It’s far too trite to say “Thank God it’s Friday,” so I won’t. Ignore that. Lots swirling this week. Let’s just jump in.
• Neighbor Dan the Dirty Old Man just left. He rarely – and I mean almost never – comes to the door. Most of our interactions with NDtDOM are over the fence between our yards or back by the poultry. But tonight he came to the back door and actually came in the kitchen, where he shared with us that his son has been diagnosed with colon cancer. It is troubling to see NDtDOM troubled, but tonight he was, very, and it took us both aback a bit to witness it. He shared his worries and fears in a way that made us worry and fear for him. It’s a new wrinkle to this neighborly relationship. It is, of course, okay with us, but unsettling in its rawness. We are linked with this old man, I guess, come Hell or high water, and it is both worrisome and flattering. Thank goodness he told a few (or rather, many) inappropriately hysterical stories before he left to visit his new lady friend, the best of which, inexplicably, revolved around the funeral of his brother – a story I may someday share here, perhaps. We have worried about NDtDOM for years, and I suppose that worry is about to take on a new wrinkle.
• You have probably noticed a few changes with the blog. It is a work in progress, and will probably continue to change, so please bear with me as I navigate this new territory. Our friend Wendy gave me a crash course in managing the blog, which was GREAT, but it is still a slog for me. I kind of wish I could just write and let somebody else manage the whole blog format thing, but I also like the control. Honestly, it doesn’t matter because for right now I am all that I have. In any case, on the right sidebar (which is what over there is called in the blog world,) you will now find a means to navigate by the category or categories of the post, archives for previous months, a link to the Shall We Ruminate Facebook page, and a way to subscribe so that you are e-mailed anytime a new post is posted. There may be more over time, and it is still not what I want it to be, but it is a start. Thanks in advance for hanging in there with me as I continue to learn.
• Speaking of writing, Helen: A Novel is still happening, although verrrry slowly. I have written the first 2 chapters and chapter 3 is (roughly) in my head. I shared the first 2 chapters with 2 friends who are avid readers. I had a moment of hesitation doing so, because I have no idea how to write a novel. I realized, though, that I needed other eyes on this story, and I am so glad I did. Their feedback was constructive, honest, thoughtful, and gentle; best of all, it made me want to keep writing. This really shouldn’t have surprised me, as they are those people who are best at all of that. They are teachers. So, to the two of you, who know who you are – know that you have already earned your place of honor on my acknowledgement page. Chapter 3 should be coming your way soon!
• One of the things I wanted to add to the blog – and still may – is a place where I can share with you what I am currently reading. I have not yet found the plug in (some of my new-and-oh-so-exciting blog jargon!) to do this, so I will share this with you in my pithiness posts. I am currently at some stage of reading three books. This actually means that I have a place marked in three books and they live on my bedside table. The actual odds of me finishing them varies. I remember preaching to my sixth grade students that they were never obligated to finish a book they were reading for pleasure if it wasn’t pleasurable. I live by that, too. The longer the bookmark stays in one place, the less likely I am to ever finish it. Anyway, here are the three books:
- Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own by Jenna Woginrich This book is from a sub-genre I have decided to call a farmoir, or “farm memoir.” Farmoirs are crack to me. Woginrich is the author of other farmoirs that I haven’t read yet but probably will. This is the story of her entry into the faming life in Vermont. Vermont. I know, right? Anyway, her writing is genuine and honest without being saccharine or romantic, and I am enjoying it. Oh, and she is an amateur fiddler, too. Seriously. Woginrich also blogs at Cold Antler Farm, so feel free to check her out there. (I would like to call her Jenna, but I haven’t really met her yet, so I will stick with Woginrich, although I don’t think she would mind.)
- Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend This is also a farmoir about the sheep farming lives of a couple in the mid-west. This one is a little more sheep-centric and adds the complexity in the fact that these two women are navigating both the farm and a relationship. This is not a lesbian farmoir but rather a farmoir whose farmers happen to be lesbians. There is a difference. Friend has also written other farmoirs and also blogs here. I like this one, too.
- The Hills is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith This, my friends, is another link to Helen. This book came in the box with Helen’s journal and is listed in it as one of the books she read. It is a novel from 1959 by a British author. Beckwith was a crofter (farmer) in the Hebrides, an archipelago of islands off the west coast of Scotland, for almost 20 years in the 40s and 50s. The book is a novelized recounting of her time there. It is a fascinating book, filled with Hebridean culture and language (think Gaelic.) I find myself trying to speak the words to myself, which is a challenge as there are no sounds for me for the consonant blends that they include. This is a book I will read slowly. It’s kind of a non-narrative novel, but I do enjoy reading it from time to time, and besides, I feel I must read it if I am to understand Helen.