Wednesday Wonders: Curiosity is the Cousin of Art

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On Sunday, I drove across the Cascade Mountains to sunny Yakima for a three day teaching conference. In this city my grandparents once called home, I let the sun melt away my everyday stresses and felt my curiosity perk up.

While strolling the neighborhood, I discovered churches with large blocks of  dark stone rising above the city streets of downtown. One sits just outside my hotel window.

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Those churches make me wonder.

Where did the stone come from? Who built these churches? Many of them are up for lease so what happened to make the churches fail?

I bet there is a story or five in those answers.

And then in my session yesterday, I had the good fortune to sit next to a mathematician. (I began to suspect he knew more than the rest of us when he launched into a description of vectors and their relationship to area.)

When we started using manipulatives to demonstrate how a negative number multiplied by a negative equals a positive, he mentioned that there is a mathematical proof for that.

That intrigued me.

So I asked if he could do it. He began working on it and says he’ll bring it for me tomorrow.

I can smell a story in that answer, too.

I have no idea if I will comprehend the proof but just trying to grasp the puzzle of it brings me joy. If nothing else, the experience could lead to the story of the linguist who fell in love with numbers later in life.

Earlier that same day, a teacher who works in the prison system read a poem to us titled ‘I See Something in You.’ She tells us she reads it aloud to the inmates in her class and that these men she works with can see right through insincerity. She’s got to give them her honest self, or she will fail as only a teacher in front of a class like that could fail.

I wonder what it would be like to have her job and asked for a copy of the poem so I could adapt it for my own students. Right after that, I wondered if I would have the courage to read it to them.

Maybe I will write those stories and the poem.

Maybe I won’t.

Either way, I love the way life tingles when the stories all around me get to whispering. I feel like my black cat checking out the vacuum cleaner hose at the top of his cat post, pulling himself up to see what all the noise is about or teetering at the top of a ladder just to get a new view.

Like him, I know there is danger tucked into the moment but, also like him, I measure that danger against the intrigue and zing of a life chock full of curiosity.

I might look stupid to that mathematician, I might find stories that wound me underneath those churches, and I know, like only a classroom teacher can know, that a poem could be the start of painful humiliation in front of a class of forty students, criminals or not.

But I also know if I follow those leads to the stories and the people tucked into them, I might get the gift of an artful life. Most days the falls are more than worth the climb up that ladder.

May you see the stories of beauty and joy all around you,

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Stone Churches…

 

A quilt of the Fred Redmond Bridge crafted out of fabric and curiosity by the “Anything Goes Quilters”: Deborah Ann, Anna Assink, Sally Fitch, Barbara Green, Sue Grimshaw, Nancy Rayner, and Jeanne Strater. I love their group’s name! I think my writing group needs a name like this.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wonders: The Garden Gift of Forty

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When I was a teenager, working in the garden numbed my brain with boredom. I could not understand how my mother spent hours and days pulling weeds and clipping dead branches. I loved the beauty of the place and went to the roses to talk to her often, but I could only do the work for a few minutes before running off to bike 30 miles, pace the floor, drive to the beach, or anything else besides working with plants.

Life has changed me. 

My latest read is by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark. In The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time, Diaz talks of how to embrace each age you are in as you live it. I’ve only made it a few chapters through the book but already see the beauty in this approach to growing older.

I think gardens may be one of the gifts of forty.

Soon after I entered this decade, I  began enjoying the time I spend outside with the flora. I worry less about having a perfect looking place and enjoy more the experience of being outside and touching the dirt. Pulling weeds and moving earth heals me when my soul aches, and the work gets me outside when I need to move from too many hours with a book or in a basement level classroom. To make it even better, my six year old dances around me, playing his games and talking to the neighbors as they walk their dogs by our home.

When I was a teen the heaven of my imagination would have been filled with action. Now I think my vision of it would be much more like Eden.

The newfound garden joy also gives me hope for the decades to come. I can no longer run as fast as I did in my twenties. In fact my hip now tells me not to run at all most days. I haven’t given up on running altogether–I still am working to heal.

But who knows what new gift I will find as I grow older?

Gardens may be just the start of the party. 

May you find joy in every age-

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Wednesday Wonders: How to Get Rewards for Reading

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Every summer about this time, I remember the libraries have programs for reading with prizes to encourage reading. My mom tells me I began doing this in the card catalog days of my grade school years, and most summers I’ve remembered to sign my kids up before the end of July. (The libraries are always generous and let me fill in hours I’ve missed recording because I signed up late.)

In my area, I have two library systems offer rewards. Both have reading programs for people of all ages. If I were really greedy, I could also join the Tacoma Public Library program.

I am not that greedy and that would also be too many things for my busy brain to manage.

Quinton and I signed up for the two libraries nearest to us: Pierce County Library and the Puyallup Public Library.

Quinton longs for the Toys R Us gift card, and I am checking off the books I read in hopes of winning the Tacoma Rainiers Summit Club tickets or the Kindle Fire. It could happen!

Even if it doesn’t, I’m sure to get in a few lovely hours reading by myself and with my kiddo. Most recently we discovered how much we adore Lyle the Crocodile books by Bernard Waber and I am digging into Graceling by Kristin Cashore. 

May you sink good books this summer and maybe even win a prize-

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Wednesday Wonders: Where to Find a Good Read

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I have two places to find books when I want to know what to read next. It was strange to me that in those two separate places I found first Moriarty and then Holmes, two books I adored.

1. My Mother’s Kindle

A while back, my six-year-old dropped my electronic book. This is what I read with most nights. I love the way I can lay in bed and flip through the books if I need to or play solitaire on occasion. The light turns off on its own when I drift off into sleep, saving me the trouble of turning one off or burning up flashlight batteries.

My generous mother gave me her old device after the dropping disaster, and now I have a library of someone else’s books at my finger tips. Some of them are odd things her book club assigned. Others are wonderful treasures I might never have found without her Kindle’s help.

Recently, I fell into a delightful story called The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (no relation to the fictional character).

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In this story, a thirty-something woman chaperones a young starlet named Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922. The chaperone has trouble with Louise but is also on a secret mission of her own to discover her past.

The book covers so much of the era in a compelling storyline that drew me in and revealed secrets I didn’t even suspect in the character’s lives. (This makes it a challenge to write about since I wouldn’t want to spoil any of those surprises for you.) Most of all I admired the way the characters stood up to the social norms of the day or found ways around them rather than conforming. Their rebellions didn’t always work out, but I sure cheered them on through all the pages and the ending came out reasonably well for them all.

2. My Booklist

Whenever someone tells me of a book they read and loved, I whip out my phone and write it into my Evernote program. Then when I am at the library, desperate for my next book to curl around, I pull up the list and request it or track it down on the shelves.

This is how I found The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King.

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If you like Sherlock Holmes, you may well love this one like I did. King took the years of Holmes’ beekeeping retirement and turned them into an apprenticeship of a the young woman protagonist who matches him in wit and intelligence. I am ready to request that next book in this series just as soon as I make it further on my booklist.

I only have one thing to change about this system of finding books: I need to write the names of those who recommend the books next to the titles so I can thank them and, of course, talk about the book.

I’ve forgotten who recommended King’s excellent work so now I can’t do that. I’ve even made the mistake of gushing at someone about my latest find when she was the one who told me about it in the first place. Sheesh!

May you find great books wherever you go-

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