Snapshots from home

Plenty of folks may say you can’t go home again, and I understand what they mean. But I went home to North Carolina for a bit of rest a few weeks ago anyway. Here are some snapshots and brief thoughts of my visit home.

It’s hard to balance the need to rest with the desire to catch up with dear friends and family, and so I ended up not doing as much of either as I had hoped. I am slowly realizing that it may always be this way on the visits home, the pull of the heart to spend time with those I love and the pull of the body to rest and soak up the nature of this beautiful place.

The cows came up to the near pasture on my hike through this most favorite of places:

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I always love this view but especially when the field is full of cows.

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Fields of gold

I almost missed my chance at taking this hike, so busy hiking and running and walking in other loved places, but if I hadn’t gone, I would have missed the lilies blooming: Continue reading

Reading Watchman

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman: let him declare what he seeth (Isaiah 21:6, KJV)

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Last week, I stood in my favorite bookstore listening to a customer chat with the man behind the counter. The customer said, “I’m lukewarm about it right now. I’m going to keep reading and wait to see what everyone says about it before I make up my mind.”

The clerk didn’t respond immediately but then said, “Yeah, we’ve been disappointed with the number of people who have called in to cancel their special order because of the bad reviews.”

They were speaking, of course, about Go Set a Watchman.

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time. So when I heard a “new” Harper Lee book would be coming out, I was beyond thrilled. The news quickly soured, tempering my unbridled joy. But I knew I would buy and read the book.

The negative reviews started coming. I skimmed one and then tried to avoid others. Chapter one came out early as a digital release. I ignored it. I wanted to hold the book in my hands, to read its words there first, and—unlike the bookstore customer—make up my own mind before reading any reviews.

I’m going out on what may be a lonely limb to say I enjoyed Go Set a Watchman. Not in the raving, life-changing way I devoured To Kill a Mockingbird. Not without choking through the excessive use of the n-word. Not without wishing for an editor at points. Not without understanding why reviewers might be harsh.

However, there was so much that resonated with me in these 278 pages that I refuse to join the naysayers. It feels too soon for me to fully articulate my thoughts on the book, but I wanted to set down some thoughts now before they get tangled up with the reviews and opinions of others that I can only avoid for so long. (Caution: spoiler alerts ahead)

Continue reading

The need to rest

When I was little, my family made an annual trek to the North Carolina Coast. I would step out of the car and drink in the heavy feel of the humid, salt air and revel in the sounds of cicadas’ deafening buzz. The week ahead promised rest for us all: lazy breakfasts, often concoctions of eggs, cheese and potatoes my brother fried up; piles of books to read; long days at the beach. We would climb dunes, walk the tide’s edge, fall asleep under a beach umbrella, dive for sand dollars, let gentle waves loll us practically to sleep, or high, strong waves quicken our sense of being alive. There was no schedule, no hurry. Nothing but rest and renewal for a glorious week.

I’m more of a mountain girl than a beach girl nowadays, and that’s where the best rest is happening for me. Any good mountain vacation promises hiking, walking and running in familiar, beloved places. The weather is cooler but more humid than our California summer has been so far. My husband and I sit together and read a pile of books (words cannot adequately express my excitement about Go Set a Watchman). We juggle quiet time and visits with family and friends. Most important, we rest.

If you’re looking for a great book about our need for a Sabbath rest, I highly recommend Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives. In many ways, this book feels like taking a deep, fresh breath. It offers rest and encourages an outlook overhaul:

Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us. (8)

How can we better consecrate, honor, savor the blessings in our lives? In this season, are you creating moments that will sustain and heal you? What does Sabbath rest look like to you?

A place that brings me Sabbath rest

A place that brings me Sabbath rest

National Independent Bookstore Day

This Saturday, May 2, is the inaugural National Independent Bookstore Day. Cue the confetti and the noisemakers. Across the country, 400 independent bookstores are teaming up to celebrate, and one of my favorite bookstores will be in on the party with special sales, activities and prizes.

Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh has long been my book haven. I haven’t found anything like it out here in the Sacramento area yet, though I have visited some great independent bookstores in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I’m still a member at Quail Ridge and am looking forward to their Readers’ Club Sale this weekend. And even though I can’t attend their Independent Bookstore Day party in person, I know it’ll be great. Maybe some of my Raleigh friends reading this will go celebrate for me?

In super exciting news, Quail Ridge contacted me last week to tell me they’ll sell my book on consignment. Yay! … That pause was so I could do another happy dance. For now, they’ll only carry a copy or two, and so if you want one, give them a call first. I’ll replenish their stock as they request.

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This is the perfect weekend to pick up a copy of the book. Not only will you be supporting a great bookstore and supporting me, you’ll also get a discount through their semi-annual Readers’ Club Sale, May 1-4. If you’re not a member, it’s easy and inexpensive to join (free if you’re an educator or senior citizen).

On a side note, any independent bookstore in the country should be able to order a copy of my book for you. They’re happy to place orders, and I’d be happy to send you a small token of my appreciation if you buy my book from an indie bookstore. Simply email me a photo of the receipt along with your name and mailing address, and I’ll pop a little gift in the mail to you.

Whether you’re a novice or a regular when it comes to indy bookstores, there are great reasons to support your local stores. And here are some great tips I found over at Book Riot for getting the most benefit from your local independent bookstore.

To give credit where credit is due, this whole event stemmed from California Bookstore Day and has expanded out across the country. Yay, California! In case you’re not in California or near Quail Ridge Books, here’s a handy map so you can find your closest independent bookstore for the party on Saturday. What books will you buy as part of the celebration?

Little Free Libraries and building community

When my husband and I came to California to house hunt, we had two days to look at 16 houses. One of the moments that stands out in my mind is passing by a Little Free Library on a street near one of the houses for sale. I got really excited, and I’m pretty sure my enthusiasm surprised both my husband and our agent. Any neighborhood that had a Little Free Library was more than all right with me.

Not familiar with the Little Free Library movement? Its basic premise is to share books within a community. People build a box to hold books, put it in their yard, and then their neighbors start sharing books. I love this!

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Exchanging books: The point of a Little Free Library

On Friday my husband reminded me of that Little Free Library by sending me an article about some small-minded folks who are hassling the owner of a Little Free Library. I read the article and immediately wanted to start building a Little Free Library of my own to stake in the front yard. Of course, I’d have to check with the homeowners’ association first (I recognize the irony). And, more to the point, I have no wood-working skills. So there went that idea.

My temper cooled when I skimmed the article’s comments, something I don’t normally do because, well … trolls. As I scrolled down, I saw a long comment from the director of marketing for Little Free Libraries. She asserted that most of these little neighborhood gems are not in trouble and pointed out the complexities of the specific (unofficial) library in question.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention in our own communities about how Little Free Libraries flourish, or stir up trouble, or bring neighbors together or bring out the trolls. We should know, and we should celebrate Little Free Libraries’ successes. If you read the first paragraph or two of the CityLab article, you’ll see why Little Free Libraries deserve positive attention and why they deserve our protection. They play a small part in creating community.

Little Free Libraries play a small part in creating community.

So to celebrate Little Free Libraries and get to know my way around my new community a little better, I drove around in search of Little Free Libraries near me. There’s a handy map of them all over the world, and I used the map and its more complete appendix to plan the places I would visit. The tour gave me a fun reason to learn my way around roads I might not otherwise ever see.

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Someone took a lot of care on the shingles for this cute Little Free Library

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A wide collection of reading material, but I was sad there weren’t any children’s books here.

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A happy yellow Little Free Library, this one with an asphalt shingled roof

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Yay for children’s books (especially Star Wars) and for adult lit books such as Toni Morrison’s Paradise, one of my favorite reads from last year

My favorite Little Free Library of the trip was this one for its whimsical decorations:

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Someone(s) must have had a lot of fun decorating this one.

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Not just books for adults and kids, but crayons and toys, too, along with a log book and a note pleading for the return of log book #1. Not cool, log book thief, not cool.

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I love that the octopus is reading two books at a time, both “classics.”

I encourage you to look at the map for Little Free Libraries to find some near you. Don’t have one? Consider building your own. What books would you most like to share in a Little Free Library?

Speaking of free books, Saturday is the last day to enter for your chance to win a free copy of The Flourishing Tree on Goodreads. I also need to figure out what to do with some copies of the book that arrived damaged—maybe add them to Little Free Libraries? What do you think?