year of books – may

2014 goals, reading, Vagina Monologues

The Vagina Monologues” was a faster read than I expected.

I’ve heard chatter about the monologues for a few years, but I’ve not seen the performance yet. A couple weekends ago, a group of women in town performed the piece but I was pretty sick that weekend and didn’t see it.

In preparing to write the articles for the newspaper, I picked up the book, written by Eve Ensler. I thumbed through it a few times, read the prologue — written by Gloria Steinem — and introduction to get a feel for the book and its contents.

I finally made finishing the book a priority, thinking it would be emotional and full of triggers and something I would need to take one page at a time. But, I was wrong. I finished the book in two nights.

It’s not a long book, and it turned out to be an easy, quick read for me. There was plenty to be emotional about, and one of the monologues made be tear up.

I suppose it speaks to the relationship I have with my own vagina? I dunno. But I am glad I read the book before seeing the performance. Spoken word always has had a significant effect on me, and I was glad I could absorb and process the information on my own terms, instead of having another person deliver it to me.

Either way, I wish the book was longer, that there were more interviews and stories. My favorite one is a series of answers to “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?” The thought makes me smile, and I appreciate the answers.

“I think readers, men as well as women, may emerge from these pages not only feeling more free within themselves — and about each other — but with alternatives to the old patriarchal dualism of feminine/masculine, body/mind, and sexual/spiritual that is rooted in the division of our physical selves into ‘the part we talk about’ and ‘the part we don’t,'” Gloria Steinem wrote in the foreword.

Next up is “Spirited Waters: Soloing south through the Inside Passage” by Jennifer Hahn. The book won the 2001 Barbara Savage “Miles From Nowhere” award.

From the jacket: “In a kayak names Yemaya with a cedar wreath lashed to the stern, Jennifer Han launched from Ketchikan, ALaska, on a 750-miles solo voyage home to Bellingham, Wash. Hahn’s journey is not about miles but moments about sinking into the rhythm of waves and tide; about the deep connection Hahn made with the wildlife and seascape around her; and about the people she met along the way — lonely lighthouse keepers, salmon fishers, native elders, and small-time loggers. This is a story about navigating dangers, both real and imagined. Sensual in its vision ‘Spirited Waters’ reminds us that even in the landscape of solitude, we are never alone.”

First, anyone notice how long that first sentence is? Whew. Also, I’m a couple chapters in and learned that she makes the 750-mile trip in sections during a couple summers, and not in one long trip. Which I’m slightly disappointed about. But who an I to criticize? It’s not like I’ve done it.

Either way, it’s what’s on the docket for this month.

year of books – march, april

Alaska, reading

I’m finally feeling a bit caught up in the reading department. It seems I’ve been behind in keeping up with reading one book per month ever since… January. 🙂

During a quick last minute, weekend trip to Salt Lake City, I finished up “A Long Trek Home: 4,000 miles by boot, raft and ski” by Erin McKittrick. Hooray for March’s book.
McKittrick as a great conversational style about her writing. She and her husband, Hig, and two kiddos, Katmai and Lituya, came through Ketchikan a few months ago on a tour for her second book. I talked with them for a while about their experiences and I easily heard her voice in my head as I read.
The fun thing about meeting the authors and going to readings is getting signed copies of the books. I’ve been able to pick up a few while in Ketchikan for the past year.
I did really enjoy both books. It was such an interesting look at how simple life can be, living in a yurt with two small children, or backpacking from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands.
Sometimes after finishing an adventure book, I feel an intense need to go explore someplace or get “lost” in the wilderness. I felt that after finishing Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” even though I was already on a ferry to Alaska. I didn’t feel that way with these. I suspect it’s because their adventures are a bit more ambitious than I would choose myself. And sometimes, it sounds down right miserable.
I’m fine with reading about it from the comfort of my chair in the living room. 
McKittrick talks a lot about the impact of greenhouse gases and the effects of global warming on Alaska’s environment. I never really considered Alaska’s terrain or weather as fragile — it’s so bitter and harsh. But I was reminded that glaciers and forests are just as fragile and sensitive to climate change as algae are to water temperature change. 
She doesn’t talk much about solutions though, only that global warming is happening and Alaska’s environment is changing. It’s quite possible the solution is bigger than one person can write about in an adventure book. When I finished the books, I sort of thought, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about the Malispina Glacier melting.” A sort of, I don’t know what to do and I know I’m contributing to greenhouse gases, but what do you want me to do about it?
The pair have founded “a nonprofit that uses science and adventure to further the conversation about Alaska’s environment,” according to the book cover. Check out Ground Truth Trekking (facebook, twitter) for an updated report about their adventures, science and experience raising two children off the road system in Alaska.
And, if you don’t know what it means to “live off the road system in Alaska,” you should pick up “Small Feet, Big Land” and learn about it. 
I enjoyed reading about the journey, and getting an intimate look at life “on the edge of Alaska” with toddlers. The life may not be quite what I imagine for myself, but it is a good reminder of how simply life can be lived.
After finishing up “Small Feet, Big Land,” I picked up “The Vagina Monologues.” The V-Day performance was produced in Ketchikan a couple weekends ago. I really wanted to see it, but I was pretty sick that weekend and opted to stay home. I had heard enough about the performance and content to know the vein of the subject, but in talking to the director and a couple participants, I became even more curious. In the name of research for the article, I finally purchased up the book.
So far it’s a quick, easy read. Maybe I’ll be able to stay on schedule this month. 🙂

saturday reads

reading, saturday links

It’s raining and a little bit windy outside, and that’s not pleasant. I’m dreaming of hot, dry, desert air.

I have gathered hot tea and a collection of articles to read. I am amazed with the number of must-read articles I have at the end of the week, even when I don’t spend much time on the internet.
To help my productivity this week, I sometimes didn’t get on Twitter until the afternoon or took a moment to browse around the interwebs. I sorta feel out of the loop with some of this week’s news, but 30 minutes on Twitter on Friday afternoon gave an opportunity to capture what feels like a zillion links to read.
Which is my favorite Saturday morning activity, by the way. Pajamas, tea, blanket and iPad on the couch. Usually until 10:30 when I finally get up and move on to something different.
And all that to say, here are some of the links I clicked this morning.

If you missed the happenings at Mozilla this week, or need more information like I did, this one shed a little light on why the new CEO stepped down after receiving criticism about a two-year-old donation to support banning same-sex marriage.

We are nearing the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. I’m preparing for an emotional month, and so is Boston. The Boston Public Library’s “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial” opens Monday. All the messages and items that created the memorial days after the attack were taken into the city’s archives. This is a display of those items. Gets me right in the feels.

Sunsets reflected in broken mirrors. Breathtaking.
Apparently, baseball isn’t the national pastime, walking is.
AP photojournalist Anja Niederinghaus was killed in Afghanistan this week. In memoriam, look at a small collection of her AMAZING work.
And this totally intense NPR essay explores all the reasons Beyonce should be loved. As if I didn’t already. Sheesh.

And now I’m off the internet for the rest of the day! With the exception of Pinterest, because that totally doesn’t count.

year of books – February

2014 goals, C.B. Bernard, Chasing Alaska, reading

Well, I didn’t get through the book in the allotted 28 days, but not for a lack of trying during the last five. Ha. Oh well. I finished on March 5, and now it’s taken me this long to stop being distracted with other things and write this down.

For February, I picked “Chasing Alaska: A portrait of the Last Frontier then and now,” by C.B. Bernard, called “part history, part journalism, part memoir,” by Alaska Dispatch.

I was fortunate enough to meet the author when he came through town in December. I have a signed copy and everything. He was a pretty nice guy, and I would have enjoyed listening to his stories for much longer than the hour he had.

He moved to Sitka, Alaska in 1999 from Massachusetts, to work as a reporter at the family-owned newspaper there. He wrote in the front cover of my book, “For Marjorie, another reporter in the Last Frontier.” So of course, I feel a certain kinship there.

In the first chapter of the book he writes about sucker holes — the space of blue sky between the clouds that makes you believe the weather will improve but is simply a cruel lie. He covers the rain, the mass expanse of land and water, and the breathtaking views a person sees once they arrive.

He also writes about the change of it all — why a person comes this far north and west, the allure of Alaska and how it all feels in the process. I related so much to what he wrote and shared.

“Books and magazines perpetuate Alaska as a mythical, savage place, equal parts nature documentary and wildlife theme park, but my first impressions revealed an urban side as well: houses, the occasional lawn, a small but bustling downtown of gift shops, cafes and drugstores. But it wasn’t the suburbs I knew. On my first day, my newspaper ran front-page stories about a humpback whale that torpedoed a 78-foot sailboat at anchor and a brown bear that dragged two dogs into the woods. Welcome to Alaska.”

And the beautiful next sentence: “Before I left New England, I filled a bottle in the Atlantic to remind me of my beginnings. I turned out I didn’t need it. If you go back far enough, all water flows from the same source.”

Bernard’s lovely prose weaves his story of living and working in Alaska with his great-uncle’s, who came to Alaska to explore the Arctic. Bernard includes excerpts of his uncle’s diaries to contrast the turn-of-the-century experience with his own.

I found the book to be engaging, lovely and wonderful. I appreciated that it did not portray Alaska as a mythical, savage place. Though he outlines some of the social issues in Alaska, which are quite savage.

Bottom line: Highly recommended.

Chasing Alaska

Next up: The first of two books by Erin McKittrick, “A Long Trek Home: 4,000 miles by boot, raft and ski.

2014: the year of reading

2014 goals, reading

This year, I want to read one book every month. I mean, 12 books in one year is easy-peasy, right? I think it should be.

I started off to a good start. I picked up this easy read and finished it during the first week of the year. Score! Now I’m on to other, more long and dense books. If I start now on February’s book, that’s a pretty good headstart. Right?

January’s book was The American Heiress, by Daisy Goodwin. I was totally having Downton Abbey withdrawals, and just like the cover said, this one totally satiated my appetite for turn-of-the-century drama. It was a light, fluffy read, so I moved through it quickly. I can’t say I’d recommend it for any serious reading, but if you are looking for something light that moves quickly, this is a nice option.

One book down, 11 to go.