Fridays are more fun with this…

I saw some geese flying over head yesterday as they traveled on their journey down south to warmer climes. I was immediately reminded of this, one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, and then today, I saw it posted by one of my friends on FB:

“You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves. / Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. / Meanwhile the world goes on. / Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain / are moving across the landscapes, / over the prairies and the deep trees, / the mountains and the rivers. / Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, / are heading home again. / Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, / the world offers itself to your imagination, / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— / over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.”

“Wild Geese” – Mary Oliver.


Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 126


Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 126: Dracula teeth. (Nod to Halloween.)


Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day five years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.

All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)


Weekend Review…


Going by the almost record-setting temperatures here in Texas, it’s hard to tell that it’s the middle of October and autumn. It certainly looks like autumn as the tree leaves look a bit tired and are gradually turning shades of brown, but it certainly doesn’t feel like autumn: the temperatures were in the 90s yesterday. Sigh. I’m very ready for the cooler temps to begin. A cooler wave is forecast to arrive later in the week so fingers are crossed.

Another sign of autumn is the sudden onslaught of catalogues that are showing up in the mail box so I’ve been perusing those in amazement. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but still interesting all the same. With the meteoric rise of internet shopping, I was wondering whether people under the age of teenagers still go to the mall but they must as our local mall is undergoing significant renovations so that’s good. I’m not sure where the gangs of prowling teenagers would go on the weekends if this option wasn’t available! (And I’m not judging. If I was a teenager again, I’d be heading to the mall to hang out with my friends because where else would you go, really?)

Two weeks until I go to England – rubs hands with glee. I am psyched to go and get some English put back into my veins and see friends and family. (I’m not expecting 90 degrees over there during our trip!!)

We saw a Halloween-y play last weekend which was fun – “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The troupe of actors did a fine job with a somewhat challenging story line, so glad we went. It’s a tiny theater where the company produces so it’s a bit like going to a private event at times, and even if the play was a *tiny* bit confusing, definitely A for effort for all those involved.

Finished up a Virago read, “Ladies of Lyndon” by Margaret Kennedy. (Post to come.) It was a bit of an uneven read but picked up in the second half when it suddenly became rather funny. Lots of Maggie Smith-type comments from some of the characters which made me snort out loud a bit, but the plot still worked overall. Country house shenanigans from a title family revolving around who should marry who when and what to do if one of your relations is an artist et al. It wasn’t a comfortable cozy read, but it wasn’t the slightly prickly read that Viragos can be as well. No idea where I found this title, but glad I’ve read it.

What next? I’m not sure. I’ve been thinking about which titles will make the cut to travel across the never-ending Atlantic leg of the trip (and then I can leave behind when we come back), and somehow a few more titles ended up in my trolley at the thrift shop yesterday. Not sure how that happened really… :-}

Halloween is around the corner so pulled out the graphic novel version of “Dracula” to read, and then I’m thinking it might be time for a short story collection, an essay collection, or perhaps a collection of other short works. I’ll have to see what flings itself into my hands tonight. Choosing my next title is one of my favorite parts of the reading cycle, so I’m happy to dig through my shelves tonight. I’m also thinking that it might be time for a classic title of some description. Maybe I could balance a classic title with another year in the ongoing Century of Books project? Hmm.

Life is good. We’re heading into my favorite season, and maybe – just maybe – we’ll get below 90 degrees today.🙂

Miles from Nowhere: In Search of the American Frontier – Dayton Duncan (1993)


In the past few years, I’ve become really interested in the history of places (both the place that I live and also those of the places that I visit), and I enjoy learning about the different narratives that make up the more complete picture of a place. So, when I came across this title at one of the FoL book sales, I was intrigued.

I’d also been interested in seeing how many of the titles that I’d purchased at last year’s FoL book sale I’d actually read, and realized how very small and paltry that number was. And — I’ve also started my Fall Book Buying Ban which means making a concerted effort to read more titles from my own bookshelves. I did this last year and it was pretty fun so thought I’d start it up again.

Plus I’m heading to England next month and I can always find some interesting titles over there. Need to get some space freed up in the shelves for those treasures who cross the Atlantic on the home trip.

So, all this to say that reading this particular title was good on several different levels!



This title is one that examines America’s contemporary frontier (as is the “Wild West” frontier). As the publisher writes in the back cover copy: “[T]he sparsely populated American frontier – declared as “closed” by Frederick Jackson Turner a century ago – remains open…” and this book explores the history and current (as in 1993 current) status of “frontier counties” (i.e. counties that have fewer than 2 people per mile population distribution wise). In other states across the U.S. and if you live in a metropolitan area, this stat may sound impossible to have in this day and age, but for a lot of Western counties (a la old cowboy film scenery), it’s very much of a reality.

I live in West Texas (in the Panhandle, really), and the county where I live was one of those frontier counties a few years ago. You may have heard of the saying, “Big Sky Country”, and that is where I live. The topography is pretty flat, you can see for miles, and the sky is huge and uninterrupted across the horizon. I love it here, and miss the view when I visit cities (especially NYC which I love but is also claustrophobic for me after a while). I’ve lived here for quite some time, but there are still some days when the region catches me by surprise (e.g. if I see a working cowboy complete with spurs and hat at the grocery store like I did the other day). When that happens, it’s like seeing a living piece of history and I really appreciate the link to the past.


Driving around the Western states, author Dayton Duncan introduces the reader to some of the people who choose to inhabit these frontier counties. Most of his focus stays on the more typical pioneer states (such as those in Texas, New Mexico and others), but he does include states as far away as Oregon and California since they were the destinations for many of the families who traveled the Overland Trail in their covered wagons and on horseback. (It’s amazing when you sit down and think about it. The pioneers knew that they would probably never go back from where they came – how brave is that especially when one considers the complete lack of information that they were working under!)

As he drives around to meet the folk who live here and cover some of their history, Duncan maintains his respect for the townsfolk without having to resort to stereotype and lazy reportage. As the miles go by, he writes about topics as diverse as the extinction of the buffalo herds and the process of choosing where to put a SuperMax prison facility to the known history of the nation’s First Peoples and Billy the Kid (both the legend and the evidence that’s left). Billy the Kid was a real person, but it varies as to how long he lived, where (and how) he died, and what his legacy may mean. (Actually, the place touted as his burying place is on our way west to the mountains near the Texas/New Mexico border.)

This was published by an academic press, so it wasn’t an easy read (in terms of how dense the material was), but it was really interesting to me. There was a lot of overlap between historical events at the time (slavery and pioneer travel for example), and a lot of the history that Duncan relates was new to me and I found it fascinating.

I’m very glad that I pulled this off the shelves to read, and am now digging around my TBR to see what other little treasures that I can dig up….

September 2016 Reading Review


Looking back, I had a pretty good reading month. Amazing reads with March Volume III and then with A Man’s Search for Meaning, and just some happy reading time. The two books below with no blog posts (Dogs of a Certain Age/Thorne and Something New/Knisley) were also good reads, but for some reason I could not muster the time or energy to put blog posts together about them.

The Dogs book was very *adorable* with its studio portraits of elderly dogs in all their silver jowly splendor. (I am a sucker for older dogs…) And Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel continuing her reports on her life (now married) was really fun and positive (as are most of her books). If you liked Relish or any of her other works, then you’ll like this one in which she gets ready for her wedding (trying to do lots of DIY/Pinterest-influenced things) and how that works out for her. (I think she’s now pregnant and is working on a graphic novel about that whole experience now…)

Only one fiction read (out of the six total books) so that was interesting. I’m really just into facts at the moment (compare with the U. S. Presidential debates with an emphasis on one candidate in particular)…

So – to the books:

I read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):


Total number of books read in August: 6

Total number of pages read: 1,392 pages (av. 232).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 1 fiction / 5 non-fiction (including 2 graphic novels)

Diversity: 1 POC

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 5 library books and 1 owned book. Two ILL and one e-book.

Oh, and the book titles that I brought home from the FoL Library Sale…🙂



The FoL Book Haul…


As promised, here is the haul from the Friends of the Library (FoL) book sale the other day:

  • African-American Fiction 2010 – Nikki Giovanni (editor)
  • Famous American Plays of the 1940’s – Henry Hewes (ed) (plays)
  • Lottery – Patricia Wood (F)
  • Travelers’ Tales: A Women’s World – Mary Beth Bond (ed) (Travel NF)
  • Plan B – Jonathon Tropper (F)
  • Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers – Shyam Selvadurai (ed)
  • Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – Laurence Gonzales
  • Disease: The Extraordinary Stories Behind History’s Deadliest Killers – Mary Dobson

As to which one will make the cut to be the first choice to read, the jury’s still out but I’m thinking the African-American Fiction collection edited by Nikki Giovanni.

A Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl (1946)


“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” — Nietzsche

So, I finally picked up “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy,” Viktor Frankl’s mesmerizing autobiography about his time and thoughts when he was captured as a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, one of the most notorious concentration camps in Germany during WWII. I’d been meaning to get to this for a very long time, but I felt that I needed to psych myself up to read it as I know it was not going to be an easy time. Now I’ve finished it and reflect back on the experience, it was a tough read in both the subject matter and also the philosophical discussion that is in the second half of the book, but it was hard mainly because it was true – that people had treated each other in this manner. What. The…. ?

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was a psychiatrist and neurologist living in Vienna during the 1930’s when Hitler came to power and instigated the horrendous concentration camps that tortured and killed millions of Jewish people at the time. It’s a time that I find incredibly hard to understand as it’s so completely removed from anything that I would choose to do (I hope), that there seems so little overlap between the life I choose to lead and the lives of the people who ran these camps. It’s easy to judge over time and distance, but I hope to god that I would have tried to stop this whole genocide if I’d had the chance, but who’s to know? The human condition is a strange one at times.


Back to the book: it’s basically a book in two parts, the first part detailing the three years of his life (and those of others) when Dr. Frankl was picked up and sent to Auschwitz, and then the second half which is more of a philosophical discussion of how he made sense of the whole ordeal and came up with his school of treatment called logotherapy.

It’s an intense read, and if you’re feeling remotely sorry for yourself when you start to read this, I can almost guarantee that you will have your perspective shifted by the time you finish it. How could one compare the minor trials of life today with the lives of these prisoners who had *nothing*? Literally nothing.

It’s not an easy read, but how could it be when one considers that topic matter? What’s amazing is that anyone survived long enough to walk out of the camps when the final day of freedom arrived. (You’ll need to read Frankl’s description of how some of the prisoners reacted when the gates of the camp were first opened…. It’s incredibly powerful to read.)

So, Frankl discusses his ideas on the meaning of life for himself and others, and concludes that life has meaning to be found in every moment of living and that it never ceases to have meaning, even when one is suffering profoundly. This is the concept of “tragic optimism” — that no matter how terrible life can be, it only ceases to have meaning when there is no hope for change in the future. Once the hope is gone, then life is over – that love is the ultimate and highest goal that (hu)man can aspire to.

To me, the book seems to be about the importance of deriving meaning from suffering – that one suffers only so that you should learn from it to be a better person and if one loses sight of that goal, then one is doomed. If one feels a sense of control over one’s environment, then you will fare better than those who are physically strong but do not have that sense, and the existential angst that people may feel at some point in their lives is due to the lack of personal agency they may feel in their lives.

I’m not sure. It’s hard to write about this clearly without babbling and sinking into a morass of blather, but it seems to me that perhaps the key to a good life is to serve others. If one looks outside oneself to help someone else, therein lies the meaning of life.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.

I urge you to read this for yourself and to draw your own conclusions. My vague personal ones are above, but I think this book is too important for you to try and draw your conclusions from my version of things. It’s a hard book, yes, but it’s an extremely important book and frequently in the top ten lists of influential books for people. It’s an astonishing read. Don’t miss it.


Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 126



Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 126: New potato.

Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day five years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.

All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)