Saturday, February 23, 2013
Thursday, February 21, 2013
There are those of us who really like lists. Going over lists is almost like going over deposits to your savings account for the satisfaction they give. (Almost. And don't ask me why, I don't know!) So I decided to start with one of my favorite topics, Kid and Young Adult books. I believe there is a crucial age when children learn to love reading books. When good books at the right reading level are made available and time for reading is encouraged, a reader is born.
And I reserve the privilege of calling something "Young Adult" or "Kid" if I was a young adult or kid when I read it!
Any fantastical situation throwing a couple of siblings and their dog into a bad situation can be thought up out of a writer's head. Maybe conjure up a sorcerer, a dragon's egg, an enchanted dog, treasure waiting to be dug up, but as entertaining as these stories are, they aren't REAL to a kid. They are fantasy. To read about these typical kids, a bickering brother and sister who, on the spur of the moment, dash off for a little rowboat ride out to a sandbar and then become marooned, is to imagine without much effort a similar thing happening to you.
While the dangers they face; illness, dehydration, maybe even death, are part of the interesting and exciting plot, the real story is of their changing relationship in which they begin to really care for each other.
As a bickering sibling, it was difficult to imagine any other relationship with my sisters and brother, but this book gave me a glimpse into what was possible.
What can I say? One of my most favorite SciFi books ever. My wonderful mother used to take us to the library about once a week during the summer, usually the Exeter Library, but sometimes the Woodlake Library. That was where I ran across this gem. It was written a long time ago, I think in the 30's, but a good idea and good writing hang around through different fads and changing science. OK, so some of the writing was a little over the top about populating a brand new, brave new world, but I skimmed over the tedious parts. They made a movie about it, which wasn't bad. But the book is better. Plus you can find out what happens later in After Worlds Collide. With all the technology, this book was also about people and relationships and how they responded to the "The End of the World."
This was a great little book, at least the abridged version was, one that I got in the third grade through Scholastic Book Services. Another marooned story, right up my alley! And the dad had all sorts of knowledge that put to use all the plants and animals they came across. Not to mention the incredible resource of a fully stocked ship, with only their family to plunder its contents before it sank off the reef it had grounded upon. I was amazed at the bounty of the large island they made their new home on. The only other contender to a sought-after storybook geographic location is the African land of the Great Anthropoid Apes who raised Tarzan. Alas, as I grew older and became more knowledgeable, I realized that the mismatched bounty of the island was just as much a fantasy as the giant boa constrictor that swallowed their donkey.
The reason I am including it is the lesson it taught me. When I first attempted to read it in the third grade, it was beyond me and I put it away as being too hard, and unpleasant to try to struggle through. That feeling stuck with me whenever I looked at it, but being a good bookhoarder, I kept it. Next year, in the fourth grade, I found myself without a book to read and picked it up, not expecting much. Surprise! It was easy! It was good! It was exciting! I really liked it. So what I think of when I see that book is that a book is not really static, in spite of its solid cover and unchanging typed pages. It changes as we do, it exists as we do, our minds meet it where we are at the time and it becomes a part of us.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Since I have been trying to reduce calories, especially empty, wheaty, sugary, addictive, therapeutic calories like the ones that come in cookies, I usually just try to avoid the bakery aisle. And truthfully, the impulse to pick up the goodies and put them in the cart has faded mostly. I'll think about the spongy goodness of a fresh maple bar, with that soft yeasty aroma and the quarter inch thick maple glaze that has crusted over slightly, that when you fill your mouth with it, it fills your olfactory cavities with mapleness, and then I set my jaw, look away and concentrate on the next aisle, which contains the distilled water.
So the other night, I was feeling a little cocky. Sure, I was a little hungry, which is when I'm weakest for those food influences, but it was only a quick little stroll up to the Walmart for some binder dividers and ice. Then I'd be back and could eat an apple or something.
But when I got to the Walmart entrance, what did I Spy With My Little Eye? Girl Scouts. I slipped into the store through the door furthest away from them, but I confess, I knew what would end up happening. You could almost say I planned for my failure when I chose the other door to exit the store.
I buy Girl Scout cookies about once every 4 or 5 years, which is when all the conditions are just right. Which they were the other night.
So I looked over the table of cookies. There were Trefoils, which I gather are sort of shortbread cookies. There were Samoas, which reminded me the old Hey Days we used to buy on Sunday afternoons at Jeans Market after Sunday School. They had some called Savannah Somethings, which I was tempted by, since they were dusted with lemon flavored powdered sugar. But I knew I would be disappointed in them because those kind of cookies are never lemony and tangy enough for me. There were some others I can't remember the name of, but they were like Nutter Butter sandwich cookies. I was really thinking about those, but I couldn't help thinking I could buy a big package and a half of Nutter Butters for what this little 8oz box cost. At the back of the card table of cookies were two lone boxes of "Dulce de Leche" cookies tucked away. I assumed they had some caramel going on there and was briefly tempted to see if she would sell one to me, as they were obviously held back for someone. But no. I chose the Thin Mints.
Why? You ask. Well, for one thing, I like them. The mint makes them feel slightly beneficial for digestion and good breath. And I read somewhere that people who sniff peppermint oil are better able to control their appetites afterwards. And mint is in sugarless gum. And mint also grows wild as an aromatic herb, useful for flavoring tea, which is good for you.
But I must confess also the motivation that reveals the base nature of the animalistic people we are; I would get them all myself since Cork does not like mint.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Never mind that he was actually a St. Bernard/Sheepdog cross. When people think "sled dog," they think huskies and malamutes, wolfish looking landraces. (Landrace is my new word. It means a breed of something that is naturally selected for the environment it calls home.)
Last Saturday we drove up to the Siskiyou Dog Sled races held at the Deer Mountain-Chuck Best Snowmobile Park on the northeast flank of Mt. Shasta. We had read about it in the paper the week before, and it seemed like a great adventure. Neither of us had ever seen anything like that in person before.
We were a little concerned about the snow on the road, since the truck does not have four wheel drive, but we did have chains in the back, just in case. It was a lovely drive up there, just under two hours, I believe. The sky was clear and blue, the snow pretty and white, the views and the scenery beautiful!
We arrived shortly after the first race had set off, which gave us time to get bundled up and look around before the next race was to start. The races were either distance or sprint, and with either 8, 6, or 4 dog teams. The other type of race was called a "skjorling," which is a skier tied on to a certain number of dogs who apparently pull the skier madly across the terrain.
The dogs were either tethered to the rigs or cozy inside their kennels. It was kind of fun comparing it all in my mind to the horse trailers with the hoses tied up to the trailers. But this was all in miniature. The dog owners had all sorts of set-ups. One had a small flatbed trailer with a multi-plex kennel mounted on top. Several had 2-story kennels on the back of their big pick-ups. One professional-looking outfit had a box trailer with 3 stories of plastic dog kennels facing the back door opening. Their dog sleds were mounted on the roof of the truck.
The dogsleds were terribly cute. Some were made of modern materials, but most had a framework of bent wood and were artfully crafted. It looked like the brake was some kind of plate between the skids. One sled at rest had two metal anchors holding in place in the snow.
Most of the dogs looked young and fit. They were lean, with not an ounce of fat. You could almost see a shadow of ribs. They reminded me of the endurance horses in top form that I saw at the Tevis Cup race in Auburn. They looked content to just hang out on their lines with a water bowl in front of them. What seemed intriguing to me was that they did not engage in the typical dog behavior you see when handfuls of dogs get together. They did no run around marking territory, sniffing other dogs, barking just for the heck of it, or approaching strangers. In fact the only dog that seemed interested in sniffing butt was a pet dog someone had on a leash.
From the moment the traces were laid out and dogs were brought to be hooked on, the pack could tell that it was game time, and that was when the barking and howling started! It was an exciting sound, it was music.
The teams left the starting line staggered by a few minutes. As each team was brought to the line, the handlers held each pair of dogs steady. One or two handlers held the dogsled in place until the signal was given to start. Once at the line, the dogs wanted to run! They were so excited, they jumped up in the air, they howled, they yodeled, they barked, they moaned, they lunged.
5-4-3-2-1-GO! The dogs leaped forward, straining their traces, pulling at a run. The 4-dog teams took a few seconds to get up to speed, but the 8-dog teams flew forward, skimming over the snowy trail and disappearing out of sight in a moment.
The whole spectacle and the lovely dogs made me wish I had a good friend who did this so I could help crew for her! I had an unreasonable desire to actually do it myself, but Cork looked at me sternly and then I came back to myself.
Most of the dogs were huskies and malamutes. Some were other breeds I couldn't identify. One musher had a few huskies along with what looked like husky crosses with a hound dog looking breed.
I had heated up some of my homemade chicken gnocchi soup and put it in thermouses for us. It was just the right thing!
We also had a cup of hot chocolate at the Kiwanis food truck.