt small. Standing on the shore of the Greatest of the Great Lakes. Under unending sky and sunset and slice of rainbow. In the shadow of dark evergreens, crows perched high in the branches. At the edge of a cliff, looking down on gulls and looking up to still higher cliffs. A picture makes the thing that made you feel small seem small. A picture cuts it down to a size you can hold in your hand, when that’s not what you wanted at all. What you wanted to hold was the sense of being a tiny creature in an epic universe.

I took pictures. But I need words. It’s words that hold the memories, that capture the senses beyond sight. That’s how it is for me, anyway – at least until I get better at taking pictures.

Happy Father’s Day

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I don’t write about my father very often, here. This isn’t because I don’t have much to say about my father, but because my father is better than my ability to write about him. I’m not saying he’s perfect; no one is perfect, and one of the most important things he taught me was just that. But my father is a good father, in a world where many fathers are, well, not.

Here are some of my favorite things regarding my dad:

~ He read The Chronicles of Narnia to me and my sisters when we were little. Since then, I’ve never read a book or met an author I’ve liked better.

~ Over twenty years ago, he ordered pizza and borrowed the 1961 film Mysterious Island from a friend, and then he and I and my sisters all sat on the couch for a pizza-eating, movie-watching party.

~ Sometimes, he has a difficult time with jokes. Like, we’re all standing around, waiting for the punchline, but he’s laughing too hard to get the words out, and then we’re laughing too, without actually getting the joke, because his laugh is contagious.

~ He’s a pilot:

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My father and two of his four daughters, me included, after our first flight. =]

~ He used to make up stories about me and my sisters and the adventures we had. I can’t remember many of the details, but I remember that right from the start, he was telling us we could be main characters, and sometimes, that’s nice to hear.

~ When my sisters and I were old enough to watch Star Wars, he showed us The Empire Strikes Back first because “it’s the best one.”

~ When I was in elementary school, and declared (with absolute certainty) my political party affiliation, he gave me a look, and asked enough questions for me to realize I hadn’t really thought it through.

~ He’s always said I or my sisters could talk to him or my mother about anything, and meant it.

~ He loves my mother, and it shows.

~  When Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring came out, he told me and my sisters (too young and too sensitive to see it in theaters) the whole story start to finish because he enjoyed it and we wanted to know what it was about. He also told us he was sure Gandalf was going to come back, and he was right.

~ He’s a science teacher, and knows a lot, but is also good at making stuff up, so you have to listen like, “Am I learning science? Or random nonsense about frogs?”

~ He tells the best stories: about camping, about traveling to mountains and through deserts, about farming, about football, about adventures gone right and adventures gone wrong, about getting lost, about flying, about family, and childhood, and friends.

 

There are many other things. Twenty-seven years’ worth of things, actually. I cannot write about them all, at least not here. Happy Father’s Day – I hope you have a good one.

Lawn, Sweet Lawn

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She’d landed on a lawn. She’d heard of them, but had never seen a real one before. There was grass all around Miss Level’s cottage, but that was just, well, the grass of the clearing. Every other garden she’d seen was used for growing vegetables, with perhaps just a little space for flowers if the wife had gotten tough about it. A lawn meant you were posh enough to afford to give up valuable potato space.

A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett

I’ve written about lawns before. How, if I ever had a lawn of my own, I wouldn’t bother to take care of it ’cause lawns are pointless.

Of course, like most youthful declarations (“I’ll never get married!” “I’m going to be a veterinarian!” “I’m going to live in a mansion in the woods with dogs and cats and horses and write novels all day!”), the high-minded, environmentally-conscious refusal to buy into lawn-care has gone by the wayside:

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My freshly mown backyard.

The lawn came with the house, which is located on one of the busier streets in my little town, so murdering the grass wouldn’t just be a statement: it would be a dramaticpublic statement, plus an annoyance to the neighbors, plus a hindrance to selling the property if the Husband and I ever decide to sell the property. If there’s anything I dislike more than lawns, it’s making dramatic, public statements that annoy the neighbors and make it harder for us to plan an escape from the city.

So. Here I am, on a fine spring afternoon, enjoying a post-lawn-mowing sandwich and the smell of cut grass and spearmint.

There are worse things.

Things My Mother Taught Me

Actually, I have two mothers now: one by birth and one by marriage. They are both lovely. They have both taught me things.

~ How to read and write

~ How to play Boggle

~ All the rest of the stuff you learn through all twelve grades up to college

~ How to cook

~ How to gently, politely, ask questions that feel out whether or not the person dating your son has any brains

~ How to recognize common Michigan plants and wildlife

~ How, if you don’t know something, to go look for the answer somewhere

~ How to budget

~ How to decorate for Christmas

~ How to decorate for Easter

~ How to inspect a home you’re thinking of buying

~ How to clean and care for the home you move into

~ How to take care of a cow, and a cat, and a dog, and a pony

~ How to take care of someone who enjoys playing video games, and buzzing around on death machines

~ How to watch out for younger siblings

~ How to give gifts to people, just because you saw something and it made you think of them and it would be a nice surprise

~ How to welcome strangers into your home

~ How to remember that you don’t need a boyfriend, or a husband, to be a fulfilled, happy woman. You’re enough. You’re worthy of love. You’re not half of a whole, waiting for a soulmate: you’re a whole person already.

~ How to, once you’ve got a man, get rid of him sometimes

Happy Mother’s Day!

Spring Things

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I love Michigan and all her seasons: winter, spring, second winter, spring for real this time, PSYCH! it’s snowing again, okay, okay, done with snow (probably), summertime, fall, second summer, first winter, fall again, practical joke winter – oh, wait, you weren’t kidding, and round and round the sun we go.

Springtime’s come to Michigan at last.

My favorite part is the way new leaves and bright grass and fresh blossoms seem to explode into existence overnight, shifting the colors of the world from pale and gray to green and brown and vibrant. It looks like celebration and feels like joy – every time.

Welcome back. =]

Many Happy Returns

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Today is my sister Isabel’s birthday.

Isabel is a photographer. This means that everyone expects her to carry her camera everywhere to document everything that happens and then social media it in a gorgeous, professional way for free. This also means she is usually behind the camera instead of in front of it, and the only way to tell if she was at a family function is if the pictures of everyone else are especially nice.

Here, on her wedding day, Isabel is spotted in front of the camera:

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Isabel is my first sister. Not my favorite sister, because it’s mean to pick favorites (even though I did pick favorites when I was young and have probably scarred the others for life), but the sister who was the first to arrive. I was an only child before she came home from the hospital, and, from what my parents tell me, I wasn’t neither pleased at being removed from the position, nor very impressed by the new addition to the family. Somehow, though, we settled our differences, and made relative peace with one another, which has mostly remained in place for the last couple of decades.

Isabel has always been less afraid of things than me. Growing up, I did a lot of hiding while I urged her to steal this or that candy, talk to this or that person, check this or that book out at the library, make this or that purchase, try this or that food, throw this or that caution to the wind and go for it. You can do your best to be a strong, independent person, or you can bully a younger sibling into being a strong, independent person for you. It is fitting, I suppose, that Isabel, despite not being a firstborn, was the first to buy a car, the first to do internships in college, the first to room with strangers, the first to go on dates with more than one man, the first to leave Michigan and turn another part of the country into home.

Happy Birthday, Isabel, in your galaxy – er, state – far, far way. :) I expect it’ll be weird, and different, but it’s a lucky-number birthday, and a year for so many “it’s all beginnings…”

Quote from a Current Read

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You see, that is the sad, sorry, terrible thing about sarcasm.

It’s really funny.

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians , Brandon Sanderson

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I’m beginning to think I will always like books-for-children better than books-for-grown-ups. There are books-for-grown-ups that I enjoy, that I love, that I’m passionate about. But the books I enjoy THE MOST, and love THE BEST, the books I treasure, and share, and remember, and reread anyway, and try to give away, and bring up in classes and at conferences – those are children’s books.

You know that feeling, when you’re reading a book and it’s like the author was thinking of you while crafting the story? Not like, thinking of what will torture you, but thinking of what will make you laugh, or what will appear wondrous? The feeling that something was made for you?

Children’s books are the books that feel most made for me. So no matter how much I enjoy a book-for-grown-ups, I’ll bounce back to a book I read and loved in my youth, to read and love it again.