Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: books Page 1 of 13

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America book cover on a Joshua Tree background.
Took advantage of that beautiful desert sunrise light this morning!

Oooooohh…Nazi story! I’m always ready for Nazi stories, mostly because my boys are big WWII history buffs and it gives me something to say, “Hey guys! Look at this!” or “Is this true?” They know everything.

The Plot Against America is an alternative history, so it will be extra fun. I’m hoping it’s not one of those stories about how if we had just done this one thing differently, everything would have been so much better. Or a story about why it was right to get involved and save the day like we did because the U.S. was so completely innocent and anti-Nazi party right from the start.

History looks so simple from the present. We can look back at the moves that were made with the information that we have right now and think we could have done it better or worse. But the truth is that we can’t possibly know. There are just too many variables. The results of each choice change the next group of choices in ways we can’t predict.

I picked up the book, started to read the back cover, as usually do only to be reminded of the The Man in the High Castle. I loved that show, but I don’t think this book will be all crazy sci-fi. It sounds like it might be more politically based. What would have happened if we had a different president and didn’t join the Allies to fight against Hitler?

This is another book picked out from the great book redistribution event last year. I didn’t know anything about it other than what’s on the cover. A quick internet search as revealed that it was made into an HBO mini-series last year…that I’ve never heard of. So much to watch that never comes across my Netflix “suggested for you” feed.

And so many apparently famous authors that I’ve never heard of! I was just reading about Philip Roth and found a “scathing” biography about him. It sounds damn racy and I’m thinking of adding that to my wishlist. I think I’ll read this book first though. If I like it, I’ll read another one by him and then the biography.

Have you read The Plot Against America? Did you know about the mini-series or Philip Roth? Am I just that clueless, or are there just so many things to know about that it’s inevitable that many things fall through the cracks of awareness?

Go over and get the book at Thriftbooks.com if you want to read it with me and tell me what you think!

Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 2 of 2

And here it is! (drum roll) The much anticipated Part 2 of 2. It’s for your own protection really. I had posted it all at once yesterday, the lord only knows what would have happened. As you may recall, I posted about “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” back at the beginning of March when I started reading it and posted my immediate thoughts about the book on my Goodreads account and in my (now weekly) newsletter. I hope you’ll go read those!

Surely You're Joking book cover on the couch.

Don’t forget to go back and read Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 1 of 2!

“In any thinking process there are moments when everything is going good and you’ve got wonderful ideas. Teaching is an interruption, so it’s the greatest pain in the neck in the world. And then there are the longer periods of time when not much is coming to you. You’re not getting any ideas, and if you’re doing nothing at all, it drives you nuts! You can’t even say ‘I’m teach my class.’”

This reminded me of all the things that writers (or any artist really) do all their lives. We always tell ourselves, “If I had no distractions, I’d get so much more done!” But we wouldn’t. Sometimes the distractions are just the time filler between bursts of brilliance. They can also be excuses to the masses why you haven’t produced anything lately.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Words to live by.

“…they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized.”

Speaking of engineering school in Brazil. I could write a whole post on this from an “unschoolers” perspective. This is what K-12 schools in the U.S. have perfected these days. They can pass a test, regurgitate facts, but have no solid knowledge of what they are studying. They don’t understand how history, literature, religion, and science are all related. That’s how I graduated high school with honors, standing on the stage thinking, “We’re screwed if I’m one of the smarter people here because I have no idea what I’m doing. I just followed the directions and got an A on the test.”

“That night when he came home from work, he was depressed. She finally got it out of him: He thought it would be nice to buy her that picture (at a museum they had visited earlier), but when he went back to the exhibit, he was told that the picture had already been sold. So she had it to surprise him with on his birthday.

What I got out of that story was something still very new to me: I understood at last what art is really for, at least in certain respects. It gives somebody, individually, pleasure. You can make something that somebody likes so much that they’re depressed, or they’re happy, on account of that damn thing you made! In science, it’s sort of general and large: You don’t know the individuals who have appreciated it directly.”

Reminds me of something Sheldon would say on the Big Bang Theory!

“…pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing peoples as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND”

Also sounds like a Sheldon quote, but I agree.

“But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you’ll see the reading scores keep going down – hardly going up – in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There’s a witch doctor remedy that doesn’t work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress – lots of theory, but no progress – in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.”

I have no commentary on this other than, “Yeah, dammit.”

“If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing – and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.”

What a concept! What if we lived in a world where you couldn’t vote to force people to do or pay for things you believe are beneficial? Instead, you had to present them with the facts in ways they can grasp and use, and then step back and allow people to make their own decisions…like say…vaccinations, health habits, and social issues.

The end and NEXT!

If you’d like to get a copy of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” and read it for yourself, check out Thriftbooks.com. Used books, free shipping, and points to redeem toward free books?! Yes, please! It’s a wonderful book, highly entertaining and left met thinking a little better about these weird physicists types.

Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 1 of 2

In the interest of playing “catch-up” this month and the hopes of writing more than just commentary on the books I’m reading, I’m continuing on course with another (sort of) short and sweet wrap up of my favorite quotes from a recent read. I posted about “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” back at the beginning of March when I started reading it and posted my immediate thoughts about the book on my Goodreads account and in my (now weekly) newsletter. I hope you’ll go read those!

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman book cover on the couch.

“He got me other jobs, and kept telling everybody what a tremendous genius I was, saying, ‘He fixes radios by thinking!’ The whole idea of thinking, to fix a radio – a little boy stops and thinks, and figures out how to do it – he never thought that was possible.”

During the depression he fixed radios, among other things, like they were puzzles to be solved. He learned by doing. It reminded me of my husband and sons.

“We had to write a number of themes. For instance, Mill had written something on liberty, and we had to criticize it. But instead of addressing myself to political liberty, as Mill did, I wrote about liberty in social occasions – the problem of having to fake or lie in order to be polite, and does the perpetual game of faking in social situations lead to the “destruction of the moral fiber of society.” An interesting question, but not the one we were supposed to discuss.”

A physicist in an English or History class…also reminded me of my son and my Dad. He probably would have read that essay with great interest.

“…Slater was right to warn me to go to another school for my graduate work. And I often advise my students the same way. Learn what the rest of the world is like. The variety is worthwhile.”

I liked “the rest of the world.” Well, at least he’d know what a little more of the world was like. For some of us, comfort and familiarity is key, but to grow beyond the pot your planted in, you have to be shaken out and transplanted. It is hard to volunteer for. And then there are people that crave it! Weirdos!

“What I had intended to do was to find out whether they thought theoretical constructs were essential objects. The electron is a theory that we use; it is so useful in understanding the way nature works that we can almost call it real. I wanted to make the idea o a theory clear by analogy. In the case of the brick, my next question was going to be, “What about the inside of the brick?” – and I would then point out that no one has ever seen the inside of a brick, you only see a surface. That the brick has an inside is a simple theory which helps us understand things better. The theory of electrons is analogous.”

This was part was a source of contention around here. I explained it separately to my three men. My husband and my oldest son both blew me off. “That’s ridiculous!” My younger son and I had a deep philosophical conversation through text for days. Sides were taken, lines drawn. Fascinating.

I think they miss the point of the analogy. Yes, we do know what the inside of a brick looks like essentially. But the point is to think about other things and how we look at them, in order to be sure we haven’t missed anything. It’s a thought exercise. They say it’s pointless. I know most people would agree.

“What is not really appreciated by most people is that they’re perpetually locking themselves in with locks everywhere, and it’s not very hard to pick them.”

He was talking about his “safe-cracking” stunt, where he could do it sometimes but most times he got a clue and then followed the trail to open it. People didn’t realize what he was doing. But it’s a cool analogy for humanity. You think you’re locked in but if you relax, take a look around, find clues, you’ll find that you aren’t.

This wrap up ended up being WAY too long for a single post, so you’ll find the rest of my comments tomorrow in Part Two. Stay tuned!

If you’d like to get a copy of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” and read it for yourself, check out Thriftbooks.com. Used books, free shipping, and points to redeem toward free books?! Yes, please! It’s a wonderful book, highly entertaining and left met thinking a little better about these weird physicists types.

Three Personal Favorite Awkward Disneyland Miscommunications

Everyone that knows me will tell you that I’ll jump on any opportunity to share my stories from the years I worked at Disneyland when I was in high school and college. This scene The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson made me smile and start to reminisce. Strange to think this story is from a park very much like mine, Elias Disney did work there, and 100 years before I was donning a costume and facing the crowds. Some things never change!

“The fair was so big, so beyond grasp, that the Columbian Guards found themselves hammered with questions. It was a disease, rhetorical smallpox, and every visitor exhibited it in some degree. The Guards answered the same questions over and over, and the questions came fast, often with an accusatory edge. Some questions were just odd.

‘In which building is the pope?’ one woman asked. She was overheard by writer Teresa Dean, who wrote a daily column from the fair.

‘The pope is not here, madame,’ the guard said.

‘Where is he?’

‘In Italy, Europe, madame.’

The woman frowned. ‘Which way is that?’

Convinced now that the woman was joking, the guard cheerfully quipped, ‘Three blocks under the lagoon.’

She said, ‘How do I get there?’”

The devil in the white city by Erik larson

And now I present to you, brought up from the deep well of my teenage memory banks, a few of my favorite interactions with guests during my time at Disneyland: Tomorrowland in the early 90s.

Scene One:

Disneyland Captain EO 1990

Imagine, if you will, a turnstile and podium, a young girl smilingly holding a pair of pale purple 3D glasses toward a park guest, filled with enthusiasm as they approach. He looks at her, looks past her, looks to both sides of her, and then asks:

“What time is the next show?”

This may have been nearly the thousandth time she has heard this question today. Her youth and experience have caused her to become impatient with this guest. Without missing a beat or a ghost of a frown, she looks up at the tv screen above her head, reads the countdown clock, and returns, “Twelve Minutes.”

The guest, more aware than most, laughs at himself. “Duh! I missed it!” Sheepishly takes the proffered glasses and enters with three young children in tow.

Scene Two:

Disneyland Tomorrowland 1990

I walk the slow-moving circular path that continually rolls beneath me. The cars, connecting with the turntable on their return, open their doors and the peaceful guests, disgorged, move toward the exit stairs and disappear below.

The same cars continue around the turntable to pick up more guests for the next trip around Tomorrowland’s attractions. The guests climbing the stairs, step onto the moving floor, walk towards the open doors and climb inside…usually.

Sometimes they wait. They wait at the step-off for the floor to stop for them. Some stand on one foot and carefully step forward with the other, and when they step down forget to lift the foot they were standing on and are slowly, very slowly, pulled into a split. Still others have no problem leaving the platform for the moving floor. They walk to the car waiting with the open doors and then wait for the car to stop so they can get in.

Throughout the day, I hear quippy things like, “I bet you get your exercise every day!” And my very favorite, “How fast does this ride go?” As if they haven’t watched it trundle by all over Tomorrowland, or for the past ten minutes as they waited in line to board. Occasionally, I can’t help but smile and respond, “I keep telling them to add seatbelts. We lose people every day” as I point to the empty cars returning from the track.

Scene Three:

Space Mountain. Winter 1991. I’m standing at the bottom of the ramp that takes the guests up to the concourse area to continue their wait until launch time. This is my favorite position, to be totally honest. It’s the most relaxed and I get the chance to talk to more people. We chat about their day, answer questions, and make jokes. Most questions are about the wait and what kind of a ride it is. Since I’m in an easily accessed space, surrounded by guests either entering the cue or walking toward another, I get other questions like, “Where is?” and “What time?” Those are understandable.

Sometimes guests ask if I like my job, and if I have fun while I work. The answer is yes, always. I loved that job. I’d waited impatiently until the day I turned 16, so I could get a driver’s license. The moment I was able, I drove my little ’79 Datsun 210 down Ball Road, turned left at Harbor Blvd., and right into the employee parking lot. I marched straight into the (then) Admin building, picked up an application and filled it out on the umbrella covered picnic tables out front, and returning it immediately.

I still remember my first interview. I remember the cast member dismissing the other two candidates, and, once we were alone, asking me where I wanted to work. I know…it sounds corny, and I took a lot of crap for it over the years about how much I loved that job and Disneyland. I cannot lie. It was all I ever wanted as a kid and, as far as I was concerned, the day I put the parking lot sticker on my car, I was home. Nothing else mattered. I had arrived!

I cannot remember a bad day at work in Disneyland, ever. If circumstances had not changed things, I would have continued working right there for the rest of my life, completely happy. Things happened, life changed, and it was still good, probably even better than I could ever have planned, but I still get nostalgic and wonder what that life would have been like. Time machine, please! Or at least the ability to explore other timelines! But I digress!

Where were we before I became transported?

Oh, yes! BOTR (bottom of the ramp) Space Mountain!

Yours truly in my Disneyland Space Mountain costume.

Bundled up in a coat, scarf, and two pairs of gloves in the plummeting temperatures, nearly 60 degrees, like only a California native can, the evening wears on. The crowds aren’t so crazy as they are in summer, but something about a Saturday evening draws more people out and the queue up the ramp to the concourse is a steady stream of happy guests.

A co-hostess has come to send me on to the next position in the rotation, indoor time! I was just about getting a chill! I’m chatting away for a moment before I go when a gentleman taps me on the shoulder to get my attention. I turn and smile as he asks, “When to the fireworks start?”

Without hesitation I reply, “Around Memorial Day weekend!”

His face drops into a frown as he throws back, “Oh, very funny smart ass.” And walks away.

Some of you reading this won’t understand for a couple of reasons. Depending on your age, or if you’ve never been to the park, you don’t remember a time when Disneyland did not run a nightly fireworks display over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle every night of the year. Here’s where I come in with the cliché, “When I was a kid…!” remark, but it’s true. I swear.

When I was kid the fireworks at Disneyland only ran during the summer months, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It was a special event, reserved for that high point of any park’s year, the summer tourist months when the park was open late every night and was packed full of families on the biggest vacation of their lives.

When the guest asked “When?”, I assumed he meant what time of year, honestly! I felt terrible that I had misunderstood, to make things worse he walked away so quickly that I couldn’t explain. But therein lies the trouble with the English language, right? To be more precise he should have asked, “What time do the fireworks start?” But “when” would have worked just as well, if it had been the time of year when there are fireworks.

What’s funny to me is that I’ve spent thirty years holding on to that story. It was funny to me, the misunderstanding, but that poor man thought I was being rude and trying to make him look stupid. I felt bad. That’s a testament to how much I value people’s (even complete strangers) opinions of me and my behavior, but that’s blog post of another color.

I have a lot more stories about Disneyland, just ask my friends and family. They’ve heard them all, probably a multitude of times. I love telling my Disneyland stories. I’m not ashamed. I wait eagerly for when I have new people to tell, maybe I get to see my future grandchildren roll their eyes and make excuses to escape as I re-tell of the glory days. But for now, this blog and you, my dear readers, will have to be my outlet.

Thanks for reading, watch your step as you exit the open doors on your right, and enjoy the rest of your day at the Tragic, I mean, Magic Kingdom!

Feeling Nostalgic in a Good Way: Wait For It

I’ve been feeling nostalgic this morning and I had the most wonderful idea about what to write about! I’ve been excitedly working on it, but it isn’t finished and I have unfortunately run out of time.

Feeling nostalgic about where it all began today.

I’ll keep working on it and polishing it over the weekend in the hopes of getting it to you on Monday afternoon, or possibly Tuesday. I just don’t want to rush it. It’s too precious.

While reading “The Devil in the White City” this morning, I came across a few lines that triggered some of the most beautiful memories for me.

“The fair was so big, so beyond grasp, that the Columbian Guards found themselves hammered with questions. It was a disease, rhetorical smallpox, and every visitor exhibited it in some degree. The Guards answered the same questions over and over, and the questions came fast, often with an accusatory edge. Some questions were just odd.
‘In which building is the pope?’ one woman asked. She was overheard by writer Teresa Dean, who wrote a daily column from the fair.
‘The pope is not here, madame,’ the guard said.
‘Where is he?’
‘In Italy, Europe, madame.’
The woman frowned. ‘Which way is that?’
Convinced now that the woman was joking, the guard cheerfully quipped, ‘Three blocks under the lagoon.’
She said, ‘How do I get there?’”

The Devil in the white city by erik larson

I shut the book right there and started writing. My whole morning was lost to memories of my teenage years, a good amount of nostalgic tears, and a conversation with my son and a friend, in which I made them cry too, but I believe I’m on to a pretty nice post to share with you all next week.

I hope you’ll bear with me and wait. My reading and writing time is up for today and I must attend to my housekeeping and social duties.

See you soon, I promise!

The picture above and this post, Old Posts Make Me Smile, will give you a clue as to where I am in my mind today.

“In The Beginning” by Alister McGrath

I picked up “In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture” by Alister McGrath off the TBR pile this morning and I’m already loving it…as usual.

I love Christian church history, and this looks like it’s going to be far more than I thought it was going to be. I’ve always been curious about Christian history, as in, “How in the world did we get where we are?!” But it’s a complicated topic in that there is a lot of bias in how it is presented to the world.

When I read something written by a non-Christian, I get the sense of hostility and contempt. As if they are only writing the book to disprove the religion’s stances on life. Or there is the feeling of, “Oh those poor dumb people that believe it this shit.” It’s a turn off. I’d like a book written with respect if not reverence and belief.

When I read something by an actively believing Christian, there’s a lot of glossing over the subject. Depending on the author’s sect, they steer the narrative around certain pieces and towards proselytizing instead of informing and educating. This is also a turn off because I’m really curious about the actual history, not the spiritual significance.

Here is the thing. I believe that there is something bigger than us and that “god” is bigger than any book written by humans. I don’t believe we (humans) need to change the message for the listener. I don’t believe we need to hide certain aspects until people are ready to hear them. I don’t believe that humans can mess up god’s will toward others.

If it is real, then it will get to us how it gets to us, and I firmly believe that it gets to us in many different ways, tailored for each and every one of us in our own language and time. It’s a personal journey, not fit for anyone else in this realm of consciousness.

Which leads me to this question. Why bother speaking/writing about it? Why bother discussing it at all? Because that is how humans work. It’s how we discover and learn. It’s how we were created. And, in my opinion, how “god” speaks to us.

I’m really looking forward to reading this! Have you read “In the Beginning” by Alister McGrath? If you want to read it, run over to Thriftbooks and get it. We can chat about it later!

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 2 of 2

When last we met, I was spiraling into the depths of a natural world filled with violence and chaos. If you haven’t read it yet, pop back to “Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World?” and take a look.

Shall we continue?

“What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community – regulate compromise – improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down. By common agreement of course, so the fiction goes. And they do that pretty well. We’ll give them that.”

That is exactly what your kingdom, I mean, our nation’s government is doing right now. It’s also very much why I am leaning towards peaceful and non-violent anarchy. Live and let live.

“Rewards to people who fit the System best, you know. King’s immediate thanes, the thanes’ top servants, and so on till you come to the people who don’t fit at all. No problem. Drive them to the darkest corners of the kingdom, starve them, throw them in jail or put them out to war.”

This reminds me of my social media feed and tv news. Comply with what those in power wish or suffer the consequences.

“What is the state in a time of domestic or foreign crisis? What is the state when the chips are down? The answer is obvious and clear! Oh yes! If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence. Revolution, my dear prince, is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.”

Public force and coercive repression, the cornerstone of any central government. When you pass a law by vote, you’re asking a separate group of people to use deadly force against those who do not comply. You may think it is best, but when people get held down, beat up, and shot by police for not stopping to receive the punishment for breaking that law, are you ok with that? When the police stop a teenage boy for not wearing a seatbelt, and for whatever reason they feel threatened and shoot him, that is the result of your law. When someone doesn’t pay the appropriate taxes and the government comes and takes everything they have, puts their family on the street, and takes that person to jail, that is a result of your law. When someone buys a drug and sits in their own livingroom alone to use it and relax, and the cops bust in to drag him to a box…I could go on and on but I’m digressing.

Bottom line is that when you vote for a law to be put in the books, you are authorizing violence on another in your name.

“Who says I have to defend myself? I am a machine, like you. Like all of you. Blood-lust and rage are my character. Why does the lion not wisely settle down and be a horse?”

Stop hating! Stop doing drugs! Stop … whatever. Geez! Let people be who they are and choose whether or not you want to associate with them. You know a lion by his look. You allow him to live his own way, in his own space. And you avoid running into him as prey. How about we do the same with other humans?

“Tedium is the worst pain. The mind lays out the world in blocks, and the hushed blood waits for revenge. All order, I’ve come to understand, is theoretical, unreal – a harmless, sensible, smiling mask men slide between the two great, dark realities, the self and the world – two snake-pits.”

I know, it’s all pretty dark and I had a bit of fun wallowing around in it today. I hope I didn’t terrify you. I do get a tad worked up though, especially lately. I’m feeling frustrated and lonely in this world. It seems everyone around me wants so desperately to live inside a fantasy world.

Nature’s reality can be terrifying and cruel, but we humans have a special gift, creativity. We can use it to recognize the world around us and attempt to do better for ourselves, or we can create a little bubble in our minds and live there as long as we can. That is until the bubble is burst and the world’s violence comes flooding in.

Me? I prefer to be aware of the real danger in this world and adjust my own behavior, take my own calculated risks based on my own experience (and the advice from trusted professionals), and allow everyone else to do the same.

I like Grendel. He’s a mean, nasty, violent dude. He has no remorse for who he is. He makes it very clear what he is and what he’ll do. It’s on you to be bigger and stronger than him or respect his boundaries and let him be.

Here’s something interesting I just found; this book is on the Banned Library site. Over the years it has been banned at several schools for being “anti-christian, anti-moral, and violent” and “profane.” Makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 1 of 2

The following post, my notes on book, Grendel by John Gardner, is my first two-parter, so bear with me. There was just too much in this book for one post to contain!

Grendel quote on a desert background.

I’ll tell you what…going through this book and pulling out the quotes that still resonate with me one month after reading was a downer. I started this day with so much hope and joy and then in crashes Grendel…that beast!

At first, I didn’t understand the point of this book, other than a view from another character’s perspective. Then a few weeks later I was listening to the Isaac Morehouse podcast and heard someone (and I’m really sorry but I can’t remember what interview it was) say that the story of Beowulf was showing how humans had fought their way out of chaos and how they had to keep defending civilization from collapsing back into it. That chaos was in the form of Grendel coming each night to kill warriors.

That was when the meaning of the book I read come flooding in on me. Grendel in John Gardner’s book was not chaos, he was simply another part of nature, and he was angry watching mankind kill and destroy its way through the world, just as he did, yet not take responsibility for its actions. Humans sat there in their great halls, pretending that they were better than nature, that they had risen above violence, and yet used it against each other in the most horrific and manipulative ways.

Grendel (nature) is unapologetically violent. He doesn’t hide it or pretend there are good reasons for killing and destroying things. He just is what he is. It is not his job to change his nature, but for others to be aware of him and avoid him if they can.

This is a feeling I’ve had myself. I want to know right out front how the people around me feel about certain things. I don’t want them to blend in. I want them to stand loud and proud. That way I can take full responsibility to avoid or move towards those people, to choose whether I can band together with them or pass them by and leave them to their lives the way they see fit.

I enjoyed reading Grendel’s perspective. He’s open and honestly murderous. He doesn’t hold it against others when they avoid or best him. He is who he is and I can respect that, although I’d rather not live next door to him.

The following are some of my favorite quotes from the book and a few of my thoughts on each. Ever since this morning, when I opened the book and flipped through to copy down my notes here, I’ve had some of these rolling around in my head.


“That is their happiness: they see all life without observing it. They’re buried in it like crabs in mud. Except men, of course.”

Animals, nature…they don’t attempt to change the course of things other than to stay alive and procreate as best they can. They’re just in the world. Us humans, we can use our creative brains to manipulate the world, for better or worse.

“Stars, spattered out through lifeless night from end to end, like jewels scattered in a dead king’s grave, tease, torment my wits toward meaningful patterns that do not exist.”

The human mind is geared to see and recognize patterns, even where there are none. We create a mythology about whatever we don’t understand and make meaning when we can’t discover one.

“I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears.”

It still is and always will be. It sounds so damn depressing. Sometimes I want to believe in a fairy tale, but something about harsh reality is so…I don’t know. Maybe it’s like a train wreck. We want to look away and not know but our eyes refuse to obey.

“Hrothgar, who’d begun hardly stronger than the others, began to outstrip the rest. He’d worked out a theory about what fighting was for, and now he no longer fought with his six closest neighbors. He’d shown them the strength of his organization, and now, instead of making war on them, he sent men to them every three months or so, with heavy wagons and back-slings, to gather their tribute to his greatness.”

This is one of the things the Grendel hates most and something we continue to allow “government” to do in our collective names all over the world.

“They sense that, of course, from time to time; have uneasy feelings that all they live by is nonsense.

That’s where the Shaper saves them. Provides an illusion of reality – puts together all their facts with a gluey whine of connectedness.”

Mythology in a nutshell. Hey! Let me out! How did I get in here?!

“Except in the life of a hero, the whole world’s meaningless. The hero sees values beyond what is possible. That’s the nature of a hero. It kills him, of course, ultimately. But it makes the whole struggle of humanity worthwhile.” I nodded in the darkness. “And breaks up the boredom,” I said.

Each of us is hero in our own little corner of the universe, right? But we’re just doing what makes us happy and content, easing our own or other’s suffering. We wouldn’t do it if it didn’t serve us somehow in the world that we live in. It sounds so ugly, I know, but it’s honest. It’s also why we create and watch superhero movies!

“Shall I call the tree tyrannical, since where it stands nothing survives but itself and its high-borne guests? Condemn it because it sends down stifling darkness, sucks the life from grass, and whitens the sapling leaf for trifling, fluttering friends?”

Those damn trees! Everything in nature strives to stay alive and procreate, including humans. And there are ALL kinds of humans. Some are more aggressive than others, some live well in groups, some…don’t. Know each kind, respect their right to be here and create your own boundaries to thrive.


There’s more coming tomorrow! Aren’t you excited?! I know, it’s a harsh one, but we only know the highs if we accept and trudge through the lows, right? I wrote about this book when I started reading it back in March. Click back to Grendel by John Gardner to read it!

New Read: The Devil in the White City

What made me pull The Devil in the White City out of the great book collection giveaway last December? I’ll make a list!

The Devil in the White City book cover on a desert background.
  • “Devil”
  • Scary cover
  • History
  • “Murder, Magic, and Madness”

What’s not to love?! History in story form is one of favorite genres and apparently, it’s everyone else’s too, judging by the shows popping up all over Netflix!

I don’t know anything about the book other than its intriguing cover and I can’t wait to read it this week!

Holy…ok, I just jumped over to the interwebs and did a quick search…in my mind I was thinking, “I wonder if they’ll make a movie of this.” And then BAM! There it is! Freakin’ Leonardo DiCaprio…swoons…and Martin Scorsese?!

I just lost my mind. We just finished watching Shutter Island (shout out to my awesome son for recommending it). We both were floored…what’s this? A real movie? With a plot? And dialog? Oh, my heart. You need to go watch it! And this book looks like it will be along the same lines, a great story based in history with deep characters.

…breathes deeply…

It looks like the movie hasn’t been released yet and now I’m worried that a movie that I didn’t know was being made, about a book I haven’t read yet or even knew existed until just now, won’t be released and I’ll have missed out! That is my mind, my friends. It’s always a fun ride in here.

At least I already have the book in my hot little hands!

Well, this should be fun and now I have another movie to look forward to (hopefully, looking anxious)! April is looking to be a SWEET month!

Have you read The Devil in the White City? Do you want to read it with me? Run over to Thriftbooks and get your copy. Let me know what you think in the comments below!


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Looking For Inspiration for Writing Your Story?

If you’re in need of some inspiration for writing your story, this is the book you need to get. You can’t have my copy though because it’s riddled with notes, from pieces underlined to exclamations of joy. From the very start I felt a connection with the author, like a fantasy story where the book knows whose hands it needs to be in and finds its way there.

Inspiration for Writing in the form of a book. Wild Mind cover on a pile of blankets.

It’s been a month since I finished reading it and as I flipped through the pages looking for a good quote to riff off of, I realized that the magic I felt while reading it had already begun to fade from my memory. How can that be?! I remember thinking that I should go back and do many of the “Try this!” sections of the book, but never did. I had begun to incorporate them into my daily writing routine. And then life, I suppose.

No worries though. I plan on keeping this one out on my desk, not hidden in the bookshelf, to flip through when I need encouragement and inspiration.

The following are a few of my favorite quotes and some words of my own in response.

“Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning. We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It’s like drinking water; we don’t drink a glass once and never have to drink one again. Over and over, we begin. This is good. This is kindness. We don’t forget our roots.”

As the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” Writing, like most of life, is a long series of restarts. Each time through, if we’re paying attention, we learn something new and build on it. It’s a slow spiral up and then then we die. Hopefully we get the chance to share what we’ve learned with others before we go.

“When you write a memory, it isn’t in the past anyway. It’s alive right now.”

I have found this to be especially true when I was writing the memoir of my arrest, among other stories. It’s like I’m there, reliving it all in my mind. It hurt and it was terrifying at time, but the wonderous thing is that, as I write, I’m separate from the event while I’m reliving it. This time I get the chance to slow down and speed up the moment. That’s when I get to process and reflect on it, makes sense of it or choose to let it be. Then the pain of reliving it has a meaning and purpose.

“Katagiri Roshi said in his book Returning to Silence (Shambhala, 1988) that it is not important whether a spiritual teacher has reached the peak or not; what is important is how he has digested the truth he has experienced and how much this truth is manifested in the teacher’s life moment by moment. This is true in writing, too.”

And now I need THAT book (clicks over to Thriftbooks and adds it to the wishlist). The feeling behind imposter syndrome is just this. We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to be completely with it and composed. We only need to have the beginnings of knowing ourselves and the drive and courage to be open and honest. We’re not leaders or gurus. We’re just people sharing our experiences with others.

“It is the nature of a human being, like having a heartbeat and a breath. Thoughts really happen involuntarily. …the brain continues to have thoughts whether we will them or not.”

Oh, those pesky thoughts. Reminds me of how detestable the idea of a “thought crime” in Orwell’s 1984 is. Contrary to popular belief, thoughts, like feelings, are involuntary. Once we are aware of that, we can hold them and examine them to see if they are correct or useful. First we hold a thought out in the light, put our glasses on, then we can decide what we want to do with it.

“Writing is elemental. Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water. Water is in your blood. You can’t go without it.”

I’ve tried giving this up, really. Even when I’m at my lowest, laying on the floor in my livingroom, crying to my husband that “No one in the whole world is reading this! And even if there is, they are probably only reading it as an example of mediocrity!” I still get up the next day and start typing…or scribbling in my notebook. I’ll set it aside for a few days, but then I get hungry and begin again. I have to breathe.

“Writing is the act of discovery. If I knew everything ahead of time, why bother writing?”

It’s lines like this that made me smile. I’m not alone. I just start typing and sometimes she comes out to play.

“I am my own mind. I claim my thoughts. My mouth and the words I say with it are mine and no one can take that away. I can’t write like Dostoyevski or Henry Miller. I write like myself.”

If you sat with me over a cup of coffee, you’d hear the same words you read here. Maybe if you heard me talking with people at a party, you’d recognize me.

“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”

I’m not a “let it go and see what happens” kind of girl, but the older I get, the more I allow it, and the more I wish I had started earlier.

“My writing self is braver than the rest of me. I follower her, trust her, but I know my human self, the part of me that is not a warrior of truth and words, lags behind me.”

Have you ever been in a conversation and then hours afterwards thought, “Dammit! I wish I had thought of that to say!”? That is her. She hides from view, taking notes, thinking of all the witty, clever, and brilliant things to say, but she’s too shy to make herself known face to face. She’ll save those words for later and write them instead. She also comes out of hiding when triggered to respond to social media posts and the sincerely regrets she has fingers to type with.

“You’ll lose your reader if you are vague, not clear, and not present. We love details, personal connections, stories.”

You can probably tell when I’m hiding behind euphemisms and creating characters to say what I want to say. There are things I want to reveal, pieces of me that I’d love to set free, but fear gets in the way. Who will it hurt if I do? What if I’m ridiculed for my beliefs? What if I’m wrong?! Our need to get along and fit in is strong, but we can be stronger..

“We are great warriors facing the barriers of truth. We are digesting experience for society.”

That’s the beauty of creative nonfiction. For what it’s worth, we write our experience so that everyone around us can share in it. It’s why I enjoy reading it, as well. Your story is now part of my experience.

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.

All writers have a natural bent toward laziness. That is good. Utilize it. The couch is a good place. Lie there for a whole day in the middle of everything. It is like waiting for vinegar to settle after you shake it up with oil.”

The perfect ending. An excuse for why I spend just about every morning reading and writing, looking out the window, going for a walk, quietly cleaning my house. I’ve only begun to completely relax into it, to let it roll by while I watch. Little by little, I’ve realized that if I run from one thing to the next, if I fill up my days with activities, I miss the joy of life.

And there it is. There was so much more in this little book, but I’ve already shared too much. If you’d like to read my first thoughts on this book, you can find them at my original post, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.

Page 1 of 13

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén