Sunday, July 01, 2007
If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende and a whole lotta linky stuff
While he talked, I looked through the open door at two eagles circling in the warm breeze high above the water. Although I've seen thousands, the sight of an eagle in flight still moves me in a way I can't explain. It's like a prayer. In Tlingit legend, all animals, rivers, and even places have spirits, just like people. Tlingits believe that human and natural spirits are not separate but intertwined and that those spirits move throughout time and space. A child who is named for a grandmother is so closely linked to the elder's soul that she is even called "Grandma" by her parents. In the same way, an old man's "uncle" can be an infant.
I fanned myself with the funeral program and wondered if eagles and spirits and mountains and maybe even strange lights and meteors are God's way of getting our attention. Do we feel God's presence because we are looking for him, or do we feel it because he is looking for us?
The minute I closed If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, I thought, "Oh, man, this one's going to be hard to review." It's not so much that there's anything complex about the book. The fact is, I enjoyed it so much that I'm not certain I can do it justice.
If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name is a memoir written by tiny Haines, Alaska's obituary writer, columnist and radio commentator. She has a family of 6 (5 children, 1 husband) and volunteers for just about everything. She's spiritual, reflective, outdoorsy and loves where her family lives. Because she writes obituaries and spends a lot of time interviewing the survivors, a great deal of the writing in her book is wrapped around various deaths. But, it's not morbid or depressing in any way, although the stories are often touching (as in, "Pass me the Kleenex, would you, babe?"). Instead, Lende brings the characters of Haines to life and ponders what it all means - life and death, beauty and God, family and friends and how they all interact in a tiny town where you can skirt around people but they'll still know all about you and probably what you're up to while you're avoiding them.
The result is a quiet book of anecdotal reflection very much like Anne Lamott's writing, with the kind of wacky set of characters you only meet in small towns. I laughed and cried while I read it; in the end, as I closed the book I was snuffling and wiping away tears when the youngster walked into my bedroom. I told him about the ending and he nodded. He knew exactly why I was really crying - why the end of the book hit me in that way - and he was nice about it, even though he thinks I'm a complete sap. Okay, he knows I'm a complete sap.
Just before her planned book tour in 2005, Heather Lende was literally run over by a truck while biking. She's still alive, thank goodness, and writing another book. I would have been really heartbroken if there had been a tragic ending after reading about life in small-town Alaska through such a remarkable, warm-hearted person's eyes. You can read all about her, here. Or go to the home page of Heather's website. But, I'd recommend that you read the book. It's beautiful. I wish she lived next door to me.
5/5 - huge thumbs up
In other news: The spouse has just written me an email: "Okay, Sydney is on the short list of places to visit." Geez. Didn't I tell him that? I distinctly recall saying he could just take me along and drop me off in Sydney because it's one of the coolest places on the planet, judging by everything I've read about it. He has been longing for my camera the entire time he's been in Australia. And, I'm not so sure I shouldn't have just sent it with him. I did get some cool lizard, moth, little green leaf-imitator and bird photos. But, Australia is apparently rather exotic. He has sent me photos of spectacular sunsets, funky birds, and a very toothy crocodile. I feel kind of bad for hogging the good camera. Here's the crocodile:
With my camera, he could have gotten photos that a crocodile dentist would appreciate.
Meanwhile, I'm taking photos of exciting things like bluejays:
But, hey. Nice action, eh? Just one more day till we fetch the spouse from the airport!!
I'm still stalled at #44 in my "100 Things About Me" post. I'm not sure there are 56 more things worth mentioning. In fact, I keep looking at my list and thinking, "I should delete that one. And, that one."
Sitting here typing and a message has just come in . . . Yippee!!! Wahoo!! Another terrific Estella's Revenge ezine is online!! I've got two reviews in this one:
What I Believe by Norma Fox Mazer and
Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile
My interviews with Colleen Gleason and Simon Van Booy have been delayed partly because Andi said she already had plenty, partly because I fell down on the job, and a little bit because I couldn't get in touch with anyone when I finally decided to scramble and get my act together. So, if I disappear and only two people hear from me (namely, Colleen and Simon) for a few days, it's because I have never missed a deadline in my life and I just blew it. Can I cry husband-on-the-other-side-of-the-world stress?
Recently Walked in the Door:
Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels
Hotel Du Lac - Anita Brookner
Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy - Lindsay Moran
Hurricane - Karen Harper (thanks to the wonderful, generous Book Fairy Barbara)
The Secret Life of Lobsters - Trevor Corson
The Ocean in the Closet - Yuko Taniguchi
It was already on my Non-Fiction Five Challenge pile, but I just moved The Writing Life by Annie Dillard to the top, thanks to the fact that Heather Lende mentioned it in If You Lived Here, etc. I figure if she enjoys Annie Dillard, I will. You'll be the first to know the verdict.
Is it just me, or does it seem like I'm always being spotted by these guys and glared at?
Okay, off to do the laundry, gather the recyclables, tidy the house and read. Hope you all have a peachy day!
Bookfool, anxious to have a husband back in the house (and not merely because he cooks)