Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First time for everything

Here is a list of the books (from what I can remember) that made up my very first order for the library:

Jesus for president: politics for ordinary radicals, by Shane Claiborne
Apples are from Kazakhstan: the land that disappeared, by Christopher Robbins
The new Christians: dispatches from the emergent frontier, by Tony Jones
Christ plays in ten thousand places: a conversation in spiritual theology, by Eugene Peterson
Human smoke: the beginnings of World War II, the end of civilization, by Nicholson Baker
Nonviolence: 25 lessons from the history of a dangerous idea, by Mark Kurlansky

Free food

Fannie gave us a package of english muffins (minus one). She didn't like them, and since she abhors waste of any kind, she brought them to us.

One of my coworkers said that, normally, she will bring in a loaf of Rainbow bread and offer you a slice ("Just one, mind you!").

Saturday, March 22, 2008

An allowance

I'm spending the library's money, specifically on books on religion, international travel, and world history.

That sounds well and good--but it's rather hard. There's a host of considerations to keep in mind. There's the target population (the county, which is overwhelmingly white, mostly conservative), the mission of the library (to help make responsible, well-informed citizens), the purpose of the collection (to educate, but also to provide leisure reading--this is a public library, not a university library).

So, with all that in mind, I approach the catalogs. Is it any wonder I am overwhelmed?

I've been spending time in the stacks, communing (I can't think of another word, and since the library director used this term, I will too) with my sections. This entails not just staring at the books (though there's plenty of that), but considering the strengths and weaknesses of what the library has, looking for potential gaps, deciding what is outdated and needs to go, deciding what should remain in spite of low circulation counts.

So far, I've determined that the Christianity section has nothing targeted at my age group, that we need some more liberal books to balance out the Lucados. The Buddhism section is strong, though I think the books on Judaism and Islam may need some updating. We have two books on Voodoo, due to a patron request.

Trying to maintain a collection that serves the interests of the library's patrons while at the same time maintaining a balance of materials that cover a broad range of subjects is tricky. This means that the Christianity section will be large in proportion to the Islamic section simply because the majority of library patrons are church-going folk (there isn't a mosque in the county that I'm aware of), but we will devote at least shelf to books on Islam so that people can learn about it if they so desire.

All these considerations...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I am still thinking about Anne Rice's latest book, Christ the Lord: Road to Cana. Its simple prose belies its power. This book sets you quite firmly in the time of Christ: you can feel the dirt of Israel between your toes just as you can feel the keen political tension of a time when the Roman empire covered the known world, and yet above it all is the overwhelming sense of family and community, for the Jews were a powerfully knit people.
In the midst of all this is Yeshua, a quiet and unassuming man whose family and friends watch closely, knowing about his unusual birth and the Magi who gave him a king's ransom. He acts nothing like what they expect, not even knowing himself what is expected of him.
I think what makes this story so powerful is how human Rice makes Yeshua, even as he becomes aware of the entirety of his being. We emphasize with him when he gives up the love he has for a girl, giving her hand to another (theirs is the wedding at Cana), even as we are in awe as he comes into the fullness of his power after John names him at the river Jordan and baptizes him.

from the book:
"'It begins now at this wedding,' I said. 'And the wine you've drunk is for the whole world. Israel is the vessel, yes. But the wine flows from now on for all. Oh, I wish I could fix this as the final triumph, this lovely morning with its gentle paling sky. I wish I could open the gates for all to come and drink of this wine here and now, and that all pain and suffering and suspense would come to an end.
'But I wasn't born for that. I was born to find the way to do this through Time. yes, it is the time of Pontius Pilate. Yes, it is the time of Joseph Caiaphas. Yes, it is the time of Tiberius Caesar. But those men are nothing to me. I've entered history for the whole of it. And I won't be stopped. And I go now, disappointing you, yes, and to what village and town I head next, I don't know, only that I go proclaiming that the kingdom of God is on us, that the kingdom of God is with us, that all must turn and take heed, and I will declare it where the Father tells me I must, and I will find before me the listeners--and the surprises--He has in store.'" (p. 240)

If Yeshua isn't the most perplexing figure in history, I don't know who is. Thousands of years have been spent arguing over the message He proclaimed, and his followers are split into many branches of faith in spite of the central belief they all share. Who is this man?

Anne Rice's story is a thoughtful response to that question.

The story ends with Yeshua healing a deaf-mute girl from his village, one he has known for a long time. There is no magic word spoken, no special wave of the hand. He engages her, requiring her participation in the act of healing, the seemingly innocuous act of teaching her to repeat the prayer "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one" accomplishing the unthinkable: opening her ears and unstopping her tongue.
Thus does a new age begin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Happy birthday, Mom!


Fannie thinks I'm getting dumber by the minute. Here's a recent exchange we had (according to what I heard):

Fannie: "Do you know what a Honda mumble mumble is?"

Me: "No, I'm afraid I don't."

Fannie, getting up and looking at me with disgust: "Honey, WAKE UP. What's wrong with you?"

Apparently what she really asked was if I knew what holiday it was.

Welcome to my life. We had a good laugh about it after she left.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Time to roam

The Eskimos have a saying, "Glorious it is when wandering time is come!"

Now that spring is sneaking in, and sweet little green things are rising up, there comes that deep-seated itch to go somewhere, to swing a pack over my shoulders and enter the woods.

The urge comes strongest in the mornings when I go out to the car, and the birds are singing, a call and response among the treetops. It is their call that filled my dreams in the deep slumber of winter, a distant memory of trees and sky and earth and rock.

The naming of names

I hope you have noticed my new profile picture. That is my lovely grandmother Juliette, who I get my middle name from. You can't see it at this size, but there is a "Love Juliette" note scribbled in the lower right-hand corner. It must have been a picture she gave my grandfather, probably during WWII.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Food is a good thing

Fanny has been in a better mood these days. She no longer gripes so much at us--it's more like good-natured grumbling at our apparent idiocy. We think she is eating enough now to function more like a normal human being (cutting back on food was one of her cost-saving measures--she was probably eating saltines for dinner, for all I know).

My coworker told me that sometimes I just need to say "I don't know," to her if the conversation is getting out of hand due to her incomprehensible mumbling and it would be best for both parties concerned to end it.

So I tried it on the phone the other day--it worked!

Fanny: "I'm at the bank!!! You know those mumble mumble mumble I was tellin' ya 'bout?").

me: "Um, I don't know."

Fanny: "Well anyways, I got 'em. GOOD BYE!"

Normally, this conversation would have stretched on and on for five minutes as I tried vainly to understand what Fanny was saying. Really, all she wants is someone to talk to (most of the time, she doesn't much care for what you have to say--sometimes I interject comments like "Yeah, I know about that," and she'll say, "Whatever, I don't care." and keep talking).

The beauty of a hawk is inspiring us this day

How funny is this. I wrote a post about my red-tailed hawk friend just 15 or so minutes ago, puttered around on the internet, then checked my friend's blog--and did a double-take. Apparently he is also up at this early snow-heaped hour, writing a post about my post.

That's the power of the internet for you!

By the way, he included a Robinson Jeffers poem in his response to my post that brilliantly captures what I was vainly grasping at. Read it below:

"Hurt Hawks"


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.


Beowulf is the dumbest movie I have seen in a while.

What little gravitas it may have had was ruined by the animation. They altered the story beyond forgiveness. And why was Grendel's mother wearing high heels?

Lord of the air

There's a red-tailed hawk that hangs out along a certain part of Winchester Road. The first time I saw him, I thought he was an overweight crow until I got closer and saw the thick body and curved beak. He was eating some unfortunate rabbit, brilliant red meat dangling from his beak.

I saw him again during an ice storm. He was surveying a field from atop a telephone line, ignoring the ice pelleting him. The last time I saw him, in better weather, he was on the telephone line again, getting ready to launch himself into the air.

There's something beautiful about the flight of a hawk.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rhyme of the ancient mariner

I got a haircut last week, over a year after I thought of getting one. That shows you what a procrastinator I am.

I no longer feel as if I am carrying an albatross after I shower. Who knew water could be so heavy?