Friday, May 28, 2010

Wildcats In The Scrub

I've been reading The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I was looking for a book to read when I saw it sitting on Lilah's bed. I examined it --saw it had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938, so I decided to give it a try. After reading a few chapters, I could see the prize was well-deserved. It's a wonderful book, about a boy named Jody living in the wilds of Florida with his parents in a rustic cabin. The details about their way of life, and the flora and fauna of the region, are so rich and colorful it makes my belly ache.

Below is one of my favorite passages from the book. Jody is spending the night with his friend Fodder-wing, whose family, the Forresters, are a rough and rowdy sort. After Jody goes to sleep in the Forrester cabin at bedtime, the following scene unfolds, from his point of view:

He awakened with a start late in the night. Din filled the cabin. His first thought was that the Forresters were fighting again. But the shouts held a community of purpose, and Ma Forrester called encouragement. A door was banged open and several of the dogs were halloo-ed inside. A light shone in the doorway of Fodder-wing's room and the dogs and men poured in. The men were stark naked, and they looked thinner and less bulky, but they seemed as tall as the cabin. Ma Forrester held a lighted tallow candle. Her grasshopper frame was lost inside a long gray flannel nightgown. The dogs shot under the bed and out again. Jody and Fodder-wing scrambled to their feet. No one troubled to explain the commotion. The boys followed after the hunt. It led through every room and ended with a mad exit of the dogs through the torn mosquito netting that covered one window.

"They'll git him outside," Ma Forrester said, suddenly placid. "Pesky varmint."

"Ma's got the best ear for varmints," Fodder-wing said proudly.

"I guess anybody'd hear him did he come scratchin' around their bed-post," she said.

Pa Forrester hobbled into the room on his cane.

"The night's near about done," he said. "I'd ruther have a snort o' whiskey than sleep agin."

Buck said, "Pa, you got the most sense for sich a ol' buzzard."

He went to a cupboard and brought out the demi-john. The old man uncorked it and tipped it back and drank.

Lem said, "Don't take no sense to crave liquor. Give it here."

He took a deep draught and passed the jug on. He wiped his mouth and rubbed his bare stomach. He went to the wall and felt along it for his fiddle. He twanged the strings carelessly, then sat down and began to scrape a tune.

Arch said, "You ain't got that right," and brought his guitar and sat on the bench beside him.

Ma Forrester set the candle on the table.

She asked, "You naked jay-birds fixin' to set up 'till day?"

Arch and Lem were deep in their chords and no one answered her. Buck took his mouth-organ from a shelf and began a tune of his own. Arch and Lem stopped to listen, then fell in with his melody.

Pa Forrester said, "Dog take it, that's purty."

The demi-john went around again. Pack brought out his Jew's-harp and Mill-wheel his drum. Buck changed his plaintive song for a lively dance tune, and the idle music swung into full volume. Jody and Fodder-wing dropped on the floor between Lem and Arch.

Ma Forrester said, "Now you needn't think I aim to go to bed and miss nothin'."

She unbanked the fire on the hearth and threw on fatwood and moved the coffee pot close.

"You hootin' owls 'll eat breakfast soon this mornin' or I'll know why," she said. She winked at Jody. "Kill two birds with one stone. Have a frolic and git breakfast done with."

He winked back at her. He felt bold and gay and tremulous. He could not understand how his mother could disapprove of such frolicksome people.

The music was out of tune and thunderous. It sounded like all the wildcats in the scrub rounded up together, but it had a rhythm and a gusto that satisfied the ear and soul.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

If You Have A Garden & A Library You Have Everything You Need

It's been hard to find time for my blog lately, what with Lilah and Annabelle both having birthdays in the last week. So I'd like to turn your attention to Laura Wilder's groovy blog, about her printmaking, artmaking life.

Laura's blog is fascinating because she takes us through her process for creating block prints.

Her May 19th entry tells about the time she was approached by the publisher of American Bungalow, a magazine celebrating the Arts and Crafts movement, to create block prints for posters, to be given as gifts to subscribers. This came after she had already been dreaming about creating pictures about serenity, with quotes from "slow, wise types" like Emerson and Thoreau. She describes how she adapted her earlier idea to the American Bungalow project, and the execution. Her lovely summer poster contains the Cicero quote: "If You Have A Garden & A Library You Have Everything You Need," which I just love.

Read her latest entry here:

But my favorite of her blog posts is the not-to-be-missed story of how she made her print "Lakeside Wood." She describes the painstaking process of making a block print from start to finish, and how moving from her old method of spoon-printing to using a letter press, has liberated her from the most labor-intensive aspects of the task, and has allowed her to create more prints in less time. Though the process of carving the blocks by hand, mixing the colors, applying them and printing is still plenty labor-intensive.

Check out the story of her "Lakeside Wood" print here:

And the conclusion to the story here:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kafka's Pest Kontrol

THIS! is the truck I saw on the way to work today.

I could hardly believe my eyes. Then I saw the words "Available at the Johnson County Library," and saw the library logo emblazoned on the cab. I did a double-take, a triple-take, and laughed at the delightful weirdness of it. "That is far out!!" I proclaimed to the mini sock monkey swinging from my rear view mirror. Were they really making a reference to the Franz Kafka story "Metamorphosis," in which the main character, Gregor Samsa, awakens to find that he's turned into a gigantic insect? Is this some kind of ad campaign?

Indeed it is. Some quick Googling confirmed that the Library has four literary-themed book delivery trucks tooling about town to promote the library. Captain Ahab's Fine Seafood. Benjamin Button's Diaper Service. Dr. Jekyll's Pharmacy. See them all here.

The ad campaign was designed by the Barkley Advertising Agency, a local company which offered its services--for free--to the library. The Vice-president of Barkley, Tom Demetriou,
said that employees at Barkley enjoyed working on the campaign. Demetriou got the idea of helping to promote the library after making a presentation about creativity at staff day.

Demetriou said, "The Library is a personal favorite of mine. They have many people and resources at the library but somehow I think that the library is there just for me...a place where mice ride motorcycles, magic carpets fly, Huck and Jim still ride a raft on the Mississippi. I love the stories. Libraries feel alive and have a huge connection with history. I often wonder how many people have turned the pages of a single book. Who are they, where are they now and what do they do? What did they think about the book and did they like it? We hope our firm’s excitement for the library and reading is contagious within the community through this campaign."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pomp And Circumstance

The Quad at the University of Missouri at Columbia

Today I read about a 98-year old woman who just got her Master's degree from Fort Hays State University. The newspaper said she is the world's oldest graduate.Check SpellingShe said when her husband died in 1972 she thought her life was over and she started preparing to die. But a few years later she took a tennis course from Dodge City Community College. This led to her taking more classes, until she got her associate's degree. Then she left her Jetmore farm and moved to Hays to pursue her bachelor's, which she finished in 2007, at the age of 95. And now this spring she walked across the stage to claim her Master's degree in History. She admits it might seem crazy, but she's already planning to enroll in more classes this summer and fall.

I am SO not enrolling in more classes. But if I were going to go back, it would be to study literature. Well, maybe when I'm 95.

As a graduation present to myself, I went to Columbia, Missouri on Friday to attend my commencement. I wanted to explore the college town and see the University of Missouri for myself. All my classes had been online or in a classroom in Kansas City, and I had yet to set foot on the actual campus of MU. So Roger and the kids went with me, and we made a day of it.

It's a two hour drive to Columbia from Kansas City. We left in the morning. On the way we took a quick spin through the charming little town of Rocheport, on the banks of the Missouri River. Home to vineyards and bed and breakfasts, and a trailhead for the Katy Trail.

When we got to Columbia, we headed for the downtown district, full of shops and restaurants. Like downtown Lawrence only bigger. For lunch we grabbed a couple of slices of 'za at Shakespeare's Pizza, which has been around since 1975. Then we wandered around. Downtown Columbia has three vintage clothing stores! I only had time to check out one of them, called Maude Vintage. We also stopped in at Cool Stuff, which is a fun and crazy emporium containing an eclectic mish-mash, everything from miniature Buddhas and Tibetan incense, to novelty items such as finger pirates and finger zombies, and an eyebrow kit, that provides a different set of eyebrows for every day of the week. They had a magnetic dress-up Einstein, which I was sorely tempted to buy, since I am a lover of all things Albie.

Next door was the Peace Nook, a cozy little basement shop that sold goods of a natural, metaphysical, existential or environmentally-friendly nature. I bought a nifty cotton Fair Trade bag there made in Nepal.

After that, it was time to hustle over to the campus, for a reception given for library science graduates. They presented me with a certificate and a little stuffed tiger. Then we strolled around campus. Visited the massive Ellis Library. And stopped to listen to a guy who was sitting outside, playing accordian. He was wearing a gorilla mask. At Annabelle's behest, I posed with him, and tipped him for the honor.

By that time, we were ready for a nature break. We went back to the car, threw on some comfortable shoes, and drove four miles out of town to Rock Bridge State Park, which has some amazing geological features. We walked one of the trails to a cave called the Devil's Ice Box.

The park was a refreshing change from the congestion of the crowded college town. But all too soon we had to leave so we would have time to get supper before commencement. We went back downtown. Roger and I ate at this terrific vegetarian restaurant called the Main Squeeze, that served up some awesome veggie enchiladas. I also had a Ginger and Mary Ann --fresh-squeezed carrot and apple juice, and ginger. The girls drank fresh juice and smoothies, but were holding out for the burgers we also planned to get at Booche's down the street. We had to try Booche's, because it has been a pool hall since 1884, and USA Today had said it had the best burgers in the country.

The burgers were pretty good. I don't know if they're the best, but what I liked was how they didn't seem like restauranty burgers. They reminded me of the burgers mom used to make.

After stuffing ourselves, we headed over to the huge basketball gymnasium for commencement. Roger and the girls went inside to find a seat, while I went over to the field house to sign in and line up. Thank goodness they had a couple of tables marked "Regalia Assistance," to help people put on their hoods and caps. My Master of Arts hood was white in the front, with gold and black, the school colors, in the back.

We stood in separate lines in the field house. The MBA's in one line, the Master's of Education in another line, and so on. We waited for an eternity. But how exciting when we finally started the procession. We wormed our way through the back hallways of the field house, through a staircase that connected to the bowels of the gymnasium. First the Ph.D. candidates, then the Master's graduates. Looking around at the other students, it was not lost on me that nearly everyone was young,young,young. There were few people who looked my age, but I really didn't care. I was enjoying myself.

As we got closer to the entrance to the arena, I could hear them playing Pomp and Circumstance. I can tell you, that was a thrill. It may not mean much in the big scheme of things, but as I heard the band play and I shuffled along in the procession, I was glad I was there and glad I got to wallow in a brief moment of TRIUMPH! It was over! Hallelujah!

As I entered the arena, I was struck by the hugeness. The arena was huge. People were seated up to the rafters. I was so happy to be there, to be done! I scanned the whole arena for my family. Not expecting I would see them. But they had gotten there early enough, they had very good seats, and were seated close to the floor. They waved and yelled as I passed and I started dancing happily in the procession, much to Lilah's embarrassment.

Of course the ceremony took FOREVER. The speeches weren't very long, but they asked that everyone remain seated until every last graduate had walked across the stage. First they had an eternal wave of doctoral students who were announced along with their faculty mentors. They had given each of us a blue card with our name on it. It had the special pronunciation I had provided online a month or so ago. "Briand is pronounced Bree-ond as in pond." I handed my card to the reader right before walking up the stairs to the stage, and he said my name correctly. Woo hoo!

After the ceremony, people threw their caps up into the air. I threw mine up and hit the head of the woman next to me.

The ceremony had started at 8:00 and ended sometime after 10:00. By the time we got out of there, got gas and munchies for the drive home, it was 11:00. We got home around 1:00 in the morning--a very long day. But thank goodness we didn't have any soccer games in the morning, and we could all sleep in.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trailer for Babies

If you haven't seen it, here is a link to the trailer for Babies. I love the opening scene with the African boys, and I love the glimpses of the Mongolian landscape.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


For Mother's Day, what could be more fitting than a documentary on babies? I read about it in the paper, and decided we just had to go. The film was showing at the Glenwood Arts theater, and we made the 3:00 showing.

Made by a French filmmaker, the movie follows four different babies in four countries: Namibia, in Africa; Mongolia; Japan; and the United States. The African baby is raised in a remote village, the Mongolian baby lives in a yurt on a vast, windswept landscape, the Japan baby is raised in a high-rise in hectic Tokyo, and the U.S. baby lives in San Francisco. We see the babies from their earliest moments, up to the point where they are walking on their own.

There is no narration in the film and no subtitles, so nothing gets in the way of the gorgeous camerawork and its adorable little subjects.

When we walked into the theater, it was packed. We sat in the 2nd row from the front, because nearly all the seats in the other rows were taken. Obviously, going to see Babies on Mother's Day was irresistable to a lot of people. But I didn't mind the crowd. Sitting in a packed house, surrounded by the oohing and ahhing and laughter of strangers, responding to the universal wonder of babies, only added to the experience.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Last night my collection development class met for the last time. Our instructor had us do some weeding. NOT as exciting as it sounds. We had to go up to the top floor, where a bunch of dusty, old bibliographies were shelved. Our instructor had marked a few of the books with orange strips of paper. She had us divide up into pairs, pick one of the marked books, and decide whether or not to keep it or weed it from the collection. Then we went around and told why we did or didn't think it should be weeded. Riveting stuff! It was kind of funny though, actually, some of the books that we looked at. One book from the 6o's was all worried about the "information explosion" that was taking place.

We were supposed to get a tour of the Marr Sound Archives, but the dude who runs the archive got the date mixed up, and wasn't there to take us around. Bummer. The Marr Archive has all kinds of old and rare music collections. You can only peer in through the glass, wishing you could get inside.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Naked Reading

Naked reading is dropping everything and reading, anytime, anywhere. Teri Lesesne came up with the phrase when she discovered that her 8 year old granddaughter had a habit of grabbing a book straight out of the shower and sitting on a footstool in her closet, undressed, so she could read unencumbered.

Ms. Lesesne went on to write a book titled "Naked Reading," about encouraging young people to become lifelong readers. The instructors from my Teen Lit class posted this excerpt from the book. It has nothing to do with reading in the raw, but it does contain a very nice poem:

"Sometime last year, a librarian in South Carolina came up to me at the end of a workshop and told me she was going to email me a poem I would appreciate. How I wish I could remember the wonderful person who sent me the following poem. It speaks volumes to me and to all those whose hope it is to connect kids to books and reading. I place it here at the end of this book in the hope that it will speak to all of you about the important work we do."

To the Woman (We Think You're a Teacher) with the Books on the 2 Train

By some anonymous students

On the platform for the 2 train
you stand with a book in your hand
the pages open
Which is how you enter the train
Sometimes you smile, or frown
Once you even cried
on the train
when you were reading Night
and a man sitting across the aisle
said he cried, too, when he read that book
and we thought,
we want to read that book
so we did
And then you were reading all those
basketball books
by Walter Dean Myers
so we read those too
speeding along on the 2 train
one time you saw us reading Slam
and you said
I love that book
and do you think Slam is going to make it in high
We do, we think he's going to make it
Then you were reading some really hard stuff
Epistemology of the Closet, Postmodern Narrative
and we tried those, but we think you have to read
the books those authors have read, if you want to read
their books.
Our favorite is when you are reading poetry
Picnic, Lightning
and you lean back against the seat
and smile
and keep reading the same page
again and again
we do that now and it's really nice
Last week you were reading Life of Pi
and we rushed out to buy it
So we could be in the lifeboat
adrift in the blue, blue sea
with the boy, the Bengal Tiger, and you
If we don't see you next year
on the train
Maybe sometime we'll bump into each other on the
You'll know us because
we'll have a book in our hands.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's Next For Mony

For weeks now, I've been compiling a mental list of things I'm gonna do when I'm done with school:

Start writing that novel

Read for fun--New Yorker articles, fiction, travel memoirs, satire, children's books....the sky's the limit!

Discover and explore new music --bands or artists I would be diggin' but have missed out on

Write more cards and letters to people--don't laugh!

Re-connect with people I've been neglecting--locally, and long distance


Join writer's group

Exercise--gave it up for lack of time, had short burst of inspiration in March and came close to establishing a routine! --then got busy and gave it up again

Read gluttonous cookbooks with indulgence-minded prose, like the Nigella Lawson books

Experiment with indulgent new recipes from gluttonous cookbooks

Plant something and try not to kill it

Excavate the files on my old computer

Become more deeply obsessed with tea

Draw cartoons or serious drawings that look like cartoons

Browse the library randomly and check out books on eclectic topics, whatever catches my eye, whatever trips my fancy, anything and everything--the world's my oyster!

Go to the City Market or the farmer's market on Saturdays

Look into being a literacy tutor --prolly not ready for the time commitment, but just curious

Idle away hours at book stores, antique stores, second-hand stores, thrift stores, junk shops

Amuse myself with half-assed efforts at home decorating

Plan elaborate road trips

Start up my own zine

Steer clear of swirling vortices!

Join the following groups:

The Kansas Native Plant Society
The Grassland Heritage Foundation
Nature Conservancy in Kansas group

Become a Groundhog for the Grassland Heritage Foundation:

"Groundhogs generally meet on the third Saturday of each month to work on prairie preservation projects.The Groundhogs are dedicated to prairie preservation in its most practical form. We meet once month, year round, to conduct the physical labor needed to protect prairie against its natural enemies. Our work typically involves removing trees and brush of all sizes from areas where they are invading prairie. We have also helped with burnings, reseedings, trail maintenance, building maintenance, and other projects. We regularly meet on the third Saturday of every month at various sites usually at 8:30 a.m.

Walk the trail at the Smoky Hill Ranch in western Kansas: