And here we still are. It doesn’t seem like almost seven weeks since my last post. Isn’t it odd how time can simultaneously flit and stall? But you already know that’s true because you’re living this unusual time in history too. I hope it’s an easy time for you, that you are well and have all you need.
I’ve felt particularly privileged in our Covid Lockdown. My adjustments have been few and not fraught with challenge. As the spring semester wound down, I had more than enough to do with a regular, if small, paycheck arriving bi-weekly. We’ve been able to get home grocery delivery and I share my home with a funny man who likes cooking and insists he’s better clean-up than I. We have abundant television and access to books for entertainment, I’m Zooming with friends at least once a week and sometimes more, and I’ve been able to indulge in spring and the annual delusion that this year I’ll be able to control the destiny of my garden.
Are there things I miss? Sure. My hair is losing shape, my nails are a mess, my body craves the pool, and the idea of sitting with friends at a bar makes me giddy. But I got nothing to complain about. Not a blessed thing.
And I’ve got a few things of which to feel proud – what I CAN do in this time for limitations. For nearly two months, I’ve met my fifteen-minutes-a-day yoga goal and then some. Stretching out the kinks in my joints and muscles starts every day. Am I getting stronger? Are saddlebags and love handles shrinking? Alas. However, while blood rushed to my head in downward dog this morning, I experienced the inklings of a revelatory transition. What if I give up the apparently unattainable goal of changing how I look? What if I focus instead on how I feel? Or perhaps more importantly, how I want to feel ten or fifteen or twenty years from now? Does this mean I’ve reached full body acceptance? Doubtful. My indoctrination in the cult of socially-imposed feminine beauty standards has been too thorough. Still, the consideration alone feels like a step toward maturity. And I will count that step.
As I count all my steps and active calories. Forgive the bragging, but here’s another pride-inducing achievement I can’t keep to myself. I’ve been on a move-circle-closing streak! As of moments ago, my streak stretched to 336 days! For the last 336 days, I’ve moved enough to clock at least 500 active calories every single day. Some of that movement was intense and easy to achieve, especially back when I could still get to my water aerobics class. These days it’s dancing in the kitchen, digging in the garden, pedaling my exercise bike, and I have to push myself to get to 500. But hey, it’s all movement! For 336 days! (And when you’re on a streak like this, you really don’t want to break it! Stand by for 337 and beyond!)
Meanwhile, praise heaven, there are books. Here’s what I’ve been reading since February.
Raney tells this story in two voices, both ringing with heartache. It’s not an easy read, but it’s about loss, and why should that be easy? At first, the thread was difficult to follow – two voices, one present tense, one past, and no clear sense about how these elements fit together. As events gel, though, one sees the connections. The long lost love reunion midway through seemed superfluous to me – not worthy of the emotions of the rest of the book.
Set a story in a funeral home and people it with the most awkward, self-doubting, and grieving man you can imagine, and boom, you’ve got an interesting story! I started by wanting to shake Oliver and make him buck up for crying out loud. I ended wanting to hug him tight. I didn’t quite buy the smell-like-your-loved-one-candle as a viable entrepreneurial endeavor. But I happily acquiesced to see Oliver step into his own. There was loss in this one too, but with a lighter and more hopeful tone.
If you adore The Wizard of Oz like I do, you’ll probably enjoy this quasi-biographical novel about Maud Baum and her life as the wife of L. Frank Baum, creator of Oz. Letts makes L. Frank sound like a lot of fun – as long as you didn’t have to live with him – and Judy Garland as a mistreated child. Not hard to believe. But Maud is the star of this story, her one miserable year at Cornell when women students were barely tolerated, her adventures on the theater circuit with Frank, her challenges to feed their growing family as the sole reliable wage earner. It’s a good tale mixing enough imagine truth with researched facts.
Into any life, some bad books must fall. I shouldn’t call it bad. Disappointing. To me. Not a book I can recommend unless you really like wading through bad choices based on illness, grief and neediness by people rich enough to own property in the Florida Keys. Poor, poor them. I kept hoping the story would redeem itself, but it didn’t. For me. In fact, I kept hoping that this would be the way it would end. I confess to flipping quickly through many pages just to make it so.
Perhaps a touch of ennui seeped into my world view as I read this story. Or perhaps, Rowell belabored the guilt our male protagonist felt at essentially eavesdropping on the girl who attracted him – for months and months. But the premise was interesting, the characters likable other than his Eyeore-like mopiness, and the ending was terrific! Heart-stopping, sweet, lusty, sigh-inducing. Though the whole felt like rather too much work, that ending made it all worth the effort. Sigh.
What I’d like to see is Rainbow Rowell learn how weave and build the sighs and sweetness all through a story like Sophie Kinsella does. Both stories shared a technological eavesdropping premise, but even when I can see Sophie’s characters making poor choices, I never find them tiresome. Not at all. They romp through the pages, learning and revealing who they are, and the only characters we disdain are those she wants us to. Her ending was great too – as much for what it didn’t say and let this reader imagine!
And now for the best read in a long time. It took only a few pages to unhitch JoJo from the UK where her stories usually live to the wild hills of 1937 Kentucky. The limits on women in that time and place and the determined attempts of powerful men to keep women under their thumbs felt tangible and made me glad I live now. Stark poverty, ignorance, coal-mining dangers and pollution, terrible injustice provide a back-drop for young women finding out what they’re made of – and why what they’re made of matters! It’s a great story told with characters to love as well as some I loved to hate.
Both my book clubs Zoom-meet next week. One will discuss The Giver of Stars so I’m good there. But the other is primed to include both this and last month’s choice – neither of which I’ve yet started. So this is me, signing off for some serious fast reading. Stay tuned to see what I thought when next I post my Salutations.