Posted in Just for Fun

Make Way for the New

Since the beginning of this speech season, I have been haunted (in a good way) by one of my student’s speeches. One line in particular could be the most powerful quote I have ever heard.

It goes something like this, “Death is the single greatest invention of life.”

This sentiment was spoken during a commencement speech by Steve Jobs a year after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

It is powerful in a way that is hard to explain. Death is inevitable. It is inescapable. It is both feared and revered. Every culture, every generation, and every individual has different thoughts, feelings, and traditions surrounding it.

As hard as death is to experience, whether a pet or the impending loss of a loved one, I choose to look at death as the beginning. As a celebration of what was and what is to come. Not as a replacement, but as an addition.

In my experience, every life cycle ends and begins with renewal.

Just for fun, I challenged myself to engage with the world around me and really see the value of Steve Jobs’ statement. Here’s what I found:

  • snowflakes melting to water in the spring thaw creating life-giving moisture
  • purging flooded basements after that life-giving moisture seeps inside, making way for a clean space and the storage of new memories
  • weeding out old books on the bookshelf to make way for the new ones
  • Jesus’ death making way for eternal life
  • the seeding of flowers, the loss of leaves, the death of a plant to regenerate and bloom into something once again beautiful
  • new babies born on the knees of grandparents and the passage of wisdom from one to another to make each generation stronger

Death surrounds us, but so does life. Or rather, life surrounds us because of the contributions of death.

In this season of rebirth, I am planning to reread From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. This beautifully appointed book takes readers on a journey across the globe to discover the rituals surrounding the greatest invention of life.

I challenge you, dear readers, to look at the world around you and discover all the joys of making way for the new. To delight in the mess of spring and consider the opportunities it provides in the days to come.

happy reading~ Jody

Posted in Just for Fun

On Curmudgeons and their Habits

For some reason, I distinctly remember the first time I heard the word curmudgeon. A fellow writer friend raved about an author he had met, though cautioning me that the author was a true curmudgeon. Without having a dictionary in front of me (yes, it was long before Siri and google), I instinctively knew the essence of this word.

It, like its definition, sounds crusty and cranky. It’s ill-tempered and gruff. Set in its ways and not apt to move, either figuratively or literally. It is gray-haired and wizened,  stubborn and seemingly unhappy.

Think Sherlock Holmes, Scrooge, or the young Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye. More recent curmudgeons can be found in The Hunger Games or Harry Potter via Haymitch Abernathy or Severus Snape. On the surface, these literary icons are untouchable and cold. Yet when we wipe away the grime, we often find a kind heart and warm spirit. The depth of these characters are what make them great.

Not surprisingly, bibliophiles can be as stubborn and set in their ways as Scrooge, falling back on decades-old reading patterns and missing out on the hidden gems around them.

Each year, Meinders Community Library participates in the Winter Reading Program. While this is a Plum Creek Library program, we’ve adapted it to encourage our readers to grow in their literary experience. One such patron took advantage of our WRP bingo cards to read outside her comfort zone. What she found was an unexpected treasure in the midst of a genre that felt old and stuffy.

The following book review was provided by Carol Haubrich.

Hoping to complete my bingo card, I found a book in the 300-400-500 section in the stacks at Meinders Library. This was a great find.

“Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter” by Barbara Robinette Moss, a memoir

The author has revealed to us the life of a poor girl growing up in an extremely dysfunctional family in Alabama. The physical and mental traumas which she endured are disturbing and almost unbelievable. Her strength in overcoming such trauma is amazing. She writes with great courage and love for her mother and siblings. This is a familiar story to those who have read “The Glass Castle” but these circumstances are even worse than those described therin. To triumph over hardship and to document it so clearly is a testament to the human spirit, to the strength of character of this author. I highly recommend this book. 

Just for fun, try breaking free from your inner curmudgeon. Put aside comfort and habit and try something new, whether it’s reading a book you normally wouldn’t pick up or giving snow showing the old college try.

Sometimes brushing aside the familiar can make room for the discovery of something unexpectedly amazing.

Happy reading~ Jody

Posted in Just for Fun

If Words Were Snowflakes and Other Unscientific Thoughts

snow off deck
~my deck, my yard, my endless drifts of snow~

I know this endless wash of white is not unique to my yard. Everywhere we turn, the horizon is no longer visible. Instead, we see a minimalist painting of white on white on muted shades of yet more white.

It’s lovely and eerie and extremely thought provoking. When I look out my patio door, I can’t help but wonder just how many snowflakes my backyard holds.

While I will never know the answer to this pressing question, I found a way to put Mother Nature’s dubious gift into perspective.

And this, my friends, is where the completely unscientific part comes in.

By industry standards, an average 6″ x 9″ novel is roughly 90,000 words long. These little gems of literary delight take up about one inch of vertical space (without their covers).

My yard sits approximately 24 inches above the ground and the footprint of the section in the picture is 16′ x 16′. Twelve inches per foot divided by trim size = 672 books per layer–give or take–times 24 layers times 90,000 words equals a whopping 1,451,520,000.

To be clear, that is one billion, four hundred fifty-one million, five hundred twenty thousand words. Roughly.* 

Just for fun, let’s pretend my first reading endeavor included a James Patterson novel and that each book since the tender age of four was a best-selling novel.

To read all the words found in my little slice of yard, I would have been reading one book every day plus an extra five books per year in my spare time. Despite being an avid reader, I haven’t come close to accomplishing this goal. However, I would like to meet the person who has.

All this to say, if words were snowflakes, prose would fall from the heavens like manna, and I’d remain in this frozen tundra simply to wade through the ever-drifting stories of someone else’s imagination.

Happy reading~ Jody

*This estimate may or may not be accurate, as I’m a word gal, not a math genius.